If Exile Island marked an end to the first era of Survivor, Cook Islands certainly ushered in a new one. In a game where underdogs who should have never been in the running end up on top; a gimmicky beginning; and filled with more twists forced by production than any other game in history, Cook Islands would set the frame for the next eight seasons of Survivor.
Issues I had with this season:
1) Division by race. I remember how controversial this opening ended up being. I think it was the only time since 2001 where politicians openly acknowledged Survivor. To this day, it seemed like a ridiculous gimmick to grab attention considering it was abandoned after two rounds. I also blame it for my reputation being destroyed on a board called ORG Reloaded. I made a “Previously on…Survivor!” for the race concept but had each tribe be a group of racists with xenophobic sentiments towards the other tribes. Let’s just say the joke wasn’t well received.
2) The mini merge after only two rounds. A tribe couldn’t fall any lower than three members. I would’ve liked to have seen Aitu pay for their own stupidity, although that pretty much happened with the mini merge. (J.P., Cecilia, and Cristina go home in three of the next four rounds)
3) Ten minutes of an episode wasted on an overly elaborate mini merge. “Pick a tile…each group take turns picking remaining members who have birthdays between January and June…those who are right-handed, go on this mat…if you thought Back to the Future part II is better than Back to the Future part I, switch out to two groups to your left…now squeeze this egg! C’mon, you know you want to. SQUEEZE ‘EM NOW!!!
4) Double TC. I’ve already covered this issue before so no point repeating myself. I just wish the tribe would eat and listen in BEFORE they voted so when people talk about the boot list after the season is done, there isn’t any confusion. A tribe who doesn’t win the reward in a double TC always has the worse rank in my books even if they vote thirty minutes before the winning tribe.
Plus, what if your tribe wins a food reward on a double TC night and the person knows they’re going home? They’d just try to eat as much food as possible before the other tribemates had a chance to have their share. Wouldn’t that be hilarious to see? “Screw you guys, I’m eating three lamb shanks and a litre of apple juice, and you can’t stop me!”
5) A ridiculously easy idol to find on Exile Island. Seriously, somebody finds the idol by day five? Did you see how tiny that island was? No wonder why Yul found it so quickly. Dig up the whole island and you’re bound to get it. Speaking of the idol. . .
6) The idol is made much more powerful than in EI. The effect of the idol carried over to Cook Islands. You never had to play the idol until after Jeff read the votes. Why production thought this would be worthwhile to try again is beyond me. What’s even crazier is that if somebody sucked so badly that they did have to play an idol, then ANOTHER idol would be re-hidden at micro Exile Island. What’s even crazier than that? Instead of the idol only being good through day 36, the idol was good through day 38. A mediocre player can now get all the way to the Final Tribal Council thanks to an idol. Thankfully, the idol was given a lot less power after this season, and it was good through day 37 then it was done. The rules would be amended once more after Fiji where the idol was only good through day 36 which would become a mainstay until Redemption Island broke a seven season precedent by having it be playable through day 37.
Note: Because production increased the power of the idol from EI to CI, I think the same thing will happen with Redemption Island from RI to South Pacific. I’m gonna lock in and say the person from Redemption Island won’t re-join the game until somewhere between day 37-39. Go ahead, mark it down. Just a gut feeling that I have based on the EI to CI transfer.
7) The most lopsided elimination ratio in the history of Survivor. Eleven people eliminated pre-merge compared to only six post-merge? Even Thailand kept it down to eight pre-merge and six post-merge along with a final two. This is even more puzzling considering a person who will be in a position to possess the idol is typically a strong player, thus they will be very safe within their own tribe but will be an immediate target by the opposition once the merge comes. So thanks to an extremely delayed merge, the outcome is even more slanted towards the idol possessor.
8) Ozzy the Jack*** ends up Ozzy the Popular. Remember after episode two when the casual audience viewed Ozzy as the biggest jerk of the season? Apparently, their memory of the early days of Ozzy when he would go on to be part of an underdog tribe. I remember my sister watching the first three episodes and being so turned off by Ozzy that she didn’t watch another episode until the last two of the season. She was shocked to find out “that jack***” was still in the game. So when Fans vs. Favs come and people think Ozzy is a jerk (with the exception of those who put him in the top three for the fan fav ballot), I just merely shrugged and said ‘so what?’ at this sudden revelation.
