Lets face it, last season’s Survivor: Blood vs Water was a complete mess. The format of season was that every contestant would be playing with a family member or loved one on the opposing tribe. The intention was that as players became liabilities in the game, the drama would come from having to choose your real life partner versus whoever might be tactically advantageous in the game. The problem was, they added in two additional gimmicks on top – there were returning players and the dreaded Redemption Island was brought back. All these layers and levels of gimmickry made the game so convoluted that for the first time in twenty eight seasons, I found the show difficult to enjoy and I didn’t bother watching the season through to its conclusion. How the hell do you strategize for a game where voting someone out is only temporary thanks to Redemption Island and that person might stroll right back into the game anyway because they were given the option to swap places with their partner at the elimination challenge.
Happily, the twenty nineth season of Survivor is a welcome return to the show at its purest. Gone are the returning players who always end up with a massive (often insurmountable) advantage. Gone is Redemption Island and rules about swapping with partners. In its placeis a sociology experiment which is one of my favourite ways of dividing players at the start of the season. The show has previously split the tribes by age, gender and most controversially, race. This season, three teams are divided into three teams – Beauty, Brains and Brawn.
The pre-merge episodes delivered on all fronts. Beauty was as fraught with cattiness, superficial friendliness and backstabbing as one might suspect. The Brawns tribe had the strongest bond and performed well in most challenges. And good old Brains self-destructed, putting themselves in a tough spot by voting out their physically strongest player early and then suffering when one of their tribe, J’Tia, apparently a ‘nuclear engineer’ by trade, had a complete meltdown and threw out most of their food. A highlight of the pre-merge episodes was the Brawns tribe trying and failing to throw a challenge which Brains still managed to lose by virtue of being unbelievably awful at every immunity challenge.
Another thing I am appreciating about this season is that they cast eighteen decent players and have avoided the temptation of casting an obvious nutjob or a show pony who plays up to the cameras. At the point of the merge, the show is pretty evenly poised. The Brains tribe is dimished but strong as a unit, the Beauty tribe is completely scattered and full of mistrust and the remaining Brawn members have effectively integrated a Beauty member into their alliance and appear to be a tight five. Of all the players, police officer Tony is playing the strongest game but is likely to face a lot of pressure going into the final rounds. Instead, someone under the radar like Spencer, Kass or Woo seems poised to win big.
My Pony: Woo, because I always wanted a Big Lebowski character to win Survivor. Also Morgan because she unexpectedly ended up as an outcast but has still managed to get further in the game than anyone thought she would. That smirk in the final tribal council before the merge was absolute gold.
My Poison: Trish. Just seems to be this awful woman who is all sinewy muscle and teeth. Kind of like a female Tony Robbins.
24: Live Another Day
One of my favorite shows of all time is back after a four year hiatus. In May, it will be return of the Jack Baeur Power Hour.
At its peak, 24 was undoubtedly one of the greatest TV action shows of all time. Plenty of people got off the bandwagon as the seasons wore on and the show got more and more ridiculous/repetitive – the episode with the mountain lion, that third time they kidnapped Kim, the sixth time Jack went rogue against CTU, the five hundredth time Jack had the right suspect but no one believed him. Plenty of people stopped watching at that stage but not me. I rode the crazy train right the way through to that one off movie that they did.
And now the show is finally back and its bringing back all our favourite characters who somehow stayed alive to the end of the series (and theres rumours some of the supposedly dead characters are coming back too).
It’s a shortened twelve hour format but the leaner timespan will probably do the show a world of good. Bring it on. I’m ready. The terrorists won’t know what hit them.