In the Batman comics and films, there is a well-known villain called Ra’s al Ghul, unlike your stereotypical villain who revels in the pain and destruction of others while twiddling his curly mustache, Ra’s al Ghul is a villain who believes himself to be a hero. Ghul doesn’t see the wrong in his actions, he thinks what he is doing is moral and just and therefore his extreme methods are necessary for the greater good. In his mind, everyone else around him is corrupt and immoral while he is honest and righteous. Does this sound like anyone from this current season of Survivor? It could apply to a few people from this season, but none more so than Dan Foley.
Survivor has attracted a whole heap of individuals over the years that have lacked self-awareness. Who can forget Coach in Tocantins who bought into his mythological Dragon Slayer moniker to the point where I think he actually believed his bones were made of Valyrian steel. Or Russell Hantz who spent two entire seasons seemingly unaware of how insulting and goading his fellow castmates might cost him their votes in the end. Or Alicia Rosa in One World who thought she was running the game and could beat Kim in the end – yes, Kim Spradlin, one of the greatest players to ever play this game. But none have been quite so monumentally unaware as Dan whose every utterance seems to contradict his actions.
Worlds Apart has been a torturous season to get through, particularly in the latter half and a huge part of that has been to do with Dan. He is a character that stayed well past his sell by date and as the weeks wore on and fewer people remained it only increased Dan’s air-time and thereby increased my levels of frustration and anger. He wasn’t a fun villain like Tyson Apostol or Courtney Yates, and he didn’t have the fantastic gameplay to counterbalance his obnoxious personality like Jonny Fairplay. Everything Dan said felt staged and rehearsed, and maybe this is a by-product of someone that has applied over and over and over again to be on the show since Season 2. Just think how many audition videos Dan must have recorded or how many casting interviews he’s attended. He probably got his patter down to a science.
Dan had built this character up in his head year after year of how he would play Survivor. And like all great method actors Dan was committed to this character and wouldn’t allow for any divergence or any authenticity to break through. Much like I said last week, Dan was the hero of his own story and everybody else’s too, and there was no way he could ever see himself as the villain or the one in the wrong. Ultimately that led to Dan’s downfall and the most satisfying vote-off of the season.
Wait did I hear that correctly? Did Dan say the first self-aware thing about himself all season? It may have taken an off-hand comment during an Immunity Challenge, but finally, Dan said something approaching accuracy about himself. What does Dan do Courtney?
Okay, my comment was not meant literally. I meant it figuratively. How many times do you hear people say, “He/she sucks at life”? Are they really saying this person can’t function on a day to day basis? Of course not.
If any of that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s what Dan has been saying in every post-show-interview to defend his comments about Shirin and others on the show. It’s a shame that Dan continues to reel off these rehearsed answers rather than step back and honestly look at the situation because I genuinely believe he could learn something from this experience. I understand that we only see 10% of what happened out there, I get that the show is edited to tell a certain story, and I’m sure lots more things were done and said that led to particular situations but the show can’t put words in your mouth. Dan can talk about context all he wants but in my opinion, some of the things Dan said wouldn’t be appropriate in ANY context.
Dan started this episode calling Mike condescending, this coming from the man that told Sierra to “close your mouth and open your ears.” Dan should have been the one closing his mouth and opening his ears because Sierra was the only one during the puzzle portion of the Reward Challenge that suggested the word “Fixin’.” But Dan shot her down, and one hour later each team was still trying to complete the frigging thing. When a puzzle turns into an endurance challenge, you know you’re not aren’t dealing with the brightest crayons in the box. I loved Jeff Probst in this segment, basically spelling it out for them while also taking the piss out of himself in the process “”I say the same 200 words over and over again. I’m in therapy I say these words so much.” Probst has been on form this season from talking about his Botox, to playing a weird sort of charades with Shirin, to bringing Dan to task at Tribal Council. All hail Probst.
I loved that one of Dan’s team’s suggestions was “SHAINT”. The alternative title for this episode blog was “Shaint Nuthin’ But A Mama C Thang, Baby!” If all else fails just make up words, that tends to be Dan’s strategy.
DAN. IS. WRONG. AGAIN! It wasn’t as if Rodney’s suggestion was much better.
We all know what wish Rodney wanted fixing, his wish to go on a reward. Over 30 days on the island and still this poor sod hasn’t been on a reward, not even on his birthday. “It’s like being in jail, Jeff.” You know, like those beach jails… – I suppose Alcatraz prison was on an island and let’s be fair; the people held there were probably less reprehensible than this bunch. I still enjoy watching Rodney though, even with all his petty whining and petulance. I liked how he perked up after eating the melons Dan found back at camp, “These watermelons (what do I look like I got a degree in fruit, bro?) are making Rodney feel some type of way…” as if they had some aphrodisiacal effect on him. And I was highly amused at how he wasn’t able to form a complete sentence at Tribal Council. But my favorite Rodney part of the episode was his breaking the fourth wall look and smirk to camera.
Before we arrived at the episode’s triumphant conclusion, we had to get through a great yet tense Immunity Challenge in which Mike was fighting for his life in the game. Even though Carolyn has grown closer to Mike and has been willing to work with him, she knows that if he doesn’t have Immunity, the smartest move is to vote him out. Nobody beats Mike in the Final Tribal Council, they all know this. Once again Mike smashed the challenge, this left the Axis of Evil to vote out one of their own once again, and it seemed like everybody was on board to boot Dan and his advantage. But looking to maneuver one step ahead, Mike decided to approach Dan and let him know that everybody was writing his name down, and if he wanted to re-join Mike and make a move then now would be the time to do so. I’ll give a little credit to Dan here, even though his tone is off with Mike, he had valid reasons not to buy what Mike was selling. Dan likely knew the real plan was to vote out Carolyn.
With Dan unwilling to cooperate, Mike approached Carolyn and Sierra and informed them that the guys, Dan, Rodney and Will were writing one of the girls’ names down, most likely Carolyn. Mike had some impressive stealth ninja mode tactics in the way he just appeared out of the bushes to startle Sierra. It didn’t seem that anyone was listening to Mike but at Tribal Council when Dan chose to play his Extra Vote, it gave Carolyn all the clues she needed that something was up. And so she played her idol, wiping out all the votes that she received from Dan, Rodney, Will and yes, even Sierra.
That now means that every idol played this season was played correctly, for as bad as the gameplay has been, for the most part, that is pretty impressive. Carolyn and Mike’s votes were all it took to send Dan packing, and now we head into the finale next week with at least one more semi-rootable person alongside Mike. It shouldn’t have taken us until Episode 13 to get a properly gratifying episode, but I still punched the air like Mama C when she played her idol successfully. Now Dan heads to Ponderosa where he continues to perceive himself as the season’s hero, who when asked what he learned about himself said, “Nothing. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know about myself. I consider myself to be a very self-aware individual.”
Dan Foley, ladies, and gentlemen, he’s the hero he thinks Survivor deserves, but not the one it needs right now…or ever.