Even Jeff Probst can’t convince Survivors to use their brains

In terms of game play, Survivor Nicaragua is a black hole of despair. In terms of entertainment, this 21st season has its moments, and tonight was full of a lot of those moments, however full of absolute stupidity they were. Even Jeff Probst basically telling people how to vote so they would least attempt something resembling a strategy couldn’t get the final six to pull their heads out of their asses, which was enough to distract us from Jeff’s extraordinary overreaching (“here, vote like this, it will be more interesting”).

I don’t think voting out Jane was a bad move; she’s tough, she wins challenges, and everyone likes her. She’d dance off to North Carolina with that $1 million, so it makes sense that her alliance–Chase, Sash, and Holly–would turn on her. I cannot recall a conversation in the show’s 10-year history that was quite like the one we saw when they told her they were voting her out. The uncomfortable silence and Jane’s frightening stare were amazing to watch, and when she gave the finger to Sash, that was some icing.

Jane told us that “the wrath of Jane will break out tonight,” but she meant she’d be vindictive instead of strategic. Before they left for Tribal Council, she took a pot of water and hilariously dumped it on the first as the rest of her tribe stared in horror and Dan got a face full of steam. NaOnka wouldn’t have taken that shit!

At Tribal, Jane took over and told Probst she was going home, and then tried to remind everyone that Holly used to be crazy and burned (correction: destroyed) Dan’s shoes. Sometime after that, Probst slipped into an awkward initiation of his mother asking the obvious: Why don’t you three dummies align together and at least tie up the game? With Sash and Chase both admitting they were playing idols, the other three didn’t even have to confer to know who to vote for: Holly. This possibility and all of the talk about, you know, strategy confused them all. Chase said, “I don’t know what the hell’s going on right now.” Yes, we’re aware.

But no, Dan and Fabio apparently are fine with fifth and fourth place, or they expect to win every immunity challjnhhhhhhhhhhhh (sorry, the thought of Dan winning a challenge made me laugh so hard I collapsed onto my keyboard). Fabio did win a rather challenging immunity challenge–matching symbols while blindfolded–so maybe he just got cocky.

The final head-smacking moment came when we saw who Jane voted for: Sash, who she knew had an idol. Perhaps this was another middle finger to him, and perhaps she knew Fabio and Dan wouldn’t change their votes, but still. You vote for someone who you know will be immune? Oh Jane.

Earlier, the tribe received some product placement, and saw footage of their family members, which made them all boo hoo and made me roll my eyes. (And this Publix commercial makes me choke up, every damn time, so I have a low threshold for these things.)

“I just wanna see my family, man,” Fabio cried, and I laughed, and then, when they were at the reward challenge and realized they were about to see their family members (duh), Probst asked Fabio who he wanted to see, and Fabio said, “anybody, man!” and I choked up. Then I laughed again when Dan saw his son and screeched “oh god!” and I laughed even more when Probst said, “I am so touched by the affection Matthew is showing you. He can’t stop kissing you.” Don’t forget the rubbing and the hugging. Hilariously, Dan’s kid later told his dad that Holly’s husband is “a scumbag,” but we have no idea why he came to that conclusion. (Correction: I re-watched the scene after reading your comments, and yes, Dan actually says “He’s a scumbag,” although oddly, he’s whispering and not moving his mouth and his kid kind of is, and so I confused who was speaking; because Dan’s kid would have spent time around Holly’s husband, I assumed he was referring to him. Instead, it looks like Dan was referring to Chase, the more obvious solution. I regret the error.)

As everyone reunited with tears and hugs and kind words, I was too busy hoping Jeff Probst would show us more of this phone and explain what amazing features that only it had. Did you see it? It was only on screen for a quick second but oh my gosh, just watching made me want to run over my iPhone with my car so I’d have an excuse just to go buy this one for its extra G. Also the phone had videos on it. On a phone! I just wanted to rush out and get my own Dream Teamer to hold the phone for second unit footage of someone holding the phone, and get my own post-production team to overlay high-quality video over the shitty video so I could convince my friends that it was a much better phone than it actually was.)

Even more annoying than the product placement, however, was the fucked-up sense of entitlement basically everyone has about the rewards. I understand being disappointed: not being able to enjoy a new experience, or eat, or, perhaps most significantly, spend more time with your family member. And perhaps after more than a month, the only way their brains can process that disappointment is to blame someone else. But after Chase won reward and chose to take Sash and Holly (and their family members), they were all super-pissed, especially Fabio, who knew that Chase knew how much he liked his mommy!

He will be even more pissed when he sees the footage that shows Sash, Holly, and Chase eating and talking “strategy,” emphasis on the scare quotes, and ignoring their family members. Earlier, when someone asked what would happen to their family members post-challenge, Probst said, “they will be taken and executed.” That would have been more fun to watch than the actual reward.

Anyway, Sash did the same pouting routine a few weeks ago, but now, as he reminded us, other players “He knows that I’m in control in this game right now.” Just get in control of your own ego or you’re not going to be very happy. I think that’s everyone’s big problem: They’re playing emotionally, not logically, or at least they’re not using their emotional responses to their advantage. So screw them for ruining the season! I hate them! I wanted a sandwich on a boat, too! With my mommy!

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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.