Please, make it stop. This season of Survivor has been a painful one to watch from an entertainment standpoint, with controversies involving inappropriate touching (among other heavy topics) clouding what should otherwise be a fun night of weekly escapism. Instead of discussing strategy or simply enjoying ourselves, we’ve been pulled into the terrible circumstances, and like it’s stuck in some sort of quicksand, the more Survivor tries to rise above the mess, the further down it seems to go this season.
Tonight was one twist ending for the ages, and we’ll get to it all. We’ll also set the stage for next week’s Finale Episode, a day that – at this point – I think we’re all looking forward to.
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!
Tonight we mourned the exit of fan-favorite Elaine Stott, who wasn’t able to save herself from getting her torch snuffed, and we also mourned the absolute death of this season…a season that was hanging on by threads to begin with. With all the situations involving Dan Spilo this season, I was holding out hope that the show would end with a constructive discussion that took up the entirety of the Live Reunion Show…I imagined Jeff sitting down with Dan, and Dan perhaps using his actions as a positive learning moment for those watching. I thought maybe the victims – including contestant Kellee Kim – would confront Dan face-to-face in a constructive setting, to perhaps get the closure they deserve, or at the least, have their moment to confront Dan and tell him directly what damage he’s done. I say “hanging on by threads” because with all that has happened, I foolishly kept holding on to the slim possibility that maybe there was some sort of silver lining to all of this, that maybe there was some impossible outcome that might have led to everyone leaving this season feeling not that they “liked” the season, but that it didn’t completely tarnish the legacy of the show.
I’m sad to report that I think that ship has sailed now that Dan was removed from the game, for yet another “incident” on the island. I know that I wasn’t alone it audibly gasping when the show didn’t end with Tribal Council…I quickly checked my DVR to make sure that this wasn’t some two-hour episode that I had forgotten about. That little scene at the end – the morning of Day 36 – started with Jeff Probst coming to the camp, which in and of itself is NEVER a good sign. He then told the remaining five players that Dan had been removed from the game completely…out of the game, not on the jury, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. The episode ended with the following graphic on the screen: “Dan was removed from the game after a report of another incident which happened off-camera and did not involve a player.”
Well it sure as hell didn’t involve a coconut, or a fish, or a machete. The fact that they use the word “another” in this graphic means that it was clearly an act of “inappropriate touching” or perhaps worse. And that it didn’t involve a player can only mean that it involved a member of the crew, as there is simply nobody else out there that it could have been.
If you’re like me, you quickly jumped to the internet for some answers. What the heck did Dan do? When did he do it? What was said? How did Dan react to his ejection? Like many of you, I also am a fan of the show and I do read a select number of other Survivor columnists, and EW’s Dalton Ross is of course the Roger Ebert of Survivor journalism. His weekly question-and-answer article with Jeff Probst is a must read, and I’ll save you some time if you haven’t already sought it out: Jeff Probst basically says nothing to Dalton about this “incident” even when pressed for some more specifics. He’s either limited in what he can say due to pending litigation (which seems the most likely to me) or he’s saving any and all official reaction for the Reunion Show next week (less likely, but plausible). Either way, the viewers are left to scratch their head and wonder what went on, if everybody is OK and what this means moving forward.
By the way, I say “Reunion Show” and not “Live Reunion Show” because it was announced earlier today that for the first time in the show’s history, the traditional Reunion Show following the two-hour Finale Episode will not be aired live, but instead will be shot “live-to-tape” several hours earlier in California. The decision not to have the show aired live was due to the sensitive topics that have been raised this season in addition to security concerns. To the viewer at home, you may not notice much of a difference, because it will still be shot in the same format as before, only we now know that what we are watching occurred much earlier. This is just another bad look for a show that should be on the verge of celebrating its 20th Anniversary, and instead it has many of us wondering about its future. So where does Survivor go from here?
The short answer is that this is one ugly spell. If Survivor is a “microcosm” of society as it is often referred as, then put in baseball terms, Season 39 could be considered the “steroid era”…a brutal and disgusting stretch of history that doesn’t reflect the overall game as a whole, but whose damage to the game’s legacy cannot be undone. Island of the Idols will forever be a black-eye on the “sport” of Survivor, and does anybody even care at this point who comes out on “top” of all this?
