Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, Season Recap

18 05 2010

Survivor is my longest-running TV obsession. I have not missed an episode since season two (that’s nine and a half years, folks) and I own three seasons on DVD. I basically got my DVR because I had class on Thursday nights this past semester.

The word came down just after 10 PM on Sunday night: Sandra Diaz-Twine is the first-ever two-time winner of Survivor (she also won the “Pearl Islands” season). The reality TV show’s 20th season was an incredible all-star showdown between game’s greatest Heroes and Villains, and Sandra was an underdog the whole time. But fans of the show know that her under-the-radar gameplay and “lippy” attitude can be virtues in a game where bold moves can make or break a person in an instant—and indeed, they’ve gotten her to the end. Twice.

Should she have won? The simple answer is yes, because she did, and that’s how the game works—“shoulda, woulda, coulda” aside. Sandra played a good game and fought to survive when her original alliance fell apart around her, and she did it while 1) trying to help the Heroes, who were picked off one-by-one due to their own stupidity, and 2) being more honest than runner-ups Russell Hantz and Parvati Shallow. For these reasons, yes, I believe Sandra deserved to win. Despite two-time loser Russell’s assertion that America should have a say in the final vote, I agree with host Jeff Probst that such an approach is not Survivor, and if Russell wants to win, he should play a different game—one that’s designed to give America a say. (Can you imagine him on American Idol? Man, that’d be the day.)

Not that America has great taste. Russell won the $100,000 “Sprint Player of the Season” award twice—which is a prize that America does get to vote for—yet the man is nothing but a liar, a despicable little troll who would swear on his children’s lives and then go back on his word. Survivor‘s motto is “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast,” and while Russell has the first two down (he can Outwit through manipulation and fear, and Outplay via his performance in challenges), he has not yet mastered Outlasting, which involves playing the kind of social game that gets the jury to give you the money at the end. Russell backstabs and lies with no remorse, yet seems to expect that fellow castaways will overlook this when it comes down to the final Tribal Council. Some fans criticize the jury for basing votes on emotions rather than gameplay, but I would assert that their choice was a combination of both and that they made the right decision. While many people claim that Russell is the best Survivor ever, true fans know that a person does not get to be the best at this game if he cannot master the social aspect and convince the people that he voted out to give him the prize at the end.

Parvati Shallow, this season’s runner-up and also a former winner, seems generally favored over Sandra. Parv played a great game this season: smart, strong in challenges, tight-lipped, and likable. I did not like Parvati in her previous two appearances on Survivor, but I adored her this time around. Overall, she played a game equal to or better than Sandra’s, and the fact that she was only two votes short of the final prize (Russell received zero votes at the final Tribal Council) proves this. She won Immunity for herself and also gave it away to others, and she made all the right moves except one: aligning herself too tightly with Russell. The jury’s negative opinion of him rubbed off on her. If she had made a greater effort to separate herself from Russell and prove that she was not riding his coattails the whole time—which we in the audience saw, but the jury likely did not—during the final Tribal Council, Parv could have easily been crowned in Sandra’s place. But with three seasons, one win, and a record 114 total days played, Parv is my Survivor Queen.

This title once belonged to Amanda—she was Survivor love at first sight for me. Strong, smart Amanda, with those doe-eyes and flirtations with the super-sexy Ozzy in Micronesia, was hands-down my favorite player (followed by Rupert and Boston Rob) when this season began. But Amanda lacks the cutthroat nature needed to survive and win; she gives in when she should not, and does not stick up for herself when she should.

Rupert was another surprise. I loved him on his previous seasons, but it seems like fame and popularity have gone to his head. Ol’ Rupe was egotistical and could not seem to either think ahead or convince others that he was right when he did try to think ahead. But he really shined when he was fighting for his life toward the end; he almost beat Parvati in a couple of Immunity Challenges, and doing so likely would have saved him. And all with two broken toes!

What happened to the Heroes? They could have had a much better game overall if JT had not given Russell his Hidden Immunity Idol, if Candice had not flipped over to the Villains after the merge, if Amanda had not given up the clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol during the catfight with Danielle, if Colby had stuck up for his team more and played a better strategic and physical game, and if Rupert could have convinced his tribe to listen to Sandra when she approached him about Russell. And man, if they had just teamed up with Sandra and/or the other Villain Girls to oust Russell, I would have been a much happier viewer. Though I was cheering the Heroes on the entire time, it’s clear that they were simply not as smart with strategy as the Villains. Colby only made it to the final five because he was not seen as a threat.

It’s become clear to me, though, that it made perfect sense to keep Russell around toward the end. He did not receive any votes at the final Tribal Council, and the other players could have speculated that taking him to the end would be worth it because no one would vote for him. If that was their thinking, they were right.

And now all we have to do is wait until Fall 2010 for the newest installment. The show’s 21st season will take place in Nicaragua, and we’ll get a new set of players to love and loathe. I’m sad to bid Survivor farewell for the summer, but I know it’ll soon be replaced by my favorite hot-weather reality show: Big Brother, set to premiere on Thursday, July 8th, on CBS.

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29 07 2010
CBS announces twist for ‘Survivor: Nicaragua’ season « Jess Blogs TV

[…] by ethnicity (affectionately nicknamed the “race war” season), fans vs. favorites, heroes vs. villains, older men vs. younger men vs. older women vs. younger women, and more. The twist in Nicaragua will […]

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