Saturday, October 1, 2011

Survivor South Pacific E3: Been There, Done That

In my analysis of episode one this season, I referred to Jeff Probst's comment about Survivor essentially being the same story told over and over again but differently each time. Now that we've settled into the second season of the Redemption Island era, we can better understand just how true that statement is. Just as the early story of Redemption Island flowed through Rob and Russell and their history in the game, setting up the end game (that continued to flow through Rob because he happened to win), South Pacific's stories are led by their returning players and the baggage they brought into this relationship.

As it always does, the "Previously On" segment made it abundantly clear how we are supposed to be watching this story and the parallel they drew between Ozzy and Coach was obvious. Ozzy has a five person alliance (this was set up in episode two). Coach has a five person alliance (this was set up in episode one). Each "legend" was then associated with one other element which was at the forefront of their story in this episode--Ozzy had the Hidden Immunity Idol and Coach had Brandon. This is the story set up. This is the key to the five person alliances. The only question is where we go from here.

The first two episodes this season were focused on the perspective and psychology a player brings into the game and how that affects his play. This episode was no different, as it demonstrated how the beliefs you hold and the actions you take because of them only have a direct and immediate impact on your game but an indirect and lasting influence as well.

Ozzy's baggage is the Hidden Immunity Idol and the fact that it would undo him was all over the alliance. First he tells Keith about it, who then turns around and tells Whitney "just in case something happens" where Ozzy turns on him or something. Then later at Tribal Council Cochrane is shown saying that looking for the HII may not always be the best move because it could signal to your tribe that you don't trust them and this part of the game is about building trust. Could there be a better summary of Ozzy's storyline?

Coach's baggage is his need to stick to being honest and loyal despite allying and making promises to people like Russell and Brandon. Christine foreshadowed it best when she called him King Farouk. I admittedly didn't get the reference, so I did some research and found this interesting description of the long dead Egyptian king on

"Although initially quite popular, the internal rivalries of his administration and his alienation of the military—coupled with his increasing excesses and eccentricities—led to his downfall..."
Could there be a better summary of Coach's storyline? But just for the sake of completion, let's revisit the Coach and Brandon story this episode. Brandon reveals he is Russell's nephew to the rest of the tribe and Coach calls it a mistake. Coach is then shown being wary of Brandon for the remainder of the episode, culimanting in a conversation with Sophie where she agrees he is a loose cannon and says: "I just hope it doesn't bite us in the butt." Considering how she has been shown as wary of Brandon all season, our story of Sophie leading the charge against Brandon and Coach is inching closer and closer.

This is all well and good and interesting, but it only tells us who doesn't win. In order to understand who does win, we need to look at the portrayals of Semhar and Christine at the Redemption Island duel were also very revealing.

Once again, Semhar delivered a tragic and disturbing poem, looking to give herself totally to a hypothetical man and describing the things she would do for him. (No, not like that, keep it clean.) And once again the editors wanted us to look at it a little differently. The key part isn't the romance and all that mushy crap, it's the devotion to another person and the declaration as to doing things for them. It contrasts with what Christine said to Jeff about why she wanted to win, for herself. It's a dichtomy we're supposed to pay attention to as Christine wins the challenge and Semhar gets a redemption of sorts as she admits facing her abandonment issues (or her focus on external forces) on the way out. Interestingly, another player axisis operated along this spectrum this episode.

In a post-Tribal Council confessional, Mikayla stated that Coach took the heat off of her and she hoped it stayed off of her. She was also shown to be extremely aware of and concerned with her place in the tribe. In contrast, Brandon continued to talk about how he was a Christian man and had to act right for his faith. Here is where it's important that Christine beat Semhar as it completely parallels with how Mikayla and Brandon were portrayed in this episode.

When Mikayla confronted Brandon, who was made to look better? When Mikayla was crying and Brandon was being tormented, who was made to look better? The best way to sum it up is to look at Sophie's narrative confessional where she points out that Brandon is torn between "whatever crazy religious beliefs he has and being a devious jerk." What's most interesting here is how negatively this comment paints Brandon's Christianity, especially in an episode where Matt was directly referenced. It has to be intentional by the editors to tell us that Brandon is bad news and that's supported by their portraying Brandon as Russell last episode, Coach saying he sees Russell in Brandon, and Brandon saying he let his flesh get ahold of him. In reality we know Brandon meant flesh in the sense of carnal desire. In the episode it was a reference to his genetics.

The Brandon-Russell parallels were present throughout his confrontation with Mikayla as well. First he tried to tell her that no one trusted her even before he said anything. Then he tried to bully her through intimidation in front of the entire tribe, asserting that she doesn't "have much of an alliance, period." Ok, BRussell, I'm sure she doesn't. It's just like how earlier in the episode you said you were 150% certain she was going home. Whoops. How did disrespecting and underestimating females work out for you in the past again? Oh, right, Natalie and Sandra both won. Somehow I'm guessing your assessment of Mikayla is way off too.

That's right, Brandon's disrespect of Mikayla, her confessional showing her awareness of the game, and the fact that the editors went out of the way to make her crying into a postive element in her storyline by making her seem like a frustrated and rational victim are more evidence of Mikayla winning this season. I mean really, besides Ozzy and Coach, who else has a storyline? Here's the short list, finally wittled down to three:

3. Coach - I've all but eliminated him, it's just that his edit is so carefully crafted that it's hard to ignore him.

2. Sophie - She's more of the intelligent narrator, but I'm sure she'll be around for the long haul. I more likely see her as an (ironic) F3 loser (as she makes some social mistakes as Russell did.

1. Mikayla - Yup, still going strong. Sometimes it's tough to see past her involvement with Brandon's storyline, but the best place to look this week was in the Previously On segment. Once again she was linked to Upolu's first Immunity Challenge win and Probst's comment to her of "Welcome to Survivor" was shown again. Look at these first few episodes and Brandon's shenanigans as her introduction to the game--one she has shown to be more than prepared for and will adapt to from here on out. She will reap the victory she has been sowing.


David said...

I agree with your analysis for the most part, however, I don't think Mikayla is much aware of anything at this point.
She had no idea she was being targeted by Brandon before the previous tribal council, and she was unaware that there was an alliance in her tribe before Brandon outed it.
I'm really not sure she has been playing the game at all until now.

That being said, that doesn't mean that she doesn't win in the end.

Jayemel said...

@David: In the storyline she is being shown as aware. There has been no movement against her (except for Brandon) and her point was that Brandon's attack against her was baseless (which is how it was portrayed). In fact, at the TC in the second episode Coach defended Mikayla and Christine and Stacye said they never said they'd vote her out, proving she was never actually in danger (story wise).

George N. said...

I'm with you on Mikayla. she's in a good spot. She may replace Brandon in the alliance.

Anonymous said...

Hey JML, come back to PoS :)

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