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Survivor: Like God Cares

December 15, 2011

Survivor: Like God Cares

First things first: a comment on last night’s show. In the game of Survivor, no one ever gives away an immunity necklace and a one in five chance at a million dollars. No one. Brandon did and Brandon’s an idiot. Considering that Brandon is apparently one of God’s favorite Survivor players, let’s hope God doesn’t punish me for saying that about him. Seriously though, I also want to add that I respect Brandon’s reason for deciding to give the immunity necklace away. Question his game play or his personality if you want, but the man is loyal and believes he’s playing with a purpose and I can’t not respect that commitment. Especially in the game of Survivor. The sincerity in Brandon’s voice last night when he said that he knew Coach who, at this point, is one of the most inauthentic people to ever play the game, would never cast a vote against him was touching. The same earlier in the season when he offered support and friendship to Cochrane.

With that little comment out of the way I can get down to business.

I personally can’t wait for Survivor: South Pacific to end. This isn’t even the game of Survivor anymore. It’s just a bunch of evangelical Christians running around in the sand trying to figure out what they think God wants them to do, and how and when God wants them to do it and blaming God’s “will” when things don’t go according to plan and they need to make a change to the game strategy.

It’s not that I have anything against evangelical Christians, I just don’t like what the mix has done to one of my favorite television shows. Instead of people playing a strategic, and oftentimes deliciously deceitful, game for a million dollars, we have people who are more interested in talking about their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and spreading Gospel than they are with the game.

There have always been religious players playing the game of Survivor and I’ve never complained, but actual religion has never been a factor in the game as much as it has been this season and last. Between the speeches made during the individual player confessionals and the public comments around camp, and the tribal prayer circles it’s been over the top and I can’t stand it anymore.

Are there no other religions, or people, God cares about when it comes to semi-scripted reality TV shows? Are there no Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Atheists or Agnostics who can be cast to play this game? Are there no Catholics, Lutherans or Mormons interested in the game? Who have I forgotten? Probably someone, and I apologize for that, but add them to the list as well. If producer Mark Burnett wants to turn Survivor into a born again Christian revival meeting that’s his right, it’s his show, but at least give some equal air time to the different faiths in the world rather than turning Survivor into Bible Camp.

I’m one of those people who have been watching Survivor since season one and who has never missed an episode. I’m not one of the savants who can tell you the Tribal Council vote of episode 11 of season four, or tell you who won the reward challenge in the eighth episode of season two, and what that reward was, but I’m a fan, and as a long-time fan, it pains me to say that if this Sunday wasn’t the finale of Survivor: South Pacific, last night’s episode would have been the last episode for me.

Survivor isn’t the game it used to be and the game is broken in a number of ways. First, the returning player idea is a bad idea because that twist changes the dynamic of the game and that change is making the game way too predictable, and predictable, in terms of everything, and especially Survivor, is boring.

Second, the players are left together in their original tribes too long pre-merge so they form strong bonds that last beyond the merge. That basically makes the merge meaningless since the original tribes remain intact and continue to play the game along the original tribal lines and simply live as two tribes on one camp. To the players, in terms of game play, the merge becomes nothing more than a having a feast and a break from the game for some arts and crafts time to create a new camp banner.

Third, twists like Redemption Island and hidden idols are simply unnecessary and change the game in bad ways. Get rid of those twists, and when a player is voted out, that’s it, they’re out and that’s that, they go home or to the jury box. Like it used to be.

Finally, the show needs to go back to making the players have to actually survive. Quit giving them food and comforts and make them go back to scrounging for food and eating bugs. Let them get desperate and play hungry. A couple players have come close, but no one has ever died from playing Survivor and the ones who came close didn’t come close because they had to eat bugs.

Those are what I see as problems with Survivor and they can all be fixed, but despite my complaints about the show – and this is difficult for me to say because I really don’t like that returning players twists – it’s the religion and the preaching and the proselytizing that’s the biggest problem for me. The overt religious mumbo jumbo in nearly ever scene of every episode is destroying the show. I sincerely hope next season is different, or at least more diverse if nothing else, but if it’s nothing but more of what the show has become over the last couple of seasons, I’m probably* going to quit watching the show.

