We've gone through this before, but Episode 12 (and 13) is where the balance comes due for Survivor's idiotic crusade to make this season "mOrE aBoUt ReAl SuRviVaL!" It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.
It's Day 34. The entire Soliantu tribe is so lethargic they can barely move. Paschal and Kathy compare notes about having a constant mental fog. Sean can't even muster the energy to think about what happens if Person A vs. Person B wins immunity. Paschal can't stand up without feeling dizzy. Most of the tribe just spends the day sprawled out in the dirt.
They give confessional after confessional about their starvation level and their inability to perform even basic functions. So what does Survivor roll out for the Episode 12 reward challenge? A super-challenge, requiring lots of running around (Paschal walks) and mental acuity. And the reward? Surely a massive feast, to give everyone much-needed energy boost, right? Nope. A Saturn VUE. Not one with a picnic for the winner and a couple of guests stashed in the back, mind you. Just an SUV. On a barge. That Sean can have when he gets home.
Here's Vee's face when Probst chipperly suggests these starving people should be excited about taking a second crack at some of these challenges they've already done ... in exchange for [*checks notes*] no food.
The last food reward was way back in Episode 10, when Paschal won, and Neleh brought her mint back. There was no merge feast (although Boston Rob and Kathy had a night of pizza and beer as "ambassadors"). There was no loved ones feast. So the only food rewards since Day 20 have been: a Snickers bar (which Kathy shared with 8 other people), Sean and Paschal's horseback/ Marquesan village feast, and the yacht reward. Paschal ate twice, Sean once, Neleh once, Kathy once. Vee has received no outside food whatsoever, except her portion of the pocketsful of food that Sean and Paschal smuggled back and split eight ways, way back on Day 25.
These people are slowly starving to death. It's not fun to watch. It's not entertaining. Paschal will himself collapse from malnutrition shortly after leaving the game on Day 37 in the next episode, and require medical attention.
Nobody is pulling off Big Moves™, because they can barely move themselves. Please remember this the next time someone complains that "They get too much food nowadays! It's not about real survival any more!" Nobody is actually entertained by real survival, because this is what it looks like: A bunch of maybe corpses.
Paschal and Neleh are *not* in an alliance, how dare you?
With everybody so physically depleted they can hardly move, the only way to fill time is to dig up the old chestnut of Paschal hating Survivor and anyone who's "playing the game," while also playing it himself. He also preaches constantly to anyone who'll listen about "honesty and integrity."
It's a bizarre, pound-your-head-against-the-wall position, one that makes no sense to modern audiences, and really probably only made sense to Paschal himself, who as an old White guy from Georgia, probably subscribes to the modern conservative position of "If I do something, it's necessarily right and good, and if anyone else does the same thing, it's wrong."
Up until Tribal Council, we repeatedly hear that Paschal does *not* have a pact with Neleh. He merely gave her his word from the beginning that he would never vote against her, and by sheer coincidence, they have also voted the same way every time. But if you say that he's in an *alliance* with her, that's offensive, because alliances are the Devil's work. Hope this is perfectly clear. (To be fair, he did also give John his "word," then immediately voted him out. Again, honesty and integrity.)
So Pappy, would you consider voting out Neleh at five? Oh ... right, absolutely not! But to be clear, it's not an alliance, but rather an "agreement," right? Okay. And you are in fact the victim here, and are somehow being punished for being "honest" about having an agreement that is not an alliance? Got it.
Then, to make matters crystal clear, at Tribal Council, everything is reversed, and Paschal and Neleh *do* have an alliance, and anyone who doubted such an obvious thing was foolish to think otherwise. Probably racist, too.
Meanwhile, while Sean and Vee are clearly working together *now*, they have not voted the same way every time, and for a while, Vee was theoretically the fifth member of the Rotu Four for a few votes (like the one against Boston Rob). Nonetheless, they are a threatening, inseparable pair, and it's "playing the race card" and "heated" for them to point out that people have just assumed they've been together the whole time because they're both Black.
Paschal also goes out of his way to remind us that he doesn't trust Sean and Vee, and has never trusted them, but is totally okay with Kathy and Neleh, which can only be because Sean and Vee wore Maraamu buffs on Day 1, while the other three wore them on Day 10. Clearly, that's the only logical difference between the three White players — whom he trusts — and the two Black players he doesn't. No other possible explanation. Totally not a race thing, how dare you?
And then Paschal says "The Great Confederate" as he votes Sean out, which is clearly also absolutely free of any possible hint of racial animus. Classy, all the way.
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes