Survivor Season One: Death of an Alliance

By David Mumpower

August 18, 2005

Don't bother him. He's, um, thinking.

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Previously on Survivor, Colleen was eliminated. A national audience voted for the show to end right there but CBS is going to air another couple of episodes anyway. Highlights include Sue burping, Rudy making homophobic remarks, Richard strutting around nude and Sean saying 'huh?' a lot. This is the way the show ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

You know what a great idea for reality show voting would be? There should be some sort of phone number audiences could call to voice their support for their candidate of choice. This would insure that worthy players like Gretchen and Greg advanced much further in the game. Also, the people voted off the island by the largest margins should be mangled by pumas. We'll call it Rich's Rule.

Day 34 has arrived, meaning that the five remaining contestants are but five days from the finish line. Each of them has a 20% of winning a million dollars, 25% if you don't count Sean. His strategy of "do whatever Rich says" seems destined to end in disappointment. Of course, this evaluation could accurately describe any of the remaining contestants save Wigglesworth. She might not be as winning as Colleen, but she is the best remaining option of this devil's brood.

So, what happens after you have spent a month with a group of total strangers? You run out of interesting things to say. Sean achieved this all the way back on day two, so he was ahead of the curve in one way. The rest of the Survivors discuss the importance of the Rattana tribe, the Tagi tribe and the differences betwixt the two. All that is resolved is that Richard could give a damn whether any of the other people there live or die. And here he seemed like such a people person.

"If they betray me, I'll get even with them." – Rudy, again reminding people he knows a guy who knows a guy who specializes in Wetworks.

Rich is not scared off by the death threats. He matter-of-factly negotiates Rudy's betrayal with Wigglesworth. Whether Rich has a death wish or not is irrelevant here. What matters to the viewing public is that if he does figuratively put a knife in the Navy SEAL's back, he might receive a literal one in return. A nation anxiously holds its breath, anticipating the Machiavellian corporate trainer's potential demise. Please, oh please, let it be slow.

Sean has come to realize that he is a sheep on a savannah of lions. He pouts to the camera that every remaining contestant but him is conniving and manipulative. While he's not wrong, it's important to note that what Sean considers manipulative is the demonstration of any ability whatsoever to formulate strategy. Or say hello in a sarcastic fashion.

The theme this week is that there is no honor among thieves. The Tagi survivors have perpetrated a fraud against television viewers by methodically eliminating their significantly more popular Pagong opponents. Now, all that is left is for them to turn upon one another and attempt to become the new Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. I do not, however, predict that any of these people will give their winnings to the poor.

Wigglesworth continues to worry about her status within the tribe. She goes to power player Rich and pleads her case about the prior behavior with members of Pagong. Knowing the man's ego, she smartly points out that she had an opportunity to eliminate Rich but declined. "I think it was a smart decision," he says earnestly. Never has America disagreed more with a television statement.

There is one jovial moment early in the episode as Sue experiences pain. While out on a fishing expedition, she gets a bit too close to her intended target. The ray violently stings her before she manages to gut it. While preparing the seafood entrée, Sue states that while she might come across as tough, she does hurt sometimes. She winds up wearing a cast from the ordeal. Awww. Who wants to give sweet little Suzy Q a hug? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Seriously, that ray just became the most popular sea creature since The Little Mermaid.

Homesickness is the main theme of tonight's episode. An excruciating five minute segment shows all of the players waxing nostalgic for their loved ones back in the states. The cynic in me can focus on but one issue: these people have loved ones.

As if sensing how much the viewing audience hates the contestants, the reward challenge seeks to embarrass them in a manner that might violate the Geneva Convention. The players are forced to ooze in as much mud as possible in order to better transport that mud to a bucket. Whatever goop they manage to transfer in the time allotted will be weighed and the Survivor who has the heaviest load of glop wins a decent prize. They will be transported to a local restaurant, treated to a meal and some beer, and a television program. The show in question is the first five minutes of the Survivor pilot, nicely allowing the winner to see him or herself on television for the first time. It's a bit recursive but a worthy reward. The competition itself is largely people diving into the muck then squeezing mud out of their hair and into a bucket. It is equal parts Woodstock and South Pacific. Wigglesworth wins with 15.9 pounds. Then, she gains her revenge on Probst by giving him the muddiest bear hug in the history of the universe.

