Is this Survivor’s worst-cast season ever?

Last night’s Survivor was one of the most grating episodes I can remember, and even worse, its obnoxiousness quotient remained unchanged after Tribal Council. There was just very little pleasantness, and worse, the unpleasantness was the exact same thing we’ve seen for two weeks now:

  • Reynold acting like an entitled, pompous ass, telling the rest of his tribe something like, I don’t trust any of you because I was going to use the thing I was hiding from you to help you.
  • Shamar did more yelling than anything else, but bizarrely insisted, “I don’t bother nobody” (Hi, Shamar, I’m Andy, and you bother me) and “I’m not going to be the angry black man on Survivor. Just not going to happen” (too late).
  • Shamar quitting and then unquitting to turn himself into a hero, negating the sympathy and genuine interest I had in his story about the impact his military service had on him. I have a lot of respect for him for not only what he’s done, but for sharing his story (“after some time, I learned to love myself”), yet the lack of self-awareness about his social game–and just social behavior–is mind-blowing.
  • Phillip babbling.
  • Malcolm reaching for his idol and finding a “hidden” immunity idol, emphasis on the scare quotes.
  • Brandon Hantz preparing to go psycho over some future injustice instead of playing the game that’s in front of him, insisting, “I’ll pee in the rice. I’ll pee in the beans. I’ll burn the shelter to the ground.” Dr. Liza, get your straightjacket ready.

Also there was no tarsier, unless I missed it while I was turning away from all this in disgust.

Honestly, I think this may be the worst-cast season ever. It’s like Jeff Probst, the producers, and the network all went for the cynical choices, choosing many people who probably should not have been allowed to compete (or compete again) in a high-stakes, high-pressure, game set in a challenging environment. Or they just cast dicks.

I hope it’s the editing, though, a relentless focus on the worse choices in casting and people who will exit the game early, opening up space for people we haven’t seen or heard from at all. It also just may be the contrast from fall, which was so perfectly cast, including the returnees.

To end on a positive note, episode three included a very strong, brand-new challenge, complete with a bamboo cage in the ocean that required everyone in the tribe to be and work together. And Cochran’s breaking the fourth wall to advertise the time and network of the show that he was being filmed for was the most bizarre, meta, fourth wall-breaking thing Survivor has ever done. There’s still hope. Well, not Hope.

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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.