THE STORY SO FAR
Survivor: Worlds Apart had begun as a battle between three tribes divided by occupation, but that all changed on Day 12 when three tribes were reshuffled into two: the (almost) all-male Escameca Tribe, and the (almost) all-female Nagarote Tribe. The concentration of strong, athletic men on Escameca gave them a huge advantage in challenges, and nobody was surprised when Nagarote lost immunity. Shirin, however, was surprised when her one-time White Collar ally Carolyn flipped on her, and sent home Shirin’s closest friend, Max.
On the bottom of the tribe, Shirin got no love from Carolyn, but Hali threw the underdog a bone and told Shirin that she’d been bothering her tribemates. Shirin felt that she had been trying too hard to fit in–just as she had done in her nerdy youth–and saw Survivor as her second chance to learn how to adapt. She was given the perfect opportunity to bond with the others when the ladies of Nagarote (and Will) shot their way to victory in the reward challenge and got to spend a magical evening with nesting sea turtles.The experience helped Jenn to realize that she actually stood a chance to win the game.
On Escameca, people were bonding as well. Though Sierra was the original Blue Collar’s obvious outsider–especially after an unwarranted verbal lashing from Dan–another Blue Collar felt like he also didn’t belong. With Joaquin now on his tribe, Rodney felt he finally had someone with who he related. As they bromanced it up, Joaquin began to bring his new
boyfriend into his alliance with Tyler. Invigorated by his new partnership, Rodney hatched a plan for Escameca to throw the immunity challenge and vote out isolated threat Joe.
At the memory-based immunity challenge, Mike followed through with the plan to throw the game, except he was doing it to protect his closest ally Kelly, who was alone on the other tribe. Though Kelly’s bad memory made it hard, she eventually won the game point (with a lot of prompting from Mike) and was touched by the gesture of loyalty.
With Tribal in their sights, Sierra was the hot property, with everyone vying for her valuable vote. Though Sierra liked Joaquin, she was hesitant to side with him when he insisted that Rodney join their alliance. Meanwhile, Mike petitioned Sierra to stick with Blue Collar, and split up the east coast bromance with Joe’s help. Neither option particularly appealed to Sierra, who had to align with one of the men she most hated. Ultimately, even though Joe received three votes, Sierra sided with Dan over Rodney, and saw Joaquin become the sixth person voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart. 12 remain… who will be the next to go?
A CLOSER LOOK
A JOAQ IN THE PARK
Joaquin was elated to tell us he was going to hustle his new tribe, just as he did with his old one. But members of that old tribe–both So and Shirin–told us that Joaquin didn’t really seem to know what he was doing. At the end of “Odd Woman Out,” Joaquin’s poor gameplay has sealed his fate. Of course, the best available move isn’t always as visible to the castaways as it is to the viewers, but, as I mentioned in the last analysis, the assumption would be that Joaquin and Tyler would have found a stable third in isolated Joe, and then use their total lack of blue collarness to sway over the disgruntled Sierra. Instead, Joaquin pulled in Rodney, and seemed oblivious to the fact that his Boston Bro’s presence was only going to serve to chase Sierra away. He appears completely oblivious to this when the three of them talk about possibly working together, largely because the second Rodney enters the conversation, the men begin speaking about Sierra as if she’s not even there.
What sticks out about all of this is that Tyler–careful, observant, calculated Tyler–not only approves the move, but has no input whatsoever. Tyler has not had any real storyline this season. His screentime is about establishing him as a smart player, first and foremost, and given this is his only role, you would think he’d have more input when it comes to an incredibly important vote. But we hear nothing, and Joaquin walks out of Tribal Council with Tyler’s game in his pocket. This only leaves questions as to what is next for Tyler, disconnected from the story and in a terrible position. Stealth only works if you can afford to fly under the radar, and with very little power, I have to wonder how Tyler will recover–and what it means for the story if and when he does. Either way, his dire position means that his next moves are going to have to be a lot bigger than they’ve been up until this point, and it’s likely where we’ll see his story emerge.
OHANA MEANS FAMILY
…and family means everyone ends up in therapy. As the last episode before the tribes merge, “Odd Woman Out” is the editors final opportunity to dress the stage before the curtain opens. This time around, it’s not so much a curtain that will be pulled back, but a pseudo-embroidered nameplate revealing a living portrait of a family before the announcer calls them down for a game of Family Feud. We learned prior to the swap that one of the families is the No Collars. Now the story has almost become ham-fisted in telling us that the other family is the Blue Collars. (The business-minded White Collars can’t be bothered with that sort of frivolity and are too busy loathing each other so, unsurprisingly, they’re not invited.)
