Survivor Survival Guide: “How to Make Fire with a Coconut”

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want another girl to win. We already get owned in marriage. Pretty soon, we’ll have a woman president. A guy needs to sack up, and we need to win this one.”

–Shannon (who is a guy)

Let’s face facts: The first episode of a Survivor season is never any good. There’s way too many people with way too many names explaining the same tried-and-true Survivor principles. Fire is important. I’d like to make an alliance or two, but I don’t want to be overaggressive. Being a leader requires a deft touch this early in the game so as not to become a target. Survivor is really hard. I don’t even want the million dollars.

Okay, so the last one is new this season, and it comes from the biggest star the series has ever been able to nab: Former NFL head coach Jimmy Johnson. Johnson’s appearance on Survivor is, going in, easily the most interesting reason to watch this iteration of the show. Johnson, to me a shocking 66 years old, was fairly easily recognized by most of the castaways,* and he came clean early, saying he was there for the adventure and not the money — which his tribemates did not believe.

*The last thing I wanted was a weird, “Nobody recognizes me???” plot.

Aside from Johnson, however, the cast is extremely uninspiring this season.* It’s broken into young (<30) and old (>40) tribes called, respectively, La Flor and Espada. Right now, there’s little differentiation in personalities. In La Flor, only four people received any kind of attention: Brenda, a cute-ish girl who found the new “Medallion of Power” (more on that later) and plans to use her looks to her advantage (clever and innovative); Kelly B., who has an artificial leg she came clean about and the other castaways feigned understanding while simultaneously thinking they had to vote her out early so she couldn’t get a sympathy vote; Shannon, who looks like the de facto leader of the group despite sounding just like ESPN’s Tim Legler and displaying severely misogynistic tendencies; and Jud, now called Fabio, because he has long blonde hair and appears to be VERY stupid.**

*It’s also full of terrible names. A sampling: Alina, Benry, NaOnka, Sash, Yve, Shannon for a guy, and then two Jimmys and two Kellys. Sigh.

**It’s only a matter of time before he gets blindsided in hilarious fashion by, I don’t know, voting for himself. Shannon said of him, “I never really called a guy a dumb blonde before, but he’s a dumb blonde.”

Espada’s scenes centered on Johnson, Jimmy T., and Marty — three guys who all want to be the leader of the tribe. Johnson, though, is already struggling physically and Jimmy T. seems like a jerk who will offend someone shortly. Based on the amount of screen time he received this week, Marty strikes me as the person who will eventually take control of the tribe. The rest of the tribe includes a high number of annoying middle-aged females who think they’re misunderstood and underestimated. These are always the worst characters on the show.

A lot of the castaways also seem like terrible Survivor players. Holly and Wendy formed an immediate alliance because they thought each other appeared trustworthy, and then Holly had to consider going against that alliance at the first Tribal — a fact she then disclosed at Tribal. Some dude named Chase formed an alliance with Shannon, and then unknowingly told Brenda all about it. Alina and Kelly B. found a clue to a hidden immunity idol but couldn’t decipher it, and they are, respectively, an art student and medical student. The only impressive feat of the entire episode was when Jane started a fire with a pair of glasses, becoming, I believe, the first player to ever successfully start fire in the show’s history. She then ruined the moment by talking about her husband’s death.

The new element added to the game — aside from the contrived Old v. Young split — is the Medallion of Power, a piece of Aztec gold that must be returned to the Isla de Muerta before the curse is lifted. Oh, sorry. If you somehow can’t guess what the Medallion of Power does just by its name — what, you think it’s vague? — can be used to give a tribe a leg up in challenges. Once it is used by one tribe, it goes over to the other tribe. Even though Brenda found it for La Flor early on, the tribe decided to trade it for flint and fishing gear, meaning Espada had the choice to use it in the first Immunity Challenge, which entailed pouring colored water down a series of gutters into a bucket to release — you guessed it — puzzle pieces! Given the opportunity to get a 20% head start (a full pail of water poured into their bucket), the Espadans declined, wishing to make a statement. They did not, though, with La Flor winning a somewhat tight but undramatic challenge.

In the lead-up to Tribal, Espada focused on two possible departures: Wendy Jo, the goat herder who allied with Holly, and Jimmy Johnson, who identified himself as one of the weakest players. Knowing the series couldn’t possibly land Jimmy Johnson and then vote him off in Week 1, there wasn’t a ton of drama here either. Whatever was left was totally erased at Tribal, when Wendy went off on several long and annoying digressions about being misunderstood and underestimated and then, hilariously, saying perhaps she should have talked more.. Of course, it’s a situation where you question the integrity of the editing here — surely someone else talked, too, right? — but the desired effect was achieved. Wendy was voted out handily.

We’ll see how this develops next week, but right now, there’s not much beyond Jimmy Johnson keeping me invested in this season. If he leaves early, I might just have to as well.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on September 22, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    How much of Shannon’s obvious misogyny is attributable to growing up with a girl’s name?


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