Normally, a new season of Survivor wouldn't merit any attention at all. But this season is different. This season, former Portland Trail Blazer Cliff Robinson is on the island. We've tapped Joe Swide, of the Portland Roundball Society—a blog known for recapping Trail Blazers games with lots of references to dragons, which of course makes it one of our 26 reasons to love Portland—to cover Uncle Cliffy's exploits. Here, he brings us up to speed on the first two episodes.
A new season of Survivor began last week with Jeff Probst soliloquizing proudly over sweeping introductory shots of motorboats speeding upriver and helicopters doing helicopter stuff, rattling on about how "America's Greatest Social Experiment is heading in a new direction," and—blah blah blah yeah whatever Michel Foucault, you divided up the tribes like this: hotties who probably post mad selfies on Instagram, the nerds who just got that Foucault joke, and people with muscle mass and motor skills, among whom is former Portland Trail Blazer—famous for his commemorative Dairy Queen cup and the time Michael Jordan shrugged at him—Clifford "Uncle Cliffy" Robinson.
Introduce yourself to CBS viewers, Uncle Cliffy.
"I always played for bread and meat. I don't win, I don't eat. That's what the game of Survivor is all about."
Cliff speaks truth. Survivor is basically all about rice and peanut butter and learning how to manipulate fellow human beings into destroying themselves, and doing so in the rain in your underwear. Bread and meat. You don't win, you don't eat. Coach Adelman taught him well.
So who on Uncle Cliffy's "Brawn" tribe could possibly pose a threat to such a mighty Trail Blazer and warrior who has already, within 10 seconds, boiled Survivor, and life, down to its bread-and-meat essence?
First, there is Tony, a police officer from Jersey City who describes his police work as a lot of jumping over fences and from rooftop to rooftop because apparently Jersey City is straight outta Assassin's Creed or whatever. But when Tony meets Cliff, we humble viewers are blessed with this exchange:
Tony: "What do you do for a living, Cliff?"
Cliff: "I'm in sports marketing."
Tony: "You should play sports."
Thankfully Woo, a young martial arts instructor, is here and knows all about Cliff and the Portland Trail Blazers. Woo is all right by me.
After "Brawn" finishes second in the first challenge, thanks in no small part to Uncle Cliffy's ability to scale crude ladders and use sticks to get key rings off higher sticks and then use that wingspan to hug everyone at once in celebration of their prize—a piece of flint—Woo and Cliff return to camp and go out on the sea in a canoe. Cliff, in narration/interview mode, tells the people at home that Cliff and Woo had been eyeing that canoe since they got here, and that they were so excited to finally take it out on the sea and do a little fishing, and let me tell you the sight of them in that canoe on that sea is so adorable you guys, shhh, just give me a moment to absorb it.
Cliff, still talking to the people at home, describes his new relationship with Woo:
"You gotta have a wingman. Batman always had Robin. Jordan had Pippen. And Cliff has Woo. Woo-Tang."
<3 THIS SHIT IS JUST TOO ADORABLE STOP IT <3
Somehow they manage to flip the canoe, despite the canoe being fitted with an outrigger on each side, making flipping it quite a triumph over science.
Everyone loves Uncle Cliffy. Sarah, another cop from somewhere, who also fights Mixed Martial Arts, tells the American people that Cliff is very likable, funny, has lots of charisma, and is the most well-liked dude in the tribe. Lindsey, a hairdresser with wild dreadlocks, also states her love of Cliff to the people of Earth, and is even seen feigning interest in his basketball career in the way an interested girl at a bar might feign interest in a job that no one actually knows or cares about, "Oh, H&R Block? I loooove their commercials…you must know sooo much about taxes."
The list of Cliff haters is slim, thus far. Trisha, a leathery middle-aged divorcee who looks like Hell's yoga instructor, complains to Tony about the rest of the tribe "kissing Cliff's ass." But it's Tony who appears the biggest threat to Cliff.
Late in the first episode, Tony uses palms to build what he seems to think is a spy fortress to eaves drop on Cliff's conversations, but really is just a very conspicuous pile of palm fronds. As he does so, though, Tony tells the citizens of North America that Cliff is the top lion, and to take over the pride, Tony will have to kill the top lion, then kill all the cubs, and frankly I'm questioning if he should really be holding a position as protector and servant to the fine citizens of Jersey City.
The episode ends with Tony finding an immunity idol in the pond behind their camp, then whisper-shouting, like he won a scratch-it in the library, "I'm the king of the jungle!" maintaining both his lion theme and the outdated paradigm of lions-as-kings-of-the-jungle.
In the second episode, Tony picks up his assassination plot right where he's left off. He gets Sarah, the other cop, off to the side and gives her this whole fabricated story about Cliff scheming with Lindsey to vote off Sarah. Tony even gives us a horrific impression of Cliff allegedly convincing Lindsey to vote off Sarah: "Hey, shorty. It's a game. You gotta be focused."
Somehow, Sarah believes that horrific impression and there's a whole lot of "blue bloods gotta stick together" nonsense between the two of them AND YEAH BLUE BLOODS IS A CBS SHOW STAY WOKE SHEEPLE.
This week's challenge is all about filling up buckets, so naturally Cliff Robinson of 19,591 career points puts forth a stellar performance. The final stage of the challenge requires two people to navigate a ball through a maze to drop it in the bucket below, and wouldn't you know it but Cliff and Woo in all their adorable glory hold it down for "Brawn" and earn the victory, winning blankets and pillows and a tarp for their weather-beaten tribe. That night, everyone sleeps happily ever after.
NEXT WEEK: Probst says a tribe tries to "blind side" one of its own and shows us quick footage of a blindfolded Uncle Cliffy! THE POLICE ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED.