Survivor: Worlds Apart- Episodes 4 & 5 Narrative Analysis- “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner” & “We’re Finally Playing Some Survivor”
THE STORY SO FAR
In the jungle of Nicaragua, three tribes of castaways, divided by social class, were still at war with each other, and the No Collar Nagarote Tribe was behind. They had lost two challenges in a row, and Will knew that if they lost again, the core alliance of Jenn, Hali and Joe would send him home. Fortunately, voting out Nina seemed to lift a dark cloud, and the positive, close-knit tribe vowed to forge ahead. Their unity helped them take a commanding lead in the reward challenge, where they came in first and won chickens for their tribe. When the tribe decided to celebrate Will’s birthday with a chicken dinner, animal loving vegetarian Jenn objected, and left camp so she wouldn’t have to see the slaughter. With her tribemates preoccupied, Jenn focused on the game, and found herself Nagarote’s Hidden Immunity Idol.
On the White Collar Masaya Tribe, the idol had been found much earlier by Carolyn, though only Tyler knew that she had it. Fortunately, nobody seemed focused on the tribe’s eldest woman. It was Shirin who instead continued to make herself an outsider, this time disturbing her tribemates by sharing a story about killing a rabbit in preparation for the game. While Joaquin couldn’t stand Shirin and wanted her out, Carolyn was more concerned with Shirin’s bestie Max, who she saw as a dangerous cult leader. She was adamant with Tyler and Joaquin that if they lost the next immunity challenge, they would have to behead the snake and vote out Max.
That didn’t end up happening, however, as the Blue Collar Escameca Tribe finally saw their total lack of cohesion catch up to them. From the very first day the tribe was at each other’s throats, with both loudmouthed Dan and workhorse Mike taking turns as the tribe’s least popular member. Now it was Rodney’s turn to make enemies. He infuriated Lindsey and Sierra with sexist comments about how women need to hold themselves to a higher standard than men. In her aggravation, Lindsey once again succumbed to her temper and attacked Rodney’s mother in front of the tribe. The target on Rodney’s back only increased when he fumbled during the immunity challenge, contributing to Escameca’s loss.
With their first Tribal Council approaching, and everyone in the tribe having pissed each other off, it seemed like it could be anyone. Lindsey and Sierra targeted Rodney, while Rodney returned the favor in kind to Lindsey. While Dan tried to convince Lindsey he was on her side, it was really Mike who was the swing vote. He found a solid alliance with Kelly, who impressed him by pushing through the pain when she received a brutal head injury during the reward challenge. Though Kelly was thoroughly annoyed with Rodney’s misogyny, Lindsey’s proclivity for outbursts didn’t make her popular either.
When it came time to meet with Jeff, Rodney was called out for his demeaning comments about women, and Lindsey gave a rousing speech about her love for the Blue Collar Tribe, but the decision was already set in stone. The votes split between Rodney, Lindsey, and Sierra, and in the revote, Lindsey became the fourth castaway voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart, leaving fourteen remaining, and Sierra all on her own.
On Day 12, Jeff dropped a bombshell and revealed that the “Battle of the Collars” would be no more, and three tribes would become two. The castaways were all reshuffled into two brand new tribes. Hali, Jenn and Will stayed members of the Nagarote Tribe, and were joined by three White Collars–Carolyn, Shirin, and Max–and one Blue Collar, Kelly, who appeared to be an immediate swing vote between the two factions. Sierra was displeased to find she would remain on the Escameca Tribe with Mike, Rodney, and Dan, the latter two who had torn into her after Lindsey’s blindside. She was done with Blue Collar, and elated to be joined by White Collars Joaquin and Tyler, along with No Collar Joe.
Escameca’s new brawn saw them win reward handily, but a shared steak and sausage feast only gave spurned Sierra a chance to bond with her new tribemates. Mike knew that the Blue Collar foursome could only keep their power if they could pull Sierra back into the fold, and he implored Dan to make nice with her for the sake of the game. Despite his insistence that he understood how to manipulate women, Dan’s apology was more of an attack, and Sierra was completely fed up. She was quick to sell them down the river to her new tribemates, but things were complicated when Joaquin took a liking to Rodney, being reminded of his friends from home. It didn’t end up mattering in the end–Escameca’s massive strength meant they absolutely clobbered Nagarote in the immunity challenge, sending the red tribe to Tribal Council.
