Last night was the finale of the 21st season of Survivor. I thought, it would be fitting to toss out 21 thoughts, observations, and reflections on the season that just wrapped up.
1. I am not sure where Survivor: Nicaragua ranks amongst the 20 previous seasons (because I have only watch two previous seasons before this one -- Australian Outback & Heroes vs. Villains), but I do know this season came off a little flat after having to follow Heroes vs. Villains. The previous season was what got me into Survivor after writing it off as crap for the majority of the last decade. There was so many larger than life personalities, and a plenty of shocking twists that made for some really engaging television. Many of the contestants pulled so many different blindsides and power play moves, that you were kept guessing on a weekly basis what would happen next. You had unforgettable contestants like Russell Hantz, Parvati, Rupert, and of course, Coach the Dragon Slayer. There were many memorable moments that you found yourself still talking about the next week (Russell blindsiding Tyson, J.T stupidly giving his idol to Russell, Parvati giving two idols away to pull off a huge blindside). I hated myself for being so engaged by a show I believed I detested for so many years, but even hardcore Survivor fans have claimed it to be one of the best seasons ever. Unfortunately, this season had to try to match that, and it really didn't have a chance. There wasn't any moves that compared to the unbelievable ones from the past season, and there wasn't any characters that were as colourful as the past season. It was a season that I followed from beginning to end, but it definitely proved to me that this is a show that relies on having the right personalities to make it excellent must see programming.
2. Every good show needs a villain. NaOnka was the character that was supposed to provide it this season. She was an abrasive and toxic personality that rubbed everyone the wrong way at some point, and she will be infamously remembered for pushing down a one legged woman. The problem was, she was missing the cunning and conniving skills that previous villains like Russell or Parvati excelled at. It didn't effect the game play in the same way as previous seasons, and rather she was nothing more than a really annoying to most characters (though, never really a threat to win the game). She also never annoyed people enough that it caused for a huge explosion and confrontation at camp -- rather people just whined about her to the camera. She only lasted long because everyone knew they'd win against her in the final voting, rather than any manipulation she did.
2. The few possible engaging and dastardly individuals on the show were voted out far too quickly. It seemed like any time there was a big powerhouse moving up in the tribe, and someone who would really shake things up, this person was then voted out because they got too cocky. Maybe that is the flaw of doing a game like this after 21 seasons. The contestants likely saw previous seasons, and now know what to expect and what must be done when certain personalities and traits start to be revealed. It would have been interesting to see how this season would have turned out if people like Marty and Brenda lasted longer.
3. Sash was the closest thing to a conniving and slimey villain that lasted through the entirety of the show. Even though he was manipulative and a backstabber, he didn't have the over the top personality to make him engaging. Plus he spent a huge amount of his time just laying in the background, and thus never created any memorable game plays or blindsides. Yes, I found myself rooting against him, but he also didn't measure up against a villain like Russell.
4. Fabio was an interesting case, in a character that I initially found myself apathetic towards, then started to root against, and at the end found myself 100% cheering on. He initially just came off as an airheaded beach bum, who appeared to be clueless for the majority of the game. That may have even been the case for a large portion of it. I am sure he was kept around for a long time because he didn't threaten anyone. He really was someone that started to sharpen his skills as the game went on, and he became far more alert to what was happening around him. In the final few episodes, he was the clear underdog as the majority of his alliance had been voted out, and he was going up against a very solid and seemingly tight alliance. He was the guy they were targeting to have voted out, but he continually won the immunity challenges thus saving him from being voted against. It was really impressive seeing the spark be lit under him, and when he was put under pressure, he stepped up his game to an incredible degree. The final episodes were especially sweet as it proved he was starting to see through the lies of Chase and Sash, and started to play them against each other. At that point, I couldn't help, but want to see him win it all.
5. Survivor: Redemption Island is the newest season that will start in February. It is clear the producers probably realize this season was a little stale, and so they've added a new twist to the concept. This time around, the people voted off will go to another island, and eventually compete for a chance to get back in the game. It should provide for some new strategies and a different perspective on the game. From the Survivor experts I've talked to, usually when they modify the game (which they've done quite a bit throughout the seasons) it has improved the quality of the television. It seams unlike most shows, where the producers start panicking about dipping ratings thus add some stunt writing, Survivor may actually improve from their additions. I look forward to it.
6. Jane's flip out, after she learned her alliance was betraying her, was one of the stand out moments. It was great to see her stand up for herself. The best part was seeing the scared faces of her former alliance member. Priceless.
7. A downside of this season, all the pretty and cute women were voted off too early. In the end, I was left having to look at three half naked men. Come on, where is my eye candy? Though, Chase was pretty built.