The "mud game" has a soothing effect on the heated tensions of the tribemates. Sue and Wigglesworth go from trying to kill each over and numerous heated conversations with harsh words to washing each other's hair. Both Sean and Rich comment on how unlikely such behavior would have seemed just a few hours ago. Wigglesworth even merits a hug from her once and future buddy on the way out to the reward.

Wigglesworth reaches the "Survivor Bar", a local establishment that has been given a neon sign to make it look Survivor-esque for the evening. Wigglesworth throws down a ton of pasta and discusses the nature of Survivor to Probst. When she says she can't trust Sue or anyone for that matter, Probst sighs with disgust. I cannot shake the feeling that the show has evolved in a much different capacity than the host (and possibly even the producers) had expected.

"Wait a minute, we're not evil. We just play bad people on TV." – sure could have fooled me.

Wigglesworth is then given the opportunity to watch the boat evacuation from the Survivor pilot. The bar patrons cheer loudly as the show begins. When Wigglesworth is named in the credits, the group bursts into applause. It's such a strong moment of ego-stroking that it's almost tragic Rich missed out. This is the most thoughtful and worthwhile reward challenge thus far. It is the proverbial once in a lifetime experience.

The following morning, Sue and Wigglesworth decide that they hate each other once more. Such is a woman's prerogative. Sue looks her counterpart in the eye and says that she has an alliance with Rich; moreover, she will do whatever she can to prevent Wigglesworth from making the final three. Maybe it's the beer talking, but the river guide is all too happy to agree to have a blood feud. They walk off claiming civility but each of them has the same look in their eye that Brutus had right before he walked up to Caesar on the Ides of March.

"Now I'm in it to win." -- Sean. Doctor, if you don't mind my asking, what were you in it to do before now?

Probst sighting! The immunity challenge is a ripoff of a recent horror movie. A camcorder has footage of the forest followed by quick cuts to our host. His only dialogue is: "The Survivor Witch Project – Sundown." I think this is one of the most derivative, repugnant ideas I have ever seen but if it gets all the contestants killed off, I reserve the right to change my opinion.

The challenge itself is predicated upon skill at the game of Memory. Probst reads a story to the contestants. They are then asked to use this information to retrieve five masks from within the woods. Once they encounter a mask, they are asked to perform a ritual based on the Probst story and the number of the mask. To complete the Blair Witch Project theme, they are asked to carry a camcorder in order to document the process. It's a visually off-putting process for anyone with a queasy stomach. The bouncy cameras are nauseating and it's difficult to keep up with anyone while they are moving. The only memorable part of this challenge is that Rudy has no memory. Whenever he encounters a mask, all he says is, "I don't know." Apparently, he wasn't paying any attention during story time. The other contestants scurry about madly with Wigglesworth eventually emerging victorious. If Sue wants to prevent her young foil from making it to the final three, she needs to beat the girl at something.

It's time to play it's Anyone But Sean! There has been a four-player alliance since early in the competition and he is the only player left who was not a member of it. Even if Wigglesworth and Sue are ready to rip each other to shreds and Rich is ready to betray Rudy, none of that happens until next vote. A token attempt is made at making Sue appear to be vulnerable but I would sooner believe that Probst is getting voted off tonight. Sean goes by a four to one vote with Sue being the one who gets Sean's vote.

The only discussion of note during tribal council is Probst asking Rich about how the American public is probably perceiving him. Rich's reply is either wonderfully self-deluded or a bald-faced lie. "Hopefully, the people who watch the show would see somebody who's kind of known what he was looking for from the beginning. And has kind of worked toward his goal as ethically as he could do it." A nation guffaws. This schmuck has a one in four chance of winning a million dollars next episode. We are officially in worst case scenario territory.



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