Okay, I've been sucked back in - at least until the NBC comedies return after the Olympics - to watching and writing about "Survivor." A review of the premiere of "Heroes vs. Villains" coming up just as soon as I strangle a chicken...
Absence tends to make the heart grow fonder for "Survivor," doesn't it? I skipped Vanuatu after the first All-Star season left a bad taste in my mouth and loved Palau when I returned. (Though Palau was, of course, one of the best seasons ever.) And I skipped Fiji and China and mostly enjoyed Fans vs. Favorites until it turned out that all the "fans" were morons. And now having skipped every season in between that one and Heroes vs. Villains, I find myself re-energized, happy to see challenges and fire-building and scheming and all the rest. I may burn out eventually (and/or the hellacious Thursday scheduling crunch may mean I have to drop this so I can focus on shows I enjoy more, like "Community" and "Parks and Recreation"), but when "Survivor" is good - as this episode mostly was - it's very good.
The wrestling challenge was a ton of fun, even if it predictably led to nasty injuries for Stephenie (tough as nails, as always, with the way she handled the shoulder dislocation) and Rupert (a melancholy drama queen, as he was for the first All-Star season, after busting his toe and then failing to make a fire). Colby getting owned by Coach would have been less shocking if I hadn't also seen him physically struggle against equal competition in All-Stars (in Australia, he was far and away the strongest person there), but it was still entertaining, as was a topless Sugar flipping Sandra a double-bird after winning her heat.
I think I may already be tired of Russell, and I didn't even watch his season, but I loved seeing him try to cut the same deal with Danielle, who's stupid enough to buy the sales pitch, and Parvati, who immediately did a talking head in which she said she knew that he was making that offer to everyone. I don't much like Parvati as a person, but she's a good player, and right now the collection of egos, quirks and (in the case of Coach and possibly Russell) absolute psychosis on the Villains team makes them the more entertaining bunch to watch, even if I'm cheering for most of the Heroes.
(I do, by the way, like Fienberg's idea that the tribes should have been integrated from the start, with only the audience knowing who was identified as a Hero or Villain so we could see which approach worked better. Then again, as I've said many times, I find a lot of these Hero/Villain distinctions silly.)
A couple of disappointments, though. First, when Rob talked about how much he's changed since the last time he played the show, what he really came across as was kind of complacent. In some ways, he's coming across like Colby and Jerri and some of the other people did back on All-Stars: he's back because he knows everyone expects him to be back, but he's not particularly hungry about it and he's not hustling like he did back in the day. On the other hand, he did manage to make fire without flint, and it's kind of funny to see Rob as the most industrious one on a tribe after he was introduced to us in Marquesas as a guy whose strategy revolved around being lazy and getting rid of hunter/gatherer Hunter.
Second, I was annoyed when Sugar did, in fact, wind up being a near-unanimous vote-out after all the talk of Cirie or Stephenie going. I recognize that this is a "Survivor" staple, and one they feel they need to use to maintain suspense when a vote seems like an incredibly foregone conclusion, but I think it's something they should have ditched years ago (after we all understood how the game/show worked) in situations like this in favor of giving us a more concrete understanding of how the game is playing out. I'm sure next week will open with Cirie and/or Tom (or their respective alliance-mates) explaining why they decided to go with the obvious boot rather than taking out a threat, but I like watching the strategizing more than I like being surprised at this stage.
Let me remind you, as usual, that discussing the previews (even obliquely) is against the No Spoiler rule for commenting, and then let me ask, what did everybody else think?