Survivor 41 episode three took its misleading title from Liana, who said, “maybe that’s my million dollar mistake” after she missed the “Beware” advantage, which was placed by the fire at her tribe’s camp. If only we would have been so lucky as to miss it too.
The episode should have taken its title from Brad saying, “Hey, these things just fall out of the sky” after revealing both of his shiny new advantage/reward/punishment things to Shan. Because this episode was basically nothing but twists.
That’s the wrong word, though. I don’t quite know what to call all of the shit Jeff Probst and his production team are hurling into the Survivor fan—they’re not advantages nor pure idols, and not really twists in the game. But they’re also so complicated they need a full page of instructions.
What I do know is that I’m sad Survivor no longer trust its players to organically deliver drama, so the producers have decided to create it instead.
Laugh all you want at the silly phrases that have to be said—and props to Xander for finding an quasi-natural way to repeat his phrase after Brad mangled the broccoli one—but it’s basically the producers scripting silly lines for the players to recite, like they’re on Big Brother.
I’m disappointed, but it’s also the direction Survivor has been moving in for the past decade. So here we are.
A few years ago I made fun of hidden immunity idols being easy to find with this crappy graphic:
And that’s basically where we are now. The newest Beware advantage, not to be confused with the old Beware advantage, showed up in literal plain sight at each tribe’s camp. Tiffany, Brad, and Sydney each grabbed it first.
Brad found the second of the hidden Beware advantages, and also found the Beware advantage. Yes, the producers have named two different consequence-filled advantages “Beware.”
The finder of the new Beware advantage, not to be confused with the old Beware advantage, had to sneak away from camp at night or lose their vote. The three—Brad, Sydney, and Tiffany—arrived on a fire-lit island where they had to read a novella of instructions that I’m not even going to attempt to reproduce because I’m still not sure I understand it. There was a tarp, and a tribal advantage, and a steal-a-vote all in play.
The end result of a Beware advantage was Brad ended up not losing his vote and receiving a steal-a-vote that he couldn’t use because he lost his vote thanks to a Beware advantage.
That is a factual sentence. Survivor 41 is not a new game, or more dangerous, it’s just a dumber.
There was only one non-advantage-focused extended scene: Naseer telling Sydney he wants to vote out Danny, and then Sydney telling everyone, and suddenly getting saying—from nowhere, based on essentially nothing—”I really feel like he’s ruining us. Ruining.” How are they being ruined by him floating a name? I was not clear.
Sydney also said Naseer “is so, so erratic.” What’s erratic is this editing. So was repeatedly flashing back to 20 or 30 minutes before a scene. Flashbacks can work, but if someone finds an idol, and then tells someone else about it, why wouldn’t you just show it in that order, instead of showing them talking, and then flashing back to them finding it?
The challenge was also advantage-free. “What a challenge,” Probst said at the end, and it was particularly demanding: the tribes starting far out in the water, and then had to swim, balance on a rope bridge, dig in the sand, and land bean bags on flat platforms high up in the air.
The only strategizing we got had to do with—you guessed it!—an advantage. Literally, the show just doesn’t want us to see players playing the game unless they’re contending with something the producers have thrown at them.
Returning from using the Survivor bathroom, which was illustrated by a bird shitting, JD let his episode-one extra-vote advantage hang out of his pocket. His ally, Shan, saw it and thus learned that he lied to the tribe about what he chose.
Shan said, “He’s sloppy,” and while that’s true, I also agree completely with what JD told her: “In Survivor, you shouldn’t tell people about your advantages.”
To win trust back, JD gave the vote to Shan, who said she was in the swing vote position of trying to decide whether to vote out Brad or JD. In a heartbreaking story, she connected that to her parents forcing her to choose who she wanted to live with at age five. She chose her mom, and told us, “I feel like I let him down, even at five, and I carry that to this day.” Again, heartbreaking, and a perfectly integrated piece of biography, the kind of Survivor character moment I’ve loved since Survivor: Borneo.
The other strong emotions we got were about Survivor itself. Liana opened the episode with her disappointment about last week’s vote. “I love Survivor, and I want to make big moves,” she said. “It’s just so hard to be here because—i’m sorry, I’m getting emotional—I came here to play, and because I come from such a hard-working family, I want to be a great player.”
At Tribal Council, JD talked about growing up with the show, and cited how Survivor players have affected his life, because “I could live vicariously through them.” He said that even his hair is inspired by Survivor contestants. “When I tell you that Survivor made me who I am, and that I want to do that for kids now, that’s not a front. I just wanted to play Survivor. Even if it’s cut short, I got to do it,” he said.
Can you imagine waiting to play Survivor your whole life and then finding yourself on this season, with votes being given and stolen and taken away and producers telling you what to say and giving you pages of instructions to read instead of just letting you play, you know, Survivor?