Survivor
China Reunion

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How It Didn't Happen

The reunion show opens, as it must, with the scene in which certified genius Jean-Robert (known by the people drinking pinot douche-io around Jeff Probst's torch-shaped pool as The Wise, Be-Powdered-Wigged Judge Of Human Behavior), tells Todd on the first day that he can tell Todd is just one little wacky schemer. This was, of course, the person-reading equivalent of watching Rupert for a day and announcing, "Sir, you cannot fool me; I can see that you are a pirate." A medley of Todd's more self-aggrandizing statements follows, because of course, the fact that he won proves that all his statements about what a strategic genius he is turned out to be exactly true! Not shown: Todd digs a ginormous hole for himself by giving away two immunity idols; Amanda and her Wedgie Of Vengeance dig Todd out of said ginormous hole; Todd argues successfully for the ouster of Jean-Robert at a point where Amanda wants to boot Peih-Gee, leading to serious problems when Peih-Gee turns out to be, just as Amanda argued at the time, very difficult to get rid of; Todd has to count on Amanda winning immunity from Peih-Gee, given that he performs in challenges the way Bobby Brady performed in ice-cream-eating contests; Todd pusses out on a challenge and eats instead, while Amanda is the sucker who thinks the alliance will obviously stay in the fight; Todd calls half the women on the tribe "bitch" at one point or another, etc. etc. Do not adjust your set; this is Todd TV. What you are about to see is an hour-long discussion of a fictional season of Survivor that never occurred, in which Todd was a brilliant genius, Amanda didn't exist, nobody won any challenges except James, Denise was a lunch lady, Jeff Probst was entitled to know each contestant's situation vis-à-vis other contestants vis-à-vis penetration, and in the end, it was all about merit, people. Merit.

We cut back to Big Hair Todd, still grinning and looking like somebody just gave the organ-grinder a fat tip and he feels like his performance really, really helped. Jeff Probst -- who will never be Phil, no matter how many nature-saluting silver pendants he ties around his leathery neck with black string -- welcomes us back to the Survivor China reunion. Jeff turns to Todd, congratulating him on his victory. Jeff recalls for us that Todd has been watching the show forever, just waiting until he was "old enough to get on the show." He now invites Todd to explain his "game plan," priming the pump (which -- spoiler! -- will be pumping exclusively bullshit for the foreseeable future) by telling Todd that Todd clearly had what he would do "all laid out." Todd's opening comment is that his brilliant game plan was -- listen closely, students of the game! -- to "do everything [he] possibly could to be sitting right here." Remember what we discussed during the finale? How Todd talks and talks about being strategic and about how strategic he is and about his philosophy of strategy, but when it comes to the specifics, what he's saying doesn't really make any sense? He's kind of the food stylist of Survivor, in that he knows all about what the photographer needs the food to look like, but when you touch those beautiful pancakes, they're covered with hairspray to keep the syrup from soaking in. In explaining the genius of his strategy, Todd says that he needed "a second person [he] could trust from day one," and he reaches over to condescendingly grab Amanda's hand. He then announces that he needed someone smaller than he is, and also to be "friends with the strong guy." He claims -- and he's not joking -- that he essentially had a cast of people in his head, and it turned out to be the cast that was there when he arrived. Everybody's just a link in the chain! Ripples on a pond! Todd is the puppetmaster!

Nothing if not cooperative with big phonies who suck up to the notion that this is a meritocracy, Jeff Probst is like, "Hey, I've heard you were willing to make relationships and then betray them!" Again, strategy of being strategic. Theories of game theory. We are staying far, far away from the dangerous "What did you actually do?" question. Not "How did you feel about what you did?," and not "What did you think ahead of time were going to be your guiding principles?," but "What did you do that made you win?" Because...I don't think Todd would know the answer to that question any better than I do. The answer is kind of "I played a solid C-plus game and almost everybody else flunked," and that doesn't make much of a reunion. Todd gives an over-rehearsed speech about how he just hoped people would appreciate that Survivor was a game, and that relationships are different from the game, blah blah. You know, the first time I heard that incredibly innovative piece of strategic thinking, I was too distracted to appreciate it, because the Flock Of Seagulls music was playing so goddamn loud.

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