Grantland Reality Fantasy League: The Back Rub Felt ’Round the World

Monty Brinton/CBS Survivor

With The Bachelor finale this week, you would assume Sean The Boring Bachelor’s big decision would be the lead of this column. I mean, it has to be, right? What could possibly have happened in reality TV that would top Sean The Boring Bachelor finally choosing his partner for life/three more Us Weekly covers? What human act could be more significant than pure ForeverLove? Only one human act can trump ForeverLove, and that act is … a back rub.

Confused? Good!

Brandon (Survivor, Connor), 30 points: Brandon Hantz is the Roman god Janus. Janus is the god of beginnings, of doorways, of transitions. Janus has two faces: one that sees the past and another opposing face that sees the future. Janus presides over the changing of eras, of a child growing into a man. Janus is perpetually at the beginning of something, yet never truly in the present.

Like Janus, Brandon Hantz is in a state of perpetual transition. He has one eye on his past, one eye on his future, and is lost in the present. Really lost. This episode, one of the best in the history of the franchise, Brandon completely lost his shit. Like, completely lost his shit. It was glorious, it was righteous, and it was a little scary for Jeff Probst.

Having been on the show before, Brandon knows how his actions, when aired on national television, can affect the future. Brandon has said some pretty terrible things on camera this season, and the side of him that looks toward the future understands that there will be repercussions. So he first attempted to make amends:

It really hurts my pride to have to admit these types of things, but I was going to light the whole thing [tribe shelter] on fire. Was going to pee in the beans and rice. It was a petty way out, but those things crossed my mind. I am sorry for the thought.

After his apology, his cleansing, it seems like Brandon is in a good place. But Brandon is not in a good place.

When Brandon feels that Phillip is getting too much credit for a challenge victory, he attacks. He calls Phillip old, questions his leadership and his standing in the tribe, and calls him a — wait for it — “punk bitch.” Phillip, an equally — albeit differently — insane individual, vows that Brandon will be the next to be voted out. Feeling the sentiment around camp that Phillip will get his wish, Brandon takes action.

Brandon has his eyes on the future. He knows that not only will he be voted out, his getting voted out will air on national television. He wants to feel control, so he takes matters into his own hands. More specifically, he takes the tribe’s rice supply into his own hands and pours it out all over camp. The same with the beans. I was ready for him to call his shot and get R. Kelly on the habichuelas, but after destroying the tribe’s food supply, he took to the beach, outstretched his arms, and declared:

“I am the author of my fate, buddy! I am the author of my fate!”

Rejected by his tribe, feeling regretful about his tantrum, he headed into the immunity challenge frayed. Sensing that his tribe would throw the challenge to gain the opportunity to vote him off, he again took action. He stood on “neutral” ground alongside host Jeff Probst and addressed his castmates. After being given the floor, he used a very small amount of his time encouraging the “Fans” tribe and a large amount of his time berating Phillip. Taking a brief break from Phillip, eye on the past, he addressed his previous stint on the program:

I had a rough time after the show. I’ll tell you that, after the first time I played Survivor, I had a tough time. It changed my personal life, it changed everything. And I swore if I ever got the chance to play again I wouldn’t play it the same way. I would never be the guy to get walked over episode by episode crying. I can stand here today and say I have never cried a bleeping tear on this season. I’ve calloused myself to people that really don’t give a bleep about anyone but themself.

I don’t care and you aren’t going anywhere with that attitude. In life, or in Survivor.


This was the Brandon that he wanted to watch on his television in the future, the defiant, calloused, strong, non-crying Brandon. He was becoming that Brandon next to Jeff Probst. He was also becoming enraged. Sensing his tension building, Probst made a move, a move to Brandon’s shoulders:

Both the back rub and Brandon’s rage started small. At first Brandon was almost humorous, whimsical with his insults; at first Probst’s back rub was just a touch, a supportive reminder that someone was there, a caring someone:

But as Brandon’s rage started to speed-wobble, Jeff went eagle claw:

I give Probst so much credit. I think somewhere, deep in his subconscious Probsty Hosty instinct, he knew that back rub could be read as restraining an angry Brandon. He knew that he was adding aesthetic hot sauce. I am not trying to say that Probst’s back rub was anything but a pure response to Brandon’s lunacy, I’m just trying to say that when it is your 26th season of a show you get a feel for it.

Anyway: Eventually, a spontaneous tribal council ensued and young Brandon was sent off. Survivor’s Janus had made his own transition through a doorway. His past filled with uniquely regretful Survivor appearances, his future filled with regretful Survivor viewings, his trapezius muscles … loose.

