18. Survivor: Nicaragua (season 21)
It’s always difficult to rank Nicaragua, Vanuatu, and Gabon because they directly follow a season filled with returning contestants. They seem to serve as a “cooling off” period for production and stay away from casting too many extreme over-the-top characters.
Even though Nicaragua started airing by September of last year, the infamous double quit episode aired just in December, leaving it as still being very fresh in the grand scheme of events on Survivor. Plus it hasn’t been off-the-air too long for it to move up or down based on its rewatchability.
Issues I had with Nicaragua:
1) No bother leaving it for later, may as well get it out of the way. The double quit episode brought to you by Gulliver’s Travels. Instead of the viewers getting to see Na Onka’s inevitable defeat, whether before day 39 or in the final vote, she essentially gets off easy by quitting. I imagine that for many viewers this is a very unsatisfying storyline. Especially in final three seasons where the endgame usually starts with nine people rather than seven. So not only does Na Onka get off easy, but the peak of the season is completely thrown out and instantly switches to the Fabio and Benry hunt. Not to mention it is an extremely boring episode. In fact, I think the previews of Gulliver’s Travels in the episode and the constant promoting of it made me less inclined to see the movie.
2) It seems like this year of Survivor has been a year of experimentation for production. Did you remember that Nicaragua started out as old versus young? Boy did Burnett’s idea completely flop. Apparently Thailand is blocked out of production’s mind because they forgot the energy and testosterone level of the young tribe in that season led them to losing a very physical challenge because of a bunch of rules. For some reason, production was so scared of any physical activity for the old tribe that it led to some of the lamest challenges to start out a season of Survivor. Which leads me to my next point…
3) The people responsible for putting Dan Lembo on the show. He couldn’t move. He didn’t do work at camp. He was richer than Russell, Boston Rob, and Heidik combined. He was a recruit. He never strategized. He is the one and only Dan Lembo. What boggles my mind more is that they put him on a season with an early merge and with very few physical pre-merge challenges. In other words, none of the players ever had to worry about paying the consequences for keeping Dan because they knew full well there wouldn’t be enough challenges to lose where you absolutely needed to kick out Dan. So is anybody shocked that when they merge, Dan skips (eh, well not really) his way to the finale? And the funniest thing of all is that if Dan makes it to final three, he would’ve won. We were so close.
4) Medallion of Power. When Espada uses it, Dan can take a seat on the bench. When La Flor uses it, the challenge is ridiculously lopsided. Thank goodness production took it out before it caused way too many ‘what ifs’ and frustrate viewers everywhere. Nobody wants to see a challenge where one tribe is automatically assigned a significant advantage before you even start. Did you know that Probst said that the Medallion of Power could be used during reward challenges? This leads me to think they ended the MoP early because there wasn’t a single reward challenge before it was taken out. Wise decision by production if the premature removal is the truth.
5) The quitters being allowed on the jury. Jill, Yve, and Kelly B must be pissed. Oddly enough though, if it weren’t for quitters, Chase would have been the winner instead of Fabio. That right there would’ve made the ranking plummet.
6) Chase. A frustrating Survivor player.
7) Probst crossing the line in the TC where Jane exits. I’m still pissed he openly suggested for Fabio, Dan, and Jane to make an alliance and cause a tie with Holly. Of course when this takes place, it’s set up for Chase, Sash, and Holly to be some evil threesome and hopefully we root for Fabio, Dan, and Jane. But you know what’s an even dumber mistake made by production? Jane goes home easily in a 5-1 vote so not only do we root against Chase, Sash, and Holly, but now we’re led to believe Fabio and Dan are extremely stupid, thus attempting to forbid anyone from liking this season. Next time you don’t like a season Probst, just let it be bro. Don’t bother with using it as a tool for “see why we need Redemption Island? It’s much better than this, right? RIGHT????? If you don’t agree, then you’re not a real Survivor fan.”
8) Holly’s elimination. It came out of nowhere without any explanation.
9) A third season in a row with a final three along with twenty brand new contestants. A bit much.
10) Jimmy Johnson being the centre of attention in the first episode and the reunion show. Seriously, the guy had almost ZERO relevance in the season. He didn’t do crap to earn all of that attention. And how in the world do you justify five minutes of Terry Bradshaw which in turn takes away from Benry, Yve, Jill, and Tyrone at the reunion?
Things I liked about Nicaragua:
1) The first Russell-free season in over a year. It was finally time for those to put aside their differences about their Russell feelings and come together to witness a fresh season. It’s like everyone assumed the Ed Bundy Watching Television Pose. Relax.
2) La Flor’s first two TCs. I really enjoyed the Shannon and Kelly B boot episodes. The chaos of the former’s TC and the gutsiness of Marty at the latter TC was fun to watch. Plus I love it when you crush people’s dreams.
3) Fabio’s come-from-behind-win while still being goofy. I wanted Fabio to win after he laughed at Na Onka’s “smuff” comment and I just overall liked the guy. When the person you want to win ends up taking the title, sometimes that’s all you need to turn a season around and maybe restore it a couple years down the road.
4) Purple Kelly. It was the first time ever where I was interested in confessional counts, and each time she struck out in silence made her storyline become progressively more and more exciting. Another bonus was that anytime she spoke it ended up being a priceless quote. I also think the editors have never made someone’s storyline to be 99.9% comic relief. The peak came when I played the role of oracle and called in to the Joann and Stacy’s podcast prior to episode seven claiming Purple Kelly would get a confessional. And when she did, it was the biggest highlight of the season for me.
5) “Benry’s here baby!” *tumbles down a flight of stairs and lands on concrete covered in thumb tacks*
6) The fact they merged sooner rather than later. I couldn’t imagine them having a delayed merge at nine and open it up with a double quit.
7) I liked the idea of them being tricked into what their tribes were in the opening challenge. Just a nice little twist to counter advanced strategists. Fortunately, there were very few of them in Nicaragua for this to make a difference.
8) Each of the first four episodes had only one challenge. In a twenty person cast, this is almost essential in order to get to know everybody.
9) Did I mention it was a Russell-free season?
P.S. If the next three seasons are Russell and Rob-free, this will move down in the rankings. If any of the next three seasons continue to be plagued by these two characters, then this season will likely get a boost up for being a diamond in the camera-whoring rough.