Survivor misleads us, not delivering on James’ meltdown or the anti-Parvati sentiment

Watching Jeff Probst read the votes last night, I felt for a moment like we were watching old-school Survivor, where the editing didn’t really give us any indication of what the final vote would be, nor did it explain why the person got voted out. In those old episodes, it seemed to be a surprise to everyone.

Of course, Randy was set up as a probable and easy first out for the Villains–he’s non-controversial and didn’t contribute much. He also predicated he could be first out. But the editors spent a lot of time building a case against Parvati, and even concluded with Coach saying he’d “dare to dream that Randy’s going to wake up in this camp tomorrow” and that he’d fight for him. Yet the Tribal conversation wasn’t about Randy at all–or even Parvati, really, except for Sandra’s awesome dis of her (“for instance, with Parvati,” she said, after listing criteria for voting someone off, including that person being on the show three times and having a bunch of allies on the other tribe).

You gotta love Randy, though: Though he didn’t really belong on this season at all, he went out with grumpy style, hurling his buff onto the fire after voting for Rob “to send a little message,” he explained in his exit confessional.

Earlier, there was a lot of great discussion about why Parvati should be a target. Coach insisted “flirting has never controlled me; I’m my own man.” Jerri said “Parvati is like a virus,” and “I just want to punch her in the face.” So great. Parvati said in an interview that Jerri is “just, like, a bitter old cougar, and I think her days are numbered.” It’s just too bad we didn’t get to see them face off in the challenge.

Speaking of that challenge, last week’s preview of this week’s episode made it seem like James would just go too far, and horrify us all. But he didn’t. Sure, he slammed Randy and knocked him onto his ass in the mud, but it wasn’t particularly brutal, and I’m still not sure why everyone criticized him and Courtney said, “I told you you’re on the wrong team, James,” because really, that’s the least villainous thing he’s done. There was a lot dirtier fighting from other people, starting with Coach, who broke the rules by taking his hand off his fighting pillow but was so into his warrior cry that he couldn’t hear Probst demanding a rematch. When he finally calmed down, he gave Probst the finger.

Overall, it was a good challenge. The Villains got their asses handed to them, and made their first trek to Tribal, but the individual face-offs made it great: JT knocking Tyson into the mud (and Tyson hugging and kissing him to make up after it was done) and Rupert eventually taking out Coach. My favorite, however, was Tom easily knocking Russell into the mud; I’ve been waiting two seasons for that.

As to the resident troll, Russell thought he’d rattle his tribe’s bridge by hiding the machete, apparently forgetting for a minute that the Villains camp is so disorganized that no one cares. Russell is clearly lost, and though the editors gave him a few minutes to talk about how amazing he is instead of actually demonstrating it, it’s clear he’s not in control at all. I think Rob is, and even if he’s not, I’m liking him more and more. As Coach started in with one of his stories at night as the tribe laid down in the shelter, Rob said, “Is this the same story as last night? It’s startin’ off awful similar.”

Rob also gave future players advice: “watch how they sleep at night” to see “who’s aligned with who,” he said. That’s because “you don’t usually go to sleep next to the guy who you want to vote off.” Rob explained, “I’ve been there, and I know how powerful that kind of an alliance that is.” I think Rob’s right, and because Russell and Parvati sleep next to each other (and giggle–oh, the awful, painful giggling), never mind their pre-game knowledge of one another, his declaration in the preview for next week that it’s Russell’s time to go may be premature. But I hope not.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

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.