Survivor S16- Micronesia

Another period of a few months in the Survivor off-season, another season checked off the backlog of things to work. Season 16- Micronesia is apparently one of the most loved and praised seasons by the fan community. And when new players go out to the island allegedly this is (one of) the seasons they watch while sequestered. So let’s see what I thought!

Frankly I was pretty blase about this season. Neither underwhelmed or overwhelmed by it. After the fun of China this has the stench of modern Survivor singular focus on ‘big moves’ at the detriment of everything else (multi-episode story, characters, relationships, location/culture etc). And for the first time in my rewatch I really checked out of the last couple eps as things wound up… because, I suppose, the key events/action/moves have been so over-discussed and as the show was focusing solely on those things there was nothing to keep my interest.

I guess I’ll give my episode by episode notes to begin with and then wrap up with some overall thoughts/observations at the end.

Episode-by-episode recap notes

Episode 1/Premiere The opening five minutes and the Cast

My first observation was how this really was a turning point in the franchise history- on one hand we have 20 players. The old days of 16 person (two tribes of eight) seem to be receding into the past, leading to a faster boot cycle as more people need to be kicked out in the same 39 day period. But on the other hand Jeff still utters the intro line of people having to “build a society” which I don’t know if has really been part of the concept of the show since like… Borneo? Although he doesn’t have the boldface lie of it being people ‘from all walks of life’ (of note: in post-game coverage Eliza commented on how much she struggled to connect with the other Favourites and/or her swap tribe being the only one not based in LA in or trying to break into the entertainment industry. Actually having a career put her on the outside of the dynamics).

The biggest thing to note are the “Favourites” that have been brought back. To me the two standout ‘gets’ were Fairplay and Yauman. Coming in to the first-watch I wasn’t actually 100% across who did come back in this returnee (well, half-returnee) season and seeing them both again was great. For contrasting reasons- the huge round of applause from the Fans tribe when Yauman came out was great. While Fairplay coming out trolling Probst by dressing as him was fantastic. The only other Favourite I got excited for was Cirie, but even then I feel that is more from my modern knowledge/view rather than based on her Exile Island performance (although looking at the wiki page she did go very far and I do recall her being great).

The remaining favourite are diminishing returns though. Ami was exciting given she was an interesting character in Vanuatu. Ozzy makes sense given how he narrowly lost Cook islands, even if I personally don’t care for him. I guess James makes sense given how popular/good he was in China right before this season happened and fills a similar role to Rupert in Pear Islands to All Stars (S7-S8).

I literally couldn’t remember who Eliza was. Nor Penner. Although having a look at their wikis I would struggle to consider them ‘Favourites’ given their characters, gameplay or final result. However I can see what production was going for to get some more ‘villain’ characters. Which I suppose are some people’s Favourites.

But Amanda and Parvarti were absolute WTF castings. The lack of a Fan response when Amanda was called out was amusing (a polite golf clap effectively) as her airtime in China was broadcast after these people started playing Micronesia (as opposed to James whom was visible and great from ep1 onward of China and got a rousing reception from the Fans) so no-one there knew who she was. And even if they had, she was handily beaten as the 3rd place loser by not just Todd but also the, uhh, polarising Courtney. So far from a favourite. And Parvarti was entirely forgettable from her season. one dimensional character and a shit house game strategy.

For no particular reason, put a pin in that observation that Amanda and Parvarti as the most WTF castings. I’m sure that isn’t something to think about when looking at the final results.

Scuttlebutt I can find online is that Parvarti was last minute substitute for Candice Owens, who would have been a bit WTF too but a bit better based on gameplay/result (though still a Villain). But it highlights how much they’re over drawing from Cook Islands since she’s also from that season. Off the top of my head some better options post-All Stars (limiting to max two per season) would include: Ian and Katy from Palau, Rafe and Judd from Guatemala, Terry or Shane (plus Cirie) from Panama, Dreamz or Boo (plus Yauman) from Fiji.

But those are mostly men and I guess emphasises how poorly Survivor does as casting/showing interesting female characters. They obviously blew their load early with Stephanie from Palau going to Guatemala else she’d have been a shoe in otherwise. Courtney Yates from China actually would have been great too but I can see why she’d be too smart to want to go back to back. Could maybe draw more from Vanuatu (where they were forced to develop female characters) like Scout or Twila but that’d be one of them in place of Eliza to avoid drawing more than two people from each season. As is three of the returnees are from Cook Islands- ideally it’d be a male and female from different starting tribes from each season… minus 2 to keep it to ten. So assuming better players like Courtney and Candace said no to returning, I can see why Amanda and Parvarti snuck in the door.

Also worth noting a few odd things- firstly Fairplay was the only returnee from pre-All Stars. The rest were all from the next set of seasons. So a bit more thought around Fairplay makes other casting even more questionable- if we’re letting S1-7 contestants compete why is there only one of them? Especially when some key people from those seasons would make more sense than people they did cast. Conversely if we are setting a clear boundary of only S9-15 for eligibility, why is Fairplay here? And also why aren’t there any people from Palau or Guatemala (S10 and 11)?

(Also looking ahead to Heroes vs Villains in S20, I only learnt in coverage of this season that Fariplay wasn’t on HvV which is utter bullshit so it sucks balls Fairplay’s only return was wasted here)

So yeah I’ve only spoken about the casting and not actually any of the episode content. Oops…

Episode 1/Premiere attempt 2

Fun intro scene with the Fans boating in to meet Jeff on the first island. Real throwback to the ‘marooned’ vibe.

I really enjoyed the way they revealed the Favourites tribe one by one. Especially Fairplay as he came out and then started bantering/trolling Jeff. And got it back too, in particular Jeff’s brutal barbs about it being good to see that Fairplay by imitating Jeff clearly “had aspirations to improve his life” were, as the kids say these day, “spicy”.

Loved they then had the boat, uhh, ‘activity’ to start with. Jeff giving them super vague instructions “those boats over there on the next island have maps to your camp. Also there are one-tribal-idols over there too”. Just letting them go with the minimum of direction. Seeing the way different people went about getting over there (including having the ‘ice cream scooper’ Erik beating water beast Ozzy across to the next island) was great.

And seeing how Fairplay was still head and shoulders above the rest in thinking about the game was excellent; realising that the idols weren’t going to be off randomly in the forest but were actually hanging on the boats. You know, where a camera man was guaranteed to be able to get a good shot of it. Unfortunate that Fairplay grabbed the idol off the wrong boat. And double unfortunate that he got he face slammed into the boat (accidentally) in the footrace with Yauman to get the correct one. I’ll come back to this at some point.

The derpyness of Cathy getting the Fans idol at Yauman’s instruction was just… Wow… This lady is not going to handle the mental strain. What a call by me given what happens that I had no clue about. i also noted at this point that given I knew literally nothing about any of the Fans except for Erik did not bode well for their overall performance (also put a pin in that for the overall thoughts at the end).

Although I was shocked that time-limited idols were a thing this early in Survivor. The way they were introduced in the late 30s seasons implied that it was a thing that had never been done before. But it was done this early and, what, they just forgot about it as a possible mechanism for keeping a lid on the number of advantage? That’s pretty irritating given what happened in Game Changers. Although given in Cagayan they acted as if the God Idol was a new idea from Tyler Perry and not just the same thing done in Panama/Cook Islands. Maybe the Production Team just suffered memory loss somewhere in the early 20s seasons?

Anyway, there were a few other derp moments with the Fans tribe. Mainly Cathy. Like confusing ‘homosexual’ and ‘gay’ as different things and wondering if one meant Chet (as a gay man) meant he wanted to be a girl. Then Cathy asking about Tracey’s boob implants (which Tracey denies are implants).

Meanwhile two insightful things happen with the Favourites- firstly Yauman uses his glasses and #science to start a fire almost immediately (and more broadly the Favourites immediately set up a fantastic camp in comparison to the Fans being terrible at getting the basics/necessities ready which is the beginning of an ongoing theme for the season). Secondly Penner immediately hones in on Parvarti as the biggest threat. While this is perhaps in part based on him having played with her for basically all of Cook Islands, it’s really zeroing in on the post-All Stars meta that a WTF returnee who doesn’t really deserve to be there is a huge threat on floating under the radar and getting to the end (*cough* Amber *cough* Boston Rob). While this is maybe only included as an editor signpost as to how the season plays out, put a pin in this in game observation being made by the players: the lowest threat on account of being not respected is actually the highest threat for winning.

The opening challenge is interesting in terms of being so different to what is done now and is a great whole tribe, multi-skill thing as a ‘build a cart to run an obstacle course’ thing. Although for some reason the execution doesn’t quite grab me as engaging in this instance, I broadly wish they still did this sort of thing. Also the Favourites weirdly suck at this and Eliza, the person tasked with riding the cart, goes flying when they hit an obstacle. Starting a long chain of her getting injured in challenges.

The post-challenge heavy humanizing of Fairplay is a massive hat tip as to who is getting voted off at tribal. Even at Tribal where Jeff tries to gee up some ‘is Fairplay scamming you’ storyline with questions to Ozzy, Fairplay cuts it off that it isn’t an evil ploy and he does want to go back to his heavily pregnant girlfriend.

There is a bit of interesting discourse about whether or not this counts as a quit, which at the time was sacrilegious to the Survivor meta (and still is a bit nowadays but nowhere near as much). The Favourites tribe are weirdly uniformly of the view that it isn’t a quit. Which seems strange until you fill in the blanks of what was happening at the time beyond just the TV show. Soon before the season started Fairplay was being a dickhead at some event and (accidentally) has his face/jaw smashed up by a WWE wrestler guy. And had surgery to get things fixed up in the weeks before Micronesia started. However he was denied Novocaine (or some other pain killer) for his post-surgery recovery by Production. And then on Day 1 had his post-surgery face/jaw slammed into the side of a boat, undoubtedly making the pain way fucking worse. Meanwhile James Clement was permitted a nicotine patch to help deal with going off cigarettes.

