Widely regarded as the worst Survivor season of all time, Redemption Island is frequently talked about as a season that lacks any redeeming qualities whatsoever but is that statement too harsh? In today's feature article Noah Groves puts each episode of season twenty-two under the microscope as he attempts to pull out the positives from each one. Read on to find out what hidden gems Survivor Redemption Island possesses!
“Always look on the bright side of life”-Monty Python, 1979.
Ahh Redemption Island, considered by most fans to be the arse end season of Survivor, the black hole, the abyss. This off-season I tasked myself with the seemingly impossible, to re watch season 22 and see if it is as bad as everybody remembers. What follows is a diary of what I found to be the good, the net positive within Redemption Island. I am well aware that the negatives outweigh anything positive about the season but so much has already been written and discussed about why this season sucks. Because I like to be different I won’t be discussing the bad. So sit back and read an episode by episode guide of Redemption Island that is (hopefully) more entertaining than the season itself!
Episode One-You’re Looking at the New Leader of Your Tribe:
For all the crap it receives, Redemption Island actually starts out surprisingly strong. Perhaps this is overshadowed by the negativity and legacy of the season or maybe few people have actually bothered to re watch it. The intro is reminiscent of The Australian Outback with Jeff in a military plane doing his classic Jeff opening statement surrounded with the players. A series of confessionals introduce us to much of the cast and gives us some sort of focus on these people before Rob and Russell take centre stage. In fact Rob and Russell really do take a backseat through most of the premiere, each having their moments but not stealing the airtime. There is an old school feel as the tribes bond while building shelters, albeit with a hammer and nails. We are introduced to The Specialist with the infamous job title “Former Federal Agent?” and the short lived alliance of Phillip, Francesca and Kristina is formed. Speaking of Kristina she really is a highlight of the episode. Starting the game aggressively by finding the idol and targeting Boston Rob. Yes that’s right Boston Rob could well have been voted out in week one of this season. Everything Kristina worked for came to a halt in an explosive and entertaining first tribal council where Phillip blew up all of their plans and paved the way for (spoiler alert!) Boston Rob’s win. Oh and we also get the often repeated ‘Francesqua’ line…I wonder if Phillip ever did get that treatment for his dry throat? A strong way to start out the season but I guess it is only downhill from here…
Episode Two-You Own My Vote:
This episode Rob and Russell take the forefront. The best thing to come from this episode is Russell vs Ralph on Zapatera. To set the scene, Russell is caught taking the clue to the hidden immunity idol from the reward that they won. Ralph confronts him and an argument breaks out in which Ralph becomes one of the few people to ever stand up to our favourite villain. It should be noted at this point that Ralph actually was in possession of the idol at the time and as he revealed in his Survivor Oz interview, had found it without the cameras filming him. This lead to him having to act out finding it for the story. That’s right, Ralph who humbly stated in episode one “It is time for a dumbass to win this game,” had to put on an Oscar winning performance. With that knowledge in mind I encourage you to go back and watch the scene for one of the biggest cases of unintentional humour in Survivor history. It should also be noted that this episode gave us Phillip hunting crabs which spawned THAT picture that has been talked about for years.
Episode Three-Keep Hope Alive:
In a very Russell centric episode, the challenges are the most positive takeaway. We get to see the first ever Redemption Island duel. It is a classic makeshift stick, key collecting challenge with two of the season’s biggest characters so far, Matt and Francesca going head to head. Redemption Island gets off to a strong start with an extremely close result which could have went either way. In the end Francesqua became the first boot…I wonder whatever happened to her. The immunity challenge is a bizarre one that has been used on several occasions. Two tribe mates are tied to a huge rotating structure, having their heads dunked in water as they swallow enough to fill up a tube. Even though the Zapatera tribe threw the challenge it is still entertaining plus we get an extremely rare glance of what happens during the “I will give you a moment too strategize” that Jeff Probst says so often in the show.
Oh yeah, and Russell Hantz gets his torch snuffed for the first time ever.
