Survivor: Worlds Apart Episode 2 Narrative Analysis- “This Will Be My Revenge”

by Julian

THE STORY SO FAR

*smuff*

*smuff*

Survivor: Worlds Apart was on, with three tribes divided by career paths fighting it out for survival in the jungles of Central America. Only three days in the game had already seen its first Tribal Council, where Carolyn successfully saw that troublemaker So was ousted from the Masaya Tribe. Whittled down to only five members, the White Collar tribe had to summon a Blue Collar work ethic to turn things around–but budding allies Max and Shirin made waves when they channeled their No Collar sides instead and began hanging around camp in the buff. Their newfound penchant for nudity was difficult for Tyler to handle–but compared to their competitors, Masaya was the picture of unity.

Surprisingly enough, nudity was at the crux of tensions on the other tribes as well. On the Escameca Tribe, Lindsey was shocked and disturbed when Dan lost his “manties” in the ocean, only adding to the aggravation she felt towards the tribe elder and his “over the top” personality. Dan wasn’t the only one ruffling feathers, however–when Kelly suggested that the tribe unwind with a game of basketball, Mike found himself resentful that the rest of the group was playing around while he was continuing to work in a true Blue Collar fashion. Mike lost his cool and alienated himself, particularly from Rodney, who didn’t appreciate Mike’s insinuation that Mike was the only one working.

For the Nagarote Tribe, the tensions began pre-nudity. Despite their laid-back “No Collar” label, a rivalry had formed between Vince and Joe, with the former resenting the latter’s popularity and sway with the rest of the tribe–particularly Jenn. Discord only spread further when Jenn and Hali went skinny-dipping to the exclusion of the tribe’s third woman, the considerably older Nina, who they both admitted to having trouble bonding with due to Nina’s deafness. Feeling isolated and rejected, Nina lashed out at her tribemates, but later found comfort and acceptance in Will. After Vince awkwardly tried to confront Joe about what he believed was an issue of Joe’s ego, Joe, Hali and Jenn all agreed that Vince had to go. Vince, Will and Nina teamed up in response, and the tribe was split down the middle.

At the second challenge, Nagarote was in the lead until Will got stuck untangling a buoy in the water, allowing the other tribes to pass them. Joaquin and Sierra then led their respective tribes to victory, sending the No Collars to Tribal Council.

Prior to the vote, the younger No Collars courted Will as their fourth vote, and conspired to split the votes between Nina and Vince in case Nina found an idol. While Will spied, Vince expressed his concerns to Nina that Will might not be in good enough health to be an asset in future challenges. After learning of Joe’s plan to split the votes, Will, Vince and Nina hatched a plan of their own to vote for Jenn as a trio and send her home in a 3-2-1 decision. Things became chaotic, however, when Nina revealed to Will that Vince had misgivings about the state of Will’s health, and Will became concerned that Vince was gunning for him and couldn’t be trusted. At Tribal Council, the votes sure enough came in 3-2-1, but Will had flipped the script. Jenn was safe, and Vince became the second castaway voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart. Sixteen remain… who will be the next to go?

A CLOSER LOOK

MASAYA CORPORATION’S WEEKLY NUDESLETTER

Stay sexy, you hunky hipster

Stay sexy, you hunky hipster

The Masaya Tribe was notably quite minimal in the second episode, a massive cooldown for the tribe as a whole after they were the primary focus of the premiere. The lone scene at their campsite did not unpack the ramifications of So’s elimination in any respect, be it the fact that they’re now simply down a number or the fact that Joaquin is now likely alone and on the outs without her. In fact, Joaquin was instrumental in the White Collars going from worst-to-first in the immunity challenge. It’s likely that if and when they go to their next Tribal Council, his past sins will be overlooked. Joaquin’s outsider status isn’t dwelled on because it seems unlikely to last.

Instead, the story at Masaya is focused on the nudity craze sweeping camp, and it uses this scene to both amuse and elucidate. Max’s penchant for dropping trou is used to flesh out his character in multiple respects. As Tyler points out, it shows that Max has a little bit of a No Collar streak, but the scene is also used to once again call attention to the fact that Max is a Survivor die-hard. He tells us his nudity is, in part, to pay homage to the original Sole Survivor, Richard Hatch, a homage which Carolyn makes note of. (Carolyn, by the way, has a huge drop in screentime, going from being the focus of the tribe to near-invisible. This casts doubt on the importance of her actions in the premiere, as it makes it appear that she only received focus because the editors had no other choice but to show her. When she’s not directly relevant, she disappears.) This is also not lost on Shirin, who is quick to adopt Max’s approach to nudity as she washes the dishes sans-panties. Shirin tells us herself that feeling comfortable with her body and getting naked is just one more commonality she has that bonds her to Max, an ally she made in the first episode. The other big commonality, in case you forgot, is that Shirin is just as much of a superfan as Max is. The reinforcement of this shared factor as the basis of their alliance is near the only thing we glean from our time at Masaya, meaning that this paring is likely important further down the road.

