Whenever I watch a reality TV competition show like Survivor, I find myself usually rooting for the underdog. Ideally, you hope that the underdog is constantly changing. You want things to be unpredictable. This is something that Survivor: Blood vs. Water did not have going for it. No one ever challenged Tyson, and it never seemed likely that he would be dethroned.[1]

But as much as I like rooting for the underdog, there comes a point toward the end of the game when you have to set that aside and reward the deserving player. And so even though I found myself wishing every week that someone would step up and make a move against Tyson, I suddenly became very attached to Tyson winning Blood vs. Water. I became nervous watching these last competitions not out of genuine excitement for what could happen; I was nervous because if Tyson didn’t win, this season would be completely bereft of any kind of meaning.

When Tyson won, Blood vs. Water became the season of Tyson Apostle’s dominance. It was a satisfying outcome to the only long-term narrative that Blood vs. Water offered. And while his gameplay wasn’t masterful enough to single-handedly validate an entire season like Boston Rob did on Survivor: Redemption Island, it was still very commendable outing.

It also unexpectedly embraced the blood vs. water dynamic of this season, for it took Rachel’s departure to focus Tyson on the urgency of the game. It’s actually really sweet. I don’t watch Survivor for sweet moments, but this was nice.

Please though, Survivor, let’s leave family out of it in the future, OK?


Dinner and Coffee with Monica Culpepper

“Have you all never met a nice person? Have you all never met somebody who isn’t selfish? Have you never met a neat lady?”—Monica 

Throughout the season, I wouldn't have described myself as a fan of Monica Culpepper. At first, it was enjoyable watching how reactionary she was as a player. If she caught wind of any kind of negativity directed at her, she would freak out and organize a coalition to send the author of said negativity packing. But after she aligned with Tyson at The Merge, she went into cruise control. She became a nonfactor. I would momentarily forget that Monica was even on the show.

However, the humanity that she displayed at the end of this game was profoundly riveting.  We’ve previously seen her distraught Confessionals delivered in the third person, and it mostly seemed fey.[2] But as she addressed The Jury, Monica tapped into this beautiful moment of catharsis.

Since Monica’s appeal to the title of Sole Survivor was one of emotional growth, she kept getting grilled about reaching inside herself and coming up with something authentically vulnerable. And after she did that she was asked to do it again—and again!

“I really don’t quite know what y’all want me to do, more than I have.”—Monica

Monica disemboweled herself at that Tribal Council for the viewing pleasure of The Jury. She acknowledged all of the disparaging things people said about her, how she talks too much and only tells stories about her family because she herself isn’t interesting. She talked about how she never gets recognition for being Monica. She was fearless.

Fortunately, the experience of making it to the Final Three has helped her reestablish her own individuality. She is proud of herself. She has undergone a transformation, and the remarkable thing is that I don’t think she is exaggerating. It isn’t just a gambit to attract votes. She has grown.

I’m not sure I’ve ever known a “neat lady” before, but I certainly do now.


Reunion Roundup

Here are a few final notes on the Survivor: Blood vs. Water Reunion:

  • Colton should not have been given a segment to explain his behavior. He left the game on his own volition—twice! Why does CBS keep extending a hand to him? This time should have allotted to someone else. For example: Why did Hayden shave off his bitchin’ mustache?

  • Cochran’s bit was heartwarming inasmuch as he effectuated his dream. But the comedy skit was a silly diversion. It was more about Will Arnett than it was about John Cochran, and nothing against Will Arnett, but he has no place in a Survivor reunion.

  • What was up with all of the Twitter references from the cast?

  • It was interesting hearing Tyson and Hayden talk about the physical and mental toll of Survivor.

  • There was a bizarre encounter with Brad and Vytas that Jeff interrupted. If you missed it, Brad was just thanking Vytas for voting for Monica at the end.

  • How is it that anytime Kat opens her mouth something embarrassingly hilarious comes out? Apropos of nothing, she brings attention to her breast augmentation. “I made some arrangements on my own to get on his level a little bit,” she says. I guess she felt compelled to get a boob-job in order to hold onto Hayden, because why else would he date someone who didn’t make it to The Merge? If you look close you can actually see Hayden kindly shush her when Jeff asks for clarification.

[1] This was exacerbated by the competitive imbalance between the two tribes. At first, the newbies got regularly trounced by the veterans. And ironically, when production stepped in to switch the tribes around, it created a larger imbalance. In the first seven weeks before the merge, Tyson went to Tribal Council one time.

[2] Was Monica really being “bullied” by Tina? Does anyone actually believe that?