Columns by Survivor season:
Episode 13: A great win, a great cast, an adequate season
By Jeff Pitman | Published: December 21, 2021
Erika's command of the Final Tribal narrative helped her to the million-dollar prize, but it was her calm, progressive, no-fuss path through the game that really won it. It's a style of game the show had best get used to, because it's the optimal antidote to their now-standard orgy of twists.
Episode 12: A season in search of a story
By Jeff Pitman | Published: December 14, 2021
With no official theme, Survivor 41's overall "story" will largely be defined by its winner. In looking at what we've been told so far, can we project who that winner will be? Probably not, but let's try anyway, shall we?
Episode 11: More than a game, then less of a game
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 27, 2021
Survivor 41's Jekyll-and-Hyde season continues, producing an episode with both astonishingly heartfelt discussion of the burdens imposed by race in social situations, and an ill-advised twist that ignored everyone's social connections and (thankfully) failed to override the whole "tribe has spoken" deal. Once again: Just let the contestants play.
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 27, 2021
"They scheme without juicers! They scheme without blenders! They scheme without flunjers, capdabblers and smendlers!" This was a rare gem of an episode in modern Survivor, one in which the players did all the work. As they should.
Episode 9: Twists vs. idols vs. advantages
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 20, 2021
Last season, we had winners at war. This season, most of the crossfire is between one production-imposed twist and others. Or just as often, twists and plans the contestants came up with. Feel a big power shift coming? Why risk that failing when we can guarantee it by throwing in a random rock draw instead?
Episode 8: Only YOU can prevent Live Tribals
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 14, 2021
Live Tribals (or allegedly live ones, at least) are Survivor's shiniest new toy, and like every other "feature" the show adds, they're confusing and borderline unwatchable. But they're not going away, not unless players wise up that they're more damaging than useful, at least in a normal season with actual alliances. Will we ever see one of those again?
Episode 7: The illusion of choice
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 7, 2021
Thanks to some highly creative gameplay, the second half of the merge episode delivered as the contestants thwarted an overpowered new advantage, in part through their own work, and in part through conditions the half-tribe immunity set in motion. A mixed bag, unnecessarily so, and one that reveals the season's true villains: the producers.
Episode 6: Mission: Half-accomplished
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 30, 2021
This week, Survivor 41's creative team set a new-era precedent for amazing achievement: They managed to screw up the merge episode, a feat seemingly unthinkable for the prior 40 seasons. Congratulations, gents, job well done. See you next week.
Episode 5: Hidden mechanisms and unwelcome additions
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 24, 2021
Survivor 41's contestants continued to deliver top-notch drama and gameplay this week. The biggest obstacle to this season's success, however, remains the same: the show's dismissive attitude towards its audience, especially for keeping them informed about how the game actually works (and all the unnecessary advantages, of course).
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 16, 2021
After last week's grim, soulless slog through unnecessary and ultimately pointless manipulations, Survivor 41 somehow rebounded in Episode 4 with a deep dive into characters, gameplay, and all the things that made the show memorable in the first place. (Hint: None are spelled "advantage".) This one was something that's worth playing for.
Episode 3: Trying to find the part that is fun
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 10, 2021
Through three episodes the "danger" and "monster" of Survivor 41 appears to be primarily fear of flubbing a scripted line, or perhaps a brain cramp from trying to figure out which voting-related advantage/penalty takes precedence. If only we had more scenes of people reading things, we could discover the "fun" part.
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 3, 2021
After Episode 2 of Survivor 41, it's clear what the long-rumored "monster" is: a byzantine labyrinth of voting-related rules changes that nobody, from the players to the audience, really understands. To paraphrase Mike White is that 'fun'? Oh well, at least the cast still is.
Episode 1: The new cast rises above a pile of twists
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 28, 2021
Survivor 41's premiere delivered a dynamic group of 18 new contestants, most of whom might have been on the first tribe if the theme had been "Savvy vs. Sweat." They're a fun group, and navigated their way well through the first episode's bevy of new twists. It's a good sign for the season's future, as long as the twists don't ultimately sink it.
Preview: Entering the monster
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 21, 2021
The new era is almost upon is, as (US) Survivor 41 begins airing tomorrow. Here's a brief look at the new cast, the big characters, the big players, and an attempt to understand what the heck the "monster" Probst keeps going about is supposed to be.
Episode 24: It's election night for the crown
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 14, 2021
The final showdown of Survivor AU: Brains v Brawn pitted two strategists against each other, and delivered an all-time great Final Tribal Council performance, as Queen Hayley was crowned. It also highlighted the King George paradox: Why were the editors so unwilling (unable) to demonstrate his strategic prowess, forcing him instead into to be an entertaining 'character'? Plus a modest list of suggestions to improve the show.
Episodes 22-23: The story comes together
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 8, 2021
It took seven long weeks, but in the final two pre-finale episodes of Survivor AU: Brains v Brawn, the broad, season-long narrative pieces have finally started to fall into place, like the puzzles that have been so lacking in challenges this season. The final three players all have big stories, and we've been set up for an exciting final episode.
Episodes 19-21: Slowly finding its Wai
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 2, 2021
In the second-to-last week of Survivor AU: Brains v Brawn, the show found itself navigating a tricky path: Trying to justify a final five in which three of the people have already been voted out, and giving belated, extremely welcome attention to one of the two who hadn't in Wai, who has slowly, steadily been building a case for the season win.
Episodes 16-18: The gameplay finds its footing
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 27, 2021
At long last, production allowed just enough room for Survivor AU: Brains v Brawn's players to play (in two of the three episodes, at least), and those players delivered: A tricky blindside-within-a-blindside, a one-vote idoling out (with a fun new idol variant), and a nifty plurality vote that took out a major player. It's a reminder that hopefully the show notices: If you cast people who are capable and eager to play, they'll do the work. No need for a twist and an idol every episode!
Episodes 13-15: Lost in new twists
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 18, 2021
After delivering a top-notch merge episode, Survivor AU: Brains v Brawn's week (and perhaps the entire season) careened predictably off the rails as production acted quickly to smother nascent gameplay in a duststorm of unnecessary and/or misleading twists. On the one hand, a non-elimination followed. One the other, still tilting the numbers all-but-permanently in favor of Brawn.
Episodes 10-12: Zzz, zzz, whoa!
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 12, 2021
It took a while to get there, but Survivor AU: Brains v Brawn closed out the pre-merge portion of the game with a bang, as the supposedly warring original Brains and Brawns got together (with two more Brains, for no obvious reason) and collectively took out an allegedly 'bulletproof' central character and power player. Boom.
Episodes 7-9: Nothing in this place is normal
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 5, 2021
Things are both really good and really questionable at various points in Week 3 of Survivor AU: Brains v Brawn, and Laura's "What the hell?" reaction pretty much sums it up. Hayley was everywhere, overthrowing the patriarchy, grabbing idols, leveraging them to save the otherwise swap-screwed Brains. It was glorious. But production's heavy thumb was also on the scale at various points, which was significantly less wonderful.
Episodes 4-6: That's not a Brains tribe, THIS is a Brains tribe
By Jeff Pitman | Published: July 31, 2021
The second week of Survivor AU: Brains v Brawn was all about the idols. And about the people holding them, although those people were also what the first week was about, before they had idols. The show also creakingly, reluctantly remembered that the Brains tribe also has people named Georgia and Andrew on it. In short: Survivor AU has not only imported US Survivor's challenges and twists, it's also ratcheting up some of the American version's worst production and editorial tendencies.
Episodes 1-3: That's not a Brains tribe, THIS is a Brains tribe
By Jeff Pitman | Published: July 24, 2021
Australian Survivor has always been Survivor, just bigger: More contestants, more days. This season's outback location is quintessentially Australian, and is a welcome departure from always-Fiji. The format, "Brains v Brawn," is that used by one of US Survivor's best seasons (Cagayan). Here, the results are a bit more mixed. The traditional deficits in SurvivorAU casting persist — lack of diversity, over-representation of athletes — but by the third episode, the season is succeeding despite all this. There a lot to like here. (Also a lot, period.)
Episode 16: Old school beats new school
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 20, 2021
Just as Survivor SA: Immunity Island ended with a classic Survivor run of idol- and twist-free votes and the ultimate classic final challenge, its winner also successfully executed a very old-school strategy: loyalty and lack of scheming. A look at this win, and does the final two provide more paths to victory for women than the final three?
Episode 15: The reward table runneth over
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 13, 2021
With just the Survivor SA: Immunity Island finale to go, Chappies continues to dominate the competition in challenges. So in addition to the amazing breakfast-with-a-juror reward, did production really need to throw in an overpowered advantage that had not been announced beforehand? (Hint: No.)
Episode 14: Slow-walking the inevitable
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 6, 2021
As Survivor SA: Immunity Island ventured into what is uncharted territory in the US version (a final five with no idols or advantages), there were some great moments, but also an overwhelming sense of dread, as either Chappies or one of Tyson/Kiran was almost certainly out. That's indeed what happened. At least there was time for a proper sendoff?
Episode 13: Going out in a blaze
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 29, 2021
It was a big week in Survivor SA: Immunity Island, with a big reward (loved ones!), multiple idols played (for the last time!), and the exit of one of the biggest characters of the season, the flame-haired, tie-dyed, double agent fan favorite. And what a gloriously chaotic exit it was.
Episode 12: Destiny achieved
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 22, 2021
If you love idols and advantages, good news: They were combined in a satisfying way for a convoluted big move this week, and more were added. If you hate them, also good news: Their end is nigh, and Survivor SA: Immunity Island will have a clean, trinket-free endgame. All this season does is win.
Episode 11: A shocking loss
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 15, 2021
The Vunas finally started aiming their fire at each other this week, and somehow, the side that had all the hardware ended up losing. It's a stunning setback that also surprised the audience, because it took out one of the most consistently positively-edited narrators. A Stark setback, you might say. But still, a tangible reminder that everyone is playing hard (and well) this season.
Episode 10: Two if by waterpark
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 7, 2021
The big news in this week's episode of Survivor SA: Immunity Island, as is evident in the title, is the twist, "Tied Destinies." It was certainly a big swing by production, but did it connect? Oh, heavens no. Well, not in any way we'd want to see repeated, anyway. But at least it's now gone, so here's a post-mortem of what went wrong.
Episode 9: The calm before the storm?
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 3, 2021
As the dust settles from the Survivor SA: Immunity Island merge vote, several players are taking stock and reassessing their position within their alliances. While this episode's boot went off without a hitch, the tension is definitely building for another explosive power shift, probably sooner rather than later.
Episode 8: Vuna rises to the top
By Jeff Pitman | Published: July 27, 2021
As hoped, the Survivor SA: Immunity Island merge delivered a tense, idol- and advantage-filled conflagration at Tribal Council, and a genuinely exciting outcome, as the ragtag Vuna alliance deployed a series of moves to seize the numbers advantage from the uncrackable Zambas.
Episode 7: Pre-merge closeout sale
By Jeff Pitman | Published: July 19, 2021
While the final pre-merge episode of SurvivorSA: Immunity Island didn't end in a particularly surprising vote, the show still managed to pack in some compelling, deeper insights into the people competing and their relationships with each other, while arming them all for what appears to be a much bigger battle ahead, as they join together.
