Well, you certainly can’t say that wasn’t a lively episode of Survivor this week. There was so much going on that my head is still spinning a day later as I’m finally trying to write out my thoughts here. The game got flipped upside down in so many ways, with an auction yielding twists and tension galore. While the whole episode was upended by a dramatic and ugly spat by one of the contestants, the end result was more of a stalemate than anything else, as Jenn finally got her wish to leave her crummy tribe-mates behind. Somehow I’m going to try to break down the episode, and give you all my unfiltered opinions on all the strategy and drama they packed into that hour. Wish me luck, here it goes:
- You know you’re about to watch a fascinating episode of Survivor when the first words uttered by anyone during the episode are “We need to vote _____ out of the game.” There’s no better way to start a show, I think they should all start like that in all honesty, and it was Boston Rod with the thoughts this week. He pitched his plans to get rid of Mike the morning after they voted Joe out, since he became the de facto leader around camp. Of course, Rodney, Tyler, Carolyn, and Will didn’t know Mike was in earshot, and heard the ideas being discussed, and this moment was sort of the beginning of the explosion of the whole game. Once Mike knew he was a target, and that Rodney, Carolyn and Tyler were about to make their plays for power in the game, the whole semblance of the tribe Merica and the Blue Collar alliance were gone forever, or at least so it seemed. There’s a point in any season where it becomes apparent that the individual game is on, we saw it in Cagayan when Tony took out LJ, in the Australian Outback when Tina, Keith and Colby turned on Jerri and Amber, in Cook islands when Candice and Penner mutinied and countless other times over the years, and I would stretch to say that this is one of the more poignant ‘every man for themselves’ starting points. I loved the concept of the sub-alliance turning on the leader, its wonderful strategic play and it makes for exciting TV, but this honest moment of pure strategy by three of the sneakier players of the season was overshadowed by one of the most dramatic Survivor auctions and aftermaths of all time.
- It was time for another Survivor auction, a tradition that has for the life of this show been about eating, and intrigue, fun and gambling, but has turned into something dark and sinister apparently. We saw in Cagayan that people would try to hold their money for an advantage in the game, and this auction was no different. Many items were bought over time during the auction, including the piece of paper Will bought that excluded him from participating in the rest of the bidding, but four players (44% of the remaining contestants) held out for something to help them during the game. While Tyler waited out for a second item that never came, Mike, Dan, and Carolyn went heads up drawing rocks for the advantage at maximum bids of $480, but it almost didn’t come to a split. While all contestants chose to buy loved one letters for $20, Mike almost abstained in order to hold his money and win the advantage, even after giving Dan his word he’d make it a fair heads up draw for any advantage. It was a shady move by Mike to go back on his word with Dan, and it ended up being a serious social faux pas as he alienated his two closest allies with the show he put on. What was worse is that Mike didn’t even win the rock draw for the advantage, Dan did! We saw later that Dan in fact won a second vote that he can cast at Tribal council when he feels the need to play it. I love this twist, Jeff Probst did not lead me astray this time, and it’s brilliant that a less strategic player like Dan got it so it can truly be a wild card to throw this whole season to chaos. As for the auction as a whole, I must say it’s lost its luster quite a bit over the years. The auction used to be light-hearted, but now it’s basically a long wait through the non-strategic players bidding on things for the leaders of state to draw rocks for an advantage. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the auction and the drama, but I miss when it used to be an innocent thing, when it used to be unpredictable and all about people bidding on mystery items that ended up being pig brains. If Survivor brings back the auction, they need to not include an advantage in the game and make everyone who assumes they know what they’re waiting for come out of it empty-handed. Now that would be a good twist!
- Well, I guess it’s time to talk about Will then, huh? Alright, let’s see how to approach this mess. It did all start with the note Will bought that told him to leave the auction. When he got back to camp, dejected and distraught, he happened upon a note left for him, which sent him on something of a treasure hunt. When he found the X that marked the spot on the map on his note, he founded a buried chest filled with food that he could either keep from his tribe, or bring back to camp. He decided to do the rational thing and bring the food back to cap. That was the last rational thing he did for the episode. After being made aware that Jenn, Shirin, and Mike were questioning whether or not he was being forthright about his food stash, Will flew into a rage at camp, sending most of his anger at Shirin. It got unbelievably uncomfortable when Will got intensely personal with attacks on Shirin, claiming no one loves her and no one cares about her, amongst other things. It was so crazy, when first watching the show I literally couldn’t believe that had actually happened. I assumed there was some sort of clever trick of editing involved in the tirade, but later at Tribal, Will was defiant in the face of the accusations, being just as much of a jackass as he was earlier in the show. It was so awkward to watch, and it clearly shows Will’s true colors. Sure the game does horrible things to peoples’ minds, but Will just outed himself as being an ignorant person with the rant, and I think it goes beyond the game. Not only is it bad strategy to attack someone and fly off the handle in a social game, but it just makes you seem like a horrible person, not even a game villain, but just a bad guy. I hate to generalize like this, maybe there’s more to Will than what we’ve seen of him in the game, but that just showed really bad on TV, and the fact that he wasn’t even the least bit apologetic at tribal council or even in social media as the show aired kind of tells you what you need to know I think.
