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September 1, 2015

'Survivor': The Big Winner and the Losers

by Stephanie Earp, posted May 16th 2011 2:00PM
After almost 10 years and more than 100 days in the game, arguably the biggest celebrity 'Survivor' has ever produced finally won the game. Even Jeff Probst had to admit it was as close as he had ever seen to a perfect game -- and the viewers agreed with him. Not only did Rob Mariano win the title of sole survivor, he also won the fan favourite award, making the purse $1.1 million.

It was a satisfying if unsurprising ending to a pretty decent season of 'Survivor.' Rob was too good at the game to have lost. But maybe the rest of the cast feel like cannon fodder for Rob's run. I've never seen a more miserable bunch at the reunion show. Usually, there's one or two who feel the need to make a self-righteous speech so-many-months later, but most let their grudges go and are all smiles by the time the winner's name's announced.

This time, it was palpably uncomfortable -- especially when people didn't realize they were on camera. Grant, Matt, Phillip, and Russell lapsed into dull, blank stares when they thought the show was on commercial break.Why so serious?

I wonder if they're embarrassed by how they played the game. Is it possible this cast realizes they laid down and let Rob walk all over them -- all the way to the bank? I somehow doubt it -- as usual, I was taken aback by the tone at the final tribal council as Andrea, Ashley and Julie, in particular, said nasty, horrible, personal things to Rob, Natalie and Phillip while accusing them of being nasty, horrible people who betrayed them personally.

How someone can tell a 19-year-old girl her mother would be ashamed of her and then claim the high road is something I'll never understand (I hope Natalie's mother found Julie in the crowd after the reunion and set her straight).

No, I think the source of the discomfort may have something to do with the easy-going pace of this season. Think about it -- the more treacherous the season, the more polarizing the players, the more bonded the cast has seemed. You don't just survive the bugs and rice, you survive Richard Hatch, Sue Hawk, Russell Hantz, Jonny Fairplay or Rupert Boneham. You may get voted out, but you go out swinging -- spitting and cursing the name of the player who ousted you. A combination of two factors denied this season's cast the thrill of a last-minute scramble. One of those is Rob's all-blindsides-all-the-time approach. The other is the 'Redemption Island' twist.

And since 'Redemption Island' looks to be sticking around, it's the one thing that really concerns me more. At the opening of the season finale, we heard both Matt and Mike wax lyrical about 'Redemption Island.' It was a place to find themselves -- and God. Even Grant got a bit beatnik about the experience. Of the four people who could have won their way back into the game, only Andrea was silent on the charms of her purgatory. Jeff thought she was an underdog who'd win -- she didn't. Anyone praising the natural beauties of their prison is not likely to break out.

'Redemption Island,' it seems to me, is a place where people who don't want to or don't know how to play 'Survivor' can go and pretend they're actually a factor. The people on Redemption are not playing the game, but they've convinced themselves they are. In 'Survivor,' people are voted out. The don't just lose a contest and go home. With four people on Redemption, I can see how it'd start to feel like another tribe. But it's not: Tribes have tribal council. Playing this game means casting a vote and living with the consequences.

As you can imagine, I'm relieved that 'Redemption Island' had little bearing on the outcome of the game -- but I figure it's only a matter of time until it does, since the twist will be back next season, along with two familiar players. I hope one of them is David, who seems like a natural successor to Boston Rob -- dark hair, frank talker, lacklustre first season; he even got engaged at a 'Survivor' reunion.

Now that it's all over, what do you think of the 'Redemption Island' twist? And who do you think is coming back for season 23?

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Please no more Parvati. I'm sick of her too. I'm thinking Russell and Andrea. Russell had a point about never throwing the challenge, and then using him until they had the numbers. Past Survivors who threw challenges never did well after.
As much as I'm glad someone who played the game won, why do these juries seem to think that lying to others, and back stabbing is not part of the game? How else are you going to get far? You have to do some dirty work to win. If you're the sixth person in the pecking order, are you really going to go through all of that out there, and say, well 6th one left is good for me! No! You are there to win. What happens in the game should stay in the game. If you were silly enough to be duped and not think for yourself, then such is life.

As for RI, I have mixed feelings. I like the concept, but I'm not sold on it. Part of me feels once you're voted out, you're out, yet the fire works that can happen when someone good gets back in are tantalizing. I'm just not sure though.

Here's to better contestants next time!

May 17 2011 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Boy Stephanie, you sure are soft. Natalie deserved her comments. If my daughter handed over a game to $1 Million to someone without even trying, stabbing her best friend in the back while doing so - I would be ashamed. Unless she was not raised better.

The season was terrible. Great players were tossed aside because of the numbers of a brainless tribe. Redemption Island could have turned into a moment if Matt had the brains enough to vote against Rob, instead of with him. Rob out, with that group of merged tribes would have been very interesting. Instead we got to watch Rob and his willing puppets make a clear path to the finals. Idol worship and being star struck is all Rob had. If I was on that island with those dummies, I would have done just as well. Terrible season. TERRIBLE.

May 17 2011 at 10:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steven's comment
General Kenobi

Well, then, I hope you don't have kids... As you said, it was a game... who cares what the prize was. She was playing a game and lost said game. Does that game define her for the rest of her life? Hardly. Should her mother of all people turn on her for how she played a game? Who cares if she was bad at the game, it shouldn't make her mother ashamed of her. Disappointed that she wasn't better at the game? Sure... but part of that disappointment would be in herself and what she taught her daughter, how she was prepared for the game, not disappointment in her daughter overall. You're kind of a jackass for even thinking that, and I really do hope you don't have kids, as they're obviously not in a very loving place. Ashamed indeed.... of stupid humans who want to judge others' core based on their play of a game.

May 17 2011 at 12:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shannon Honadle

I'm on a totally different season. Other than the sheer joy of watching Russell cry like a little girl when he was kicked out, it was boring beyond boring to watch how Rob controlled his tribe. Is he a good survivor? Yea. But it was like throwing an all star player into a little league game.

And when is Jeff Probst going to ask decent questions instead of pushing his own agenda about next season or whether someone is a federal agent instead of simply telling us.

May 16 2011 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While I enjoyed this season, I had a lot of problems with it.

1. It became all about Rob. I don't dislike Rob, but I really would have liked to see a normal cast without gimmicks and I think it was a disservice to them bringing Rob and Russell back. Rob won because he did play best game, but also because he had four chances to figure it out.

2. This cast was actually really good (not like last season). I could have been fine with Mike, Matt, Natalie, Grant, or Andrea winning. Like I said above, I would have loved to see what happened to both tribes if they were allowed to just focus on the game and not the veterans.

3. I like the idea of redemption island (last season you had people who said they didn't want to play not getting voted off when others more deserving did), but why did redemption island get so cluttered by the end? I liked it better when it was 1 vs 1. Matt's redemption run, and Mike's, got cast aside too easy.

And now I hear that next season is going to have two more veterans... and next season didn't have the benefit to watching this one. I sure hope they are smart enough to vote them out early.

May 16 2011 at 7:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sonburn's comment

The next season is probably happening right now so these people didn't get to see this past season. That is usually what happens.

May 16 2011 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a feeling they will bring back females for the next season. Parvarti and Amanda maybe? That would be a good duel.

May 16 2011 at 2:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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