Survivor Season One: Too Little Too Late?

By David Mumpower

July 21, 2005

Ramona, I still know what you did last summer.

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Previously on Survivor, six people dined on rats. There was probably other stuff too, but I can't get past the rat buffet enough to remember what it was. They ate rats...and they liked it. It's probably best if the camera crew leaves this bunch behind on the island and history forgets their existence.

The Tagi tribe lost one of its members at Tribal Council the night before as Stacey was eliminated. She was none too pleased by the turn of events, either. She looked like she was half-ready to sue the show's producers. I hate to break it to her, but if you're fighting not to finish 14th out of 16 contestants, you're not exactly a solid bet to make it to the end. Just be happy you were voted off before your tribe starting talking about eating rats.

On day ten at Pagong, it's raining again and Gervaise knows he's losing a friend. While the foul weather has soured persistently sunny Colleen and glass-always-half-full Gervaise, it has positively brutalized Ramona. The woman is huddled up in a ball of wet, cold fear. A picture is worth a thousand words here. She is demoralized and ready to quit. "It was the worst night I've ever slept." Don't think it's just Ramona feeling the monsoon's impact, though. Greg had seemed impervious to the effects of nature prior to this episode, but even he is overwhelmed by the night's dreariness. "The worst trouble was the bugs. The bugs love it. Once that rain comes, it is sand flea heaven." Have you considered eating the bugs, Greg? They can't be any worse than rats.

Meanwhile, Gretchen has moseyed on up to the bar and swallowed a big gulp of remorse. She reveals herself to be a student of the Air Force Survival School for six years. Does that mean she's really good at survival or she kept failing it? Since she's still alive, let's presume the former. Anyway, the point is that she knows a thing or two about setting up camps. Despite this skill, she deferred to B.B. about where to locate the shelter, not because she disagreed with him but because she's good at survival. Her sixth sense told her any further disagreement would mean a surprise machete attack from grandpa.

Now that B.B. is gone, though, Gretchen is once again going to evaluate their situation. Her conclusion is that as long as they inhabit a rain forest area, there is a chance it might rain. The logic is strong with this one. In addition, the shanty they originally constructed has caused other side issues and the tribe's living utensils have gotten spread out across the beach. Seeing centralization as a must, Gretchen proposes that the group should tear down their current shelter and create a new one in the forest using the scraps of the original. It's a bold plan that meets with immediate resistance from Joel, B.B's enemy who now sees himself as tribe leader. Colleen, however, readily agrees to the proposal and that nicely settles the issue. Everyone in the group seems to love Colleen.

The building of new shelter provides a good news/bad news situation for the Pagong tribe. The bad news is that the fort they built proved inadequate for their survival needs. The good news is that they get to build a new fort! Any eight-year-old surrounded by a sea of sofa cushions and blankets can tell you what a rapturous experience that can be. In addition, it gives the tribe something to do during the day, and that's a huge positive after such a harrowing night. Busy work soothes the soul, as my grandmother used to say. Of course, it does not seem as if Ramona would like my grandmother. Still not over the torment from before, she sees little advantage from a new shelter anon. Her tribemates drown her out for the most part, but this constant back-biting cannot be helping her status within tribe any.

"If this were, right now, each man for himself, Greg would be the victor. He's relaxed. He's not fighting this. It's not like a battle for him." – Gretchen has also noticed how well this environment suits him.

It's crazy time on Survivor! Our candidate this week is Greg. In fact, I think it's safe to say that our candidate will be Greg every week from now until the show's end. He introduces a new device which is expected to replace camera-phones and Blackberrys. The "naturephone" is the coconut which Greg engages in debate when he either wants to put on a show for the camera or entertain the troops. The gag is simple. He acts weird and talks into a fruit as if it were a cell phone. Sadly, there is such a dearth of leadership in Pagong that when faced with a choice of Joel or Crazy Naturephone Guy, the latter wins. According to Gretchen, Greg is slowly taking control of the tribe using the unusual political campaign slogan of "Can you hear me now?"

Perhaps sensing that there might be a Nutjob competition this week, Sean decides to take on a little Bob Villa-type project. Not to be outdone by a coconut telegraph or whatever it was that Greg made, Sean sets out to construct a bowling alley. The only way this could be more perfect would be if Sean were a lawyer instead of a doctor...and named Ed instead. Hey Sean, ten bucks if you vote people off based on some form of an alphabet strategy.

After spending a few seconds complaining on camera about Sue working too hard and making everyone else look bad, Sean clears out the path where his bowling alley will be. The coconuts will be used as bowling balls since cell phone reception is for shit on this side of the island. In a clever bit of editing, Sue is shown searching for tapioca, nuts and any other types of food that might be found in this area. Meanwhile, Sean spends five hours flattening an area of sand in anticipation of rolling coconuts in a straight line. In a statement of the obvious, Sue says that if they lose the next immunity challenge, she's voting off Sean. America is right there with you on this one, Trucker Mama.

The Probst guy shows up again, and this time he's wearing a cowboy hat. You're still not ready to pass yourself off as an outbacker, Jeff, but thanks for trying to fit into the lifestyle. He describes an "SOS Challenge" where the two tribes will attempt to notify a plane flying above that they are in need of rescue. My advice for Tagi would be to send a Morse code message that they are stuck with some freak trying to build a bowling alley.

Before starting the challenge, a representative from each tribe is sent to bear witness to the rewards available to the winner. Jenna and Dirk are selected, and they meet at a spot harboring a very nice looking hammock. They must be in the Hammock District. Also available are towels, pillows toiletries and the like. Jenna then requests a spice rack while Dirk asks for a flaying knife. The question I would like to ask Jenna is whether a spice rack would help much when it comes to rat flavoring. I'm not seeing nutmeg and paprika helping rat to taste like anything other than spiced rat.

Since there is a lot to be gained from winning the reward challenge, strategy sessions begin immediately. Greg determines that sex sells, and Colleen quickly agrees that they're trapped on an island and obviously horny. Exactly what sort of SOS are they planning on creating? Are they going to strip naked and form the letters with their bodies? We cut to Tagi and as expected, they are much more intense in their discussions. Dirk and Sue wage war over the use of condoms. The virgin is reticent to use anything as tacky as something that prevents pregnancy and the transfer of STDs. He's projecting his sexual insecurities at the possible expense of his tribe. I don't care about that, though. All I keep thinking is how fortunate Dirk is that he is on this side of the island instead of the other one. A girl just said ‘horny' over there!

"I'm actually planning something different from that that might benefit me and it's a little sneaky. I think I'm going to handle this by beginning to develop alliances with some folks to ensure that I move into the next round." – Richard

If CBS had been smart, they would have punctuated this statement by a thunderclap or a dun-da-dun-dun to show how key it was to the rest of the show.

Time to talk about Ramona some more...she's weak and fading fast. We get it.

Day 11 at Tagi promises to be just like the previous for Dirk! The tribe struggles to complete their assignment before the plane shows up. Cut to Pagong and it's the same deal there. Even Ramona is pitching in! Pagong throws in some crazy to boot. Greg grabs his coco-phone and notifies the pilot that they are ready to win. Greg, I'm just thinking out loud here but chicks dig uniforms and your tribemates have expressed their horniness. Dirk might approve, but you could offer to hook the pilot up with Jenna and Colleen. If you had a functional phone, that is, you crazy freak.

Probst is up in the plane mumbling something over a terrible sound system. I have no idea what he says, but the camera cuts to one of the beaches. "SOS! Tagi is groggy!" This message in the sand is punctuated by the tribe members making sandy snow angels while wearing their yellow parkas. It's the yellow that impresses the most from the plane's camera angle. The primary color is easily distinguished. Pagong goes with a much more understated logo than the implied nude orgy from before. They simply make a huge smiley face in the sand and wave madly at the plane. If I'm picking, it's Tagi in a walk. Pagong's effort is sadly lacking. Probst and co. agree with me, delivering the package and the win to Tagi.

"All that waiting, all that work, for nothing. Man, I wanted garlic." -- Jenna

That woman sure knows what is important in life.

At Tagi, they are dividing the spoils of victory and celebrating their enhanced tribal conveniences. Richard immediately grabs the flaying knife and wraps it around his leg. The effect, intentionally or accidentally, is an homage to Ursula Andress on the beach in Dr. No. How's that for an unsettling thought? At Pagong, remorse is the emotion of the day. Colleen questions the choice of a smiley face, an accurate sentiment that would have been much more useful roughly 18 hours ago. Meanwhile, Ramona further sinks into the abyss of self-loathing that threatens to swallow her soul.

