Battle of the generations

(CBS)
(CBS)

In 32 seasons of Survivor, the hit CBS reality show has pitted contestants against each other based on gender, appearance, intelligence, physicality, age, occupation, family and much more. And the franchise’s 33rd installment reinvents the wheel once again.

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, which premieres at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, pits the contestants in a way similar to Nicaragua’s young vs. old showdown, but keeps with the recent identity trend that recent seasons have exploited.

The Millennials feature players ranging from the show’s youngest ever, an 18-year-old high school student, to a 31-year-old professional gamer. Meanwhile, the Gen X contestants range from 33 to 52 years old.

Throughout the week, andrewrhanson.net will preview the upcoming tribes – Vanua (Millennials) and Takali (Gen X). Stay tuned for our in-depth coverage of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.

The Price is Right reality special a major success

logoI never thought I would write a blog post about an episode of The Price is Right, which is good because I didn’t. Instead, I wrote one about THREE episodes of it that aired as primetime specials as part of CBS’ three-part series where Survivor, Big Brother and The Amazing Race contestants appeared in subsequent nights on the program alongside super fans from each show. Now that I say this, I should probably re-evaluate my life.

Before I get into the breakdown of each episode, I want to note that this experiment that CBS trotted out was a resounding success. It was well received by fans and pulled strong numbers in the ratings. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar to this down the pipe at CBS.

the-price-is-right-1
(CBS)

The Price is Right – Survivor Edition

Original Airdate: Monday, May 23

Ratings: 6.22 million viewers (1.3 adult 18-49 rating share)

The Players: Natalie Anderson (San Juan del Sur), Joe Anglim (Worlds Apart, Cambodia – Second Chance), Rupert Boneham (Pearl Islands, All-Stars, Heroes vs. Villains, Blood vs. Water), Jeremy Collins (San Juan del Sur, Cambodia – Second – Chance), Cirie Fields (Panama – Exile Island, Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites, Heroes vs. Villains), Woo Hwang (Cagayan, Cambodia – Second Chance), Rob Mariano (Marquesas, All-Stars, Heroes vs. Villains, Redemption Island), Kelley Wentworth (San Juan del Sur, Cambodia – Second – Chance), Tina Wesson (Australia, All-Stars, Blood vs. Water)

Best Moment: Boston Rob and Alysse won an Apple Watch and iPhone on Contestants Row. Going with the recent Survivor: Kaoh Rong theme of brains vs. brawn vs. beauty, Alysse played the game, Most Expensive for a smart TV, motorized scooter and washer and dryer set. Now fortunately for Alysse, Boston Rob was just in the market for laundry appliances.

“This is great because I just got a new washer and dryer,” Mariano said beaming with confidence. He knew that it was not the most expensive. Unfortunately for Alysse, Rob thought the smart TV was the most expensive. It in fact was the cheapest. The Vespa had the highest retail value. Come on, Mariano, “Smarten up!”

The Final Showcase: We’ve got Joey Amazing and LaTrina, who had already won a trip to Borneo, and Cirie and Thomas, wearing an “Outbid, Outspin, Outwin” t-shirt. Thomas also had a cool $25,000 in his pocket.

Voice of The Price is Right George Gray kicked things off saying that, “We’ve enlisted Survivor fan favorites Ozzy and Sierra to help present this showcase.”

All right, Ozzy Lusth, whether you suffered Ozzy fatigue or not, he at least was on the favorites tribe in Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites. Then when you hear the name “Sierra,” you think, “Oh, cool,” Cierra Eastin is here. Nope.  It’s barrel racer Sierra Thomas. There were more fans on the original fan tribe in Caramoan than people who think Sierra is a fan favorite.

Thomas and Cirie’s showcase included a trip to Fiji and a bright red Ford Mustang, which Ozzy has way to much fun rolling his body all over. They kept it and bid $33,199. A solid guess.

LaTrina and Joe played for a package that let her outwit, outplay and outlast. First up is a new computer. Really? Just kidding. The 32-inch curved computer is actually pretty slick. Next is a game room. Seriously? “Finally, you’ll be able to outlast everyone on the road with the great gas mileage you’ll get driving your new Prius,” Probst interjected. She bid $30,000 even.

Side note – if a player guesses within $250 of the actual retail price, they win both showcases. So why not bid a final number with the last three digits around 500 because the value will most likely not fall between zero and 250.

Anyway, back to the game. Thomas and Cirie’s sweet prize package was worth a cool $32,860. They were just barely over. That was still some impressive bidding from Thomas nonetheless.

LaTrina and Joe’s showcase was worth $30,769. Winner winner chicken dinner! They jumped for joy. LaTrina ran over and gives Jeff a hug, and Joe jumped into the arms of one of the models, no it’s not our favorite model Drew Christy, who was basically a badass.

Another side note – Jeff Probst was great through this. You never felt that he was above the job with helping Drew Carey host. He was fun and playful. It was good.

(CBS)
(CBS)

The Price is Right – Big Brother Edition

Original Airdate: Tuesday, May 24

Ratings: 6.41 million viewers (1.1 adult 18-49 rating share)

The Players: Frankie Grande (BB 16), Britney Godwin (BB 12, BB 14), James Huling (BB 17), Will Kirby (BB 2, BB 7), Janelle Pierzina (BB 6, BB 7, BB 14), Rachel Reilly (BB 12, BB 13), Da’Vonne Rogers (BB 17), Jeff Schroeder (BB 11, BB 13), Ian Terry (BB 14)

Best Moment: Dr. Will. No, seriously, everything Dr. Will. Anytime Dr. Will, one of, if not the greatest, players in reality TV history is on your television screen, you watch it.

