Survivor: bulging tight pants edition

While last season of Survivor was an excellent example of how seasons featuring returnees can work well, last night’s episode of Survivor Caramoan: Fans vs. Favorites II: The Return of Malcolm was an excellent example of the potential problems.

Despite this being an episode with just one challenge, there was very little character development from people we don’t know, and way too much attention on the very, very, very, very familiar (Phillip, sigh. Brandon, sigh). Dawn’s breakdown after being berated by Brandon was interesting in that it set up a conflict, but like Brandon’s insane threats to become his uncle, it’s one that so far only manifests in teasers for next week’s episode.

I’m honestly more familiar with–and excited to see, and surprised by–this heavily-featured camp resident than any of the returnees or alleged fans. Likewise, I was more interested in Cochran’s clam shell interview setting than what he was actually saying.

It wasn’t until after the challenge, more than halfway through the episode, that I felt like I had a sense of anyone on the fan tribe, and even then, it was mostly just Shamar and Reynold, since they were being dicks and yelling at each other and failing to learn the lessons of the hundreds who’ve come before them. Sherri’s efforts to use Shamar’s dickishness to her advantage are strategically promising, except that they mean we have to watch more of Shamar’s dickishness and I just can’t imagine 11 more episodes of that.

Meanwhile, the fans couldn’t get their shit together for a relatively straightforward (and well-crafted) challenge, though they did manage to catch up, and then just devolved into bickering. This isn’t altogether atypical–tribes often struggle in early episodes–but when placed next to the favorites’ relative competence, it’s just sad.

Perhaps the most drama came from a bulge: there it was, just out in the open and visible to others, potentially capable of changing the game or distracting people so they didn’t notice what else was going on.

But enough about Malcolm’s surprisingly unblurred penis movement.

Reynold’s reveal that he had an immunity idol at Tribal Council surprisingly mirrored Malcolm’s similar revelation last season, though since both seasons filmed before Survivor Philippines even aired, it was mere coincidence. It was not a coincidence that Reynold found the idol, though I was so excited when he thought he’d found it in an obvious location–a hole in a tree–but then pulled out “just a rock” instead.

I was impressed that Laura noticed it and called him out on it, and that he just confessed rather than lying (“apparently, my pants are too tight”). It was also smart of him not to ultimately not play it: he can possibly use it as leverage instead of just being an unprotected target.

As he and the pretty people learned, isolating yourself is never a good idea, and that’s what the pretty people did. On the one hand, I’m glad the other fans banded together and turned on the elitist clique. On the other, I’m sorry it was Allie who went home, as she seemed to have the most potential of the group. Her final words were sad, though as a super-fan since she was 11, perhaps she should have seen this coming.

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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.