Deus ex appendix: Colton’s body deprives Survivor of a worthy exit for One World’s villain

Survivor One World is now one world again, after being two worlds for two episodes, as the tribes merged following Colton Cumbie’s exit, which happened thanks to his appendix.

This was monstrously disappointing. Not because Colton and his bullying and awfulness are gone for the rest of the season, but because his exit was not punishment for his actions, nor the consequence of his choices in the game. No, it was simply bad timing–and a guarantee that we’ll see him again, probably next season, although thankfully the casts of seasons 25 and 26 will have seen him on TV and will hopefully heave his ass ho.

And while I understand why people are using this term, this is not karma. His actions did not have an effect, ironic or otherwise, that ended up impacting him. I referenced/incorrectly modified deus ex machina in the headline because it’s literally that: the Colton problem was solved externally, a surprise appearance by something that we never expected. Of course, that’s what makes reality TV awesome, but it also sometimes deprives us of what we’d script or hope for in our dreams.

Colton’s exit was pretty awesome in that it was one final illustration of his awfulness, and maybe even revealed why he’s such an outrageous jerk. Colton spent most of the first part of the episode verbally abusing his next target, Christina, just because he could: “You can quit, or you can jump in that fire, which ever is more convenient for you,” he said more than once, because once Colton finds a line, he repeats it until he makes sure we’ve heard it and have laughed and think he’s a star. Seriously: I think the bigoted nature of his previous verbal abuse of others masked that Colton is also a textbook bully.

After the commercial break, Colton’s head was in Christina’s lap as she tried to alleviate a painful headache and intense abdominal pain, plus brown pee, which all later prompted him to go roll around in dirt–where he belongs. Zing! Soon, the medical team, including medic Jeff Probst (he hosts! he produces! he carries a backpack with the medics!) showed up to press on his stomach and increase his pain. Alas, medic Ramona only needed to press on his stomach and cause him pain once; apparently, no one told her about Colton so she could act as a stand in for viewers and press and press and press.

Colton cried “I just don’t want to leave,” but Ramona said it was “too risky to not take him out” because his appendix could burst, prompting Colton to plead and whine: “please, Jeff!” Jeff, however, had other things in mind, like creating drama. Oh, Jeff, why must you meddle? Jeff asked, “Do you still have the idol?” and Colton revealed that he did, and that he was taking it out of the game with him as a souvenir, because that’s the kind of alliance member and friend he is: selfish.

By the way, Probst noted on Twitter that four medical evacuations–Michael Skupin, Jonathan Penner, Russell Swan, and now Colton–all happened during episode six. Wild.

Worth mentioning is the confessional interview used throughout the episode when Colton reflected on his pain and also in which he refused to acknowledge Christina’s generosity and compassion, probably because the idea that someone would be nice to him hurts more than a burst appendix. “Of course Christian’s going to do that because she’s trying to save herself,” he said, in apparent perfect health, his shirt looking cleaner, but still in the jungle. I assume they brought him back for an exit interview once he’d had surgery and recovered.

Earlier, Alicia auditioned for the role of Colton by attempting to be awful, mostly by joining in the taunting of Christina, first by refusing to give her space in the shelter and then getting aggressive when Christina tried to forcibly push Alicia aside. Christina wasn’t much help to herself, doing a pretty lame job of trying to work her way out of danger by pleading to Leif and Jonas, who seem to get slower and dumber every week. Hilariously, Christina made about half of her argument with Alicia standing right behind her.

There is an unbelievable amount of stupidity this season, from Tarzan calling Christina “Katrina” (while being smart enough to identify Colton’s ailment) to Kat learning what an appendix is at Tribal Council and immediately worrying that she’d cause hers to burst, when I actually think medical might need to check out her brain. (Loved when she said “touche” to Probst.) The reward challenge was also quite comical, as the tribes played a game everyone plays in their back yard, according to tree mail (um, no) and bounced coconuts off of a net into giant targets. Colton’s angry berating of his team–Christina–didn’t help them, and the model tribe won, and got to stuff their hot bodies with melted ice cream, which was a nice old-school, away-from-camp reward.

Both tribes went to Tribal Council and learned that they were merged, after two episodes apart, Colton’s exit having deprived us of an immunity challenge. This early merge makes it seem likely that the producers merged the tribes now because the men and women were now even. Then again, since it is “one world,” maybe this was planned all along–one world two worlds one world–with various kinds of interaction hopefully shaking up what happens post-merge (rather than the usual one tribe picking off the other). We shall see.

Also, I think the producers might have freaked out a little about what little footage they’d get from Colton’s tribe, since what remained was pretty much summed up when Leif put me into a temporary coma while describing his voting options. Colton’s bigoted attitudes, bullying, cockiness, lame jokes, and self-satisfied attitude will not be missed, but as a fan of dramatic television, it feels like the (poisoned, port-a-potty-smelling wind) has been sucked out of this season.

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.