From his facial reactions on Contestant’s Row, to him claiming, “We don’t want $1,900,” after his partner-in-crime Brian bid on a prize that included purses, women’s shoes and other accessories.

When Dr. Will and Brian, who happened to be wearing a Big Brother 2 t-shirt, got on stage, the one-half of Chilltown was probably the most genuinely excited person to be up there.

Update – Dr. Will still likes Neil Patrick Harris.

Ugh…I want Dr. Will back on Big Brother so bad.

Side note – While it was intoxicating to see Frankie Grande on my television screen, it was so delicious that he couldn’t make it out of Contestants Row. The way he always incessantly looked at the camera made me want to, well, I can’t say go watch Big Brother, but you get the point.

The Final Showcase: On the Big Brother version of The Price is Right, it all came down to Brian and Dr. Will and Will’s BB All-Stars showmance partner Janelle and Geoffrey (pronounced Joffrey).

Now in what universe is Lawon Exum a fan favorite? Was Zingbot getting into someone’s head? “Now here’s everybody’s fan favorite Lawon…Zing!”

If only Barney Stinson was on this episode of The Price is Right for Dr. Will.

Lawon modeled a new living room set, and then an Audi A3 Premium sedan was revealed. You knew Brian and Dr. Will were keeping the showcase.

“Woah,” said Dr. Will.

Brian bid $34,000.

Julie Chen unveiled Geoffrey and Janelle’s showcase, which included a Caribbean Cruise (still not sure how Julie tried to tie this back to Big Brother) and a trip to Australia, which also has an edition of Big Brother. King Joffrey can also win a new Chevy Camaro.

Janelle said not to go low. She thinks Brian way underbid. The pair go with $39,000. Why all these round numbers, though?

Geoffrey ended up low-balling his bid by $4,401.

The actual retail price for Brian’s bundle was $36,695. Doc Will knew all along that he was right.

After giving Zingbot a hug, Will hopped in shotgun of Brian’s car. Score another point for Chilltown.

(CBS)
(CBS)

The Price is Right – The Amazing Race Edition

Original Airdate: Wednesday, May 25

Ratings: 6.67 million viewers (1.2 adult 18-49 rating share)

The Players: Leo and Jamal (TAR 23, TAR 24), Tyler and Korey (TAR 28), Erin and Joslyn (TAR 28), Joey and Kelsey (TAR 27), Nat and Kat (TAR 17), Mark and Bopper (TAR 20), Tiffany and Krista (TAR 27), Brook and Claire (TAR 17), Flight Time and Big Easy (Tar 15, TAR 18, TAR 24)

Best Moment: When George Gray called out for Monifa Sims to come on down, I had to say wait a second. I remember that Will Sims II, the so-called Youtube sensation, from Survivor: Worlds Apart had a wife named Monifa. A Monifa Sims sighting. I’m ashamed that I instantly put two and two together.

Monifa had perhaps one of the worst bids in The Price is Right history. It was almost equivalent to her husband’s skill at Survivor. I don’t know which was worse. Anyway, she had the luxury of being the last to bid. She asked Drew what the highest bid was – $900. So no, she did not bid $901. She bid $1,000. You were the last person to bid, Monifa! How could you have such an awful bid?! Fortunately for her, the actual retail price of the designer handbags were $2,540.

Hey, at least her and Will won a trip to South Africa. Plus during the Showcase Showdown, when Drew asked if she wanted to say hello to anyone, we got a Will Sims shoutout.

The Final Showcase: Flight Time and Big Easy and their partner Katherine were the first to make it to the final showcase. They were followed by Erin and Joslyn and their TAR super fan, Robert.

Now what is up with these alleged fan-favorites serving as the models in the final showcase. Ozzy was in fact a fan-favorite and Sierra was at least on a recent season of Survivor, and Lawon had memorable aspects to him.

I have no idea who Ashley and Ally are. Zero, nada, zilch. I did not recognize their names or faces. After a quick Google search, I found that they were on TAR 23. They were the LA Kings ice crew members. I vaguely remember them being on now because there was a lot of hockey talk in the The Amazing Race world after professional hockey players Bates and Anthony won the season before.

I saw Chippendale Jaymes sitting in the audience. You couldn’t bring him up? I have a feeling bringing him up on stage certainly would not hurt the ratings, and he’s carved a nice career out for himself, too.

The first showcase included vacations to Italy, Alaska and the Seychelles. Clearly, The Amazing Race edition is taking the literal approach when it comes to choosing their prizes. No Travelocity Roaming Gnomes have been spotted, though.

Robert passed the showcase to Katherine. She bid $18,500.

After passing on the three trips, Phil Keoghan reveals Robert’s showcase, which included a trip to Phil’s native New Zealand, an ATV and a brand new convertible.

He valued the items at $30,000.

Side note – As I watched the final showcase, I still have no recollection of seeing the faces of Ashley and Ally on The Amazing Race.

Robert’s showcase is valued at $36,901, he’s off by $6,901, but his low-ball bid is close enough as Katherine undervalued her showcase by $8,985.

The right winner in Kaoh Rong

(CBS)
(CBS)

One of the fundamental concepts of Survivor that has stuck with the franchise through 32 seasons is the premise that the rules and decisions made in the game are done by the players.

The other central theme that has stuck with the program since the first season aired in the summer of 2000, is that week after week players have to eliminate their peers from the game while then being forced to plead their case at the end for the $1 million prize to those same people who they voted out.

Those two ideas were never more present in the finale of Kaoh Rong.

