Not much blood in the water yet on Survivor

Survivor‘s second episode gave us a look at the shape of this season: alliances and strategy complicated by the prospect of contestants switching with the other tribe, plus an episode arc that starts with Redemption Island. But it also played out somewhat predictably, both because we already know the returnees and because their game play ultimately followed an expected pattern.

First, even though Redemption Island dispensed with Rupert, it remains a blistering sore on the face of Survivor, improved only by the full cast’s attendance at the challenge. There’s something just not right about devoting an entire early act in the episode to people who’ve already left the game, deflating the game’s consequence and depriving us of a challenge with more consequence.

However, its presence has added an interesting wrinkle into the game, a wrinkle that looks like it may pull Colton into its fold and smother him next week.

Tangent, no additional attention needs to be given to Colton’s camp bullying of Kat and his bored and masturbatory game play (“I don’t care about winning challenges”) that’s going to get him evicted before he ever has a chance to really play the game, and his fellow cast members totally described him perfectly (Aras said, “He is a gay Russell Hantz”). However, I will applaud the show’s always-brilliant technical crew for capturing this very impressive shot of him. Bravo.

Second tangent: I really want to know what camera lens or set-up is being used to shrink female cast members this much, because the same thing happened last fall to tiny Denise. Or are the men just actual giants now?

Back to the game. The wrinkle is that tribes are now considering the potential of acquiring a contestant from the other team when they think about who to vote off. In this case, the newbie/family tribe’s dude bro alliance decided to dump Rachel, Tyson’s girlfriend, in order to persuade him to switch places, making the returnees’ tribe weaker.

In other words, voting out a weak link now means the other tribe may acquire that weak link. John objected to Vytas’ plan because he didn’t want to make the competition at Redemption stronger for Candice, who’s already in trouble because of her reputation and because they were last-minute replacements and didn’t have time to pre-align.

With a barrel roll and lots of occasions for Jeff Probst to say “balls.” It ended with skee ball, which Hayden attempted, and he should have done much better since that was basically a Big Brother challenge without foam being blasted in his face. Balls.

Hayden lost to Gervase; the newbies voted out Rachel as planned. Even with the possibility of Tyson switching, this felt predictable, like she wasn’t long for the game anyway. I can see the potential here; it’s just not yet manifesting itself.

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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.