OK. Like every good American, I watched the first two seasons of “Survivor.” Why? Because it was new and fresh and fun. But around season 3, I started feeling like the tricks of the game had become too obvious, and it wasn’t as entertaining anymore. Which is probably why the concept for this, “Survivor’s” 16th season, is kind of brilliant. Why not acknowledge the fact that viewers at home have become as savvy about the game as those who play it?

Also, at this point in the show’s life, why would you go on “Survivor” if you weren’t a fan? Easy. Because you were already on “Survivor” and have nothing better to do with your time. As I haven’t watched recent seasons of the show, I have no idea who most of the so-called favorites are. For the most part, they seem pretty interchangeable, except that I’m completely weirded out by how much Ozzy’s hair reminds me of a 1990s teen idol. He’s like David Faustino after rehab.

JonnyThe one exception to my ignorance of these guys is Jonny Fairplay (the sinister looking one at left). I saw an episode or two of his while home visiting my parents, but had somehow blocked out all memory of him until this moment. Oh, god, I’ve just committed to watching an entire season of a show where this man will be talking about himself in the third person. I’m doomed. (Editor’s note: At what point did this idiot actually legally change is name to Jonny Fairplay? Because when he was on the first time around his name was Jon “Fairplay” Dalton. Being on the same reality show twice makes you a loser. Changing your name based on a reality show nickname makes you something beyond pathetic. — Kathy)

Do they cryogenically freeze Jeff Probst between seasons? I swear to God he hasn’t changed a bit since 2000. It’s honestly kind of creepy. He’s still hot, though, as he greets the Fan team and tells them who they’ll be playing.

It seems like the producers missed an interesting opportunity to let the Fans figure out on their own that these were favorites of previous seasons.  But assuming that fans of “Survivor” can figure out things on their own has never been one of this show’s selling points.

The fans are appropriately impressed by their competitors.  Tracy the residential builder wants to kick Fairplay. We are going to be friends, Tracy and I. During the scramble to find immunity idols and maps to the team camps, Yau-Man bodyslams Fairplay into the side of a boat. Yau-Man and I will also be friends.

The teams make for their separate camps, where we spend a bit of time with the Fans, finding out who’s gay (Chet) and who’s homophobic (Karen). We also get a little interview with Mikey B the aspiring writer, who needs to stop making up nicknames for the other contestants. For one thing, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. For another thing, he’s awful at it. Wow, the big guy is the Incredible Hulk? Mikey B is Salieri to TWoP’s Amadeus.

Meanwhile, the Favorites have this game well figured out. Knowing that the choice hotties will be snatched up quickly, the more sex-crazed of the contestants secure snuggle-buddies by the beginning of night 1. Pair-ups are Parvati/James and Ozzy/Amanda, who clearly has some “Married With Children” fetish I don’t want to understand.

But even though the Favorites have made fire utilizing Yau-Man’s glasses by the beginning of day 2, they still seem a little clueless. An tight alliance is formed between Ami, Yau-Man, Jonathan and Eliza, who are expecting the Hook-up Kids to form their own alliance. Which, of course, they do. But then both alliances decide to pull in Fairplay, despite knowing full well that he’s a jackass who’ll screw everyone over. Fairplay sums it up nicely: “I think it’s insane that there are nine other of your favorite survivors of all time, and they all believe what I say. Have you not watched this show before?”

CartThe immunity challenge is exactly why I like “Survivor” — a complicated and ridiculous obstacle course involving puzzles, pushing carts, and setting stuff on fire. Fan Eric proves to be a bit of a dick, tossing sand onto the favorites while they try to dig up their planks for the bridge. He’ll be fun down the line.

Anyway, the Fans kick ass and win easily, getting a bonus of flint for fire-making. And back to the Favorites camp we go for the pre-tribal council drama. Cerie, the one survivor without an alliance, is just hanging out, keeping it real. You get the feeling that even if she got invited to the party, she wouldn’t attend.

Fairplay attempts to play both the Hook-up Kids and the Bitter Spinsters against each other — until he realizes how badly that’s going over. So then he starts talking a lot (and I mean a LOT) about how he’s going to be a father in two months, and maybe he should go home and be with his girlfriend instead of on a reality TV show. A rocket scientist, our Jonny is.

Tribal council consists mostly of talking about Fairplay’s reputation as a liar. Which is nicely combined with Fairplay saying, hey, he’s not quitting, per se, but you guys can vote me out if you like. The tribe takes him up on that, essentially taking him out unanimously. I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s fine. Everything’s going to be fine. Everything is going to be just fine.

Next week on “Survivor”: There’s this whole other team. They’re a bunch of fans. Has that come up yet? Well, apparently they’re going to actually talk and stuff next week. Fun times.

— Liz Shannon Miller

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