Fairplay was, understandably, not fucking happy with that double standard. Add in the stuff about his soon to be born daughter (which was notably treated very differently to Jenna Morasca’s family related ‘quit’ in All Stars) ; it’s pretty clear that it was out of Fairplay’s hands and agency to need to leave the game. And really shines a poor light on Production for letting him go out there in the first place given the surgery, the Novocaine and the pregnant partner. He was not in the right space to be playing Survivor.

Also worth noting that post season it was confirmed by Fairplay that before this shit went down, the tribe was locked into voting out Parvarti, ~7of the 10 Favourites were in on the plan, because they wanted to avoid a repeat of the Amber-All Star situation. Put a pin in that idea, of external factors benefiting Parvarti given the final results. Coz if Fairplay had been properly vetted for physical and mental health, Parvarti likely would have been first boot (and we probably would have got Fairplay to return on Heroes vs Villains as a Villain. Which him not being cast for is a travesty by production, but understandable why he didn’t get a 3rd casting given the issues Fairplay had in general and with Jeff specifically)

But yeah, it was a real weird tribal. And I then got very annoyed when the preview revealed Exile Island was making a return. Lame

Episode 2

Continuing the theme of the Fans sucking, we find out that they have built two separate shelters because they are so dysfunctional and divided as a tribe. Christ. They are absolutely drawing dead on having any chance to win and it’s only the opening segment of episode 2. And why is Jason claiming ownership over the whole cave and not letting other people sleep there too? What a weirdo and idiot who puts himself offside with people. Sure that won’t come back into importance later.

Although at the same time, we have not one but two pairs of Favourites macking on and setting up as romantic pairs. Are they not aware that having a romantic relations, post Rob-Amber, is a huge target? Seemed fucking crazy. Although with a bit of thought given the huge challenge threat males (Ozzy and James) being paired with WTF cast females (Amanda and Parvarti); it’s a good meat shield strategy by the later two as if the pairs are targeted neither of them will be the person that people target (although the example of Rob and Amber perhaps reveals the ‘weaker’ female as the bigger threat). Even better as they are able to leverage those meat shields to bring in Cirie to form a 3 within their collective 5 which was a majority on a tribe of 9. Although given the three specific women here, is probably more likely that Cirire leveraged them to come together as the three rather than the other way around. Especially given the ep3 storyline was Cirie as the ‘pivot’ where she had the power.

Am vaguely surprised Jeff calls the Fairplay voteout a, well, voteout and not a quit at the next challenge. Especially given a) he hates Fairplay and b) he/they heavily doctored the narrative of what happened post-merge (and c) the reason they say, to this day, Fairplay won’t be invited back is because quitters don’t get invited back and he quit).

The reward challenge itself is meh (I wrote nothing about it) but the move to send Cirie to Exile along with Cathy was a good one by the Favourites. Cirie is a social machine and, by all appearances, got a heap of information out of her about the Fan tribe dynamics without giving up anything herself. But given Cathy, that’s maybe like playing a game on easy mode.

Despite my general dislike of Exile Island, I fucking loved the clue hunt in order to find the idol (and sort of thing was one of the few highlights with the finale of Island of the Idols when they brought it back). Although Cirie is very much not a fan of all the swimming back and forth. And with retrospect it’s painful/hilarious how close Cirie and Cathy got to finding the idol, doing four trips across between islands to only give up when they got right up to the idol (and not another clue). A bit of Fairplay level thinking would twig that the idol was of course going to be buried on Exile Island itsel and not some random island because that way they would definitely (and not suspiciously) be able to have cameraman (camera person?) be around.

Meanwhile the ‘Fans are stupid’ theme continues as Joel and other get spooked by Mikey explaining the idea of splitting the vote, knowing that a 7-3 division can allow a 4-3-3 vote. Which is important given Cathy has her one-tribal-idol and possibly might find another idol on Exile; meaning two of the three in her minority group could have an idol played on them and fuck over the majority 7. Idols are super well established and given this is a tribe specifically made up of “Fans”, they should be across this. But this complex thing known as ‘math’ spooks the majority to turnagainst Mikey Mary. Because rather than taking the shot at Mikey directly, for being the leader, they take a shot at his 2IC… because *reasons*?

And Joel manages to pull this off despite his own terrible people management skills, like hating Chet and literally telling Cathy when she returning from Exile to ‘vote for Mary, don’t ask questions’. Also Cathy’s reaction makes it look like she doesn’t know who the fuck Mary is (neither do I).

I do appreciate the honesty in responses at Tribal. Same thing with episode 1- still an era of Survivor where people were truthful in answering Jeff’s questions rather than putting on the deliberate/controlled performance that happens now. Is obviously something that could never last as the show kept going and evolving but see straight and honest answers was just refreshing.

Oh and the fact Jeff has to explain how many votes were needed for a majority count to lead to an elimination was… well… continuing to shit on the Fans. Are we sure they’re actually fans of the show?

Episode 3

In this episode I spot a new person who I hadn’t seen in the previous two episodes. She looks like the character Hayley who appeared in two episodes of Stargate SG1 across seasons 4 and 5. Turns out her name is Natalie but I won’t find that out or hear her voice until like, after the Merge. Great balanced editing. Very modern Survivor.

Joel’s idiot-villain edit continues as he talks about needing to ‘fight logically. kill them’ [referring to the Favourites] in a creepily calm tone.

Really liked the Reward Challenge and how it had a) the reward menu and b) battle paint. Made it more interesting as people were playing for things they really wanted and the war painting people did look really cool (and given a bit of an idea of how people are working together/what they wanted e.g. Eric’s ‘six pack’, Joel’s angry face etc). Also love how Eliza reacted to Mary’s boot as ‘Who’s Mary?’.

The Attack Zone returns! Not quite though, that Thailand magic could never be replicated. But this is a brutal challenge- people flat out tackling and wrestling each other on top of a coral reef. It’s basically a melee with occasionally some people carry heavy sacks across a line. In particular Eric smacks Eliza in the head with one of those heavy sacks (another Eliza injury) and then grabs Amanda by the thigh and flips her over his shoulder and face-first into the ground/water/coral. He’s apparently a crazy man in challenges.

Favourites win. Unsurprising. Sending Cathy back the Exile makes sense (limited idol options/confirmed knowledge on Fans tribe). Then sending Ami as another social person but a bit more physical to do the clue hunt also makes sense. Although turns out they’re both idiots and don’t effectively look for the idol.

The credulity of Penner’s inclusion as a ‘Favourite’ is pushed further as he trash-talks in a way that is quite awkward and very outdated. And outright homophobic towards Chet. Then after they lose the challenge (a classic- throw coconuts into a rope basket that the other team is holding up until they drop it) his ability to communicate is shown to be even worse as he tries to bully Cirie into going with his four (Penner, Yauman, Ami and Eliza) rather than the other four (Amanda, Parvarti, James and Ozzy). Cirie, being a not-idiot, knows that the latter four offers a much better arrangement in terms of shields for her and less savvy players.

Ozzy is equally bad as he complains that in order to get Cirie she is demanding they change their target from Eliza (who he wants) to Yauman (who Cirie wants). Parvarti shows some actual skill/awareness/math ability by agreeing to and advocating for the switch. But the fact that Cirie was able to obviously play the middle without having the two groups turn the target to her (i.e what Cesternino did in Amazon) is a testament to the difference in gameplay skills/levels between her and the favourites. And correctly recognizing that the blisteringly positive reaction Yauman got from the Fans meant that if he got to the swap he’d be in an incredible good position.

Penner continues to be shit-house at Tribal when he tries to bully/guilt Cirie into voting with him but Cirie is having none of that and stomps him for being a massive hypocrite. Delicious stuff. And again the honesty in responses and discussion is so fun.

On the flip side, Yauman is eliminated and we’ve lost both of the great returnee cast in the first three episodes (plus Mary). This is just All Stars again and I feel my interest/excitement beginning to wane.

Episode 4

Opens with discussion about how weak and/or sick Chet and Eliza are and how they’re a burden on their tribes. Locking in that they are both safe this episode as real illness related issues don’t get flagged that early in an episode.

The reward challenge is incredible as Ozzy demonstrates his challenge dominance is not just physical but mental; being able to think through the challenges and break them. In this case there is an underwater tunnel the teams need to push ten marked coconuts through (from amidst a larger number of coconuts). Then use the 10 marked coconuts to solve a 10 letter word puzzle on the shore (the markings were letters). The Producer’s plan was for each person in the team to swim up one-by-one and struggle to find and push a marked coconut along the tunnel. Which is what the Fans do. Instead the half-mermaid (merman?) Ozzy goes first and easily finds/pushes all ten of his tribe’s coconuts up the tunnel. Which means that by the time the Fans are able to get 2 or 3 coconuts; he comes back with his first and the Favourites are able to get all nine of the rest in under 10 seconds each and be hitting the puzzle before the Fans have got half their coconuts.

Then of all people JAMES, the salt-of-the-earth gravedigger physical specimen of the male form; apropos of nothing looks at the 10 random letters and goes ‘is Triumphant a word?’ And it is a word James, it’s the goddamn answer. Incredible.

This time the Favourite send Ozzy to Exile Island (presumably coz he will smash the clue hunt) and also sent Cathy back for a third time. Somewhat cruel but good gameplay. Cathy doesn’t even both hunting for the idol, explicitly saying she’s given up on it and can’t be bothered swimming around or looking for more clues.

Leaving Ozzy to go do it by himself. And apparently follow the whole four clue trail in the time period where a normal person (or Cathy at least) expects someone to be away looking for firewood and food and such. And he then easily finds the idol.

Then has a great idea (inspired by Yauman, RIP)- planting a fake idol with the real idols wrapping where he found the real idol. And there is an incredibly Cathy-derp-Fans-morons-Favourites-legends scene that follows where Ozzy is carving up the fake idol in a little cave by the ocean and makes the smallest effort to hide what he was doing from Cathy when she wanders over and she buys it unquestioningly. And then Ozzy easily hides the real idol in his hat, with Cathy not noticing that suddenly the hat was sitting very high on Ozzy’s heat and was quite tall.