- The episode with Will and Shirin, while a terrible display of humanity, also showcased something that I’m not too keen about in the show; the victim edit. By showing these Will scenes and by showing us all the confessionals with Shirin talking about her back-story, the show really got hijacked by an emotional story, in a way that was more for buzz than entertainment. There really was nothing about watching the bullying scenes and having Jenn tell us how unlikable these people she’s playing with are, and it’s got me questioning the edit of the show. I may care too much for the pure strategy of Survivor over the entertainment value of the show, but I simply have no interest in deviating from the game play, and I feel like the edit is pandering towards people who aren’t as game invested as me. This is probably great for the ratings (and the ratings of this episode were in fact up significantly), but it leaves a lot for me to be desired. I understand that Tyler and Carolyn are great strategists in this game, so why am I not getting to see them do anything? It’s frustrating to me that we have to see Shirin and Will’s thing front and center when it’s clear to me that these two aren’t likeable, strategic Survivors. Maybe I’m in the wrong here, maybe I’m nitpicking, but watching somebody get bullied doesn’t entertain me in the slightest. It just makes things awkward. Please Survivor editors, can we keep the narrative about game play as much as possible? I understand y’all need to feed the internet trolls, but give us more game and less camp in the future. And I must address this too before I move on. In no way, shape, or form are any of the onlookers to Will’s diatribe complicit of bullying. That’s total B.S. contrived by people watching the show who can’t put themselves in the mindset of being in the game. In real life, I think most people would try to stop Will from going off on Shirin the way he did, but these people are COMPETING FOR A MILLION DOLLARS. It’s a game, and when two people are arguing, that’s good for everyone else’s game, and no one in that position really has any part of any of what he’s saying anyway. And for all we know, people did stop and say things to Will, but we don’t see everything because the show is EDITED! Fans of this show need to stop thinking that the way people act on the show reflects how they would act in society, and they definitely need to stop thinking that what you see on screen is a completely accurate depiction of how events occurred. I think we can safely say that Will is probably a jerk, not just for that one outburst, but for how defiant he was about it after he cooled down, but to make any of the others out to be terrible people because they appeared to be silent is such nonsense.
- …deep breathe…and on with my blog. So there was an immunity challenge, and it was clear that Mike felt like it was as much of a must-win for him as the last one was for Joe. The challenge was to carry a small ball with a pair of tongs across some obstacles to get the ball to its resting apparatus. The first to get all six balls through the obstacles would win. While Tyler made it close, this challenge was all Mike from the get-go, as the guy proved to himself and everyone else that he was going to fight for his spot in the game. While Rodney was ticked that Mike won immunity, he still tried to hold his newly formed six person alliance together by targeting Mike and the two outsiders, Jenn and Shirin. With Sierra seemingly in tow thanks to Mike’s auction faux pas, Mike’s only option was to try to sway Dan. Mike gave it his best try, and actually gave a nice pitch, but it was apparent that Dan was not about to trust Mike after what had happened earlier, and Mike and Shirin had to throw their votes to the lame duck Jenn, who simply gave up on the game, and was voted out 5-3-1 in a split vote scenario. It was a shame that Jenn gave up on the game last week, but things weren’t going the way she wanted them to, and I don’t really begrudge her for playing how she played. I would have loved to see her try a bit more, but it was her time to go for many reasons. I’m sure she’ll have had fun at Ponderosa, so there’s no reason to feel bad about her getting voted out. She wanted it, she got it, and now the eight players who are gun-ho about playing the game can continue on and see what they can do to assert some dominance in this even keel playing field.
All things considered, this was a really fascinating episode of Survivor. I loved that Rodney strategized hard, I loved that Mike almost pulled a fast one on his tribemates, I loved that Shirin got some karmic revenge on Will by denying him his letters (and did so with game justification), and I loved the fact that Dan of all people got an incredible new advantage in the game that he could use to decide whether Mike or Tyler wins the game! All of that was great, but I was obviously frustrated by the secondary narrative and the editing of this episode. I don’t want to make light of what Will did, it was a deplorable, but the narrative of Shirin the victim isn’t compelling or exciting. For the sake of the season, I hope she does something big to justify her narrative, because it’s not that I dislike her, but I don’t see her as an interesting player in the game at this point. Let’s hope next episode is less about personal attacks and blow-ups, and more about people blowing up other peoples’ games, because that’s the kind of stuff I really enjoy. Until next time, I’ll leave you guys with some of my final thoughts on the episode that was:
- Seriously, where the hell is Sierra in this game? We don’t see her much, she never makes the big move given to her, and she’s really running out of time to do anything worthy of a million dollars. Wake up Sierra…I wonder if Dan is really like the character he portrays on this show. He’s so outlandish, slow, and methodical in the way he discusses things and tells stories. He is sort of comical in a lot of ways, but I wonder how much of that is real and how much of it is a persona he’s put on for the cameras. Still, when he yelled at Tyler and the others about being the author of his own destiny, it was great theater and it gave us a glimpse of the wild card that Dan might be if he plays his cards right…The preview for the next episode was very intriguing. It appears as if Tyler will pull a Reed and go through Dan’s bag to find out what his advantage is. Now that Carolyn and Tyler know what they’re dealing with, I wonder how they’ll maneuver around him. Would they potentially blindside Dan before Mike can sway him and his double vote? It’s very possible that Dan could be next to go…One last thing to think about: With eight players left, we have two idols in play, one that’s basically being shared by two players, and a double vote advantage in play as well, the final stretch of this season could be really explosive and tumultuous. Every stalled vote that goes by brings us that much closer to the craziness that will ensue when the players start unleashing what they have in their bags of tricks. This season is very unpredictable still, maybe even more so than it was last week. It’s going to be a fascinating ending to the season coming up.