Previously on Survivor, an unconscionably terrible season ended with the best player of the season, Sophie, winning and one of the worst players in the history of the game, Coach, finishing in second place. The fact that people gave Coach any votes still blows us away several months after the fact, a point we debated with BOP’s Survivor Analyst, Jim Van Nest (who is taking a break this season), on innumerable occasions.
Survivor: One World Recap
One Beach, Two Tribes
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
February 21, 2012
Jim likes Coach on a personal level and that caused him to believe that the veteran Survivor was running his tribe. In reality, as the days wound down, comments from the remaining members clarified our belief that the members of the former Upolu tribe made decisions as a group with Sophie and Albert positioned as the thinkers of the group. Over time, the distrust toward Albert demonstrated by others led the dysfunctional unit to gravitate toward Sophie’s decision making.
This was the correct call in that Sophie was the smartest and toughest member of her tribe and a fitting victor in a forgettable season, the worst since Survivor: Samoa. As was the case then, the editing manipulated the viewer into thinking one player was in control while the actions of others eventually proved that the woman (Natalie then and Sophie now) was the best of a lousy bunch. We always liked Sophie but the fact that Lil Hanz and Coach could position themselves in the final six speaks volumes about how epic a failure last season was. After all, someone named Rick was also one of the final four. Do you remember a Rick?
After a terrible season that would cause some people to believe that Coach is anything other than incompetent, changes were clearly needed. The alteration that gives the season its title, One World, is that both tribes will exist in the same space. This should allow the players to have a working knowledge of one another long before the “merge,” which will be less important this time due to the starting circumstances. Of course, the most noteworthy change with One World is that there will be no Redemption Island. If a player is voted out of the game, there is no means through which they can gain readmission. Dead is dead.
The participants will also be divided up in a battle of the sexes, which was attempted in season 9, Vanuatu, a largely forgettable season featuring one of the weakest winners ever, Chris. An incidental variation also played out in season 16, Micronesia, when the final five players included four women and one man. The dude, Erik, was manipulated into giving up immunity in order to aid a friend and prove his loyalty. He was immediately betrayed by being voted out for his trouble, a cautionary tale for the men this season. As is always the case with Survivor, the rules matter less than the cast. Still, we are cautiously optimistic based upon past history that Survivor: One World should prove to be good television. At least there is no Hantz and no Coach this season. We would be thrilled if none of those three goofs ever appeared on our television again.
Our favorite reality television host is riding in a helicopter, recounting the rules mentioned above. The editing shows a few characters boldly proclaiming the reasons why they will be dangerous players. One guy believes that his effeminate nature will cause women to adore him while he slides under the radar with men who will not see him as a threat. A woman forcibly reminds us of Micronesia when she brags about the way she will manipulate any dude who makes the mistakes of crushing on her. And a sushi chef brags about his survival skills. Hope springs eternal on day one of Survivor.
The Survivors reach camp and disembark from their vehicles. Everyone smiles broadly as they see Jeff Probst for the first time. He immediately begins to quiz some of the players. A woman who identifies herself as Kourtney is wearing one of those knit hats that resemble cute animals. We immediately place her odds at winning Survivor as 70 million to one. Kourtney is asked how she fits in with the other women and, to her credit, she acknowledges that she doesn’t fit in well. The gay man from the truck is asked about the other men and he states that there are some good looking men but that none of them is as good looking as him. Todd Herzog, the winner of Survivor: China, immediately springs to mind.
A manipulated moment occurs next. A man is asked to identify himself and he claims that his name is Tarzan…Greg Tarzan. Presumably, he’ll want his rice shaken, not stirred. Of course, his actual last name is Smith, but we won’t let facts get in the way of island fantasies. Remarkably, this notification irritates another man on the tribe. This guy states that the other guy cannot be Tarzan, because he is “Troyzan”. Yes, the producers of Survivor have cast older men who self-identify as Tarzan and Troyzan. We quickly review the cast list to see if any of the women are named Jane. To our surprise, none is. This strikes us as a missed opportunity. The only way Survivor could fix this mistake would be for another male to call himself George O. Jungle.
