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For a bag of rice, Jeff Probst bleeds a tribe, and Survivor, dry

For a bag of rice, Jeff Probst bleeds a tribe, and Survivor, dry
Jeff Probst, savior, brings rice to the Hunahpu tribe. (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS)

This Survivor San Juan Del Sur episode was full of frustrating behavior, from Coyopa bungling the immunity challenge to Hunapu trading nearly every single thing in their camp to Jeff Probst for a bag of rice so they wouldn’t go hungry. On Survivor. Where people usually lose a lot of weight and forage for food. And have medics checking them constantly. And will be getting more food really soon at the merge.

The episode was saved only by the outcome of its Tribal Council. Thankfully, Coyopa didn’t fall for Dale and his fake idol, though the editing strongly suggested Jon was considering his offer to receive the idol as a gift for not voting Dale out. Even if Jon genuinely thought Dale’s fake idol was real, the fact that he was willing to give it up but only after the vote should have immediately raised all kinds of flags.

Dale, by the way, appeared to take the title of the show literally, describing Tribal Council last week as watching “complete strangers slaughter your daughter in front of your eyes, and there’s nothing you could do about it,” and later saying he’s not “dead” yet.

The episode began with the rice swap, where Probst marched to Hunahpu’s camp with a bag of rice and turned it into a second Tribal Council, asking questions that were either rhetorical or asked people to explain the obvious, or both. He also did lots of shaming (never in the history of Survivor!), and the whole thing would have been more dignified if he’d had them crawl over to his feet and clean his toenails with their unbrushed teeth.

In exchange for a single bag of rice, Probst gave them “a stiff penalty” and it was very stiff, judging by how thrilled he was. He left them with only “machete, a pot, and a flint. You are starting over,” he scolded.

Captain Exposition strikes again

What was lost in this desperate attempt to create drama was how nonsensical some of Probst’s arguments were. He really wanted to make an issue of Hunahpu’s greed resulting in their lack of rice, yet he failed to acknowledge the obvious: this is a post-switch tribe, and about half the tribe wasn’t part of the over-consumption. But they still had to suffer the loss of their tarp and everything else. There wasn’t any discussion or debate we saw, and the editors only showed Jeremy objecting to all this (“suck it up,” he said in a very frustrated interview).

With the merge approaching so soon, never mind a reward challenge with food, the producers could easily have just let the tribe be hungry for a few days. I wish they’d done that. Instead, all of this felt more like Jeff Probst working hard as a producer to create a moment. Survivor already has built-in moments every episode–two challenges, Tribal Council–and what comes in between should be organic, not stoked and narrated by Captain Exposition.

I cannot begin to express how much Probst’s non-stop talking is getting on my nerves. In large part I think that’s because I know what a terrific host he can be, but now he’s just getting in his way. The blindfolded challenge was just him saying what was happening. He’s turning into the old people in the movie theatre who have to repeat everything that’s happening, except I just feel bad for them since they can’t hear. Probst is just doing that to be annoying, and it’s working.

While I’m complaining: The preview made it clear that it’s merging its tribes next week, which feels very wrong and too soon, even though it’s the typical time for it. I’ll blame that feeling on this season’s overall weirdness.

However, I am ready for the merge,  especially if it means the end of useless Exile Island and these two-person reward challenges. That said, I did really like this challenge, the blindfolded puzzle, and not just because acquiring pieces meant Baylor repeatedly bumped her head and said “ouch” in the most amusing way possible.

The immunity challenge was also strong, and visually entertaining thanks to the incredible camera angle inside the giant cubes the tribe had to push across a field. Coyopa almost won, but somehow screwed up their puzzle and allowed celibate power couple Reed and Josh to assemble their flag puzzle even faster.  And thankfully they did, because Alec, who’s “a meat collector” (!), and told us “my skirt was blown up” by the shish kabob reward.

I don’t know what to do with that, kind of like I don’t know what to do with this season so far. Survivor San Juan Del Sur isn’t terrible, and had one spectacular episode, but it’s just kind of sitting there, like a nearly-empty bag of rice that will just never be enough.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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