Michele proved that you still don’t have to make big moves to win Survivor, you just have to make the right ones, as the 24-year-old bartender from New Jersey beat Aubry and Tai in the finals by a vote of 5-2-0.

Michele Fitzgerald proved that she didn't need to be carried after winning Survivor: Kaoh Rong. (CBS)
Michele Fitzgerald proved that she didn’t need to be carried after winning Survivor: Kaoh Rong. (CBS)

Playing a quiet game that focused on building interpersonal relationships with her tribe mates, Michele avoided tribal council for the first 22 days of the game and won the final two challenges, one immunity and one reward, to lay her claim to the title of Sole Survivor.

In an era of Survivor where players have left final tribal council victorious after playing sound strategic games as a returnee (John Cochran, Tyson Apostol and Jeremy Collins) or erratic, three steps forward and two steps back games as a first-time contestant (Tony Vlachos, Natalie Anderson and Mike Holloway), Michele’s game was reminiscent of the show’s early winners like Tina Wesson or Vecepia Towery who walked away with a million bucks in hand after playing games with a strong emphasis on jury management and not pissing people off.

Outside of winning the final two challenges, which are a factor that simply cannot be ignored, it can be argued the Michele’s biggest move was jumping from the bottom of one alliance to another during the vote out of her former beauty tribe mate, Julia. But the area Michele excelled in and Aubry and Tai couldn’t finish on was the social aspect.

Despite being a strategic force throughout season, Aubry Bracco finished second.
Despite being a strategic force throughout season, Aubry Bracco finished second.

Of the three finalists, Aubry was the best at the strategic game. She was the only contestant to vote for the ousted player at every tribal council after the merge. She was leading the charge on a number of blindsides and managed to navigate the game after two of her closest allies, Neal and Joe, were medevacced from the game. She also won a pivotal win-or-go-home fire making challenge at the final four that led to the elimination of her longtime strategic partner-in-crime, Cydney.

Like Nick and Joe, I thought Aubry played the best game of the season. She would have gotten my vote at final tribal council. The jury didn’t see it that way, though, as Cydney, Debbie, Scot, Jason and Julia all wrote Michele’s name on the parchment on Day 39.

Tai Trang may not have won the million dollars, but he became an instant fan-favorite, winning the hearts of America along with Mark the Chicken.
Tai Trang may not have won the million dollars, but he became an instant fan-favorite, winning the hearts of America along with Mark the Chicken.

Tai, who made perhaps the single biggest move of the season when he refused to give his one-time alliance partner Scot his immunity idol after he was voted out on Day 27, which prevented the creation of a super idol, received zero votes to win.

Michele’s win was a reminder that the players in the game make the rules. She wasn’t the most strategic player, but she made the people around her feel comfortable. This was what Jeremy was so good at in Cambodia – Second Chance. And that’s exactly why Michele she won.

When you gather a group of 18 strangers together to play Survivor. There is no bitterness amongst the players before the game begins. Therefore, the concept of bitter jury syndrome shouldn’t really exist. A players’ actions in the game had to have done something to cause that bitterness. Whether it was stabbing an alliance member in the back by not giving them an immunity idol or turning on your closest ally because they’re a jury threat,  it’s the way people are treated that make them bitter.

While Michele didn’t do much to woo people over, she didn’t do anything to make them bitter, either. In the end, that was enough for her to seal the deal. Bitter jury or not, the contestants in the game make the decisions. They rule the day. And because it is the players’ game, the metaphoric tribe has spoken. Despite not being the best player this season, it must be conceded that Michele was most certainly the right winner.

 

Three questions heading into the Kaoh Rong finale

  • A final three or a final two?

When the final four contestants in Survivor: Cagayan realized they were going to have a final two and not a final three, one of the top-five seasons in Survivor history got a little bit better. It created the most stunning final elimination of a season when Woo Hwang voted out Chaos Kass McQuillen on day 38, sparing Tony Vlachos, his bag of tricks and dozens of spy shacks scattered across the Northern Philippines.

It was the first time the game had feature a final two since Tocantins, which aired 10 seasons prior. Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites also had an unexpected final two after two players were forced to leave the game due to injury and one player quit.

That brings us to day 34 of Kaoh Rong when Joe was medevacced from the game after consuming copious amounts of satay following his first individual challenge win of the season. Never before has the game featured this few of players with so many days left in a 39-day season.

Commercial teasers have been hyping three tribal councils, two hours and one epic twist. But as John Kirhoffer, the show’s supervising and challenge producer, tells us in the weekly challenge preview, the final immunity challenge is designed for four people.

What will happen? We shall see. While not likely, I don’t think it should be a foregone conclusion that there will be three people sitting at the final tribal council.

Regardless of how many contestants face the jury, it will be exciting nonetheless.

  • A Twistos Twist?

Perhaps the biggest question mark (not Mark the Chicken) heading into the Kaoh Rong finale revolves around a so-called epic twist that will be entering the game, presumably a potential game-changing twist.

My guess is that involves the jury – either eliminating the voting powers of a juror altogether or doubling their power akin to the extra vote Tai used earlier this season.

Eliminating a juror is not unprecedented in modern reality television. During Big Brother Canada 3, Jordan Parhar was removed from the jury as the final three houseguests decided to eliminate him once again from the game, and he was unable to vote for a winner during the finale.

Having a player earn the power to remove a member’s voting privileges from the jury is certainly plausible. Whether it’s a final two or three, there will be eight or nine contestants on the jury, leaving plenty of votes still to be cast at the final tribal council.