Episode 6: Loyalty vs. grudges
By Jeff Pitman | Published: July 14, 2021
In an episode jam-packed with action, SurvivorSA: Immunity Island sheds another superfan, but also manages to cram in some in-challenge lifesaving heroics, a surprise mid-episode swap, an idol find, an idol play, and lots of people starting to make moves in retaliation for past moves. Let's hope the post-merge can maintain this pace.
Episode 5: Diverging paths from the bottom
By Jeff Pitman | Published: July 5, 2021
After two straight episodes set almost entirely in Zamba, we finally explore post-swap Vuna in Episode 5 of SurvivorSA: Immunity Island, and well ... they're a mess. With both tribes forced to vote this time, the four people on the bottom take wildly differing approaches to saving themselves, all because there are no useful cracks to be found in the ex-Zamba majority. Some efforts prove more fruitful than others.
Episode 4: Lies and no consequences
By Jeff Pitman | Published: June 28, 2021
There's a lot of lying going on in Episode 4 of SurvivorSA: Immunity Island. Surprisingly, however, it turns out that accurate information is not, in fact, gold. The guy who literally has the receipt ends up on the wrong end of the numbers anyway, and voting together proves to be more important than accurately describing game events. That, and appreciations of playing from the middle and a misfit quasi-villain.
Episode 3: Smashing through the cracks
By Jeff Pitman | Published: June 23, 2021
Episode 3 of SurvivorSA: Immunity Island threw everyone's plans into disarray with a surprisingly early and effective tribe swap. Underdogs gathered together to strike back at prior power-holders, idols were whispered about and found, and in the penultimate act, a looming camp raid was triggered. Lots of movement, lots of action, and a contestant-powered power shift added up to a satisfying whole.
Episode 2: Powering up the underdogs
By Jeff Pitman | Published: June 11, 2021
It's still early days for SurvivorSA: Immunity Island's titular twist, but the results so far have breathed new life into the prospects of two players who otherwise might have had their torches snuffed. Through two episodes, being a "weak player" has paradoxically provided strength, while being comfortably in power and trying to direct the vote has been deadly. This may all change, but so far, it's been a fun reversal of Survivor fortunes.
Episode 1: First to the starting line
By Jeff Pitman | Published: June 5, 2021
Survivor South Africa deserves a medal simply for getting a season filmed, edited, and on the air during COVID. Thankfully, that's not the only plus: SurvivorSA: Immunity Island — at least the premiere episode — is also really good. A strong, dynamic, game-aware cast being put to the test with multiple in-game dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities for strategy. Survivor is back, and it's definitely been worth the wait.
Episode 7: The world's worst dictionary salespeople
By Jeff Pitman | Published: July 15, 2021
The merge in Survivor: Panama - Exile Island brings together long-separated original tribemates, like Bruce and Shane with Terry, Aras with Austin and Nick, and Danielle and Courtney with Sally. Do any of those old connections pay off? Nope. It's just a straight Pagonging, after the La Minas feebly try to strong-arm select Casayas into flipping. And it's all downhill strategically from there.
Episodes 3-4: Everything's coming up Panama
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 27, 2021
Over the Episode 3-4 span, three key events take place that set Survivor: Panama - Exile Island up for success: La Mina crumbles, Casaya wins two immunities that preserve Cirie's position in the game, and Terry finds the idol. One of these may not have been entirely by chance.
Episodes 1-2: Succeeding despite itself
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 20, 2021
Survivor: Panama - Exile Island has a colorful cast of outsized characters. But it's also the birthplace of one mostly regrettable twist (Exile Island), has some pretty grim early boot demographics, and while idols end up being a net positive, this version is so overpowered it's never played. Why does it all work? Casaya, which itself paradoxically rises to the top despite being a complete and utter mess.
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 23, 2021
Way back on January 26, 2006, CBS News released a video of Jeff Probst chatting about the Survivor: Panama - Exile Island contestants and their prospects in the game. It was a roundtable discussion, featuring various members of the then-large Survivor pre-game press — Mara Reinstein (US Weekly), Paul Adler (TV Guide channel), Shawna Malcom (TV Guide), Dalton Ross (EW), and Jarett Wieselman (In Touch). The video is now gone, but here's a transcript.
By Jeff Pitman | Published: July 31, 2020
Jeff Pitman's analysis of the challenges facing Survivor's Black, Indigenous, and People of Color contestants when their tribe makes its first vote. Running the numbers, it's clear they receive a higher percentage of those first votes, and this problem has grown over the past decade. With suggestions for fixing this, and broadening Survivor's story-telling resources.
Episode 14: The friends they made along the way
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 19, 2020
The Winners are finally no longer at War, and the season finished on a high note, and one surprisingly steeped in emotion. A solid finale that reaffirmed the core Survivor game, with a well-earned win from an entertaining winner who somehow played an even better game this time around.
Episode 13: Ending Edge of Extinction
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 11, 2020
With Edge of Extinction and fire tokens both (mostly) ending this episode, Jeff takes this pre-finale opportunity to assess their impact, what should be kept (hint: only one), and potential improvements in their execution. Hopefully leading to a bright, distraction-free conclusion to Winners at War.
Episode 12: The long and the short of challenges
By Jeff Pitman | Published: May 4, 2020
This episode featured a stark contrast between a grueling Edge of Extinction task and a spectacularly short 'endurance' immunity challenge. That probably wasn't by accident, and was probably intended to boost the audience's opinion of the Edge. Sigh.
Episode 11: This one goes to (Episode) 11
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 27, 2020
Tony Vlachos dusted off the old Cagayan songbook, got the old band back together (with ongoing auditions for a new Woo), and cranked the amp all the way up this week, Episode 11 of Winners at War. Jeff looks at this, a potential SurvivorAU comp, and two people challenging a record that may surprise you.
Episode 10: So many loved ones!
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 20, 2020
The many, many loved ones took up a lot of time, but they were worth it. Was it also worth it to intentionally trigger an advantage avalanche in the same episode? Jeff explores that, some potentially prophetic editing, and more.
Episode 9: End Survivor whispers
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 13, 2020
What was once Survivor's shiny new toy - the alleged 'Live Tribal' awash in whispering - has become a narrative crutch, deployed seemingly at random to give the illusion of an up-in-the-air conclusion. They rarely actually are, leaving the audience with little more than unintelligible confusion. Please stop.
Episode 8: Emerging questions
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 6, 2020
The Winners at war are now battling against each other on one tribe, and how that changes the game at large still feels like an open question. The merge episode raised a lot of questions overall, actually, which in some aspects is a good thing. Jeff explores those questions here.
Episode 7: The ebb and flow of the Edge
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 30, 2020
Winners at War is now perched on the precipice of the merge, which also portends the (first) returnee from Edge of Extinction. With that in mind, Jeff takes a mid-season look at how this version of the Edge has fared . (Spoiler: Surprisingly worthwhile, or at least it would be if it ended here.)
Episode 6: Big moves, big food, big episode
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 23, 2020
As the merge approaches, the Winners at War gameplay finally ratcheted up to the intensity of its title. As the culling of the legends continues, a new crop of contenders are making legendary moves of their own. It's real, and it's spectacular.
Episode 5: A nice day at the beach
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 16, 2020
With its swap episode, Winners at War returned to the promise of its premiere, indulging in its characters and focusing exclusively on the actual game of Survivor. A lot of strategy and social game, a lot of scheming, except for the poor Yaras forced to just stare at each other all day and talk about cookies. But overall: A lot of fun.
Episode 4: Edge of Extinction vs. Survivor
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 9, 2020
This episode, with its spotlight dive into Ethan's physical struggle during an Edge of Extinction task, demonstrated clearly that it's possible to love something and hate it at the same time. Compelling TV, deeply affecting to watch, but also an artificial construct that stole a quarter of the episode from the actual game.
By Jeff Pitman | Published: February 29, 2020
Winners at War marks the second season in a row where idols and advantages are flying off the shelves, yet not every player has access to them. Does Survivor's attempt to even out distribution in this manner actually make them less fair?
Episode 2: Fewer Edge letters, more ladders, please?
By Jeff Pitman | Published: February 20, 2020
Winners at War's second episode was a mixed bag, even after being dumped out at Tribal Council. Despite asserting that Survivor is a game of relationships, almost none of those were shown in the first half of the episode, focusing instead on various idols, tokens, and advantages.
Episode 1: Winners at war with the record books
By Jeff Pitman | Published: February 17, 2020
Strong, beloved characters and fierce competition made the Winners at War premiere a huge success, albeit one that could be watered down substantially by the season's twists. But until then, Jeff looks at the many Survivor records that can and/or will fall this season.
Pre-season: Winners at war with the game itself?
By Jeff Pitman | Published: January 22, 2020
If you've been wondering 'What could Survivor possibly do to screw up something as bulletproof as an all-winners season?', don't worry. Jeff Probst has a plan for that. Can the best cast ever break free of the showrunner's shackles? All we can do is hope.
Episode 14: The ending was a good start
Published: December 26, 2019
After a troubling season produced hopefully helpful new procedures, Jeff takes a close look at what's working (and a lot of what's not) with Survivor's core game, which mostly boils down to: Too much heavy handed production in some areas, too little in others.
Episode 13: Stumbling to a muted finish
Published: December 16, 2019
One. More. Episode.
Episode 12: Laissez fail
Published: December 9, 2019
Jeff makes the case that this episode's chaotic, largely rudderless Tribal Council was emblematic of the season as a whole: seemed fun at first, but ultimately a letdown, with no discernible guidance from production.
Episode 11: Karishma and the power of negative thinking
Published: December 4, 2019
As we grasp for positives in the closing episodes of Island of the Idols, one standout has been Karishma's gravity-defying rise in prominence, despite having seen her name written down so many times. Is her path to the end sustainable?
Episode 9: How to move forward from here?
Published: November 20, 2019
A previously great season allowed an uncomfortable incident to become in-game strategic fodder, and in mere minutes, Survivor: Island of the Idols went from a fun adventure to a bleak, miserable miasma. Is there a path forward for the show as a whole, or the season? Eh, maybe.
Episode 7: The story that gets told
Published: November 11, 2019
Female contestants have had a major impact on this season so far, and Jeff dives into the degree to which this has been facilitated by the show itself, plus a look at Kellee's big move, and is there a chance for an older winner?
Episode 6: Congratulations!
Published: November 4, 2019
If last week's episode felt a bit like setting up the chess pieces for a big play, this week's episode made that investment of plotting time worthwhile. From the camp life to the blindside, an apt demonstration that 39 seasons in, Survivor can still deliver can't-miss television.
Episode 5: Early swaps results: mixed
Published: October 28, 2019
Survivor dusted off some old concepts this week — swapping from two tribes to... two(!), corporate sponsors, no Island of the Idols — and the Survivors dusted their oldest contestant. It was... fine? Except maybe in prematurely burying some of the strategy.
Episode 4: A watermelon toast to the Island
Published: October 21, 2019
As more time passes, it's becoming clear that the optimal role of Island of the Idols is not instruction, but rather entertainment, and maybe that was the plan all along? Either way, Jeff Pitman is totally fine with that. (Also, the vidcap gallery returns.)
