Survivor: Worlds Apart Episode 3 Narrative Analysis- “Crazy is as Crazy Does”
THE STORY SO FAR
Three tribes have been abandoned for almost a week in Nicaragua, and it was the Nagarote Tribe who had to turn their vibe around on Night 6 after their first Tribal Council, where Will broke his word to everyone when he switched his vote and sent Vince home. To lift their spirits after a wild vote, allies Hali and Jenn went bodyboarding with driftwood; while their third, Joe, tried to provide for the tribe by catching a lizard as food. Nina, however, refused to try the fruits of Joe’s labor–feeling like even more of an outsider than before, she gave up, and her negative attitude began to wear thin on her tribemates, even the sympathetic Joe. Nina speculated that she might not be “No Collar” enough, having formerly been a White Collar Woman.
If Nina was too White Collar for Nagarote, then Shirin was too No Collar for the Masaya Tribe. She excitedly relayed her encounter with two copulating howler monkeys to her tribemates, but they only seemed put off. Later, Shirin joined her ally Max and the other White Collar men as they all hunted for an idol–but only Tyler knew that Carolyn had already found it days ago. During the idol hunt, Shirin butted heads with Joaquin, who knew he was on the outs–he had been ever since he took a clue to the Idol on the first day and sided with So at the first Tribal Council. Hoping to improve his position, Joaquin shared the idol clue he received on the first day with Tyler. Tyler appreciated the gesture, and the two bonded further over their mutual dislike of Shirin.
The biggest conflicts, however, were to be found on the Blue Collar Escameca Tribe–much to the surprise of Kelly, who expected her tough teammates to be a little less emotional. First it was Dan who pissed off Rodney when Dan made an off-color joke about Rodney’s mother. Their beef seemed to be squashed the next day, however, when Mike confronted Rodney over Rodney’s lack of work ethic. While Rodney slammed Mike to Dan in the woods, Lindsey and Sierra confronted Mike back at camp for not acknowledging the tribe’s hard work. Mike was devastated when things got personal, however, after the argument escalated and Lindsey attacked Mike for his strong Christian faith.
The immunity challenge became a close race for first prize between Masaya and Escameca. Nagarote fell behind quickly when Joe ordered Nina to run ahead of the tribe instead of helping them to carry their water bucket through the obstacle course, effectively robbing Nina of her shot at proving her worth to the tribe. In the end, despite their internal conflicts, Escameca walked off with a first place finish, while Nagarote found themselves forced to attend a second consecutive Tribal Council.
Prior to the vote, former friends Will and Nina knew they were going to turn on each other, unable to break the youngster’s three person alliance. That alliance considered voting out Will, who was failing to perform at the challenges and furthermore was difficult to trust. Nina, however, was also seen as a weak competitor–and in addition, as a wet blanket. She tried to save herself by throwing Will under the bus at Tribal Council and by promising Hali that she could embrace the No Collar way of being, but it was in vain. Nina became the third castaway voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart. Now only 15 remain… who will be the next to go?
A CLOSER LOOK
A WORD ON ABLEISM
I was excited, as a blogger who would ideally like to focus on reality tv representations of marginalized and othered individuals, to learn that a deaf castaway would be competing this season. I also know that this particular series of blogs is about the narrative, and less about my personal feelings, so I’ll try to keep this brief and relevant. This episode clarified the tension-building ambiguity established last week by showing us that Nina was the party in the wrong. When she began to feel that the others saw her as an outsider, she began to see herself as an outsider. She refused to try and get in with the group, because in her mind, exclusion was already a done deal. She disempowered herself with her negative attitude and relied on the other members of the tribe to fix it for her. At the end of the day, the only person who could change that was Nina. From a perspective of both the game and the story, she dug her own grave.
As viewers, we need to remain conscious of the fact that Survivor is not real life. For most of Nina’s real life, she has not been deaf. She’s still learning to cope with the ostracism that deaf people encounter every day, and has undoubtedly experienced many people who’ve written her off based on her deafness alone. We may have gotten to see a well-rounded picture of a group of people who ultimately ousted Nina for her attitude, but that doesn’t mean deaf people are judged every day in society as being lesser due to their deafness. I don’t want the larger message–that ableism is often subtle and always ugly–to be be lost amidst the presentation of Nina’s poor game.