"So, the alliances have begun and I didn't even have to do much about it." – Richard

Tubby is referencing the fact that Sue, Wigglesworth and Rudy discuss an agreement to vote against others in order to enhance their performance in the game. Rudy does not like the idea, and refuses to participate. So, there are six members remaining in Tagi and three of them have promised to work together for mutual benefit. As long as they all survive the next round of eliminations, they will have numbers against the remaining members of their tribe. It's a fascinating albeit unexpected development in the game's unfolding strategic angles.

Sensing that they have gone too far, the producers try to show Ramona in a different light. She begins to participate more in camp activities. She re-discovers the spring in her step and begins to demonstrate a playful side. The black woman even offers to the camera the insight that she has not had a white friend in a long team, but she could see herself growing very close to Jenna. It's a nice sentiment and even if she is not long for the island, it's important to show that Ramona is a well-intended person who has caught a bad break. She does not have the right sort of constitution for this game, but she is attempting to adapt and overcome. That's exactly what the game of Survivor should be.

Probst sighting!

It's time for an immunity challenge. This intricate competition involves a series of water-related legs. The first is a swim out to a buoy to retrieve a bottle. From there, contestants must run across a rickety bridge and reach a boat. After that, they row back to land. The bottle must be broken and the message inside, a map, retrieved. Next, the contestants run into a jungle to find a key while their teammates dig up sand in search of a buried treasure chest. Once the key is placed in the chest's lock, the team has won. And, oh yeah, they have to perform all of this physical competition in heat exceeding 100 degrees.

The challenge itself unfolds pretty much exactly as described above. Its modular nature makes tracking a bit redundant. Colleen initially swims against Joel. This mismatch gives Tagi a lead they carry into the jungle portion of the leg. At this juncture, Dirk and Gervaise face off in a duel to find their team's keys. While in the jungle, the extreme heat takes a toll on Gervaise, who is demoralized when he crosses paths with the triumphant Dirk. Simultaneously, Jenna and Gretchen fail to discover their chest in time. So, Tagi wins the immunity challenge. Afterward, Gretchen turns to Jenna and tries to re-assure by saying, "We did our best." Jenna's priceless, pissy reply is "That's not good enough." Hello, sore loser!

Back at Pagong's camp, the thought of voting off a fellow tribe-mate is eating at all of them. Well, most of them. Psycho Greg offers an unusual, almost celebratory description of the night's upcoming events. "We're all friends and then you boot someone. It's like the board game Sorry. You pick the card and you got to take your thing and smash the other guy out of the way. Knock ‘em out, that's that. You move on. Soooooorrrry." This guy bugs me a lot of the time, but I have to admit that what he says makes a lot of sense. If you're being forced to vote, the guilt should be negligible. The other people knew what was incorporated in the game, after all.

Tonight's vote should again be unsurprising. Despite her recent phoenix-like ascension from the ashes of failure, Ramona is easily the Pagong tribe's weakest player. The episode title of Too Little Too Late isn't particularly encouraging, either. The contestants enter, and there is an immediate surprise. They have put on some war point in order to exemplify the fact that they are in fact a tribe. During the Q&A section, Ramona is pressed on her early lackluster performance, but she only tips her cap and acknowledges the veracity of the argument.

At this juncture, Probst asks if any player feels confident enough to state that they will surely survive the upcoming vote. Most of the players shake their heads no, some in humility and others in genuine concern. Only Gervaise sticks up his hand, which leads to a humorous exchange. The host points out that the man with his hand in the air is directly responsible for incidents in each of the last three challenges that caused his teammates to lose. And he's right. Gervaise couldn't choke down bugs, he struggled with the swimming, and it was his leg of the race that saw Tagi victorious. The confident man shrugs all this off and says that he is completely secure with his position on the island. Oooookay.

The vote goes along as expected. Gervaise votes for Colleen since he is so tight with Ramona. Greg does something unexpected as he votes for Jenna. He describes this as self-fulfilling prophecy though rumors from the show paint the rationale behind the vote as something much more incendiary. Ramona joins her buddy Gervaise in voting for Colleen then the rest of the votes go against Ramona. Again, the vote has gone as expected. There have still been no surprises of note.

I am now handing off the next few recaps to Jim Van Nest. I'll be back for episode ten.



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