Some Guy Has Spoken

Reality TV Recaps and Analysis with a Dash of Snark and Social Science

Month: April, 2015

Survivor: Worlds Apart Episode 9 Narrative Analyis- “Livin’ on the Edge”




Survivor: Worlds Apart had begun as a battle of social class; a three-way war between the White Collars, Blue Collars, and No Collars. After merging into the Merica Tribe, however, it was clear the game was simply a battle of Tribal Lines. The Blue Collars swayed the loyalty of the White Collars, and the majority came together to pick off the No Collars. Their target was Joe, the biggest threat in the game, but twice he had spared himself by winning immunity. Unable to vote for Joe, the dominant alliance instead sent Hali to the jury.

Without her closest friend, Jenn lost interest in the game, feeling despondent and alone. When a brutal challenge split the tribe into teams to compete for a chocolate feast, the loss to the other team only further shattered her resolve. As the rest of the losing team prepared to slaughter a chicken, vegetarian Jenn contemplated quitting the game. Rodney, however, surprised Jenn with his humor, and lifted her spirits when he impersonated his allies Mike and Dan. The spot on performance also revealed some of Rodney’s contempt for his longstanding allies.

This contempt was already apparent to Shirin, the rogue White Collar who had stuck with the No Collars when the tribes merged. Having bonded with Mike and Sierra during their reward, Shirin pointed out to Mike that Rodney had a sub-alliance with Will, Tyler, and Carolyn. Mike was also wary of this group, and hoped to use Shirin’s vote to his advantage. He asked her to prove her loyalty by turning on the No Collars and booting Joe.

When Joe lost individual immunity, it seemed like a done deal that he’d go home. Jenn had other ideas–she fought hard and long to win the endurance challenge so she could screw with the other castaways by giving Joe the necklace. Unfortunately for Jenn, she couldn’t pull it off, and Tyler won immunity. Without the necklace, Joe used his skills as a jewelery designer to craft one of his own. After Joe showed Mike his fake idol, the Blue Collars decided to split the vote between Joe and Jenn. Realizing the vote would split, Jenn asked her friends, Joe and Shirin, to vote against her, saving Joe even without immunity and granting Jenn her wish to leave the game.

Going into Tribal Council, it was Shirin, unbeknownst to most, who had all the control. Shirin wanted to honor Jenn’s wishes and reunite her with Hali, but had to play to better her own position. She cast her vote against the biggest threat–Joe–who became the ninth person voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart and the second member of the jury. As a heartbroken Joe’s torch was snuffed, Shirin promised Jenn that she still had her back. Nine remain… who will be the next to go?



RIP Joseph Anglim 1989-2015

RIP Joseph Anglim 1989-2015

There are some players who could make the end almost every time, but never be able to pull the votes to win. Joe suffers from the opposite problem in that he likely would have bested any combination of players at the end of the game, but given that fact, the other players would never let him get there. Joe was too likeable, too engaging, too smart and too talented to be allowed to last. Nobody would ever consider working with him–not even the players who could have used an extra number–because the risk outweighs the benefit. Sparing Joe for even one extra round gives him another shot to win immunity and ruin plans further down the road. The last thing anyone would have wanted to do is wait too long and find themselves stuck in the end with Joe, wishing they had axed him when they had the chance.

And so when his neck is bare, Joey Amazing falls. While Survivor Facebook users across the nation weep for the loss of Malcolm 3.0, the rest of the Merica Tribe is preparing to move on with the game. Joe, for his innumerable strengths,  was always more of a figure in someone else’s story than the star of his own; an obstacle for the bigger characters to overcome. Now that they’ve succeeded in overcoming the obstacle, the story is granted the freedom to move into new places. Without the threat of Joe looming over the other players, they are free to start scrambling the numbers more freely–and I believe we’re going to see that scrambling begin very shortly.


Negotiating this deal makes Shirin feel like Yul (she's never seen the Godfather and doesn't get your non-Survivor references)

Negotiating this deal makes Shirin feel like Yul (she’s never seen the Godfather and doesn’t get your non-Survivor references)

Shirin has been telling us all season she’s a superfan and that as such, she understands the game. In “Livin’ On The Edge,” we finally see her start to put that understanding to use as she, as she puts it, gets herself into the passenger seat so she can backseat drive. Mike had only one demand of Shirin–that she prove herself by ousting Joe, even against Jenn’s wishes–and Shirin followed through. Shirin successfully aligning with one of the most powerful players in the game is bad news for the slew of players who’ve been responsible for keeping Shirin on the outs, with Mama C having the biggest target of them all.

During Max’s time in the game, he and Shirin were painted as inseparable, as true, dyed in the wool superfan partners. Given their tight duo, it always struck me as strange that in our very first episode, Max is looped in as a third, while the heavy focus is between Shirin and Carolyn. As the story has progressed, this early anomaly has started to make sense. It’s important that we see Shirin excited to initiate an alliance with Carolyn and genuine in her desire to play with her, so that when Carolyn flips and leaves Shirin out in the cold, we don’t see Carolyn’s action as justified. Shirin offered Carolyn a chance to be a part of her game, and Carolyn spit in her face. Now Shirin is in the perfect position to make Carolyn pay for that choice. I think it’s very likely we see it happen very, very, soon.


