Survivor: an even more disturbing Hantz, another great Tribal Council

Tribal Council perfectly illustrated why Survivor still works after all these years, and despite its missteps in game structure or casting: human beings playing a social game do amazing things.

Christine was ultimately voted out, which is what Coach wanted his alliance to do, and let’s not let that get lost: Coach appears to be controlling his tribe, unless there’s something we’re not seeing. That’s an impressive rebound from sucking at the first challenge and being targeted from the first few seconds–although, notably, the person who targeted him was Christine, who called him a temporary player.

Earlier, there was a fracture in Coach’s alliance, because Brandon Hantz wanted to vote out Mikayla, because her beauty and feminine ways were compelling him to cheat on his wife. (More on that very disturbing, completely unacceptable attitude in a few paragraphs.) But Brandon couldn’t convince Coach who pointed out Mikayla was the Upolu tribe’s strongest female in challenges. Brandon decided to play a bit like his uncle, and told Stacey and Christine to vote for Mikayla, while telling Coach that Stacey and Christine came up with this on their own.

In a ballsy move that could have easy backfired, Coach called out Stacey and Christine at Tribal Council, and they were pissed, insisting that wasn’t true–because it wasn’t. Responding to Coach’s self-righteousness, Christine hilariously demanded, “From whom did you hear that from, Mister Honesty? From whom?” Brandon started to get nervous, saying, “simmer down guys” to the two women. But Coach didn’t give him up, and Albert pointed out that Coach was being loyal to his source by not blabbing.

But guess who blabbed? Brandon. “I gotta come clean man. The truth is the truth,” he said. The look on Coach’s face was priceless: shock, disbelief, fear that he’d aligned with someone he cannot trust. The only thing that would have made that series of events more amazing was if the tribe would have turned on Brandon and voted him out immediately.

And he needs to go, soon. That’s mostly because it is beyond disturbing that Brandon blames Mikalya for his attraction to her, and acts as if it’s her fault he might somehow cheat on his wife. Ignoring his arrogant assumption that Mikayla would actually even entertain the idea of any kind of relationship, that’s not just creepy, that’s sick, the kind of argument abusers and assaulters and others use to justify their behavior. Brandon did take responsibility for some unknown action in the past (“I’ve made bad decisions in the past”) but also suggested that the mere presence of women in his life was dangerous (“being a married man, I have to stay away from that kind of stuff”; “I don’t feel comfortable around her”), and acted as if women were the only obstacles to his success (“ain’t no chick getting in the way”). It seems like this is his general theory of women, that they are at fault, but I have no idea where he could have gotten such antiquated ideas about women.

Coach, ever-perceptive, pointed out that Brandon “has demons that we don’t know about … that he’s facing on a daily basis.” Those demons seem to surface even more next week; the preview showed Brandon bawling. Let’s just hope he puts down the machete and stays away from Mikayla.

Coach is in a tough position with Brandon now, since he’s aligned with him, and because Brandon confided in him about another one of his deep, dark secrets. While they were walking, Coach’s boxer-brief covered penis blurred out by CBS’ censors, Brandon revealed his “Lil’ Hantz” tattoo to Coach, who at first didn’t get it: “That’s not your last name is it?” No, he’s just a huge Russell fan. But Brandon told him that Russell is his uncle, and when Coach said, “I don’t wanna be played a fool twice,” Brandon insisted he’d “made a huge leap” with his confession and promised he could be trusted, which he illustrated by waving a machete around. But the connection was sealed with something else. “You say you’re gonna play like a man of God. That means something to me,” Coach said. Brandon said, “So let’s pray.”

Jesus.

Coach and Upolu ended up at Tribal Council because they lost the combined reward and immunity challenge, even though they started with a huge lead–another classic Survivor twist. Upolu came into the challenge eating fruit, literally taunting the Savaii tribe, but that cockiness didn’t translate into performance, and they struggled with their large puzzle and lost.

Meanwhile, back at Savaii, Ozzy found the hidden immunity idol, by following the trail of neon arrows leading right to it. “What’s a rock doing in a middle of the tree?” Ozzy asked, and there it was. Seriously, this is ridiculous, and not just because it means Ozzy might stick around longer than he should. Probst said idols would be more difficult to find because clues would be hidden, too, but as I speculated back then, that doesn’t really matter if the idol can be found by itself.

A postscript: Speaking of Probst, his new piece of virtual living room furniture is using Tout to record videos to answer questions, because why read a few words that answer a question on Twitter when you can click a link, leave Twitter, and end up on another site where you watch a poorly recorded video that repeats the question and then gives the answer in the remaining part of the video’s 15 seconds? Anyway, someone asked Probst if Survivors get insect repellent, and he answered, “no, they do not get repellent. They do get some sunscreen.”

Perhaps something has changed in the three seasons since I’ve been on location, but that was not true for Tocantins, Gabon, or Samoa, where the contestants had, among their other supplies (condoms, tampons, medicine, vitamins) a large container of sunblock plus insect repellent. In Brazil, the container’s label was obscured with rope, to make it look more jungle-like, but it was a combination of sunscreen, insect repellent, and moisturizer, and contestants were applying it constantly. That’s not to say it works well, but they have had it.

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.