Episode Four-Don’t You Work for Me:
Here it comes, the downfall of Russell Hantz. We were still in a time of Russell fever and now, much too many fans delight, he was gone. The guy who had Amanda Kimmeled his way through back to back seasons is now season twenty two’s second boot. Russell goes out with tears, claiming he will never play the game again. This Redemption Island scene is also a nice precursor to Blood vs Water duels in which Russell makes his mark on the game by divulging all the Zapatera secrets to Phillip and Kristina. This turns into a fiery argument in which Ralph foolishly reveals he has the hidden immunity idol, realising his mistakes and gives the hilarious line “I faked you.” Phillip Shepherd gets in on the action saying it was his job to catch liars and that Ralph was lying to him. An all-around entertaining duel and the end of Russell Hantz’s legacy in Survivor. So far anyway.
Episode Five-We Hate Our Tribe:
When Boston Rob and Grant are away at a duel we get some nice character development and gameplay talk from Andrea. She is struggling to fit in with the girls and feels isolated after Matt was blindsided. There is a nice discussion between her and Phillip where it is shown that Phillip is also thinking in gameplay mode and contemplates getting rid of Boston Rob down the line; unfortunately this is never elaborated on. None the less it is a nice precursor to the Andrea and Phillip of Caramoan four seasons later. There is also another pre challenge strategizing moment like episode 3. It is a shame they didn’t show more of these in later seasons as it is fascinating to watch. Other than that, nothing to see here…
Episode Six-Their Red Headed Stepchild:
Let’s talk Stephanie Valencia for a minute. I was extremely disappointed to not see her make it to the final cast of Survivor: Cambodia-Second Chance. She truly is a highlight in this season. Stephanie may not have been the most competent player but she has a strong personality and that really is something in Redemption Island. She was sexy and sassy and entertaining to watch. In theory siding with Russell could have brought her to the win and when he was voted out she didn’t give up. She managed to convince David to switch sides and turn on the main six to vote Sarita out. Unfortunately she was unsuccessful and was voted out of the tribe. Stephanie was an entertaining character who could have really shaken things up at the merge. Let’s hope Stephanie gets that second chance sometime in the future. Storms a coming!
Episode Seven-It Don’t Take a Smart One:
The highlight of this episode is probably when Jeff asks Ralph a question in which he replies “I disagree.” The crispy rice scene is hilarious in that everything Phillip says is true and the thought of Boston Rob getting voted out over rice is amazing. Less talk and more action Phillip! I guess the challenges were ok too. Yeah this really is one of the worst episodes in Survivor history.
Episode Eight-This Game Respects Big Moves:
The merge episode is one of the stronger ones of this season. It isn’t an all-time great merge episode but it does have some things going for it. Matt re-joining the game adds the first bit of mystery or surprise since his vote out. Every vote out up until this point was painstakingly obvious and who would be sitting at the merge could almost be predicted from episode three. Mike plays hard in attempting to swing Matt over to Zapatera and getting Andrea on their side too. Rob does the same and tries to ensure Ometepe stays strong. Matt confesses to Andrea that he wants to blindside Boston Rob, hence the episode title. Andrea is conflicted and annoyed at Matt and begins to turn on her showmance. Natalie Tenerreli dominates and wins the first individual immunity challenge; a challenge which contains Probst quotes such as “Steve’s balls have been glued to his disc.” It all leads up to an entertaining tribal council where Phillip gets mad at David Murphy and Matt, the one guy who should have been safe this week is cruelly blindsided once again by Boston Rob, this time with the help of Andrea. It is like a lesser version of Sarah Lacina’s vote out in Survivor: Cagayan. Back to Redemption Island as Matt competes for his third chance in the game. A fun episode!
Episode Nine-The Buddy System:
This double boot episode goes by much faster than some of the previous episodes. This is the birth of Phillip’s feather (which Ralph hilariously makes fun of) sent through a premonition Phillip had of his great grandfather Jessup Harry and the Stealth R Us organization goes public. Mike becomes the first causality of Zapatera as he joins Matt at Redemption Island. I feel like Mike is an underrated character and player. Had Zapatera gained the numbers at the merge, he probably would have been the winner of the season. He was likeable, had an understanding of the game and had some entertaining confessionals. As for David…well let’s just leave that one there.