Will Sims and Mike Holloway (Miiiike Hollowaaaaay)

Will Sims and Mike Holloway (Miiiike Hollowaaaaay)

Of course, for Carolyn to leave, the Blue Collar and Friends alliance is going to have to turn on each other, an event that has been dangled in our faces for weeks. At the crux of this eventual fissure has always been the contentious relationship between Mike and Rodney. It’s a relationship that the show never misses a point to tell us is fraught with tension, even if this week that reminder came in the form of Rodney’s impressions as opposed to a scathing confessional about how Mike is a redneck idiot.

We’ve also been reminded every week since the merge that Rodney has an alliance that, with the exception of himself, is devoid of Blue Collars, waiting in the wings to take out Mike and his associates. The problem is that aside from Rodney, we don’t really hear from anyone else in this alliance. Carolyn is really only summoned when the plot needs her. Will is beyond irrelevant–he jumped ship with next to no information as to why he did it! And Tyler has perhaps the biggest death knell of them all, as he finally dethroned Joey Amazing and took his necklace away, yet his only line in the episode was “I have no idea what’s going on.” We know this alliance exists, but we know nothing about them. We are informed from Shirin that Carolyn is the glue of the alliance, but don’t ever actually see it in action. Like Joe, this alliance is more of an idea than a unit comprised of real, fleshed out characters. With Joe out of the game, Rodney’s alliance becomes the next looming danger for Big Hero Mike.

This doesn’t necessarily apply to Rodney himself. Unlike the rest of his allies, Rodney is a character that we’ve gotten to see and hear from a lot. Often times its so that we are provided with a better platform to laugh at him, sure, but Rodney is more than just a punchline–he’s a player. The long brewing plan to oust Mike is Rodney’s child, and it’s been in the works from the get go, fueled further every time Rodney doesn’t get his way. If Mike successfully is able to get Shirin on his side, then Rodney loses yet another ally, and his rage-fueled desire to oust Mike will only further grow. As Rodney builds up more and more reasons to want Mike gone, and the field of players shrinks smaller and smaller, there will be only two possible resolutions to Rodney’s story: Mike will continue to thwart him at every juncture, or Rodney will at some point finally get his way and get the best of Mike. If the latter happens, then it will be the pinnacle of Rodney’s story. Having finally put Mike in his place, Rodney’s tale will have run out of places to go.


Never underestimate the power of spite.

Never underestimate the power of spite.

The question of who, between Rodney and Mike, will ultimately be allowed to succeed, is one that Shirin holds most of the power to answer. But her answer to that question is going to be heavily compounded by her incredibly complicated and unlikely ally, Jenn. The relationship between these two will undoubtedly become a focal point, because much of how the game unfolds will be impacted by how Jenn rebounds from her lowest point in the game.

“I’ve still got you,” Shirin tells Jenn with a smile, punctuating the fact that despite Jenn hating Shirin when they first met, Shirin now sees Jenn as a friend. I think it’s very likely that we’ll see Shirin encouraging Jenn to keep on trucking, and maybe Jenn will realize that even with Hali gone, she still has a friend in the game. It’s also important to note that the core of Jenn’s character has been consistently portrayed as being about the here and now. When Hali is ousted and Jenn feels alone, Jenn wants to go. When Jenn starts having fun again, she’ll want to stay.

Having Jenn as a friend could also complicate things for Shirin going forward, because part of Jenn’s life in the moment is a heavy aversion to long-term planning and a propensity for creating chaos for the sake of her own amusement. Despite being mostly miserable this week, Jenn had one moment where she copped, on multiple occasions, to having fun, and it was when she was with Rodney. Rodney has shown Jenn that he’s more than a meathead she hates, and so Jenn might decide that she’s not particularly interested in screwing him over.

With all of that considered, what do I think the most likely outcome for Jenn will be? I think she’s going to get her head back in the game, and ultimately move alongside Shirin against Carolyn–but I think her newfound enjoyment of Rodney will come back into play, because his character still has places to go.


She's also said this when she found her Pearl Islands DVD set after thinking she'd lost it

She’s also said this when she found her Pearl Islands DVD set after thinking she’d lost it

Ultimately, the number of options these two have moving forward are staggering, as is the amount of this story that is shared between them. After inaccurately pegging Baylor as a losing finalist in San Juan del Sur, I’ve been hesitant to make solid predictions, but I feel now more than ever we can see the season-long focus on the three collar division as an indicator of a three collar Final Tribal Council. It’s Jenn and Shirin who give me confidence in this, because I think they’ve become tied together, and will own two of those three seats.