Although as an aside, the fact that Ozzy had a such a useful large, wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun/rain off him really further shows how much an advantage the Favourites had. And thinking back to Fairplay’s Jeff outfit, while it was obviously a troll it was also really good survival/survivor gear– good hat for coves, long sleeves for heat/cool moderation and insect protection, ditto long pants that also had lots of big pockets, really good multi-purpose sturdy shoes. All far better than the standard clothes people were wearing and he snuck in under the guise of a joke.

Anyway- the theme continues to be hammered that the Fans are morons and the Favourites are out thinking/playing them by orders of magnitude. Although the Favourites aren’t all equally great, as shown in a scene on the Favourites tribe where Parvarti and… someone (Amanda? Definitely a female. Maybe Eliza or Ami?) and talking quite liberally about how they’re unable to trust Penner as they’re walking down a path. As Penner is quite visibly waling up behind them (well, visible to anyone with peripheral vision and/or a cautious attitude to slagging off contestants). Coz sure you might have power over Penner now but things can change and you might find yourself needing to work with him. Only stupid players burn bridges unnecessarily (ironically, like Penner does…)

Favourites continue their dominance, crushing an obstacle course+puzzle immunity challenge before the Fans are able to even finish the obstacle course component. Of note is that Eliza, while waiting at the puzzle area as she wasn’t in the obstacle course, still managed to get injured when the Fans obstacle course team came past and squashed her up against the fence/wall (the gimmick of the obstacle course was the ~6 person team were in a hub-harness thing and Eliza got caught up in it by literally standing still as they tried and failed to get past the puzzle station. Lol)

But don’t worry- we get more shitting on the Fans as a random Fan lady manages to convince Joel (didn’t remember her name at the time, turns out it was implant Tracey) to vote for his biggest ally Mikey as she says she thinks he’s gunning for Joel. Not because of anything said or done but coz “she’s intuitive and just knows things”. And Joel buys that. Leading the corralling of a majority to vote out Mikey B. Who I know nothing about other than he know how both math and forward planning works which put him on the outside.

And the general plan of any of the Fan players makes no fucking sense, keeping the critically weak and huge liability of Chet instead of their second strongest physical player (and possibly most strategic/game savvy). Crazy.

Episode 5

This starts with Ozzy telling people about having the idol. Unsure if this is a good idea given he tells like 3 people, at which point it’s probably going to go to everyone at that is textbook bad. On the flip-side it maybe gives Ozzy specifically some cover as an immunity challenge threat where people won’t be game to go for him if he misses an immunity win or they lose a tribal immunity (remembering he won what, 5 in a row in Cook Islands). But noticeably he doesn’t tell Cirie, which likely plants the seeds for Cirie to start the move to blindside him after the Merge. So maybe the problem wasn’t that he told too many people but that he told too few.

The tribe swap was hilarious as people did not know the names of the people on the other tribe- Ozzy calls Joel “Troy” (later the Favourites are revealed to have been calling him Truck given his massive bulk). Penner calls Jason “blue shirt guy, I dunno his name”. Jason then calls Parvarti “Poverty”… although that one is more on Parvarti’s parents giving her a stupid name than Jason not knowing who this ‘Favourite’ was.

I really liked the schoolyard pick swap where they had to choose people from the opposite tribe (i.e. Favourite chooses a Fan, Fan choose a Favourite, repeat loop). Mainly as the random lot draw that happens nowadays seems to always give shitty combinations whereas this at least gives players some agency in the swap dynamics. And agency is always better than randomness. Although really would need to make sure there is no discussion between people who get chosen early to bias picks of subsequent people. The decision on who to choose is based solely on the person choosing based on their interpretation of personal dynamics, tribe needs etc. And all the implications that communicates to everyone else (those on their tribe, those on the other, those not yet picked).

But thinking about it this system only works if the tribes go into the swap at even numbers (or offset by one at most for maybe an Exile Island twist). So I can see why it’s gone to be random these days as thats the only format that works always regardless of how the pre-swap boots have gone. However I think there should be some other solutions to help make sure there are interesting combinations in swap tribes (although as an aside, while I haven’t seen it yet, the One World twist sounds like the ideal way to guarantee any and all swap combinations are good. And given modern Survivor’s love of extra islands e.g EoE, having all tribes on one beach is maybe a good idea from a TV perspective too.)

The first challenge was an on-land obstacle course chase between teams of tethered people. I also liked how there was no gender matching of the pairs it seemed- each tribe picked two people and that was it (I presume no-one could be picked a second time until everyone had gone once). Good opportunity for player agency and strategy. But there was a big advantage in the order of operations (i.e. which tribe chased first vs ran first) as they were playing first to five and the team chasing won the first four rounds. Although scuttlebutt is that was the product of editing and there were more races run where the chasers lost. But the reason they set it up this way was that the final chasing pair was Joel-Chet and as Joel fucking hates Chet it was basically him forcibly dragging Chet through the obstacle course (or rather, through the obstacles). Resulting in them losing the round and thus the challenge (with the TV story being that Joel’s dickhead meanness and Chet’s general incompetence lost the tribe the challenge). Joel explicitly saying he didn’t care that Chet hit his head and probably got a concussion further reinforcing this.

Speaking of the concussion- there were heaps of injuries in the challenge. Penner got a big cut on his leg, Ami fucked her knee, Parvarti got a ‘fat lip’ (that last one was less of an issue though). Has been confirmed after the fact that coz of all the injuries, including one leading to a medevac, this challenge would never return. Maybe doing it over water rather than land would be a bit better?

New tribes go back to their camps. We then get several bits over the next couple eps as the Favourites moved to the Fans camp complain about how shit it is as a location compared to the Favourites… which given these camps were known to be unequal after their usage in Palau, really raises an eyebrow at why Production a) used them again and b) happened to give the Favourite the great camps with heaps of shelter and food and water… ). Maybe the Fans are getting unwarranted heat for incompetence when its actually out of their hands?

But more pressingly is a scene at the Fans camps to undercut this question where they’re making food over the fire at the shelter when the ocean tide comes in and washes away the campfire and their reward food. THEY BUILT THEIR SHELTER (well, at least one of them) LITERALLY IN A SPOT WHERE HIGH TIDE COMES IN. Fuck these people are morons.

The immunity challenge was un-noteworthy other than Penner being a bitch complaining that his tribe was shit at breaking tiles compared to the other. And Jeff called him out as such. Although I suspect if they wanted to give Penner a nice/hero edit the same scene could have been framed as friendly banter rather than sore-loser-cunty-ness.

And we see more powerful playing by Cirie in orchestrating the tribe to take out Joel, objectively the strongest on the tribe, instead of Chet as they were all heading towards. Realizing correctly that if they took out Chet that would set the theme of targeting weak players for tribe strength and she was the next weakest. So not a good long term plan for her.

Also note that until the Merge this same tribe (uhh… Malakai?) will lose every immunity challenge and so one P. Shallow who is on the other tribe got extremely lucky to never be at risk of getting voted out… or at least not having a clear majority while definitely have a clear pair (Penner and Eliza) gunning for her on her newly swapped tribe.

Episode 6

This started (or at least my notes do) with a fantastic challenge- the ‘you build an obstacle course in a tunnel for a period of time and then the other tribe has to get through your obstacles’. The reward itself was shit (although funny seeing Edwin and Joe from Palau again XD) but the signposting about Penner’s injury was really hamming it up. If it hadn’t been explicitly noted in the previous episode (during the episode, not during a ‘next time on Survivor’ preview segment) I’d dismiss it as a false flag but they were laying it on so thick.

So it was quite emotional when Penner was medevaced out of the game due to the massive infection in his knee/leg. Although the rewriting by Penner literally as the boat took him away that he was ‘kicking ass’ and had the game locked up seems a bit uhh, optimistic. Although if it is true it further highlights how lucky Parvati did in the swap stage with the other sides central figure taken out for her.

Immunity challenge is great as it gets broken, this time by James using his strength to just carry people. Really highlighting the ‘mistake’ in the Malakai tribe in voting out Joel as they couldn’t replicate this ‘breaking’ trick and were hence crushed. And maybe highlighting why modern challenges are the way they are- they’ve got a core set that haven’t been broken and they stick to them.

The rest of the episode is weird. We get flagged that Chet also got cut in the previous episode’s challenge (or some point in the past) and has an infection in his foot. And he wants people to vote him out… which they were going to do anyway (at least, according to Ozzy). Further whittling out Fans and giving the Favourites power.

However then there is a plot hatched for Chet to not actually “quit-via-voteout” (as it is being framed on the TV) but join with a Tracey-Ami led group to blindside Ozzy. With it being a question of whether he’ll be loyal to his friends/allies and vote out Ozzy or doom their games by leaving them as sitting ducks in the tribe and quitting like a loser.

But no it was a fake out and Chet indeed quits-vita-voteout due to his injury. However post-game press reveal that his infection was actually very bad the Penner’s and it was only because they were going to Tribal that Chet wasn’t immediately pulled; with the Medical not pulling him on the explicit proviso he would be voted out later that night and he wanted the full experience or something. Else he would be medevaced immediately after the vote.

So Ozzy really dodged a bullet there. As did Parvarti (given the huge changes in the merge dynamic if we swap out Chet for Ozzy here… and who knows how that affects who goes home in the next episode with that changed dynamic)

Conversely would have loved too see how much fans/viewers would have reacted if Chet did help blindside Ozzy (with idol in pocket) and then immediately “quit”/got medevaced. So maybe Chet dodged a bullet too in that he just got dismissed/forgotten rather than loathed as a low dog taking out ‘Favourite’ Ozzy in such a way.

