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01-05-22 10:38 PM
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Survivor Season Rankings - Survivor: Redemption Island (#38/41)

 

01-05-22 10:38 PM
Furret is Offline
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Oh boy, I'm not looking forward to this one. Survivor: Redemption Island was the season that really kickstarted the dark era of Survivor for me. Its predecessor, Survivor: Nicaragua, is often cited as the start of the dark era by fans online but I’d argue it was just a prelude. This season is where things really took a sour turn. There are problems everywhere you look. Format, cast, this season really does nothing right.

Survivor S22: Redemption Island

Where do we begin. Maybe with the big twist happening this season. Redemption Island is as bad as it sounds. An island where you seek redemption. Redemption for what? What could possibly happen to you in Survivor to which you need to seek redemption? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Getting voted out of course! That’s right, this season getting voted out doesn’t mean anything. Or, it means about as much as Bill Gates dropping a fiver. That is to say, very little. This season, players who are voted out don’t get taken and executed. They instead get to move to a separate beach where they will sit on their ass until they get given a chance to duel their fellow compatriots on loser island. The winner of this duel gets to keep sitting on their ass on loser island, while the loser of the losers’ duel counts their losses and goes home. Don’t get lost! The more duels you win, the longer you stay. If you are the last person standing on Redemption Island when the tribes merge into one, you get to leave Redemption Island and rejoin the game. A second and final opportunity to rejoin the game comes at the final 5. It’s cute in concept but doesn’t really apply well to the game of Survivor. Since season 1, Survivor: Borneo, one of the founding rules of Survivor is that once you are voted out, you are out of the game. For good. In fact, there had only been one prior instance in which someone re-entered the game after getting voted out. In season 7, Survivor: Pearl Islands, right before the merge, the tribes were shocked when at an immunity challenge a third tribe called the Outcasts showed up. This tribe consisted of all the players voted out thus far into that season. The Outcasts went on to win that challenge and were allowed to vote between them to send 2 people back into the game. The others were eliminated for good. The Outcasts twist was hugely controversial when it happened, and was still talked about years and years after. It was generally seen as a one-off, something that just fit the theme of that season, and something that happened that will never be repeated again. Until now.

I can go on and on complaining about the concept of rejoining the game after getting voted out. To me, it takes away a huge part of the integrity of the show. Players could cruise their way through the game by just winning a bunch of carnival games. The people on Redemption Island didn’t have to worry about alliances and backstabbing and strategy and everything that you normally face in the game. But the worst part is that players who are still in the game can get punished for playing well. Sent a huge threat to your game home at tribal council? Doesn’t matter when they win a carnival game and show up to your camp with a vengeance. Not to mention all the opportunities to form connections on Redemption Island. Someone who is on Redemption Island can literally bond with whoever comes there next, beat them in a duel and send them to the jury, and repeat. You can literally make friends with the jury after they get burned and voted out by the players actually playing the game. But I digress. This won’t be the last time Redemption Island will show up, and definitely not the last time a player rejoins the game. And I’ll be mad about it every time. Except maybe one instance, you’ll know it when it comes up.

This season was filmed in Nicaragua. A nice location, and only the second time they ever filmed there. The first being, well, Survivor: Nicaragua, the season prior to this one. The scenery was beautiful and there were some amazing landmarks like volcanoes nearby. I can’t really complain too much here, good choice to the production team. So far we have a nice location and a horrible twist. It’s far from ideal but a good cast can definitely make this season enjoyable. And that’s where this season, like a few below it in my rankings, falls short.

Right away we meet our cast for the season. 9 women and 7 men are split into two tribes; the orange Ometepe tribe, and the purple Zapatera tribe. Wait, 9 women and 7 men? Something isn’t adding up here. Why wouldn’t they split the sexes 8 and 8? That question is soon answered when a helicopter arrives. In dramatic fashion, two men jump out of the helicopter. Is- is that Boston Rob? And the crowd goes wild! And who’s the short one behind him? Is- is that Russell Hantz? Everyone goes silent. That’s right, these two titans have come back to settle their beef from Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, two seasons ago. In that season Russell got the best of Rob, sending him home right before the jury phase started. Will history repeat itself? Or will Rob even the score? Right away you can tell that any chance that existed to get to know a bunch of fun new players has disappeared. Two of the biggest screen hogs to have ever graced the show have come back to compete against each other. A random draw follows, through which Rob gets sent to Ometepe. The whole tribe is cheering from success. As Russell walks over to his tribe, Zapatera, you can hear a pin drop. I’m not joking, the difference in reception was so big it was comical.

