Having puked up its ugliness, Survivor delivers a great merge

Like Cochran inhaling duck embryo and brains without even flinching, Survivor was able to quickly choke down the awfulness that it gave us the past few weeks. The merge episode was a surprise on so many levels–one that doesn’t erase the severe ugliness that has tainted this season, but one that made it seem possible that the remaining six episodes could be rather enjoyable.

Because the producers orchestrated both a tribe swap and thus a merge that would be dominated by returnees, I was prepared for the post-merge season to be a slog through getting rid of alleged fans, as the past few weeks have been, with Phillip ranting and everyone else humoring him.

That’s the opposite of what we got, and it was awesome.

Even the editors seemed to perk up, giving us more tarsier and hilarious moments like Phillip blowing a spit bubble in his sleep while the others talked about getting rid of him.

The show’s editors deserve an Emmy for Tribal Council alone: As Jeff Probst revealed the carefully arranged votes, they cut back to her again and again, her expression gradually changed from surprise to “Oh my God” with each vote.

While Corinne has come far since our first meeting, she made an ultimately fatal mistake of moving too quickly against her previous alliance, by gathering a coalition of returnees and alleged fans. Being so annoyed with Phillip (“I want to throat punch him every day”) probably didn’t help Corinne see the big picture, but more significantly, she told too many people about it.

That includes Dawn, who foreshadowed her own game play by pointing out that “the people that win” are the ones who make big moves. I’m super-mad at Dawn for her move–telling Cochran and the other favorites that Corinne had confided in her about a plan to blindside Phillip–but it was smart game play.

Damn, did I want to see Phillip go home. I share Corinne’s frustration–and also her pre-merge frustration, when she said, “You’re kinda sick of talking to the same people over and over again.” Yes.

There may be some hope in Malcolm, who told us “I haven’t liked this passive, plodding-along game,” and who also wants to turn on Phillip and has the surprise advantage of the favorites thinking they purged the traitor in their tribe. Then again, Malcolm also gave us the merged tribe name: Enil Edam, which is as sweet (it’s his mom’s name backwards) as it is dumb (“Enil Edam” is even worse than Nobag).

And who knows what Erik could do? Haha, oh, sometimes I make myself laugh. As Cochran said, Erik has “proven himself to be incompetent at this game.”

Erik did make me laugh when, waiting for round one of the gross eating challenge, he looked at the covering on his plate and said, “mine moved a little.” And yes, his plate cover did shift slightly.

It was a great challenge, even though we had to endure gagging, throwing up, and looking at parts-covered tongues. And Cochran pulling out a win–or should I say, choking down a win?–was unexpected and amazing, and not just because he thinks women will be impressed by his ability to swallow things.

Let’s hope the rest of the season goes down as easily.

The Quest ends its journey stronger than it began

Verlox from The Quest

A review of the finale of summer's best reality series, which wasn't always perfect but was thoroughly entertaining right down to the finish, which included phenomenal challenges and special effects. Will ABC give it a second season?

Plus: an interview with the actor who played Verlox and the ogre.


Shark Tank is getting a spin-off

Shark Tank

Companies that get deals on the show will be followed for this new spin-off.

Also: Before the show began, Shark Barbara Corcoran was cast and then replaced--but then she sent this amazing e-mail and won the job.

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.