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.
This is my final transmission. Cliff Robinson has been voted off Survivor. There is no justice in this world. Love is a hollow myth, the Dr. Pepper cap of life promising, “1-in-5 are winners!” to keep you coming back to buy more Dr. Pepper, when it knows that you’ll never win anything. You’ll only be left with a lot of empty Dr. Pepper caps to hold your tears.
Jeff Probst stands before us, wearing a teal shirt with more features than any network reality television host would seem to require of a shirt. Before describing today’s reward/food challenge, he tells the gathered tribes, “Drop your buffs.” “Buff,” of course, is the name given to the multipurpose Survivor-branded bandana/headband/tube-top worn by each contestant (Cliff always wears his as a headband, replicating the look he favored throughout his NBA career) and colored to denote tribe membership. Go watch Colors, the movie with Sean Penn and Robert Duvall; it’s all in there.
By dropping those buffs, the old tribal designations of “Brawn,” “Brain” and “Beauty” are no more, freeing the contestants from the constrains of those superficial labels and allowing them to finally celebrate the full breadth of their individuality. Jeff Probst, Breaker of Chains and Fertilizer for the Human Spirit, instructs the contestants to blindly select new Buffs to reform into two tribes, and everyone on Cliff’s former tribe stays on the same new tribe, except for Sarah, the Cliff-hating cop. Cliff, what do you think about three tribes becoming two tribes? Cliff speaks: “Well, it definitely shifts people’s thought process…if they’re going to continue to try to work those alliances or create new ones.” Both Probst and his teal utility shirt appear contented with that answer.
In the reward challenge, Cliff proves far more difficult to pry off a pole and drag across about 30 feet of sand against his will than a woman on the other tribe, and therefore Cliff’s tribe wins a spread of donuts and cookies and Danishes and other treats that looks exactly like the generic array outside any sales seminar at any reasonably-priced airport hotel in America. Cliff’s tribe snatch up the food and carry it off into the jungle with ravenous glee, like hyenas carrying off bloody hunks of zebra. The other tribe looks on with visible anguish, disgusted with the excesses of the wealthy, nearly to the point of violent revolution. What broken souls, all of them.
After arriving back at camp and devouring their prize, the former members of Cliff’s Brawn Tribe welcome their two new additions from the former Beauty Tribe, Jefra and LJ, who each look to be the latest products of Abercrombie and Fitch’s ongoing eugenics program.
LJ is from Massachusetts, which quickly bonds him with the Trish the Pilates Villain, who is also from Massachusetts. Trish seems to believe their Massachusetts bond will give her a shot at seducing LJ, even though that evidently has not worked with the other three million or so men who live in Massachusetts, and so, naturally, the conversation turns to twerking. LJ says, “I’d like to see Trish twerk.” Cut to Cliff making a face analogous to yours if you overheard your parents talking about a life-changing experience they had in a back room at Palladium in New York City with the drummer from Judas Priest during the 1979 Hell Bent for Leather Tour.
Cliff and Woo sit on the beach as the sun begins to acquaint itself with the horizon, the small waves lap softly against the sand, and the campfire crackles behind them, sending wisps of smoke over their shoulders and out to sea. Perhaps overcome by the idyllic setting, Woo reminisces on the earlier buff selection that kept his dear friend Cliff in the same tribe, “When I saw purple-purple, I was like, ‘Brooooooooo—c’mon.’” Cliff cuts the emotion of the moment with a crack about being disappointed when he saw Trish was still on his tribe, then says in a narration that he’s unsure about what’s happening with Trish and LJ, and that “it’s a must” for him to keep an eye on them. Oh Cliff, your gentle heart was never made for the spiritual brutality of this game.
Trish and Jefra are walking around in the woods, getting firewood or whatever, and Jefra says to Trish, “I just get a shady feeling from Cliff.” HEY JEFRA, YOU KNOW WHAT IS SHADY? YOUR LISTED OCCUPATION ON THE SURVIVOR WEBSITE IS “MISS TEEN KENTUCKY 2009” WHEN 2009 WAS FOUR YEARS AGO AND “MISS TEEN KENTUCKY” IS NOT A SALARIED POSITION, BUT PLEASE, PASS MORE JUDGEMENT ABOUT A MAN YOU MET YESTERDAY.
The immunity challenge involves a battering ram and three walls and a lot of Jeff Probst shouting about the strength of wood and then at the end, the battering ram has to be fed through this sort of maze thing and Cliff’s tribe loses a tight finish, sending them to the tribal council.
Evil Tony, the cop from Jersey City who has spent the entire season thus far scheming and making up lies about Cliff to get him ostracized from the tribe, says it’s LJ’s time to go, which I guess should be encouraging for Cliff, if trust and honesty and integrity were to exist in this world, and man oh man am I souring on this show and the human race in general.
Before the council, the tribe members all split off into their weird sub-groups to talk about whose life they plan to ruin. Cliff calls out the Massachusetts pair, saying, “If you get your feelings caught up in this game, that’s when foolish things happen.” Tell me about it, Cliff. Tell me about it.
Woo tries to help out his buddy by telling his tribemates that LJ is expendable because Woo is as good as LJ on land and 10 times better in water, which I think might be a Water World reference, but I’m buried too deep in sadness to look it up.
Back in her woodland lair with LJ, Trish echoes Jefra’s shadiness sentiment about Cliff, then says to him, “Listen, we’re from fuckin’ Boston.” I have no idea what that means—I’m from Portland and if I said “Listen, we’re from fuckin’ Portland” to someone, it would probably be related to Rasheed Wallace or sandwiches—but the horrifyingly wild look in her eye as she cocks her head back after saying it leads me to believe that she’s probably talking less about Rasheed Wallace and more about the taste of human flesh.
Trish tells the camera how LJ is a gentleman and gets along with people and never gives up and has it all. Again, she met him roughly two days earlier. I hate this show so much. Please let me go, CBS. Please.
Trish continues, “But Cliff, he doesn’t do anything. And 14 days of his entitlement is about as much as my nervous system can handle. So we’re putting Cliff’s name down on that ballot. And the best part about the whole thing is Cliff doesn’t have one single clue. And it’s really cracking me up." [Cackling.] [Really, she’s cackling here. I have nothing left.]
More talk about Cliff doing nothing, this time with Trish talking to Tony, whose own psychosis now pales in comparison to that of Trish, as he wonders to the camera, “I don’t know if she’s bipolar, schizo—I don’t know what she is.” I could probably take a few guesses. Which one did that girl have in The Exorcist?
The last scene before tribal council is of Cliff talking to Tony about the need for tribe stability in the context of the demonic Trish, and in the middle of their conversation, the camera inexplicably zooms in on Tony running his finger over the blade of his hatchet as if he’s about to just plunge it deep into Cliff’s chest. Somehow, that doesn’t happen.
At the tribal council, Cliff subtweets Trish, I wonder if the rain is fake, Jefra votes for Cliff and says, “Cliff, you can’t call the shots forever,” but apparently you can be Miss Teen Kentucky forever, Trish draws a smiley face on her ballot for Cliff, and Cliff is voted off the island, granting us all a well-deserved escape from Jeff Probst, the monsters that lurk inside the pockets of his shirts, and this cesspool of humanity. Thankfully, no one gives Cliff the Jordan shrug on the way out.
Cliff’s last words: “When you think things are going the way you expect them to go—boom. You get blindsided.”
NEXT WEEK: There is no next week. The sun will burn out at any moment and leave us with one last fleeting moment of total darkness to ponder the emptiness of our achievements.