Quick Take: Survivor: Redemption Island, “Seems Like a No-Brainer”
“I don’t like to see someone corrupt my soldiers.” – Boston Rob Mariano
Review: Survivor: Redemption Island, “Seems Like a No-Brainer”
(S2214) If there was ever anyone who deserved to win a season of Survivor, it is Boston Rob Mariano. And even though Survivor: Redemption Island held less drama and suspense than in previous seasons, it was a joy to watch in many ways because we got to witness the four-time player and eventual Sole Survivor and $1 million winner perform on a clearly superior level throughout.
Redemption Island was a success both in terms of the enduring appeal of the veteran reality show and the this season’s wrinkles (“redemption island” duels, the reintroduction of two former star players in Rob and Russell Hantz), but more than anything it felt like a validation of stellar performance that Rob was handed the victory by a (typically) petty jury in what appeared to be an overwhelming vote. Let’s face it: Survivor is a strange game in many ways. As the season and its famous 39 days grind on, the “social game” becomes the core asset in the dynamic of “outwit, outplay, and outlast.” That Rob was able to come in as a relatively “famous” person – and ask Coach Jimmy Johnson how well that goes when you hit the beach – and not only lead his Ometepe tribe in challenges, organize domestic affairs at camp, and lay the groundwork of alliances and countermoves that put him into the Final Three was a pretty remarkable feat. And, best and most of all, the jury of players voted out in the final weeks were convinced to choke down their pride enough to ratify his dominating performance.
But before the final vote could take place, there were actually eight remaining players at the beginning of the episode, including the four remaining Redemption Island players, who had one final “duel” with one winner slated to reenter the main game. Andrea beat out a tough bevy of competitors in Grant, Mike, and Matt in a contest involving the balancing of a large vase on a board using only the strength and endurance of one leg. It was strangest of all to see Matt – who had lasted for what seemed like eons in Redemption Island – knocked out for good and onto the jury with one crack of a vase.
That left a final five of Andrea, Boston Rob, Phillip, Natalie, and Ashley. Rob immediately looked to employ the same strategy as when Matt reentered the main game at the merge: knock off the person who has just climbed back from the purgatory of Redemption Island. However, this play eluded him as at the next immunity challenge – race across a balance beam, untie bags of puzzle pieces, order the numbered pieces from one to 100 – Ashley won a close fought victory.
At tribal council, effective editing or no, it did look like there was a chance Rob could have been voted out, and he even teased during interviews about not using his hidden immunity idol, which he’s been hanging onto for about 27 episodes now. However, Rob did break out the idol in the end, though it didn’t matter at all as the vote once again went his way. Somehow, inexplicably even, everyone voted for Andrea (save Andrea herself, who voted for Rob). Ironically, Andrea made a great case to vote out Rob during the council… too good perhaps, and it remains unanswered whether or not her argument influenced Rob to play it “better safe than sorry” and use the hidden immunity idol in the end. And in retrospect, it all falls under the category of too little, too late.
That night, Rob makes a pact with Natalie and Ashley that they will be the final three and vote out Phillip. But it’s simply yet another strategic move on the way to victory. Rob then assures his place in the Final Three by winning the final immunity challenge, once again putting both his endurance and puzzling skills on display in a very cool maze challenge that featured a replica of temple that could have been out of Apocalypto. “I feel like I did my best, but I’m not done yet,” Rob says after the win.
“Honestly, I would rather lose this game than lose a friend in Ashley,” Natalie says. Ah, so young, and so naïve, yet she is smart enough to put those feelings aside to vote with Rob to vote out her bestie to insert herself and Phillip into the finals along with Rob. Rob essentially won out to the end and got the two that he most wanted to take all the way to the end in Natalie and Phillip. Natalie is the core ally for Rob who he can argue that essentially rode on his coattails while Phillip is the clear nutcase that everyone hates. That said, it’s to Phillip’s credit that he made it all the way to the end – something that the likes of Coach could only dream of. To celebrate, Phillip burns his infamous plum-colored briefs on the 39th morning.
At last, it’s time for jury questions and the final vote. During opening statements, Natalie says her strength is the social game, while Phillip basically says that Rob deserves to win and some other crazy stuff. Rob makes a calm and measured case that he was competitive player in challenges, in alliances, and a hard worker around camp. He then switches gears and tries to appeal to the emotions of the jury about how he wants the money to help his wife and family with the prize winnings.
The juror questions are the typical combination of irritating and entertaining. It’s also an odd reminder that most of the people who play don’t truly absorb the fact that Survivor is, in fact, a game. I say that without the benefit of actually not having gone off and lived in the jungle like these folks have, but I always find it fascinating how genuinely hurt many jurors feel by being backstabbed. Someone has to get voted out each week, after all. Many take out special time to heap scorn on Phillip (Andrea: “You are weird.” Ashley: “You look really pathetic.”) while Matt goes after Rob with, “Clearly you’re very duplicitous, manipulating, deceiving, and you’re a liar.” Welcome to Survivor, Matt. Steve seems to be the lone exception of being magnanimous in defeat (to steal a phrase from Winston Churchill) though he does add that Phillip is a “sorry man.” And David the lawyer doesn’t even address the finalists, but lobbies his fellow jurors to vote for Rob, based on his ability to “control the minds” of everyone. “Ruthless but brilliant,” he adds, along with, “The best strategic game this game has ever seen.” Hard to argue with any of that.