Oh also Jason got sent to Exile Island (along with someone from Malakai when they lost) and found the fake idol. And after some early moments of hesitation seemed to pretty easily land on ‘this must be the real idol, this poorly carved face on a stick’. While on the surface this is patently stupid, I think there are some context things that need to be acknowledged. Firstly, chances are any doubts he did express were just cut from the edit and it was set up to make him look gullible/stupid given post-merge events. But more pertinently, every fucking season up to this point idols have looked completely different each time they’re in the game and they typically don’t look particular flash or fancy. Only exception to that is China’s idols and, like, they possible hadn’t seen that stuff air before coming out to play this season. But there had been some discourse about people making fakes or confusing randomly similar looking things for idols (admittedly the later was China which hadn’t been seen) so it is very reasonable to expect Production to make ‘idols’ that look pretty crap. Nowadays I think that is an explicit goal of Production to make it harder to tell fake idols apart from real ones. But yeah I think Jason gets a very bad rap on this, on the off chance that he even was convinved it was real.

Episode 7

Got a couple scenes to start with that we simply wouldn’t now that are critical for explaining later events (and their exclusions nowadays is why Survivor struggles with narrative): camp life and personal dynamics. Specifically Tracey and Ozzy arguing about whether to kill and eat a chicken and Ozzy and Cirie when Ozzy forces Cirie to go out to the deep ocean (with other tribe members) for fishing when she is super unconformable with the water. Really showing Ozzy’s arrogance and lack of consideration of others points of view, in particular as he takes on a leader/decision maker role for the tribe. All bits of information which explain why Ozzy becomes a target and why Cirie leads the effort to get rid of him and such. Is also a similar scene later where Amanda realises/agrees that Ozzy is a bit of an arrogant cunt when talking with Cirie, laying the foundation for how Cirie wins Amanda back after the impending Ozzy blindside.

Cool traditional stone money themed reward challenge to start with. Lol remember thematic challenges? Although it is super early in the season to have the spa reward. It’s literally still before the merge so it isn’t going to have the dynamic-warping effects it otherwise might. (Hmm I wonder if this reward was maybe sponsored by anyone… some very subtle product placement suggests possibly XD).

Was very funny seeing Cirie get left and right confused in guiding the blindfolded members of the tribe. Also rough for Tracey being asked/made to go to Exile (with Jason) to miss out on the spa reward. Wonder if Ozzy regretted that choice when at the reward challenge he got to spend some time in the shower with a naked Amanda and naked Ami. Tracey is quite a looker too (even with the implants). Very lucky man. And Erik was a lucky boy watching from the sidelines I guess.

Clearly nothing happened at Exile as we aren’t shown it. Wonder if Jason even pretended to look. Also I wonder if anyone picked up that Ozzy, the leader, elected to not go to Exile. Suggesting he wasn’t worried about someone finding the idol. In other words, that he had already found the idol.

Anyway, Cathy has a breakdown and quits the show. Is a real weird scene and people clearly don’t know how to react or what to say. Since airing it emerged that Cathy was having withdrawal from her meds and had a mental health crisis, apparently threatening to self-harm with the machete until they let her quit. Which explains why Jeff was so much more positive towards this “quit” than towards previous ones, both before this season and during this season- if they pissed her off possibly some liability on them if she pushed it. Although it is a bit murky as to exactly why Cathy wasn’t on her meds, some speculation she wasn’t allowed them (ditto Fairplay and his novacaine) but general view is because she didn’t disclose them for fear that she wouldn’t be cast as Production/Medical would question if she could survive without them and that pre-emptively cut her to be safe (a cut that, it would seem, would have been right on the money).

The immunity challenge is cool- people have to race along a water obstacle course, grab a set of puzzle pieces and attach them to a hook for the rest of the tribe to pull back via a giant winch. Then they have to solve the puzzle pieces that are awkwardly sized/shaped (noting for comparison with Aus Survivor All Stars, they are an awkward size, not impossible-for-one-person-to lift due to weight which is a way better idea).

Has a few funny moments- like when Eliza manages to match Ozzy in racing up to the first set of pieces but while Ozzy shoves the pieces into the water to give them a push along and help the winch-team; Eliza just sits on hers on the pontoon. Adding additional (if meager) extra weight for her winch team to need to pull. Conversely I really dislike that Ozzy is able to effectively run every one of the water-course legs for his tribe while the other tribe changes through people. Obviously was a free-choce but given Ozzie’s water domaince that seems a bit fucked. Really thought that by this stage of the shows meta they’d locked in rules of having to cycle through the whole tribe.

Then again Eliza is able to crush the puzzle and Airai win despite Malakais Ozzy based lead. Big oof for how difficult it seemed to solve the puzzle (one of those perfect square things) in the sand given the awkward size/shape of the pieces. Well done challenge department on this one!

Tribal is uneventful. I literally didn’t write down who went home it was that lame (was Tracey btw). Spent the whole thing looking at Amanda’s haircut and wondering how/why it was so bad. Is shocking how she is, I feel, probably the hottest person who’s been on Survivor in terms of peak hotness but always seems to find the most unattractive position/view/style choice to bring her below other people in consideration for hotness (e.g. Parvati). Has a high ceiling but a low floor, leading to super high variance.

Episode 8

This episode opens with the weirdest scene I’ve ever seen in Survivor. Had weird horror vibes as Ami and Cirie stalked through the jungle. Or were being stalked?

Turned out to be them hunting crabs, which was apparently best done between 3am-6am hence the weird lighting. And the editors just decided to try something different I guess. Have a bit of fun.

Reward+immunity challenge had this weird thing where the Airai tribe knew who’d been eliminated before the challenge starred. Then I realised that the gimmick for this challenge was the tribes could pre-select a person to not participate from the other tribe and get sent to exile. And that list had Tracey not on it. Malakai being shit continues as they choose to exile Alexis (who’s Alexis?) rather than James/Jason/someone actually good at challenges.

Jason specifically should have been the choice as he basically single-handedly wins it for Airai.

Also a funny scene where Jeff gets shitty at Jason for interrupting the script for pre-challenge banter by cutting straight to asking what they’re playing for. Unclear why this challenge is randomly reward and immunity though. Seems weird.

So the challenge is two people for each tribe alternate running a gauntlet of obstacles; while the rest of the tribe members try hit them off the path (a thing beam) with sacks that are on pendulum swings. Although they have no luck as I think out of countless (probably hundreds) of attempts there is maybe 1 successful knock off. The bags look really small and light so it isn’t really worthwhile or an obstacle.

The bigger obstacle was that the course only had a single path for the second half and that was a choke point where the person who got to it (and touched it) first had priority to try and get through first. Which actually let Eliza sneak in front of Erik with a well timed leap forward to get her hand past Erik and touching the next section first.

And was brutal seeing Erik doing these crazy leaps from a standing start of the obstacle course to try outright clear the wonky rope bridge that was the first (and most difficult) obstacle of the course and slamming into the wooden platforms.

Doesn’t work though as Malakai, again, loses.

Reward is Survivor pizza and beer and unlike modern Survivor Pizza it doesn’t look garbage. Although there are like four boxes of pizza for the whole tribe, and only one is vegetarian. Really weird. But it is super uncomfortable watching James open the beer bottles with his teeth. Oh my god that is so not good for his teeth.

Over at Exile we see Ozzy out play Alexis (what a change, a Favourite outmaneuvering a Fan!) and is able to find out that someone has taken the fake idol from where he hid it. He immediately suspects Jason. Note that nothing important actually happened here, so normally they would just not show this Exile segment a la prior episodes this season. Hmmm… I WONDER WHY THEY KEEP REMINDING US ABOUT THE FAKE IDOL? WHO COULD GUESS?

Then some weird shit happens over on the Malakai beach. Like Ami wanders off at one point letting Erik ‘spill the beans’ about her various conversations the previous cycle about targeting Ozzy. Really letting Erik poison the well and introduce some doubt about Ami’s loyalty. Leading to a weird convo where Ami is shitting on Erik and selling herself to Cirie and Amanda while Erik is like 2 meters away chopping wood. My most generous interpretation is she overestimated the solidness of her relationship/alliance with Cirie and Amanda. Like there is no way that, simply to fill time between challenges, everyone isn’t constantly running through scenarios about different targets and groups so it really shouldn’t be that big of an issue.

And Ozzy, who Erik immediately goes and cries/complain to the moment he steps foot off the Exile boat. Although according to post-season discourse, Ozzy came back literally seconds before they left for Tribal (he had immunity as a ‘balance’ for missing reward so didn’t get blowback from being absent) so all that happened was Erik told him about Ami being disloyal and then they went into “lockdown” to go to Tribal (no talking in transit when there are no mics/cameras around) so Ami had no chance to speak with Ozzy or give the overall view.

Tribal is a bit weird. Seems like some key parts have been cut as Ami starts crying out of nowhere and it’s real weird/awkward. Exactly why Ozzy thought she was untrustworthy and how/what she tried to do to correct that misconception wasn’t really shown. And like, the fact Ami had been loyal the last 3 votes…. in fact literally every vote they’d gone to before and after the swap should be a super convincing piece of evidence that she is loyal (coz , you know, she was loyal) but apparently it doesn’t work. And despite Amanda and Cirie not wanting to vote Ami out Ozzy gets his way and she goes instead of Eric.

Which changed the whole end narrative- Eric was last man standing (uhh, spoilers I guess), imagine if it’d been Ami instead.

Episode 9

Merge time baby! What a coincidence that the two tribes happen to arrive at the location to merge at the same time in their paddle boats.

Unintentionally funny line at the beginning where Ozzy complains/declares that “you can’t play both sides in Survivor” Really illustrating why he never won any of this, what, 6 million attempts to win the game.

Despite his reservations a few episodes earlier, Jason now seems 100% invested in the fake idol being the real one. Hmm I wonder why they’re bringing this up?

A bit of drama at the merge where there is a questions/uncertainty/fear over which beach the tribe will go to- the good Favourites beach or the shit Fans beach. But, uhh, ‘luckily’ they’re given the choice and they (shockingly) choose to go to the not shit beach to live out the rest of the game.

Also some over dramatic vibe from Erik in confessionals, saying that he owes Ozzy his life for saving him the night before. Mate, they don’t execute people when they’re voted off pre-merge.