I’m dying to talk about Hali–she’s like, my first biggest passion in this episode. When the season begins, we’re introduced to her surf sister, Jenn, first and foremost, and Jenn proceeds to hold court at No Collar for the rest of the episode. When Hali steps onto the stage the following week, the result is that we see her as Jenn’s second-in-command. Jenn’s helps this perception via her excellent narrative ability–she’s engaging and not afraid to get a little snarky in the name of a good soundbite–which means that she’s a preferable narrator for the story to use when possible. Jenn’s spotlight only shrinks when Golden Boy Joe comes around with roasted lizards and inspirational speeches about sign language. Even after giving Nina proof in the pudding that he has absolutely no faith in her, Joe walks off almost completely unscathed. When sandwiched between the comedienne and the hero, we’re too distracted to pay Hali as much notice–which is just what I believe the story intends. As much as she comes off as secondary to her allies, the story is taking great effort to paint her portrait carefully and give us her perspective. Three episodes in, we can see that she’s likeable, upbeat, and positive. She’s playing the game with both her heart and with her head. She’s the one given the responsibility of weighing out the choice between booting Will or Nina before the tribe heads to Tribal Council this episode.
It’s at Tribal where Hali shines the most, revealing that the biggest asset to being a “No Collar” in Survivor is the ability to go with the flow. “Ride the highs and ride out the lows,” she says. She’s the one to explain that Nina’s lack of this quality is what ultimately not only sets her apart from the tribe, but is what will send her home in a few short moments. Hali verbalizes a big lesson about how to play this game, and that’s by being adaptable. This is important to note, because I believe in the long run, this is how Hali edges Jenn out.
Jenn tells us during the episode that people take Survivor too seriously, and it could foreshadow a fall down the road if she’s unable to take the game seriously enough. Jenn comes off as a player who is bad at pretending to be someone she’s not. Faking it, like Hali suggested Nina do, doesn’t come easily to Jenn. Her success in the game is going to rest a lot on luck–that is, who she ends up on a tribe with come the inevitable swap. If she lands amongst like-minded people, she could flourish in a strong group. If she ends up with people who bore her, she might not care enough about pleasing them to make it work. Through this, this duo represents the best and the worst of what No Collar has to offer, and I expect they’ll both be around for a little while longer to hammer those points home.
COPPING A FEEL FOR KELLY
Hali isn’t the only woman playing observantly, however. On Escameca, far deeper in the background, Kelly emerges at the start of the episode to give a brief, but extremely helpful confessional. It’s only her second one in the season, but it ties in well with her first, and the result is that while we rarely see Purple Kelly, when we do, we get a very quick, concise glimpse as to how she approaches Survivor, and can begin to realize that she’s flying low because she knows better than to jump in the line of fire. In the first episode, she notes that Dan has gotten himself in trouble because he can’t acclimate–he doesn’t know how to fit in with the group. In this episode, Kelly refuses to jump into the fray, and is notably the only member of Escameca not at all drawn into conflict. She says it’s a skill she’s learned from being a cop: you have to sit back and observe carefully before getting involved. In the end, the one thing we walk away knowing about Kelly is an important one–that she understands how to interact with people.
Lindsey has been dancing around the mean girl swimming pool since the start and took the plunge this week with her tirade against Mike. As has been mentioned in the past, both Dan and Mike haven’t been portrayed as innocents on Escameca, but I think we’re meant to see both of them as people who could be easily handled with a little bit of patience. Lindsey illuminates that lack of patience perfectly with a confessional where she exposes the big Blue Collar weakness of ego. Sure, everyone is a hard worker, but everyone thinks they’re the hardest worker, and that includes Lindsey. She takes the blow to her ego poorly, and while each individual viewer will likely have different opinions on how justified her initial confrontation was, the unquestionable moment that Lindsey is established as a full-fledged antagonist is when she asks Mike if he thinks “his God put the fire [in camp]… with his beard.” Earlier, we learned that Mike’s faith is a core component of who he is–he sees his pastor as his father, and has “PSALM 121” emblazoned across his back. As a wise, grumpy videographer once said, this isn’t strategic–it’s strictly personal. Lindsey goes for Mike’s faith because she knows the blow will sting, and it does just that. The editors would have never included this segment of the fight if we were meant to see Lindsey as righteously rageful with their tribe’s tyrant. Instead, she becomes the NaOnka or Abi-Maria of the season, all but begging the story to slap the ink off of her face with an embarrassing comeuppance. Her ascent to this role has the impact of tarnishing her perspective. It makes her insistence in the first episode that “the winner of the game is on [Escameca]” seem ridiculous. Not that the tribe needed her help with that–their total lack of cohesion does that for them.
If Lindsey is the Abi, then Rodney is Pete, albeit just as loud and obnoxious, if not more so–though also, like Pete, he’s portrayed as somewhat of a budding evil mastermind in the making. Rodney knows he should be following the 3 C’s–calm, cool and “collective”–but is hampered by the fact that he can’t resist the urge to bite when provoked. He makes things personal during his rant about how nobody wants to live in Texas, even though he was infuriated when Dan made a personal joke at his expense. Rodney knows what needs to be done to succeed, but he might have some difficulty pulling it off, especially as he pushes Mike further and further away.