After letting the Tarzan news sink in, Probst announces to the tribes that this season starts as a battle of the sexes. The men are in Manono tribe while the women are in Salani. At this point, we notice for the first time that one of the men is a little person, which is a phenomenal casting idea. Hopefully, he will not have a NaOnka on his tribe. We are still salty about Kelly Bruno’s treatment during Survivor: Nicaragua.
The women celebrate this turn of events while Probst points out how freaked out the men are over the absence of women in their group. Once it is revealed to them, the dudes will realize that they’re all sharing the same camp, so they will have more women around than any tribe in the history of the show .
A nice idea is implemented as the competitors prepare to depart for camp. Probst informs them that they have one minute to strip the trucks they rode previously. Any items they attain during these 60 seconds may be carried to their new home. Both groups rush to the treasure trove of items, but the women jointly embark upon a fool’s endeavor. There is a series of poles tied to the top of the SUV. They waste a full 20% of their allotted time trying to pull it off, never once attempting to untie or cut the attached rope. They wind up without the item as the clock expires.
Once the women drop down from the truck to inspect their goods, they realize how poorly they have done. Probst quizzes them about their performance. He notes that there are coconuts and bananas and that’s about it. The women are puzzled about the location of one item in particular. They had headed straight for a pick-axe and delivered it to their area. None of them can find it now. The reason why is hilarious.
Remember the first appearance of Rupert on Survivor? The first action of his was stealing the shoes of his opponents. A Survivor contestant this season had the same idea. Michael noticed that all of the women were fixated on untethering the pole. While they were distracted, he brazenly walked over to their pile of stuff and took the pick-axe for himself. He grabbed a couple of other items as well. Effectively, Michael let the women waste their time grabbing stuff off the truck, then waited until they were not paying attention. At this point, he moved the items to his team’s base and thereby won the entire supplies mission for the men. If he plays with this much ruthlessness the entire season, he’s got a good chance to make the final vote and possibly win.
The women are obviously furious over this underhanded act. They accuse the men of a felony with a particularly bitchy woman named Alicia calling them “dirty cheats." She is not wrong but there are no rules about ethics in this game. The men just outsmarted the women. Of course, karma can be a swift and harsh mistress. Ordinarily, Michael would have had no concerns about repercussions until three weeks later. Little does he know that the women he just robbed will be sharing the same camp with him in a few hours. As such, the short term gain of this move may not be worth the cost of frayed relationships with the ladies.
The trek to camp is a harsh one. Tarzan the plastic surgeon (now THERE is a magnificent business card) claims that they have to cross hundreds of miles of land and that they each lose ten pounds of water weight. We might buy the second one but the first tells us Tarzan should be thankful to live in a world that has GPS navigation and odometers. Meanwhile, we discover that the little person is named Leif and he deduces that the best way to prove himself to the alpha males of the tribe is by carrying some of the heaviest items. He takes the back half of device used to carry kindling wood. Others express their amazement at how buff and tireless Leif is. He has accomplished step one in proving himself as a valued worker/member of the tribe. Hopefully, people will focus on this rather than his height in evaluating what he means to Manono.
Accurate or not, the women are edited to have much more trouble taking their items to the new camp. Alicia, who certainly looooooves to be on camera, states that the “stronger girls” are Kim, “myself” and Chelsea. Then, she adds Sabrina as impressive before stating that “Kitty Kat” (a woman named Kat) was irritating her. She states that the five person winning alliance has already been formed. From the way she acts, there must have been some ceremony wherein Alicia was named Queen of Survivor.
The surprise element of the season is revealed when both tribes arrive at the same camp. Everyone gets possessive about property and ownership. After a brief period, all Survivors realize that four chickens are at the camp. One of the men states that the two parties should work together to capture the chicken then split the reward. A southern girl named Chelsea somehow manages to grab two of them. One of the men asks which one she would like to keep for her tribe. At this point, Chelsea remembers the stolen axe and states that the women need to huddle up to determine how to proceed.
