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Survivor Recap: Let's Make a Deal 

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The title of this conceptual art piece is "Hunger Pains."

By Kerri Fleming

"The compromise will always be more expensive than either of the suggestions it is compromising." - Arthur Bloch

Ah, compromise. It all sounds so perfect, right? Both sides have something to offer, something they deem expendable. Both sides also have something they desperately need. A deal is made. And then they realize that you can't make assumptions about what other people have. They realize that one ginormous meal of sandwiches and brownies isn't going to sustain them for another 20 days. Oh well. It's not really a true compromise unless both sides feel disappointed.

It all starts the morning of the reward challenge, when the yellow team realizes that Mike's habit of snacking on their dry rice supply has left them with minimal food. So minimal that Abi suggests they don't have breakfast before what is sure to be a physical challenge. Everyone - especially catty Pete and perennially angry Artis - looks disdainfully at Mike, who seems less like Tom Westman and more like Tim Taylor every episode.

Much to no one's surprise, the reward challenge is physical. The teams have to compete in a three-on-three battle to move a giant ball into their designated net on a field of mud. What looks to be an American Gladiators-style battle of wills turns into mud wrestling, which then turns into an hour-long standstill between six very exhausted people. At one point, they were like a human tableaux, with Mike sitting on Jonathan's head and Carter, Pete, Lisa, Denise and the ball entwined and panting, while the other contestants twiddled their thumbs and dreaded their turn.

After another short burst of energy, desperate to end this thing, Jonathan and Mike start negotiating. Mike offers to allow the red team the victory - a lunch of sandwiches, chips, brownies, etc. - if the red team will give the yellow team what remained of their rice. All of it. People from both sides immediately reacted, both positively and negatively. Most of the red team was worried about what they would eat after that day; Jonathan tried to alleviate their worries by promising to catch boatloads of fish. The yellow team was just left with a bad taste in their mouth at the idea of giving up. The best part was when the yellow team says that, it being his birthday, Artis gets the final call. Until his decision is a flat "no way," and they decide to go forth anyway.

So that's where it ended. The yellow team got whatever remained of the red team's rice; the red team got their reward meal. Only Jonathan and Mike looked happy with this turn of events, but no one looked as gleeful as Jeff Probst, who was practically salivating at the chaos he knew was about to begin.

At first, for the red team, they feel OK about their decision. Sure, Jeff and Carter are a little nervous about not having any food to count on except coconuts for the next three weeks, but those are some hardcore sandwiches on that table and look - gooey brownies! When Jonathan finds a stack of letters from their loved ones, everyone is reduced to tears and thrilled that they got the "reward."

The yellow team never really got that honeymoon period. Surprising, I know, considering that the team contains Artis, Pete and Abi, three of the sunniest dispositions on television. None are thrilled to begin with, and when the red team's rice arrives and they realize it only extends their supply by a day or two, they fall into their default positions. Snarky Pete with his eye-rolling and muttered insults; Artis with his rageful glare and terrifying silence; and Abi's talking louder and repeating herself whenever anyone (especially RC) tries to speak. RC tells Mike what everyone's saying behind his back and then serves as his yes-woman while he tries to convince her and himself that he made the right decision. We weren't going to win anyway! Now we have twice as much rice, when if we'd lost, we wouldn't have anything! True, Mike. But you also wouldn't have a target on your back.

The hangover of the previous day's good-time lunch hit the red team hard the next day, when Jonathan's fishing excursions resulted in a couple of guppies and coming thisclose to catching a stingray. While Jonathan is fueled by positive thoughts and bottles of water, apparently Carter dissolves into a puddle of whiny teenagerhood after missing a couple meals. Seriously, if this is what you sound like when you talk, I'd rather you stay the quiet guy I forget exists for the remainder of your time here.

Onto the immunity challenge, where two one member of each team uses slingshots to launch balls for the rest of the contestants to catch. While Jonathan, RC and Pete each catch one to start the show, the game really belonged to Jeff and Malcolm. Jeff snagged three in a row like they were infield flies to put his team up 4-2 before athletic Malcolm completely dominated, catching three in a row for the win. With the victory, he didn't have to go to tribal council that night, but the even bigger reward was Probst guilting perennial challenge-skipper Abi into letting Malcolm hold the idol. Making fun of Abi's challenge laziness makes Probst almost as gleeful as teams setting up their own demise with ill-advised food deals. He is a terrible person and I love him.

The obvious target for the red team is Katie, who lost two alliance members in one episode after Dana was taken out for medical reasons and Dawson was voted out last week. To keep things interesting, Katie tries to transfer that target to Jonathan. It's not a bad idea - Jonathan could definitely have something up his sleeve, the hidden idol for one, and his experience makes him a threat. Denise, Jeff and Carter all seem possibly swayed at different points, particular Jeff, whose alliance with Jonathan has always seemed grudgingly made.

At tribal, most of the talk centered around blindsides. Jonathan has a lot of thoughts on the topic: how he wouldn't blame his teammates if they blindsided him but he would be disappointed, how blindsides avoid the agitation of someone scrambling to save themselves before tribal council. Probst, practicing his gotcha-journalism skills, asks Jeff if he's ever played a game as strategic as Survivor. With visions of squeeze bunts and double switches and things like this dancing in his head, Jeff pauses and then responds, "No. This game sucks, Jeff." Touche.

In the end, it was all a bunch of clever editing. Jonathan didn't play his immunity idol, Katie was voted out, and Probst got through a tribal council without being attacked by anyone's lips.

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