If this happens, it’ll be an interesting twist. Although, there’s a very good chance it will have no outcome on the game, too. The last time the winner was decided by a single vote was when Fabio Birza beat now-turned country star Chase Rice in the Nicaragua finale 5-4.

But this season has been unpredictable. After getting off to a booming start, the season has hit a rough patch since the blindside of Scot. Episodes as a whole and tribal councils have been fairly straightforward. There hasn’t even been the need for a hashtag blindside chyron to appear.

While there’s no certainty that the ability to remove a juror is the twist, if it does come to fruition, though, there is no doubt that there will be controversy surrounding it. If it benefits someone’s favorite player it will be deemed a success, but if it doesn’t help out America’s sweetheart it will be a travesty. Look no further than the Tyler Perry Idol in Cagayan.

No matter the result, this twist may just be the antidote that the ending to Kaoh Rong needs.

  • Who’s the goat?
Tai Trang
Tai Trang

No, not the greatest of all-time as Russell Hantz proclaims to be but the goat, like a farm animal. Some of the goats of recent time include Sherri Biethman (Caramoan), Monica Culpepper (Blood vs. Water), Missy Payne (San Juan del Sur) and everyone’s favorite YouTube sensation Will Sims II (Worlds Apart).

The answer might surprise you, but I think it’s fan-favorite Tai. To quote Jason, “He’s flipped more than a flapjack.”

Survivor hasn’t had a close vote in the finale since Sophie Clarke beat Coach Wade and Albert Destrade by a vote of 6-3-1 in South Pacific. It was clear heading into the finale that Albert didn’t stand a chance that he was a goat. Since then, it hasn’t been hard to peg who you has no possible route to winning the game. And unfortunately for America this season, it’s Tai.

Go down the list of every winner in Survivor history and it’s clear they had votes in their favor heading into the final tribal council. But does Tai? Nope. He’s crossed every alliance he’s had except for Caleb who was medevacced in the fourth episode of the season.

Tai turned on Anna at the first tribal council he went to following the merge. He was the cause of one of the most dramatic post-vote reading moments when he chose not to give Scot his immunity idol, eliminating any chance of the creation of a super idol. Two tribal councils he sent his other former alliance partner Jason out the door.

It’s not to say Tai’s strategy couldn’t work, but he doesn’t have the social and strategic capabilities to bring the people he’s stabbed in the back back to his side.

What differentiates Tai from the other goats in Survivor lore is that he wasn’t just a contestant taking up space. He was constantly battling good vs. evil, heart vs. head in the game. Tai was making big moves, unfortunately for him, they were the wrong moves.

Putting The Amazing Race 28 into perspective

(Courtesy CBS)
(CBS)

In its 28th season, The Amazing Race decided to trot out a cast full of social media stars.

Two seasons before that in TAR 26, the season was tabbed as Amazing Race blind date edition. The entire cast was composed of six pre-existing dating couples and five couples who would go on the, “blind date of a lifetime.” Jeff and Jackie weren’t bad for their brief stint on CBS, their time on Big Brother 17 excluded. The truck stop love pair of Mike and Rochelle made for an intriguing underdog. And the match-not-made-in-heaven couple of Blair and Hayley will go down as one of the all-time great duos in The Amazing Race history, at least when it come to great TV moments. The fact that all three of the final remaining teams were blind date teams made for a interesting end to the experiment.

Blind date was supposed to be the end of the road for The Amazing Race. But one could have said the same following their not-so-well-received all-star edition in season 24.

So when show creator Bertram van Munster made the call to go with a roster full of Internet celebrities, the thought was, “well, it could be worse.”

I was a little skeptical initially, but that probably stems from having to watch the self-proclaimed social media mogul Frankie Grande for three months during Big Brother 16.

Youtube dancing sensations Matt and Dana won TAR 28. (Cliff Lipson/CBS)
Youtube dancing sensations Matt and Dana won TAR 28. (CBS)

In the beginning, it was very apparent that these social media stars were hamming it up for the camera, particularly during the first two episodes. It was somewhat disappointing because if you eliminated that annoyance from the episodes, TAR 28 was off to a good start.

But then racers stopped playing it up . The season had one of the most interesting routes in race history, too. Mexico, Colombia, Switzerland, France, Armenia, Georgia, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and China. During the 28th installment of the franchise, racers visited two countries – Armenia and Georgia – for the first time in race history.

Sheri and Cole surprised even themselves to finish second in TAR 28. (Cliff Lipson/CBS)
Sheri and Cole surprised even themselves to finish second in TAR 28. (CBS)

It was a race dominated by two teams – Korey and Tyler, who were strategic and entertaining, and the frisbee boys Brodie and Kurt, who were fan-favorites. The teams had a good rivalry, combining to win nine of the 12 legs. It was reminiscent of the back-and-forth battle between the frat boys, Eric and Jeremy, and the hippies, BJ and Tyler, during TAR 9. In season nine, those two teams combined to win 11 out of 13 legs, with the Hippies crossing the finish line first at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver.

During the 10th leg in Indonesia this season, Korey and Tyler u-turned Brodie and Kurt at the Double U-Turn, changing the tide of the game.

“We love them, but if we want a chance in the finals, they’re the biggest threat. They’ve got the most number ones,” Tyler told Korey after making the decision. “We’ve got to do it.”

