Monday, December 20, 2010

Survivor: Nicaragua - 21x14 "What About Me?"

Distilling this installment of Survivor to a single word, "lopsided" comes to mind. On one end, this season has been marked with uninspired, hopelessly stupid gameplay and the ne plus ultra of righteous butthurtedness, and prior to the finale, the only remarkable aspect of Nicaragua had been Brenda's all-time, astronomical hotness. If we had stopped at the penultimate episode, that single word would've been "boring."

But then, on the other end, the finale just about salvaged the season. The questions asked were on the whole perfectly decent (easily the stupidest waste of a question belonged to Marty, arrogant and preening), but where the finale of Nicaragua establishes itself with how all three of the contestants performed at the Final Tribal Council. Rather than a schadenfreude-fest on the order of Russell getting blanked by Sandra and Parvati, in Nicaragua, Fabio, Chase, and Sash all answered their questions directly, generally avoiding the sort of "I'm sorry I played a game built on social navigation, please don't hate me, I'm really nice if you get to know me" tip-toeing that characterizes those painful-to-watch Final Tribal Councils from seasons past (e.g. either of the ones that involved Amanda).

Even while he explained his actions in direct, unadorned terms, Sash was more explicitly apologetic than the other two, and I wonder if that's why he didn't get any votes. (I thought he should've distinguished the social friendships a lot more starkly against the gameplay and reiterated just how hard he was playing strategically -- the Todd endgame in China, in other words. Sash doesn't quite have Todd's garrulous demeanor, however, so may have had trouble pulling that one off.) That may also have explained why Chase got so many votes, because from my vantage point, Chase had made more enemies on the jury than Sash had simply through his indecisiveness.

Anyway, I hope that the endgames here mark a kind of turning point in Surivor Final Tribal Councils, because unabashed ownership of one's gameplay is infinitely more watchable than someone faintly apologizing and withdrawing from contention.

On top of the performances by the final contestants, I'm amused and tickled that Fabio ended up winning. He deftly fit into the role of affable goof, but to me, he's enigmatic as well, because more than a few times, he did or said something that pointed to a mind that's richer and more wary than the "Duuuuuude! Surf's up!" persona he cultivated. I especially got a kick out of how he acquitted himself in the reunion show, with his hairy-dog rambling and non sequitur asides. He wants to undermine the government with his winnings! How can I not love that?

Beyond Fabio, the most interesting thing that I got out of the Reunion is how it worsened the images of two contestants. Well, maybe just one -- Shannon simply reaffirmed that he should be left and forgotten in the frightened hatred of seamy, willful ignorance, but Marty made himself even more of a twerp than he was on the show with how he described his non-relationship with Jane. Antipathy is rarely a product of rationalism, but Marty's explanation was couched in rational terms (e.g. he didn't think Jane's alliance choices made him want to associate with her), which made it seem like he was above such questions or that he didn't think Jane deserved a serious answer.

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