It's no secret that reality shows love love LOVE showmances, and Survivor is no different. Ah, young love! Ever since Greg and Colleen looked like they maybe liked each other a little bit, Survivor has been hooked on chasing that dragon. Whether it was Colby + Jerri, the entire young male and female cast of The Amazon, or Ozzy and Amanda making Ozlets, there have been no batted eyelids left unshown.
You would be right to think Survivor had already shot its wad on this, what with having weekly beaten audiences over the heads during San Juan del Sur with Jon and Jaclyn's near-constant stream of excessively public displays of affection. There, we were apparently meant to root for the couple (who seemed nice enough, but were a bit underwhelming as Survivor contestants), so much so that Jon nearly made the cut for the Second Chance voting pool. The thing about that pair, however, was that while the constant unwashed kissing wasn't super-pleasant to watch, it wasn't strategically stupid either, since it was perfectly acceptable due to the Blood vs. Water format.
So here we are, four seasons later, back to regular-format Survivor, and here comes the pairing with the self-coined ship name, "Figtails." This was a terrible idea, not just because it was misspelled (obviously it should be "Figtayls"), but also because every other contestant on the show mocked them for their idiocy in being such a blatant couple. So much so that Figgy hilariously described "revealing" this relationship to the already cringingly aware Jessica and Ken as "coming out." From its prominence in the edit, the show clearly loved this showmance, but it also felt obligated to wince and shake its head, knowingly, along with every other contestant.
It was a weird editorial choice. So what are we to make of it? Has the show's storytelling unit become just as eye-gougingly weary of the showmance trope as the audience? If so, why was Probst so hell-bent on trying to create one? When Probst said the initial concept for this season was "How do we get truly younger millennial types on the show?", you need not be as cynical as us to read between the lines and add the fortune-cookie suffix "in bed" to see what the real intent was.
Well, whatever the case, Figgy is gone, as is her showmance with Taylor. Which is a bit of a shame, because as we tweeted, of the two, Figgy at least seemed to have some head for the game, whereas Taylor seems to have been spliced in from Bachelor in Purgatory. Oh well.
Hooray for new challenge twists
The decision to have the caller direct a blindfolded puzzle in the reward challenge worked perfectly. We've complained in the past that the traditional "Blind Leading the Blind" challenge has, in recent years, become twisted to be almost entirely about horrific, injury-baiting pratfalls and less about, you know, the caller leading their blindfolded tribemates to victory purely by communicating.
See, for example:
This simple switch fixed all of that, and it paid off wonderfully, as the team with the substantial lead heading into the puzzle (Takali, directed by Figgy) completely fumbled their advantage. Why Takali chose to put Ken on the puzzle, when Taylor and Figgy clearly communicated better with each other, will forever remain a mystery.
The immunity challenge was also interesting, albeit as a new challenge composed of prior elements, a bit less outside-the-box in its design. It seemed like overdoing it a bit to force the two table maze people to stand on a tiny stump, and both challenges suffered from having so many sit-outs. But all in all, as the Evolution of Challengery goes, a good week.
The Michaela hero edit
Is it a winner's edit? Adam and Jay, and to a lesser extent Ken and Zeke and David, have all had confessionals along the lines of "I'm the underdog, and I have real-life problems that could be alleviated by winning, so I'm going to overcome this hardship and win." Michaela has had several of these, and the past couple of episodes have given her an even more glowing halo (starting fire, discovering Jay and Will's idol-finding party, almost single-handedly winning three challenges). But she also took a bit of a hit this episode, barking orders at Hannah during the immunity challenge, an approach Hannah didn't particularly seem to appreciate. So in the spirit of stat-based baseball player comparisons, we're starting to wonder which past players Michaela's gameplay most closely resembles, and could that be a clue to whether she wins or not?
