I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I am a Survivor superfan, and because Dave and Andy definitely aren't, I usually stay away from writing about it. BUT NO MORE! This season (Survivor: Samoa) has been one of my favorite seasons of all time. Almost exactly a year ago, I listed the Top Ten Survivor Seasons, and so far this one better than half. First, I'll tell what any good Survivor season needs, then I'll tell you why this one rocks.
- CHARACTERS- whether they are true blue good guys or evil villains, you absolutely someone to root for or someone to hate.
- EVENLY MATCHED TRIBES - while it's funny to watch bad tribes get slowly decimated, it takes away from the drama of the vote.
- BLINDSIDES - nothing beats seeing someone visibly stunned because they didn't expect to go home.
- TWISTS IN THE GAME - exile island, tribe kidnapping, hidden immunity idols, and other things of this nature that add a wrinkle to a player's strategy
- CRAZY SHIT - environmental disasters, tribe conflict, medical emergencies, etc.
- A CLOSE FINAL VOTE - When you invest in a live finale and a drawn-out final vote, it sucks when it ends in a 7-0 or 6-1 blowout.
There's really only one standout character, but he just might be the game's greatest supervillain of all time. He's a trailblazing strategic mastermind like Richard Hatch and a despicably vile liar like Johnny Fairplay. Here's a list of his accomplishments through 11 episodes.
- On day 1, he told a heartwrenching story about living in New Orleans during Katrina. He lived near the levee, and when it broke, the flood rushed through his house and swept his 9 year old German Shephard away. He then grabbed his fireman axe and climbed to the roof where he waited 2 days for rescue. Of course, Russell is not a fireman, never owned a dog, and certainly never lived in New Orleans.
- On day 1, while everyone slept, he emptied everyone's canteen and threw some socks in the fire. His thinking was, if he created an irritating environment, it would be easier to manipulate his teammates. He was right.
- Every single time he's alone in a confessional, he loves to talk himself up and trash his teammates. It's hilarious.
- For the first time in Survivor history, he found the hidden immunity idol without a clue. He just figured it would be around camp, and searched in likely places. And guess what? Once he unsuccessfully played that idol, he went out and found the second one without a clue. That one was played perfectly, and it started the chain reaction that led to his team evening the numbers. Oh, and he just found the third idol as well, and still holds on to it.
- For good measure, he told the cameras that he doesn't even need the million dollar prize since he owns an oil company and is already a multimillionaire. He just wants to show us how easy it is.
- Though most people see him as a slippery snake, any time someone has subtly threatened him or voiced their distrust (Marisa, Betsy, Liz, and John), Russell immediately had them voted out. He knows how to recognize and neutralize threats. It's just so much fun watching someone who knows how to play the game.
Which brings up the blindsides. Survivor sucks when you get a string of episodes where the bigger tribe intelligently picks off the weaker tribe before they start to play individually. Thank goodness Galu has a lot of stupid morons on their tribe. Their alliance cracked, and every post-merge vote has resulted in dropped jaws. Probst loves it, and so do I.
For crazy shit, we've had 2 medical emergencies on the show. Mike Borassi, a late 40s guy, had to be pulled from the game after an especially physical challenge when he almost passed out from low blood pressure. To top that, the other Russell from Galu passed out DURING a challenge when he collapsed on a puzzle board. Probst called in the docs, Russell passed out again, and immediately called off the challenge and pulled Russell from the game. In Probst "scariest" moment on Survivor, when Russell passed out the second time, his eyes went blank for about 4 or 5 seconds and he legitimately looked dead before he snapped back into consciousness. Near death challenges makes for great TV.
The only thing that could derail this season is if villain Russell gets voted out. The rest of the cast is generic and boring. For the near future, Russell seems invincible. His gang finally has the numbers, he is guarded by the hidden immunity idol, and he's playing harder than everyone else combined. Of course, when you start to feel invincible, that's usually when you go home.