Anyone who knows their seasonal pop culture knows one thing for certain: that there’s nothing quite so heartwarming as the arrivals gate at an airport. Love Actually teaches us that. And at this time of year, the lessons of Love Actually are not easily ignored. So, the arrivals gate- the loving embraces; the unparalleled grins; the seemingly stable people completely losing control and bursting into tears at the sight of loved ones; the sort of hugs where the people look as if they can never quite bring themselves to let go. For half an episode every season, that’s how Survivor feels- on Family day.
Once a season, towards the end- when the castaways are tattered and torn, beaten down, skinny as rails and paranoid as hell- superhost Jeff Probst conjures their families miraculously out of the jungle. After a brief re-connection, the loved-ones have to battle for the right to spend more time together. The losers get torn apart. This is always my favourite episode. Forget the potential for phenomenal scheming (see the classic Johnny Fairplay grandmother lie) and the wonderful humanization of villains (who knew Russell had a loving wife and Parvati a caring father?!), I just love watching people burst ridiculously into tears because they simply can’t deal anymore. Does that sound cruel? That’s not how I meant it. What I mean is, at this point in the game, no matter how close their alliance is or how much power they have, the castaways have usually (FINALLY) reached the conclusion that they can’t really trust each other, not really. But you know who you can trust? Your mom. You can usually believe that your best friend, your son, your sister or that guy you’ve been married to for 25 years isn’t gonna vote you off any metaphorical or literal island any time soon. That giant wash of relief that comes from seeing someone you can count on no matter what, the uncontrollable tears, the desperation to keep them close instead of having to put the walls back up- it’s an awesome humanity and consistently the best bits of any Survivor season.
That lasts half an episode. Then the idiots retool, attempt to play their terrible poker faces, fail miserably at saving themselves, keep the most annoying players around and do unthinkable things like threaten my beloved Fabio. Not that it wasn’t a good idea to get rid of Jane, it was a very very good idea. It always annoys me when someone makes a big deal about loyalty and betrayal on Survivor. You’re on SURVIVOR, either learn how to play or shut up but don’t complain that your cheeseburger came with cheese. That said, it was still a bit of a stinging move and it mostly bothered me because of the central alliance’s faith in their stupidest member. Chase has GOT to go. The guy’s a wildcard, and not in a wonderful Parvati-has-2-idols-and-gives-them-both-away-completely-flipping-the-game-without-any-notice kind of way. He’s a wildcard in the he-has-no-idea-what-he’s-doing kind of way. He’s a heart player not a head player, but his affections shift so randomly that not even the essential organ can be counted on. He’s GOT TO GO. Holly’s a good player (though I had forgotten about Dan’s shoes, woman’s a lunatic!- thanks for the reminder Jane) and I absolutely love Fabio (did you catch his rhetoric around the Freud debate a couple weeks ago?- kid’s playing a part, write him off and prove yourself an idiot) but I think my support’s behind Sash at this point. He’s the best player. And the best player deserves the money. And I mean the all-around best player, not the Russell-got-robbed argument for best player. Natalie played the social game AND made strategic moves that went unnoticed (the reversal on Erik that turned the tide on Galu and consequently the entire game- entirely her play), but that’s an argument for another day. What I’m saying is that Sash is playing strategy, social and physical all well and he’s brought himself back from the brink of destruction many times over. It’s his game to lose. But a win for Fabio and I’d go home smiling.