March 24th, 2010
Survivor has done episodes like this one before: by sending both teams to tribal council, it means that a single hour becomes packed with wall-to-wall strategy, which is usually when the game is at its best. And, accordingly, “Banana Etiquette” delivers shockers from both the Heroes and the Villains, cramming together one of the most ridiculous tribal councils in Survivor history with one of the most low-key of the season.
The difference, though, is that the presence of two tribal councils means that the editing of the episode played a largely role than usual in terms of guiding the audience to particular conclusions. While the “Villains” drama was just a wondrous stage comedy from the word go, and would have been entertaining regardless, the final “shocker” with the “Heroes” was entirely based on keeping the audience out of the loop in regards to their thinking. It was only surprising in that we had been given absolutely no intention of where things were going.
By comparisons, not even the “Villains” knew how their tribal council was going to end, and that’s the kind of drama that Survivor can’t manufacture.
First and foremost, let me get this out of the way: Russell Hantz is not, in fact, the greatest Survivor player ever. While there is no question that he made a ballsy decision at tonight’s tribal council in giving the Idol to Parvati, and there is no doubting that he was smart to play games with Tyson’s head, this elimination is entirely Tyson’s fault: respect to Russell, certainly, but Tyson literally cast the vote that led to his elimination, a move which will go down as amongst the dumbest in Survivor history. Sure, Russell should get some credit for convincing Tyson to do something so monumentally stupid, but it also cements his reputation as a snake oil salesman as opposed to revealing any other facet to his gameplay. Unfortunately for Russell, not everyone in this season’s cast is as stupid as those playing in Samoa, and they are going to see Russell as the reckless and dangerous player he is.
I guess I just don’t give Russell that much credit for preying on someone else’s stupidity. Boston Rob was the player who dominated this vote, and he wasn’t done in by Russell’s plotting; rather, he was done in by Tyson failing to think about what he was doing, believing that switching his vote to Parvati would somehow guarantee she would go home instead of entirely throwing off the balance of the vote. Yes, we saw Russell pull Tyson aside and tell him that he was going to vote for Parvati, which the editing leads us to believe was what really pulled him in that direction, but that Tyson would take that information and literally shoot himself in the foot just doesn’t make me hail Russell. Rob won the immunity challenge, Rob remains in control of this tribe (so long as Coach doesn’t switch sides), and one idiotic person who decided to send themselves home does not a genius make.
At the very least, though, even the Villains didn’t know how that would play out, as Russell fake-plays the Idol, and Parvati accepts it with a bit of surprise – I give Russell credit that he gestured to Coach (the person he needs to turn) when he made the move, but considering it saved Coach’s least favourite player I’m not sure that it’s going to go over too well. And when the votes come out, Danielle (who knew she could speak) says it best: “What just happened?” I love the idea that it wasn’t just a blindside, but it was a blindside that nobody saw coming (even Russell had no way of knowing that Tyson would do something so stupid, unless he had confirmed the plan with Tyson ahead of time and we just didn’t see it). Either way, it was the sort of move that completely shakes up the game, and those are always fun.
On the Heroes side, however, the “shocker” was entirely manufactured. It was clear that they knew who they were voting for going in, as even James didn’t seem that surprised to be headed home at the end of the day. And yet the show wanted us to be surprised, so they showed as little as possible of what went down. It was unfortunate that Candice couldn’t have won that showdown with Rob, as it would have left the ridiculous Villains vote for last; instead, the editors seemed like they wanted to try to make two blindsides out of one, but really all they did was avoid showing us the definitive decision rather than showing us the confusion at camp. And while that might have been fine (and logical) in an episode where only the Heroes were going to tribal council and the editors desperately needed to manufacture some suspense, the natural suspense and intrigue of the Villains vote offered a stark contrast to the forced suspense on the Heroes side.
I know that the producers wanted this episode to basically be two episodes in one: twice the strategy, twice the climaxes, and twice the surprise eliminations. However, in their desperation to live up to the potential of the “double episode,” they tried to balance an extremely interesting elimination with an extremely boring one, and their fingerprints ended up being a little bit too noticeable in the process.
- Really, the producers got done in by Rob and Candice winning the immunity challenge: both votes would have been infinitely more interesting had they both been on the block, as it might have been Rob going home from the Villains and a decision between Candice and Colby (and maybe even James, depending on how they balanced his health situation) on the Heroes side.
- The entire thing about banana etiquette was really interesting, especially as Amanda took everything that she had agreed with wholeheartedly when talking with everyone else back to James to try to get him to change his ways. I think the biggest problem with James is that he was unwilling to budge from his position: this was beneficial when that was a position of power, but when that position is as a cripple with an inflated ego and an insatiable appetite, I don’t know if there’s really a strategic benefit to refusing to show any weakness.
- Just to be clear: I complain about some of the responses I saw to the results of the vote, but I thought the Villains tribal council was just as entertaining as it seemed to everyone else.
- I desire to have Courtney colour commentate any and all further challenges – he running commentary on James’ performance cracked me up.
- Curious to see how the Wednesday ratings come in – on the one hand, people might not have known the show switched nights, but on the other hand there’s basically no competition (Human Target and The Middle is it, really) so they might be able to pull some strong numbers, and will easily win the timeslot.