There’s a fun/annoying discussion where Parvarti talks to Amanda about how she’s formed a new alliance with Alexis and Natalie and brought Amanda in without checking with Amanda first. Amanda gets pretty pissy about that (at least in confessionals). Highlighting a bit of an era change over between from ‘pick a core group and stay loyal while playing against other groups’ (Amanda) to ‘have lots of groups to flip between as circumstances require’ (Parvarti) which is one step in the evolution from the OG ‘Alliances” to the modern day ‘Voting Blocs’. So it’s kind of fun to observe that. Although I wonder how much their relative frequency of tribal visits affected those strategies- Amanda had gone through the wringer with her (their) alliance while Parvarti had been, uhh, not.

(It’s annoying because in any event this little disagreement, and the worried ‘risks’ about playing both sides turn out to not matter or negatively affect either of their chances of getting to the end. But it does maybe affect who votes for whom at final tribal. So it is irrelavent for the thing that TV shows us but not framed in a way to really help explain something that would be helpful)

Immunity challenge is fucking great- the ‘hang under a grate in the water until high tide forces you to come out else you drown’. Lots of tension in such a simple idea. And to the shock of everyone the water god Ozzy comes in second losing to chill-bro Jason. Unable to tell if Ozzy’s muted reaction to Jason’s win (compared to the others congratulation him) is shock at the loss, distraught at being beaten or just a byproduct of him being half-drowned.

The lead up to Tribal council is a bit meh. Eliza is clearly on the outs along with Jason but Jason is immune so Eliza is the clear target. Her attempts to work anything have been rebuffed, in particular by Parvarti who seems to be going for Eliza on a personal level. And randomly wevsee some shocking jury management by Parvarti (that is only saved at the end by Amanda’s shocking FTC performance which Parvarti can’t have been playing for given China hadn’t aired).

But I can’t imagine that seeing how Parvarti is kind of mean and bad at jury management would be relevant for results in say, a future season where she goes very deep but doesn’t win…

Anyway the tribal itself is a somewhat overplayed moment (as in, I have heard enough about it in meta discourse that there was no suspense or tension for me. Plus it had been so heavily signposted in the edit over previous episodes as upcoming it was not a surprise at all) as Eliza plays the ‘stick idol’ and Jeff takes great delight in drawing out the reveal it isn’t an idol. Really wish it had been an idol given the shocked looks on the majority’s faces when they released they had potentially fucked it by not splitting their votes. Though I can see how back in like, uhh, 2007 it would have been mind blowing.

But Eliza goes home, well goes to the jury. Where she breaks the mold of ‘quiet Jury just sitting and watching’ and becomes an animated part of tribal with her reactions, forever shaping how jury members act up to this day (Possibly the biggest effect the season had on Survivor going forward?). But not before putting two and two together and figuring out that if Jason found a fake then Ozzy must have the real one. Which she shares with the group. Good parting shot.

Episode 10

Annoyed that the reward challenge is a random team one. Should be individual challenges where people then have to choose who joins them. Or at least player chosen teams. Randomly assigned teams works well towards the end to give a chance of unexpected groupings pulling together when numbers are tight; but this far out from the endgame it is more useful to have the ‘pick who comes’ to flag the pecking order within the groups. When there’s still numbers/time for people to mix it up. Sucks to be Cirie going to Exile after not being picked (9 contestants, two teams of four and a leftover who goes to Exile). Nowadays there’d be four more idols on the island she could find but in this era it’s just a wasted day by herself .

Immunity challenge is weird. It’s an endurance challenge with the temptation twist (i.e. at certain points people are tempted down with rewards. In this case all food). Given they had the merge feast the cycle before AND half the tribe (well, 4 our of nine) had gotten food at the reward earlier in this cycle having Tempation now seems like a waste and very weird timing.

Although Erik, a bloke who got both the aforementioned food opportunities, drops at the first temptation for gummy worms along with Cirie. Seems a really strange choice of food to go for, at least wait for a proper meal. I don’t think pure sugar will be actively bad (a la Bruce and his poop problems in Panama) but I don’t think it’ll be that helpful either. Although given Cirie sucks at challenges (and is extremely safe in terms of being a potential target) her dropping first chance is pretty understandable and reasonable.

Then there’s a funny bit where Jeff bring out the next plate of food but before he offers the temptation Alexis drops. And is thus ineligible for the food. She is very upset (and Jeff says it doesn’t matter how much she puts she won’t get anything’. James is then a bit of a cunt and laughs, a lot, at her misery. So much laughing in fact that he fucks up his own set up and is eliminated. Unclear if he got to eat the food temptation.

Ozzy drops for donuts which is also a bit odd but the meta of this challenge is that women do well (holding their arm up above their head- smaller mass/muscle and joints make endurance easier or something. Allegedly) so maybe he was about to drop. Also he is in the dominant alliance and had the idol so maybe he is dropping his guard…

Amanda drops coz after the challenge goes for several hours she needs to pee. And she bounds off into the forest like a deer or gazelle. On one hand I’m mildly surprised she didn’t just sneakily pee herself… but on the otherhand I understand her not wanting to even risk that making TV. Which makes me wonder if it’s ever happened in a previous challenge?

There is then an extended scene of the showdown between Jason and Parvarti for the win. And obviously it goes for ages as Jeff comes back with a huge tray of food that looks like production has just pilled heaps of whatever they could find at the staff canteen to get one of them to step down. With the added social pressure of whoever steps down can also share the massive tray with the rest of the tribe. Which leads to another ‘aren’t the Fans dumb and the Favourite’s great as the tribe, led by Natalie but corralled by Cirie, ‘swear’ to not vote for Jason at the upcoming tribal if he pulls out. With a lot of ‘fingers being crossed behind their back’ to undo the swearing coz apparently they’re all kinder-gardeners and that makes lying to someone morally ok (or rather for this context, permitable to do and not get backlash for lying in a FTC vote I guess?).

Which is apparently good enough for Jason who then steps down, giving Parvarti the win (and as an aside, from what was shown Jason was as good a chance as Parvati to win this so I dunno who people favoured Parvarti so heavily in this challenge when it happened in WaW or think women generally have an advantage over men). Given Jason was wanting a ‘guarantee’ of safety, I dunno why he didn’t insist that Ozzy give him the idol as that’s the only real guarantee.

So yeah, Jason is an idiot for stepping down.

But Ozzy is a bigger idiot for being and overconfident douche-bag and getting voted out with a metaphorical idol in his pocket. Metaphorical coz the idol he actually had he left back in camp. A great blindside orchestrated by Cirie that was only hinted at but not not given away in the edit. Perfect balance of the shock result but with immediate understanding of how/why it happened in hindsight. You know, that thing Survivor can’t do any more coz it spends all the airtime explaining strategy and advantages rather than characters and relationships.

Anyway worth noting for the record here that this blindside specifically excluded Amanda because she would not have gone along and warned Ozzy to play his idol. Keep that in mind as the narrative about the back end of the season (and it’s overall legacy with the Black Widow Brigade) gets written.

Episode 11

The narrative rewrite begins immediately this episode with the recap flat out lying and saying Ozzy was ‘in a perfect position to make the final 4’. Cmon Jeff, that’s absolute horseshit. He only not done great in immunity challenges, had one idol and there were five votes until Final 4. So very much in a risky spot (esp given his lack of social game). And since when was ‘the Final 4’ a target people aimed for- it’s win, or make final tribal (or make merge I suppose. And make Family visit according to behind the scenes scuttelbutt). At least pick an actually impressive target in your lie.

We have some terrible jury management by Parvarti as she tries to sweet talk James about the Ozzy blindside and refuses to just speak straight to him that the girls are banding together and he is fucked. Not reading people properly or thinking ahead to winning at FTC, only thinking ahead to getting to the FTC.

Conversely, great management of Amanda by Cirie. Really editors setting her up as the Robbed G.oddess of the season.

Then it’s AUCTION TIME BABY! Great fun with this- Cirie tries to shortchange Jeff with her payment for an item (although weird that Jeff asked her pecificlaly about it…). Natalie wastes nearly half her money on a mystery item that turns out to be bat which she refuses to eat… so James gets it for free (commenting to Jeff that it’s great once you remove the skin!).

Very interesting bit where Natalie buys the right to steal someone else’ money and send them to Exile as her first response is to ask Jeff about the idol. That’s like, smart play by a Fan?! And to my shock he directly and clearly give her a confirmatory answer- yes there is a new idol. Nowadays he’d be way more ambiguous about such a thing. But to my even greater shock she sends Jason to Exile, giving him (the next target) a clean shot at finding an immunity idol. What? Although she does get his full $500 (apparently he hadn’t bought anything).

There’s obviously stuff going on that we aren’t seeing because this make no sense- send Amanda or Alexis to grab the idol. Not the target. What is even more confusing is Jason looks legitimately devastated to be going and losing his money/auction options. Dude- you’re a big target, idol security is a fantastic opportunity.

Then there is this really weird bit where, using Jason’s money, Natalie gets a big chocolate cake but with a twist. She can share it with three people but they only have 60 seconds to eat as much as possible. Firstly she immediately chooses three people in her alliance of four. At least pretend it’s a hard choice. And then she admonishes the three before they even do anything, warning them to not piss her off coz she’s ‘hangry’. So fucking weird. I guess the editors want to bury her smart move amongst other dumb decisions.

Although it’s even weirder when Erik give Cirie $20 to lick her fingers clean afterwards. So fucking weird and awkward/disgusting.

You may notice that I’ve mentioned Natalie more in the last three paragraphs that the entire rest of this post. That’s because she suddenly appears and has a huge weird-villain edit vibe turned up to 11. I legit wondered if she was about to be voted off given her sudden rise to prominence in the edit. It’d be a dead giveaway in modern Survivor.

The Exile Island segment is a bit weird because the new set of clues appear to require knowledge of the previous set of clues in order to follow them. Good thing Jason had already been and done that clue hunt. Wonder what would have happened is someone who hadn’t been was sent (e.g. Amanda or Alexis like a fucking smart person would send).

Anyway, Jason finds the idol and (perhaps fairly) interprets the fact Natalie send him there as a sign she’s interested in working with him. Maybe a Fans alliance. But no, it’s a ruse and she lays it thick when he comes back for immunity challenge to maintain his misconception.

