Budding bromances and tribal council meltdowns are keeping this season refreshingly entertaining.
There was one word that kept popping up on Twitter after last night’s episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, and no it wasn’t “blondie.” The word was “refreshing.” There was one particular remark that stood out on the AV Club comment section that described the season so far as “refreshingly unexpected.” That sums up it up pretty well. The current focus on character over strategy is proving to be a welcome alternative to the gameplay-heavy season we witnessed last fall.
As we touched upon last week, people had low expectations going into this season for a plethora of reasons. Not only does Kaôh Rōng have the unfortunate position of following a successful returnee season, but the promotion has relied heavily on injuries, and it’s received a severe lack of pre-season hype from Jeff Probst (although that can often be a good thing). But what these first two episodes have shown is that old school Survivor can still be fun. Really, really fun.
“Damn this game is confusing,” Jennifer Lanzetti said in this week’s episode during her wishy-washy gameplay that ultimately led to a tribal council meltdown and a torch snuffing. It’s true. We can all sit at home and pretend we know how to play the game, but Survivor is an intensely complex mindf**k performed under extreme circumstances. Watching a group of new players trying to figure it out and making mistakes along the way has always been one of the fascinating elements of Survivor, and it can be just as entertaining as watching experienced players making all the right moves.
Kindergarten Camp was the perfect title for this particular episode because it was like watching a group of toddlers learn how to play and interact with people for the first time. The Brawn tribe was at the centre of the mess having lost their second challenge in a row. Kyle Jason and Scot Pollard continued to belittle tribe-member Alecia Holden even after she’d spent five hours trying, and eventually succeeding, to make fire while they lazed around the shelter all day. Alecia might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, hell, she isn’t even a spoon, but her never-give-up attitude and cockroach-like ability to stay alive is proving the most interesting and rootable story on the Brawn camp. Plus who doesn’t enjoy a good Trailer Park Boys style Ricky-ism? Mistaking the word “ember” for “embryo” is pure gold.
Alecia’s survival was, of course, helped in part by Jennifer’s off-the-wall tribal council debacle which culminated in her standing on the furniture like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. “What’s the best thing you can do in this game?” she asked Alecia earlier in the episode. “Be honest,” Alecia replied. Jennifer scoffed and told her that certainly wasn’t the best thing you can do in this game. However, it was Jennifer’s lies that caught up to her at tribal council as she tried desperately to place all the blame on Alecia. Meanwhile, Alecia remained calm while firmly stating “I’m telling the truth.” Is honesty the best policy this season?
The Brains tribe were also being strangely open with each other over the fire and water situation. Former FBI agent Joe Del Campo is from the Rudy Boesch school of Survivor and doesn’t mind drinking unboiled water; no matter the risk of infection. Liz Markham, on the other hand, is from the I-don’t-want-to-die school of Survivor and would much prefer her water pathogen free. There was no pretence or attempt at niceties here as Joe snapped at Liz, who had a private mini-meltdown – something she criticised Aubry Bracco for last week. Dysfunction and incompetence lie amongst the Brains tribe, but they somehow manage to pull it together during challenges. Maybe it’s Debbie Wanner’s cheerleading skills spurring on these victories?
Meanwhile, life is all good over on the Beauty tribe; at least when Tai Trang isn’t smearing trees in blood during his failed idol searches. Whoever decided to put the key to the idol box that far up the tree is a sadist. No wonder this season has so many injuries if you have to be a Cirque du Soleil style performer to get the idol. Maybe next time Tai attempts to climb that tree, he’ll have Beastmode Caleb Reynolds waiting at the bottom to catch him. Not many would have expected Caleb and Tai to strike up such a friendship but their chemistry is undeniable, and they’re quickly becoming the Richard Hatch and Rudy for the Tumblr generation.
There isn’t a whole lot of strategy going on so far this season and those that are strategising are proving hilariously inept at it. That means instead we see a lot of character development and camp life and humour. Maybe that will wear thin at some point. But right now, just like a cup of freshly boiled water, it is very refreshing.