You’ve probably seen the most recent episode on the preferred family sitcom of your choice–you know, the one where the rebellious teenage Son who is sick of Dad bossing him around and telling him what to do makes a cool new friend who Dad can tell is really just a good-fer-nothin’ bad influence. So Dad gathers the rest of the cast–Harry Potter’s Wacky Grandpa (previously seen buying space-themed pornography on Rugrats) and an equally rebellious Daughter (currently mad because she feels like her family doesn’t really care about her–but given that she’s a teenager, who knows what she’ll be mad about next?) and they get rid of the bad influence. Sonny boy is hopping mad, but remember what Mom (currently “away getting her Law Degree” or “on another Tribe” or something) said before: sometimes, you just have to let them have their brawl and, as we’ve seen this family do before, after the smoke has cleared, they’ll all move on. The Son, if given time, will realize that Dad was just looking out for him.
The speeches given by Dan and Lindsey during the pre-merge, along with the ever-shifting targets on the pre-swap Escameca, have hammered home the narrative for this family: they’ll fight, they’ll bicker, they’ll threaten to break off your jaw and feed it to you, but in the end, you don’t choose your family, and you make it work. Sierra proved this with her vote this week, siding with the people who scorned her as opposed to Joaquin, who she says reminds her of someone she’d befriend in her real life. Of course, Daddy Mike earns specific praise here, constantly reminding Sierra that while Rodney and Dan may be driving her up the wall, he has always been their for her with support and kindness. Sierra may be mad at her Brother and Grandpa, but Dad keeps her in line by all but saying “I’m wouldn’t be mad if you flipped… just disappointed.”
The problem is that when the merge comes, a new family is going to move into the neighborhood, with a lot more bad influences. If Escameca was given time, Rodney may have been better able to heal from Joaquin’s ouster. The merge will be this family’s biggest test, because Rodney might run away from home instead.
To a Survivor fan with no interest in professional sports, it took me a while to realize that goat is an acronym with two extremely different meanings. For Survivor fans, the GOAT is a “Great Opponent At Tribal,” someone whose piss-poor gameplay, often resulting from a caustic or pathetic personality, ensures that they won’t receive winning votes from jurors at the end. In sports, however, the GOAT is the “Greatest Of All Time,” a title that has been applied to, amongst others, football mega-icon Tom Brady–who is perhaps not coincidentally a personal idol of Rodney’s.
Rodney sees himself as the Tom Brady of Survivor, but the editing surrounding him has done nothing but encourage us to laugh at his delusion. From the start, Rodney has professed he gets that Survivor is a social game, but he fails to play it as one. He is oblivious to how the women he’s playing with could possibly be bothered by his blatant misogyny–even when Jeff Probst points it out to him! He throws temper tantrums when confronted, lashing out at Mike, Sierra, and Lindsey all at various points–despite telling us that he is playing the game “calm, cool, and collective.” The editors never miss their chance to jump on his malapropisms–apples and oranges, anyone? To quote Inigo Montoya, “I do not think that means what you think it means.” And to make sure we don’t forget he’s the butt of the joke, his strategy to throw the challenge is immediately mocked by Mike in a confessional after he reveals it.
We’ve got Rodney for a while. There is no way someone this stupid doesn’t go out in a spectacular blaze of glory. Rodney thinks he’s Tom Brady, but sooner or later, someone else is going to realize he’s just a goat. Bleat.
ONE DAY YOU’RE OUT; THE NEXT DAY, SHIRIN
After Max was knocked off with his expertise tucked between his unclothed (and fabulous!) legs, Nagarote also had a pretty good goat contender sitting alone and unprotected in Shirin. We’ve watched for weeks now as Shirin annoyed her tribemates with a myriad of peculiarities! She doesn’t wear bottoms, but keeps her top on! She thinks monkey sex is funny! She fancies herself a one-woman band! She loves Survivor too much! She doesn’t shut up!