The challenge is one of those multi-leg ones where people are progressively eliminated from the running. Unsure how I feel about this- having a mix up in formats is great but when the person in trouble (i.e. Jason) is eliminated before the last leg it makes it a bit meh. Was Erik’s birthday and he just beat James to win immunity which was pretty good I guess. Close finish is a good finish. And James very nearly interfered with Eric by mistake too- they had to use a pair of planks to cross a wobbly rope bridge over water but when James fell one of his two planks it drifted on past Eric. And the combination of a) the ropes being barely above water level, b) the water being not super deep and c) James being huge made for some near misses as he crossed underneath Eric.

Back at camp Jason continues to be an idiot as he leaves the idol in his bag and leaves it at camp to go fishing (or whatever). Leading to a very uncomfortable scene as Natalie near-gleefully goes through his stuff looking for (and finding) the idol. James is particularly uncomfortable and unhappy about this… although he doesn’t appear to have done anything to stop it or told Jason about it, probably presuming (correctly) that if Jason got spooked and played the idol then he would be going home instead.

As it happens, Jason buys Natalie’s story, doesn’t play the idol and is sent home 5-4 (James getting the other four votes). James’ shocked reaction at Eric for not playing the idol is the sort of personality that makes him a great casting for the show, even if his game sense isn’t great.

But Jason is just a moron. Christ. Two in a row send home with idols in pocket.

Given Natalie wasn’t sent home, my thoughts went from ‘she must get eliminated’ to ‘she must get no votes at FTC’ and this villain edit explains why e.g. she just burnt Jason, helped to burn Ozzy last week, wasn’t exactly good to Eliza. But I know who the Final 2 were… so am very confused as to what the Editors were doing here. Peering forward; I’m guessing that Natalie was so instrumental in this (and one following) vote that they couldn’t edit around it to try pin the credit on a Favourite. So I wonder what else she she’s done that has been credited to other people prior to this…

Oh and James is told to go see medical for his injured finger. Odd thing to throw in the end here. Wonder why

The preview for the next ep is pretty action packed- another medical concern (Hmm I wonder who it might be given what randomly happened seconds ago after the vote?), another idol, family visit.

Also as an aside, from my podcast listens (doing the same things as prior where I listen to recap and response podcast released when the show was airing) there is so much speculation and discussion about the “biggest blunder ever” teaser Jeff made in the pre-season promotions And whether it was Ozzy or Jason (beating the reigning champion James with his two idols). Is kind of funny in hindsight to learn Jeff was overhyping the moment before it aired as much as he hypes it since. And the fan discourse between Jeff hyping inaccurately or spoiling late game content being quite vigourous. Especially with Ozzy commentary saying explicitly “something worse happens” (probably violating some sort of confidentiality contract) and Jason saying “I’d never be dumb enough to give up immunity” in their post-boot press, defending themselves from being tarred with the brush of ‘dumbest move ever’. Also seeing (well, hearing) people picking up on the over use of spider imagery in the edit and going ‘WTF is with all the spiders?”

Episode 12

In possibly a Survivor first we start in “Survivor Medical Services”- a new location for the show I believe. Looks like a boat. James’ finger is apparently fucked from getting cut (can’t recall if they say where/when it got cut) and after getting some treatment he is pre-warned that unless it has improvement the next day he is getting medevaced, else the infection spread to his joints and permanent fucks his hands.

Also next morning we hear that Alexis has been injured too- hurt herself when crab hunting and tumbled badly on the rocks. Scuttlebutt is that actually she hurt herself running away from Production staff when she, probably James and possibly Erik raided it for food. Given we see no real detail about this injury (or even the injury itself) I’d buy that. But I don’t buy the conspiracy that the next three boots were some Production scheme to penalise them for breaking the rules without wrecking the TV product.

Anyway, the next reward challenge is the best- the Rotu Chop! I dunno what the official name its though. The one where they answer ‘slam questions’ about each other, have to guess what the most common option was and then take shots at each others three ‘ lifelines (in this case, ropes holding back a big rock that will smash a doll dressed as each contestant). So not only do people get personally slammed for their faults as per not only what the majority think but also what individuals think the majority thinks, people who get praised with positive things have their target/threat profile and the inter-alliance ‘chopping order’ is laid out for all to see. Heap of opportunity for drama and shake up. And perfectly timed.

Although it seems to have been broken here as the majority alliance deliberately target each other and spread out the hits. The only real slam is when Parvarti is named as the person ‘mistaken into believe they are in control of the game’. And maybe James when he was the one named as ‘person not to invite to a family meal’, although James also nominated himself so it seems some known joke was at play here. James’ dad was more offended. (Oh yeah- they’re playing for family visit reward, even more drama/tension).

Oh also Amanda in particular seems unable to get over how violent the smashing of the dolls are. They do get fucking pulverized so she does maybe have a point.

Anyway, only risky part if the final chop where Cirie has the ability to choose Alexis or Amanda as the winner. And she of course does the clever thing of choosing Alexis. Ingratiating herself with Alexis and weakening Parvati’s stranglehold over the Alexis-Natalie duo. And given post season talk about F3 vs F2 votes, this sort of move by Cirie was possibly very important if Production didn’t drop the F2 out of nowhere.

Plus it also lets Amanda do the selfless/clever thing and volunteer to be sent to Exile, meaning she does the clue hunt and finds the idol. Although she gets the shittest clue trail, as it ends by telling her the idol is actually buried at camp so she’ll have to engineer something to get everyone away. But she does turn it to her advantage of returning to camp and very clearly showing everyone she doesn’t have the idol. Which is a very clever way to undercut any talk of targeting her ‘to flush the potential idol’.

Although to balance out two clever things, she does a dumb thing of asking Jeff if she can hug her sister (which he obviously denies given she lost) rather than just hugging her before going to Exile. “Forgiveness not permission” sort of thing.

Some great family dynamic reactions too. Eric marveling with his brother about his (Eric’s) beard and the fact Jeff Probst was standing near by, right there! Amanda’s sister commenting that she (Amanda) smells better this time was amusing. And James Sr was a mountain of a man dressed in the most formal suit since… well… Courtney’s dad in China. Very suave. And was unimpressed people didn’t want to invite his son to dinner. But damn Cirie’s husband was a sweet heart and legend once again, he gets the medal of best family member.

After the challenge James is sent off by Jeff for a medical check up. And it’s clear things are bad. Because his medical check up takes place in a location with this noticeably bright green stalks/plants behind him. Which suddenly has been the place all his confessionals in the last episode and a bit have been from. So pretty clear they are post-medevac-decision confessional interview/questions that are then stitched back to give drama.

Is pretty shitty that he doesn’t get to say good bye to everyone (Amanda on Exile, reward people on reward). But he is suddenly gone. Making it possibly the only time in Survivor history a medical situation flagged in the preview was actually game relevant (Although given it was flagged in the prior Tribal, the rule of ‘nothing in preview matters’ still holds. Technically).

And this did have a huge effect on the game. Is pretty well accepted in fan discourse that this medevac, combined with the following boot cycle not being delayed/tweaked e.g. canning the next immunity/vote-out cycle, is what forced the season to have a Final 2 rather than a Final 3. Else they’d run out of people to kick out before the 39 day period. And I fully buy that Production is dumb enough to have a Final 2 with 8 person jury (nearly getting a perfect, unbreakable tie) rather than, I dunno, finishing in 38 days or just having an extra day between any of the boots from this point until Final 3. Or just canning the next immunity challenge and ending with James’ medevac for the ep. Heaven forbid they have to cancel a challenge and fill airtime with social dynamic scenes or the family reward.

So yeah, next we get a ‘shoot the targets with a gun’ immunity challenge. And I suddenly recalled seeing this in Survivor Palau. And then realise that actually a lot of these challenges (and rewards) have been seen previously in Palau.

The challenge also, as presented, seems pretty flawed as it is a ‘first to 3’ which means that the order of shooting matters- the first person to shoot (if they don’t miss) will win. Although I’d hope that they’d do a full round and tie breaker if it came to that. Otherwise the last shooter, co-incidentally the minority-of-one-alliance Erik, is in a serious pickle.

Well, that was my initial thought. Turns out he isn’t as he nails his first three shots and wins with no effort. A couple people (including Natalie who shot first) do get their first shot too. But all of the girls miss at least one shot, letting Erik comfortably cruise to the win.

Post-immunity there are a few amusing scenes. There’s a bit of discourse about how it definitely is a final 3 and as such Amanda is a big risk to keep in the game as a huge jury threat (neither of those things are true in hindsight XD)

Some continued terrible jury management by Parvarti asking Alexis if they should vote her off so she can get her aforementioned knee injury treated. Which Alexis resoundingly rejects as any reasonable justification to target her.

Amanda co-ordinates with Parvarti to get the buried idol. I hope she did that because she needed people away form the flag so she could dig and it wasn’t happening naturally. And not because she didn’t consider the risks of telling someone where the idol was and thus giving them the chance to grab it first. In either event, she does successfully get it so it works out for her.

Tribal council is hilarious as we have this super dramatic scene of James slow walking up to the Jury bench with this IV drip attached.

Great idol deception and play by Amanda, hoodwinking everyone but Parvarti who are voting for her. So bye bye Alexis as the ‘Womens Alliance’ turns on each other with some clear divides emerging (and more divides/turning than needed to outlast Eric’s immunity win)

But note for the Black Widow narrative- half the Black Widows weren’t involved in this. And while one might look at Cirie’s voting confessional and think she knew what was happening, the next episode she has a normal confessional where she says it was a complete surprise. So ambiguous at best.

I also wonder if there would have been value in Amanda and Parvarti splitting their Alexis votes to be one Alexis and one Natalie, to kind of spread the blame for the flip and who went home across the whole tribe. Probably too complicated and risks alienating Natalie even more than it already does. And could maybe be risking a rock if it’s a 2-2 tie on the revote (which Erik would probably angle for to cause more drama given he was immune and it would leave the Fans with a 3-2 advantage. Maybe leaving an opening for Erik to leveraging the drama. Pretty likely he’d try it given in other places he stated he liked to see the weird game details as a fan of the game e.g. Erik’s FTC vote).

