I miss the days when winning Survivor was all about intrigue and political strategies. Remember Rob C and Rob M? Richard Hatch? Brian in Thailand? The backstabbers of Vanuatu? EVERYONE in the Pearl Islands?
Those times seem to be gone. There haven't been any puppet-masters or grand schemers lately. It seems people just blindly try to "vote off the weakest" until the merge, and then blindly stick by their alliances. There hasn't even been good old-fashioned "let's vote off the men to protect ourselves" action from the women, despite the fact that the last few seasons women have done much, much poorer than in the first nine go-arounds of Survivor.
Okay, so we had one episode of strategy last season when Jonathan flipped, but that used to be the constant entertainment factor every episode in earlier seasons. You never knew WHO was going to be voted out next in the Pearl Islands.
Can't people think, "You know what, I'm in this alliance, but clearly I'm not in charge of this game, and I need to improve my position, alliance be darned!" Daid Sundra and Becky actually think they stood a snowball's chance in Hades against Yul or Ozzy?
I think it started with Tom's dominance and the fall of Ulong in Palau. People had no choice to play a strategic game because the challenges meant that Stephenie was doomed entering the "merge," and the tribe couldn't vote out Tom if they wanted to because they didn't act when Ian wore the necklace early in the merged tribe. I still think Tom was a great player, and did think strategically, even manipulatively, despite his claims of integrity.
But afterwards, no one wanted to be Ulong. Guatemala really made things worse because almost the entire cast was made up of athletes, the challenges were brutally tough, camp life was painfully difficult with no relief from the searing heat, and Stephenie and Bobby Jon were there as constant reminders of what could happen if the tribe didn't keep the strong players. So it was ALL about physical strength.
Then you had powerhouse Terry, whose physical dominance and immunity idol in the back pocket basically meant that he was invincible because of his physical power alone. Although I really enjoyed the fact that the Casaya tribe prevented him from ever being able to keep an ally for more than 24 hours, strategy that season remained secondary to challenge performance. Last season was a little better, but only after the merge did people start to think strategically.
At first I was really hopeful this season might see a return to strategy, because there are several players who are clearly not athletic material. But with Ravu following the "weakest link" mentality, Moto winning every challenge, and Gary's departure, it looks like this season is still haunted by the ghost of physical dominance.
I know the under-the-radar players got lots of flack, but now the pendulum has totally swung the other way. Let's revalue the strategic, social aspect that made this game so intriguing in the first place!
Bring back the schemers, liars, cheaters, and puppetmasters! Bring back the underdogs who manipulate their way back into power positions! Bring back votes based on strategy rather than blindly agreeing on the weakest link at the most recent challenge! Down with hidden immunity idols that aren't hidden at all! Down with challenges so physical the contestants have no choice but to vote out weak links! Down with entire casts of young athletes!