Episode 3: Live by the Island, die by the Island
Published: October 14, 2019
This week's Island of the Idols segment took on a larger role within the episode, and Jeff makes the case that at least in this instance, it worked, because it gave us a chance to meet Vince in greater depth before he left. Even if it may also have contributed to his leaving.
Published: October 7, 2019
While the second episode of Island of the Idols included a major blindside, it also felt a bit disconnected from the premiere, narrative-wise. Jeff looks at this, sleeping, smartypantses, and a potential smokescreen of fire previews.
Episode 1: Everyone here has a story
Published: September 30, 2019
The premiere of Survivor: Island of the Idols bounded with depth and energy from its new cast, even if the central twist for which it's named was a bit of a mixed bag. Jeff Pitman looks at what worked and what could use improvement with the new season.
Published: September 23, 2019
The True Dork Times writers congregate and try to pick the winner of Survivor: Island of the Idols based on almost zero evidence. But that's no reason to avoid making what are probably ludicrously inaccurate hot takes.
Pre-season: Who are these non-jackasses?
Published: September 20, 2019
Jeff attempts to sort the consistently compelling new contestants of Survivor: Island of the Idols into tiers of likelihood of winning. Which turns out to be pretty difficult, because they're all really good this time.
Pre-season: Running the Survivor numbers: A how-to guide
Published: June 3, 2019
A brief explanation of the trove of Survivor scoring spreadsheets made publicly available for viewing and/or download this weekend. All with the goal of spurring new innovations in numerically based Survivor analysis.
Episode 12: Death by 1000 shows: The edit vs. Rick Devens
Published: May 5, 2019
In which Jeff explores how Rick Devens is the latest example of a larger-than-life Survivor character who presents the editors with a dilemma: Show more of him, and risk irritating fans by overexposure, or show less of him, and worry the show becomes less entertaining to watch?
Episode 11: No more Wardog has the power
Published: April 29, 2019
As another big character joins the field of bodies burning, Jeff looks at the uneven characterization of the season as a whole. With four episodes left, all but two or three of the remaining contestants are relatively unknown. Does their newfound prominence presage imminent victory or doom?
Episode 10: The dawn of Wardog's early-morning strike force
Published: April 23, 2019
While it wasn't great to lose both David and Kelley in a single episode, at least Survivor presented the twin evictions in an exciting new way, by using a critical flashback explaining how Wardog struck early to set up the episode-ending blindside. Jeff explores this and other (less great) storytelling choices the show has made in depth.
Episode 9: Chaos is a ... pilotable aeronautic vehicle?
Published: April 13, 2019
Jeff reflects on a fun date with a mostly silent Probst at Tribal, some fun date-related data in making this one day an episode, the eerie silence about the larger game at Edge of Extinction, and some fun facts on challenge performance rates.
Published: April 9, 2019
Jeff takes an extended dive into trying to read the edit, wondering whether we're seeing a turning of the tide in the season-long editorial disdain for the Wardog, what we're supposed to make of big moves from invisible players, what's up with the extra vote expiration, and more.
Episode 7: A chance to be daring, swiftly avoided
Published: April 1, 2019
It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. Edge of Extinction's merge tried to do too much in one hour, and while the re-entry challenge worked well, the post-return portion was a confusing mess. Still, here's an attempt to discern Joe's intent, the edit's foreshadowing, and what's going on with the jury.
Episodes 5-6: Rallying back from the brink
Published: March 25, 2019
Edge of Extinction's double-episode worked, despite back-to-back underdog blindsides, because it focused on its characters. Jeff revisits that, previews the return challenge and post-merge, and dives into a whole lotta Joe (with context).
Episode 4: The problem of the perpetual premiere
Published: March 19, 2019
Time management appears to be the biggest flaw in Edge of Extinction, and Jeff looks at how the problem may be just one of numbers: too many people. Still. Numbers are also a problem with expansion swaps to three tribes, but there it's too few people per tribe.
Episode 3: You forgot it in people
Published: March 10, 2019
Through the first three episodes, character development, something Survivor did so well during David vs. Goliath, appears to be teetering on the Edge of Extinction. How has the show's ability to present three-dimensional (or even one-dimensional) characters vanished so rapidly?
Episode 2: There's no winning in mixed seasons
Published: March 3, 2019
It's a bleak week in Pitman recap-land, as Jeff points out the competitive balance flaw hanging over the season, a potentially hazardous twist, and a potentially unfair editing choice. At least nobody has died yet?
Episode 1: The shortest hour
Published: February 24, 2019
Jeff Pitman looks at the limitations of a shorter Survivor premiere, ponders the ramifications of crafting the edit towards setting up the Edge of Extinction twist, the host as unreliable narrator, and more short takes.
Published: February 19, 2019
Jeff takes a quick run through the Survivor career record numbers that could fall this season, courtesy of Edge of Extinction's four returning players (with some also potentially crackable by the newbies).
Pre-season: The TDT EoE contestant draft
Published: February 17, 2019
As the new season nears the True Dork Times writers gather to draft fantasy teams of three players. Whose prediction skills will drive their team to extinction? Whose prognostication will give them an edge and a victory?
Pre-season: Edge of Extinction contestant projections
Published: February 5, 2019
In a surprise-laden journey, Jeff Pitman sorts the newly official Edge of Extinction contestants into tiers of win probability (Likely, Possible, Unlikely, Impossible). Okay, you won't be all that surprised. But you might be.
Pre-season: The evolution of idology
Published: January 23, 2018
Jeff Pitman's data-based investigation of why men have built up a 4:1 edge over women in finding hidden immunity idols in Survivor. With far more stats, tables, and graphs than you really need for reality TV analysis.
Episode 14: Big moves, big characters, big juries
Published: December 23, 2018
Jeff celebrates the successes of the David vs. Goliath season, then looks ahead to see how to replicate that triumph: examining new trends in jury voting patterns, the role of luck in the success of a Survivor season, some good international twists to add to the whiteboard, some new-ish twists to avoid Pagonging, and uh ... well, it's a lot.
Pre-Episode 14: Jury Jeopardy - David vs. Goliath
Published: December 17, 2018
With six players remaining, three True Dork Times writers (Pat Ferrucci, Ryan Kaiser, and Jeff Pitman) unite to forecast the outcome of the Survivor: David vs. Goliath jury's vote on the final three. Who will win the million? And more importantly, will we out-predict Survivor scribes from other sites?
Episode 13: Can a David finally topple the Goliaths?
Published: December 16, 2018
As the sun sets on the scrappy little season that overcame the oversized skepticism surrounding its theme, Jeff ponders which of the six remaining Survivor: David vs. Goliath contestants has the best chance to win, now that Christian has joined the jury.
Episode 12: How 'too soon' is now?
Published: December 10, 2018
Jeff looks at how, idols and immunities aside, a constantly shifting jury size and final vote schedule makes discerning the correct time to make a move nearly impossible, even for the most game-aware players. Plus the role of idol plays in jury votes, and strategy vs. emotion.
Episodes 10-11: Christian, martyr?
Published: December 3, 2018
Survivor's two-hour double episode didn't really have a unifying theme, apart from a whole lot of focus on Christian. Which is fine, we'll run with that: Is Christian winning this season, or will he be the tragic hero who falls just short?
Episode 9: Victory or null
Published: November 26, 2018
The perfectly executed play of an idol nullifier was a fun twist, making the Davids underdogs no more in Episode 9 of Survivor: David vs. Goliath. But what cost will attempts at recapturing that magic in future seasons extract from the franchise?
Episode 8: The giving season
Published: November 20, 2018
Episode 8's dramatic Tribal Council double-idol play (and split vote) was one of the best idol-era Survivor Tribals in memory. But did it also finally signal the evolution of idol play in favor of playing idols for others, instead of the holder? Plus a Brochacho physical threat level assessment.
Episode 7: Changing fortunes at the merge
Published: November 12, 2018
A complicated web of interlocking machinations led to a surprisingly lopsided David vs. Goliath merge vote. Despite the outcome, that seems like a good sign, as Jeff looks at how short-term prospects shift for a number of contestants.
Episode 6: The magic of misdirection
Published: November 5, 2018
Wrapping up the pre-merge portion of the season, Jeff takes a deep dive into the ice-blue eyes and icier heart of Nick Wilson's gameplay. Plus shelter suggestions and clothes bartering strategic pondering.
Episode 5: Two if by string
Published: October 30, 2018
As a second string-wrapped idol (clue) is found, Jeff questions the wisdom and fairness of themed idol hiding. Plus with the merge imminent, a sneak peek at how sub-alliances and power players may assemble themselves in the post-merge.
Episode 4: A momentary glimpse of light
Published: October 23, 2018
While David vs. Goliath has at times teetered on a flimsy barrow, carried by blindfolded drivers, through moments of darkness and misery in its first four episodes, there have also been flashes of brilliance, of lightness, of fun. Those were thankfully more abundant in Episode 4, as Jeff celebrates them.
Episode 3: New recipe: Less napalm, more Machiavelli
Published: October 16, 2018
Jeff didn't love the personal attacks that were presented as entertainment in Episode 3 of David vs. Goliath, especially since they seemed like a reboot of a past season's conflict. Plus a look at who the swap is most likely to reward or put at risk..
Episodes 2: In praise of faking it
Published: October 9, 2018
Jeff exalts the opportunities that could arise from having easily fake-able idols this season, one player who seems to be faking everyone out, (and another who clearly is not), and other late-forming takes on Episode 2 of David vs. Goliath.
Published: October 2, 2018
Jeff finds there was a lot to like, and a fair amount to lament, in the Survivor: David vs. Goliath season premiere. An interesting new cast, and more time to meet them, but also some darkness.
Pre-season: The TDT DvG contestant draft
Published: September 22, 2018
The True Dork Times writers (Ben Martell, Pat Ferrucci, Ryan Kaiser, and Jeff Pitman) come together to draft fantasy teams of David vs. Goliath contestants, in an attempt to win eternal* glory by having the team containing the winner. (*Offer expires roughly one month after the season ends.)
Pre-season: DvsG contestant projections
Published: September 20, 2018
Jeff Pitman sifts through the bios and the FOOs (and little else) to try to project which of the David vs. Goliath contestants have winning chances that are Likely, Possible, Unlikely, and Impossible.
Episode 14: Evaluating the final three
Published: July 25, 2018
As Survivor NZ sprints to its conclusion, Jeff takes a look at the final three contestants, and evaluates their individual chances of winning. With one key variable remaining: How bitter the jury turns out to be.
Episode 13: What to make of Adam's ribbing?
Published: July 21, 2018
As Survivor NZ's colorful villain heads to the jury, Jeff questions whether (in 2018) reality TV still needs to be going overboard with in-confessional trash-talking. Or if at least some editing restraint might be welcome.
Episode 12: Rise of the Kiwi Cirie?
Published: July 13, 2018
A deep dive into the shocking, game-changing blindside in Episode 12 of Survivor NZ: Thailand. Comparing Lisa's move to Cirie's in Panama, Dave's decision to Blood vs. Water, and Matt's performance to those in the elite player ranks.
