This season of Survivor is particularly great. Part of that is that some of these people are threepeaters, so they know how they were portrayed, then how they changed and how they were portrayed again. This doesn't mean they understand the game of "Survivor" any better than anyone else- that is, the game to win the million dollars- but they aren't necessarily playing for that, so much as playing the game of Survivor, where their interactions with the cameras and the ways they are ultimately edited actually become more important than winning. It becomes like theatrical improv, where they can make adjustments based on perceived audience reaction.
The second reason is that the fairly arbitrary designations of "heroes" and "villains" are actually influencing gameplay. I don't know why someone decided that Cirie's amazing social game makes her heroic and Parvati's makes her a villain (or, for that matter, why dudes are "charismatic" and ladies are "deadly flirts"). But I do know that what's happening this season, because of those labels, is actually making these scenes MORE meta. People want to be known or remembered in a very specific way- some of them have built their entire lives since the show off these charactesr they see themselves as. People like Rupert have a hard enough time choosing between playing the "game" and playing the game to begin with, and being labeled a hero is like the nail in the coffin. Heroes don't backstab their alliances, even when those alliances are making idiotic moves.
The effect is most significant on the heroes, because a lot of them seem to see their heroism as largely part of being a leader, and that means most of the alpha males (plus Steph) can't fathom how to maintain their label while actually taking someone else's advice. But while it's making the heroes tribe completely fall apart, it's not exactly doing the villains any favors either- they all want to be the MOST conniving, because they have to be the best of the best villains. It becomes a weird, Rube Goldberg-esque parody of the game.
Whenever I try to think of an easy way to explain critical media theory, I fall back to this kind of game. Even setting aside the extratextual information which makes it better (like the pre-show interviews where they explicitly address these points), there is SO MUCH HERE. Watch Survivor Australia, then watch All-Stars, and then Heroes vs Villains, and you can actually see the progression of how Colby and Jerri have developed their characters.
Every day I am that much more disappointed that neither "reader of children's books" nor "discusser of reality television" is considered a valid career path.