8. Speaking of Jane, the tribal council where her elimination was pending, she ended up doing one of the best speeches to try to save herself. I loved how she ripped into her entire former alliance, and basically revealed to the other contestants that their goal was to eventually pick each of them off. It was even more classic how Chase basically admitted to this fact, and revealed his alliances plans to the others before the voting even took place. Luckily for Chase, it didn't backfire on him (like it should have), but I am sure this event was one of the things that motivated Fabio to win all his challenges afterward and cause him not trust Chase and Sash again (and to an extent, Holly).
9. Of course, Jane made this great rally with the remaining non alliance tribal members about targeting Holly (which would have forced a tie in the votes) but then not only did the other guys still vote Jane, but Jane decided for some reason to vote a guy who had an immunity idol (and not the person she was telling the others to vote).
10. The challenge where you are strapped to a windmill like device, then forced under water where you must gobble up a mouthful, then spit that mouthful into a bucket, is enough evidence that I am more than happy just to watch this show rather than ever be in it.
11. The cheers that Fabio got at finale, makes me believe they'll bring him back if they can. I'd also not be surprised if they tried to get Marty and Jane back (considering how much they disliked each other, on the same season too). Though I am not sure if Jane would ever want to do this again, but I guarantee you that Marty would want to come back just so he can prove he is a far better player than he was able to show here (which I think he can be).
12. I love the fact they changed the rules about quitting Survivor. From now on, if you quit, then it is up to the producers if the quitter will be allowed on the jury. A really good move, because it never felt right that Purple Kelly and NaOnka would be allowed on the council when they quit the game. This will likely be the last season where two people quit at the same time, just because they were a little chilly.
13. I also love how nervous and evasive Dan got when he was asked how rich he was at the reunion show. You get the feeling his dealings may be the type that would make Baby Jesus cry. Of course, you can only brag about your Ferraris and alligator shoes so many times before someone is going to ask.
14. After this many seasons, there is still a lot of manipulative and strategic players that still haven't completely grasped the social aspect of the game. You have guys like Russel Hantz that are great at backstabbing or tricking people, and then are able to get right to the end, but are surprised they got no votes even though they pissed everyone off on the council. The real key is to be strategic, but make sure people still like you even if you are blindsiding them. Sash lied and tricked so many people, and yet he still felt he had a shot at winning the whole thing. He apparently felt a big apology right when the council was about to vote the winner, would be the best way to erase their memory of all his manipulation and lies. You can never underestimate how long one will hold a grudge.
15. Never knew that Jimmy Johnson was such a huge Survivor fan. Too bad he was eliminated so early in the season, because he could have been an interesting player. Then again, I'm not sure if a well known celebrity will ever do well on a show like this, because their fame makes them an automatic target.
16. Then again, you'd think past winners would be targets, and last season, we had two former winners make it to the final three. Oh wait, this post isn't about Heroes vs. Villains. Sorry. Um. . . do you think Purple Kelly even knew what island she was on? Can you imagine how interesting and vile this season would have been if the hotheaded, bigot Shannon lasted more than two episodes? There, I talked about this season.
17. The best blindside of the season was the one against Benry. I also think this was the major turning point in Fabio actually becoming more alert and aware in the game, since Benry was trying to pull off the blindside on him. It was a great play by the Fearsome Foursome of Sash and company, but it did lack the drama of past season blindsides.
18. Though alliances are a crucial part of surviving in this game (and also make for great drama when one betrays it), but this season is proof that isn't enough to guarantee a win for the entire game. One of the best moments of this game, was seeing the guy on the outs not only survive to the very end thus outlasting members in the seemingly powerful alliance but also be able to win the whole thing (that would mainly be due to the fact he wasn't a conniving weasel and didn't hurt anyone the whole game).
19. Another classic moment is Brenda bragging about how she was running the whole game, but then seeing that cockiness come back to punch her in the eyeball. Seemingly others knew she was controlling the game too, and felt it was time to change that control. This also led to the first real betrayal of the game, as her once tight group voted her out (except for Purple Kelly who was too busy chasing butterflies to know what was happening in the game).
20. It was interesting hearing NaOnka mention how there was actually parents hesitant about her teaching their children after they started seeing her on the show. It shows the power of television. People really need to remember that not only is this a competition that could bring the worst out in people, but it also is a television show that will manipulate the footage in a way to create a specific story. The producers wanted her to be the villain, and so they were going to show the footage that cast her that way. You can't really judge a person by how they are shown on television. Unless they're Glenn Beck, of course.
21. Yep, not only do I watch reality TV now, but I have 21 points to say about it. I really hope 2003 Christopher doesn't find a time machine, or I am screwed!