Episode 11: Missed opportunities
Published: July 7, 2018
The question of Survivor NZ: Thailand thus far seems to be: Can anyone stop Matt (and Dave)? For this episode, at least, the answer was a resounding no (and no, and also no).
Episode 10: Is Survivor fair with a secret pair?
Published: June 28, 2018
As the numbers dwindle on Survivor NZ: Thailand, two numbers remain: Matt and Dave. Does their having been friends before playing Survivor give them an unfair advantage? (Answer: Yes, duh, but maybe not as much as you think.)
Episode 9: The battle for Tess
Published: June 21, 2018
In which Jeff discusses how Brad's blindside was partly a jockeying for another power - the power of Tess. Also: Is the end nigh for Kiwi Joey Amazing? And some idol talk.
Episode 8: Can we yet book anyone for the win?
Published: June 15, 2018
With a horde of solid game-players leaving around the merge, Jeff wonders which of the remaining players has the best chances of winning. There's a run-through of the contenders, a look at a fizzling secret alliance, calendar questions, and... a vidcap gallery.
Episode 7: K(ill)ing of the Snakes
Published: June 7, 2018
As two superfan strategists become the final two Survivor NZ: Thailand pre-jurors, Jeff assesses the events of Episode 7. Some sparks of superfan life, an actual villain, an unfair idol find, and a questionable decision.
Episode 6: The power shifts (maybe)
Published: June 1, 2018
A major blindside seemingly tilts power away from the (now smaller) Khang Khaw tight five, and gives Chani new life, as Jeff reviews Survivor NZ: Thailand's big Episode 6. Also: Pizza and tarps highlight a new vidcap gallery.
Episode 5: Ticks and talks
Published: May 23, 2018
In its fifth episode, Survivor NZ: Thailand hits the swap, producing two tribes with outnumbered Chanis. Yay. But one has an idol, which gets played... incorrectly. Yay again. But wait, there are also some minor head injuries.
Episode 4: Folding the Wildcards
Published: May 16, 2018
As both Wildcard contestants have now exited the game, Jeff asks whether they faced a level playing field. Plus praise for another interesting Outpost twist, and a historical reckoning of Chani's terrible challenge performance.
Episode 3: The Outpost vs. Ghost Island
Published: May 8, 2018
Jeff conducts a more thorough investigation of the relative strengths and faults of the two current Survivor island-based getaways: the US's Ghost Island, vs. NZ: Thailand's Outpost. Which will emerge supreme? Also, Chani Power Rankings.
Episodes 2: Outwit, outplay, Outpost: A test for Tess
Published: May 2, 2018
Survivor NZ: Thailand's first run through the Outpost was a complete success, as JT and Tess demonstrated the potential for both mischief and pure entertainment. But where does the episode leave its few remaining older women, and... its superfan contestants?
Episodes 1: Superfans vs. naiveté
Published: April 23, 2018
Survivor New Zealand delivered an impressive premiere episode for its new season, set in Thailand. Faster-paced editing, energetic and more Survivor-savvy contestants, and an improved level of challenge quality combined for a highly entertaining debut.
Episode 14: Fit to be tied
Published: May 29, 2018
Jeff Pitman takes a final look at Ghost Island's thrilling final vote, the winner, the runner up's missed fire-making decision, and gives a final verdict on the Ghost Island format.
Pre-Episode 14: Jury Jeopardy - S36
Published: May 21, 2018
The True Dork Times writers assemble once more to project the jury votes, while doing battle with scribes from other Survivor sites: InsideSurvivor, A Tribe of One, Purple Rock Podcast, and the RHAP bloggers. Who can boast the most votes noted for Ghost Island?
Episode 13: The case for no tribes (or one tribe)
Published: May 19, 2018
With a season built on smoke and mirrors slowly revealing its hype to be little more than a mirage, Jeff has: some complaints about Ghost Island and the post-merge narrative, a mini vidcap gallery, and... a proposed twist that could actually shake up the game.
Episode 12: Laurel's no-win situation
Published: May 12, 2018
Sometimes the best move is also the most boring one, even when it doesn't necessarily lead to a winning game. Why? Naviti Strong, mostly. Also: Suggestions to fix the Loved Ones visit rut, and a look ahead at the endgame.
Episode 11: Orange crushed
Published: May 5, 2018
Jeff explores how the Malolos still managed to snatch twin defeats out of the jaws of a golden opportunity for one or more successes, how an unseen player is somehow racking up big advanced scores, and how the numbers of votes, challenges won, and idols this season stack up historically.
Published: April 28, 2018
Jeff offers a plea to see jury members for more than one episode, some analysis of how Desiree's boot changes the game strategically, plus continuity errors and looming starvation. Hooray!
Episode 9: Malolo's abandoned last stand
Published: April 22, 2018
Although a much-maligned stick finally made good, the underdog Malolos still found a way to lose, mainly by not sticking together. Also, has the edit decided to just abandon strategists that don't hold idols? Spoiler: Yes.
Episode 8: Cheers to the merge episode
Published: April 17, 2018
Jeff praises the thoroughly entertaining Ghost Island merge episode's storytelling, explores the new Ghost Island curse, counts the historical happenings in Chris's boot, and looks ahead at future factions.
Published: April 9, 2018
With Ghost Island the season half over, Ghost Island the island has been a bit of a dud. So far, at least. Jeff offers four suggestions to dramatically improve it. Plus a fun dive into the numbers on the gender disparity in idol finds.
Episode 6: Outhugged, outpuzzled, outnumbered
Published: April 3, 2018
A random swap placed the six remaining Malolos in the worst position possible on all three new tribes, and unsurpisingly, the Malolo purge continued. Fittingly enough, on the new Malolo tribe. Bradley was right about the squalor!
Episode 5: The boring 20s
Published: March 25, 2018
The Malolo purge and Stephanie's ouster in Episode 5 of Ghost Island showed that if you remove idols from the equation, even superfans will revert to the most basic, boring of strategies. Plus the quest for prior Sebastians.
Episode 4: Idol power has its limits
Published: March 19, 2018
A dramatic Tribal Council still leaves James Clement's idols' vote-voiding totals at... zero. Even so, solid play, exciting challenges, and a compelling episode, even if the ending was disappointing. Also this week: Less talk, more vidcap gallery.
Episode 3: Depth perception
Published: March 13, 2018
Jeff praises Episode 3 of Ghost Island for finally connecting, from its rich collection of Survivor historical items, to its deep set of contestants. Also, an in-depth look at the timing of swaps, and appraisal of contestants' rising or fading chances.
Published: March 5, 2018
Jeff weighs the fumbles and improvements as Exile Island gets refurbished in more Ghost-ly raiments, laments the loss of a young superfan, praises the success of three older superfans, and ponders how far Donathan's star can rise, after the premiere of Ghost Island.
Pre-season: Idol and advantage creep: Creepy or Ghost-ly?
Published: February 27, 2018
As we are poised to enter a season in which the treasured relics of Survivors past are being repurposed and distributed in an idol-/advantage 24-hour superstore, Jeff Pitman asks how many idols and/or advantages is too many for a season? Will Survivor: Ghost Island give us that answer? Probably.
Pre-season: TDT Ghost Island contestant draft
Published: February 22, 2018
The True Dork Times writers (Andy Baker, Ben Martell, Dan Otsuki, Pat Ferrucci, Ryan Kaiser, and Jeff Pitman) assemble to draft fantasy teams of Ghost Island contestants, in an attempt to seize eternal* glory by having the team containing the winner. Unless one of the two undrafted players (Team Ghost) win, in which case everyone loses. (*Or until Fall of 2018, whichever comes first.)
Pre-season: Ghost Island contestant projections
Published: February 13, 2017
Once again, Jeff Pitman sifts through the bios, the videos, the interviews, the FOOs, and finds the Ghost Island contestants whose winning chances are Likely, Possible, Unlikely, and Impossible with this very young cast.
Pre-season: The Ivy lead - S36 edition
Published: February 5, 2018
Jeff Pitman updates his previous rankings of Ivy League schools by the number of Survivor contestants (and appearances) they have produced. No change at the top, but with the new Ghost Island cast, there's now a three-way tie at third.
Episode 14: Immunity vs. idols
Published: December 26, 2017
Jeff looks back on the competing gameplay styles in the Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers final Tribal Council showdown, the poorly handled twist that led to it, and the historic idol and immunity totals the season produced.
Episode 13: What do juries want?
Published: December 19, 2017
Jeff explores the potential Final Tribal Council arguments each of the five remaining players could put forth, with past precedents of winning games, as we enter the season finale of Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.
Pre-Episode 14: Jury Jeopardy - HvHvH
Published: December 18, 2017
The True Dork Times writers combine their predictive powers to forecast the voting preferences of the Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers jurors, with an eye to predicting the winner. And, of course, beating Inside Survivor, A Tribe of One, Purple Rock Podcast, and the RHAP bloggers at the same game.
Episode 12: Good play vs. good TV
Published: December 11, 2017
Jeff contrasts the competing interests of predictable, rational strategic play and surprising, watchable television moments. Followed by an in-depth examination of Lauren's and Ben's idols and vote-changing idol plays throughout Survivor history.
Episodes 10-11: The state of the final eight... er, seven
Published: December 5, 2017
With just three episodes of Heroes v Healers v Hustlers left and a number of plausible winner candidates, Jeff re-evaluates each remaining contender's chances of winning the game, based on their current résumés.
Episode 9: Fall o' the leaders?
Published: November 27, 2017
Jeff takes a critical eye to the emerging pattern of how seeming dominant at the merge of a three-tribe Survivor season can come at a huge cost, plus a look at Mike's idol play, Joe's game, Cole's challenge dominance, and some potential foreshadowing.
Episode 8: The spaghetti saga
Published: November 20, 2017
An appreciation of the superbly executed combination of twists that led to the sequential discovery and hiding of the immunity idol clue, and then the idol itself. Also a discussion of the changing narrators, the changing perspective of Devon, and the changing definition of an idol.
Episode 7: The downside of goats
Published: November 13, 2017
After a power-establishing Tribal Council capped off the pre-jury phase, Jeff looks at who's in charge, who made the right moves, asks how long the idol whisperer can last, and shows the merge wasn't early. With graphs. And vidcaps.
Episode 6: Tepid for now, heating later?
Published: November 6, 2017
Jeff takes stock of the state of the season through the pre-merge, and questions the naysayers who find it dull, especially in light of the potential conflagration looming after the tribes merge. Which may resemble less the three tribe names of the title, and more another hero-containing past one.
Episode 5: The mom and pop show
Published: October 30, 2017
A look at Ben's unexpectedly important moment, Chrissy's unexpectedly manipulative power plays, and where Roark's exit from her first Tribal Council falls on the leaderboard of late early boots. Plus a vidcap gallery!
Episode 4: Resetting the table
Published: October 25, 2017
Jeff breaks down a highly successful swap episode, looking at couples broken and united, Advantagegeddon redux, Joe's big idol playing game, and Mike's big game-playing streak.
