Usually, I try not to judge a project as a whole by its ending. Even if we get a really good ending out of a season I mostly hated, I’m still going to remember all the bad things first and foremost, and while I wasn’t happy with who won Kaoh Rong, I didn’t think the ending ruined the season. Unfortunately, in the case of Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, the ending actually did ruin the season for me.
Okay, maybe “ruin” is too strong a word for this scenario. I only thought this season was a couple steps above “okay” in terms of overall quality, but remembering what I thought of the last Survivor and Big Brother seasons, it seemed like an improvement at the time. So what happened? Well, it’s going to be impossible to talk about what went wrong without talking about the winner, so let’s just get that part out of the way right now.
Towards the end of the season, it became increasingly apparent that the money was being handed to Ben on a silver platter. It wasn’t the twist at the Final Four that settled it, since I and many other people knew about that twist beforehand. No, it was all those Hidden Immunity Idols. I’m not one to accuse these shows of dishonesty, but seriously, three perfect idol plays in a row? That raises a few red flags. Now, to be clear, the fact that this happened can be easily blamed on the other contestants for not even bothering to keep him from looking for these idols, especially when it’s immediately after he played one at Tribal Council. Yes, the other players are goddamn idiots for allowing Ben to get these idols. Stephen Fishbach even said this would be their million dollar mistake. But I think the bigger problem here is that it’s just too easy to find idols now. Since around Season 29, production has only bothered to bury them like two inches beneath the surface. You could literally find safety by tripping over it nowadays. Making it worse, this season, they actually painted signs that said “dig here” where the idol was. Yes, it’s annoying that it was always the same person who found these idols, but that’s what happens when you’re the only one bothering to look. We’re two steps away from planting giant neon signs on the island.
And by the way, I was rooting for Ben for most of the game, at least until he started getting really cocky around the Final 8. He practically put himself on the outs without anyone’s help, and he still acted like that. That actually convinced me he couldn’t win, despite the fact that he already proved himself to be the shows’s prime winner edit bait. Sad backstory, doing this for the family, he fits right into the modern winner archetype. I used to not be bothered by this, since I always believed these people won because they played the better game, but apparently, this is my line, and it all comes down to one reason: Ben’s win felt like a manufactured win. How else would he have gotten two back-to-back idols in less than 24 hours? I really don’t want to suggest that Survivor would rig the game for someone (that’s Big Brother’s job), but looking at the show’s more recent winners, you could assume they’re just aiming for the same outcome every season now. Survivor is starting to become a fanfic now.
At the very least, the next season seems to have an interesting theme going on, so let’s hope for the best.