This past week was maybe the most brutal in the history of Survivor. The game has a tendency to spill over into real life from time to time, as everybody always is saying how Survivor represents a microcosm of human society. But after last week’s episode, things didn’t just “spill over,” the whole dam broke wide open. The entire controversy surrounding Dan and his inappropriate “touching” of other players, including Kellee, combined with a perfect storm of misinformation regarding all sides, led to an ugly hour of television for millions that were watching.
As millions more expressed their outrage and anger on social media following last week’s airing, things have snowballed to the point that many refused to watch the show at all moving forward, and even two prominent voices in the Survivor community – People‘s Stephen Fishbach and The Hollywood Reporter‘s Josh Wigler – announced that they would no longer even cover the show (to be clear, Fishbach “retired” his blog the week prior, which is pretty coincidental timing, and Wigler – who was facing issues outside of the game, mixed with his utter disgust over last week’s episode – announced he was done with Survivor…I personally wish the both of them the best moving forward both personally and professionally).
Worst of all: Complete “radio silence” from the official CBS Survivor and Jeff Probst Twitter accounts. It seems they were just hoping this PR nightmare would die down on its own or possibly blow over, as I think it’s quite obvious at this point that the response to last week’s episode was not at all how CBS, Probst and the other producers had expected it to be.
We’ll get to all of the controversy, but with tonight’s newest episode, the game continued on, for better or worse. As I do at the beginning of every recap, please heed the following: Remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols. If you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode, this is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap. It is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.
CLICK THE CONTINUE READING BUTTON FOR MORE, AND THIS IS YOUR LAST *SPOILER* WARNING!
Yes, what a week it was. If you’re reading this, it looks like you decided to continue watching what is and always has been the greatest Reality TV Competition Show of all-time…whatever your reasons. Perhaps you found yourself disturbed, or even downright disgusted, at what went down last week, but you are deciding to stick it out anyways. Maybe you watched out of curiosity to see if there would be any sort of follow-up discussion in the aftermath of last week’s Tribal Council (there wasn’t). Or perhaps you find yourself reading this Recap because you’re feeling lost after Wigler and Fishbach‘s coverage disappeared at the very moment you needed insight into all of this the most.
My strategy as a guy who has loved Survivor from Episode 1 Season 1, and who has covered the show professionally since Season 20, is to lean into the controversy. I love reading fan reaction to the show, and when topics like the ones that were raised last week pop up, my inclination is to want to listen even more, not less.
We were all different levels of disturbed this past week, and if you follow Twitter at all, you spent the week reading statements made about the incident from all of those involved, from Aaron’s emotional video apology, to Missy’s written statement, to Elizabeth’s written statement, to Kellee’s twitter response to Janet’s twitter response, to the insightful interview of Jamal by XfinityTV’s Gordon Holmes. If you haven’t read these, I urge you to (after finishing this Recap of course…). The more knowledge we have, the more perspective and perhaps compassion we gain for everyone associated with this messy, messy situation, a situation that none of them – and none of us viewers – signed up for.
There’s much more to say about all of this, which is why I’m also announcing that I’m bringing back the FilmSurvivor Podcast this week to discuss everything that’s been going on with the show as of late. I’ll be joined by fellow Survivor-lover, the incredible Mara Reinstein of US Weekly and Parade, who has covered the show in the past and who was out on the island many times as an elite member of the press (including for upcoming Season 40).
I plan to let Mara do a lot of the talking, and me a lot of the listening, as we try to grapple with where the show goes from here, and if it is at all possible for this season and Survivor as a whole to ever recover from the feeling that this controversy has left everyone with. Join us won’t you? It will be up Thursday evening (click the FilmSurvivor Podcast link above or subscribe to the FilmSurvivor Podcast on Podbean and/or iTunes).
Now, on to tonight! Survivor’s 39th Season marched right along tonight, without barely a mention of what had come before. It brought with it a new twist that actually was sort of cool, a double-elimination episode the likes of which I’m not sure we’ve ever seen? The 11 remaining players were randomly split into two teams (of 5 and of 6), and one person from each team would win Immunity…however both teams would separately go to their own Tribal Council, where each team would vote out one member before all was said and done.
And although it appeared that Karishma and Janet were the easy targets this week, this episode was really all about them, and they both showed that they may have some lasting staying power in the game: Janet as a real threat to win, and Karishma as the ideal “goat” candidate to sit next to at the end.
In Janet‘s case, she mended things with Dan and tried to subtly work her way back into her teammate’s good graces. The “team split” left her as the easy target, but nowadays the obvious vote is rarely the person who is sent home. With Karishma, as Boston Rob joked, she is most likely being kept around because nobody would vote for her to win the game, but to Karishma’s credit, she really worked things to her advantage tonight, and even ended up stumbling upon a hidden Immunity Idol to boot. Better still, she didn’t have to play it, and somehow managed to get one of the most aggressive players, Missy, out of the game with a massive blindside.
