Even the first Ometepe blindside couldn't add excitement to the Loved Ones episode

By Stephen Fishbach
Updated May 05, 2011 08:00 AM
Monty Brinton/Landov(2)

“The idea of wearing out in a struggle amounts in practice to a gradual exhaustion of the physical powers and of the will by the long continuance of exertion.” – Carl von Clausewitz, On War

Was that the least satisfying family visit in Survivor history?

The family visit is typically my favorite episode. I get weepy watching the tearful hugs hello, the stoic messages of support. These people have been deprived of all trust, all real friendship for a month; suddenly, all those pent-up emotions come rushing out.

But I only felt angry watching Mike, Ralph and Matt hang their heads on Redemption Island while their Ometepe overlords reaped more of the game’s bounty. Can Rob‘s zombies even feel joy? I would have bet money that their “families” were a crack team of robotics engineers rather than flesh and blood people.

Rob’s One-Man Show

Mike’s decision exemplified everything that’s wrong with this season. All the grand gestures, the struggles of faith, the interpersonal dramas are coming from Matt and the Zapateras – the tribe that got Pagonged onto Redemption Island. Watching Rob march triumphantly through Nicaragua is like watching the Germans invade France: the supposed “opposition” is just falling all over itself to surrender.

That’s not to suggest that Rob isn’t playing an awesome game. His blitzkrieg up the steps in the immunity challenge is a reminder of his real superpower: his ability to give his all at every moment. Survivor is a game of mistakes, and Rob’s not letting himself relax for even an instant. “We’re at a point now where some people may be taking a break from the game it just makes me focus,” he says. So, sure, let’s give Rob a Fishy, even if he is just shooting goats in a barrel.

Seriously, though, who but Rob has even shown a glimmer of strategy post-merge? Mike, because he almost convinced Matt to flip? David, because he wears a suit and talks pretty? Andrea, because, uh because .

As catastrophic a season as Survivor: Nicaragua was, at least it had three legitimate gamers – Brenda, Marty, and Sash – and a strong cast of supporting players like Alina, Jane, Yve, and Jill.

How bad a shape are we in where the only coherent strategy besides Rob’s is coming from Phillip? “Early on in this game, I made myself the villain,” quoth the Gorillion. “Everyone in my tribe feels that their best chance of winning against anybody is me. It’s a brilliant strategy.”

If he does say so himself! Doesn’t that sound a lot more like after-the-fact justification? Phillip, because he’s not a total idiot, realizes he’s been getting on everyone’s nerves. So he retroactively calls it “strategy.” If we’d been hearing this talk since Day 3, I’d call Phillip a mastermind. But let’s not forget that many of his craziest activities, like channeling his ancestors, have happened in the privacy of the confessional.

And even if Phillip does claim his campaign of irritation is an act, who’s going to vote for him? The reason “goats” like Natalie White win is because they spend their time building relationships – not by going on rice patrol. Is there a scenario where Steve or David would ever vote for Phillip?

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that at least somebody is thinking about the end game. Andrea, the best of the rest, keeps insisting she’s safe until Jeff actually snuffs her torch.

“It’s a little hard to be living with people for 32 days and have these relationships and what you think is trust, and then find out they’ve been lying to you the entire time!” she moans afterward.

Oh my golly gosh! On day 32, Andrea learns she’s playing Survivor. Too bad she only realized it after being voted out.