Airdate: October 1, 2009
Boot: Ben Browning
Quote: “This might be the worst group in history. And I might be the best.” – Russell Hantz
Rating: 3 + Tier E (1) = 4
The first few episodes of any Survivor season are a tricky beast. Some start slow but find their groove a couple weeks in, while others kick off with a bang but an unfortunate boot order depletes them of their most entertaining characters. Once in a while, though, you can judge a book by its cover–or maybe more accurately, its first few chapters. Samoa very much falls into the realm of “what you see is what you get.” If the “puppet master Russell Hantz” storyline hooks you at the beginning, you’re gonna love this season. If you find his “I’m in charge here and everyone else is an idiot” commentary repetitive and irritating, then buckle up, because you’re in for 14 episodes of that.
Now, I’m not gonna pretend that Survivor was ever presented in an unbiased fashion. It’s a TV show; they’re going to edit it how they see fit. But Samoa in particular is a season where objectivity is thrown out the window. The “previously on…” segment this episode doesn’t even mention Mike Borassi’s evacuation in the last episode, because it has nothing to do with the two narratives the show wants to beat into our heads: Shambo is the outsider at Galu, and Russell is running the show over at Foa Foa. The problem for viewers like me is that I consider both Shambo and Russell to be among the most annoying contestants of all time. Shambo is so frustratingly dense, while Russell seems convinced that if he calls himself the mastermind enough times, it will be true–sadly, the show is all too happy to indulge him.
Russell’s Tinder profile also boasts that he is “humble,” “six foot eight,” and “big-penised.”
The problem is, this episode is direct evidence that Russell is not in control of Foa Foa. His efforts to put the target on Ashley over the putrid Ben, whose racist and sexist comments have turned his teammates against him, go absolutely nowhere. Jaison adamantly refuses to vote for anyone but Ben, even threatening to quit if Ben survives the vote (in a confessional, he admits he wouldn’t).
I’ll pause here to mention Galu for approximately 12 seconds, because that’s the length of time scenes at their camp last. They win the combination reward/immunity challenge, and the other Russell (of the Swan variety) controversially opts for pillows and blankets over a tarp in order to please the women. But the real reward is they get rid of Shambo for a day-and-a-half when she goes over to Foa Foa to irritate them.
They eventually worked out a custody arrangement where Galu only got Shambo on weekdays and alternating Saturdays.
Actually, and I probably shouldn’t even be surprised by this, she fits in quite well with Foa Foa. They seem to adore her, and they’re not doing yoga (unlike her teammates on Survivor: 90210; wow, sick burn there, Shambo) so they’re pretty good in her book too. Of course, I’d rather live with people doing yoga than bigots, and at Tribal Council Ben doubles down on his prejudiced remarks. As a physically fit young man, Ben is automatically assumed to be a challenge asset even though, as Jaison hysterically points out, his performance didn’t match his persona. “I’m an outlaw, I’m a renegade, but they splashed me in the face! I can’t tackle anyone now, sorry! I got splashed!” Jaison says mockingly. There’s nothing I love more on Survivor than contestants impersonating each other, especially when it’s so salty. Unfortunately, other than the end result of Ben getting the boot, there’s not much more else to love in this excruciating episode.