Despite being the front-runner for most of the race, Tyler and Korey finished third on the final leg of TAR 28. (Cliff Lipson/CBS)
Despite being the front-runner for most of the race, Tyler and Korey finished third on the final leg of TAR 28. (CBS)

“It was a Double U-Turn, so if somebody else u-turns Sheri and Cole or the dancers, Brodie and Kurt can stay alive,” Korey questioned on the way to the Roadblock. “After we played the u-turn, we had a little bit of a panic moment and then it finally clicked. If Burnie and Ashley are smart, they can u-turn us just so no one else can use it.”

When Burnie and Ashley arrived at the Double U-Turn in second. It was a no-brainer to put a halt to the frisbee boys’ game. “So, Brodie and Kurt, the only way they stand a chance is if they u-turn somebody else. Let’s u-turn Tyler and Korey,” Burnie said, opting to use the Double U-Turn on the team ahead of them, thus eliminating any chance that Brodie and Kurt would have of forcing another team behind them to complete the other side of the Detour.

At the Pit Stop, host Phil Keoghan lauded the shrewd game play. “You decided that you were going to u-turn the frisbee boys. It could be a good move,” he said.

“If anybody has a chance to win it, the frisbee boys can’t be in the finals,” Tyler said after winning the leg with Burnie and Ashley on the mat beside them in second.

The game turned from there. Tyler and Korey took home their fifth first-place finish in Shenzhen, China, securing their spot in the final three. Matt and Dana finished second, and Sheri and Cole rounded out the entries in the final leg after Burnie and Ashley lost more than 40 minutes trying to ride a motorized unicycle around Shenzhen, a gadget that Bernie happened to have in his shopping cart on Amazon.com before going on the race. Unfortunately for team Rooster Teeth, Burnie never ordered it.

To me, what separates The Amazing Race from its CBS reality counterparts in Survivor and Big Brother, is that like in the show, the journey, not the destination, is the reward – meaning that a season isn’t defined by the winner. The Beekman Boys, arguably the most unlikely winners in race history, won TAR 21, which  brought us the ChippendalesTwinnies and rock-n-roll musician and lawyer James and Abba. The season wasn’t brought down because the best team didn’t win.

I’ve got nothing against Survivor winners Bob Crowley or Fabio Birza, but Survior: Gabon and Nicaragua aren’t exactly in the pantheon of Survivor seasons.

In Survivor and Big Brother the story is just better, it feels more right, when the best, most strategic player wins.

With The Amazing Race, that simply isn’t the case, which brings us to the TAR 28 finale, run in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California.

Straight from the get-go, Matt and Dana jumped to first-place, literally. Sheri and Cole completed the Roadblock at Angelus Plaza second, and Tyler and Korey left in third after taking three attempts to grab the clue dangling 170 feet above the ground. Tyler and Korey also lost precious time searching for the clue box at the plaza.

The three teams never changed positions during the episode. That’s not to say the final leg wasn’t exciting, but it wasn’t exactly riveting television, either. The challenges were OK, albeit they were very height-based (leaping off of Angelus Plaza while grabbing a clue and synchronized mountaineering at Gibraltar Rock in Santa Barbara). The final Roadblock of matching up the hashtags with the cities they visited that also has to be spelled out did not prove to be much of a challenge for any of the teams.

Disclaimer – I don’t know how to define if a final leg is good. But if you’re looking for a bad one check out TAR 24 finale.

Matt and Dana won the race. Kudos to them. The ran an excellent final leg aside from forgetting to tell their taxi to wait for them at the marina in Santa Barbara. In the process, they lost more than 20 minutes, but it never proved costly.

Were Tyler and Korey overall the best team this season? Probably. But then again Sheri and Cole weren’t the second-best team and they finished in runner-up. It’s what continues to make The Amazing Race compelling 28 seasons in – it’s that every dog has it day. On the final day of TAR 28, it just so happened to be Matt and Dana’s day.

Survivor still bringing the best drama to television 32 seasons in

I find myself echoing the Survivor editor’s hashtag choice of “wow” that was displayed after last week’s tribal council in Kaoh Rong. In fact, the wow feeling could summarize my emotion after every tribal council, week in and week out this season. From the moment Jennifer Lanzetti unceremoniously bowed out as she perched herself atop a seat at tribal council to the string of wowing blindsides, the franchises 32nd installment has reminded viewers that the drama surrounding Survivor is unparalleled in television. 

Scot Pollard
Scot Pollard

As Jeff Probst went to go tally the votes, he was supposed to reveal a 3-3-2 tie between Scot and Aubry. The alliance of Scot, Jason and Tai would use their two hidden immunity idols to form one super idol, which would save Scot after the votes were read and eliminate Aubry.

So when Jeff read the eighth and final vote while announcing, “ninth person voted out and the fourth member of our jury, Scot,” something went awry.

Scot revealed a devilish smile and gave Tai, who was in possession of the other necessary idol, a nod along with Jason.

Seconds ticked away as Tai avoided eye contact with the former NBA player. Eventually Scot and Jason gave Tai a confounding look in unison. Tai simply shook his head.

Tai Trang
Tai Trang

“You’re not doing it,” a dumbfounded Scot said.

“No. Sorry,” Tai said stabbing his one-time alliance partner in the back.

“Wow,” was all Scot could muster as the appropriate hashtag popped up onto our screen.

As the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld would say, “No super idol for you.”

It was drama that the best screenwriters in Hollywood couldn’t have come up with. Tai battled brain vs. heart and good vs. evil in the game of psychological warfare that Jason and Scot created.

He went with his heart, too. Aubry pitching him a logical approach, appealing to his emotions played it perfectly as Stephen Fishbach wrote in his weekly People blog. Tai picked up everything Aubry was putting down and in doing so made her the frontrunner for the $1 million prize.