Jenn herself admits during the episode that the harder she tries to orchestrate her own elimination, the more likely it is that she’ll be kept in, because nobody will see her as a threat. Jenn doesn’t take Survivor seriously, which makes her a sharp contrast from Shirin, who, as a Superfan, takes Survivor very seriously. Even though Jenn tried to quit, most of the tribe still finds Shirin super annoying. If these two are, in fact, finalists, the Blue Collar representative could very well have an upper hand–particularly Mike.

But despite the reasons for each woman to lose, I’m not writing either off as a possible winner. Jenn had a major scene when Nagarote won the nesting turtle reward, gaining a perspective that she has a better shot at winning than she thinks. If she can refocus her efforts and keep pushing forward like the turtles do, Jenn could angle her unfiltered honesty as an excellent winning attribute. As for Shirin? She’s been saying it all season: She’s a Superfan, and nobody would appreciate it more than her.





Tonight, everything goes down! Survivor Auction! Big Twist! Rodney vs Mike! Shirin vs… Will? I guess after weeks of silence (Wilhelm screams not withstanding), he’s decided to speak up.


Survivor: Worlds Apart Episode 8 Narrative Analysis- “Keep It Real”




It took no time at all for the game of Worlds Apart to kick into high gear once the Escameca Tribe and Nagarote Tribe merged into the Merica Tribe. At Merica’s first Tribal Council, the alliance of No Collars was saved when Jenn played the Nagarote Idol and took Kelly out of the game. Though Jenn was thoroughly amused by her play, the Blue Collars were less than enthused. Rodney in particular was furious with the results, and complained to Will that the outcome could have been avoided if the alliance wasn’t hampered by Mike’s leadership. The twosome confirmed their plan to eventually flip on the Blue Collar alliance with the assistance of Carolyn and Tyler.

When the castaways competed for their first individual reward, Joe once again impressed everyone with his extreme challenge prowess when he won the challenge. Given the opportunity for a zipline adventure, Joe wisely chose to share the reward with the swing votes–Will, Carolyn, and Tyler. When Jeff told Joe he could pick one more, Joe picked Superfan Shirin, knowing how much she’d appreciate the experience. Appreciate it she did, though Shirin wasn’t enthused about having to be with her former ally Carolyn. Joe appreciated the experience too–he found a clue to the hidden immunity idol, but was unable to procure it from the soda bottle it was hidden in without Tyler seeing.

The next day, Joe had no choice but to share his idol clue with Tyler, but the two men didn’t realize they were being tailed by Mike. Wanting to keep himself out of the line of fire, Tyler spilled the beans to Mike, and after days of searching, Mike ultimately was rewarded when he found the Escameca Idol with tears in his eyes. To keep the target on Joe, Mike made a big show of Joe having the idol. Later, Shirin approached Dan to ask him his thoughts on the idol paranoia sweeping camp, only for Dan to rip into Shirin for being a “superfan who can’t do basic math.” Despite Dan’s bullying tirade, Shirin stayed strong.

When it came time to solve puzzles for immunity, Dan put on a sad showing when he solved it incorrectly–twice. Joe, on the other hand, put on a much more impressive performance, winning his third straight individual challenge and once again saving himself from the Blue Collars. Unable to target Joe, much of the Blue Collar alliance wanted to get rid of Shirin, who they saw as an annoyance, but Mike was wary that Shirin could have the Masaya Idol, and convinced his alliance that the wisest move was to splinter the No Collars by taking out Hali. Not all of the Blue Collars were on board, however. Sierra commiserated with Shirin over Dan’s poor treatment of them both, and her continued ire towards the Blue Collar men left her tempted to jump ship when the No Collars proposed an women’s alliance. With Sierra desperate to flip, Tyler was once again left in the swing vote position, given the power to weaken either the Blue Collars or No Collars.

At Tribal Council, Dan and Shirin once again butted heads when Shirin blasted Dan’s assertion that “flippers never win;” and Hali gave a rousing speech about the importance of flipping as evidenced by the American Colonists opting to flip on the British Empire during the American Revolution. Sadly, the inspired speech would be Hali’s last. The alliance lines held fast, and Hali became the eighth castaway voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart and the first member of the jury. Ten remain… who will be the next to go?



You know, Merica is the birthplace of femunism

You know, Merica is the birthplace of femunism

Amongst us Survivor fans who analyze the editing of this show, you’ll see a lot of talk about manipulation. Because that’s what the editing is, at the end of the day–manipulation. As much as the editors are storytellers, they are also puppeteers. The story’s job is to, well, convey what happened. The show’s job is to entertain us, and part of that entertainment comes by getting us emotionally invested in the outcome.

People have been comparing Jenn and Hali to Survivor: Amazon’s Jenna and Heidi since the start of the season because of the obvious surface level similarities. But as characters, they are much more similar Greg and Colleen from Survivor: Borneo, the beloved sweethearts of the ill-fated MTV Beach House Tribe. Being the antithesis of the “evil” Tagi Tribe that Richard Hatch led, they content to play the game by their whims–they were more concerned with having fun. And Colleen, in particular, was America’s sweetheart. Her ouster was the day a dream died.