Episode 3: Three is the tragic number
Published: October 16, 2017
In an attempt to diagnose the season's underwhelming start, Jeff zeroes in on three problems endemic to the three-tribe format, and offers tweaks to fix them. Also a defense of Patrick, a preview of the swap, and a fashionable vidcap gallery.
Episode 2: Signs point to the big three (or four)
Published: October 9, 2017
After just two episodes, Jeff takes a mostly over-extrapolated look at the contenders for winning Survivor: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers. Plus a vidcap gallery also about the number two.
Episode 1: Cramped, rushed, maybe some vomiting
Published: October 2, 2017
Jeff looks back at the premiere of Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers, and finds it mostly solid, albeit with an outsized focus on a twist that went nowhere, and a glaring deficit in focus on the booted player. To make up for that: A vidcap gallery.
Pre-season: TDT Survivor: HHH contestant draft
Published: September 22, 2017
Pre-season: Survivor: HHH cast projections
Published: September 18, 2017
Jeff Pitman's semi-annual inaccurate forecasting of each Survivor contestant's game-winning potential. This time: Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers.
Pre-season: The Ivy Lead - S35 edition
Published: August 30, 2017
Jeff Pitman continues compiling and graphing the appearances of Ivy League alumni on Survivor. Pretty much solely because of tradition.
Pre-season: How old is too old to win Survivor?
Published: August 16, 2017
Jeff Pitman looks at the relative paucity of older contestants in Seasons 35 & 36, and asks whether, historically, there is an age beyond which contestants have little chance of winning. Spoiler alert: The answer is yes.
Ep.14: Breaking Brad
Published: May 30, 2017
In his final look back at the season, Jeff questions the uneven narrative, praises Sarah's win, laments Cirie's ridiculous expulsion, evaluates the new jury format, and offers suggestions for future improvement.
Pre-Ep.14: Jury jeopardy S34
Published: May 23, 2017
The True Dork Times writers (Ben, Dan, Pat, Jeff) combine their prognosticatory powers to predict the outcome of the Game Changers jury vote. And beat RHAP, Inside Survivor, and Reality Blurred, of course.
Published: May 22, 2017
As the Survivor: Game Changers finale approaches, a look back at the pre-finale episode's tumultous advantage play and misplay, and how backloading most of the season's action into the final seven days limits strategic gameplay.
Ep.12: Back from the brink, maybe?
Published: May 15, 2017
With the finale two episodes away, Jeff questions the emerging Hero vs. Criminal narrative, whether the Legacy Advantage actually hurt Sierra, the Michaela/Tai new power couple, and the worst-case scenario for Game Changers.
Published: May 9, 2017
Jeff explores mutually assured strategist destruction, the numbers, and Sarah's army vs. Brad's army. If that's not depressing enough, there's also a vidcap gallery.
Ep.10: Playing like a Tony
Published: May 1, 2017
Jeff takes a deeper look at Sarah's game-changing decision, Debbie's exit, and Cirie's rewarding (sort of) moment in Episode 10, " A Line Drawn in Concrete," of Game Changers.
Eps.8-9: So who's in charge in here?
Published: April 24, 2017
Jeff looks at the panoply of emergent chiefs in the new Maku Maku tribe, that great Cirie-Michaela moment, Ozzy's record-setting exit, other sundry game changing, and more.
Ep.7: Losses and gains
Published: April 15, 2017
Jeff Pitman looks at the damage done in the awful Tribal Council from Episode 7 of Game Changers, but also at the potential good that did and can come from it. Plus a look ahead at the merge.
Ep.6: Viva la reina
Published: April 10, 2017
Jeff Pitman examines the career of Queen Sandra, the new Exile Yacht, Cochran, Debbie, Tai, and the rapidly metastasizing idols/advantages in Episode 6, "Vote Early, Vote Often," of Game Changers. Plus a vidcap gallery.
Ep.5: Is she acting?
Published: April 3, 2017
As Survivor the game has changed, so has Survivor the TV show. Except in this episode, which seems to have borrowed some of the worst (read: thespian) impulses of the All-Stars season.
Published: March 26, 2017
It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. But it didn't need to be. Jeff Pitman's lengthy dissection of all that's wrong with the two tribes, one vote twist.
Published: March 19, 2017
Jeff takes a look at the Goat Rehabilitation Program evident in Episode 3 of Game Changers, including actual goats, and also some older male returning Survivor players.
Eps.1-2: Marketing vs. gameplay
Published: March 14, 2017
Jeff looks at the two booted players from the premiere double episode of Survivor: Game Changers, and asks to what extent returning players can counteract their made-for-TV reputations.
Published: February 18, 2017
Jeff examines the 20 Game Changers players' chances of success, sorting them into four tiers of decreasing probability: Likely, Possible, Unlikely, and Impossible.
Published: February 13, 2017
Jeff gives you a head start to contemplating the many Survivor records that could fall during this all-returnee Game Changers season. From longevity to voting to idols to challenges to stuff you care even less about, probably.
Pre-season: We have to go back! But should we?
Published: January 8, 2017
Jeff Pitman runs the numbers to examine how returning Survivor contestants have performed in their second (or later) appearances, to answer whether it really is worth playing for (again). A cautionary tale in a mere six graphs. And one table.
Episode 14: Adam's evening
Published: December 20, 2016
Jeff Pitman takes a look back at Adam's deserving win, Hannah's and Ken's undershown games, some surprising numbers in not voting people out, and the overall success of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.
Pre-Episode 14: Jury jeopardy
Published: December 12, 2016
Jeff Pitman, Andy Baker, and Pat Ferrucci join the Survivor Blogoverse prediction game, facing off against their compatriots at Inside Survivor, Reality Blurred, and the RHAP blogs in trying to forecast the jury votes of Millennials vs. Gen X.
Episode 13: Fun, painful, beautiful, amazing
Published: December 9, 2016
Jeff Pitman examines the intersection of enthusiastic, good-spirited gameplay and touching personal drama that has elevated this season above standard reality-competition fare, as exemplified in Episode 13 of Millennials vs. Gen X.
Episode 12: From Adam to Zeke
Published: December 5, 2016
Jeff Pitman looks at the rise of Adam and the fall of Zeke, the curious case of Will, and the four leading contenders for the win after Episode 12 of Millennials vs. Gen X.
Episode 11: Wasted opportunity
Published: November 29, 2016
Jeff Pitman somehow finds things to complain about (but also praise, obviously) with the excellent double-episodes 10 & 11 of Millennials vs. Gen X. Plus vidcaps.
Episode 9: Game changers?
Published: November 21, 2016
Jeff Pitman examines three Survivor-altering developments you may have missed in Episode 9 of Millennials vs. Gen X. Plus vidcaps.
Episode 8: Heartwarming - The Millennials finally find their goat, then set him free
Published: November 13, 2016
Jeff Pitman explores the briefly interesting but ultimately underwhelming merge, the emerging goat, the live-grenade advantage, and the purple bootee from Episode 8 of Millennials vs. Gen X.
Episode 7: Smoked by Jay
Published: November 8, 2016
Jeff Pitman sorts through the blindside in Episode 7 of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, ponders the merge, then distracts you with vidcaps.
Game 7: The Cubs, stats, and Survivor
Published: November 6, 2016
Jeff Pitman basks in the reflected glory of a Cubs World Series win, and reflects on how watching every Cubs game one summer long ago was the reality TV of its time.
Episode 6: Free of shipping
Published: November 1, 2016
Jeff Pitman ponders showmances, Michaela's comparable players, and surprising strategists in Episode 6 of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. With requisite vidcaps.
Episode 5: Three strikes
Published: October 25, 2016
Jeff Pitman weighs (again) the pros and cons of Survivor's apparent infatuation with swapping into three tribes, as featured Episode 5 of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. Plus vidcaps, of course.
Episode 4: The Wright move
Published: October 17, 2016
Idols, idols everywhere (but no goats), as Jeff Pitman discusses their surprisingly effective discovery and use during Episode 4 of Millennials vs. Gen X. With vidcaps.
Episode 3: Summit of groans
Published: October 10, 2016
Jeff Pitman summarizes the risible summit (and associated detritus) from Episode 3 of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X in words, commentary, and of course, a vidcap gallery.
Episode 2: Love and doctors
Published: October 3, 2016
Jeff Pitman dives through the surprising Episode 2 of Millennials vs. Gen X, hooking rings on showmances, medical visits, idols, underperforming superfans, superperforming Michelles, and of course, the vidcap gallery.
Episode 1: A whirlwind of windbags
Published: September 26, 2016
Jeff Pitman's quick trip through the extended premiere of Millennials vs. GenX includes brief takes on the episode, theme, and standout contestants. And then, a triumphant (harrumphant?) return of the vidcap gallery.
Pre-season: Millennials vs. Gen X cast projections
Published: September 15, 2016
It's the semi-annual tradition that nobody anticipates, reads, or remembers, as Jeff Pitman assigns the contestants' million-dollar prospects to one four tiers of win likelihood: Likely, Possible, Unlikely, and Impossible. Again.
Published: May 20, 2016
Jeff Pitman's final look at Survivor: Kaoh Rong, taking note of the unnecessary twist and questionable outcome of the finale, and the occasionally regrettable reunion show.
Pre-Ep.14: Jury Jeopardy
Published: May 16, 2016
Jeff Pitman and Pat Ferrucci team up in an attempt to predict the likely votes of the Survivor: Kaoh Rong jury members.
Ep.13: Fate, swinging wildly
Published: May 15, 2016
Jeff looks at the rapidly shifting fortunes of the final five during Episode 13 of Survivor: Kaoh Rong, the likely trajectories of the final four.
Ep.12: The sky is not falling... yet
Published: May 8, 2016
Despite what everyone else seems to be saying, we still don't think Aubry has lost this game, nor has Michele won it. Yet.
Ep.11: Underplaying vs. overplaying
Published: May 2, 2016
Jeff delights in the contrast between Tai's cautious approach and Julia's aggressive gameplay, and their ultimate Tribal Council showdown, in Episode 11 of Survivor: Kaoh Rong.
Ep.10: Goliath falls
Published: April 23, 2016
Jeff Pitman looks in depth at the mammoth game move and epic betrayals within Episode 10 of Survivor: Kaoh Rong.
Ep.9: The bomb doors are closed
Published: April 17, 2016
Jeff revels in the highs and lows of the highly entertaining Episode 9 of Kaoh Rong. Did Cydney make the right move? Did Debbie? What's going on with Tai? Plus another vidcap gallery.
Ep.8: A (mostly) women's alliance actually worked (maybe)!
Published: April 11, 2016
Jeff Pitman looks at Cydney's girl-power power move from Episode 8 of Kaoh Rong. Can the women's alliance hold? Plus challenge-related stuff and another vidcap gallery.
Ep.7: Battle of the bulges
Published: April 2, 2016
Up is down, down is up, and a rising bulge takes Neal down, kneecapping what was building up to be an explosive merge vote on Episode 7 of Kaoh Rong.
Ep.6: Coming and going
Published: March 26, 2016
As the game shifts from tribal to individual, contestants and former tribes are waxing and waning in power and influence. We look at how things are changing in light of Peter's boot.
