I wanted to summarize a Mark Burnett series. I admit that freely and of my own will. The problem is that I wanted one with – well – votes. Eliminations. Alliances. People making endless confessional-tell complaints about each other. Competitions rigged in ways other than the standard odds which the games throw to the house. And what did I get? The Casino. No eliminations. No votes. No drama other than what the scriptwriters fail to create. And lots and lots of DAWs to deal with, virtually all of whom are there for only one reason: to be DAWs.
Fine. No problem. When you have no torches, no prize money waiting at the end, no final chance to laugh at the dearly departed on a morning show, there’s only one thing left to do, and I’m going to do it now.
…previously on Desert Survivor: due to suspected family connections with organized crime, the Casino Control Commission only awarded Tim and Tom a conditional temporary tribal charter because in order to get a permanent one, you have to prove family connections with organized crime. Our Internet millionaires, who got into this game by having an idea and letting other people give them money for it, discovered that they’d have to invest time, effort, blood, sweat, toil, tears, and a very large amount of puckers applied to the nether anatomy of high rollers in order to make their new tribe work – all while watching for that one mistake that could cost them their charter. Forever. And we do mean forever, which in Las Vegas is a period of time even longer than the one it’ll take before Mike Tyson is allowed to box in Nevada again. An entertainer was brought to the tribe’s very sandy beach, we learned that singing ability is not a prerequisite for being the lieutenant governor of the Silver State (somewhere in America, a man named Simon thanks his Queen and Country that he doesn’t get to vote here), discovered that the ability to count cards does not bring with it an automatic tally of chromosomes, and watched a college student completely fail to lose his virginity. Frankly, we could have found all this out in just about any bar in the country. Regardless, roll opening credits.
We start with a quick zoom shot across the desert that pauses on the Mandalay Bay Casino (hereafter known as Drake) for no apparent reason before shooting across town to find the Golden Nugget (henceforth Morgan). And why are we going to see Morgan on this fine morning? Because the co-leaders of the tribe are about to hand down another momentous decision to the rest of their team. After all, surviving in the desert takes constant vigilance. And leadership. And careful use of the coveted Immunity Bribes.
Valued tribe member Maurice, who’s in charge of the desert resources, tells T&T that the Drakes are vulnerable to having one of their chief rewards stolen. Geoff Mills, a 28 year-old real-estate developer, millionaire, and honorary Drake will soon be in town. (Thanks to his pre-show perusal of MB’s Guide To Dangerous Desert Animals, Tim recognizes the name. For the first time in the history of reality television, someone opened the briefing book.) Geoff has a credit line of about half a million with the Drakes because he’s proven that he’ll often place fifteen thousand dollars on a single bet and that he’ll airdrop his losses in to the tribe which displays the best ‘Help us: we are novice casino owners and need people delusional enough to think they’re better than the games’ rescue signal. Maurice feels that with a little persuasion, Geoff could be induced to abandon Drake and bring his substantial Reward over to the Morgans.
Tim makes the call to Geoff (because the numbers of all big-time high rollers are in the briefing book) and starts chatting about the wonderful attractions to be found with the Morgans: the improved 6-8-10 odds at the dice pit (as opposed to the 3-4-5 which the Drakes have been offering), the high quality of their shelter, the Hawaiian sling which they plan on bringing over any day now. After a few exchanges during which Tim assures Geoff that they’ve almost got that flooding problem solved, the room is booked, and Geoff agrees to bring his money, posse, and future losses to the Morgan tribe. It’s starting to look like a good episode for the Morgans. And since when did the Morgans ever have a good episode?
Tim, alert and intelligent in a way that vaguely reminds me of someone named Andrew, notes in confessional-tell that this potential Reward transfer could be trouble for the casino. The improved odds and high bet limits are the only way to lure the big spenders down to the Morgans – but they also mean that one lucky streak could cost the tribe hundreds of thousands of dollars, or worse. This Reward could wind up Rewarding itself very quickly, and if it takes enough resources from the tribe, everyone’s torches are going to be at risk
The cameras meet Geoff at the airport after the control tower picks up his streaked blond highlights on radar. His girlfriend Kristin and two male posse-mates question his decision to make an alliance with the Morgans, noting that the tribe usually allies itself with old people. In fact, it’s the home of the ‘dentures of the month club’. (Apparently someone has ignored the lessons of Thailand. This may be understandable.) But Geoff is determined to turn the Reward against the Morgans, and is thus perfectly willing to go along for the ride until he can trigger the financial backstab.
Fellow Drake Bryan Mills notes that they’re in the only limo heading to the Morgans, which proves that the Drakes must be having more fun at their camp. (The camera roams over some less than savory native wildlife for no apparent reason.) But Geoff is still intrigued by the offer of free shelter, and insists that they continue with their current plan. Bryan then accuses Geoff of wanting to be a big fish in a small pond, to which Geoff replies ‘This isn’t even a pond. It’s like a water hole.’ Just in case you were still wondering exactly where the Morgans stood in the Desert Survivor universe.
Geoff recommits to the plan, insisting that it’ll make sense if they consume massive amounts of alcohol during the evening (somewhere in the world, a man named Dave throws himself into a stream of rocket exhaust and doesn’t know why – not that it matters for long), and heads into the Morgan camp. John Sunstrum, chief ambassador to arriving future alliance members, greets them, gives them a quick tour of the shelter where the flooding problem has in fact been solved (but the gilt is still running amuck) and leaves them to get ready for the Reward Challenge. The elaborate preparation rituals include semi-careful storage of the native currency, where Geoff has to be reminded that flashing one’s cash usually means removing it from the pocket instead of having it sticking halfway out, which should not be presumed to be a problem in other parts of his life no matter how much you want to, and no matter how much Kristin tells him ‘You can’t have it hanging out, hon. You just can’t,’ which really strikes me as sound advice given what I’ve seen of Geoff to this point. And, apparently under the impression that he’s actually starring in the African edition, Geoff dons a zebra-pattern jacket as both camouflage and an invitation for the lions in the card pit to eat him.
However, we have to keep the minor storylines floating, so MB takes a moment to head down to the casino floor and show us Matt Dusk (who’s been taking the Gervase path of providing the tribe’s entertainment) meeting up with tribe co-leader Tim. Matt wants to discuss the previous episode’s Reward Challenge, Sing For The State, where the tribe managed to score a great impression with the evening’s guest judges – but nearly lost the whole thing when those judges insisted on performing themselves, nearly scaring the wildlife out of the area and forcing the tribe to start resource-gathering all over again.