Post-Survivor Observations

It has been nearly two months since I last wrote in my blog, but certainly not since I last wrote.  I participated in “NaNoWriMo” this year — short for “National Novel Writing Month” — in which the goal is to write a novel of 50,000 words in a span of 30 days.

Somehow, I managed to succeed.  I cranked out at least 2,000 words a night, which explains my sudden absence here.  And then, not satisfied with only 60,000 words, I continued writing with the goal of 80,000 words and eventually reached a little over 90,000.  I now have a full first draft of a novel and will begin editing it in the next few weeks.  The break from it should allow me to approach it objectively, something I can’t do at the moment because the novel is “my baby”, so to speak.

Anyway, I thought we’d kick the blog back into gear by starting with something a little less controversial than usual.  Survivor ended a few weeks ago and the winner was given a $1,000,000 check, setting the stage for a new season (which seems will have a few twists in the way the game is played).

This season wasn’t the most exciting; in fact, with Coach’s presence, it was probably the most “honorable” season I’ve seen.  No big backstabs, no huge blindsides, and no big fights throughout the entire season, which is unusual for Survivor.  You put 18 people on an island together with no rules and no food and there’s bound to be social problems — or so you would think.  But not this time.  The players were generally respectful which, while refreshing for reality TV, did not make for a very interesting season.

Also, it was the most religious season I’ve seen.  Never before have so many players been so open about their Christian faith (we had Matt Elrod in season 22’s Redemption Island, but he was less vocal about it), and it was certainly a huge motivating factor for all the players — even those who weren’t religious.

“Coach” Wade – The Mystic

  Coach was a huge surprise — and a huge hit — this season.  I was completely incorrect in my predictions of his performance.  He wasn’t strung along by anybody and ended up controlling practically the entire game, which was a stark contrast to his entrance (being snubbed by everybody on his team save Edna).  However, this worked against him in the end when the other players viewed his leadership as “manipulation” and “backstabbing”.  Granted, Coach did tell many different people he would take them to the final three and in the end had to renege on his promises — but that’s Survivor.  This isn’t a charity contest, and his hypocrisy was probably ousted so quickly only because he carried on about “honor” so much.

In the end, I feel Coach got a bad rap and should have won this season.  I found myself rooting for him because he was making an honest effort to do the right thing without acting like a loon which was marred his performance in past seasons.  He was much more reasonable, level-headed, and likable this season.  Not once did I hear him refer to himself as the “Dragonslayer”, and whenever anybody referred him as such, he blew it off.  It’s clear he genuinely wants to take a different track in life, and I was sorely disappointed when he didn’t take home the grand prize.

Brandon Hantz – The Closet Sociopath

Brandon was another surprise this season.  At the beginning, he came off as psychopathic and under control of his “inner demons”.  Even Coach alluded to his “demons”, saying that he was suffering from their influence.  Throughout the show, though, Brandon made it clear he just wanted to play an “honorable” game alongside Coach, and he was incredibly open about his faith.  However, as Sophie pointed out toward the end of the show, he truly believed any of his mistakes could be waved away with a simple apology.  God may work that way, but Survivors certainly don’t.

In the end, it was his clinging to his “honor” game that cost him the game.  He gave up his immunity necklace to Albert, a weasel of a player, and was thus voted off.  Surely, he knew that he was going to be voted off — the expression on his face revealed this fact — but he should at least be commended for his attempt to do the right thing.  I won’t quickly forget his defense of Cochran after he decided to join the Savaii tribe post-merge.

The reunion show was difficult for Brandon.  He described his family as not being so welcoming upon his return; in fact, according to him they said he was a disgrace.  This was punctuated by Russell Hantz’s comments during the live reunion that Brandon had “played the game all wrong”.  As if Russell knows anything — he’s lost what, twice now?

In the end, I was sympathetic to Brandon.  He clearly comes from a dysfunctional family and doesn’t quite have a grasp on what is “normal” yet.  I think he grew in a positive way from this experience.

Dawn Meehan – The Bipolar

Dawn did break away from her “craziness”, but she ended up being a minor player.  She was voted out 10th and became the third member of the jury, beating out Jim and Keith.  Once the tribes merged, she didn’t stand much of a chance; the former Upolu members successfully steamrolled the former Savaii members, including Ozzy.

Jim Rice – The Troublemaker

Jim was everything I predicted him to be:  charming, weaselly, selfish, and conniving.  All of these aspects, however, made him a good player.  He likely would have gone much further — but would not have won — had he not been forced to face the full weight of the Upolu tribe after the merge.

His attitude toward Cochran was despicable and certainly received his full come-uppance once the tribes merged.  In a satisfying twist, his downfall came at the hands of Cochran’s switch.

John Cochran – The Overconfident Kid

I was right about Cochran on all notes.  He started out soft-spoken, overconfident, and weak.  He remained rather weak throughout the first half of the game, his fate generally in the hands of others.

However, there was some fight in this kid.  He managed to stay alive for quite a while, and once the tribes merged he pulled off probably the biggest move of the season.  Afterward, he questioned if he had done the right thing; in my mind, it was unequivocally the best move he could have made.  He avoided the tiebreaker (which consisted of drawing rocks), entered into an alliance with Coach, and probably most importantly made it clear to his former tribe mates that they were not in control of his fate.

Cochran was probably the most interesting player this season, and did grow as I had expected.  He was the low man on the totem pole throughout the entire season, but he managed to overcome most — if not all — adversity and pulled ahead of his former tribe mates to become the fifth jury member.

Mark Caruso – The Nice Guy

Not much to say about Mark Caruso (“Papa Bear”).  He was the third to be voted off, likely due to his poor performance in challenges.

Sophie Clark – The Winner

Sophie was definitely not in my top 5 — or even my top 10 — players who I thought may have a chance to win.  I figured she would hang around on Coach’s coattails, do poorly in challenges, and eventually lose her stride and go home.

However, she managed to fly under the radar and performed surprisingly well in the challenges.  Overall, her attitude and intelligence gave her the lead.  During the last few days, it became clear she was not accustomed having her character called into question, and the final tribal council was quite difficult for her.  She nearly burst into tears and her voice was shaky the entire time; despite this, the jury voted for her over Coach (who they found hypocritical) and Albert (who they found overtly conniving).

Did she deserve to win?  I think the answer lies in the fact that she did win.  Anybody who wins Survivor deserves to win it.  That’s how the game goes.  She wasn’t in my list of favorite players, but I certainly didn’t dislike her, either.

This season was, in all, uneventful, but managed to retain my interest.  I’m looking forward to next season, in which the two tribes will live together (the preview portrayed their living arrangement as a big treehouse, which could be interesting).

I think it’s in Survivor’s best interest to refrain from pulling in any past players — it’s time for some fresh blood, and I think the game works best when none of the players know each other.

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