Ep.5: The poker player bluff
Published: March 20, 2016
After seeing Anna's surprisingly early exit from Kaoh Rong, Jeff Pitman wonders if maybe being a professional poker isn't as much of a Survivor advantage as we've been led to believe.
Ep.4: Pushed to the breaking point
Published: March 13, 2016
Without trying to assign blame, we look at the almost triple-medevac during Episode 4 of Survivor: Kaoh Rong, and suggest a few simple tweaks that might prevent a future recurrence.
Published: March 6, 2016
We celebrate the subterfuge both Debbie and Survivor itself pulled over on the Brains and the audience, respectively, by misdirecting attention away from Debbie's gameplay, in favor of her eccentricities. Also: updated win projections.
Ep.2: A light helping of blood and pathogens
Published: February 27, 2016
Survivor suddenly remembers that humor and endearing characters can leaven what otherwise would be a sodden loaf of blood-streaked trees, fighting about aquatic pathogens, and arguing about who's lying. And it was good.
Ep.1: Embracing the darkest timeline
Published: February 21, 2016
Maybe likable contestants going out early and everyone else nearly dying from the horrendous conditions could actually be a good thing? We investigate.
Pre-season: Kaoh Rong cast projections
Published: February 9, 2016
Jeff Pitman dons his sorting hat and assigns the contestants' million-dollar prospects to one four houses of win likelihood: Likely, Possible, Unlikely, and Impossible. Actual mileage may vary.
Episode 14: Bayon strongest
Published: December 20, 2015
The Cambodia finale started with one of the strangest Tribals ever, and ended with one of the finest final Tribal speeches ever, followed by a 10-0-0 shutout win. An emotional, enriching end to an amazing season.
Episode 13: Whose wee rains supreme?
Published: December 12, 2015
Thanks to the majority making the correct decision this week, with just one episode left, Cambodia - Second Chance is poised to produce a combative, compelling finale. A fitting end to a great season.
Episode 12: Challenge-ing
Published: November 30, 2015
One challenge beast is knocked out, but several remain to take his place, in an emotional episode of Cambodia - Second Chance.
Episodes 10-11: Big movement
Published: November 30, 2015
A powerful one-two punch in the overstuffed Thanksgiving Eve double episodes 10-11 of Survivor: Cambodia-Second Chance.
Episode 9: Soggy, but passable
Published: November 21, 2015
Between debilitating downpours, some solid strategy and interesting twists kept Episode 9 of Cambodia - Second Chance afloat.
Episode 8: Despicable, but also delectable
Published: November 16, 2015
At the risk of affirming the wisdom of Kat Edorsson, maybe blindsides are fun, after all. At least for the viewers. Regardless, this episode certainly was, from start to tuk-tuk to -3 finish.
Episode 7: A muddled puddle of prior infractions
Published: November 6, 2015
For a season that never lets you forget it's about Second Chances, and an episode that billed itself as 'Play to Win,' Cambodia's merge episode seemed to be more about playing it safe and punishing people for their actions during their first chance.
Episode 6: Earned tears in a reverse family visit
Published: October 31, 2015
In which Jeff Pitman found Episode 6 of Survivor: Cambodia - Second Chance to be distressing, but also, in embracing that second chances don't always work out, one of the series' best.
Episode 5: Yay, blindside (except for the audience)
Published: October 23, 2015
Survivor produced an enjoyable episode for a (recent) change, even if the allegedly surprising boot was telegraphed almost from the opening recap.
Episode 4: Is this season actually good?
Published: October 16, 2015
Maybe it's too soon to pass judgment, but we're really starting to wonder when the fun will start on Cambodia - Second Chance. It has to be soon, right?
Episode 3: Vidcap gallery
Published: October 12, 2015
Why did we post this? Because we did.
Episode 3: When three is less than two
Published: October 10, 2015
Jeff Pitman poses the heretical idea that while there were certainly some positive developments to emerge from the tribal swap, maybe three tribes isn't always the greatest thing to happen to Survivor.
Episode 2: Tyranny of the Majority
Published: October 2, 2015
Jeff Pitman looks at the crushing of the superfan strategists, both in the game and in the editing. And why do the Old School players get to play a cutthroat strategic game while claiming otherwise?
Episode 1: V is for Voted out
Published: September 25, 2015
Jeff Pitman finds much to praise in Cambodia's first episode, from hard-charging contestants to surprisingly compelling challenges and idol placements. And #Joega. Obviously #Joega.
Pre-season: TDT Second Chance Voter's Guide
Published: May 8, 2015
Jeff Pitman looks through the 32 one-time contestants on the fan ballot for Second Chance, and sorts them into three tiers of decreasing necessity of receiving votes: The Must-Haves, the Would-Be-Goods, and the Ehs.
Episode 14: The Lone Star
Published: May 22, 2015
In which your boy Tex (Mike) puts on a show in the final episode, sweeping three challenges and taking 6 of 8 jury votes to win Worlds Apart. Just like you had probably guessed, but feared he wouldn't.
Episode 13: The Final Coutndown
Published: May 15, 2015
An exciting, highly anticipated battle between the Extra Vote Advantage and a Hidden Idol turns out to be a blowout, but at least a blowhard is now out.
Episode 12: Filler
Published: May 12, 2015
A mostly unobjectionable episode of Worlds Apart, padded with objectionable objections, followed by a mostly unobjectionable player getting the boot. Next.
Episode 11: The Comeback (Almost)
Published: May 1, 2015
All of a sudden, Survivor: Worlds Apart remembers that it's about hope, and playing a game, and hope, and even though it didn't work out, hope.
Episode 10: Adequate, Forgettable, Occasionally Regrettable
Published: April 24, 2015
But for a single, laudable act of defiance, Survivor: Worlds Apart becomes nearly unwatchable, as production tries to make everyone even more miserable than they already are.
Episode 9: Dyin' on the Edge
Published: April 17, 2015
It was the worst of times, it was... oh wait, it could have been even worse, due to a quit! If you and your "best season ever" claims don't start making sense, we're going to put you in a home.
Episode 8: Waiting for the Tone Atonement
Published: April 12, 2015
In which Survivor decides to obfuscate an obvious boot by dipping its toe in a pool of misogyny, then wallowing for a while. Which has to be rectified soon, right? Right?
Episode 7: Gripping Polls
Published: April 4, 2015
Idols and poles and buffs that are black but claim to be purple and they called the merge tribe what? Worlds Apart kicked into a higher gear at the merge, and seems poised to keep going.
Episode 6: Brpwned
Published: March 27, 2015
As things to start to pick up with the merge approaching, we look at redemption arcs, challenges, and the lingering scourge of One World. Let us all hope for a better future.
Episodes 4&5: Nerds!
Published: March 22, 2015
A troubling tone and a massively imbalanced swap made for a double feature that was far from featureless, but still not as perfect as the hype had suggested. Even so, the embers have been stoked, and an exciting bonfire looms ahead. Maybe.
Episode 3: The Trouble with Treble
Published: March 13, 2015
Jeff considers the heretical idea that maybe, just maybe, three tribes isn't always such a great thing on Survivor, presenting Episode 3 of Worlds Apart as a prime example. May God's beard smite him.
Episode 2: Free Blurred
Published: March 6, 2015
In which Jeff objects not to the nudity per se, but to nudity for the sake of (blur-tastic) screen time. And wonders why so many of the pre-season favorites' games suddenly seem to be going off the rails.
Episode 1: Fans vs. Production
Published: February 27, 2015
Jeff takes a look at Worlds Apart's premiere episode, and finds it... in that oddly shaped tree over there. No, it's good. He finds it good. Also, the traditional re-assessment of the cast after seeing what they actually do and how they're edited.
Pre-season: A Farewell to Ads? Not So Fast...
Published: February 17, 2015
With a week to go until the premiere, Jeff takes a (spoiler-free, if you wish) look at CBS's ad campaign for Survivor: Worlds Apart, and what is says about the cast and season.
Pre-season: Worlds Beyond the Usual Mactorfest
Published: February 11, 2015
Using the tiny amount of information available (Cast bios, 2-minute videos, Gordon Holmes's interviews) Jeff ranks the contestants of Worlds Apart in decreasing order of chances to win. Sorry.
Ep.14: Natalie Wins? You Don't Say...
Published: December 20, 2014
In which Jeff recaps the San Juan del Sur finale and reunion show, praises the winner, and re-evaluates the two major twists of the season, neither of which he hopes to see again any time soon.
Ep.13: A move, singular
Published: December 12, 2014
Oh, San Juan del Sur. We can't stay mad at you. Not when you have a delectable actual blindside that makes you temporarily exciting!
Ep.11-12: The Little Engine that Couldn't
Published: December 6, 2014
Jeff looks back at the double episode of San Juan del Sur, and finds something decidedly lacking: Successful, interesting strategy. But hey, lots of idols, though.
Ep.10: Second-string showdown? Not so fast...
Published: November 29, 2014
In which we praise the performance of the former lieutenants (Reed and Natalie), while lamenting Reed's great plan was surrounded and drowned by a flood of heavily prompted idols.
Ep.9: The Reed wedding
Published: November 21, 2014
In which we appreciate Survivor's pulling off a shocking boot, with another power shift, yet mourn the strategic (and narrative) consequences.
Ep.8: A herd of goats
Published: November 15, 2014
As the showdown between Josh and Jeremy claims the former as its victim, Jeff looks ahead and sees naught but a sea of caprine mediocrity (plus Jeremy). Probably.
Ep.7: Great expectorations
Published: November 7, 2014
It's the merge episode! Where Survivor finally starts being Survivor! Except that didn't happen, obviously. Oh well. So uh, what other exciting events can we look forward to over the next six weeks?
Ep.6: Everything's coming up Missy
Published: November 1, 2014
As we bid good riddance to the Coyopa tribe and look ahead to the merge, we take a moment to note the almost complete reversal Missy's edit took this week. While, as usual, complaining about Probst.
Ep.5: Fans vs. emotion
Published: October 27, 2014
In which we try to make sense of a somewhat muddled, emotion-filled, strategically suspect vote that followed a tribal swap that seemed exciting at first, but progressively less so as the episode wore on.
Ep.4: Strategy vs. comedy
Published: October 17, 2014
Sure, this episode was a laff-fest, but did it have to be just that? We (try to) argue that Survivor is better when it aims for three dimensions to its characters instead of just two.
Published: October 12, 2014
John Rocker is gone, but not without a hero/martyr edit that belies his middling-at-best gameplay and CBS's own pre-season ads. Eh, we'll still take it.
Ep.2: A melodramatic lose-fest
Published: October 5, 2014
It's still early, and there's still time to recover, but we're already worried that San Juan del Sur may have some serious structural problems. Our diagnosis and suggested remedies... after the jump.
Ep.1: The reset button
Published: September 26, 2014
Did we say there were no likely winners in our pre-season cast assessment? How silly of us. Can we have a do-over? No? Well, tough. You're getting one, anyway. You're welcome.
Preseason: San Juan del Sur cast analysis
Published: September 12, 2014
An in-depth evaluation of each contestant's chances of winning Survivor: San Juan del Sur, in which players are sorted into four tiers of descending probability (Likely, Possible, Unlikely, Impossible). Spoiler alert: There are no Likelies.
