Survivor: Worlds Apart Episode 9 Narrative Analyis- “Livin’ on the Edge”
THE STORY SO FAR
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?
A CLOSER LOOK
SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE
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.
THE HIT LIST
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.
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.
THE MOST NO COLLAR OF THEM ALL
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.
A BOLD PREDICTION
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.