So, I’ve got a deal I’d like to make you. And it’s a pretty sweet deal, if I do say so myself. Now, don’t be intimidated by the fact that I took an Advance Negotiations class at the University of Hard Knocks and got my Masters degree in Pointless Scheming. I promise this will be fair. What I’m thinking is something along the lines of this: I give you my Sisqó doll I obtained at an EW Toy Sale because nobody even bothered to bid on it, and you give me… ummm, I don’t know, let’s say everything you own in exchange.
I know! I know! It seems like a lot I’m giving up. Collectors are likely to pay MILLIONS for a pint-sized recreation of the guy who sang the “Thong Song,” so I’m clearly giving up more than I am getting in this deal, but that’s just the type of person I am, always trying to improve the lives of others.
What’s that? You have a counter-offer? You’d prefer if I sat out a recap instead? Well, first of all, I assure you that you are far from the first Survivor fan to wish that. Also, if I sit out, who can step in and make sure there are an adequate number of typos and references to low-budget syndicated action series like Baywatch Nights and Cleopatra 2525? Sit out? Never! The only people that sit things out are Survivor contestants with million-dollar prizes on the line.
Speaking of which, I suppose we should get into that because there was a lot of sitting out going on in this double-shot of episodes. Let’s start with the first immunity challenge. That devious bastard Jeff Probst once again gave the contestants a choice: compete for immunity or enjoy a plate of nachos along with alcohol. Carl, Angelina, and Nick all opted for the food and booze rather than the competition.
Now, before I continue, I would like to stress that I have never starved in my entire life. Sure, there was that time I was down to one slice of bread so had to eat only half of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch. That was pretty harrowing and I occasionally do wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat just thinking about it, but the point is, I’ve never been deprived of food for long. (The longest was probably when I spent the night alone on Exile Island the night before season 12 started filming.)
So as someone that has never truly been without food for long, it would be unfair for me to say to Carl and Angelina — who have been on zero food rewards since the merge — what the hell were you thinking? And yet I say to them… WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!? And don’t even get me started on Nick, who has been on food rewards, although, in fairness, he may have been too busy coming up with dumb alliance names to eat while at them. But seriously, very disappointed in them.
This is a rant I go on seemingly every season, so I’ll try to keep it somewhat brief (remember, we’re grading on a curve here when I say that). You came to play Survivor. So play Survivor! Embrace the experience! And the challenges are a big part of that experience. That’s not the main reason to keep playing, however. That’s just my inner Survivor nerd making sure his voice is heard. There are better and smarter reasons to play rather than eat.
Chief among those reasons is that you never know when your neck is on the chopping block so you should be fighting for safety at all times. Look at Carl: He thought he was 100 percent safe at the following episode’s Tribal Council and look what happened. And by all appearances, it seems like forces were already starting to mobilize against him by the time he started stuffing nachos down his throat. You never know, so should always fight like hell for anything that can keep you immune from eviction. The only thing nachos keep you immune from is staying regular.
Then there is the second big reason to never sit out a challenge: It’s just a bad look, man. At some point, if you’re lucky, you will be asking the others to vote for you as the most deserving person for the million-dollar prize. You will sit there at the final Tribal Council and tell the jury how you gave it your all and fought tooth and nail throughout the game. While you do that, the image you probably don’t want to land in their minds is you belching while alternating between congealed cheese and watered-down margaritas as the others suffer through a grueling endurance competition. Fair or not, it just doesn’t match the narrative you are trying to present.
And we already saw how current and potential future jurors viewed this. Brochacho Dan and Brochacho John were aghast that players sat out to eat — although, to be fair, jury members tend to be aghast about a lot of things. Hell, you could tell them that Probst wore his blue hat at the challenge and they would probably be aghast, which is silly because I’m the only person lame enough to honestly give a crap about the color of Jeff Probst’s hat. But still-in-the-game Kara was one of the current players who also commented negatively about the decision, telling Carl, “You were comfortable enough to eat nachos. It is what it is.”
Perception is reality in Survivor and if you want to create the narrative that you were a true gamer then you can’t be perceived as someone that was content to sit out part of the game. Of course, this wasn’t the only challenge sit-out of the night. In the second episode, Angelina noticed that the tribe was perilously low on rice, but she thought she had the expert bargaining skills to remedy the situation. She would argue that she did. I would argue otherwise. Here’s why.