To my surprise, despite the many things going wrong so far this season, I’m ashamed to say I enjoyed the premier episode. Zapatera wins immunity and over at Ometepe there is some funny drama between Francesca and Phillip. Ultimately Francesca goes home. That’s where the fun stops sadly. The next episode the Zapateras realize how big of a threat Russell is, so they throw the immunity challenge. At tribal council they outplay Russell and send him home. Or, well, to Redemption Island. Where he will lose a duel the next episode and gets eliminated for good, for the first time in his Survivor career. Good job guys! Three episodes in and we already lost one of the biggest draws for the season. The beef between Rob and Russel is so anticlimactic, it’s over before you can blink. The rest of the season is a snoozefest. Zapatera can’t get it together after Russell leaves and loses all but one immunity challenge after. And all the Zapateras that are being sent to Redemption Island are being eliminated in duels by Matt, some dude from Ometepe who was sent home by Rob and his compatriots. Matt rejoins the game when the two tribes merge into one, creating a 7-5 advantage for Ometepe. And it’s here where we see pretty much the last exciting moment this season. Naturally feeling burned by Ometepe, Matt wants to flip to help Zapatera. It would tie the numbers 6-6, but he still has a close friend in Andrea who he could potentially convince to flip over as well. Only, Matt gets a little scared and decides to back off from the idea. Okay, cool. I don’t like it but I get it. The wild part is that he then goes to Rob, the leader of Ometepe, and tells him to his face that he was planning to flip. Matt is so delusional that he thinks telling this to Rob and showing to him that he changed his mind on it will prove to Rob that Matt is a loyal guy. Rob understandably laughs at the whole situation and decides to get rid of the loose cannon as soon as possible. In a crazy turn of events, Matt is sent back to Redemption Island, right after having rejoined the game. As Julie put it, “That poor kid”. After Matt is voted out, the Ometepes systematically get rid of all the remaining Zapateras. It’s boring, it’s predictable, and honestly you could skip like 4 or 5 episodes and lose nothing of value. Rob has a little scare when Ashley goes on a little immunity run, but he ends that right before the final. Rob has managed to cruise through the game, and he has brought two of the biggest goats ever seen in Survivor, Natalie and Phillip (more on him later), to the final three. Where he predictably wins after 4 whole seasons. Congrats Rob!

It’s fair to say I’m not a big fan of how the season went. Despite not liking the format there was still potential for something good. The biggest cause behind why the season went to s*** was the cast. Outside of Rob and Russell, who I’ll cover separately, the rest of the cast was filled with duds.

On Ometepe you have a bunch of boring characters like Matt, who was only fun for one episode when he blew his entire game up right after returning. Grant added next to no value, while Kristina was clever but also kind of boring. Andrea, Ashley, and Natalie were all generic young vacation girls (though Andrea went on to prove herself in later seasons, she was mediocre here). The only fun new players on this tribe were Francesca, who was the first boot, and Phillip.

Oh boy, Phillip Sheppard, what a divisive character. I for one thought he was great TV. He was an actual lunatic, having crazy outbursts all season over reasons that were so strange and bizarre it was entertaining. First of all, the guy is dressed like a cartoon character. He ties feathers to his forehead, he has all these crazy robes, and he is wearing tight, bright pink underwear. His underwear was so jarring that it got more screen time than half the cast combined. All the girls gagged when he walked by, and eventually they went as far as to bury his shorts so he had to go to tribal council in his underwear, all to embarrass him. Rob quickly saw the value in keeping Phillip around, and thus Phillip was protected all the way to the final three. Where he went apes*** during the jury questioning. The best part is that he kept claiming he was a former federal agent. This turned into such a meme that the editors put a ? next to his job title when he was being interviewed. And at the reunion they actually confirmed it! There has been much speculation that Phillip was playing up a character the whole time. Some even claim that he would have won if he revealed this at the final tribal council, though I beg to differ.

Zapatera had the more interesting personalities, in my opinion. Stephanie was a sneaky player and one of the only people willing to work with Russell, as she saw the value in keeping him as a big shield. Ralph was a comic relief character this season, and Steve is -in my opinion- one of the most underrated characters on the show. He had so many witty lines that were so clever and quick that they were easy to miss. His interactions with Phillip were especially hilarious.

As for Russell, he was your typical Russell. Loud, aggressive, and an absolute narcissist. But he provides drama everywhere we go and we were robbed of that this season.

Rob was also back to his old godfather days. He led his tribe of morons and absolutely played the part of puppet master perfectly. He got them so wrapped around his finger that he got them to do stuff like the buddy system, where nobody on his tribe was allowed to have a conversation with the other tribe without someone else being present. Except Rob of course, he did what he wanted. Phillip told Rob that he would always vote whatever Rob wanted him to. It’s honestly stunning how braindead these people were. Rob basically did what Brian did, he made a bunch of enemies by playing everyone like a fool, but he brought people with him to the final tribal council who he knew he could beat. It wasn’t his most entertaining appearance, but it was among his best. I’d put this right behind All-Stars Rob in terms of showings.

So yeah, a predictable mess after Russell went home. A little fun Matt episode in the middle and suddenly Boston Rob is a Survivor winner. I guess it was to be expected when you put a four-time player on the same team as a bunch of elementary school kids. Strong start, boring finish. At least Phillip kept me entertained throughout.
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