First and foremost, you care about the real people that were affected by Dan‘s actions. Moving to a game level, if you’re a mega-fan of Survivor, you care about the game’s integrity. Someone will technically “win” this season, but the stink is already on everyone and it won’t easily wash off. At this point it seems attractive to just want to turn the page and cleanse our palates, and I assure you, Season 40 is right around the corner and will be well-received to put it mildly. But this is seriously damaging, and my hopes that somehow, someway, this show would be able to pick up the pieces and make something of itself this season all went away following that final graphic. I do still hold out hope that some good can come of all of this, and here’s hoping that next week’s Finale and Reunion Show lands as a positive, and not yet another negative.
Adding insult to injury, we lost one of the most endearing and charismatic contestants of the past several seasons in Elaine tonight. Her send-off was maybe one of the most clearly orchestrated in the show’s history…once she started crying and getting into her personal life at Tribal, pretty much everybody knew that she was a goner. You don’t get air-time like that and stay in the game. Watching Elaine go was a kick in the teeth, but then to find out that Dan was pulled soon after just seemed like a punch to the gut.
For those that still care, Dan‘s removal has major consequences in the game moving forward. Not only does his removal rob us from Dean being able to play his fake Legacy Advantage at six (there is no longer a “six” now that we skipped ahead to five), but it throws off the entire dynamic of the remaining contestants…which simply put, isn’t fair to them or their game (thus, the steroid era comparison). We know that at Final Four the Immunity Challenge winner gets a ticket to the Final Three, and gets to essentially pick who makes fire and who gets seated next to them. We also know from tonight’s episode that Tommy, Dan and Dean had forged a Final Three alliance, but that’s now shot. The duo of Tommy and Lauren still are the season’s power couple, but no one is going to want to sit next to Janet. Janet will 100% play her Idol at the next Tribal (she has to or it goes away), but now that Dean has an Idol Nullifyer, the game is really in Tommy’s hands: You have to think that both Lauren and Dean wan to take him to the end, and with knowledge of Dean’s Nullifyer, Janet could be toast. Tommy has the physical advantage in challenges, and even if Dean were to win over him and was interested in breaking up the power couple, it’s likely that he’d vote out Lauren, not Tommy, who he is closer to and let’s face it, has a better shot against.
So we assume there’s no way Noura can win the final jury vote, and we’re assuming there’s no way Janet even gets there. So basically Tommy and Lauren got this in the bag, right, with Tommy having slightly better odds given his physical dominance and his close alliance to Dean?
And oh yeah I almost forgot…does anybody still care given all the crap that’s gone on this season outside of the normal game?
So what does two-time Survivor legend Erik Reichenbach have to say about tonight’s penultimate episode? Check out his artwork below, featured here exclusively on RealityTea, and visit his site, Dabudoodles.com.
Episode Take-Away: Well I’m a bit miffed on a personal level, because it is becoming clear as day to me that I was misled by CBS this season…their ruse that they were “cutting back” on exit interviews this season clearly had nothing to do with staffing, and everything to do with the terrible controversy and PR nightmare that this season has become. It was made even more clear when a few other prominent Survivor writers “retired” recently and they didn’t fill their spots with two new press members. Would it have been so bad to just – in a very generic way – tell me that I wasn’t getting interviews this season because Survivor was going to be hitting on some extremely sensitive topics this season? CBS should shoulder the blame for much of this mess, with how they handled the incidents inside the game and how they handled dealing with it outside the game as well. And let us not forget too that this cast and season marks the first time Survivor was without their long-time Casting Director, Lynne Spillman. Coincidence, that the show would blow up like this after losing her watchful eye for on-air potential?
I guess it’s good news that Dan will not be winning this season, but as far as I’m concerned there are no winners this season. It takes a lot to turn me off to Survivor, and at this point I wish I could just pull the plug and wake up from it all. We’ve got three more hours to go…next week’s two-hour Finale Episode and Live…er…just Reunion Show, and I’m certain there will be lots more to discuss. But man has this season been depleting.
Voted out this week: Elaine. Also Dan was removed from the game following “another incident.”
Won Immunity: Dean (1)
Vote: No Idols or advantages were played. 5 – Elaine (Noura, Tommy, Lauren, Dean, Janet), 2 – Noura (Elaine, Dan)
Next Week’s Episode – Season Finale: It finally comes to an end. Let’s keep staring at the train-wreck and see if there’s anything worth pulling from the wreckage.
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? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE WHOLE DAN SITUATION NOW THAT HE’S BEEN REMOVED? AND WHO IF ANYBODY WILL YOU BE ROOTING FOR TO WIN SURVIVOR NEXT WEEK?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]