As I’ve said in the past, however, there is more to Shirin than just being annoying. On a Tribe that combined go-getters and nerds, Shirin was strongly an example of the latter, and this episode allowed her to expose the common wound that every nerd spends the rest of their life trying to heal from: exclusion. Shirin’s confessional as she talks to Hali is one that instantly humanized her, because she spoke to an experience that droves of viewers had probably been through themselves. It’s the experience of feeling invalidated and unrecognized in a world built for the success of people who aren’t like you. In a perfect twist of metaphorical fate, however, that experience is very much the reality of the game Survivor. A group of people together decide the rules of their world and what is valued. If you can’t fit in, you’re voted out.
Shirin herself points this out, and it is here where Shirin’s game is reborn and her story gains an incredible new dimension. Shirin knows that, in many ways, Survivor is a chance to re-do a past that was very difficult for her. As a teenager, learning to fit in is hard. This is Shirin’s opportunity to prove to herself that she can grow and adapt, and show these people that she belongs in their world more than they know. This upswing will be the crux of Shirin’s journey, and it is so rife with potential that the story has now taken Shirin hostage. The revelation of her perspective grants her plot armor; a cocoon to protect her while she metamorphoses. She’s safe in the game for as long as she needs to complete her transformation, and I strongly suspect it could take the rest of the season–meaning we’ll be with Shirin for a while longer to come.
TWO BROKE GIRLS
With the edit whipping around to throw us into Shirin’s corner, it makes her nemesis, Carolyn, look terrible by comparison. Her annoyance with and mistrust of her Day 1 ally comes across as paranoid and cold. When she says that Shirin was merely “tolerable,” it showcases a lack of empathy or compassion that perhaps we should have come to expect from the matriarch of the White Collars. It’s very different from the approach of the No Collars, particularly “the greater good” in Hali, who lends a sympathetic ear and helpful advice to Shirin (despite being the embodiment of the “beautiful and skinny” tormenters who were so prevalent in Shirin’s past).
Hali and Jenn have been a pair in the game for a long while now, bonded together for all eternity by their surfing trip; a coconut bandit passtime for a new generation. Hali’s openness to Shirin reflects the way that both of the surf sisters have been playing so far, which Hali has told us is about and waiting for the game to come to them and then riding its ups and downs. This playstyle in particular works well for slacker Jenn, who, if we’ve learned nothing else about, we know is someone who doesn’t like getting too serious.
But the turtles awaken something in Jenn. The confessional she gives during the nesting trip is brief but exceptional, a perfect narrative junction to advance her story. Upon realizing how hard a sea turtle must struggle to even get the chance to continue the circle of life, Jenn realizes that the challenges of Survivor are not that insurmountable. If she can buckle down, get her game face on, and really try, Jenn can win the game. Moving forward, I expect that Jenn is going to start playing a little more proactively. Jenn is now here to play, and that could be terrible news for Hali.
Hali has very much been purposefully hidden behind Jenn up until now, but with Jenn’s story now surging forward, Hali might not just be behind her, but completely in the background. These girls are a tight-knit unit, most certainly, but if they make the end together, there is no question that Jenn is out in front. Much as with the coconut bandits, Hali could find herself the Gervase to Jenn’s Tyson. As the paradigm of the game shifts with the upcoming merge, Hali’s story desperately needs something to keep her afloat as a contender, or else she’s going to drown beneath Tidal Wave Jenn.
WHITE COLLAR, BLUE COLLAR, NO COLLAR
The meaning of the collar designations is still up to wild speculation, quite frankly–but the fact that the theme continues can only assure us that it will matter. We can see the impact that it has on the characters. The No Collars are empowered by harmony and flexibility, floating through the game like a coconut in the surf. The Blue Collars gain their power from the blood, sweat and tears that they expend for one another, because blood is thicker than anything. The White Collars are scattered, cold, impersonal, and out for themselves, knowing their survival is entirely contingent upon proving that they have worth to the corporation. These outlooks have hindered all three groups in a variety of ways, but they haven’t yet caused an out-and-out collapse for any of them. It’s early to predict, for sure, but I would be unsurprised if Worlds Apart’s thesis question (which collar will reign supreme?) is dragged out until the bitter end, with one of each collar making their case in the Finals.
Nagarote and Escameca are no more, because it’s mergin’ time! And with the tribes dead even, nobody is safe–least of all anyone who Rodney holds responsible for his #bromance’s premature death. With so many different factions that can move in so many different ways, it’s impossible to guess what’s about to happen, so watch, motherfuckers!