Over the years we have seen many a meltdown on Survivor. The way this usually progresses is that as the days pile up, the body becomes increasingly malnourished. That in conjunction with the high-stakes competition creates paranoia, which expresses itself in tactless ways, and you end up self-sabotaging yourself (often prematurely.) We know how this works.
And then we have Brandon Hantz’s meltdown last Wednesday. It was markedly different, and consequently more fascinating. His meltdown appeared to be self-aware. In the previous weeks, we saw him becoming more and more disconcerted with his place in the tribe. Recall how crestfallen he seemed when Phillip was explaining that he was in a “middle management” position in Stealth R Us.
This week, things hit a fever pitch, and because he was sensing that he was on the outs, would he be the next in the pecking order? He is right that he is on the outs, but he may have had an additional week. He certainly didn’t need to force his tribe into forfeiting immunity. He started maniacally terrorizing his tribe. “I’ll give you a reason to vote me out!” he screams as he subsequently dumps their rice and beans in the sand. He will not stand-by while the rest of the tribe conspires to plot his demise; he will plot his own demise. Why? Because this man feeds himself, Goddamnit! He is the “author of his own fate.”
By the time they get to the challenge and his tribe forfeits, starting a Festivus-esque “airing of the grievances,” Brandon is clearly going home. And again, he is certainly cognizant of his role in this (“I took myself out of this game!”) Moreover, it is as if he has made himself a hero in his own mind. “I’m starting to come to the conclusion that us Hantzes, we speak our mind. I’m proud of that. That’s something I can wear proudly. You ask me something, I’m gonna tell you.” I halfway expect him to quote lines from Pulp Fiction (“If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.”)
Brandon has championed this bizarre, perverted code of the Samurai: Instead of killing oneself for bringing dishonor, he kills himself—within the game of Survivor—seeing that his combatants are closing in him. He proudly describes, in his exit speech, that he isn’t just going to lie down and die, and that he is going to throw some bombs on the way out. However, he didn’t accomplish that. He didn’t bring anyone down with him. He didn’t “out” Phillip in any way; people already know Phillip is loony. He ran out from his bunker, frantically fired a few rounds into the ether, hitting no one, and he fires the last round in his own temple.
This impromptu Tribal Council goes down the predictable avenues. Brandon continues to say insane things. Phillip prods him like only The Specialist can do, causing Brandon to say more insane things. In the middle of all this is his tribe that looks palpably weary and perturbed by Brandon’s behavior. Dawn is forcing herself to take measured, deep breaths. Andrea is crying and, I think, speaking for everyone when she says, "It just really hurts. It's sad to see. I've grown close to Brandon out here and I can't relate to what you're going through and it's hard, because we're all out to play a game and we're doing so well.”
This is what is lost on Brandon. Andrea is right. Phillip is also right when he says, “None of us deserve that.” Brandon’s performance was borderline psychotic. He is responsible for a tribe full of emotional distress. He even dumped their food supply (note: Food supply is very important in Survivor.) He somehow fails to see the role that the rest of his tribe plays in this game. You need to work with these people. You need to form alliances. These people cast the million dollar vote at the end of the season. How can he possibly eschew the social aspect of this game? He keeps going on about self-sufficiency. Is it possible Brandon mistook Survivor for “Survivorman” regarding how he feeds himself and about how proud he is that he took this stand? What about the rest of your tribe, man? What about your friend, Andrea, crying her eyes out?
Whatever. Fuck it!
“My exit was nice. It was glorious…I don’t regret none of it, ‘cause I proved my point. I was the author of my elimination.”
That he was. That he was.
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