1. The new Sandra? Over the first few episodes, Michaela's closest comparable seemed to be Sandra. Particularly in the argument with Figgy in Ep.2, Michaela (despite her pre-game intention to keep her mouth shut) made no secret of her disdain for Figgy and the Figgy-Taylor power couple in particular. Sandra similarly clashed with Fairplay in Pearl Islands, and Russell in Heroes vs. Villains. Both times she got away with it, because people generally weren't bothered by her bluntness (in fact, in a game saturated in keeping up appearances while eventually backstabbing people, it's delightfully refreshing to have someone speak their mind with complete disregard to the consequences), and also because her targets tended to be people who also annoyed everyone else. Michaela has a bit of that going for her. Where the comparison falls apart is that Sandra is historically terrible in challenges, whereas Michaela has a chance to be one of the all-time best.
2. The female Ozzy? Speaking of the all-time best in challenges, Ozzy Lusth might make a good comparison. He was mostly aloof in his first season, as Michaela seemed in the opening episodes. But by his second and third appearances, Ozzy carried his tribe on his back in team challenges, and didn't suffer poor performances from his tribemates gladly. Michaela is now on her second tribe, and clearly the go-to challenge dominator. We tweeted out this comparison last week, adding later that Michaela-vs-Hannah in the IC was essentially a Paul Feig reboot of Ozzy-vs-Cochran in South Pacific. That's probably good except in the backstory and social game departments. Michaela's trying to win to make a good life for herself, rising above economic disadvantage through sheer force of will. Ozzy was a trustafarian surfer. Not that similar.
3. The female Rupert? This was suggested to us by Zach Chong in response to the Ozzy comparison. (With the caveat of a "Rupert who is good at challenges.") But Pearl Islands Rupert was good in challenges, and this is likewise Michaela's first season. They have similar self-made person backstories. This all seems pretty solid. Michaela obviously has a paucity of beards, tie-dye, and roaring, and hasn't stolen the other tribe's shoes.
Conclusion: If it's Rupert we're supposed to see, America's Tribal Council II can't be far behind.
Why this season succeeds: Good play from unexpected players
We went into this season expecting big things from fans like Adam and David, and so far, they've delivered. (Also Hannah, who has been solid as a character, but hasn't much opportunity to actually play yet, and Zeke.) What sets this season apart, however, was that a lot of the contestants for whom we didn't foresee greatness have turned out to be great. Jessica, Ken, Michelle, Jay, and the previously discussed Michaela all, to one degree or another, seemed like underwhelming space-fillers from their pre-season interviews, but they have instead helped drive the game in the pre-merge portion.
Jay made a big splash this episode, becoming a more three-dimensional character as he talked about his goals for playing, such as buying his mom a house. That this was in the context of finding the Ikabula idol (with Will, who promptly let him down in keeping a lookout) only added to Jay's solid showing. Previously, the one time the Millennials went to Tribal Council, he was pivotal in helping Michaela and Figgy settle their differences, pulling Michaela back into the majority alliance. He's also been a tremendous asset in the challenges, and was the voice of reason about the doomed FigTayls thing from the get-go. For a guy whose resume coming in seemed to consist of bartending, modeling, and making Vines, Jay's had perhaps the biggest swing from pre-season expectations to in-season performance. If this is what mactors can do, more mactors, please! (Dear casting: That was a joke. We realize Jay is a spectacular exception to the long tradition of mactor blandness, please don't boost the number of mactor slots.)
Jessica and Ken have been connected by luck of the draw in the swap, but both have made big strides in the early game. They collaborated on Paul's ouster, split over CeCe's boot, and now have worked together again to vote out Figgy. Jessica has the Legacy Advantage (which they've stopped mentioning every episode, for now), Ken is the Fisherman Who Can and is usually the guy who scores the winning/saving point on a challenge, except for both challenges this week.