At this point, we find out more about the man who is self-appointed chicken negotiator. He is an attorney named Matt and he seems like a psycho. His fractured logic is that because the women broke the original agreement, they have to give him the chicken as an apology and then the parties may proceed from there. It is possible that there is some sequence on the editing room floor that explains his point of view better but it is more likely he is a nutjob. The other men push him away from the women before his diplomatic skills do further harm. His final statement on the matter is: “She’ll come to her senses when she quits playing hero and she’ll come give us a chicken.” Yup. Nutjob.
The next interaction between the two tribes is centered around Colton, the gay guy from Alabama. He goes out of his way to hug/befriend all of the women at camp. His belief is that he can become the most popular member of the women’s tribe while staying beneath the radar of the other men. His stated belief is that the men will underestimate him and that this will allow him to proceed far into the game.
Matt takes this opportunity to tell Colton he needs to be less friendly with the women if he wants to be popular with the men. Colton, presumably the recipient of many swirlys and purple nurples from guys like Matt, bristles at the notion and states an intention to get the arrogant attorney voted off the show. The Revenge of the Nerds remake script writes itself.
Mirroring Alicia on Salani, Matt forms a strong players alliance with Jay, Bill and Michael. These men seem to think that Survivor is a match-up of shirts vs. skins this season, as most of the alpha males walk around topless most of the episode. Why didn’t Sugar ever do this? Anyway, the philosophy is that the young, fit guys with six packs will be the dominant alliance. Matt states that he is sitting pretty for the entire season. Bad news, Matt. Nobody who has ever made an assertion like this has ever pulled it off. Even Boston Rob had to learn humility before he became a dominant player.
In between the testosterone battles, the men attain fire. Shortly afterward, Sabrina visits from the women’s tribe. This is the first of what will be innumerable negotiations between the two tribes, which is the genius of the One World concept. Sabrina offers a chicken in exchange for one of the men to create fire for the women. Matt quickly rejects this proposal.
Soon afterward, Monica Culpepper arrives. She is the second wife of an ex-NFL player cast on the show. Her husband, Brad, spent nine years as a defensive tackle, primarily for Tampa Bay. She has an interesting biography and we are particularly curious about her participation since Eddie George’s wife, Taj, was one of the better players in recent seasons. Monica’s first move is a curious one. After saying she is too old to negotiate, she makes a dive for the fire and attempts to retrieve a burning log to take back to her camp. This ploy fails miserably and annoys the men further.
Eventually, Faux Queen Alicia joins Monica and demonstrates a startling lack of imagination. She becomes the first member of Salani to bring sex into the mix by asking if the men will give the women fire in exchange for Monica taking her pants off. For the sake of clarity, this technically makes Alicia the pimp, not the whore. Tarzan and Troyzan like the sound of that but the entire situation is more about the men having power over the women than anything else. This entire negotiation is loosely the basis for Swept Away. We hope the National Organization of Women isn’t watching this atrocity.
At night, the women again attempt to make inroads on the fire matter. Alas, they make a mistake when one of the alpha males ask who the women believe is running the Manono tribe. One of them guess Tarzan, who is like, old and not fit and stuff. The Gap model wannabe is offended by this. Eventually, one of the women intuits that the answer the man is looking for is himself. Women like power after all. Still, Michael comes across less well than he did when he was stealing stuff. Let this be a lesson to you. Crime always pays.
After the men fall asleep, Monica the housewife and Christina the consultant sneak over to their side of camp. They proceed to steal some embers in order to make fire. It works temporarily but then the embers burn out. The women embark upon several more attempts to make fire. Nothing works. When Christina again approaches the men’s camp, she takes a more disciplined approach. This time, she asks the men what would be fair market value for fire. Jonas requests 40 fronds to be weaved by the women. Michael senses her reticence and counters with 20. Christina makes this deal and the women are finally poised to have fire.
Then, Alicia enters the conversation. Her body language identifies that she is not serious about brokering a deal. In fact, she suspects that Christina is getting too friendly with the fellas. Alicia finds the smallest issue possible to undo the negotiation. The men must bring the frond materials over to the women’s side of camp. Believe it or not, this is a deal-breaker for some reason. We had not realized that Alicia has veto power yet somehow she winds up ruining all of Christina’s negotiations. She also apparently has execution powers as well. Alicia states that Christina will be the first one to go.