Note: He’s one of five people who I think will have a shot at being in South Pacific. I guess you could say my faith in Jeff Probst is very low at this point.
9) The bottle twist. I think the idea of a tribe losing two tribe members because of ONE challenge loss is insane. It hurts the editing of the overall episode, it’s timed so that everybody has only five minutes to think about it, and a tribe that may have won very few challenges gets to rally back because of a challenge that favoured them is suddenly given extra weight. Oh, and as soon as they announced the twist, anybody who couldn’t remember the extremely random scene about Jenny needing to go home after Rebecca at the start of the episode were the only ones surprised by the outcome.
Who knew this twist would reappear in a post-merge form nine seasons later? Wasn’t Survivor supposed to be off the air by this point?
10) An early jury. Sadly, this will occur three more times after CI. A jury that includes three people who didn’t have a chance to live with all three of the finalists at one point isn’t fair for because there was no way for the relationships to be built. In fact, two of those three had only lived with Yul and Becky, thus giving Yul an even greater advantage.
11) The infamous beginning to the Final Three era. I’ve posted why a final three is terrible so many times so here’s the short version:
When you have a final three, you prematurely stop the eliminations at final three. You also run the risk of somebody winning by plurality rather than a majority. The jury has to vote for a winner rather than eliminating anybody (in a final two, the jury simultaneously votes out the fifteenth person from the game and grants a victory. Remember when Probst snuffed Lil’s torch at the Pearl Islands finale?). It’s identical to being at a poker tournament and the game being stopped at three people and declaring the winner by who has the highest number of chips. Nobody gets eliminated further, and all we get left with are a bunch of ‘what ifs’. Production also instituted this twist because the ‘deserving player’ was voted out in 3rd place and a goat was a regular occurrence in the FTC. But in future seasons, people immediately recognized that now they had to adapt to having two goats at the end and the ‘deserving player’ would finish in fourth. The fact people were doing this in Fiji before they knew a Final Three had ever existed should’ve told production that Final Three just doesn’t work. Guess that didn’t happen.
The biggest element missing from Survivor is its inability to integrate major post-merge twists into the game. Unfortunately, their second major post-merge twist in history is a horrendous one.
12) Ozzy was robbed. As much as I dislike the guy, he would have won this season if it went down to a Final Two. Instead we’re left with a “I guess Yul sort’ve won” at the end.
13) Virtually all of the worst twists are recycled in the future, while the best twists have been discarded ever since.
14) Four tribes, and all four have too many syllables in their tribe names. That could’ve been a mouthful if it wasn’t shortened. And if they were going to shorten them on TV, then why in the world name those tribes like that in the first place?
15) Flicka using the word ‘like’ so many times in her one TC question. Episode three or six? One of the two. God that was annoying.
Reasons why I liked this season:
1) The race twist presented funny sketches for MADtv. “Team Burrito is up to seventeen tribe members…wait, eighteen.”
2) Pearl Islands’ kidnapping twist revisited. I like it when Survivor revisits a twist that was great in concept but didn’t play out in the most exciting way. I’ve always wondered what would’ve happened if Rupert or Nate stayed to share the reward with the tribe that kidnapped them. I assumed that they could flop entirely if they wanted to stay heading into the next immunity challenge, but I guess we’ll never know. Plus the exchange between Flicka Flame and the rest of her tribe as NATE WAS WATCHING was one of the more entertaining moments of the season.
3) An overall enjoyable cast. Remember how I ranked EI in 21st place? Well, when a decent group is put together and one of the initial favourites ends up winning the season, that right there skyrockets the quality of the season.
4) A much much much better final immunity challenge than EI. In fact, consider every post-merge immunity to be a success.
5) Production makes attempt number two at the mutiny. It’s like the producers wanted to re-try every twist where none of the players ended up biting. And my oh my, I think to this day the Cook Islands mutiny (which fit in quite well with the overall theme of this season’s location) is the most memorable moment for casual viewers. It seems anybody who decided to mutiny would be branded by Probst as “an excellent player willing to make big bold moves.” Jonathan returns in Fans versus Favs where his knee bothers him to this day, and Candice gets a ‘WTF?’ spot in Heroes vs. Villains solely because of this move.
Note to future players: If you think you already don’t have a shot at winning the game, keep alluding to the fact you really want to switch tribes to production. Before you know it, you may end up with an additional all-star spot or two in the long run. Sweet.
