Lots of lube, very little friction on Survivor

We’re on episode 11, and I still don’t know what to make of Survivor One World. I’m often entertained and amused by what I’m watching, but I also am not exactly excited, and four more hours before the reunion seems like way too many.

The pig chase that occurred mid-episode seemed like a pretty fantastic metaphor for this season: a lot of scrambling around with no satisfying outcome, although the pig was certainly happy by the outcome. It just wandered into camp (echoes of season two, and perhaps even a clue about one of next season’s returnees), and they ran around chasing it as it squealed. Despite having ropes and machetes, and seeing the pig as good for only one thing (“bacon and ham,” as Sabrina said), they failed to catch it. So the pig just made itself at home and was there waiting when the tribe returned from the next challenge, a reminder of how much they suck. (Or, a reminder of a rule that they weren’t allowed to kill an animal that seemed like it might have been domesticated? They learn pre-season what they can and cannot kill and eat.)

Tonight’s episode at least got the inevitable out of the way, as Troyzan was voted out. It also introduced Kim as a more formidable competitor than she may have appeared to her tribe earlier, which could make things interesting over the next three episodes. Then again, I don’t know why I’m expecting them to grow brains now. “I was not planning on being a target so early on,” Kim said because of last week’s Tribal Council, and that was before she won two challenges in a row.

The reward challenge was the most significant of the two wins, because it was a clear illustration of how everyone in her tribe likes her and how good she is at reading her fellow players. Just think about how amazing that is, and what it shows. The tribe as a group said they trust Kim with their life more than anyone else, and Kim knew her tribe well enough to predict their collective votes.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate Survivor‘s challenge and art departments: the build for the reward challenge was awesome, with freaky dolls representing each of the competitors, with flawless details, like Chelsea’s camouflage hat and Kat’s pink hoodie. After they fell into flames–burned!–all that was left was a charred skeleton without, thankfully, those creepy eyes. No other show even thinks with that level of detail, never mind actually produces it. Even though this was a challenge we’ve seen before, and it was a transparent attempt at creating drama and conflict, it was fun to watch thanks to the hard work of a lot of people behind the scenes.

The immunity challenge was fun, too, though again, a kind of repeat. It gave Jeff Probst the chance to say “get lubed up” before they slid down a course to play ring toss, and it made for some amusing strategies for getting across the field. Those served nicely as metaphors for game play: Kim was lightening fast and her strategy worked perfectly, while Christina, of course, slid a couple feet and stopped.

Troy lost in the first round to Tarzan (all but declaring a winner in the spoiler-ish battle of the -zans, to paraphrase Probst), and the women celebrated. After he was voted out, Troy told the confessional camera, “I played exactly who I am” and added, “the fans out there I know are going to love my game and I hopefully they’ll appreciate it.”

Um, no. I understand how frustrating, sad, and lonely it must be to be the last remaining member of your alliance and feel so targeted. But it’s not good game play to stand at the immunity challenge with your back to the action because you lost and are pouting and/or masturbating because you’re probably going home. It’s not necessary great game play for the women to cheer his loss, either–after all, his loss means he becomes a member of the jury.

Troy made an interesting last-ditch effort to save himself, but it was mostly interesting because Christina’s strategy involves being an idiot. For some dumb reason, Sabrina told Christina that Christina would be getting the back-up votes. In other words, Troyzan plays an idol, Christina goes home. And Christina didn’t seem bothered by this! WHAT. Then she told Troy! The person who was getting the majority of votes–who would, of course, vote for her! Another vote for Christina and Troy stays.

That explains why the tribe voted her as the person who does not deserve to still be in the game; Kat may be a dummy sometimes, but at least she gets upset at the idea of being voted off. Heck, she got upset when Kim didn’t select her to go on the reward, in part because Troy convinced her that was an indication of her low rank in the alliance. But Christina didn’t seem to mind her position, despite what she insisted at Tribal “Jeff Probst Tries Really, Really Hard to Get Troy to Stay” Council. Maybe next week she’ll just vote herself out.

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.