I had been trying to figure out Hali’s place in the story all season, and it was only upon her elimination that I realized it–she was there simply to be liked. Her quirks made her endearing. Her spirit made her easy to root for. She focused frequently on what it means to be No Collar, especially as someone whose career track in law seemed to be the polar opposite of the No Collar way. She was, in many ways, a modern-day Colleen. She was the summation of an beautiful ideal, a concept in the skin of a character. She was the greater good, and that makes losing her sting hard. The framing of the episode makes that sting burn long after.

There are only two kinds of players in this game--players who don't do enough and lose, and players who do too much and lose. Guess which kind Dan is.

There are only two kinds of players in this game–players who don’t do enough and lose, and players who do too much and lose. Guess which kind Dan is.

“Keep it Real” leaned hard on the worst of Dan Foley, a character whose foundation is a complete lack of awareness as to how he is perceived. At the start, we think that the guy might be getting a raw deal, but as we get to know him, we see him constantly contradict himself and put his foot in his mouth. After all of his heinous hijinks, his scene with Shirin is a last straw. The entire scene, from the music ques to the way Dan delivers the lines, just drip with sickness. It’s not just obnoxious, it’s angering and sad. It’s watching a grown man who sees himself as so superior to everyone else acting like a playground bully. Like a child. The entire episode ran as a much darker take on the Drew Christy or Roger Sexton experiences. We saw every reason people would want Dan gone, and every reason why Dan would be gone. This was his humiliation conga. because as Hali told us, if you come at women with misogyny, you don’t get to win the game. It’s a much more certain statement than “Flippers Never Win.” (Or “Ouwijat, Oblaltay, Owlstr” for that matter).

And at the last minute, with only the most minor relevance to the episode, Hali’s on the jury and Dan is still in the game. The editors accomplished their job. They played expectations like a fiddle and manipulated the audience so people would gasp at the big reveal. We don’t receive the payoff that would turn the joke against Dan. Instead, he is validated and human sunshine walks off the island.

Going forward, the story cannot allow for Dan to get the last laugh. The narrative falls apart if he doesn’t get the final kick in his conga. We’ve had the carrot dangled in front of us. The storytellers will make sure by the end, we get a big bite.


I came in like a wrecking ball

I came in like a wrecking ball

A key part of the bite we’re going to get unquestionably involves Shirin. Her exact mechanisms are unclear right now. As she said to Dan, maybe we don’t understand her game. What we do understand about Shirin, however, is that she’s often a little misunderstood. And she’s definitely a Survivor nerd. If Dan is the playground bully in their exchange, Shirin is the nerd getting beaten up for her lunch money. And who doesn’t love a “Revenge of the Nerds” storyline?

Shirin has been presented as annoying, but ultimately harmless, and as having hidden depths beneath her eccentricities. As she becomes more sympathetic and her lack of power in the game becomes further emphasized, her numerous detractors start to look less and less reasonable with their contempt. This is dangerous for those detractors, such as Rodney and Dan (who both, in a show of some grossly ethnocentric behavior, showed a refusal to learn her “wacky” foreigner’s name) and Carolyn, who has hated her from the get-go, despite Shirin’s earnest attempts to befriend her on the first day. They should all be worried because as long as Shirin is fulfilling her mission of personal growth, the story will protect her with a cocoon. That cocoon will armor her from incoming hits, and if she gains enough traction, will allow her to rip through the game like a wrecking ball.

The momentum Shirin’s story really needs would be a be, well, a “reverse bomb” moment. She’s like a mutant in the X-Men, an outsider whose incredible mutant powers are out of control. The moment she can contain the storm cloud that is her manic fandom, she will wield a very powerful weapon. I think that whether or not anyone else realizes it at the moment, Shirin is carrying the power to change the game.


Oh, this old thing? Its just something I threw together at the last minute.

Oh, this old thing? Its just something I threw together at the last minute.

Of all the castaways, one in particular should be praying for something to change the game, and that’s Joe. The reason? Nobody is more dangerous than Joe. He performs exceptionally in challenges, and if being able to continuously win them doesn’t command respect on its own, everybody loves the guy. He’s this season’s Survivor Jesus, down to the glorious flowing locks. Joe is the type of person who not only could beat anyone in the endgame, but he’s the kind of person who, if left unattended, could win his way there when it’s least convenient.

The even bigger problem for Joe is that for someone who is in such danger for being so amazing, he’s also amazingly inconsequential to this story. Come on–the guy is basically a reborn Malcolm. If he made it deep, he would unquestionably be the main character of the season–sorry Mike! Instead, Joe is more of an idea than a real character in this story, in a similar way as Cliff was to Tony in Cagayan. We hear a lot about Joe, but nowhere near as often do we hear from him. Ultimately, Joe is a device in someone else’s plot, not the star of his own story. And that means that the moment immunity is no longer around his pretty neck, everyone else is going to lunge at his exposed throat and tear his pretty head clean off, dreamy tresses and all.


Tyler is secretly hoping Mike will propose a key party right then and there

Tyler is secretly hoping Mike will propose a key party right then and there

Joe is aware of this, and in one of the most unique scenes we’ve had in a long time, we see him in hard at work to fix his situation as he jockeys for power in the form of the Idol. The problem in his way is that as he’s struggling for his piece of power, Tyler and Mike are pulling for it at the same time. What makes the strategizing between the three of them compelling is the pace. It’s a game of high speed chess, and that means each of the involved parties has precious little time to respond to their opponents mood.

Tyler seems to come out of the gate strong here. Like an owl, Tyler has hovered silently over this game, doing little more than observing carefully and waiting for an opportunity to strike. That opportunity comes when Joe chokes on his opportunity to secretively procure the clue at the reward feast. He’s exited to scold Joe and put the pressure on the golden boy. Tyler can see the options unraveling in front of him.

But when Tyler swoops in, Mike then mobs him like a vulture, overpowering him and stealing his kill. Much of Tyler’s abilities as a keen observer come from his careful nature, befitting of a White Collar. Averse to risk, Mike doesn’t even have to open his mouth for Tyler to preemptively give up the goods. Mike’s ambush leaves Tyler with no time to think around the situation, and not wanting to appear as a double agent, he coughs up the goods.

It’s the Blue Collar work ethic that pays off for Mike in the end. It’s not just that he squeezes the idol clue out of Tyler with little more than good timing; or that he finds the idol after being reduced to a sobbing mess in his quest for it. It’s that he was resourceful enough to spy on the other guys in the first place. It’s that he convincingly pins the idol on Joe in such a believable and public way that Joe is forced to go along with the charade, adding another red ring to the target he bears. It’s that when his alliance wants Shirin and Mike wants Hali, he soothes the herd and redirects them. It’s the that the emblem of Escameca is a vulture. The vulture emblazoned on the idol makes it a very fitting adornment for a man who embodies the success of the vulture’s opportunism.


Jenn shares her generous opinions of Rodney

Jenn shares her generous opinions of Rodney

Unfortunately for Mike, he isn’t the only player watching and waiting for opportunities. Rodney, for example, has a great idea of what he’s going to do when he gets the opportunity, and that’s fuck Mike. (No, not like that. Rodney only has eyes for Joaquin.) This is the second episode in a row now that Rodney has articulated his endgame plan: once the opposing alliance has been disposed of, he’ll ditch the Blue Collars and knock them off one by one, starting with the bane of his existence, Mike. Rodney has been butting heads with Mike from the get go. We know a million and one different reasons that Rodney cannot stand the guy, but worse than going to church on Sundays and buying a house in Texas is that Mike took down beloved Joaquin instead of Joe. Not only is Joaquin no longer there, but Joe still is, and he’s causing everyone problems.

I don’t think there is a chance in hell Rodney succeeds with his exact plan. The members of his blended counter-alliance are not exactly complex, focal characters. An endgame of Rodney, Carolyn, Tyler and Will would have a lot of dead air, and no real discernible winner. Least of all would it be Rodney. Much like Dan, he’s a hypocrite who insists he’s playing “calm, cool and collective,” yet is completely unable to restrain his emotions. Not to mention the major strike of his early season display of sexism.

By the same token, however, Mike isn’t totally safe, because for all of his success and awareness, he doesn’t seem to realize what a threat Rodney poses to his game. If Mike catches on, the joke will be on Rodney, as Mike can take Dan and Sierra to join with whatever remains of the No Collar forces and turn the game back at Rodney. It would be a perfect moment for Shirin to enact masterful revenge on Carolyn and blindside her, idol and all. However, if Mike remains oblivious, it could instead be him leaving with an idol in his pocket, though he wouldn’t be going out without leaving a big mark behind.

In a story where the Blue Collars had a shoe-in to play the heroes, only Mike has stepped up to the job and lived up to the name. His astonishing work ethic has been revisited time and time again as the core of his character. Importantly, it pops up when he finds the idol, a discovery which Mike attributes to hard work, claiming that in Survivor, those who work hard reap the benefits. This sequence is the zenith of the story going out of its way to lavish Mike in glittering, golden praise. The story could be rolling out the red carpet that leads to his victory. Unlike Shirin’s transformative cocoon, that red carpet makes poor plot armor. Mike is at the top of the mountain, which means Rodney could snipe him down from it. But if Rodney does that, he’ll have killed the Blue Collar hero. He’ll have killed the Blue Collar family. He’ll have absolutely, unquestionably killed any chance he had at being the winner of the game, and of all the players in this game, the story will hold him accountable more than any of the others.


I mean, do we even need to see anything else?

I mean, do we even need to see anything else?

People fall during a challenge. Why, you’ll think it’s Merica’s Funniest Home Videos! More importantly, it seems without her Soul Sister, Jenn isn’t really vibing with the whole Survivor thing, so she considers throwing in the towel. Guaranteed–the preview’s focus on it ensures it won’t actually happen.

