Airdate: April 17, 2008
Boot: Ozzy Lusth
Quote: “Just because you’ve gotten on everybody’s nerves don’t mean a donut is going to make it better. You really can’t expect to appease everybody over a donut. So if you tempt somebody with a donut and they say, ‘Oh yeah, sure,’ they might just have wanted a damn donut.” – James Clement
Rating: 10 + Tier B (4) = 14
Have I been unfair to Survivor: Micronesia? My fairly low ranking of this incredibly popular season is by far my most controversial Survivor opinion…and other than my preference for the cookies over the cream in Oreos, probably one of my most controversial opinions, period.
There’s no reason for this to exist.
My memory of this season is pretty simple. I disliked the premise of pitting past players against newbies right off the bat. I found the pre-merge episodes overcrowded and the fans tribe filled with duds. Then it really kicked into overdrive post-merge with some of the most exciting episodes of all time, but other than perhaps Erik’s epic blunder, they relied almost entirely on suspense and carried no rewatch value. I fully expected Micronesia‘s reputation to dwindle in time as people realized that, once you knew the elimination order, it wouldn’t hold up. Unpredictability only works the first time around.
I can admit when I’m wrong. Not only does the Ozzy boot episode hold up extremely well a decade later, but it isn’t an hour of pure strategy either. There is more genuinely fun character development in this episode alone than I remembered there being in the entire season. Much of that comes courtesy of Erik Reichenbach, a fan who made his debut in this season and later appeared in Caramoan and approximately 8,000 promos for Ghost Island.
“I want to give individual immunity to Natalie” is the mantra I use in my otherwise all-female yoga class.
Erik is a doofy delight, comparing his hometown of Pickney, Michigan to the island of Yap (because nobody has ever heard of either one), nervously anticipating dinosaurs emerging from the jungle, stick-dueling with locals, getting wasted on Micronesian beer and betel nut, and enjoying the pleasures of a real-life National Geographic spread, mesmerized by the openly-displayed boobage. A few weeks earlier, Erik had been on the same tribe as Playboy model Ami Cusack, but he was too tentative to bring it up directly.
“Hey, I have a fun icebreaker question. What was everyone up to in July 1996?”
That reward, by the way, is totally refreshing to revisit in the Survivor world of 2019. It is pure entertainment. There’s not a lick of strategy to be found in the entire scene. Beyond that, the unique cultural experience just reiterates how much of a shame it is that the show has now taken up permanent residence in Fiji. I get it; it saves money, but at what cost? And where exactly are those extra dollars going? Certainly not to Jeff Probst’s wardrobe budget.
All fans want is one season where Jeff wears a cardigan at every Tribal Council. Is that too much to ask?
Erik isn’t the only personality on display this episode. Jason brags about beating Ozzy in the previous episode’s immunity challenge, infamously referring to himself as a “god-like competitor.” Incidentally, that’s what I called myself after I went head-to-head with Ravi Malakar for five rounds in my third-grade spelling bee.
You’re not the only one who can spell peninsula, Ravi.
Then we see James showing off his crabby side after his loud chopping irritates the ladies (women be nappin’, amirite?) and I’m like, holy crap, this is classic Survivor. Why have I been sleeping on Micronesia all these years? Granted, this is just one episode but there’s almost more character development here than in the entire Ghost Island season. What seemed overly strategic in 2008 is actually quite balanced and enjoyable compared to the paint-by-numbers formula utilized a decade later (that thankfully was abandoned for David vs. Goliath, the most creative and enjoyable season in years). And this episode actually does involve a “big move,” which makes it even more amazing that they took the time to showcase some scenes just because they happen to be fun. We also have a neat reward challenge that incorporates both physical and mental components that doesn’t involve retrieving puzzle pieces and assembling some convoluted Jeff Probst-ism like “A reward with all the fixin’s” or “Are you still a virgin?” or “Love is not having to hold your farts in anymore.”
The excitement only intensifies during the immunity challenge, which is full of hysterical moments like the seething look on Alexis’s face when Probst denies her cookies and milk for dropping out too early. Natalie meets the same fate and James remarks, “That would suck…oh bitch!” as he too immediately accidentally lets his arm down. It’s some real Big Brother-style challenge editing, but I’m calling shenanigans. Probst’s reaction to James getting out shows him moving his empty right hand–the same hand that was holding the cookies and milk (which we see again in the next Probst shot). When Probst says that nobody is dropping for cookies and milk, we see Alexis sitting by herself next to him. However, when James was eliminated, he took a spot on Alexis’s left and would have been in frame if he were already out while Probst said this. To be clear, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this. The editors made it more entertaining and didn’t change the results or anything. It’s just a minor example of how deceptive the editing can be. It’s kind of like how everyone knows that Van Halen’s rider says they want a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones taken out, and everyone thinks they’re such divas, but the purpose is to give them a quick sense of whether or not the venue followed any directions. If the Survivor editors are gonna get creative with the little stuff, don’t doubt for a second that they’re even more inventive with the big stuff.
This is getting a little heavy right now so I’ll just point out that Amanda quit the challenge because she had to pee.
When the challenge gets down to Parvati and Jason, Jeff Probst offers them the opportunity to step down and give the eliminated players a feast. Parvati tries to convince Jason that he should do it and get back in the tribe’s good graces. I have to say, what happens next is pretty damn childish. Players start crossing their fingers as they promise Jason they won’t vote him out if he steps down. I expect more from you, Cirie. You’re a Survivor veteran; just tell him what he needs to hear without the playground shenanigans. Damn, I sound like my dad right now. “Anthony, it’s ok to lie; it’s Survivor!” “Anthony, you’re never going to catch the ball if you run away from it!” “Anthony, I’m locking you in the basement with no food and no water!”
This is getting a little heavy right now so I’ll just remind you that Amanda quit the challenge because she had to pee.
As it turns out, Cirie didn’t even need to cross her fingers because she hatches a plan to blindside Ozzy and flush his idol out of the game. This is beautifully executed; nobody who doesn’t need to know about it knows about it. I wonder if Ozzy was so cavalier about everyone knowing he had the idol because he saw how well it worked out for Yul in Cook Islands, but that was a different idol and Yul is a very different player than Ozzy. Regardless, the votes come in and it’s one of my favorite blindsides ever. Everyone remembers Eliza’s shock and awe from the jury but there are so many delicious reaction shots: Parvati’s gulp, Jason’s gleeful relief, Erik’s stunned look of pain, Cirie’s shit-eating grin, and Amanda’s “I don’t have to pee but I just shit my pants” face.
Then there’s Ozzy’s forced “for revenge, basically” stern look to the remaining players. I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on Ozzy’s final words, a hilariously bitter tirade where he tells the people that betrayed him that he “pretty much hate[s]” them. What’s funny about this is, everyone knows from his Redemption Island monologue in South Pacific that Ozzy can’t act, but this is supposedly a genuine emotional reaction and I still don’t believe it. Sadly, I don’t see Ozzy becoming the second person named Oscar to win an Oscar.