Boring, waste-of-time Survivor clip show promises “deeper insight” but doesn’t deliver

Despite yet another promise of “a new Survivor on a special night,” the episode of Survivor Tocantins CBS delivered was in no way “all-new.” I tuned in encouraged by Jeff Probst’s insistence that “it’s really good stuff,” and the first few minutes were promising, since the first half of the season was recapped in under two minutes, but alas, nearly everything that followed was not “good stuff,” nor was it the promised “deeper insight into the game.”

Instead, it was more like deeper insight into the editing process. What’s it like to watch scenes from Survivor again but with all of the rejected footage added in? Timbira eating, Jalapao restarting their fire and making a shelter, Coach being a condescending dick, Taj breaking down over her bug bites, Joe and JT playing a game, Coach conducting. Some of it was midly interesting but didn’t make the show and for good reason, and some of it was tediously boring.

For example, how long did we really need to watch Stephen unsuccessfully hitting a flint while trying to make a fire? Everything went on too long–even the mildly interesting footage. And yes, there were a few amusing moments: Stephen and Brendan’s rainy night on Exile, sleeping and spooning, was a great visual enhanced by Stephen’s dry humor: “I have never been so close to another man. He and I spooned for all we were worth.” But even that grew old fast because it just kept going on and on.

The extended wildlife and landscape footage was definitely a highlight; I would have preferred 44 minutes of that, considering how beautiful it is there and how boring the other footage was. What would have been far more interesting would have been to include some of the footage that didn’t make it into earlier episodes, like Jalapao’s secret alliances and the real reason Spencer was voted out. Let fans see what we know has happened but the show hasn’t included, even if it doesn’t fit into the season-long narrative arc.

Although I eventually returned, after the first half-hour I gave up and switched to American Idol, which ranks far lower in terms of shows I like to watch. Survivor without a narrative arc is boring; Survivor without challenges is tedious; Survivor with extended, drawn-out sequences that simply expand on things we’ve seen before or show us stuff there’s a good reason we didn’t see before, well, that’s just dreadful.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.