Survivor: Worlds Apart Episode 7 Narrative Analysis- “The Line Will Be Drawn Tonight”




On Day 17 of Survivor: Worlds Apart, the Nagarote and Escameca Tribes merged, and though the swap had shuffled the players, the original tribal boundaries were still on everyone’s mind. Mike was elated to show his patriotism when he named the Merica Tribe, but was even more excited to be reunited with his closest ally, Kelly. With the support of Sierra, Dan, and Rodney, the Blue Collars were still 5 strong, compared to No Collars, who had only 4 when Joe rejoined Jenn, Hali, and Will. The White Collars were left at 3: a secret alliance of Carolyn (who had an idol) and Tyler (the only person who Carolyn told), as well as outsider Shirin–who was notably unamused by the new tribe name.

Though tribal lines seemed intact on the surface, as the Merica Tribe built their new campsite, it became apparent that the reality was not so simple. Rodney was still upset with Mike and the other Blue Collars for leaving him out of the loop and cutting off his budding bromance with Joaquin. He put pressure on both Carolyn and Will to join the Blue Collar alliance for the time being, promising that down the road, they could work with him and Kelly to take the other Blue Collars out. Carolyn was intrigued by the prospect of a Final 4 deal, while Will knew he was on the bottom of the No Collar tribe, and considered making a move as well. Despite being mad at Mike, Rodney agreed with the Blue Collar leader that Joe was a huge threat, and needed to go.

With the target squarely on his back, Joe put up an impressive show to save himself when he beat out Carolyn and a bee-stung Jenn in a rainy endurance challenge to win the first individual immunity. With Joe immune, the Blue Collars shifted their target to Jenn, hoping to break up another strong pair by separating her from Hali–but unable to fully trust Will, Mike told him Hali was the target instead. The two girls were able to secure Shirin’s loyalty, but knew, just as the Blue Collars did, that Tyler and Carolyn were the swing votes.

At Tribal Council, all of Merica seemed confident that whether with a knife, ice pick or chainsaw, a line was going to be drawn through the tribe–and that it was going to be a bloody one. While the White Collars were singled out as swing votes, Shirin made a point to show she wasn’t a swing vote, but loyal to the No Collars. The same couldn’t be said for Will, who flipped and voted for Hali as he had been instructed to. His vote didn’t matter, however, as Carolyn and Tyler ultimately sided with Mike and the Blue Collars to throw 7 votes Jenn’s way. It would have been enough to send Jenn home, but she wisely played the idol she’d kept concealed from everyone but Hali, and the blowback saw Kelly become the 7th castaway voted out of Survivor: Worlds Apart. Now eleven remain… who will be the next to go?



Fuck yeah.

Fuck yeah.

Merica is one of the more controversial tribe names we’ve seen as of late, and the story does its best to acknowledge this unorthodox choice and move on without making any declarations about its appropriateness. I don’t think it’s worth pouring over how we, the viewers, are meant to think of it–it is purely a bizarre choice that we’re given the resources to make our own decision on. If you find yourself choked up at the national anthem or praying at the Church of the Constitution, you may be inclined to see the name as a fun spirited show of patriotism, as Mike and Hali do. If you wish Middle America could stop living up to all the worst American stereotypes that have Europeans bristling at the mention of Americans, you may be more inclined to see the name as Shirin did. The story doesn’t really support or condemn either position.


It's been so hard without you, Kelly.. I mean, how do I reach these kids?

It’s been so hard without you, Kelly.. I mean, how do I reach these kids?

The most relevant piece of the story we can get from Shirin’s anti-Merica monologue is that the Blue Collars are as alien and unappealing to her as she has been to most of the other castaways. She ultimately tells us that not only does she not fit in with the Blue Collars, but that despite their fractures, they’re still clearly unified, and she doesn’t want to risk giving them the numbers. Conventional wisdom would echo Carolyn’s sentiments when she targeted Max episodes ago–take off the head. Shirin and the No Collars talk it over, and opt instead to rip out the heart.

As I noted last week, Kelly was cast in the role of “Mom” on the hit family sitcom Escameca! We knew that Kelly was tough and even-keeled, smartly removing herself from the dramatics of her tribe. We knew that Mike saw her as his unquestionable number one. When the merge hits, we see that Rodney trusts her as well, pulling her in on his plan to eventually shift the numbers against Mike. Sierra, mostly absent from this episode, has one of her only lines when she tells Kelly she loves her as Kelly takes her torch to Jeff. Even White Collar Carolyn is shown to have bonded with Kelly while on NuNagarote, indicating that the tight relationship between the two older women was a factor for Carolyn siding with the Blue Collars.

But beyond the fact that everyone loved Kelly, we knew from Kelly herself that she loved Blue Collar just as much in return. Staying Blue Collar strong was a no-brainer as far as she was concerned. Not only was Blue Collar the home to her closest ally, Mike, but she expressed that being away from them “depressed” her and that she couldn’t wait to get away from her new tribe. Surviving on Nagarote was little more than undercover work to her; more akin to infiltrating a group of ignoble criminals than it was an opportunity to meet and work with new and different people.