We also check in with Tyler while we’re at Masaya, who once again reminds us that he’s sharp, observant, and playing a carefully guarded and thoughtful game. Tyler points out that Max may have ulterior motives to his strip shows, using the comedy of nudity to distract the tribe from the depth of his intelligence and game knowledge. Of the four votes that took So out, Tyler is the only one who was not explicitly expressed to be involved in an alliance. His loyalty to Max is not as strong as Shirin’s. He’ll make a move against them if need be, and with only 5 people on the tribe, that need could very easily arise.

BASKETBALLERS VS FREE BALLERS

Is it really shocking that someone as tall as Sierra is good at basketball?

Is it really shocking that someone as tall as Sierra is good at basketball?

With much of the focus on the Nagarote Tribe this week, Masaya wasn’t the only tribe to go comparatively underdeveloped–we didn’t spend much time with the Blue Collars of Escameca either. As with on Masaya, the time we did spend there served to reinforce the dynamics that were established in the premier, namely in terms of determining an in-crowd (Rodney, Lindsey, Sierra and Kelly) and the outsiders (Dan and Mike). For the men on the outs, we’ve seen how both of them have put themselves on the outs by failing to conform to the vibe of the larger tribe, but as the dynamics of Escameca clarify, I’m unsure that we’re supposed to be mad at them for it.

As far as Dan is concerned, this episode is the second time that we’ve seen his stories questioned by one of the women despite his telling the truth. Last episode, Sierra thought he and Mike were lying about picking the “honest” option in the opening twist. This episode, Lindsey doubts that Dan actually lost his underwear, positing–rather aggressively–that it’s a ploy on his part for attention. Later in the episode, Dan promises Jeff–and his tribe–that he’ll surprise them and perform in the challenge, and he proceeds to do just that. We know Dan is a big fan and that he’s genuinely excited to be in the game and to be representing Blue Collar. I think that as much as Dan doesn’t know how to get along with his tribe, he’s trying. It’s more than we see the others doing–instead, they look judgmental.

For Mike’s part, he comes off looking less untouchable than he did in the premiere, especially when the tribe’s basketball game becomes justified as perfect practice for the challenge. Rodney also calls him out for ruffling feathers, and rightly points out that from a game perspective, Mike’s attitude is all wrong. What keeps Mike from falling completely into the territory of being an unruly tyrant, however, is that he ties his role as junior deputy firewood bitch back to something the story has told us is a positive–being Blue Collar. (Max on Masaya reaffirms that the “Blue Collar” label is one to be respected when he projects that the Blue Collars are likely killing it around camp.) Mike is a workhorse because that’s what Blue Collars are supposed to do. When he refuses to partake in fun and games with the tribe and then badgers them for wasting time, he may be pissing them off and putting himself on the outs–but he is also fingering them as not living up to the Blue Collar name. Rodney may be the person who is showing they better understand the game, but we’re meant to think of ourselves as more like Mike. There is no quality we can praise more in our cultural narrative than being a hard worker.

The story seems to be setting up Dan and Mike to eventually have the last laugh–Mike the admitted opportunist could certainly make this happen by seizing a chance to defect when it comes. However, I just don’t see any way that, if Escameca loses a challenge, that Dan isn’t voted out as a result. For Dan to come out on top, he’ll either have to find an idol to save himself or hope Escameca can make it to the inevitable tribe swap/dissolve completely intact. Given how things are unfolding, I feel strongly that one of these two outcomes happens, and if it’s the latter, that puts the other two tribes, especially Nagarote, in a very bad position.

NO COLLAR, NO CHANCE

BACK UP OFF ME!

BACK UP OFF ME!

The general rule of Survivor editing is that tribe that goes to Tribal Council is usually the tribe that is going to receive more focus. It shouldn’t be surprising, based on that, that we spent so much time with Nagarote this episode. However, this rule doesn’t explain the unusually extensive level of complexity and depth we were given during that time. When the episode ends, we have a much deeper understanding of who each of the No Collars is and where they’re positioned as players. This is even true for a character like Hali, who was inconsequential in the first episode (her screentime there was mostly in an introductory segment explaining why the hell a law student is considered “No Collar”). Whereas some of the other mysterious invisible women from the first episode, such as Sierra or Kelly on Escameca, only become more invisible, Hali comes rocketing into the game by comparison. It’s Hali who tells us that Nina is a nice woman who she wants to get to know better, but that Nina’s reliance on her cochlear implants for communication makes it a difficult task.

