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‘Survivor: Cagayan’, Episode 1: Why this season has already left a bad taste in my mouth

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Written by : published Thursday 27th February 2014

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‘Survivor: Cagayan’, Episode 1:  The recipe for ‘Survivor’ success

Welcome back everyone!  I sure hope you’re hungry.  I’m going to start off my coverage this season by cooking up a little something for all of you faithful Survivor fans that are clamoring to sop up the tastiness that is inherent in our favorite show.  It’s called “A Survivor Winner,” and it’s a recipe that I got from Mark Burnett, the show’s producers and Jeff Probst, from their pre-season interviews and videos promoting the newest season of Survivor, “Survivor: Cagayan.”

In case you missed the episode, be sure to get caught up by watching Survivor: Cagayan Episode 1 , and then be sure to read my weekly Episode Recap before continuing on to this “Bonus Analysis” coverage.

So here’s how the recipe reads:  To win the game of Survivor, the winner usually possesses a combination of the following ingredients:  Brains, Brawn and Beauty.  Mix them up just right, cook for 39 days, throw in a dash of luck and – poof! – you have yourself a winner. 

As any good cook knows though, you never give away your secret.  Try to concoct something simply by reading the recipe card and following the directions to a tee, and you’re bound to miss something.

That to me, is what the premiere episode of “Survivor: Cagayan” felt like:  Something that should have been tasty, but instead was served over-cooked and a bit…off.

What am I trying to say with this elongated food analogy?  Other than it is after midnight and yes, I am hungry and thinking about food as I write this?  Here’s my point:  Watching tonight’s premiere, I have the feeling that the producers really missed the main ingredients of what would and should have made for an exciting start.  They are telling us that, to excel at Survivor, you need a good mix of brawn, beauty and brains.  But in fact you need a mix of physicality, charisma and the ability to think strategically.

Having “brains” is different than being a Survivor genius or strategist, as we clearly found out tonight.  It does not necessarily take brains to win Survivor, but it usually does takes a great deal of strategic planning, awareness, foresight and mental toughness to be able to deal with the conditions of the game.  Who among us wouldn’t have rather seen a tribe full of Survivor strategists – a band of pocket-protector wearing Cochrans – than the supposed high IQs that we were greeted with tonight?

Being seen as a “beauty” is different than having charisma.  Many a beautiful people have played Survivor, but having social charm has been a far more important virtue.  Wouldn’t you have rather they constructed a “Beauty” Tribe consisting of talented socialites – a gaggle of Boston Robs and Parvatis – than with the pool of recruited models we were given?

Instead of “brawn”, wouldn’t you have liked to see a tribe of Yul Kwans, James Clements, or Ozzy Lusths as opposed to a group of patched together players who may or may not be best categorized as “brawny”?

I’m rarely this negative this early, but watching the Brains Tribe’s epic failure of the game of Survivor tonight really highlighted the idea for me that this season could be a huge let-down.  It’s way too early to pass judgment and I would like to clearly state that I absolutely hope each episode of each season is a phenomenal success.  But I am growing tired of what appear to be recruited players or non-fans of the game trying to get their 15-minutes of fame on what is my favorite TV show of all time, and mucking things up in the process.

I can usually live with the one or three players that you can usually instantly identify as having no shot to win Survivor.  It happens every season where you watch an ep or two and say, “That dude has zero chance of winning the game.”  Some make it to the end.  But serious fans can usually tell.  This season instead of just a few, there seems to be an island full of them.  Shall I name names?  Oh OK.

Well, two of them left the show already.  David and Garrett, both of whom in their different ways, were never going to have any real chance of going far in the game.

Then there’s J’Tia.  Enough said.

And Tony.  He could become that interesting “Phillip Sheppard” type but he has already shown that he’s not the sort of person who is going to have personal relationships enough to win the game.

Lindsey.  We didn’t get to see much of Lindsey, but what we did see wasn’t all that flattering.  Making fun of another person’s appearance?  That doesn’t exactly qualify as social grace.

Kass.  Perhaps entertaining, but she’s too blunt and honest.  That’s never a good winning combination.

Cliff.  A very likeable guy, but you’re not necessarily going to fly under-the-radar when you are 6’10”.  If he goes far, he’ll be a guy nobody would bring to the end because he’s too likeable or because of his NBA status.  Or if he does make it to the end, his NBA millions would never allow him to be voted Sole Survivor.

You get the point.  But let’s flip this around and try to stay positive.  Who stood out to you as a solid contender that has a chance at being successful in this game?  I go for LJ.  Tasha too, although being on that Tribe isn’t going to do her any long-term favors.

It’ll hopefully be interesting to watch and will end up being a strong season.  It’s just that it looks like there will be multiple weeks before we will weed out the bad ones, if in fact they are weeded out at all.  There’s nothing worse than watching Survivor and rooting against many of the contestants, instead of for them.

That, to me, is a recipe for disaster.

Follow me on Twitter!  @tomsantilli, and check out my website at tomsantilli.com for more Survivor coverage and my full database of current and archived movie reviews.

About the author SurvivorTom


Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Detroit Film Critics Society.  He writes several on-line columns, most notably as the Detroit Movie Examiner and the Survivor Examiner for Examiner.com.  He also is a contributor as a Survivor-Insider to TVGeekArmy.com and writes exclusive Survivor in-depth episode analysis for TheTVKing.com. He has been featured on Rob Cesternino's "Rob Has a Podcast" and most recently landed the only exclusive Richard Hatch interview given since his latest legal trouble has surfaced. All of Tom's Survivor coverage as well as movie reviews can be found on his blog the "FilmSurvivor", at FilmSurvivor.com

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