Episode 13

Te reward challenge this episode was great- Survivor History. Although it really shows up that the “Fans” tribe were not as much given half of them left (i.e. Natalie) did shit house. As did all of the Favourite who clearly haven’t watched much of the show that made them “famous”. Erik was clearly a big fan as he steamrolled it.

The history questions themselves were a bit odd- the first one was asking about Rupert’s snake which was like, what, 30 seconds of TV in one episode pre-All Stars years earlier. Then the next question was about Richard Hatch and given what had happened with Hatch in All Stars (and his tax stuff) I’m surprised they wanted to acknowledge him at all. The John-Cathy peeing on hand bit from Marquesas was a great blast from the past question. Skupin falling into the fire was a gimme question.

But the challenge is a minor side point as this episode was all about the Black Widow Alliance and how much they had gotten into Erik head. In particular Amanda who managed to convince Erik to take her on reward and send Parvarti to Exile; really forcing Natalie to stay in the BWB. Before this manipulation Erik had been pretty set on sending Natalie to Exile to form a little Fan alliance. And if he did I think things change dramatically- Natalie finds the idol and does not have the pressure of being the odd-woman out in the four person BWB to spur her to manipulate Erik when Erik has immunity. People like to go on about the in tribal action but this is the point where Eric lost the game.

I do think it is pretty fait accompli that Natalie would find the idol given Parvarti also found it. But Parvarti elected to not bring it back, knowing it would cause complications with her Natalie relationship if she had it and didn’t use it to save Natalie (and looking at what happened with Natalie at the Final Tribal and Final Vote, good decision.) And once again lucky for Parvarti that other people were able to pull this off and she got peripheral benefits from their labour (Amanda+Natalie).

But there is also some weirdness from Erik here. In his discussion with both Natalie and Amanda he seems adamant that he does not want to go to Exile and makes deals for them to not send him if they win Reward. Which seems fucking crazy- dude you’re on the outs, you should want to go to exile. If anything when Erik won the Reward he should have nominated himself to go to Exile and sent Natalie and Amanda in his place. That way he was “loyal'” to both of them in picking them to get the benefit of reward, gives an opportunity for the two of them to maybe work something out and fracture the BWB while also giving him a safety net of an idol (presumably he would find it) for the immunity challenge.

Anyway- poor massage ladies at the Reward having to massage and clean the feet of Erik and Amanda after they’re spent 30 odd days on the island without hygiene and such. Would be a shitty day in the office for them .

Immunity challenge is fun. And weirdly seems to have been colour coded to the contestants clothes. Like Erik is wearing yellow and his section is yellow, Cirie has a red shirt and is in red section. Natalie is in green and has green underwear.

The challenge itself is them having to use co-ordinates to locate the intersection point between two lines (well, use the co-ordinates to determine the start and end points of the lines, then find the intersection point of the two lines) to dig up puzzle pieces. They the puzzle gives them more co-ordinates to repeat. And then a third set of puzzle pieces gives a phrase.

Is really fucking cool (way better than modern immunity challenges once again) and Erik smashes it. No-one else had even come close to solving their second puzzle before he finished his third. Weird contrast of how dominant he is in challenges compared to how much he is falling apart in the rest of the game socially.

Anyway the rest of the episode is an extended sequence of Cirie having the idea of leveraging Natalie and Erik’s relationship (and how Erik has “betrayed her” for *reasons*) to trick Erik into giving Natalie immunity and having them vote off Amanda. Or Parvarti. I can’t remember which because I was so bored getting through this that the details just fell out of my brain. I can see why at the time it would have been incredible TV but having seen the final moment that this was building towards (and spending like, 75% of the episode on as we’d rushed through two challenges and the reward, skipped exile) and heard the story from Jeff so many times in subsequent seasons; there is zero suspense or tension left anymore. It’s really been run into the ground through over saturation. I feel the Ozzy and Jason (and even Alexis) boots are more impactful.

Also note that Jeff calls this the fourth blindside by the Women’s Alliance. When in reality it’s like, the first. The prior three were blindsides but not blindsides by “the Women’s Alliance”. Yes they were often part of it but they weren’t all part of all of them, nor were they the only part of all of them. Goddamn historical revisionism happening as the history is being made.

The most interesting thing in the whole process was how much of an art project Erik did on his Parvarti vote (oh yeah it was Parvarti they tricked him into targeting). Was possibly the first vertically written vote as it seemed to visibly annoy Jeff as he couldn’t do his dramatic unfold and flip reveal. I wonder how long Erik was at the voting booth making it.

But yeah, the jury is pissing themselves with laughter at this incredibly stupid move by Erik. And to Erik’s credit he seems to take it really well and is happy to laugh at himself almost immediately after it blows up for him. Unlike, say, Ozzy.


This was, all things considered, a pretty boring finale. Season really seemed to just peter out. I think this is the first finale that I’ve watched in my, uhh, “backwatch” (not really a rewatch since I’ve not seen these before) where I’ve just checked out of.

We’re super quickly into an immunity challenge (which Amanda wins) and then we’re quickly off to the Final 4 tribal. Seems to be super rushing to fit everything into the time slot (hmm imagine if they didn’t have to squeeze in an extra elimination cycle…).

The explicit Final 3 vs Final 2 chat is pretty heavy handed.. And the elimination of Natalie is a complete non-event, so obvious. She really fucked herself and hemmed herself in as the odd one out in the four person alliance in a group apparently aiming for a Final 3. And i guess is the final bit of “lol aren’t the Fans dumb and Favourites so clever” of the show.

That being said the balance of the favourites in the Final 3 is pretty uneven. We have an non-threat WTF cast (Parvarti), a complete unknown (Amanda, and a beloved player who is one of the best of all time (Cirie. As a Final 3, it doesn’t feel like it is going to be a close contest.

Which I guess really adds to the value of a (known) Final 2 over a Final 3 when you look at the results. What a viable social strategy is is fundamentally different. In the superior F2 all groups have to inevitably break up and can’t play as a team to Final 3. Echoing other fucked situations of surprise twists like Final 4 Fire and EoE in the 30s fundamentally fucking someone who’d played a winning game into a loss through no fault or their own (and with no chance for them to even really counter/correct for it).

But the players seriously need to do some math. They had the Final 4 vote off on Night 37. There is a full empty day to go before FTC on Night 39. They haven’t done Rites of Passage yet and Rites of Passage always goes before the final challenge. THERE IS OBVIOUSLY ONE MORE IMMUNITY CHALLENGE.

Despite the signs, next day they are all shocked when told there is a final immunity challenge for them to do. We then have my favourite version of Rites of Passage as all three finalists are form the same tribe and thus don’t know half the contestant who were eliminated. including another swipe at Mary as all that is said is “Didn’t really know Mary” by Parvarti.

[I completely forgot to write anything about the final challenge. On endurance challenge where they had to hold these cylinders in a long line up by applying pressure from both ends. Parvarti quickly clocks she doesn’t need to win as both Amanda and Cirie will take her. Amanda because Cirie could beat them both, and Cirie because Amanda was a stronger player than Parvarti. Unfortunately I knew Cirie wasn’t gonna win so it was just my brain preemptively checking out i guess so that I wouldn’t get sad about it. Meh]

Final Tribal is another case study in what not to do by Amanda, perhaps even more-so than in China. The tears and emotion just ring really hollow. Either she needs to stop faking or get better control of her emotions. Or me more convincing in her expression of real emotions. She absolutely punts Cirie’s question- Cirie asks why Parvarti deserves to win more than she does and Amanda actually tries to justify that as ‘Parvarti played better’. Aside from being, factually wrong, the obviously right thing to say is to suck up to Cirie by telling her she doesn’t deserve it more because Cirie would have won.

There’s also some WTF moments from the jury. Ozzy, James and Erik all ask weirdly bitter questions. Well James and Erik are fine I guess- James is just calling out Parvarti for not being honest (correctly) while Erik seems to be playing it up for drama (he reams Amanda, she gives a shit answer to his question but he still votes for her. Which only makes sense with post-season context). But Ozzy really reamed Parvarti for “denying him 14 days to spend with Amanda”. This is particularly funny with the benefit of ~12 years of hindsight and seeing how that relationship turned out, which is brief and irrelevant. No Rob+Amber repeat here.

But the greatest WTF moment, possibly of any final tribal up to this point, is Natalie’s question to Parvarti. Where she asks about Parvarti’s sex life. It’s super confusing, the jury doesn’t know what she is doing and even Jeff rolls his eyes and interjects asking if the question makes any sense to Parvarti. It clearly doesn’t but in possibly her only solo/successful move in the whole game so far Parvarti rolls with it and just flirts with/compliments Natalie. Scuttlebutt is that Natalie was always going to vote for Parvarti and just wanted to ask the most left-field question ever to ‘make her squirm’ but, I dunno, seemed such a fucking weird angle to go knowing its a ‘family show’ in mid-2000s America.

For the record, Alexis asked a really sensible question, “as a motivation speaker for girls” (as an aside- dunno what a mid-20s ish person with no real famous story or life experience can do as a motivational speaker…), asking how they/their game were a good role model for girls. Parvarti did a good job answering that. Well, she did an average job but Amanda was typically terrible in her response. Also Eliza (as the FTC opener) didn’t really ask a question but expressed how her vote was up in the air as she really didn’t want to vote for either of them because Parvarti was a bad person (hmmmm wonder if that echoes how Parvarti is received in any other Final Tribals) while Amanda was a bad player (especially focusing on the tears and indecisiveness at prior Tribals).

I think this is important for the broader discussion, in particular for Parvarti, as I maintain that there are two types of Winner- those who win the game and those who didn’t lose. Specifically the former win on their own merits, while the later win because the other person was worse. Examples of the former up to this point would be Richard Hatch, Tom Westman, Richard Daughtery, Tina Wesson, Yul Kwon, Todd Herzog. Examples of the former would be Sandra (lol), Jenna Morassca, Amber.

