“What Just Happened?”
It was a drama that was at times both compelling and hard-to-watch. We were introduced to a man whose main concern was the welfare of his family, and we observed him over time as he became the leader of a much different “family.” Repeated unfortunate setbacks forced him to make tough decisions, and people close to him suffered. We watched in fascination and horror as his wife became a reluctant accomplice, and and as he systematically eliminated his competitors; the enemies who were constantly trying to undermine him; and his allies, who each invariably began to waver in their loyalty. In the end, despite his attempts to convince everyone, and mostly himself, of the moral rightness of his behavior, hubris caught up to him, and we experienced his downfall and pondered his chances for redemption. He wore signature headwear, and was often known by one name….
Yes, SURVIVOR Buffs, the drama on television this month has not been limited to the AMC. Our own beloved show, in its 27th season, has given us the most exciting opening four episodes that I can remember. After last week’s overstuffed episode, it seemed there was no way this week could be as exciting. Unless you remember that John was just sent to Redemption Island, where he will battle Marissa – and his wife…
…And Candice is pissed, walking into the Redemption Island arena, flipping Brad the bird and immediately saying he was someone she hates. She seems to be taking this very personally. I mean, he didn’t vote her out, and she’s barely talked to him, but she is acting like Brad killed her pet poodle. Well, he did just eliminate her husband, so same thing. Despite Monica’s assertions that Brad isn’t the only vote (which I pointed out last week), Candice starts complaining about how Brad treats his tribemates, especially the women. As evidence, she cites Marissa’s claims about her experience with Brad. Now, I am about as much a fan of Brad Culpepper as I am of liverwurst, Phantom of the Opera, or Robin Thicke, but even I think Candice is taking this much too personally. First of all, it’s a game. Someone has to vote your family member out. Candice admits that she predicted John would be so nice, so it shouldn’t be a painful surprise to see him. And Brad’s anti-female behaviour didn’t seem to bother her at all before, as it should have if it were a valid thing. But this “anger” is based upon reports from Marissa when she arrived at camp. Of course Marissa felt “small.” Eight people just said sthey didn’t want her around. But, they did it 6 days ago, so everyone’s feelings should have abated a bit by now. But, no, Candice strangely is madder than she ever was, and it just seems a bit over the top. Judging from this and from Marissa’s sailor-like outburst at the previous Redemption Island meeting, maybe it’s just that something about Brad causes women to have intense reactions.
For one woman, of course, this reaction is intensely positive. After John and Candice defeat Marissa during a puzzle challenge tailor-made for a couple of surgeons, John is given another Immunity Idol clue. Like First Lady Mellie Grant on SCANDAL, Candice immediately turns to her husband with a crafty plan. “Give it to Monica,” she schemes. John pretends he has ever said “No” to Candice, then proceeds to assign the clue to Monica. Monica is herself egged on by her spouse, and does something stupid. She throws the clue into the fire, on top of Marissa’s tear-stained Buff. Jeff emphasizes that this has never been done on SURVIVOR before, which, while true, overemphasizes the historical importance of this action. When you think about it, a clue is rarely given to a contestant at a location with a fire burning, so it’s not like she’s being extra brave and doing something that everyone before her had the opportunity to do. She’s not taking a stand for a cause; this no Boston Tea Party. Speaking of Boston, wasn’t there a time when Boston Rob threw a clue into a volcano because he already had the Idol? That’s basically the same thing, but bigger. I’m surprised Probst didn’t mention this, since he has such a hard-on for Boston Rob and his memory. It also made sense since BR already had the Idol. It’s not clues that put a target on your back, it’s knowledge that others don’t have or the threat of you actually having an idol that mark you. Share the clue with everyone, and there’s no more target on your back. And, in Monica’s case, there’s a good chance someone in your alliance gets this hidden idol. But Brad’s annoying voice triggers some sort of Pavlovian response, and she does what he says immediately.
Post-Redemption Island, the Culpepper’s are on everyone’s minds. Thanks to Brad, the doctors get to take a second honeymoon, spending time alone on the beautiful beach. Probably thinking of something that happened three months ago to fly off the handle about. At Galang, Monica just can’t figure out why everyone is mad at sweet, innocent, helpful Brad. Laura deflects by saying that emotions are high and people are pissed off, and Gervase diplomatically says that maybe Monica knows “at-home Brad” as opposed to a very different “SURVIVOR Brad.” It was sweet of Gervase to be so nice about saying, “Your husbands kind of a douchebag,” but, honestly, there’s just no way Monica is so stupid that she doesn’t know that there has to at least be some basis in truth to all these claims, and that people may follow Brad while not necessarily enjoying him.
Brad, on the other hand, is that stupid. Throughout this episode he continually makes big, annoying, grandtstanding speeches and proclamations about what is right or what has to be done or some other opinion that he declares to be fact. He’s a leader who has bought into the myth of himself as leader and become hugely self-important. He’s like Oprah without the skin color, charm, success, boobs, brains or Gayle. Early on the episode, Brad flip flops from his opinion last week about being concerned about couples reuniting post-merge – he justification for evicting John – to vocalizing that he feels that people without loved ones still in the game are a problem. After he’s attacked at Redemption, he continues further down this line of reasoning, figuring there wouldn’t be anyone to get mad at him if Caleb, the only non-paired person on Tadhana, were voted out. After another Immunity Challenge loss despite an initial huge lead, Brad doesn’t do the normal routine of walking for water with the guys to talk strategy, instead suspiciously hanging back at camp to discuss votes with the women. These two incidents, plus Brad’s comments at Tribal Council, basically telegraph Brad’s intentions to Caleb, who has had enough. And in these next moments, Caleb does what his fiance never could – becomes a SURVIVOR All-Star.
You see, there’s no reason to go along with what Brad says all the time. In fact, I’m not sure why everyone has been. Caleb is not going to just sit there and get picked off, so he lets everyone know, right at Tribal Council, that he is voting for Brad. He tell the girls they should change their votes and let’s the guys know that’s what’s happening. Vytas starts talking to Hayden about his vote, Brad tells Caleb he isn’t going to vote for him regardless, and it’s awesome! It’s like the three idol Tribal Council last season, where people were just openly negotiating in front of each other. It is funny, it is exciting, it is suspenseful, it is….a success! After a 3-3 Ciera-Brad tie, the 2nd round of voting results in Brad’s ouster from the game. He tries to awkwardly say personal good-byes, especially to Caleb, but Caleb is having none of it. And so Brad leaves the game as awkwardly as he entered.
Turns out, Caleb has been heading up his own sort of organization – and as Corinne would likely attest, don’t underestimate a gay guy and his fruit flies.
Walter White and Jessie Pink never had to deal with that.
What did you think, SURVIVOR Buffs? Can you think of another season that began with so many exciting episodes? Why can Tadhana never win a challenge? Do you think the hole-drilling crabs have Home Depot cards, or do they pay full price for their tools? Comment here.
And…here’s my video recap: