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Thank You Jeff Probst For Calling Out the Ugly Sexism in This Season of 'Survivor'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 21, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 21, 2015 |

If you haven’t seen last night’s Survivor yet, I’m going to lead with some brief spoilers on the outcome, so skip down if you don’t want to know who won.


First off, I’m thrilled that Mike managed to pull out a victory in this season of Survivor. I would have preferred Joe or Jen, but once those two were eliminated, Mike was easily the only player remaining who I didn’t outright loathe, and I credit the editors of the series for managing to transform Mike from the obnoxious top dog of the Blue Collar team to a likable underdog after the merge.

I also love that the strategy among the final ten completely backfired. Rather than try and form alliances with the stronger players, the weaker players bandied together and tried to pick off all the stronger players, keeping the most obnoxious players (Rodney and Dan) and the most worthless (Will) until the very end, knowing that they had no chance in hell of winning Survivor during the final tribal council. It’s the “I suck, but these people suck worse” strategy, and I love to see it crumble. Mike managed to essentially run the table in challenges because he had very little competition, although I am convinced that — had Joe found that hidden immunity idol before Mike — it would’ve been Joe who would’ve completely run the table and won Survivor. Joe, at least, gets another chance next season.


In terms of gameplay and drama, it was a fairly strong season of Survivor, even if the most likable players were voted off early. One drawback to the season, however, was the amount of sexism coming from the likes of Rodney, Will, and especially Dan, who belittled, mocked, and humiliated women not only to their faces, but during the confessionals.

However, I applaud Survivor and Jeff Probst for calling Will and Dan out for it last night. Because the second-chance contestants were to be announced during the last 15 minutes of the reunion show, and because reunion shows are already usually very compressed, it was notable that Probst devoted about a third of the actual reunion portion of the episode to address the misogyny.

Dan — the asshole from Maine — had taken several potshots at women over the course of the season, including calling Rodney’s mother a whore, and had gone to the press after the was eliminated to suggest that he was the victim of bad editing. Instead of immediately apologizing during the reunion show, however, Dan insisted on sticking with that story.

Probst could have let him off, and leave well enough alone, but to his and the producers’ credit, they showed raw footage, which proved that it was not an editing trick that made Dan look bad. It was Dan that made Dan look bad. It was uncomfortable television, but necessary.

Likewise, I appreciate that Probst not only called out Will for his seriously fucked-up treatment of Shirin, but I’m glad that Shirin didn’t let Will off the hook easily and allow it to become a nice TV moment by accepting his apology. Both Dan and Will said some horrible things to Shirin and for them to say, “I never would’ve said those horrible, nasty sexist things to her if I’d known she was abused as a child” was an incredibly lousy excuse. No, assholes: You don’t say those horrible, shitty things because she’s a human being, regardless of what happened to her in her past.

(I do wish they’d had more time to take Rodney to task for some of his comments, as well).

Anyway, I mention this only because you don’t see in reality television very often the producers make a decision to take a step back, harsh the vibe of an otherwise celebratory night, and call out a few sexist assholes for being sexist assholes, so in the spirit of thanks, I say well done, Survivor.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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