Finally, Michelle seemed to be defined purely by her faith (well, okay, and her interest in dragons) pre-season, but has emerged as a persuasive social/strategic player who's also demonstrably great at puzzles (as opposed to David's still merely alleged expertise). Unlike Jessica, Ken, and Jay, she's been largely overlooked by the editors, except in the two episodes where her tribe attended Tribal Council, and she hasn't had much character development, leading others (notably one Andy Baker) she's not long for this season. If that's the case, she was still a great find, and would be a welcome returnee, a la Kelley Wentworth.
Regardless of how these contestants end up faring, it's wonderful that 33 seasons in, Survivor is still managing to find compelling characters and solid gameplayers, especially in casting slots that are usually taken up by forgettable also-rans. So if you're reading this and still haven't applied, do so now (here: CBSSurvivorCasting.com).
Especially if you're a model.
Okay, that's enough of that. On to the vidcaps!
Four Tribals, four boots! High five, CeCe! Oh, wait...
[Nelson Muntz voice] Ha ha!
This stick has paint on it. And a strange seam. Maybe if I peel the bark off gently, I can use it to start a fire.
The non-flaming wood was planted by CBS!
Just kidding, it had this dumb necklace in it. Jewelry doesn't start fires, bro.
It was definitely down on the ground, and not in a tree? Okay. Seems legit.
If you believe that, try a slice of my invisible pizza. All the taste, none of the visuals.
Oh dear, the host's twitter handle has impaled itself on Figgy. That can't be good. Dr. Joe?
Ooh, that's nasty. I give her two days... three, tops
Oh crap, I just gave the title quote. The last person who did that was voted out. Sigh.
Uh, Figgy? Are you sure this is necessary?
That's not very sporting, Ken. You SIGNED A CONTRACT.
David! You're WRIGHT! You're WRIGHT!
Keep on being me, then? Solid.
All this sitting is getting tiresome, Michaela. Hurry up and win for us.
Ken! Put that edge piece in the middle! Trust me!
The dragon has three heads.
Almost there, Ken! Hold the piece that looks like a nose up to your head!
Holding puzzle pieces up to your head may cause dizziness. Do not try this at home.
Don't panic, Zeke, but Probst is moving toward you in a threatening manner
Don't be silly! Just Figgy.
She may already be dead, Jeff!
Vanua contemplates life from the depths of a cookie coma.
Their cookies were so HUGE.
Once I got that puzzle piece away from my head, I felt fine. It's like they were trying to injure us.
The kiss of the handsome prince brings Figgy back to life. More or less.
How could it be less? I'm totally winning this shizz!
Cheek. Paralyzed. Medical?
Does this tree get cooler when I sit in it? It does, right?
The dragon has three riders
David keeping up with Jay! Wow! That was not in the script!
Taylor's going down.
Last place? A lead that Figgy will blow? The cruel grasp of irony? You'll have to be more specific.
The dragon has three table mazes, six feet, and... uh, we give up.
Good job eventually doing what I bellowed! I should be hosting this.
You hear that, Probst? Coming for your job!
Hannah enjoys her victory slices of Michaela's invisible pizza. Half the calories of stuffed crust!
Michaela does not have time for your non-collaborating shenanigans, FigTayls and Adam
Good choice, Adam! Obviously we should boot Ken after he gave us two challenge leads that I promptly blew.
Speed this up, guys. I need to get back to snuggling with Figgy.
Wow, it does sound great to be at the bottom of a slightly smaller alliance.
I wish I could hold one of those puzzle pieces next to my head right now.
Adam: No matter what I do, going back to camp is going to suck.
Relax, Adam! We get to talk to that old guy again!
Do you guys use twitter? I feel like I accidentally impaled one of you with my handle.
How old *IS* this guy?
Girfriend in a twitter handle-induced coma, it's really serious.
I think it might be the one currently in her death throes. Ow.
Oh, right. That one. Sorry. I'll to maintain better handle hygiene from now on.
Millennials vs. Gen X Episode 6 recaps and commentary
Exit interviews: 'Figgy' Figueroa
Episode 6 Podcasts