What makes this game so compelling is that as Tai blindsided an ally, he probably sabotaged his own game in the process but also made an amazing television moment.

In preseason press, Jeff Probst tabbed Kaoh Rong as the toughest, most punishing season in Survivor history. After overhyping the mediocre Worlds Apart, the show’s longtime host took a rather conservative approach when it came to touting the upcoming season after the end of a top-five season in Cambodia – Second Chance.

After the episode “I’m Not Here to Make Good Friends,” the Survivor media contingency immediately chimed in and echoed the thoughts of the millions of fans scattered across the country tuned in to see who’s torch Jeff would snuff this week.

Yes, this is the most punishing season in Survivor history, but I would argue its been the most dramatic, too. From the stunning medical evacuation of Beast Mode Cowboy to the introduction of a super idol and its power almost coming to fruition, the drama that unfolded on the island of Koh Rong off the shores of Cambodia last spring has created one of the most dramatic seasons that has ever aired on CBS.

Kaoh Rong isn’t a season rife with strategy like its predecessor was. That’s part of what makes this season fun and exciting, though. Cambodia had strategic play week after week, and while it certainly had its characters, that wasn’t the narrative of the season. What Kaoh Rong does have is big characters who are making big moves (good and bad), which creates big time drama.

Grab the popcorn because the most dramatic show in television is still going strong.

A blogger here, a blogger there

Nick Maiorano
Nick Maiorano

When Jeff Probst told everyone to drop their buffs during the tribe swap of Kaoh Rong, he went to Neal when it came to soliciting opinions about the makeup of the new tribes.

Now of course the new Chan Loh tribe consisted of two brains, two brawn and two beauties.

“It looks like we’ve got some strength. It looks like we have some smarts. And it looks like we have some beauty, so I’ll take it,” Neal said. “I’m talking about myself mostly.”

Flash forward three weeks to the blindside of Nick, and Neal’s comical, snarky remark resonates with myself.

Now, Nick is a former Survivor blogger himself. He blogged during Survivor: Cagayan for Rob Has a Website. He recently returned to the blogging game when he wrote a piece for Rob Cesternino’s website following the Kaoh Rong merge.

He was also compared to a Greek God.

“I think Nick looks like a Greek God. He’s got finely chiseled bones. He’s absolutely ripped. The angular features of his face make for great photography, and I know that because I’ve modeled off-and-on for years and year,” said Debbie as her occupation chyron identification changed to part-time model.

“Debbie might have a crush on me. She probably does,” Nick inferred. “Maybe she’s buttering me up, though. Maybe she’s blowing smoke up my rear end, but I doubt it.”

It turns out that Debbie was in fact blowing smoke up Nick’s heinie when she helped engineer his blindside at the first tribal council following the merge. It was Nick’s self-admitted arrogance that cost him a shot at the $1 million prize.

“It looks like I’m a Survivor blogger. It looks like people think I look like a Greek God. And it looks like I’ve never been one to lack confidence,” Nick said on his way out the door.

Oh wait. As Neal would say, I’m talking about myself!

Melancholy following the eruption of Mount Saint Neal

Neal Gottlieb
Neal Gottlieb

We had a Rupert sighting on Survivor last week. No, don’t worry. Not THAT Rupert, fortunately. It was Dr. Rupert, specialist on infections, boils and flesh eating diseases. Dr. Joe must have called in sick that day. I guess they only bring him in for evacuations via chopper or when the one and only Joey Amazing is in danger.

On April 17, 2015, on an island off the coast of Cambodia, Mount Saint Neal erupted. The day before, Neal asked Aubry, “Want to see something disgusting?”

“Yes,” Aubry chimed back.

“It looks like I’m dying,” Neal said showing her the battle wound he dubbed Mount Saint Neal that was the result of the brutal conditions of Cambodia.

After the immunity challenge where the contestants showed Jeff Probst their plethora of injuries, Jeff made a house call with Dr. Rupert to Dara beach.

“We’re getting ready for tribal tonight, and all of a sudden, Jeff’s coming, the doctor’s coming to us,” said Scot, who himself had to have an infection looked at by the Survivor medical staff. “Immediately red flags went up. Jeff doesn’t do this. The doctors don’t do this. At least one of us is in serious enough condition that they would come to us. This season of Survivor is tough.”

First up in the game of who has the nastiest infection was Tai. Dr. Rupert wasn’t impressed and sent Tai back to the waiting room to checkout.

Scot was the next player to be called into the doctor’s office that was a tree stump in Kaoh Rong. So much for doctor-patient confidentially.

“Ooh,” Dr. Rupert said when he saw Scot’s wound.

“Man,” said Jeff cringing.

With a 6-foot-11 frame, Scot was bound to get at least one nasty little wound on all that skin. For now, though, Scot was OK.

Once Dr. Rupert called Aubry up to the chopping block, he quickly responded, “Ooh lovely.”

Jeff shook his head at the unsightly wound.

Aubry, you now have the doctor’s attention. Dr. Rupert goes on about how he could start her on antibiotics or lance the wound, which would open up the possibility of the wound getting further infected. What’s so interesting about this situation is not the medical attention Aubry received, but how much they revealed to viewers. Survivor pulled back the curtain during the medical evacuation of Caleb, but the show has never shown viewers how much medical attention a player actually receives during the game. Everything is here-say during exit interviews. For production to show viewers that they stepping in and providing this kind of medical intervention for a player is interesting. However, no one should have a problem with a player receiving this kind of treatment, even the Survivor purists. Antibiotics aren’t an idol with special powers or anything like that.

After Aubry was looked at, her alliance partner Neal was called to the stand.