6) Speak about wanting mashed potatoes + gravy = Smuffed. In a game where contestants talking about food is served as a comedic scene at least once in every season of Survivor is suddenly what sends poor Stephannnnnnie out the door. She was one of only three applicants this season and this is how one of our own goes home? Ouch.
7) Final Four tiebreaker. This lasted nearly four times longer than the EI final immunity, and I’m almost certain the entire TC went on longer than the duration of the following day’s final immunity challenge. I’m sure Butch could’ve ended the tiebreaker within seconds. Pyromaniacs probably crave a final four tiebreaker on Survivor. Hint to who is a pyromaniac in the Cook Islands: Not Sundra and Becky. Neither knew how to work a freakin’ match for an hour.
8) Parvati and Candice’s negative attitude towards Jonathan sends them home 6th and 8th respectively. Satisfying exits.
9) Cao Boi. People try to compare Phillip to Coach, but I think a comparison of Phillip to Cao Boi is much more accurate. They were both older, not useless in challenges, terrible overall at the social game, but had enough strategic sense to scheme through parts of the game. The only real difference is that Phillip was much more aware of the camera and its value. Phillip said in an interview that one of the two reasons he picked plum-coloured underwear is because he’d get camera time. Cao Boi’s jokes carried the Puka Puka tribe.
10) Shortening the tribes’ names in challenges. Puka Puka, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, and Manihiki being shortened to Puka, Raro, Aitu, and Hiki is much easier to say. Add in the fact they used this on TV allows for universal viewer understanding in terms of which tribe we’re talking about.
11) Jonathan and Probst’s exchange at the episode eight reward challenge. The one exchange that sums up Probst’s increased involvement in the show. If only his contract was for the first 22 seasons rather than the first twelve, then we wouldn’t see this much commentary.
12) Flicka minus what I said earlier about her TC response. It was neat to see somebody like her trying to understand the game of Survivor. She was also sharp enough to catch on that each of the four tribes had the ‘alternative’ option (Cao Boi, Flicka, Billy, and Sekou).
13) Jonathan. Even if he did screw up epically on day 27.
14) Some of Nate’s over-the-top quotes.
***A non-issue but not really a positive either***
1) Cook Islands featured some of the most head-scratching post-merge moves in the history of Survivor. After day 25 until the end of the game, I am under the impression that everyone’s gameplay except for Yul vanished completely.
a) Jonathan being not-so-subtle to the Rarotongians about Yul having the idol on day 27. Jonathan: I don’t have it, Candice doesn’t have it, and you don’t have it, so Yul might have it” *wink* *wink*
Adam: No, I don’t think he has it.
Geez. It was Survivor’s version of that Simpsons episode where Chief Wiggum wants a bribe from Homer and Bart tries to tell Homer it’s a bribe but Homer keeps talking over him.
What bothers me most about day 27 is that all Jonathan had to do was vote Yul, then the idol would be used and Nate would go home. Why would he feel in danger when Aitu wouldn’t dare risk a 4-4-1 tie? Of course they’re voting Nate. All voting Nate did was make every single person hate your guts AND ensure Aitu runs the remainder of the game.
b) Adam approaches Yul and tells all of Aitu that if they vote Jonathan out before him and Parvati, then he’ll vote for Yul to win at FTC. If I were Ozzy, Becky, and Sundra, you know what I’d do? Not vote out Jonathan before Adam and Parvati!!! I know they always said “Adam doesn’t get that we always make decisions together.” But does Adam care that you say that? No he doesn’t. You grant his wish and it’s an auto-jury vote for Yul. Trying to explain your side does nothing. All voting Jonathan out does is send a message to Adam that Yul is indeed the one running the ship. If they didn’t find out about Adam’s deal until after day 33, then someone correct me on this. But I think that’s an awfully stupid move by Ozzy, Becky and Sundra if that was indeed the case.
c) Adam approaches Ozzy and Sundra on day 37 after the challenge. “Yul and Becky are voting for me. Why not vote with me and remove Yul’s idol from the game so you have a chance at getting him tomorrow?” And what do Ozzy and Sundra do? Nothing. Yul, a major jury threat at this point, keeps his idol and advances to day 39 to win the game.
Thanks to a season that had a twist in nearly every single episode, this entry ended up being much longer than I anticipated.
P.S. Many of you will be surprised to find out what my next rank is going to be.