This week’s Survivor was the spectacle that it was promised to be. Three separate injuries dominated what seemed to be an innocent reward challenge, and the show became the scene of a medical crisis in a way we haven’t seen in 32 seasons of the show. It was a very sad scene for the show, even though there’s really nothing more that could’ve been done, and in the end we had to see a contestant pulled from the game due to a serious medical situation. There’s a lot to talk about surrounding the big situation that carried most of the episode, and I’ll try to be succinct about and talk about the vote out towards the end as well. Here are my thoughts on this strange episode:
- The show this week was really set up to be something insane when the start of the show almost immediately set up the first reward challenge of the season. There wasn’t any messing around with strategy or camp life; this was going to be a different kind of Survivor episode than what any of us are used to. The challenge premise was simple, something we’ve seen before on other seasons, where the contestants have to go through a few obstacles and then have to find bags of balls hidden in the sand. To end the challenge, they would have to land all of their balls in a skee-ball like game, and the winning tribe was going to receive a bunch of spices and assorted things like that. Seemed like a super non-essential reward for these guys to kill themselves over in the blistering Cambodia heat, but that is exactly what we saw go down. Every tribe got through the course fine going towards the sand bit where they had to dig. This was the point where everything went awry. It may have been a perfect storm of elements, with scorching temperatures plus dehydration tiring out the contestants, because it seemed like no team was capable of finding all of the balls buried in the sand. The contest went on and on, with only the Brains team getting through to the end. They won easily, while the other tribes continued to languish in the sun, but after their win it was clear to Debbie that she was having heat stroke. The medical staff was very quick to attend to Debbie’s condition, which was alarming, but not particularly serious. She got cooled down in due time, and Jeff let the challenge continue on. This was about the point when they finally rolled the opening credits. You know it’s gonna be a bad scene when they decide to edit the show in such a way that one person getting overheated is the intro to the action. The challenge continued on innocuously for a little while, with the Beauty tribe finally breaking the stalemate for second by getting their balls out of the sand. It was all Caleb on the skee-ball course like we had been seeing in the challenges and the guy hustled like crazy to finish out the challenge for his tribe, doing most of the heavy lifting to make it happen. The brawn tribe continued to mess around without much luck, with Alecia and Scot even getting into it a little bit with some heated comments being exchanged (this will be discussed further later). Spent and frustrated, Brawn was left to watch Beauty finish the challenge to claim a smaller reward. But after the challenge, just as Debbie was starting to come back to after her dehydration spell, both of the other tribes saw a contestant go down due to the same elements. Cydney had trouble getting up after the challenge and started hyperventilating, leading to medical being called over to her. Simultaneously, Caleb collapsed after the challenge in the most serious way, becoming non-responsive, leaving the medical staff in a bit of a bind. The show handled the crises like professionals though, and Probst was quick to direct his behind cameras personnel to step in and help in a triage situation. In one of the strangest single scenes in the shows 32 years we saw the production barrier collapse as at least 50 people stormed the scene from behind the production lines to help the injured players or assist with materials as best as possible. I’ve never seen a situation like this on the show, but it was impressive to see the coordination of the show’s personnel at work. Cydney was in distress, but her situation got under control in a manner of time, while Caleb did not respond to treatment on the scene in a good fashion. After making attempts to stabilize him on the beach, Dr. Joe of the medical staff signaled to Jeff that an evacuation by helicopter would be necessary for Caleb to get treated. It was a scary moment for everyone on the show, especially his tribe who were inconsolable at the sight of their teammate unresponsive, but the whole medevac situation was done quickly and efficiently, and by all accounts, Caleb recovered and is doing fine now. Survivor, for one episode, kind of turned into a reality version of ER, and it was crazy intense, but interesting to see in a really morose way. The whole situation once again goes to dispel the myths about Survivor being scripted or disingenuous; the show is real and the elements are very severe. It’s one of many reasons why Survivor is the most intense competition out there!
- Now that we got the details of the medical situations out of the way, it’s time to delve into the internet FAQs surrounding the situation. First off, was there anything they could have done to prevent any of that from happening? I really don’t think the show did anything wrong here, so I’d say the answer to that question is a hard no. The conditions were bad that day, but the show frequently does challenges like that in similar conditions, so it was really just some bad luck mixed with people trying very, very hard to prove themselves out there. Secondly, why were only some people affected so severely, and why wasn’t it the weakest and oldest people? I’m not sure, but I think it’s definitely worth noting that the people falling victim to heat stroke here were giving disproportionate effort at times. It was weird seeing how much Caleb was carrying his tribe in challenges, it may have just been the competitor in him coming out in the show, but it appears that he literally gave everything he had in him for his tribe, and with Cydney it was likely the same thing. If the show could do anything to help future contestants it would be to make sure all players on the tribes have to share the load of the efforts in the challenges. If they let players carry their tribe, or they do “hero” challenges like we saw in Cambodia, there are greater chances that people will fall prey to exhaustion. And lastly, is the show trying to kill its contestants? No, it’s just as difficult game, and it went wrong that time, sure there are dangers but everyone knows what the risks are, and now they’re aware that the show is well equipped to deal with multiple medical issues at once.
