When Jeff Probst read the votes the other night I got so worked up shouting at the TV that my Tivo is recommending I watch episodes of Doctor Phil. In real life the good guys don't always win. But when they do - when the real bad guys of the world get punched in the face like a kids' pop-up punching bag - it's a beautiful thing. The human drama is back. Survivor is socially relevant again and it has never, ever been more intense.
At Tribal Council Ben put his Hummer-sized male ego on the line against Jaison's deeply held convictions. Ben seems to live every moment of his life in the present tense, as though there's no consequences to anything he says, and anything that happened in the past is completely irrelevant. Jaison is no quiet bookworm. He's courageous enough to stand up for what's right. But the man lives totally in his own head. Ben fights like a starving dog. Jaison fights like the love child of Barack Obama and Mister Spock. It was a contrast in styles between Ben's nostril-flaring fear mongering and Jaison's air tight arguments.
Then there's Natalie, who was stuck in between them. If you thought your middle seat on a transatlantic airline flight was bad, the chances are Natalie would have paid you to switch. Her grimaces, sweaty face and uncomfortable titters of laughter told the whole story. She could have choked on the testosterone. The only thing that would have made Tribal Council would have been if Natalie had raised her hand and asked Jeff if she could change seats.
A lot has been made of the bad guys this season. But what about the good guys? Jaison is one of the world's true gentlemen. Sometimes you admire people at arm's length. Not him. I would gladly have a beer with the guy. Or a Grey Poupon burger and arugula fries. Whatever Jaisons eat.
Shambo the Rambo looks as though she may capture her tribe's Hidden Immunity Idol next week, and I hope she does. My guess is there are some pretty bright, genuine people in that yoga class, but it doesn't sound like they're very good at surviving on the island. Thank goodness Shambo marches to the beat of her own conch shell because I don't want to see Monica - sweet as she is - get washed away to sea clinging to a once-fluffy beach towel and a hammock.
And how cute is Ashley? I'm not sure if she has Marisa's maturity and sense of self. But if Marisa was the TV girlfriend I loved talking with, Ashley is the new TV girlfriend who smiles and makes me say "What were we talking about?" And mark Russell's words, because they read like foreshadowing. Ashley may well form a girl power alliance and take out good ole Johnny Russelseed before the season is over.
Thankfully after the good cop went down last week, the outlaw got put away. As it stands we're less than a quarter of the way into Survivor: Samoa. Ben won't be able to hold the entire season hostage with his remarks, and that's the way it should be. There's still a whole other tribe to introduce. The other kids deserve a turn on the swing set. I just hope they earn it the way Ben did.
The past three episodes have been some of the most spellbinding in Survivor history. Survivor has returned to the human drama that I fell in love with in the first season. Genuine emotions have been laid bare. The characters love and hate each other, so we do too. Better yet, there's a real social relevance again. Fans are talking about on-going issues of racism, sexism, Hurricane Katrina and the devastation in Samoa. Let's not relax back into long puzzle challenges and tedious strategy talk now that Ben's gone. Let's see some more lives changed, hopefully for the better.