Reichenbach Falls: Starvation boots Erik off Survivor: Caramoan

May 13, 2013

Well, I guess he wasn't kidding when he said he was starving. After overcoming a load of self-doubt last week, Erik Reichenbach exited Survivor: Caramoan within the first 10 minutes of the final episode, attached to a bag of intravenous fluids in the back of a medical van. Diagnosis: starvation state and dehydration.

The show opened with a shot of Erik staggering off from the previous tribal council and cut quickly to scenes of him having trouble with dizziness and complaining of a headache. "Everything is spinning," he muttered as he held a hand to his forehead, as if that would keep everything still. I found myself wondering how much weight he had lost. I read somewhere that the guys on the show lost 15-20 lbs typically, and there was no way Erik had that much poundage to give away.

Body fat. It's good to have some if you're planning on living on rice for a while.

When host Jeff Probst asked Erik if he thought he might be OK if he could get back to camp and rest up, Erik - showing yet again his inability to lie convincingly - mumbled "Well, I'd like to..." as he tried to keep his eyeballs from rolling up in the back of his head. No dice, dude. The doctor noted Erik's low blood pressure and slow pulse, which, combined with the other symptoms, prompted him to pull Erik from competition. As the doctor said, the body compensates for conditions, until it just can't compensate anymore. No need for the drama and politics of a tribal council vote here - Erik's own body booted Erik off the island, ending his dreams of Survivor finalist glory and a chance at the $1 million prize.

And dooming me to watch another 110 minutes of this damn show without my primary - no, wait, my only  - reason for watching it.

My fan loyalty quickly switched to Cochran. I am a sucker for an articulate man and Cochran's commentary, analysis and strategic play were the most interesting bits of the show. And how can you not root for a redheaded geek with skin so pasty white he spent the first few days with sunburn so bad he could barely walk - and yet he was still in the game? While he was clearly not a physically-dominant player, he won challenges - including building a Jenga-like tower of wooden cards on a balance scale to win an advantage in the final immunity challenge, a puzzle-based competition that he won handily.

You should know that I am skipping over all kinds of drama, crying, angst - it was, after all, a two-hour finale. There was some nostalgic trudging up and down the beach by the last four contestants, collecting badges of their long-lost tribe members and conducting a ceremonial burning of them - which I found hilariously redundant. You already burned them, you voted them off! Despite everyone being fed up with Dawn and her daily breakdowns (although Cochran noted that they are more of the "catatonic" variety of late), poor Eddie finally gets the vote he's been expecting every night all season. He actually seems relieved.

The Final Three - Cochran, Dawn and Sherri - have to appeal to the jury of their peers in a final vote to see who is the Sole Survivor. The peers being, naturally, all the folks they voted off all season. Then each jury member was able to...I dunno. I didn't really understand the point of this part of the show. Rather than gather more insight to make their decisions, the jury seemed more inclined to thrash each of the finalists. Which is fine, I like snark and pithy criticism as much as the next person, but none of this was particularly well-done. Erik was not in his comfort zone in this role - nasty, face-to-face confrontations, like lying, are obviously not situations he has experience with - and good for him. He managed to dismiss Dawn due to her vote against Brenda, who had been one of Dawn's staunchest allies; his scathing comments about Sherri resulted in an argument that rattled him enough that he gave up before commenting on Cochran.

The final vote? Nerds Rule The World, baby, even on remote islands in the Phillipines. Cochran for the win.

Just in case two hours wasn't enough, CBS thoughtfully tacked on another hour with a "reunion" show that featured most of the contestants, cleaned up and - since this was a few months later - sporting a healthy weight gain. It was amazing how much better everyone looked - you watch them gradually lose weight, see the effects of the stress throughout the season, but their reunion show appearance was a huge contrast and, intentionally or not, made a real case for the beauty of appropriate weight.

And Erik looked good. I really think he could have taken his Mr. Nice Guy routine right to the Final Three. Thanks for making me watch Survivor again, Erik! Your hometown loves you and wishes you well in everything you do!