Ep.14: It's Cagay-ON, not Cagay-YAWN
Published: May 27, 2014
We look back, mostly fondly, on the finale, season as a whole, and the final four contestants. And, of course, take issue with Probst's confounding defense of the Special Idol.
Ep.13: Har, thee mud
Published: May 18, 2014
With one episode left, an individual reward challenge appears, pizza disappears, and so does Trish. But in her departure, the game has once again been thrown open, with several people now having a chance to win.
Ep.12: Crouching idols, hidden typhoon
Published: May 9, 2014
In which Jeff Pitman assesses the challenges, rewards, and punishments of the next-to-penultimate episode of the season, with 50% less yelling and arguing than in the actual show. But with the same amount of untelevised rain.
Ep.11: Previously ruined on... Survivor
Published: May 2, 2014
If you thought the Special Idol was not enough clue-ing and digging and finding and protecting, boy, were you in for a treat this week! Also, people bought surprisingly cheap food, Spencer almost got screwed, and Tasha reigned supreme over tilting tables of wood. Woo!
Ep.10: Letters from Tyler Perry
Published: April 24, 2014
This was a very special episode of Survivor: Cagayan. One in which we finally learned what spy shacks are for (spying on your alliancemate, who leaves then returns to the fold, like magic), that steps are slippery, and that balls drop. Also some shiny idol was found.
Ep.9: Stood up, fallen down
Published: April 18, 2014
Cagayan takes a darker turn, as Tony makes a move against one of his close allies, seizing apparent control of the game. Jeff looks at the move, the challenges that preceded it, and how the edit partially gave away the outcome.
Ep.8: Portents and fortunes
Published: April 13, 2014
Jeff looks at how "Mad Treasure Hunt" may have hinted at the outcome of the game for most of the remaining players, except the ones the episode ignored, which would be several of them. Less reading for you!
Ep.7: Same vs. the other one
Published: April 4, 2014
Jeff recaps "Head of the Snake," the tumultuous merge episode (Ep.7) of Survivor: Cagayan. As you might guess, much is made of the twists and turns during Tribal Council, but there may be something that surprises you.
Ep.6: Ow! Quit it
Published: March 28, 2014
Jeff recaps "We Found Our Zombies," the final pre-merge episode (Ep.6) of Survivor: Cagayan. It had a quit, it had two more challenge losses by the former Brains tribe members. It had a previously invisible Beauty getting the axe. But hey: merge is coming next week!
Ep.5: Fractured (like chandeliers)
Published: March 21, 2014
Jeff recaps "Odd One Out," the swap-containing Episode 5 of Survivor: Cagayan. As expected, the newly reassigned tribes deliver exciting new dynamics as alliances arise and recede, rent asunder by fate's churning tides. Or something like that.
Ep.4: Having a ball
Published: March 14, 2014
Jeff recaps "Our Time to Shine," the final act of the Luzon tribe, or Episode 4 of Survivor: Cagayan. Oh, J'Tia, is there anything you can't do wrong in challenges? Also: blindfolded people getting smacked in the crotch by 2x4s! What could possibly go wrong?
Ep.3: Beauty fades
Published: March 7, 2014
Jeff recaps "Cops-R-Us," the sodden third episode of Survivor: Cagayan. Water, water, everywhere. In the shelters, over the idols, splashing over the challenge competitors. But when it comes to the Beauty tribe, barely a drop to think.
Ep.1-2: We put the 'lose' in Luzon
Published: February 28, 2014
Jeff recaps "Hot Girl with a Grudge," the two-hour premiere of Survivor: Cagayan. It was the worst of times, it was the even worster of times for the Brains tribe, but one of best of times for the audience. Mostly. Praise and pans for strategy, challenges, and the show as a whole.
Pre-season: Cagayan cast analysis
Published: February 13, 2014
Jeff projects the chances of success of the 18 new contestants, sorting them into four tiers of likelihood to win Survivor: Cagayan - likely, possible, unlikely, and impossible. Sorry. On the plus side, only a few seem like bottom-tier material this season.
Episode 14: Fun-loving
Published: December 18, 2013
It wasn't a coronation. It was a man-tiaranation. That's a thing, apparently. A worthy end to a worthwhile season, and a reunion show that somehow managed once again to fit everyone on the stage. Imagine that.
Episode 13: No redemption value
Published: December 13, 2013
What should have been a slam-dunk for Tyson, Gervase, and Monica very nearly turned into a flip, due to the aggressive misinformation campaign Hayden and Ciera put into effect. A noble attempt at forestalling a predictable outcome.
Episode 12: Whiteout
Published: December 6, 2013
This was a top-notch episode of Survivor, powered by Hayden's precedent-defying drive to rock the vote and save himself from elimination. It worked, despite CBS's best efforts to give away the climactic surprise in its weekend ads.
Episode 11: Sketchy
Published: November 30, 2013
This one was the Tyson Show from start to finish (with guest appearances by Hayden and Ciera). Which means, obviously, that it was funny and lighthearted while also being solid on the strategy. It had idols, flips, feasts, and blisters. Yay.
Episode 10: Loud family
Published: November 22, 2013
Blood vs. Water returned to form this week. Slick moves sprang from previously untapped sources, personal hashtags continued to blossom, and most importantly, the show took the time to explore the core connections between its three sets of still-paired contestants.
Episode 9: Filler
Published: November 15, 2013
Bleah. Two challenges, both of which involved standing in one place. Two of the season's better players, predictably axed for being in the wrong alliance. Although hints of fluidity within the majority alliance might suggest hope for the future.
Episode 8: Showdown, bro down
Published: November 8, 2013
As the merge takes out a Baskauskas brother, we look at the prospects of other remaining couples and single players heading into the endgame, with notes on which players have improved, surprised, and disappointed the most so far.
Episode 7: Midway mayday?
Published: November 1, 2013
At the exact halfway point in the season, Jeff looks at where Blood vs. Water has succeeded, where it needs work, and where it's beyond help. Luckily, the first area is the most populous.
Episode 6: Monica and the bandit
Published: October 25, 2013
Despite a swap, this one felt a little flat. Maybe it was that Kat had no story line whatsoever until this episode, so her boot lacked emotional weight, or meaning. It was still good Survivor, but it felt like it could have been better.
Episode 5: Too many Lauras
Published: October 18, 2013
A bit uneven, from a solid, nail-biter duel (two puzzles!) that led to a disappointing, purely luck-based immunity challenge. Some more great strategic thinking, padded out with obvious, time-killing filler (and yet, no room for an intro). Yet as a whole, we regret nothing.
Episode 4: Thank you, Brad Culpepper!
Published: October 11, 2013
Another well-done episode, including a big move that took down a big character. As the number of intact pairs dwindles, the drama at Redemption Island may soon taper off. But for now, we're surprisingly content with this season's content.
Episode 3: F*** you, Brad Culpepper!
Published: October 4, 2013
This episode delivered the intended conflict between strategy and emotion, particularly in the ratcheting up of hurt feelings at Redemption Island, and in the one-on-one conflicts of the reward/immunity challenge, despite stumbling a bit towards the end.
Episode 2: Less than the sum of its parts
Published: September 27, 2013
Episode 2 of Blood vs. Water featured a lot of what should have been Big Events, but somehow, almost all of them fell flat. Jeff explores where the stumbles occurred, and sees potential for better outcomes ahead.
Episode 1: Logic vs. emotion
Published: September 19, 2013
Despite his pre-season misgivings, Jeff agrees the Blood vs. Water format worked exceedingly well in the premiere episode, "Blood is Thicker than Anything." Jeff discusses the highlights (new strategy dynamics) and lowlights (ugh, Redemption Island).
Pre-season: Discussion and analysis
Published: August 28, 2013
An analysis of the pre-season ads and previews, in order to make predictions about the outcome of the twists and turns of the opening episode(s) of Blood vs. Water. May contain potential spoilers.
Episodes 13-14: All fall down
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 14, 2021
Natalie White won Survivor: Samoa in a landslide jury victory, but the show's refusal to even attempt to explain why, and instead embrace Russell Hantz's 'this game is flawed' mantra, remains a dark mark on the season. But they did it, and it's done, and at least it's over.
Episodes 11-12: Slipping away
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 2, 2021
As Survivor: Samoa speeds through the Pagonging of Galu in Episodes 11-12, it also locks in the fates of the Foa Foas not at Team Yellow's core: Jaison and Mick. They're aware of the problem, but there's also very little they can do. So as with Galu, nothing happens. But at least the recap episode wasn't terrible.
Episodes 9-10: Idols ascendant
By Jeff Pitman | Published: February 25, 2021
The crux of Survivor: Samoa, the point at which the balance of power flips from Galu to Foa Foa, comes in Episodes 9 and 10. First Russell Hantz plays his idol correctly, idoling out Kelly Sharbaugh, then Laura Morett fails to win immunity, freeing up Shambo to officially flip (and Fincher to follow her). Hantz finds two idols in this span, the first with extremely suspect provenance, but in the end, it's not the idols that are interesting, it's that people are finally willing to look past original tribe alliances.
Episodes 7-8: The bounce-back
By Jeff Pitman | Published: February 8, 2021
The fate of the Foa Foa tribe feels its grimmest at the end of Episode 7 of Survivor: Samoa, but the foursome somehow find a way to avoid receiving votes at the next episode's merge Tribal Council, despite none of them being immune. It's the start of a reversal of fortunes, and it happens despite all Russell's schemes falling flat, him misplaying an idol, and being out of the loop as the merge boot was set up.
Episodes 3-4: Rise above, we're gonna rise above
By Jeff Pitman | Published: January 30, 2021
There are good and bad aspects to Survivor: Samoa's second pair of episodes: On the one hand, nearly all the time spent with Galu is delightful, which is good, because they're the focus of Episode 4. Unfortunately, while there's a great story in Episode 3, as Jaison demands that Ben be booted, the show chooses to smother that in unnecessary (and inaccurate) deification of Russell Hantz.
Episodes 5-6: The storm
By Jeff Pitman | Published: February 4, 2021
There's a dark cloud hanging over Episodes 5-6 of Survivor: Samoa, one filled with foreboding for Galu. But also, mostly, rain. Almost all of which ends up on the contestants, crippling the first episode's post-IC scrambling, then taking away one contestant's shot at the game in the next episode. A look at what Survivor learned from this, and what could have been.
Episodes 3-4: Rise above, we're gonna rise above
By Jeff Pitman | Published: January 30, 2021
There are good and bad aspects to Survivor: Samoa's second pair of episodes: On the one hand, nearly all the time spent with Galu is delightful, which is good, because they're the focus of Episode 4. Unfortunately, while there's a great story in Episode 3, as Jaison demands that Ben be booted, the show chooses to smother that in unnecessary (and inaccurate) deification of Russell Hantz.
Episodes 1-2: Welcome to Hantzvision
By Jeff Pitman | Published: January 23, 2021
There's a lot going on in the first two episodes of Survivor: Samoa: picking tribal chiefs, a hero challenge, two immunities, an idol find. Unfortunately for the season, almost all of that action is shown from the perspective of one person: Russell Hantz. We do get occasional efforts to also show the Galu tribe (a.k.a. Shambo and a bunch of people who aren't Shambo), but it's mostly Hantz. So here's an effort to try to deduce/ reconstruct what we missed.