While Alicia is begging for a beating, Sabrina is being productive. She notices an area she believes is the likely hiding place for the Immunity Idol. Remember a couple of seasons ago when Survivor’s producers claimed that these would be much harder to find? That never happened. They are discovered as often as the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks. The downside is that this is an idol for the Manono Tribe. Alicia cannot use it for herself. Instead, she must choose one of the dudes and give him the idol before the next Tribal Council. That’s an interesting variation of the standard rules.
Colton happens to visit the tribe soon afterward (he seems to be there a lot). He needs a partner to search the island for idols since he recognizes Matt wants him gone. At this point, Sabrina decisively hands him the idol. Colton cannot believe his good fortune. He had anticipated spending hours if not days searching for it. Instead, all he had to do was ask. What Sabrina gains from this remains to be seen.
The first immunity challenge of the season is poorly designed. We say this because it ends in tears. Contestants are expected to jump from a 25 foot tower to the netting below. Then, they must navigate a balance beam followed by a rope bridge. Finally, they are asked to solve a puzzle. We don’t see a lot of this, however, because the netting under the tower is too tight.
Asking untrained people to jump from heights is always a risky strategy, which is exactly why Hollywood employs stunt people. The very first contestant to jump, Bill, loses his shoe in the process. It’s an awkward action to make a controlled fall. A lot of people simply cannot do it. Kourtney is such a person. When she jumps, she instinctively attempts to use her hands to cushion the fall. What we learn is that taut rope netting is no different than hitting the ground. Kourtney destroys her wrist.
At first, the other contestants believe that she is being overly dramatic. We can tell from the replays and the basic camera shots that she has broken several bones. She has also suffered a dislocation of those broken bones. In fact, the only way in which Kourtney is lucky is that this is not a compound fracture. Situations such as this are the ones when a bone breaks the surface of the skin and juts out. It is a sickening, serious injury. Kourtney must have tremendous courage to make her way to the next phase of the challenge afterward. We have seen professional athletes black out from injuries like this.
After a time, Probst calls for the medical staff to evaluate her and the doctor states the obvious. Kourtney cannot continue. He gives the men two options. The first is that they can take a disqualification from the women and end the challenge right here. The second is that they can prove that they are capable of holding onto a big lead by completing the competition. They choose the former, which is the only logical decision. The women, who are feeling a bit guilty for being so harsh with Courtney (one woman callously said, “So what? She’s bleeding!” and pointed to another teammate), take this as an act of war. They would have done the same thing, but it’s an emotional moment where everyone is too dialed up to be rational.
We return to play It’s Anyone But Kourtney…but it’s going to be Kourtney. Unless Survivor forces an elimination on top of the medical injury, she is the obvious choice. We have watched enough sports to recognize a serious injury when we see it. This is a season ender, one of the three most serious in the history of the show after Mike with the fire and Jonathan during his second appearance. Mike’s is still the most serious but in terms of physical pain, Kourtney is a close second.
Tribal Council is a surreal experience. Alicia has decided that everything bad that has happened to her in life is Christina’s fault. Since they have known each for three days, this strikes us as an overreaction. Alicia intends to shout Christina down and thereby establish her power. The stated subject matter is the fire/frond negotiations. Alicia keeps interrupting Christina then gets offended when Christina reciprocates. Eventually, Christina drops all attempts at diplomacy, bellowing: “BECAUSE YOU’RE WRONG! OKAY SO SHUT UP!” Alicia plays the victim at this point. Neither player comes across well and we are certain this will not be the last of these fights until one (or possibly both) of them is gone.
Eventually, Probst delivers the expected news that Kourtney is out of the competition. She will be needing wrist surgery. Ambulance chasers looking to milk CBS’s deep pockets, the time is now. Overall, this season appears to be chock full of explosive personalities and big egos. It is also one of the hottest casts thus far, meaning there could be hookups and love triangles as well. Then again, 42 minutes of Matt and Alicia is already 42 minutes too long. Unless both tribes join together to exterminate them, there are going to be some insufferable moments ahead. But at least there is no Hantz and no Coach.