At the end of the episode, we see the logic of the No Collars quite clearly–Kelly was indeed the heart of the tribe, and I believe that just as they predicted, removing Kelly could be the final blow that causes the eternally unstable Blue Collars to finally fracture.


Single White Male Seeking Homie to Chill With For a Little Bromance

Single White Male Seeking Homie to Chill With For a Little Bromance

The piece of the Blue Collar puzzle that we’ve had it reiterated is the least secure is Rodney. It’s been emphasized from the get-go that Blue Collar is where Rodney and Mike’s similarities begin and end. Rodney thinks it’s “putrid” that after his devoutly religious, proudly Texan tribe leader blindsided Joaquin, he now has to be said leader’s “bitch.” Rodney wants Blue Collar to pay–Mike in particular. He puts this plan into action immediately after the tribes merge, going after Will and Carolyn to lay the groundwork for a plan to dismantle the Blue Collars down the road. But down the road may not come with someone as volatile as Rodney. Kelly’s ouster only loosens Rodney’s connections to Blue Collar further. Now, rather than in the “fourth quarter,” Rodney might take his shot sooner. Regardless, he will go after Mike at some point. I don’t know if a player who has been portrayed as so stupid will actually pull it off, but damn it, Rodney’s going to try.


Oh Jennifer--Dan has been in hot water from the first day of this game

Oh Jennifer–Dan has been in hot water from the first day of this game

I wanted to give Dan the benefit of the doubt at the start of the season. I thought that maybe, despite the fact that he was annoying his tribe at first, he could turn it around somehow. The Blue Collars, as a tribe, seemed like such obvious general audience proxies, and out of all of them, Dan best exemplified the “real people” that the users of the Official Survivor Facebook Page demand more of every season. The story would have loved if the old, fat guy could be the guy who proved everyone wrong. Dan himself is still confident that he’ll do it.

Dan’s major scene in “The Line Will Be Drawn Tonight” has him getting stung by a jellyfish and being corrected by Jenn on how to cope with it (hot water, rather than the urban legend of urine). After Jenn sets him straight, Dan proceeds to hijack her knowledge and presents it as his own. He doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to prove himself to the others. He wants them to see that he’s smarter than he looks.

This scene was very disconnected from everything else in the episode, almost feeling inserted solely to remind us what Dan is all about, in case we’ve forgotten him. It’s not surprising when we think back to his introduction as a character, who proclaims that he will be remembered. Whenever we check in with Dan, we keep circling around the same points. He is desperate for attention, desperate to be a legend, and insistent that he’s a far more capable player than he appears to be. We’ve been reminded of these things one too many times for them to be coincidental. I’m starting to strongly consider that Dan goes far–maybe even to the Final 3. If he does make it, it’s likely as a goat, where be slaughtered. But who knows? Maybe he’ll remind the jury yet again that he’s smarter than he looks, and reveal that he was playing a goat all along, knowing it would grant him safe passage to the end. Either way, I think Dan is going to get his wish of being remembered, and he’ll do it either by finally proving everyone else wrong, or by suffering a fall for the ages in his pursuit to do so.


The only time I wish I could be more like Rodney is so I could have a good sports metaphor for Will's position in the game

The only time I wish I could be more like Rodney is so I could have a good sports metaphor for Will’s position in the game

Dan’s not the only token older fat guy who could be making a deep run, however. Until this episode, I’ve had a lot of trouble deciphering what the story was doing with Will, a character who’s edit has felt very situational.  Now that he’s flipped on the No Collars, his story becomes a lot more cohesive and clear.

The introduction to the character of Will  showcases his humor and easygoing nature, and his personality, at first, helps us see his value in spite of his lack of physical prowess.  Will himself never seems bothered by his own inability to perform in challenges, which has been hawked on and hammered home week after week, because Will seemed to have a game plan. After all, he said that everyone else on his tribe was playing checkers while he was playing chess. But that gameplan kicked off with throwing away a shot at power when he turned on Vince due to paranoia and hearsay. Now he’s jumped from the bottom of one alliance–an alliance he seemed to have committed to after they proved to him that he’s a part of the family–to the bottom of another, an alliance that didn’t even trust him enough to let him in on the real target. Will is a good guy; but he’s completely out of his depth in every way when it comes to Survivor. The clarity we get is that Will is the one stuck playing checkers on the chessboard. And on a board that has winning personalities such as Rodney and Dan, Will becomes another great candidate for a sharper player to pull along to the end.


