Great Scott! Well, tonight’s episode of Survivor is sure to “ruffle some feathers,” as Jeff Probst proclaimed. If this season hasn’t been your cup of tea up until now, you probably wouldn’t mind being in Erika‘s shoes, with the chance to turn back the hands of time…only you might use your powers to go back to when Survivor wasn’t mucked up with too many advantages, flashbacks or directly meeting eyes with Probst on occasion when he breaks the fourth wall. If you fancy yourself a “new school” Survivor fan, you might think the new “Hourglass” advantage is a game-changer, because well, it is. But as of tonight (and counting the 12 remaining “Shot in the Dark” attempts), between Idols and all the advantages, we’re at roughly 20 in the game…a game that currently has just 12 players. When is too much too much? It’s a fair question.
In their defense, I have always personally championed Jeff Probst and his producers for boldly blazing new paths for the game to take. I for one (and perhaps I’m in the minority), love the idea of the game adapting over time, and the players needing to adapt with it, always being kept on their toes and reminded that no one person is ever smarter than the game itself. To adapt is to change, and even though there have been some misses over the years (here’s looking at you, Medallion of Power), Probst and company have more often gotten it right. They’ve earned the right to go crazy, and we Survivor fans need to remind ourselves from time to time that even at its worst, Survivor is better than every other Reality TV Competition Show ever created.
That being said, I think it’s safe to now say that the problem with Survivor 41 is not that it introduced new controversial advantages or changes to the game and show itself, but rather that it was too much change too fast. Instead of incrementally tweaking the game over the course of seasons like in the past, fans have been asked to simply swallow too much all at once.
On its own, I don’t dislike the advantage Erika was presented with. She drew the crappy gray rock and then was brutally “picked” to go live out by herself for two days…that’s exactly when a player should receive some sort of power. And flipping people who think they’re safe with people who have already been scrambling seems ripe for drama and entertainment value. So the advantage itself isn’t the problem, in my eyes. It’s the advantage plus all of the other 20 advantages…it’s the fact that the conflicts don’t come from the players interacting with other players anymore, instead they are usually discussing advantages, who has what, etc., etc…it’s changing the game from 39 days to 26…it’s the format changes with the flashbacks and Probst addressing us personally…the list goes on and on. Again, it’s all just too much for us to handle, which is why this season seems like such a drastic departure from the show we’ve loved for over 20 years (and it felt like an unnecessary kick to not only introduce this advantage, but to think that the “will she or won’t she” drama of Erika using it is dramatic enough to end the episode on a cliffhanger, instead of giving us a Tribal Council. For those worried, um, of course she’s going to fricking use it. and Tribal Council is the ultimate end to an episode…why fix what isn’t broken?)
In some ways, the hourglass represents the show itself, and Probst is the hammer that is smashing it. The show’s past represented by the sand in the hourglass? Just dust in the wind.
Regardless of what you think of the Hourglass Advantage (I’m interested in hearing all of your thoughts…sound off in the comments below!), if we try tuning ourselves back into the game itself, there were plenty of significant developments. For starters, even though Ricard and Shan were able to ride the wave of their losing tribe all the way to the merge, their trust in one another is badly damaged. Ricard handed over the extra vote giving Shan two advantages (the extra vote and an Immunity Idol). We learned that there are severe cracks in the other two original tribes as well, with Liana growing leery of Tiffany (and vice-versa) and with Danny and DeShawn chomping at the bit to play the game, offering up one of their own (Erika) as the first person to potentially be voted out.
But most importantly is the historic alliance that we saw form between Shan, Liana, DeShawn and Danny…the four African-Americans left in the game. For anyone that just watched “The Cookout” alliance dominate Big Brother 23, this will all sound very familiar and also should clue you in as to how formidable this alliance may be. Survivor is of course a much different game than Big Brother, with a few more variables (and advantages) at play, but I do think it’s interesting that in the first year of CBS pledging to make their casts more diverse, we see this happen across two different shows (and remember, Survivor 41 actually taped prior to Big Brother 23, so in a true sense if this Survivor alliance holds, it will have formed pre-Cookout and not after). We shall see if this storyline plays out similarly, and if it does, you can kiss the rest of the cast goodbye right now. And kudos to them if they can pull it off…after 20 years of watching predominantly white alliances, it would be great to see them go all the way and win.
Episode Take-Away. Here’s the thing, like I mentioned, it’s not that I don’t like the Hourglass Advantage…it’s that I don’t like it when you consider all of the other advantages already in play. I think that old-school Survivor fans can agree that one of the worst moments in the history of the show was when fan-favorite Cirie Fields went home at Tribal…not because she was voted out, but because she was the only one left without some sort of Immunity advantage so by default she got sent home. Is that where things are headed this season? It’s all fun and games to introduce new twists, and there is still a chance that everything will play out to maximum effect, but the more advantages there are, there becomes a greater chance that we will hit an advantage logjam at some point. I might add that I did like the idea of having to “earn” the merge…but does every episode now have to include a lengthy explanation of how some new twist works? It’s simply overload for the average fan to have to keep up with who has what…luckily you can refer to my handy little list below if you get lost!
I am always opposed to a Survivor episode ending without a torch getting snuffed in some shape or form, so this to me was the biggest disappointment of the night. The Hourglass Advantage and everything else could have still been introduced, but to me you have the best ending of any show, a built-in, tried-and-true climax that is inherently dramatic and suspenseful. How could they possibly calculate that anything else would carry more stakes?
Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. For those that followed this column the past few seasons, you also know that this page is the EXCLUSIVE home to new artwork from none other than two-time Survivor contestant and legend, Erik Reichenbach. Each week, Erik contributes a brand-new, original piece of artwork relating to the new week’s episode. It will appear here usually in the days after the show’s airing, so if it does not appear here now, check back usually by the weekend following an episode and give this page a refresh. All of Erik’s work as well as past works can be found and purchased on his site, DabuDoodles.com, and I urge you to support this amazingly talented former Survivor player!
Voted Out This Week: Nobody!
Won Immunity and a Merge Feast: Danny, Sydney, Ricard, DeShawn, Evvie, Naseer (picked to join)
Sent to Exile Island: Erika
Vote: No vote this week!
Current Advantage Tally:
- Xander has 1 extra vote and 1 Immunity Idol
- Shan has 1 extra vote and 1 Immunity Idol
- Deshawn has 1 extra vote
- Naseer has 1 Immunity Idol
- Liana has the “power of knowledge” advantage, which allows her to potentially steal another player’s Idol/advantage
- Erika has the “Hourglass Advantage”, which if used immediately, allows her to swap the winners and losers of the last challenge, where those that had immunity no longer do and those that didn’t now have immunity
Next Week’s Episode: Oh the drama! Will Erika use the Hourglass Advantage or won’t she? I can hardly wait.
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 past movie reviews and my movie show (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 DO YOU THINK OF THIS HOURGLASS ADVANTAGE? WILL ERIKA USE IT? AND WHICH PLAYERS ARE YOU ROOTING FOR/AGAINST AT THIS POINT?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]