‘Survivor’ Recap: The Facts of Life


ALTYou take the sick, you take the poor

You take them both and they’re here for

The game of

Survivor, the game of Survivor

There’s a time Jeff Probst has to go and host

And tell the tribes to jump off a boat on

The game of

Survivor, the game of Survivor

When the idols never seem

To be hidden right under your door

Suddenly you’re finding out

The game of

Survivor is actually hard (Ha-ha-ha-hard)

You have have to Outwit, Outlast, OutplayWhen you’re playing the game of Survivor

Playing the game of Survivor

Playing the game of Survivo-oooooooooor


As you might be able to tell from my awful rerendering of the Facts of Life theme song, there is only one thing I care about on the new season of Survivor, and that is Blair. Well, mere mortals and young children under the age of 30 call her Lisa Whelchel, because that is her real name. And as far as they know, she’s a gay-hating Jesus freak. But the rest of us know that she played Blair in about 10 quadrillion special episodes of the most unrealistic show to star George Clooney that has nothing to do with robbing casinos.

Blair is probably the second most famous person to play the game after that guy from the Cowboys who played a couple of years ago. Jimmy something. Whatever, I don’t know about sports people. Speaking of which, there’s some baseball player, Jeff Kent, who is playing too. Whatever, good for him. I have no clue who he is, because he has not been on a television program beloved by millions and saved by Cloris Leachman. But, damn, this season is just lousy with famous people.

It’s not just those two that are familiar faces. This season also brings back three survivors who had to be medically evacuated from the show, a twist that seemed built to bring back gay Republican villain Colton from last season but here is the first episode and there is not one, “Heeeeeeyyyyyyy,” to be heard, so I don’t know what’s up with that. Instead we get Mike Skupin, who fell in the fire during season two; Russell Swan, who suffered from severe dehydration 2009; and Jonathan Penner, who has played twice already, but got evacuated the second time during Hero. I think this is a good twist, because those people who got medi-vaced out will always wonder what happened if they could have finished the game. But not Penner. Oh no, sorry. We know what happens when Penner plays the game uninjured, he gets voted out. That is what happens in his first season. Why does he get another chance? I know why, because Jeff Probst loves him and thinks he’s good TV. More and more this game is just about the whims of Probst, like this one and future talk show host is the king and all these people are just jester’s for his amusement. Sorry, Jeffy P, but not everyone agrees with you.

Alright, so everyone is on a boat and each injured survivor gets a tribe. I’m not even going to bother remember the tribe names because they are always hard to spell and pronounce and we just call them based on whatever color their buff is anyway, so I’m not even going to engage in the colonial imperialism of giving a bunch of rich mostly-white Americans the names of the indigenous people. Instead, I will call Russell’s team, Team Ponytail, because everyone on that team, even the men and women with short hair, seem to have ponytails for some reason. I will call Penner’s team, Team Lesbian because I can not differentiate between Dana and Carter, who look like members of some sort of Sapphic boy band and both have the frosted tips for it. The team with Blair on it is Team Blair because, obviously. And if you didn’t know, that is the team we are rooting for.

So, everyone is on a boat and Probst is like, “OK, you have 30 seconds to grab as much food and as many supplies as you can and then you have to row this raft to shore.” Everyone scrambles around, but then they put their crap on the raft and everything just falls into the ocean. Apples and oranges sink. Firewood bobs soggily in the waves. Chickens drown. Probst just stood there on the deck laughing at their misfortune. They were never meant to have any of this, this was just to make them jump around. Oh, his little jesters all. Dance, little jesters, dance.

Everyone paddles to shore and as soon as Team Ponytail drags their raft onto the shore, Russell says, “Just to get this out there, I don’t want to be the leader. That’s what happened to me last time, and I know you guys are thinking about making me the leader, but I don’t want it.” Everyone sort of rolls their eyes and is like, “Um, did you see that chicken drown?” Then Malcolm, a tall slab of beef took off his shirt and every admirer of the male form just stopped in their tracks and had to stare slack-jawed for a minute. Oh, that Malcolm and his his perfectly chiseled form, handsome face, and ponytail. Malcolm, I would like you to be my leader. I would let you lead me anywhere (particularly under a bush somewhere for some alone time).

As for leaders, Team Ponytail doesn’t have one, but Russell sure is bossing everyone around. TP also has another hard working member: Zane. He told us at the top of the show that he has a Frankenstein tattoo and like Frankenstein, he will either give a little girl a flower or strangle you. Well, that was interesting. Everyone loves Zane and he makes an alliance with everyone on the beach and then goes up to Russell (who is not a leader) and Malcolm (who I want to be my leader) and says, “I made alliances with everyone here. But I really want to make an alliance with you.” Zane is the typical player who plays too hard right out of the gate.

Speaking of which, so is Penner, who is already looking for a hidden immunity idol over at Camp Lesbian. Everyone else doesn’t like him and wants to vote him out as soon as possible (including Baseball Dude, who injured himself trying to save a drowning chicken) but he doesn’t care because he’s gonna get an idol. He even figured out that the clue was in the bag of rice. Now he just has to find the damn thing.

Over at Team Blair, Blair is in the ocean wearing her entire outfit including her jeans. There is nothing more uncomfortable than wading in the water in soaking denim. It is less comfortable than a colonoscopy. It is less comfortable than getting punched in the face while nursing a sore tooth. It is less comfortable than the conversation Blair will one day have to have with her son when he comes out as gay. Actually, that might be more uncomfortable. Maybe. Blair isn’t fitting into the tribe so well. Meanwhile her tribemates Abi (who, I believe is the actual girl from Ipanema), RC (who is named after a cola), and Pete (who is the second runner up to be my leader if and only if my current leader Malcolm can not meet his leadership duties for any reason whatsoever) are already getting an alliance together. They ask Skupin to join, because having good old Fire Hands on your alliance is a good luck charm.