Episodes 12-13: Burning down the house
By Jeff Pitman | Published: January 5, 2021
Rather than a celebration of strategic gameplay, the final two episodes of Survivor: Gabon are a full-voiced repudiation of it, with both vote-receiving finalists strangely touting their lack of a résumé, and jurors attacking the third for making moves (which she paradoxically also does as she targets others). It's weird, it's loud, it's confusing. But at least it's over.
Episodes 9-11: Arts and crafts time with Bob Crowley
By Jeff Pitman | Published: December 24, 2020
Episodes 9-11 of Survivor: Gabon contain the death throes of the Onion alliance, but they're also finally a showcase for Bob Crowley. Which is good, since he does end up winning this thing. He's far from a master strategist, but he's an idol-making (faking) machine, and that saves this stretch.
Episodes 7-8: Onions undone by twists and poor decisions
By Jeff Pitman | Published: December 14, 2020
The crux of the game for Survivor: Gabon takes place in Episodes 7 and 8. Three boots, two big blindsides, a fake merge, an abandoned idol, and the permanent collapse of the formerly dominant Onion alliance. Bad decisions in Ep7 led to Crystal outplaying Marcus strategically, and sending him to the jury.
Episodes 5-6: The elephant in the room
By Jeff Pitman | Published: December 6, 2020
Episodes 5 to 6 are among Survivor: Gabon's grimmest, as Fang keeps losing, and also keeps failing to do anything about Sugar's idol. Worst of all, it's just boring. But hey, at least there's an elephant.
Episodes 3-4: Doing their best, despite...
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 29, 2020
For Survivor: Gabon's second pair of episodes, balance comes to Gabon, in the form of Fang briefly not sucking, an idol find, and a tribe swap (after which Fang resumes sucking). Strategic decisions are made, and even if they end up not being optimal, at least they're trying. It's the most we can ask.
Episodes 1-2: Yea, though I walk through the valley of death...
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 23, 2020
Gabon's opening two hours take some good steps forward for the show, mostly in the area of being high-definition. It's otherwise a fairly pedestrian assortment of poor production choices, a cast with spotty interest in playing the game, and a location that doesn't quite work as advertised.
Episode 10: The James blindside
Published: February 27, 2018
Historically, James Clement's blindside in Episode 10 of Survivor: China has been viewed as a catastrophic mistake by James. In retrospect, however, just about everyone playing made a ridiculous error of some kind in this episode. If anything, it was a collective fail.
Episode 8-9: Swim or sink
Published: February 21, 2018
Survivor: China's Episodes 8-9 mark the last good chance of the Zhan Hus turning the tide against Todd's alliance. They seem to come dangerously close, and then everything collapses, and the rest of the season is pretty much coasting for the Fei Longs. Jeff explores parallels to other seasons, and an underrated departing juror.
Episode 5-7: Crime and punishment
Published: January 29, 2018
Survivor: China's Episodes 5-7 serve as a mini-Survivor morality play, all about the inherent sinfulness of throwing an immunity challenge, even when everything works out exactly as planned. The swap, its fallout, and the merge vote serve as the fall of Zhan Hu, who obviously must be punished for their heresy.
Episodes 3-4: The leader curse
Published: January 22, 2018
Jeff explores the themes in Survivor: China's Episodes 3-4, a two-episode arc of people getting booted after being kidnapped, and leaders being removed. Also Jean-Robert going from full villain to surprise hero, and other general oddness.
Episodes 1-2: Shining through the mud
Published: January 18, 2018
In re-watching the first two episodes of Survivor: China 10 years after their original airing, Jeff Pitman finds the characters and location really hold up, except maybe for the excessive amounts of mud.
Episodes 13-14: The king of Fiji receives his crown
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 11, 2020
There's a lot going on in the final two episodes of Survivor: Fiji, but they contain the complete story of the Yau-Man/ Dreamz truck deal, and put some finishing flourishes on Earl's unanimous victory. It's the hero story of Earl Cole, king of Fiji. It's also the tragedy of Dreamz, consumed by the game.
Episodes 11-12: Here's where the Pagonging comes in
By Jeff Pitman | Published: November 1, 2020
Back-to-back viewing of Fiji's merge episode with the Edgardo boot in Episode 10 cushions the over-produced merge's production meddling with the satisfying, player-driven season highlight of the fall of the Horsemen, one of the show's best episodes.
Episodes 9-10: Twists on twists, and Horsemen dismissed
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 26, 2020
As we wind our way to the final pair of Fiji episodes, it's understandable that every episode pair can't be a home run. Here in Episodes 11 and 12, the remnants of the Horsemen are slowly being dispatched, and there's not much they can do about it. Sadly, an idol sits there, waiting to be found, but it isn't. Oh well.
Episodes 7-8: New Ravu, same results
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 20, 2020
The post-swap dawdling allows each idol to be found, but also puts the new Ravu on a familiar path: The hike to Tribal Council. Still, Yau-Man gets his turtle and single-handedly beats Ravu, and the merge is nigh. Things are looking up.
Episodes 5-6: Mistreatment
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 16, 2020
Episodes 5 and 6 are Survivor: Fiji at its grimmest: Bullies running rampant, toxic masculinity, no women whatsoever, and half-starved Ravus failing due to physical and mental fatigue. But it's also the start of the reversal of fortunes, as the swap brings relief to a fortunate few.
Episodes 3-4: Eating their own
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 10, 2020
Survivor: Fiji's second pair of episodes finds the two tribes on completely opposite trajectories, but somehow ending up even in numbers at 7-7. Ravu is riven by division, mostly driven by Rocky. Moto is coasting on a fluffy bed and giant platters of fish and rice, but still loses Gary to a medevac, then opts to abdicate immunity and boot another. Some themes remain, though: the Earl vs. Dreamz parallels by contrast, and the rapidly dwindling number of women.
Episodes 1-2: The king of Fiji
By Jeff Pitman | Published: October 5, 2020
In contrast to Survivor: Marquesas's editorial concealment of its future winner for much of the season, Survivor: Fiji's king is omnipresent in its first two episodes. In fact, the season does an outstanding job of building compelling, three-dimensional characters out if its contestants ... as long as they're men.
Episodes 13-14: Straight to the top
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 23, 2021
The final two episodes of Survivor: Palau play out in precisely the way you would have expected: Tom wins three immunities, the people who aren't Ian and Katie are voted out, and then Tom wins the jury vote vs. Katie. There are a few bumps along the way, but it's as expected. Here's a look back at his win and the season.
Episodes 11-12: You wanted strategy? We'll make you pay
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 19, 2021
The thing to remember about Survivor: Palau is, despite the social-strategic game the show has belatedly embraced, it always wanted to be this type of season: One in which an alpha-male leader is good in challenges, and people just let him stick around and win because he's so awesome. That appears to be the only explanation for the unforced errors by people not named Tom in Episodes 11-12.
Episodes 9-10: The case for Coby
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 13, 2021
As the (non-) merge comes and goes on Survivor: Palau, things are changing: Stephenie is now on Koror! Everything else, though, is pretty much the same. Tom's group stays in charge, the people on the bottom of Koror are voted out or are encouraged to quit. There are probably other plans going on, but you really have to dig to find or remember them.
Episodes 7-8: So long, Ulong (at long last)
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 7, 2021
It's over. It's finally over. The long, slow decimation of Ulong comes to its inevitable conclusion in Episodes 7-8 of Survivor: Palau. Sadly, this drawn-out execution comes across on TV as, well, long and slow. Koror scores a clean sweep of tribal immunity. Yay. But at least the actual game can start now, right?
Episodes 5-6: The roads not taken
By Jeff Pitman | Published: April 5, 2021
Ulong continues its downward trajectory in Episodes 5-6 of Survivor: Palau, and as time wears on, it becomes clear there's little chance of production stepping in with a swap (or even a merge) to bail them out. What were the costs of these production decisions? And what did production hope to gain?
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 28, 2021
By the end of Episode 4 of Survivor: Palau, the Ulong tribe is down, but not yet completely out. In fact, they matched up really well against Koror over the second pair of episodes, it's just everything that could break against them did. And when their thrilling comeback in the Ep4 IC fell just short, that may have been the actual end for Ulong.
Episodes 1-2: Jumping right in
By Jeff Pitman | Published: March 24, 2021
Survivor: Palau is known for a lot of things — picturesque islands, colorful characters, a hapless tribe of youngsters, a heroic FDNY firefighter four years after 9/11 — but most of all, Palau is a season where production's choices, actions and inactions, visibly shape the outcome of the season. That all begins in the premiere.
Episode 13: Survivor's season of self-loathing
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 23, 2020
Survivor: Marquesas's final episode has a lot of big reveals: A purple rock, the season's victor, and the fact that this winner — Vecepia — had a season-long strategy that was almost entirely edited out, in favor of 'honesty and integrity' or something. Luckily, the jury (narrowly) pulled the correct rock.
Episode 12: Starvation inaction
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 18, 2020
The penultimate episode of Marquesas is a bit of a cautionary tale: against intentionally starving the contestants, against winning a car (with no food), and apparently against playing Survivor, which alleged hero Paschal views as diabolical.
Episodes 9-11: Who are these people?
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 18, 2020
After the fall of the Rotu Four, Marquesas lags a bit as the remainders of that alliance are slowly dispatched. There are still some bright spots, but the lack of character development for the departing contestants removes any real sense of connection.
Episode 8: Cutting the rope
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 12, 2020
This is it, one of the most important episodes in Survivor history, in which a ragtag group of underdogs assembles across original tribal lines to finally topple a dominant majority alliance. And the person the show gives the bulk of the credit to is, of course, the actual villain of the season, who almost blocked it. Also, despite being a key part of the plan, the ultimate winner was for some reason excised by the editors.
Episodes 6-7: I'm not here to play the game
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 8, 2020
The last pre-merge and merge episodes of Marquesas show an interesting juxtaposition, with consecutive boots of someone loudly not playing the game, and someone aggressively overplaying. The latter clearly establishes the model for future Survivor gameplay, but in retrospect, did his later win really change anything? Or was it just a more successful version of what stopped him here?
Episodes 3-5: The rise and fall and rise of Maraamu
By Jeff Pitman | Published: September 5, 2020
In these three episodes, we see Boston Rob's first Big Move (blindsiding Hunter), a big move by production (a swap that Probst swears was already planned), and the beginning of the implosion of the previously unbreakable Rotus. There are some bright spots, some questionable choices, and one really ugly confessional by the guy CBS promptly annointed as the face of the franchise.
Episodes 1-2: Back to the beach once more
By Jeff Pitman | Published: August 30, 2020
Marquesas was a major transitional season for Survivor, as a plucky band of underdogs showed that you don't have to stick with original-tribe alliances, and if they stuck together, they could seize power for themselves. It also featured the show's first Black winner, and the first two episodes both explore race and exploit it for cheap narrative shortcuts. It's a mixed bag, but still an important edition, even with 2020 hindsight.