“Mount Saint Neal actually blew its lid this afternoon. A huge chunk of puss came out and revealed this giant cavity that is now kind of open,” Neal told Jeff and the doctor. He adds, “Then there’s something even grosser on my back.”

The wound that Neal had was actually eerily similar to the punctured knee that forced the medevac of Jonathan Penner in Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites.

(Robert Voets/CBS)
(Robert Voets/CBS)

The infection on Neal’s back was not so pretty, either. If you’re so inclined to see it, scroll to the 3:39 mark of the above video. When the wound is revealed for all to see, the contestants shake their head in fear and disgust of the rotting flesh on Neal’s back. Jeff’s facial expression might as well have said, “Call for a dermatologist, we’re going to have an evacuation.”

Turns out, though, the black hole on Neal’s back wasn’t so bad in the big scheme of things.

Dr. Rupert described it as, “A big nasty spot, but I don’t think it’s life-threatening.”

Chock one up for the ice cream man.

But Mount Saint Neal was still a problem. Like Jonathan’s wound, Neal’s infection was near his knee – a joint, which could be destroyed by the infection in a matter of hours, Dr. Rupert explained.

“I love this game,” Neal tells Jeff after Dr. Rupert completed his diagnosis.

Neal was going to be medevacced. It was just a matter of when, not if.

“Neal, I can see you already getting emotional sensing what he’s saying,” Jeff said. “Dr. Rupert, let’s be really clear. You are pulling Neal from the game?”

“I think I have to,” said Dr. Rupert, delivering the news that Neal knew was coming.

“You fought hard. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve just put so much effort into it. What’s the feeling? Because you’re a fan. This was a big deal to be out here,” Jeff asked.

“It’s a huge amount of work to come out here. Watching the show in the summer of 2000, I was working in a cubical,” Neal said pleading to no avail to stay in the game. “I was thoroughly uninteresting. I didn’t love my life. I’ve had quite the journey just like you have over the last 15 years and all of a sudden, I can not only come onto Survivor, but I could really compete. But it’s been a great 19 days.”

One of Neal’s mottos throughout the game was that you make your own luck. Sometimes that luck can be good, other times it can be bad. Neal found an idol. Hell, he even got to play Survivor. But he also had to be removed in the worst way possible.

“I’m one of those people that truly believes the journey is the reward,” Neal said in his closing remarks. “And this has been an amazing experience that I will hold near and dear and look back with many smiles and many laughs and maybe a tear or two for the rest of my life but that’s the game. You don’t have to just outwit and outplay, you have to outlast.”

Scot Pollard transitioning from role player to potential star in Kaoh Rong

(John Severson/The Star)
(John Severson/The Star)

I remember watching Scot Pollard play in the NBA as a kid. Specifically, when he played for the Indiana Pacers from 2003-06, which was one of the five franchises he played for during his 11-year professional career. My recollection, granted I’m trying to recall 10+ years ago, made Scot out to be very much a role player. His career average 4.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 16 minutes per game validate that claim. When he played for the Pacers, one of Scot’s teammate was hall of fame shooting guard Reggie Miller, who ranks second in NBA history in career 3-pointers.

Off in Cambodia for Kaoh Rong, Scot’s game started to follow a similar trajectory. Early on, he attached himself at the hip of the leader of the brawn tribe, Jason. Scot played a pivotal role in the retrieval of the hidden immunity idol, but it was just assumed that Jason would be the one to lay claim to the idol.

Scot was on a one-way train to role player status.

Then, Jeff Probst told everyone to drop their buffs.

Kyle Jason
Kyle Jason

In the new tribe division, the three remaining brawn tribe members were split up with Jason and Cydney on Chan Loh and Scot all by himself on Gondol. The former NBA champion found himself in a new position. He didn’t have his all-star right beside him, but he was also no longer going to be a role player in the game. Scot was forced to relegate his position as a right hand man, which could have carried him far.

Scot Pollard
Scot Pollard

“I’m the sole brawn, and I’m thinking all right I’m on the bottom of the totem pole,” Scot said in a confessional. “It is a familiar feeling for me. I played for five different teams in the NBA and each time you’re joining a group of people you used to play against and you used to fight against. I can handle it. I’ve just got to figure out if I can trust anybody, who it is and if it’s going to do be any good.”

Tai
Tai Trang

Because this isn’t Scot’s first rodeo when it comes to situations like this, he’s able to adapt. With three brains, two beauties and Scot, a brawn, on the tribe, Scot gravitated towards the two beauty members, particularly Tai. Tai isn’t much taller than five feet. Meanwhile, Scot is a 6-foot-11 300 pound giant. The two quickly developed a rapport with each other. With Tai being the tribe gatherer but lacking in size, Scot used his massive frame to give the fan-favorite contestant a boost.

“Tai is light as a feather. I tossed him up the tree and that little dude just ran around that tree, picking mangos like crazy,” Scot said. “I’ve got a man crush on Tai right now already. In my opinion, he’s number one most valuable member of the tribe right now.”

While nothing will ever top the early bromance of Tai and Caleb before Beast Mode Cowboy was medically evacuated from the game, Tai’s newfound friendship with Scot is fascinating.

After the newly formed Gondol tribe lost the immunity challenge, the three former brains decided after some deliberation to get rid of Anna. Tai had offered to use his immunity idol for the betterment of the group of Tai, Anna and Scot, but because of the potential of a new super idol, Scot knew that it was best for his game to keep the idol in play and sacrifice Anna, especially since Julia, a beauty who was exiled during the tribe swap, would be joining the tribe to fill Anna’s vacated spot.