No comment on Survivor would be complete without a prediction, so here is mine. Ozzie will defeat Brandon on Redemption Island and return to the game. He and Coach will sit next to Albert at the Final Three, and while Coach should win the game, Ozzie will be the winner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the final immunity challenge to determine the final three a Scripture trivia challenge.

If you’ve read this far and feel I’ve been overly unfair to religion, I’m not. I just believe that there’s a time and a place for everything.

* I say “probably” because I don’t like making threats and because, in truth, I can’t say never because this is still Survivor I’m talking about and I still (want to) love the show.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    December 15, 2011 12:21 pm

    Acutally Dawn is a Mormon, and I’m pretty sure Jim is an atheist by the way I’ve heard him talk on the show. You don’t notice these people of all the other faiths because they’re not obnoxious about it as the evangelicals are.

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  2. December 15, 2011 1:13 pm

    I’ve been wanting to write on this topic and make the very points you’ve made. I really dislike Redemption Island. All sorts of bad. And I also agree about the need to merge earlier on.

    Like you, I’ve watched every single episode of Survivor and dislike the heavy religious tone of this season. You’re right–there have always been players who’ve been publicly religious on the show, but this time, it’s practically the theme. I’d never make it on that show because I’m not outdoorsy and I don’t handle heat well, but this season’s players would have likely voted me off because though I have a strong belief in God, I don’t tend to speak my beliefs to the masses. Well, that and the fact that I don’t take the Jesus path.

    I respect Brandon’s choice. I think he’s doing all that he can to live what he believes, and I have enormous respect for that. I think his family is going to eat him alive if he goes home without the big check, though, and that’s a shame. His dad is a piece of work. I don’t understand a parent who sees his grown child committing himself to living honest and true to who he is, even with a million bucks dangling before him, and instead of beaming with pride, tells him that he needs to focus on the cash. Jackwagon.

    Early in his season, when Brandon was so torn about wanting to vote off that one girl (I can’t remember her name) because he found her tempting, I thought he was a jackass. Shortly after, when I started to see the ongoing angst that Brandon lives with in trying to live up to what he see’s as God’s ideal while having the failings of a man, I told my husband (who is also a serious Survivor fan) that I thought Brandon was a suicide risk. I still kind of do.

    I love Survivor. It’s a wonderful sociological experiment every time, and that’s where the magic is. They need to get rid of Redemption Island, merge the players a bit sooner, make them find more of their own food (remember the dramatic weight loss of the first few seasons??), and bring back icky food challenges.

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  3. Pford permalink
    December 15, 2011 1:29 pm

    I agree with you completely and I sent nearly the same list of complaints to CBS – not that it matters I’m sure. Last night’s episode was just horrific — playing Brandon up to be the Messiah up to and including a bit of “carpentry” on what almost looked like a cross (actually a walking stick). I am not religious but this show has become an insult to religion because you know these people are either faking or truly mentally unstable. I add one more way the game is broken — females are always treated as second-class citizens, often the first to go based on their gender, presumably forced to wear skimpier and skimpier outfits, and worst of all they generally go along with all of that! Coach is one of the most despicable and sleazy characters ever and has commanded WAY TOO much air time this season. I really hope he loses.

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  4. December 15, 2011 4:15 pm

    Michael, I don;t watch Survivor, but I sent your post of my brother who I know is a big fan. Maybe he will comment.

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  5. Graham permalink
    December 18, 2011 8:01 pm

    You mentioned the infairness of nto having otehr religions represented in the show. The idea of ‘total Christian’ is within the Gospels, so promoting just one religion, right or wrong is totally a Christian thing to do. It’s the only thing I know Christians to be honest about. Proselytizing!

    From the Christian Gospels
    John 15:4 “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

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  6. survivor_bible_style permalink
    February 7, 2013 2:50 am

    It’s been a theme for the past few seasons, with the mega-religious bible-thumpers getting way too much screen time, and I hate it. I’m hoping Caramoan – the season that premieres next week – tones that crap down some. Lately it’s like they purposefully pick these people in spades. It’s ridiculous that less than 3% of the population of the USA (preaching christians) gets four spots out of sixteen on this strategically demanding show. It’s ruined the show for me and I am a christian myself – I just don’t go around proclaiming my faith at every opportunity.

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