For someone who seems so freaked out by female nudity, Tyler sure is well versed when it comes to key parties

For someone who seems so freaked out by female nudity, Tyler sure is well versed when it comes to key parties

And he’s back! One of the sharper players in the game has always been Tyler, who finally gets an episode to really show what he’s capable of as a strategist when he’s put in a power position. The force that he exhibits isn’t really surprising. He’s always had nuggets of insight that show he’s observant and thoughtful when it comes to the game, and perhaps more importantly than that, as far as the narrative is concerned, is that he’s a White Collar. Survivor is business, and Tyler makes sure that the other castaways know he’s approaching it as such. His conversations with both Mike and Hali cut clear past any bullshit. He knows both sides need him, and that they’ll say whatever they can to sway him. He knows the Blue Collars have already burned him, while he doesn’t know the No Collars at all.

Perhaps most importantly, Tyler knows that pairs are targets, especially in this particular narrative, and Carolyn knows this as well. The story has done a great job of downplaying their alliance, despite the fact that it happened in the very first episode when Carolyn told Tyler about the idol. This week, we learn that the story has been in many ways mirroring their gameplay, intentionally disguising their relationship. From the conversations the competing alliances have with them, it seems to be working. No Collar wants Tyler to bring over whoever he thinks he can pull, showing that they don’t know for certain that person is Carolyn. Rodney makes no attempts to include Tyler in his plans, showing he doesn’t realize how vital Tyler is to Carolyn.

I think that Tyler and Carolyn’s ability to continue flying under the radar will be largely dependent on the choice they made to side with the Blue Collars, and how they handle the way that Jenn’s idol blew up the platform they were swinging to. Carolyn showed her toughness in the Immunity Challenge, Tyler has been showing his intellect all season long, and they have an idol on top of it all. I think that these two can recover for the short term, most certainly.

But playing an all-business game is a double edged sword, because business doesn’t make for a compelling story. While playing a smart, hidden game shows us Tyler’s aptitude as a player, it’s also left him largely absent as a character. Carolyn herself said the merge is like “Day One all over again,” and it’s on this Day One that Tyler’s story truly begins. It means there is a lot more incentive to watch what he does going forward, but with so many other characters who’ve been telling their stories for weeks, it’s doubtful Tyler can make a huge impact on the endgame.


Wow Joe, stop spoiling Season 31!

Wow Joe, stop spoiling Season 31!

Carolyn, on the other hand, has been much more involved in the narrative, and this week we see the threads of her story continue as Shirin commits herself to the No Collars. Throughout the episode, the castaways all fret about the White Collars as swing votes, but Shirin is very pointed in dismantling that perception at Tribal Council. When she declares she’s not a swing vote, it signals two things. One is that she’s heard Carolyn loud and clear, and that Shirin has nothing to do with the other original Masayas. The other is that Shirin isn’t leveraging her position. Rather, she’s chosen an alliance–the No Collars–and she’s going to stand by them. When it turns out that she’s the only one to do so, the window for Shirin to advance her own story about finally learning to fit in opens a little wider. Hali and Jenn agree that they need to put up with Shirin for the time being, but I have a feeling that over time, now that they’re stuck with her, they’re going to learn to actually like her. After all, it’s been apparent for a while that Shirin was more No Collar than White Collar. Ultimately, for this bonding to happen, well… none of the involved parties can go anywhere any time soon.

It would be so easy for the Blue Collars and friends to simply regroup and resume weeding out the Hippie Love Commune. In the game, there don’t seem to be any real obstacles to prevent it. But the story is a different case, because the players in that alliance are heavily armored by the plot. Shirin, as discussed last week, cannot be allowed to leave the story until she’s completed her personal evolution.

Even more important is Jenn, who has been a major character from the start, and is a character who still has a lot of game to play. Jenn told us that her idol would “screw up the game,” and Jeff likened it to a bomb going off after she used it. It wouldn’t fit with what we’ve seen for Jenn to simply save herself flashily and then immediately go home when she’s unprotected. I don’t buy it for a second. Jenn promised she would make a big wave happen, and her best friend, Hali, promised us that the No Collar Surf Sisters know how to ride the waves of the game better than anyone else.

On top of all that, in a season where a lot of attention has been drawn to pairs and the importance of splitting them up, Jenn’s idol has stopped the other players from severing the most clear-cut pair in the entire game in her and Hali. I think that there is a very real possibility that the girls could ride the wave together to the very end. If Mike Holloway can’t stop them, one of the Surf Sisters–be it out in front snarkmaster Jenn or the loveable and extremely bizarre Hali–will win this game.

(And I mean, really now–Hali is weird. Beyond any editorial importance to her confessionals, I think production just likes using them because she’s so surprisingly strange. For a show that usually casts young, attractive women in the blandest light possible, they’re really letting her freak flag fly. And her freak flag just so happens to also be a ‘merican flag.)


If Shirin can be trusted, Mike might be able to break his vow of celibacy up in these trees

If Shirin can be trusted, Mike might be able to break his vow of celibacy up in these trees

Jenn’s idol means that the Blue Collars are forced to realized there’s an unclaimed talisman somewhere on their beach, and everyone is scrambling to get to it first. In the meantime, Rodney scrambles to turn the tides against Mike.