The way people talk about Parvarti as the “greatest player ever”, you’d think she should be in the former group. But she is definitely in the latter group. And while in some sense ‘a win is a win’, in another sense the latter types of winners are definitely less interesting or respectable orimpressive.

(As an aside, I find it very uncomfortable that nearly all the ‘good’ winners are men and the all the ‘bad’ winners are women. Digging a bit deeper there are a couple winner where I’d say it was a case where they both win because of their merits and because the other person sucked- specifically Brian, Danni and Vecepia. Plus I’d say Aras won as much because Danielle was unliked as we was liked. But there is a definite trend of winning being a male game, not losing being a female game and doing both being gender neutral)

The final vote breakdown was 5-3. Amanda got Ozzy, James and Eric. Ozzy voted for Amanda coz he wanted to have sex with her, James voted against Parvarti coz she wasn’t striaght with him, Eric voted for a tie coz he thought there was a good chance it’d be 4-4 and he wanted to see what would happen more than he wanted either Parvarti or Amanda to win.

Cirie voted for Parvati because Amanda fucked her question/answer. Eliza apparently voted against the tie Eric as much as was going for it and really struggled to vote for Parvarti given how much she did not like Parvarti. Natalie voted for Parvarti coz she wanted to fuck her (and coz they were friends), plus she and Alexis were running big on Ponderosa on ‘female empowerment’ which worked apparently better with their friend Parvarti than Amanda. Alexis voted for Parvati coz of her question/answer and against Amanda coz of the idol play. And Jason apparently was just easily swayed by Natalie and Alexis at Ponderosa to vote Parvarti coz he, well, is easily swayed? Or maybe he just really liked and respected her game. It doesn’t really seem clear.

But anyway, and that’s how Parvarti wins Survivor Micronesia.

The Reunion was pretty average. Jeff continued to be nice to Cathy about her Quit which really lends credence to the idea there were a lot of extenuating factors behind it. Ozzy roasting Jeff over ‘you know these Survivor girls’ (i.e. him dating Julie from Vanuatu) and referencing ‘losing his job coz too popular’ (i.e. Denise from China) was pretty funny/ As was the polite but barbed sparing between Jeff and Fairplay. Biggest note was how Joel plummeted even lower in respect rankings with a terrible dickhead buzzcut where he shared how his and his friends favourite part of watching the show was watching himself be a cunt to Chet. What a cunt.

Overall Notes/Observations

Fans vs Favourites

This theme was terrible and when one considers Guatemala too really highlights that returnee seasons need to be all returnee. From the very beginning there was the huge differential in camp set up (getting the good campsite helped). The Fans were shown as leagues behind the Favourite ins getting good sleep (shelter) and eating well (fishing) and drinking clean water (fire) and such. The Favourites were shown to repeatedly to be completely outplaying Fans in terms of strategy and social stuff (with the handful exceptions to that highlighted in the edit being rare/noteworthy) and out performed in challenges (prior experience playing giving them a huge edge in all these areas). And even post swap the reason for chalnege wins is performances by Faves and reason for loses is Fans (and again the exceptions are shown to be notable e.g Jason beating Ozzy, Eric immunity streak). And that early dominance gave them an unbeatable lead through the whole show through a simple numbers advantage .

Formula is inherently unfair and the Fans were honestly drawing dead upon hitting the island. The only chance they had was if Eric (and Natalie) wasn’t an idiot at the F5 and they had immunity and idol between them… and even then it’s a rocky path to get them both to F2 (coz both would probably have lost against a Favourite given the Jury). But a non-idiot Fan maybe would have been picked off earlier by being higher up in threat level.

Returnee Seasons have recurring problems

Two interesting things I noted with returnee seasons is that mirroring All Stars (and somewhat Guatemala a) the Final 2 were made up of people no-one liked who were complete non-threats coming in to the game and wanted to vote against (Rob+Amber, Stephenie, Parv+Amanda).

And that the back-to-back players went really deep but did not do well, arguably having zero chance of winning: Rupert, Stephenie, Amanda (and James).Spoilers a bit but this is gonna be repeated with a lot of future Returnee Seasons- notably HvV/Russell on both counts but a respected/threat returnee doesn’t win a returnee season until literally Winners at War (S40).

BWB is massively overrated

Maybe my most controversial takeaway but despite how much people crow on about this great alliance (and how it has literally ruined Women’s Alliance in all subsequent seasons with people immediately moving to stop even the hint of one just like how Rob-Amber ruined couples), it really wasn’t that effective. On their first move Amanda was excluded as it was the Ozzy, everyone disliked Jason so non BWB people (James, Eric, maybe Alexis?) were also in on the move, the BWB turned on Amanda next but then had it surprise rebound Alexis coz of the idol (meaning at least two of Cirire, Natalie and Alexis were left out), James was then medevaced (but was a dead man walking to be fair). Erik’s immunity necklace idiocy is the one clear and clean move the BWB made. And when the only thing the BWB as a collective was use three smoking hot women to trick a country hick bloke barely out of puberty into doing what they wanted; really hard to view it as the greatest alliance ever. Especially when in 99 out of 100 timelines that doesn’t work and they then have to turn on each other.

And also worth noting that the only person in every one of the BWB ‘moves’ was Parvarti (good argument for her win) but the one person who was never the cause of any of these moves was also Parvarti (Ozzy by Cirie, Jason by Natalie, Alexis by Amanda, Eric by Natalie).

Cirie Robbed?

The general discourse on ‘what if Final 3′ seems pretty certain Cirie wins 3-2-2 with Eliza, Eric and Alexis vote. Amanda gets James and Ozzy while Parv gets Jason and Natalie. People often quibble that Alexis’ vote is the least certain and could swing to Parv but is most likely for Cirie. But I’d add to that I’m not sure James is a lock for Amanda if Cirie is there (most likely yes, but not a lock) and if Alexis and Natalie are advocating different people I dunno if Jason is set on Parvati.

Not much else to say on this one. Really sad we missed the closest Survivor has ever come to a plurality (instead of a majority) winner

Parvarti Lucky

Lets run through things- Fairplay quit episode 1 when Parvarti was a target. Favourites otherwise dominated the Fans due to previously noted advantages they did not earn. Got swapped onto the good tribe that never went to tribal and her main opponent Penner was medevaced. Leading to the Cathy quit which combined with the Fans being voted out on Malakai letting Parv luck into a female dominate alliance in the Favourite dominate majority where she did nothing except serve as the bridge (a critical but passive role that has minimal risk or blood on her hands). Then she rode the middle of the BWB following the moves initiated by others, before James’ late medevac led to the Final 3 twist which let her coast on Amanda’s challenge prowess to a FTC against a terrible FTC performer rather than come up short in her planned F3 against Cirie.

While some of these things are “good” luck in the sense that it was her in game stuff that put her in a great position (specifically riding the middle of the BWB), and some of it is neutral/applies to many winners (a lucky swap, poor FTC opponent), there is too much of it that was external (Production fucking over Fairplay, Production having that fucked injury challenge, Cathy’s meds situation) that she by pure chance lucked into majorly benefiting from for me to really respect this as a good win or Parvati as a good player/winner. Winning a 100m race with a 70m head start is less impressive that winning it equal to everyone else (or from a 70m penalty).

A Tie

To this day it is not know what would have happened if the was a perfect 4-4 split between Parvarti and Amanda. Jeff said (and I believe Erik has confirmed) there was an envelope on set with allegedly some sort of sealed tiebreaker. But to this day no-one has even found out what was in it. And I wonder if it was just an empty prop as the producers obviously knew the votes went 5-3 and they didn’t need a tie breaker (but did need an answer if people asked them about tie breakers. And they could hide the lack of an actual tiebreak plan behind the line ‘we don’t want to reveal the details in case it is needed in the future’… and just never making the same mistake again).

Narrative Rewrite

Now I know that the idea of Production/Jeff editing to make a false narrative isn’t new, but the rewriting of the narrative mid-season to hype up all the ‘blindsides’ a) in general and b) to the BWB was incredible for both its audacity and inaccuracy. And then the retrospective rewriting of this as maybe the greatest season ever with the HvV boost to Parvarti is so weird. Like, to be clear this isn’t the worst season ever. Far from it. But it is solidly in the middle somewhere (15-25 range), not pushing Top 3 of all seasons.

Ranking in overall view

Watching Seasons 1-15 up to this point has been pretty consistent: I’ve loved every season as I’ve watched it, struggled to determine where I rank them amongst those 15 seasons but definitely rank them above the modern stuff I’ve been watching as it airs (so like S31/32-present). Except All Stars (S8) which is a garbage fire and at the overall bottom spot. And Cagayan (S28) which is very good and probably pushes into the lower end of that 1-15 ranking list. But this is the first season where I clearly rate it below the prior 15 seasons without question. Cagayan by definition shoots over it as well. And it’s a real uncertainty where the upper end of the modern stuff i.e. David vs Goliath (S38) pushes above or just falls below Micronesia. Given how much I’ve loved the prior 15 seasons, I was super expecting a gradual drop where despite ranking the earlier seasons better than the later ones, the decline season by season would be un-noticeable e.g. I’d love S1 and S2 equally, S2 and S3 equally, S3 and S4 equally all the way up to, uhhhh, S30 and S31 equally before looking back and going “fuck S1 was way better than S31, when/where did things fall down so much?!”. So I’m really surprised how mixed I am on this season and how immediate the break/decline was.

Would I recommend anyone watch this season?

No, probably not. The ‘highlight’ has been so over-referenced in other seasons it has no meaning and the rest of the show is unfair advantages, production fuckery and all bar one of the good returnees going home first while the last good one is robbed with the F2 twist. The meta points this has wrought on the overall show are well articulated in the discourse so you don’t really need to watch it to understand things. Although anyone who has read this far into a ~17,000 word blog post about a season of Survivor from over a decade ago is a big enough Survivor fan that you will watch the show anyway, so whatever.

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