Scot explained the situation.

Aubry came up to me and said Tai’s safe. With Jason, I’ve got two guys that have idols and if you put them together, it becomes a super idol, and i thought, wow, we could blindside Anna and keep the idol hidden. That would make me the only person in the game of Survivor that knows where two idols are. That puts me in a pretty good spot, provided I can get to the merge.”

It was a very savvy move on Scot’s part to keep the idol in play and leave the door open for the possibility of a super idol. The astute game play by Scot was also of importance because of the three players involved in his plan, he’s the only one without an idol in his pocket. It’s very logical to think that if the super idol makes an appearance in the game in this situation it would be used to save Scot.

Scot’s conversation with Tai right before tribal council sealed the deal and kept his new man crush in the game along with the potential of a super idol:

Tai: “What do you think I should do?”

Scot: “I think they are voting Anna out. They like you. I like you. Nobody wants you to go, and she’s been scheming. You’re asking what’s best for you. What’s best for you is to save the idol for as long as you can.”

Tai: “Yes, of course.”

Scot: “They’re not voting you out tonight, so don’t use it.”

The entire series of events was a very shrewd piece of gameplay from Scot and showed that he may not just be a role player in this game. He may in fact be the star.

Survivor pushed the limits of Kaoh Rong contestants, but not recklessly

This week’s episode of Kaoh Rong was hyped as “the most dramatic and maybe most compelling episode,” ever made in the show’s history.

Jeff Probst’s comments certainly lived up to the hype. In a Survivor first, three contestants went down in one challenge.

At first, Debbie went down with heat stroke right after her tribe finished first in the reward challenge. Then, Beast Mode Cowboy (or Caleb) single-handedly carried the beauty tribe to a second-place finish. Seriously, in every challenge the former Big Brother contestant was at least 10 steps ahead of everyone. Caleb was literally a beast, until he went down. In 118-degree heat, Caleb could go on no longer. Maybe adrenaline carried him into sinking the last ball into the ski ball hole. Or perhaps his last toss was all he had left. Tribe mate Nick thinks it could’ve been either one. He collapsed from dehydration and heat exhaustion. Except then, Cydney from the brawn tribe went down too due to the extreme heat. Three contestants were down – one from each tribe. It was unprecedented.

(Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)
(Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

“We’ve shot 32 seasons over 16 years, and those shoot days equate to three-and-a-half years of nonstop shooting in the jungle, and nothing like this has ever happened,” Jeff Probst said in an interview with The New York Times.

Survivor broke the fourth wall entirely. That’s part of the magic of a show like Survivor is that you don’t truly see how the sausage is made. In rare situations, often when medical has to intervene, you may see a cameraman or two on screen, but you never see the entire on-set crew running around like we did on Wednesday night.

(Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)
(Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

“Sometimes in medical evacuations, you might see a cameraman in a shot but that’s it,” Probst continued. “This was a definite ‘break the fourth wall’ where you don’t pay any attention to where the cameras are. The story, while it’s also important, was such a second-class consideration.”

Indeed, the Survivor medical crew acted quickly. From the moment Caleb collapsed to the time he was in a chopper on his way to a hospital, evacuated from the jungle, was 22 minutes. Good luck getting that kind of response time in a major city, let alone the Cambodian jungle.

The events that transpired during the reward challenge, aptly named ‘Dig It,’ have led to questions as to whether Survivor pushed the contestants too far. Some people think they did. Others, such as former contestant Jim Rice, don’t think so.

In his weekly People blog, two-time contestant and co-host of Survivor Know It Alls, Stephen Fishbach wrote that he thought the players were pushed, but he also believes that the game is supposed to be tough, albeit survivable.

In Probst’s weekly Q&A with Dalton Ross, the Emmy award-winning host explained his thoughts from his executive producer standpoint. “I wish it was as simple as saying, ‘We pushed too far,’ because that would be easy to fix. The truth is, we’ve done that kind of a challenge many times on Survivor and from a physical point of view, it’s actually one of the least demanding. Our assessment, upon reflection, was that it was a perfect storm of events – Mother Nature at her absolute hottest combined with a group of players pushing themselves as hard as they could.”

I’m not going to question the judgment of the Survivor production crew. All of the challenges are tested and run multiple times with the Survivor Dream Team and if Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer and his team didn’t have a good feeling about the challenge heading into it, it wouldn’t have been run. Maybe the 45-plus minutes the contestants spent digging for bags of balls could have been made easier by reducing the size of the digging pit. Multiple members of the Survivor press have expressed how difficult digging is, especially in the heat that was present in Cambodia during the challenge. Gordon Holmes of Xfinity described digging in his weekly recap as, “I’ve done a lot of things in the nine ‘Survivor’ challenges I’ve participated in, and nothing is as exhausting as digging. And the climate I was doing it in wasn’t nearly as hot as Cambodia.”

Dalton Ross was equally vocal about the difficulty of digging on Twitter.

Ultimately, did Survivor push the contestants too far? I don’t think so. A show in its 32nd season is certainly going to push the envelope, they don’t stay on that long without doing it, but they’re not going to be reckless or careless. Because while the medical emergency created great drama, the show did have a casualty in losing an outstanding character in Caleb. This episode may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but it reminded viewers how real the show continues to be.

Probst told The New York Times that in retrospect, they probably should have made the challenge easier. My guess being it pertaining to the digging portion of the challenge. However, he did mention that, “that’s only in hindsight.”

The host continued, “If we make ‘Survivor’ a show nobody is ever going to sweat, then that defeats the purpose.”