- The rest of the episode was kind of an afterthought after the craziness of the first half hour, but surprisingly there was an immunity challenge on the heels of a evacuation. Sometimes the show will skip elimination when someone is forced to leave, but this time Survivor went on without missing a beat. After a day or two of some highly contentious bickering between Jason/Scot and Alecia, the Brawn tribe basically packed it in during the immunity challenge. It was a multi-part challenge where some tribe mates would have to race into the jungle to get puzzle pieces while the others would have to assemble a tricky snake puzzle that had many potential avenues but only one right solution. Every tribe had at least a shot at the puzzle, and two tribes had the luxury f sitting back and letting their resident pariah do the heavy lifting. Peter, who was clearly on the outs with his tribe, decided to swap in on the puzzle when his team wasn’t getting it, and made quick work of the puzzle, winning his tribe immunity and saving himself in the process. Alecia, the self-dubbed ‘mental giant’ was not so good on the puzzle, and no one on her tribe was about to help her get anywhere with it. Beauty was able to finish second, and Brawn was almost gleefully set to return to Tribal Council. In a very strange moment for the show, Jason basically asked Probst if they could do Tribal right on the spot, considering how sure they all were about the vote. Alecia denied this of course, but the show didn’t even bother showing any of what happened at camp because it was inevitable, Alecia was voted out unanimously. There was a lot of chatter surrounding her treatment on the show, with many people taking to social media to call out Jason and Scot for outright bullying Alecia while on the island. I don’t know, I really didn’t have a huge issue with either of them in this situation because I think they were dealing with someone on their tribe they felt was not capable of contributing the way they wished she would. She didn’t gel with the tribe as a whole, which is something you absolutely must do on Survivor. Both of them could’ve handled the situation with more tact, that’s undeniable, but I don’t feel any need to slander them. We’ll see if it’s a situational thing, if the two of them continue on to play hard and play respectfully, than I won’t have an issue rooting for them. I like them both as contestants, and I think Jason may be a contender to win the game. And if they do continue to be rough and abrasive with others going forward, then the others will probably take care of them in due time anyway. Alecia needed to go, now she’s gone, and the show can move on from this whole episode, because it always just takes away from the game when they try to build a bullying arc, it’s not entertaining to me, and I always just hope the tribes take care of it and vote problem people out in time.
Well there we have it, the crazy medical crisis of this season that has been teased since last year’s finale is finally behind us, and the show can move on. I’m sad that it was a fierce competitor like Caleb who was taken out of the game, but the show was less than coy about the concept of Caleb playing again, so I have to think we’ll see him again pretty soon to get his own Second Chance at the game. This may be a random guess, but I can really see a repeat of Philippines coming up where the show brings back three contestants pulled from the game to head up three tribes of new players. The format worked really well the first time, plus the show has 3 very good candidates to bring back for that kind of season with Caleb, Terry, and Erik Reichenbach who were all pulled from the game in very dramatic storylines. We’ll see if they do something like that in the future, but until then, next week we have a tribe swap, or at least it appears so. I’d love to switch these tribes up at this point because there are really interesting combinations of duos and trios in this game right now and depending on how they get organized in this swap may determine who’s able to get power in this game going forward. I have a feeling this season is going to come down to the luck of the draw that happens next episode, so it’s definitely not one to miss! Before I end, I’ll close-up with some final thoughts on the episode that was:
- My player of the week honors are going to go to the guy that was evacuated from the game this week, Caleb. It’s a little unorthodox for me to give top credits to a person leaving the game on any week, but this was an unorthodox episode and an unorthodox situation. Caleb deserves the accolade for literally giving his al for his tribe in the challenges. He was a warrior in this game, and he earned a lot of new fans for his time on survivor. I hope we see him get a good shot to play the game, he’s the kind of competitor the show needs…My favorite moment of the episode was the moment when all of the crew flooded on to the scene when the two medical emergencies were going on. It was surreal, and it was in its own way a bizarre breaking of the fourth wall by the show, even though it was completely warranted. It’s a shot that’ll go down in infamy in this show’s history for sure…I think the people to keep our eyes on going forward will be the three women of the Beauty tribe. In any tribe swap condition, I have to think whatever combination of them gets on a tribe will work their ways into power positions. Just a gut feeling on my part when it comes to this, but I’ll say this too; if any one of those three is isolated on a tribe, they will be picked off, and I’m feeling ominous about my new winner pick Anna. I hope she gets some Beauty’s with her, because if she doesn’t, she may be targeted.