Catherine (The Bachelor, Simmons), 95 points: As Grandma and I settled in for The Bachelor, I couldn’t match her enthusiasm. The apex of a Bachelor season really happens when there are about five or six girls left. That’s when you’re fascinated by the interplay between the women, figuring out his feelings for each one and, you know, how fucking crazy everyone is. By the time the finale rolls around you already know who he is going to pick, you already know the cycle of Us Weekly covers it will generate (engaged, marriage, cheating/divorcing), and you already know ABC will stretch it all out for a grueling three hours.

The proceedings started with Catherine. She met the parents, the nieces, the sister, and the mute brother-in-law. All the blood relatives were blond, blue-eyed, and so nice you couldn’t trust them. Also, later in the show, her dad wore a hot pink T-shirt. He did not seem like a hot pink T-shirt type of fella, though. I spent most of his screen time considering the origin of the hot pink T-shirt. Matter of fact, I am making that the GRTFL questionable moment of the week:

Where did he get the hot-pink T-shirt? Was it supplied by a stylist? Was it his own? If it was his own:

Did he buy it special? Is it one of his old favorites? Is it an O.P. shirt from 20 years ago? Vuarnet Sunglasses? Was it new? What store did he buy it from? Has hot pink always been a thing of his? Is this part of the new neon trend? Did he know there was a neon trend? Did he buy the blue button-up to go with hot pink T-shirt or hot pink T-shirt to go with the blue button-up? Is that a crew or a V? Should I do a whole ’nother Questionable Moment of the Week on his goatee?

If it was provided:

Who looked at him and said, “Let’s get this guy in some hot pink?” Did he fight against it? Was he given other options? Was not wearing a T-shirt underneath an option? If he is styled, why is his shirt so big? Is he dressing like Sean or is Sean dressing like him? Why is all this so important to me?

Anyway, Catherine’s audition for the family went well. She was playful when she needed to be, serious when she needed to be, and spoke in full sentences that showed not only a command of the English language, but forethought and reason. It was a banner performance for her.

The date was forgettable aside from when they rode elephants and Grandma kept talking about how uncomfortable elephants are to ride and how they both must be in pain and just pretending to enjoy themselves. They had a picnic among the romantic scenery of the elephant field and made out a couple times (2 x 5 = 10 points). What really resonated from the date was the good-bye. When Catherine bid her soon-to-be fiancé adieu, she went for it:

Catherine: “Sean, I love you.”
Sean: “Thank you for today.” [Butt grab]

Knowing what we know now … what the hell is wrong with this guy? “Thanks for today?” That’s not what you tell the woman you are going to marry; that’s what you tell the guy you pay for parking.

Troubled, she needed something to get through the night — a sign, a kiss, a look, a something that would ease her doubt. She left her room and chased him down in that fake way you chase someone down on The Bachelor. She needed reassurance, she knew he wasn’t going to propose right then, she knew that he had been explicitly instructed not to reveal anything to the ladies before because that would diminish the heartbreak, and diminishing heartbreak diminishes ratings, but still … she needed to talk. She embraced him and he opened with:

Sean: “It’s gonna be OK. We had fun today, right?”
Catherine: “Mmm-hmmm.”
Sean: “OK?”
Catherine: “OK. I’ll go.”

WHAT? There MUST have been more to this conversation that they edited out because that just didn’t make any damn sense.

The next day at the traditional Bachelor Televised Marriage Launching Pad, Sean received a note from Catherine (20 points). I honestly don’t remember what it said. I just remember there was crying involved (3 x 5 = 15 points), it took a long time for her to walk to the Bachelor Televised Marriage Launching Pad because the art department hadn’t considered that the women would be wearing heels, and her hand was super shaky when he gave her the frozen finger of ForeverLove (50 points). As they made their exit, Grandma blurted, “Now get on your elephant! Sean likes to ride elephants, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” I don’t know why I feel this way, maybe from the context and the laugh, but there’s a 50 percent chance Grandma just called Sean gay.

Lindsay (The Bachelor, Simmons), 25 points: Lindsay also had trouble with her heels on the approach to the Bachelor Televised Marriage Launching Pad, but Lindsay has trouble with a lot of things. After meeting the family and a smooch date (2 x 5 =10 points), once on the Bachelor Televised Marriage Launching Pad, Lindsay had trouble realizing that Sean was breaking up with her the entire time Sean was breaking up with her.

I have said it before and I will say it again, if your call time at the Bachelor Televised Marriage Launching Pad is anytime before 6 p.m., don’t even bother. The crew would never shoot an engagement with midday sun. They just wouldn’t. It wasn’t until about three minutes into his breakup speech, when he said, “You know I have to say good-bye to you,” that it finally dawned on her that she was not being proposed to. As she turned to leave, she took off her heels. Right when she did that, like a trainer barking instructions from the corner, Grandma yelled, “Hit him in the head with the shoes, girl!”