While the new Nagarote appeared to be split between White and No Collar with Kelly in the middle, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Carolyn was at her wits’ end with her annoying superfan tribemates, and wasted no time in pledging her loyalty to the No Collars. Max was excited to lose immunity and get to voting people out, especially as he and Shirin thought they had Kelly’s vote to take out Will. In reality, they were oblivious to the fact that the rest of the tribe was deciding who between the two of them would be the next to go. Shirin annoyed the tribe with her incessant talking; while Max came off as inconsiderate when he used the tribe’s drinking water to soothe his feet after being stung by a ray. In addition, nobody was charmed by either one’s frequent allusions to past Survivor seasons and trivia. At Tribal Council, Max told Jeff to hold up, bro–because he always wanted to say it!–but found himself wishing he could have followed through. Max became the fifth castaway voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart, blindsiding both him and Shirin, now left on the outs. Thirteen remain… who will be the next to go?
A CLOSER LOOK
SUPER-FANNING THE FLAMES
It was impossible not to notice the attention being drawn not only to Max and Shirin’s alliance, but to the fact that their major unifying factor was their shared superfandom of the show. I will admit that maybe as a self-identified superfan myself I was a little blinded by bias, but I didn’t exactly expect this to be how it all panned out! Despite Joaquin or Rodney appearing to be a more obvious Drew Christy successor, it was Max who instead emerged from what had been mostly a background role to walk face-first into a humiliating blindside, with the editing gleefully running his hubris up a flagpole. It serves as a reminder that knowing everything about Survivor doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at playing it.
Without her comrade-in-nudity, Shirin could not look like more of a sitting duck. She’s on a tribe in which almost every member got a moment to talk about how explicitly annoying they find her antics–and it just so happens to be a tribe that is physically outmatched in every respect. If the merge is at the final twelve, as it has been in most recent seasons, then Shirin could very possibly be that final pre-merge boot. But if Shirin goes, then all of the story’s very careful work in crafting the narrative surrounding her goes down with her.
Sure, the episodes worth of focus on how Shirin is an annoying outsider could have all just been building up to explain why Carolyn eventually turns on her and Max (and is justified in doing so). And again, maybe I’m just being a superfan biased in hopes of the success of my people, but I feel like that would be a waste–especially after the comparatively less visible and important Max was the one to take the brunt of the humiliation in the blindside. We’ve known for weeks that she was the next target on Masaya if they lost again, but she scraped by every time the White Collars won. Now once again, she slips through.
Don’t get me wrong–if Shirin is axed next, it won’t come as a shock to anyone. But Carolyn expressedly targeted Max because she saw him as the head of the snake. The narrative enforces this–Shirin only gets nude after Max has done it, calling him a “trendsetter.” The implication is that Max had total control over Shirin. When you cut off a snake’s head, the body dies. But a cockroach doesn’t need its head to live, and that’s what makes them so hard to kill. Someone else could find Shirin flailing with her head cut off and decide that she, irritating and completely alone, isn’t a threat to anyone. If Shirin needs a new head to follow, and someone is willing to play that role, they could even lead Shirin and all of her off-putting quirks to Final Tribal Council and a million dollar victory.
THE PAINTED LADY’S PROPHECY
The original Escameca Tribe was a mess. It seemed like every episode, there was a new black sheep in their flock. It seems that had they lost immunity sooner into the game than they did, Lindsey may not have been the first Blue Collar out. Unsurprisingly, Dan and Mike got the last laugh instead, and the narrative puts Lindsey in her place for her mean girl ways. Unfortunately, it happened to come at the same exact round when someone on the tribe would prove themselves to be even more disagreeable. I’m talking about none other than the beacon of feminism himself, Boston Rod. As much as Lindsey was punished by the narrative in prior episodes, the story made it very clear this week that Rodney was in the wrong. His attitudes towards women are appalling, and Lindsey was granted her day in the sun when she called him on his sexism.
This means that as she walks out of Tribal Council, her torch extinguished, we as viewers feel torn about Lindsey. Was she a terrible player who we were meant to dislike for her pronounced nasty streak? Or do we like her for staying true to herself when it really mattered? The ambiguity surrounding Lindsey means that there is also ambiguity surrounding her Day 1 prediction, revisited at Tribal: The winner of the game will be a Blue Collar. If Lindsey is a hyper-aggressive egoist with no grasp on reality or how to treat others, then her words lose all merit–in fact, if that is the case, we can effectively take her prediction as anti-foreshadowing; proof that the winner will not be a Blue Collar. But, if amidst all of her weaknesses as a Survivor player, the narrative grants Lindsey an occasional clarity and wisdom, perhaps we’re simply seeing a very important clue highlighted in neon.