Episode Ten-Rice Wars:
This is the infamous crazy Phillip episode where a fight about rice turns into a fight about race. The whole thing is uncomfortable viewing and took things to the next level. However it is a great tribal council where Jeff Probst plays counsellor and tries to resolve the issue. Probst really deserves more credit for his job and the way he handles the situation makes for great television. Phillip telling Jeff not to interrupt him and asking if Jeff knows what it is like to be a woman adds some laughs to the whole thing, one of the best tribal councils of the season. Julie hiding Phillips shorts is amazing as well, what a shame she owned up to it in the end.
Episode Eleven-A Mystery Package:
This is the second time there is a truel at Redemption Island. This is a precursor to Blood vs Water and proves to be much more interesting than the duels. Julie is eliminated here. I have always liked Julie and felt like she could have been a bigger character or fan favourite on any other season but this one. At tribal council there is an All Stars reference by Steve and Jeff brings up Lex Van Den Berg which is exciting. This also sparks the end of the Zapatera tribe after a double boot twist. No more Pagonging left in the season.
Episode Twelve-You Mangled my Nets:
“Boston Rob literally carrying his family on his back!!!”- Jeff Probst, 2011.
Ok as much as we all like to make fun of this quote, it is actually a pretty epic challenge. Probably the best challenge of the season. It was huge, the result was close and we had a return case of Boston Rob crybabyitis. Outside of this, Andrea becomes the first Ometepe casualty in another sleepy episode.
Episode Thirteen-Too Close for Comfort:
Ralph is a highlight of Redemption Island who gave the season a much needed comical side. Ralph was the go to guy for entertainment this season and never failed to deliver. From his opening line “maybe it is time for a dumbass to win this game” through to his “I faked you” after accidently telling the other tribe he had the immunity idol and of course his trademark rooster cry. Some of Ralphs tribal council votes included ‘Stifinie’, ‘Ressel’, ‘Philite’, ‘Krasta’ and the all-important vote for the million dollars ‘Phile.’ Unfortunately we will probably never Ralph play the game again but I am the sole person campaigning for this to happen! Truly one of the few highlights to come from this season and an amazing character.
Episode Fourteen-Seems Like a No Brainer:
I’ve never been shy in saying that I am not a fan of Boston Rob but there is no denying that he played a strong game. If there is one take away from re watching Redemption Island is that you get to see one of the strongest winning games in play. Rob played hard and played to win, learning from his past mistakes in the game. Kim Spradlin often gets grief for winning against a bunch of bad players but those One Worlders are All Stars compared this cast. Rob’s game was strong but it was against zero competition, a huge part of what makes this season so despised. As for the rest of the finale, it certainly isn’t the worst episode of the season. Andrea trumped Redemption Island veteran to return to the game while Ashley goes on to win immunity before being blindsided at the final four. The final tribal council, while blatantly obvious that Rob would win was still entertaining. Phillip in poncho and feather back chatting the entire jury and sharing a moment with Ralph is a highlight.
A pretty stock standard reunion show to end up the season. A bunch of the players are talked to, Rob gets his moment to discuss his win, Amber makes an appearance. The usual “is Phillip really a special agent?” type questions are asked, capped off with a South Pacific preview. A bland but familiar way to put the final nail in Redemption Island.
Yeah this season still sucks. Re watching it on the lookout for the positives and just accepting it for what it is makes the experience more enjoyable but at the end of the day this isn’t quality Survivor. While it isn’t fantastic I do think a certain quote applies here, something about pizza I think? Some people refuse to even watch this one again and hate it with a passion but I can still see some enjoyment out of it. Unlike seasons such as Nicaragua and Fiji which have aged well over time and gained some respect, Redemption Island will always be at the bottom of the totem pole. However there is one season that trumps it as even worse, a season that would follow directly after twenty two…
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