That's the title of an interesting blog post following last week's entirely predictable trainwreck episode where the seemingly unstable Brandon Hantz had such an utter meltdown during camp that his tribe, the "Favorites," arrived at the Immunity Challenge and openly forfeited!
Now, there have been past challenges where a tribe has purposefully lost so that it could vote out a member, but was different. The Favorites announced that they were forfeiting, and when host Jeff Probst inquired, it quickly came out that everyone wanted to get rid of Brandon.
Brandon melted down again, and Jeff wisely beckoned Brandon over to separate him from the rest of his tribe. Jeff then had an impromptu Tribal Council sans fire, paper, and vote-collecting pot. Instead, everyone voted vocally (and openly), and in front of the "Fans" tribe.
Whew! Never seen that before in "Survivor."
Chuck Duncan, author of the blog post linked above, concludes:
As it stands now, Survivor is limping to its death, collapsing under the weight of producer mandated stories that have corrupted not only the game play, but the real social experiment that the early seasons were. That’s partly because everyone knows how to play Survivor now, but keeping the focus on the challenges could ultimately keep the players focused on strategy that doesn’t involve seeing who can be the most mentally unstable person in the game. Start going through those submissions from real people who want to play and pick the best people for the game, not the most dramatic. I’d rather see two tribes of strategic, strong players battling it out instead of a bunch of pretty faces who would rather sit around and pick off the one or two strong players who want to be there, leaving us with a bunch of people who can only be interesting after the final edit (and most of the time, not even that helps). And stop bringing back former players every season! This should be an exception, not a rule. And, seriously, if they ever bring back Russell and Brandon together — as they would both like to do and are actively campaigning for the chance — they will have finally lost this faithful viewer.
I have to admit, this season has been a snoozefest thus far. Most "Survivor" seasons take a bit of time to get going, because in the beginning, there are so many players (16-20) that many get little screen time and thus don't stand out. There are exceptions, of course -- Russell Hantz (despised by Mr. Duncan, but beloved by me), Coach, and others made strong impressions from day 1 of their original seasons.
This only reinforces the fact that "Survivor" is heavily dependent on casting. It's not that there has to be conflict, backstabbing, and the potential for meltdowns, though that does seem to drive a lot of the interesting seasons. "Survivor: Palua" is an example of a relatively conflict-free season that was still fascinating. (If you aren't a "Survivor" junkie, this was the season won by fireman Tom Westman, where the other tribe lost pretty much every single immunity challenge and got whittled down to a single player before the merge!)
"Survivor: Caramoan" (the current season) is boring so far because none of the "fans" has done anything yet to stand out, and the "favorites" are mostly anything but favorites. When the most interesting player is kooky federal agent(?)* Philip Sheppard, something is wrong. . . . I'm not sure how they came up with the "favorites" tribe, but half of them are people I can't even remember. Francesca? Well, I do remember her, but only because Philip couldn't pronounce her name at Tribal Council during their initial season. Malcolm, who went far in the previous season, is a deserving returnee, I'll grant. And I suppose Cochran's nerdy goofiness is worth a return visit. But that's about it.
But whereas Mr. Duncan sees the problem as too much "casting," and not enough bringing aboard regular people, not to mention, too many "all-star" seasons, I actually like the all-star seasons when they're done right. "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" remains my all-time favorite season ever by far, and it's because virtually every single player that season was interesting to watch. "Survivor: Micronesia" (the first fans vs. favorites) was also pretty good because the favorites were well-picked, and they got lucky with some of the fans as well.
So, I don't think "Survivor" is broken beyond repair. I think this season is a dud so far; it might recover to the level of mediocrity, but next season could get back on track with the right people.