Survivor: Tocantins – Pre-Show Thoughts

With the cast finally announced, it’s time once again to prepare myself for another season of Survivor. 18 seasons… it is amazing to look back. I’ve watched the show since the end of the very first season in Borneo, and been an avid fan ever since. Survivor as a whole is responsible for a whole lot of terrible television, but to me, no other reality program matches the skill or the craft that Survivor established; the rest are just twists on an told tune.

Host Jeff Probst has been bragging so far (or apologizing, depending on how you look at it) that Survivor: Tocantins will have a far more likable cast than the recent Survivor: Gabon, which turned into one of the most bitter games ever played in the series’ history. While I personally often enjoy bitterness amongst the cast, as it accurately reflects the conflict that is represented by the situation of being stranded with strangers to begin with, I realize that Tocantins may be a welcome change of pace, assuming of course that Probst is not merely trying to attract positive attention to the series.

The cast itself does not impress me as much as the recent China, Micronesia, and Gabon casts have. I most often appreciate casts that are filled to the bring with unique people, ones who march to the beat of their own drum (to use an appropriate cliche) and aren’t clones of a social archetype you run into every day on the bus or at the mall. The three seasons mentioned above had plenty of this; as for Tocantins yet, I can’t tell.

For those who have not yet watched the pre-show interviews up on CBS’ Survivor website, I recommend you do before reading the rest of my thoughts on them.

In terms of likability, I am drawn most to Erinn, Stephen, Jerry, and Ben. Erinn’s got a smoothness to her that we haven’t seen in a female contestant in a long time, Stephen loosely reminds me of Rob Cesternino (my favorite contestant on the show to date), Jerry seems to be the most genuine contestant this season (no obvious pretensions or falsities to his personality), and finally there’s Ben, who could prove to be the most truly intriguing character of the season, based on his accomplishments as both an athletic coach and a musician.

Of course the bottom of the heap rests for me in the endless junkpile of “mactors” (term coined as a combination of model/actor, speaking of young beautiful contestants who are on the show to act and model more than they are to play). Sydney, Sierra, Candace, and all the other young girls sans Erinn run together for me so far. We always have the chance of a Courtney Yates type character emerging from one, but that rarely happens.

Wild cards for me include Tyson and Sandy. They both have character potential, but their pre-show interviews didn’t deliver, only suggested the slightest hint of entertainment value. If Tyson becomes a villainous snob out there and Sandy the motherly yet hip figure she claims to be, then maybe we have some hope. Most everyone else is lost somewhere in the middle, either too boring for me to remember or too obviously a fake type of person to get excited about.

Overall, the cast reveal underwhelmed me in contrast to other recent seasons, but it is not without potential. The season premieres Thursday, February 12th at 8/7c.