Survivor: Tocantins – “The Poison Apple Needs to Go”

survivor18

“The Poison Apple Needs to Go”

February 19th, 2009

I wrote all sorts of notes during last night’s second episode of Survivor’s eighteenth season, but I got a little sidetracked by some impromptu Rock Band once the episode was over, and I return to it now wondering to myself why I’m even bothering writing this post.

It’s going to more or less say exactly the same things as last week, to be honest: while a different team walks away with immunity, they make almost the exact same decision as the other tribe did last week, right down to the outright sweep of the final vote. The same people who were bugging me last week are, no shock, bugging me again here, and for the most part there’s still a spark missing for this season’s cast that really could have made this episode more interesting.

But in revisiting it, there are a few things that deserve mention, especially a new Exile Island twist that at first seemed quite silly but in retrospect is actually quite interesting…perhaps the first interesting thing to come out of this season.

Since the Exile Island idea was first instituted a while ago, I’ve been a fan of the basic idea behind it: more than forcing someone to survive on their own with only a camera man for company, it’s about isolating someone from their tribe, turning them into an outcast of sorts who can’t be trusted. Last season, Exile Island became a bit of a joke, as Sugar found the Idol the first time out there and since the other tribe kept sending her she just chose the “Comfort” option and lounged around for a while. While being isolated from her tribe was something to be concerned with, when she’s also eating food and lounging it becomes problematic.

What they’ve done with Exile Island this time around is to quite literally eliminate the survival element of exile: not only was there some rice waiting for the exiled when they arrived at the enormous sand dune-like structure that serves as the foundation for Exile’s location, but there was also one person from each team who made the trek. Yes, Brennan and Taj both made it out to Exile Island, a twist that finally shifts the weight of Exile from the people making the trip to the people who are left behind wondering what they’re discussing. The two jars, one containing a clue and an extra piece of paper and the other one containing nothing, also create an opportunity for subterfuge that will work well for those who are interested in using it.

In this instance, Brennan and Taj use the time at Exile quite well: they get to know one another on a casual level, Brennan using his entrepreneurial skills to make Taj trust him, while Taj is quite happy to have been let in on Brennan’s clue to know that there’s a hidden immunity idol at her own camp. I don’t blame Brennan for bringing Taj in on the clue: it doesn’t really do anything to hurt him, and it helps build trust, something that you want to do when you’re spending time with someone from the other team. I’m not quite sure how the clue system is going to work, exactly, with the idol being back at the camp: will Brennan want to return to get another clue, and if he returns with someone else how can they put the 2nd clue into the jar? Either way, Brennan played it smart, especially when he returned to camp and lied and said that Taj was the one who got the clue; Coach quite literally leapt off his chair to shout his trust of Brennan to the hills, so the guy’s got that going for him.

For Taj, though, she wants to get sent back to Exile in order to get a chance at the other potential Exile twist: the person who gets the clue has the option of moving over the other tribe. Taj has reason to rush for this option when she gets it after she made the potentially fatal mistake of telling everyone that she is married to Eddie George, Heisman-winning and NFL playing Eddie George. The reactions at camp range from Stephen (who has no idea who Eddie George is), Spencer (who, in his youth, is just plain ol’ gosh darn excited about it) to J.T. (who is gosh darn sure that he needs the money a hell of a lot more than a grammy-nominated former pop star married to a recently retired NFL player). It’s the last one that Taj is concerned about, and you wonder whether she should have told them at all: it’s not like with Gary back in…Amazon, was it? He was actually a former quarterback, and was recognizable, but Taj could have lied for the entire game. As for whether she deserves to be there, I can’t blame her for wanting to be part of the game: surely her husband’s profession has given her her own desire to compete and win, and I think that the money doesn’t have the be the only motivating factor. But, let’s face it, the rest of her team aren’t going to think that way.

Speaking of the rest of her team, Jalapao had an episode pretty devoid of drama, their return from Tribal Council leaving Sandy a little more annoying than usual but nothing outside the ordinary. They eat some termites, and some slugs (which I had to turn away from, not being one with the whole eating bugs thing), and then the only other major storyline they get is our second straight bromance. After Charlie and Marcus had their own last season, this year Stephen is “smitten” with J.T., and has self-described as his awkward right hand man in an attempt to convince him to keep him around. It’s not a bad strategy at the end of the day, and it makes for some good comedy as J.T. laughs at Stephen’s attempts at “fishing.”

The immunity challenge is the real turning point in the episode, as Timbira starts out with a lead and then watches it slowly slip away. A combination of basketball and wrestling, taking place in a shallow part of the river, it was wet, rainy, and downright vicious at various points. Unfortunately for Timbira, their lead fell apart quickly: despite the best efforts of many of the members of their team, they just couldn’t hold onto their lead. Coach, in particular, looked downright awful for a soccer coach, showing neither athleticism nor the kind of passion and drive necessary in challenges. He might be obsessed with the personal side of the game, but when it comes to challenges he’s pretty well worthless, and the tribe leaves the challenge with a decision to make.

It all played out exactly like last week: everyone is set on picking off the person who didn’t make the initial trek with everyone else, but then people start talking, and judging people based on what they say, and then they decide that getting rid of the “poison apple” or the “cancer” is the best move. Coach is really running this show, and he organizes to take out Candace largely because he receives word that she was talking trash about him and his lack of ability. And so, when they get to tribal council, it’s another blindside, as every single other member of the tribe gets rid of the Attorney as opposed to going with Sierra, who is unquestionably weaker even if she had been a bit too talkative.

But these aren’t the right kind of blindsides: when everyone is on the same page, it’s just the majority turning on someone, and it really doesn’t make for a shift at all. We’re going to have to see some tribes divided if we’re going to get some interesting strategy, and at this point the actual game itself doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything to differentiate itself from past seasons. Here’s hoping it turns around a bit, though, because the new Exile stuff could provide a chance for some twists down the road.

Cultural Observations

  • Sierra’s search for her tribe’s hidden immunity Idol, only to be used at the first challenge, was as much of a failure as Sandy’s, although in a bit more of a hilarious fashion. I don’t know how her tribe could have ever bought her “fire pit” excuse for why she and Brennan had dug that enormous hole, but it was quick thinking and it’s only unfortunate that they weren’t able to actually find anything.
  • My favourite moments of the episode were two: when I realized that Jerry had actually written “Candance” at tribal council (He thinks he can dance, clearly), and when Spencer’s youth showed up at the challenge when he was literally jumping up and down with excitement at whether or not the ball was going to go in the net. I’d make fun of him for his youthful exuberance being so on display, but I can’t lie: I totally would have done exactly the same thing, I’m not good with competition-related suspense.
  • I greatly enjoy Erinn at Tribal Council, realizing that her tribe was full of crazy people: she’s like “Dude, people, you can’t trust people you’ve down for six days.” And Debra, who has become Coach’s disciple and who almost annoys me more than the Fabio-lookalike, was still like “No, I’ve built trust.” Erinn just rolled her eyes, cementing my own respect for her.
  • But seriously, Coach wanting to kiss Candance (Heh, Candance) to apologize, that was just plain awkward.
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