Outside of being told she is deaf and hears via implants, we didn’t get anything from Nina in the first episode at all. Being introduced to her character for what is really the first time through Hali’s perspective is important for setting the stage. Compare to Survivor: Amazon’s Christy Smith, the show’s first (and until Nina, only) deaf contestant, whose proclamation of deafness is met with doubtful, exclusionary confessionals from her tribe’s token mean girls Jenna Morasca and Heidi Strobel. With Nina we see the others, in spite of recognizing her niceness, struggling to adjust to her disability. Even her closest friend on the tribe, Will, has trouble communicating with her when they are crab hunting.  This makes Nina much less sympathetic when she melts down post-skinny dip, and makes her declarations that the tribe has “no human compassion” seem dramatic and self-pitying, as opposed to as an accurate reflection of reality. Hali proves the lack of ill-will when commiserating about the blow-up with Jenn–“She wanted to be a girl,” she wisely surmises.

The complexity comes, however, because the story doesn’t present the whole scenario in such an open-and-shut fashion. Vince corroborates Nina’s take on the events (though Vince himself is not exactly a reliable narrator), and Will expresses his bond with Nina comes from them both being outsiders from the group in certain respects. Jenn, who in the first episode was definitely showcased to be an important character, comes across as cold when uses a confessional to tell Nina tough shit–even though Jenn is also right in saying that Survivor is a game and that its on Nina to make herself a part on the group, not on Jenn and the others to help her along. The result is that as the tribe makes their way to their first Tribal Council, we have no idea how the schism in the tribe is going to resolve itself–the editors have been careful to not paint any of them as obvious heroes or villains. Sometimes, this lack of a clear good vs bad dichotomy is the result of sloppy, inconsistent storytelling, but it feels quite purposeful here. There is a huge amount of intrigue built up in Nagarote now.

What I think we can get from this in terms of the larger story is that much of the immediate game is going to take place on Nagarote, so their dynamics are of a greater immediate importance for us to understand, and that furthermore, the storytellers don’t want that game to feel easy to predict. I think that at the start of the season, all eyes were on the Masaya Tribe as the ersatz Brains of Luzon, with viewers bracing themselves for a painful series of losses after the first challenge. In reality, their starting-line loss distracted people from the tribe that’s really doomed for failure–Nagarote. They’re a tribe that we’ve already been told numerous times sucks at making decisions. I think we’ll see this theme pan out as they continue to lose, and I’d be unsurprised if by episode 5, we’re see the tribes shuffle with only three No Collars remaining.

LAST HIPPIE STANDING

He's thinking about boobies because of his out of control hormones

He’s thinking about boobies because of his out of control hormones

If we accept the supposition that Nagarote has a losing streak awaiting them over the next few episodes, the question then shifts to figuring out what this tribe will look like when the decimation is complete, and how their remaining vestiges will impact the game ahead for the other two tribes.

The Occam’s Razor outcome is that Jenn, Joe and Hali maintain their loyalty to one another and vote out the older (and coincidentally, less White) outsiders in Nina and Will. It’s also the more likely outcome from the perspective of the editing–Jenn and Joe have were established as important characters earlier than the rest of their tribe. For Joe in particular, the vote will likely be the most elusive, as his strength in challenges will protect him on a dying tribe. This isn’t to say that Will or Nina couldn’t sneak into a surviving spot, however. Will was definitely singled out by the story as funny and very likeable; probably the person on No Collar who the story has backed the most unabashedly. For Nina’s part, she’s out for revenge, and maybe she won’t go down until she’s gotten it.

If the young alliance are all that is ultimately left of their tribe, we still don’t know how the game will play out beyond there for any of them. We simply don’t have enough data. Vince’s elimination was not in any way portrayed as a machination of dominant strategists Jenn or Joe. Rather, they settled to split the vote, and Jenn almost paid the price for it. She was only spared because Nina scared Will off from aligning with Vince. Much of what unfolds after here will hinge on how the story deals with this lucky break, and how the characters involved recover from it.

NEXT TIME

Next Week, Lindsey is struck by a tropical illness that erases her mouth

Next Week, Lindsey is struck by a tropical illness that erases her mouth

While Jenn and Hali try to de-stress after tribal by catchin’ some waves (with bark as their surfboards?) the mere prospect of fun over at Escameca sends Mike into a tizzy, with both Rodney and Lindsey losing their shit with him. You know what they say–if people aren’t fighting, it’s not Survivor! Only I don’t think “they” say that at all. What do “they” say about Survivor, I wonder? Someone should ask Jeff Probst, since he’s always talking to the people on the street.

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