Skupin tells us that this year he’s “Going with the game.” It’s something he learned at a corporate off-site retreat right after doing trust falls. “Go with the game.” He tells us once again. If they want to play slow, play slow. If they want to play fast, play fast. Wait, did he learn this at a Successories™ conference or from a How to Please Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps article from Cosmo? Whatever, that is his new philosophy: “Go with the game.”

We got all your standard camp life shots about building fire, putting together a shelter, and Russell telling everyone that he’s not the leader, but they should do what he says. The weird thing is that Skupin is the only one on his tribe culturally literate enough to know who Blair is and he confronts her about it. She says, “I don’t want to tell people because everyone always liked Jo better and I can’t deal with another blow to my self esteem. Also, my jeans are really itchy and stuck to my legs.” Skupin keeps her secret. Over at Team Lesbian, someone named Dawson (who is a girl) figured out who Baseball Guy is. She’s not telling anyone either. If I were Dawson, I would sell him up the creek. Get him to stand out and take the heat off you. That’s how you survive week one.

They go to the challenge and each team has to split into pairs. One pair will run to get some oars. The second pair will paddle out to a giant box and then bring it back to shore, and the final pair will solve the puzzle based on the pieces in the box. Everyone breaks into pairs easily except Team Ponytail. “Now, I’m not the leader, but I suck at puzzles and rowing, so I’m going to run. With, Um. Zane. You two girls solve the puzzle.” “But Russell, we suck at puzzles and we both ran track in high school.” “Well, who cares. You’re on puzzle duty. I’m not the leader, but you have to do this. Malcolm, you row with this lady whose name I mean to learn in the next week or so. OK. Go Team. Break!”

Yes, this means that Russell’s team is going to lose and he’s probably going home. Challenge, challenge, challenge, boring, boring, boring, and Team Lesbian wins by a frosted tip, after decimating Team Blair’s huge lead. They come in second. They both get prizes. Jeff Probst says, “So, little jesters, what went wrong?” Russell responds, “Well, I’m not the leader, but I made the wrong decision and now we have to pay the price.”

Back at camp, Russell says, “OK, everyone, put down your things and gather round. I know I’m not your leader but I have to say what happened out there today…” “Hold on one minute,” Zane pipes up. “I sucked out there and I just quit smoking. You should send me home.” “Well, that settles that,” Russell says.

But, no, that does not settle that. Zane does not want to go home. He just wants everyone to convince him to stay and then vote out Russell and then that means that they all want him there really bad and then he will be running the game from here on out. That’s what he said. Basically it’s like that girl who is always like, “God, I’m so fat!” so you have to say, “No, you’re not fat,” to validate her when all it does is annoy you that she is trying to make you tell her she’s not fat when she knows all along she’s not fat. Also, this is playing too hard. The object of week one is to not be too much of a jerk or too old or too bad at challenges or not Blair and just stay in the game. Everyone would have totally voted Russell out if he kept his mouth shut.

According to his plan some blonde chirpy bird comes up to him and is like, “I like you. Stay. We’ll kick out Russell.” And he says, “I don’t know man.” On the inside he’s grinning thinking his plan is working. Then Malcolm (swoon) comes up to him and says, “Look at my pecs. Aren’t they perfect? Aren’t they just lightly dusted with fur? Don’t you want to touch them? I bet you do. Oh, and you should stay. Let’s kick out Russell.” And Zane says, “I don’t know, I think he might have an idol.” Malcolm says, “Uh oh. The beach is thattaway,” and he flexes his bicep and points toward the water for no particularly good reason.

They get to tribal council and Russell says, “Well, Jeff, I’m not a leader. I’m more of a chief. Actually, I’m kind of like a dictator. I don’t want to be a dictator or a chief, and I’m definitely not the leader, but…hold on, I’m speaking right now…I just keep controlling things, not because I’m a leader, but because I am an autocrat at this breakfast table and, yeah, that’s it. You can talk now.”

Jeff goes to count the votes and we think Russell is going to get the axe and that Zane actually pulled his stupid plan off, but, no. He did not. This was perhaps the worst, most complicated plan in Survivor history that happened week one and did not involve a hidden immunity idol. Let’s break it down. Zane thought he could say he wanted to go home, then have everyone convince him to stay, then get them to vote out Russell, tell them Russell had an idol, and still convince them to keep him. Where does that make any sense? The Negative Zone? Bizarro World? Big Brother? Nowhere!

Back on the beach, Blair was waddling around in her jeans, which were starting to dry but were caked with sand. It was just everywhere, chafing around her knees and the folds where her leg meets her hip, under the waistband. Oh, this game was hard. It was harder than a sitcom, harder than defending her beliefs, harder than writing children’s books. She did the one thing she could think of and knelt down to pray. “Jesus,” she said. “Please help me to win this game. I can only do it through your grace. Please, dip your hand in and help me.” She waited a minute in the dark night, darker than anything she had seen before but still with a faint glow, like after getting your picture taken and the flash just lingers, keeping the real world at bay. “Blair!” she heard coming out of the clouds. “Is that you, Jesus?” she asked. “Yes, it is Blair. And you don’t need my grace to win. You need to make these damn people like you. Get in this game and make some friends. Otherwise they’re just going to kick you out as soon as they can. Oh, and take your damn jeans off. That is just getting disgusting.”

“I will,” she said. “Thank you, Jesus.” Yes, we all said. Thank you, Jesus.

Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan

[Photo Credit: AP Photo]


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