During her soliloquy, on the teary (3 x 5 =15 points) limo ride away from the launching pad, I couldn’t tell which was more abused, Lindsay, the English language, or sarcasm:

I know this feeling. I have felt it a hundred times. I feel like an idiot, once again I fell in love and they don’t want a future with you. [I have read that sentence seven times and still don’t understand it.] I fell for it, thinking he is going to propose and then just breaks up with me. [!?!?!?!!?!?] Dangle everything I have ever wanted in front of my face and then take it all away. [Who?] I am thinking, ‘Please do that, because that is exactly what I have ever wanted.’ [Um, what?] It isn’t fair. Why did he do this to me? Why? I just do not want to be hurt this way. It’s just sad, it is just, like, really sad — like, really really really sad.

After this, Grandma chimed in, “Get a gun and shoot him, girl!” Grandma is the best.

Dawn and Andrea (Survivor, House), 5 points: Dawn and Andrea cried this episode during Brandon’s magnificent exit (5 points). I can’t lie, the second Brandon threw the rice on the ground I thought … wait … I had a lot of thoughts. Let’s make this the GRTFL Top Five. This week’s GRTFL Top Five is the Top Five Thoughts I Had While Watching Brandon Destroy the Tribe’s Food Supply, listed in order of importance:

5. How hard can it really be to pick the rice and beans up off the ground and cook those fuckers?
4. How is it possible that after throwing the rice on the ground AND making a move for the beans, no one Lawrence Taylored this dude?
3. Well, we no longer have Brandon every week, but we still have this little fella!

2. Is he going to pee on them now? He better pee on them now!
1. OK, this means Brandon gets voted off, which means … ONE MORE WEEK OF BRENDA!

Yolanda and Taylor (Housewives, Connor and House), 5 points: Yolanda and Taylor had the most subdued, un–Real Housewivesy fight in the history of the franchise (5 points), but Taylor more than made up for it when she visited with ex–Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Dana. Judging by the light pouring in the windows, the scene could not have been shot before 2 p.m., and, judging by, you know, everything, Dana didn’t sit down to shoot the scene until after 2 … hundred cocktails. She first offered this gem: “I drink a lot and I am OK with it and I fuck a lot and I am OK with it, too.” She then offered the most Real Housewives of Beverly Hills quote of the week with this complaint about her ex-husband:

He has not done anything for me. My Lamborghini, he told me to drop it at the mechanic. He didn’t want to pay for it anymore. My birthday present, remember that glamorous birthday present? [Super weird crashing-hand gesture] House of cards.

There is a lesson to be learned here … no … no, there is not, carry on.

Kim and Kyle (Housewives, Jacoby), 5 points: I don’t even know where to start with Kim’s behavior this season. She seems intoxicated in every scene, but it’s not any type of intoxication I can recognize. She doesn’t seem drunk, she doesn’t seem pill-sedated, she doesn’t seem cocainey, she just doesn’t seem … normal. Especially on the Paris trip. She was EXTRA not normal on the Paris trip. When her sister Kyle confronted her through sobs (5 points) about the source of her weird behavior, she had an even weirder excuse:

Kim: “So yesterday I went in and I put my medicine out and I looked down and I wanted to take my water pill, which is like a pale peach color. I thought, ‘Wait a minute. This is not feeling right.’ So I went and put my contacts on, came back, and I looked down and it looked the same. I brought it up closer and it was a little bit thicker and it was the same color, but it was the one that I had been taking…”
Kyle: “Six months ago? The one that made you out of it and gave you seizures? So you were confusing the medicines?”
Kim: “It is the same, it is almost the same color.”

First off, before you even ask, I just Googled it and apparently water pills are a real thing. Second, I think that was the only real thing that she mentioned in her whole explanation. This show has already caused the death of one person, and were I producing it, I would insist that Kim no longer be involved. That woman needs to get her shit together. Oh no, what just happened? Did I get all serious at the end there? Sorry about that. Since I hate ending on a sad note … THIS DUDE AGAIN:

Look at his little man hands!

Check back to see what show I can trick my Grandma into watching next week. I have my eye on Wicked Single.

Filed Under: ABC, Bravo, CBS, Jeff Probst, Real Housewives, Reality TV, Reality TV Fantasy League, Recaps, Sean Lowe, Survivor, The Bachelor

David Jacoby is an ESPN producer who somehow became a writer and editor for Grantland.

Archive @ djacoby

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