Survivor Caramoan: the best worst season in Survivor history

Survivor Caramoan was a shit sundae: Several scoops of feces covered with enough whipped pleasantness to make us forget what we were eating, topped with a maraschino cherry of a reunion that didn’t even resemble the real thing. Yes, the last few weeks were very entertaining, but that doesn’t forgive what came first.

The season began with a weak cast being overshadowed by wildlife (the tarsier!). Then came the supreme ugliness and its aftermath. Then the season treaded water with boring repetition and an unfair twist .Thankfully, it ended with Malcolm’s amazing moves, which gave us this masterpiece. Cochran’s well-deserved win followed some shocking cruelty.

Despite the really awesome moments and highlights, I stand by my assessment that Jeff Probst inflicted the death blow to the series this season, though he’s been wounding it in recent years. It may take a few more seasons or years to bleed out, but considering the twist, name, and casting for season 27, it’s dying fast. That makes me very, very sad.

Thoughts about last night’s three-hour finale and reunion:

  • Cochran was a good but unsurprising winner. He’s a deserving winner, and he’s had a nice arc over his two seasons as a player; plus, it’s always great to see a true fan win, because there’s a special kind of appreciativeness there. Although he initially didn’t think he could do more than “satisfy a third of those requirements” as specified on the Survivor logo (outwit, outplay, outlast) he absolutely did all three.

    Still, his win seemed to be a foregone conclusion most of the episode and was not surprising, even with his challenge dominance. He won four individual challenges, three of which were immunity challenges–though, let’s be honest, the stacking challenge was also an immunity challenge, it just was turned into a reward challenge once Erik was removed from the game by medics, although not before Probst had a conversation with Cochran about strategy over Erik’s lifeless body.

  • Eddie and the medics. As much as I want to see a reality series about Eddie opening his dog bar thing (wtf), he needs to return to Survivor as a medic, because despite being a self-professed “idiot,” his discussion with Probst about Erik’s condition was remarkably more articulate, coherent, and intelligent than the medics’ conversation. I now think the medics might be Dream Teamers in disguise just having fun, because they say hilariously obvious things. Referring to Erik’s dizziness, the medic said that “makes me think there’s not enough blood going to his head.”
  • Brenda and Dawn. A very pregnant Brenda, appearing via satellite, said, “I feel like I lost a friend and then gained one,” so perhaps the ugliness is behind them, but there was a lot of ugliness last night. Brenda was obviously hurt by Dawn voting her out, and that’s fair and understandable. What was unacceptable, and made me lose all respect for Brenda, was her horrifying, unconscionable request at final Tribal Council for Dawn to take out her teeth just to be humiliated.

    Had she brought up that incident and asked Dawn to tell everyone about it (assuming they didn’t already know), that would have been okay, but what she did seemed out of anger and bitterness and a desire for revenge. While I don’t think Dawn has anything to hide, and was facing a jury deciding whether or not to give her $1 million, I wish she’d told Brenda to fuck off instead of actually taking out her teeth and smiling for the cameras.

  • Sherri smacks down Erik. Speaking of telling people to fuck off, Sherri showed up for 30 seconds to deliver the most amazing verbal beatdown to Erik, who decided to show up for 30 seconds and go after Sherri, of all people. Yes, Sherri had zero chance of winning and wasn’t quite clear on that, but why pick on her? It felt like the runt of a litter of puppies started batting around a stuffed animal just because that’s the only thing over which it has any power.
  • Jury management for a bitter jury. Dawn’s speech describing her game and comparing it to football was very smart, but it was not enough to overwhelm their anger and emotion over her betrayal of Brenda. She also had no real chance against Cochran, whose game was much more flawless. Cochran did very well with the jury (obviously), but was just upfront and honest: “I’ve lied along the way, I’ve deceived along the way, I own it.” He owned up to a “sociopathic ability to separate game and emotion” and basically dared them to attack him–”you can tear me apart”–and they didn’t.

    Most of the jury was bitter and/or just annoying. Reynold, that twit, tried to tell Dawn she was “a complete fraud” and “character you created.” Phillip, of all people, had the nerve to tell Dawn that she “made camp life for most of us very disruptive.” I don’t doubt her crying was annoying, but I’d rather be stranded with someone who’s emotional rather than someone who’s creating a miserable fantasy world.

  • During the lame reunion, pre-jury cast members were ignored. We knew this hours before the finale, when the pre-jury cast found out and were pissed that they’d been relegated to the audience, probably just to conceal Brandon Hantz’s absence. I didn’t even see them in the audience, though I may have just been looking down at my new tarsier.
  • Rudy and Rich and Boston Rob. The reunion was almost as much of a waste of time as a typical American Idol results show, and Jeff Probst was really out of control with his lack of control. There was apparently no time to talk to the pre-jury or even many of the jury members, but we did get to see 85-year-old (!!) Rudy Boesch say “queer” multiple times, along with a stupid bit with naked Richard Hatch. And then there was time for Boston Rob to pimp his self-published Boston Rob’s Rulebook, which is a real thing.
  • Next season’s twist. Probst teased season 27′s twist by showing a few seconds of blood swirling in water. He encouraged people to tweet their guesses. Anyone who read what I first reported, that the season will be returnees playing with family members, probably saw the blood/water connection, but the tweets Probst read–never mind all the other ones featured during the episode–were so insipid and dumb that I can’t believe they are Survivor fans. I did, however, appreciate the one that suggested this season would be about shark attacks. Sounds fun.
  • Malcolm wins. Malcolm won the fan favorite prize, a nice reward for the entertainment he gave us. He barely beat Brenda, though; the difference was a single percentage point. It was well-deserved, though, as he played hard, stayed nice, and almost single-handedly prevented this season from dropping to the bottom of the heap. That’s worth at least $100,000, if not the $1 million he’ll get on his third, fourth, or fifth time returning to the show in the future.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

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.