The long, slow march to the end is almost over. We're down to... eight people left. Thankfully, all but one will be gone after the finale on Sunday. Or so Probst promises.
We should probably get this right out now: "Redemption Island" concept, you are the official winner of the special Lifetime Achievement Award for Trollishness this season. Nobody really asked you to come on the show, you were just kind of there, forced upon us by the same questionable judgment that gave us the "Medallion of Power." You distracted us from our simmering Rob-vs-Russell hatred, and sure, we'll admit we were somewhat amused your first few times on the show, even as you drained the life-sustaining juices from both the tribal council vote and the contestants' final departures from the show. We withheld our judgment as you masqueraded about, presenting yourself as a slightly-more-sinister Exile Island (with faintly alluring whiffs of zombies and/or purgatory, reminding us of much, much better scripted series). But then you went too far.
Yes, yes, we know: It had to happen, since Probst had already announced it in Episode 1. It's just that everything sort of went south when you ejected Matt back into the newly merged Murlonio tribe. Their response to Matt's return was fairly predictable: Since the people who booted him the first time still had the majority alliance, they promptly booted him yet again. Had you, Redemption Island, at this point silently slunk back into the ether that contains twists from foreign Survivor series that nobody cares about? Then this would have been a fitting end to Matt's story arc: he would forever be remembered as the Fabio that sucked at playing Survivor. Or he'd be remembered for a week or two, at least.
But no, instead, you had to keep going. And as you kept going, you grew, gaining mass, warping space-time, and sucking the rest of the show into your supermassive black infinitesimal space. Once upon a time, your duels had merely been dumbed-down versions of former challenges, scaled back so as to fit into a tiny arena in which the audience doesn't move, so neither can the competitors. And in which challenges have to be set up, test-blocked and run in a 3-day period.
This was bad enough, but as you grew, the formerly "do or die" duels now allowed people to hang around if they finished second, or even third. Not-quite-yet-jurors got stilted views of the players left in the game, since they were unable to attend tribal council themselves, and instead had to rely on the accurate reportage of the person who'd just been blindsided. There was no talk of strategy, no talk of alliances, just bitterness and moping, leavened with frequent Bible talk. Which made sense, since there was really no point in talking strategy, when only one, if any, of their members would be returning to the game. And since you'd called it Redemption Island. It was Ponderosa... minus the food, happiness, bathing, or informed view of the game's progress.
We know, we know. You just wanted attention, like any good troll. But, like Russell Hantz, you thought you were bigger than the game; when in reality, you finished out the series as a one-note bore, sucking the life out of the show, and rendering it all but unwatchable.
So please, in lieu of a return appearance, Redemption Island concept, take this award, place it on your mantel, and bask in its warm, glowing, warming glow, as you remember how you nearly destroyed Survivor in your quest to sate your own massive ego. Seriously, not to be rude, but... please don't come back. Ever.
Did Phillip's admission last week that he had, after all, been acting the whole time catch Survivor's editors off-guard? For a guy who had previously dominated the non-Boston Rob confessionals, Phillip's visibility did an even more spectacular faceplant this week than Donald Trump's cratering poll numbers. To wit: approximately zero confessionals, many fewer than even Natalie (we were far too lazy to actually count). Phillip had to resort to picking a fight with Natalie and Ashley to even get face time on-camera this week. Which, we guess, was rather brilliant: who even knew that would work? They're never shown, unless there are armpits to groom or sniff!
We'd guess either the editors officially gave up on mining Phillip for filler this week, or they decided they had bigger partially decomposed fish to fry. You know what? We don't give a feather. Please don't tell us he's also not a former federal agent, Survivor. There's only so much bait-and-switching we can take from a season.
It's fairly unlikely, but you may have seen it here first: Last week we pointed out that, despite Probst's writing her out of the stair-building puzzle challenge, Ashley was really only a plank behind Andrea, who was neck-and-neck with Grant, who nearly caught up with Boston Rob at the end. Now Andrea and Grant are both gone, and Rob has to contend with Ashley AND the Redemption Island returnee in the two remaining immunity challenges (or both of them in the first one, anyway). Fat lot of good listening to Jeff Probst's exhortations did for Boston Rob, eh?
To be fair, this week's challenge was quite possibly the lamest since bowling (which has appeared twice already). Which means, of course, it's certain to re-appear as a future Redemption Island duel. Challenge producer Jon Kirhoffer likes to crow about the show's challenges are simple in concept, difficult to execute. This one had that exactly backwards. It was a convoluted set of rules about picking up "puzzle" bags with a chain of hooks, with one arm tied behind your back, then assembling a "puzzle" in three stages.
Complicated, right? Except that the "puzzle" was just a series of holes into which all the pieces fit, in pretty much any random order. There was some rule about them not touching, but they almost never did, anyway. If this was a puzzle, putting candles on a birthday cake is a construction project. No thought or skill required, just a combination of speed and luck. And, of course, not getting yelled at by Probst until you cried. (To her credit, Natalie didn't actually cry, as far as we could tell, even though she had every right to do so.) So anyway, despite all the caveats, Ashley wins the (final?) Beasty Award. We warned you.
There's a fine line between controlling the game and trolling it. Boston Rob created that line, has erased and re-drawn it several times, and is thus permitted to dance back and forth over it in perpetuity. He can do this with impunity, using confessionals to send a special "I'm sorry!" shout-out to Grant (who we hope was actually watching, otherwise that's precious time that could've gone to... eh, screw it, nobody else would've had anything useful or interesting to say), or half-mocking his own super-human editing status. If he wanted to, he could even use that space to declare he was running for President, and he'd both get the airtime and thousands of campaign volunteers. (We're sure Rob is saving that stunt for his appearance on Survivor 26).
Really, though, what are the editors going to do? Pretend that Grant (the only other active player who's voiced any semblance of strategy since the merge) orchestrated his own blindsiding? Well, okay, that did work for Tyson. But Rob really has been in charge here, at least of Ometepe, since Episode 1, and as much as we've made sarcastic awards to other people to avoid addressing this inescapable point, we can... no longer escape it.
So Rob gets this week's Slitty award, even as he bemoaned the heavy lifting required to tell every last person on his tribe how to vote. And we should also tip our caps to the Survivor: Redemption Island editors, for simultaneously beating us over the heads with Rob's brilliance while still allowing doubts as to whether he can actually win. There is, after all, a Redemption Island returnee and two more votes to go before the final tribal council. Can Boston Rob actually win Survivor? We shall see.
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