If Lindsey’s prediction is, indeed, true, then in the fourth episode, we saw the only two players who could fulfill that prophecy band together in Mike and Kelly. Mike is a character who had a major presence right from the start. We get to check in with him often to see where his head is regarding the game. We know he wants to get dirty and play hard and seize opportunity when it arrives. We know he sees the big picture when he begs the tribe to not throw away the first 11 days by alienating Sierra–a point that is reinforced when he hands Dan the correct way to manage Sierra’s hurt feelings on a golden platter (only for Dan to toss them in the flames, wanting for the umpteenth time to prove that he knows better than everyone else). We know that Mike works hard and sees himself as a “true” Blue Collar. We’ve gotten some personal insight on him, learning about his faith and the role it’s played in his life. At this point in the story, Mike is unquestionably one of the leading characters, an exemplar of the Blue Collar Way. If someone fulfills Lindsey’s prophecy, Mike would make perfect sense.
But roaring in the foreground is not the only way to make an impression in Survivor. Knowing how to manage yourself is key, and we’ve already seen Mike make enemies when he needled Rodney for not pulling his weight. Of all the fighting that occurred amongst the Blue Collar Tribe, observant cop Kelly was the only one to wisely keep out of it. Episode 4 sees her break out in a major way when she champs through a startling injury during the challenge, earning her Mike’s adoration and praise. The injury is the jumping off point that the show uses to introduce us to Mike and Kelly’s alliance–he tells us he’s proud of her for fighting onward, and says that it proves that Kelly is worthy of the “never-say-die” Blue Collar title. As we progress further into episode 5, we see Kelly continuing to observe, continuing to show an awareness of her position, and continuing to tie in her relevant experience as a police officer to the game. Importantly, she gets the opportunity to tell us firsthand that she’s going to stick with the No Collars once Carolyn flips, because she knows there is no point in trying to salvage Max and Shirin’s chances. It’s a confessional that we didn’t really need to see after Carolyn steals the swing position, but it shows us that Kelly is still an active and aware agent in the choices she’s making. Her slow burn story could lead to a brightly blazing fire at the end–it’s not unheard of for Survivor to edit it’s female winners in a more low-key way.
However, Kelly isn’t as secure as Mike. Carolyn likely jumped up a spot with the No Collars by offering to jump ship; so if Shirin is spared, Kelly could be taken out as a preemptive strike against a Blue Collar reunion. It could be that the reason Kelly’s story was late to start could very simply be that it’s early to finish–though I would like very much to think otherwise. Alas, if Kelly is taken out, then Mike alone will have to keep hope alive for the Blue Collars. Or maybe Lindsey is just not to be trusted, even when she’s no longer in the game.
SIERRA RIDES ALONE
Kelly was not the only of the Blue Collar women to really come into the foreground during the double episode. Sierra’s role until this point was mostly as Lindsey’s blonde bestie, glaring in the background while Lindsey was busy ranting. Despite Sierra being out of focus, it was still made apparent that she and Lindsey were a tight unit–which makes it unsurprising that after Lindsey is booted and the tribes are shuffled, Sierra is salivating at the opportunity to go rogue.
A key issue is, however, that Sierra doesn’t have much of a plan beyond anger. She feels wounded because her old tribemates mistrust and mistreat her, but she we don’t get to see her feelings towards her new tribemates. All that we know is that she likes them simply because they’re not her old tribe–and those aren’t great grounds for a long term alliance. If anything, we hear more from Joaquin of all people, who has an evaluative eye on Rodney, seemingly wanting to work with him. Regarding Sierra, we hear mostly about her strategic future from Tyler, who has a great confessional about how he’s more than glad to scoop up any and all outsiders who come his way. In other words, Tyler wants Sierra because she’s hurting and will be easy to woo to his side of the numbers. Sierra wants Tyler because he’s not Rodney, Dan, or Mike.
If Escameca had lost immunity, we would probably see a quicker resolution to this storyline, but as of right now, I don’t think Sierra has settled into an alliance long-term. The story is focused on who Sierra is against (the Blue Collars), not on who she’s now with.This could mean that Sierra will feel differently when she’s had some time to settle down, and she’ll stick with her original tribe. It also could mean that she’s going to find an entirely different alliance down the road–or that she won’t make it far enough to matter.
OHANA MEANS FAMILY
…and family means no one gets left behind. Well, unless you’re Joe Anglim and your family is the original Nagarote Tribe. To follow up briefly on Sierra: the other big issue with the “new” alliance on Escameca is that we don’t know where most of the new guys stand, least of all Joe. He’s the only No Collar on his new tribe, and we’ve heard nothing from him on that potential precarious situation. The natural assumption is that he would team up with the White Collars and try to sway Sierra, but that’s a big if. Joe could very easily find another plan that works better for him on the Blue Tribe.
What we do know pretty certainly about Joe is that he’s likely to rejoin the No Collars whenever they’re reunited. While Carolyn couldn’t wait to turn on Max and Shirin, and Blue Collar on the whole is allergic to tribal unity, the No Collars successfully sucked out all of their “bad wind,” so to speak. Paranoid and needy Vince is gone, as is “wet blanket” Nina and her piss-poor attitude. What’s left is a cohesive group that truly seems to care about each other, even when the don’t always agree–the biggest tension they had in a post-Nina world was Jenn not wanting to kill a chicken, and even then she found the idol, so I can’t imagine she’s too upset!
The whole chicken feast scene does more for us than just set the stage for Jenn’s big discovery, however. The story makes sure to tell us that they’re killing a chicken prematurely to celebrate Will’s birthday, and he tears up in a confessional where he expresses his utmost gratitude to his tribe for wanting to make it a special day. Will knew that if Nagarote lost another challenge, he was on the outs, but they didn’t, and now he’s not. The lowest man on the totem pole doesn’t feel alienated or like he’s in the bottom spot–he may even move up, given the circumstances of the swap–and having that sort of unity is massive for their alliance. If anything, I feel that Will was the member of NuNagarote who would have most benefited from jumping ship, not Carolyn. Yet the way their respective starting tribes managed their social interactions completely inverted the reality.
Right now, the No Collars are the closest thing this story has to heroes. We’ve seen them fall on their face, but as Hali told us, she can see the embers in their fire becoming a roaring flame. This group is on the upswing, and I would be entirely unsurprised to see a No Collar, particularly Jenn or Hali, walk off the island with the title. The problem in their story is that they’re too cohesive. We’ve been given a lot of reasons to root for the No Collars, but have yet to see the cracks in their individual armors. If Jenn, Hali, and Joe were to hold tight and make the final three together, how would the story explain which happy-go-lucky surfer the jury chooses? The story hasn’t given a reason for any of them to lose up against any of the others. They’re too neck-in-neck and too interchangeable. If we see a No Collar win this game, that person will be the only No Collar to make the Final Tribal Council.
JENNY FROM THE BEACH
The No Collar who stands out the most right now is Jenn. It was a great few episodes for her. While she and Hali probably seem themselves as partners in crime, the story puts Jenn on top of their tribe’s hierarchy, and with the No Collars winning out on the vote split and ousting Max, Jenn is now sitting at the top of her tribe with an idol in her pocket. I can only imagine that the editors are thrilled to have her in power, because the story loves to use Jenn’s voice–the photo finish confessional was a dream.
Though Jenn took more than her fair share of shots at Max and Shirin, she also restated that she’s a big Survivor fan, a fact we first learned at when she gushed over the excitement of being in front of Probst at a past Tribal Council. Much as with Shirin, the show has gone out of its way to remind us that Jenn considers herself a fan, but they draw a distinction by portraying Jenn as the right kind of fan. She’s not bogged down in the minutiae like who played on what season or what tribe was on when. She doesn’t get hung up on the show’s past because she’s engaged in the present moment. Not only does her outlook on Survivor probably relate to a much larger section of the viewership than the Max Dawsons of the world would, it also continues to highlight the fact that Jenn takes things as they come and rolls with the punches. Her approach to the world could grant her with a lot of flexibility to shake the game up, and her idol could only help in the process.
Jenn said just as much upon finding the idol, viewing it as the perfect tool for the Survivor No Collar, who can use it to really “screw up” the game. It’s a line that could have probably been trimmed out if she just clung to the thing for dear life as time went on. Jenn isn’t thinking too far ahead, because that’s not how she approaches life, so the idol isn’t going to rot in her pocket until the top five just to save her skin. She’s going to leap when the opportunity arises to create some chaos, both for the game and her own amusement. For many players, the idol is a shield, but in Jenn’s hands, it’s a weapon. That weapon makes her one of the most dangerous players in the game, and one of the most important characters to keep an eye on moving forward.
Shirin may be on the hot seat at Nagarote, but Escameca is lit ablaze by the flames of love as Rodney and Joaquin begin a torrid and passionate forbidden bromance. The other Blue Collars can’t seem to take the heat, though–so they might want to kick one of the boys out of the kitchen. I’m sure Rodney will be fine with that, you know, because the kitchen is for those women-folk and all.