The episode ended with yet another “learning moment” (there have been several this season, from the “durag” comment between Jamal and Jack, to the women’s alliance bias discussion, to last week’s sexual misconduct talk), but this time it was Missy bringing it to Jeff‘s attention. In all of the other drama that happened last week, Missy pointed out that in fact, two African-Americans had won Immunity at the same time, and that was to be celebrated.
I loved Jeff’s response, because he was right…in many ways, it would have been highly inappropriate for Jeff, a white male, to bring this to the attention of others…or if not, it was at least on Jeff’s mind that it could be perceived in such a way. With Missy bringing it to his and our attention, it allowed everyone to realize that it was an important moment on the show, and one that should be celebrated.
Never mind that those same two players – Aaron and Missy – both left the show as a result of tonight’s twisty episode. They were both incredibly strong players, Aaron as the game’s most dominant physical threat (he had already won two individual Immunities) and Missy as one of the game’s biggest strategic threats. I do agree with the assessment that Missy was playing the game too fast, too hard, and this can be tracked all the way back to Day One with her. For a minute it really looked like she was in control and that Tommy was in big trouble, but Karishma‘s unpredictable nature really ended up being Missy’s downfall.
Speaking of Tommy, his “power couple” relationship with Lauren is one of the closest things to watch as we are now down to just nine players remaining. Of the nine, Karishma and Janet feel like they are completely on the outside, and I’m imagining Elizabeth will feel similar now that her closest ally’s torch has been snuffed out. Dan is a dead-end as far as winning the game goes (could you imagine???) and Noura is just…Noura.
Tommy and Lauren have a long way to go and there’s lots of game still to be played (and lots of Idols still to be found), but it’s starting to appear that there may not be anyone savvy enough, or another coalition that is organized or focused enough, to identify them as the big threats that they are and really go after them. Any combination of things can still happen, but I’m really thinking at this point, that Lauren is really in an incredible spot, next to Tommy as her human shield.
What do you all think? I’m really looking forward to reading your reactions not only to this episode, but to last week’s episode fallout too, and I do hope to hear from you after listening to the Podcast as well! And now, another brilliant piece of art from former Survivor, Erik Reichenbach!
Episode Take-Away: I was wondering how the show would move forward, and I wasn’t at all surprised that it did just decide to press right along. From a game standpoint, I kind of dug the double-Tribal twist, and I think it played out quite nicely. We lost two really strong players this week, which only makes the game all the more interesting moving forward. We’re down to nine players, with the Finale just four weeks away.
That may not be enough time to distance itself from the controversy, and we all know that regardless of how this season goes, we are all in for a serious “learning moment” when it comes time for this season’s Live Reunion Show. I’m not sure this season can recover from what it’s gone through, but I do know that Survivor is not going anywhere anytime soon. Let’s all process it and heal together.
On a side note, how is that Boston Rob and Sandra twist working out? It has to go down as maybe THE lamest theme and twist in the show’s history, and it’s been all but forgotten these past two weeks. Yes, I enjoy the in-game commentary from Rob and Sandra from their little spy shack during Tribal, but I’m not sure it’s worth it ultimately. The “Statler and Waldorf” of Survivor, these two “Idols” and icons deserve better.
Voted out this week: Aaron and Missy
Won Immunity: Elaine (1), Noura (1)
Vote #1: No Idols or advantages were played. 5 – Aaron (Janet, Dan, Dean, Lauren, Noura), 1 – Janet (Aaron)
Vote #2: No Idols or advantages were played. 3 – Missy (Elaine, Karishma, Tommy), 2 – Tommy (Missy, Elizabeth)
Next Week’s Episode: Finally some drama at the Island of the Idols as Sandra is bit by a chicken while eating! And the power duo of Tommy and Laura continue to maneuver themselves further into the game.
Again, be sure to catch more thoughts on all things Survivor on the FilmSurvivor Podcast up on Thursday!
Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! Those that have followed me also know that I am also a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic, and I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews as I am the film critic and Executive Producer of the TV show, “Movie Show Plus,” the #1-rated local program in the Detroit-market (episodes are also available online at the website, www.MovieShowPlus.com.) As always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.
TELL US – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS EPISODE? WITH A WEEK TO HAVE PROCESSED THINGS A BIT, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON HOW THE SHOW HAS HANDLED EVERYTHING? AND WHO DO YOU THINK IS BEST POSITIONING THEMSELVES TO WIN THE GAME?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]