TWO HEADS, ONE COLLAR
Joaquin and Tyler’s alliance is solidified this episode, and it benefits both of them. Joaquin is rescued from the bottom of the barrel, and Tyler picks up an extremely valuable piece. So told us that Joaquin doesn’t really know Survivor that well, evidenced by his over-eagerness to get to lying and backstabbing. Now Shirin repeats that point, noting that Joaquin’s scrambling exposes his lack of finesse. Joaquin’s lack of game knowledge could make him very easy for a more thoughtful player to manipulate. Tyler, who is a subtle to the point that we’re almost being bashed over the head by how subtle he is, could be just the person to do that job.
I think there are primarily two types of people who would be drawn to working and living in a White Collar world. The first type would be people who are ambitious; people who love success, money, or both. These are the “ruthless” and “power hungry” types that Jeff purports that the Masaya Tribe is made up of. On this side of the coin we have Joaquin, clearly the type who would be lured to the White Collar life by the prospect of big money granting easy access to women and wildness; along with Tyler, ever the conscious, thinking game player, almost eerily detached and calculated, focused on the goal at hand. (Tyler, by the way, could very easily win this game–but if the others at any point catch on to him, we could see a lot of him from the jury just as easily.)
The other type, however, is quite opposite that: nerds. Geeky, weird, smart kids who are simply follow their passions to a job that *happens* to be in an office. We see these types of White Collars on Masaya as well in Max, and, much more notably, eccentric goofball Shirin, who is portrayed as ~so~ bizarre that Carolyn is unsure that she could really hack it in a corporate environment. It’s a scary sentiment for Shirin, as the division between the Cool Kids and the Nerds (so to speak) leaves Carolyn smack dab in the middle. While she was explicitly aligned with Shirin and Max to start, the only person she’s told about her idol is Tyler, and with Shirin working her nerves, Carolyn could easily change gears if Masaya is to lose again (though as I said after last episode, I don’t believe they will).
Because they’re likely to make the swap with these current divisions intact, I think it’s important to note the theme of players who are on the “wrong tribe,” as it’s now been brought up more than once. Nina’s failure was in many ways attributed to this–she was too “White Collar” for Nagarote, and now it seems Shirin could suffer a similar ouster for being too “No Collar” for Masaya. The saving grace here seems fairly obvious, though. If Nagarote indeed loses a third member (almost assuredly Will), their remaining members will be desperate for allies come the swap, and a woman who is “No Collar” at heart and looking for a better deal could be just what they need.
As we finish our third episode, we are now able to start seeing a more broad-spanning picture, not just tiny snapshots of tribes and castaways. We can begin to see what the threads of our larger story is as we look at this slowly forming puzzle, and the frequent mention of the Collars sticks out. Sure, it’s going to get a lot of playtime, because it’s the seasons’ main twist at the moment and Jeff Probst is hella proud of it. But the big twist doesn’t always matter in the long run. It didn’t take long at all for Cagayan to lose its focus on the brains, beauties, and brawn. Perhaps it’s because that seasons’ winner, Tony, started on the brawny Aparri Tribe, and then used almost none of that brawn to win him the game. His accumen for scheming and socializing is what earned him the title, while the surviving brains of Luzon instead snagged immunity wins left and right. Tony never touched the necklace, so the idea that he somehow proved brawn is more important than brains or beauty is rendered moot.
The way that the Collars get woven into the story, however, signals to them having a larger role to play in this story. At this point, it feels too early to say what that role is. Could the winner prove that the worldview and skillset of their respective “Collar” is the best–such as cautious, smart Tyler; hard-working and bullheaded Mike; or laid-back thrillseeker Jenn? Or is the story instead of someone who wins by bucking tradition and rejecting their Collar, like Shirin? Perhaps it’s neither, and the winner is someone like Joe–hard working, smart, fun and good with people–who can master all f
our elements and save the world from the Fire Nation all three Collars and win the game. The jury is still out as to what ending we’ll be seeing (they haven’t even been formed yet, hyuck hyuck), but I think it would behoove us to keep track of who is wearing what Collars as the season continues to play out.
Drop your buffs, boys and girls, because the Battle of the Collars is no more! But before that, prepare to not be surprised by Lindsey and Rodney yelling… but prepare to be surprised by them yelling at each other? Also, someone may or may not die during a challenge. Prepare yourself for a Survivor double feature, because it promises to be fiesta!