Sunday, February 26, 2012

SSAC Report: One World E02 Rah Rah Wrong

Assembled deep in bowels of the interwebs is a group of Survivor fans, a gathering of bright and clever minds. Their mission is to analyze the story of Survivor better than ever before in the history of the universe. What follows is their most recent report. It represents that combination of their work. This project was commissioned by The Midside.

In regards to the second episode“Total Dysfunction"in the 24th season of Survivor "One World," The Midside's Survivor Story Analysis Commission has reached the following conclusions:
×An alternate thematic title for the episode would be “Rah Rah Wrong”
×The theme of this episode was "What is the proper response to anarchy?"
×To explain how the women failed at the proper response, Nina was edited as a tragic victim and Kat was as edited as a spared fool.
×To build to that outcome, the women were once again shown as reliant on talking/communication, while the men were shown to be active, productive, and efficient.

"You're very much a rah rah girl and that's great and we need that but at the end of the day logic and strategy trumps rah rah," Sabrina to Kat following the Immunity Challenge

This episode began exactly where the last left off in both plot and theme. The women returned to camp from Tribal Council to be told by Mike that he had been tending their fire the entire time they were gone. He then states in a confessional that it was annoying Salani didn’t have to vote anyone off. Yes, the gender war is still on, and Kat takes exception to Mike’s fire tending. In confessional she claims that she could’ve got the fire going again if he hadn’t done anything—except a fly distracts her mid-sentence, so she stumbles all over words, beginning the downward spiral of her arc from dumb blonde to personification of the problem. Alicia likewise took a beating in this opening. As Christina tried to talk out (a theme that returns to hurt the women again) their problems, Alicia only laughed in a confessional about how well Tribal Council went. You see, she has her five and wouldn’t even save Christina’s life in a non-game situation. This is what’s called a villain edit.

While Alicia disappeared over much of the remainder of the episode, Kat did not. It made one thing clear. These two women are the symbols of girl power, the negative extreme of femininity. Kat is the rah rah girl. Alicia is the catty one. While Alicia was made out to be a big villain in episode one, Kat took a beating in this episode. She was shown being spared at the expense of the older wiser Nina, who, to get things kicked off, Alicia declared a bag of rocks.

After the truncated credits roll, the story returns to Salani immediately. To try and alleviate the problems anarchy has caused them, they do two things. First they hold a meeting. Yes, once again in response to an issue, they talk about it. They then take their second step and elect Sabrina leader, to which she responds in a confessional, “Hopefully with this new leadership role I can just come in there and be like shhh.” Even she realizes the talking needs to stop (something she stresses several more times throughout the episode). It makes it especially ironic when she is interrupted laying a ground rule: “Everyone has a right to be heard.” The scene isn’t completely negative though, as Sabrina’s second set of rules yields some results. She sets up jobs: water, food, and shelter. Monica takes water and is shown carrying and boiling it. Kim is one of the women who take shelter and is shown swinging an axe immediately after the shot of Monica working. These are quick shots, but at least they are doing something. It could bode well for them in the future. The problem is what happens with the women who selected food.

Rather than actually look for food, Alicia and Kat decide to talk about it. Kat gets more screentime here, goofing around talking about finding bananas and being critiqued by Nina in a confessional for it, “I just want her to shut up and work.” It is the start of Nina’s “right about Kat” episode arc. To drive home that the talking is detrimental, the editors even insert a shot of Jay and Tarzan carrying a large load of wood in the background. Yes, the men are hard at work while Girl Power talks away. Make no mistake about it, Alicia and Kat are the symbols of Girl Power in this game. Their fates are intertwined as the scene closes with them in the water talking and giggling together.

The Reward Challenge offered another opportunity for the editors to drive home the difference in the two tribes’ approaches. With no Jeff Probst to watch over the competition, they were in literal anarchy. In the middle, Bill even gave a confessional, “Everybody was in a little bit of a frenzy because we had to govern ourselves.” Both tribes certainly have been in a frenzy since day one. The difference is what they’ve done with that energy. Though the challenge seemed close for a while, the men pulled away when Christina gave a confessional about how they just attacked the knots in order to not lose momentum. Almost immediately following, a man (probably Jay) urges his tribe to proceed with caution, “Hold on, we don't want to get a bigger knot in it.” They slow down and win. Sabrina then says in a confessional, “No one ever remembers second place” making us wonder if she just told us the fate of Salani.

Manono marches into their camp victorious under heroic music and Ethan’s star over their flag. They unfurl their new tarp and Troyzan declares “Let’s Rock and Roll,” launching them into a montage of productivity and efficient action that contrasts starkly with the women’s talking to start the episode. Thus far there’s been Salani talking, a Reward Challenge, and Manono taking action. It is an edit of extremes emphasized by Mike’s confessional, “The Manano tribe, we're going to have the best camp probably in history." That’s the second superlative hinting at a high place in Survivor history for the men, as Troyzan declared in the Previously On segment, “I just want to be the greatest Survivor of all time.” It’s something to remember when the women go to Tribal Council.

Well before Tribal, however, the women seem to be trying to work, putting a roof on their shelter. It is the second glimmer of hope for them. However, they are interrupted by the a member of the men’s tribe, the woman on it, Colton. Sabrina, the woman who gave him the HII an episode ago, is the first to try and shake him. She fails by telling him they need to have girl talk (look, talking as a solution again!) and declares him a virus in a confessional. Kim then has a go, explaining to him: “Here's the thing from our end, it's not we don't love you and want you around, but you can understand, we are two tribes, you're from the other tribe, in our camp, hearing everything we're doing. That would be a really dumb, dumb move on our part.” The line in the sand is still drawn and even though Colton thinks he’s a woman, he’s being treated like a man. He takes it personally, but Sabrina puts a finer point on it in a confessional: “This is our tribe, and we have to start owning our tribe, owning our thoughts, owning our actions, and owning the vision of what we want to look like later on down the road without having a guy who acts like a girl involved. If he's running the show and we lose this damn game, I'm just going to slit my wrists.” The end seems like foreshadowing—and Sabrina is developing an oracle role here because of comments like this—but this scene is the best the women have looked so far. Even if it is only a minor step as they are still talking, they are asserting what they want and owning their camp. Interestingly the scene features Sabrina and Kim heavily, two of the women who came off the best in the first episode, and no Kat or Alicia.

The men’s upward edit comes back as Colton hears the women’s advice and takes a different approach to his tribe. He shows the “misfits” (Troyzan, Jonas, and Leif) his HII. In a confessional, Troyzan quickly surmises: “Holy cow I just found some stuff out tonight and it's like my heart's pounding and I found out that Colton has an idol and we gotta get rid of the muscle--meaning Mike and Matt” harkening back to the first episode theme that traditional Survivor play will not work this season (and the logical implication that the original alliances will fail). Leif interjects into the conversation: “Guys, there's no more talk about this, we're set, ok, we're set?” No more talk, huh? Jonas gives a confessional about Colton who then gives a confessional that echoes Alicia’s cattiness, mocking the misfits and saying this is “Survivor Colton’s World.” In summary, the scene plays like this: information (Colton has the HII), decision (vote out the muscle), no more talking, short reaction, cattiness (from the woman on the men’s tribe). There’s no rah rah. It’s a quick efficient productive scene and we’re off to the Immunity Challenge.

The results of the Challenge are best summed by Nina at the end, “It's just the way it's been going for us this whole last five days. No communication. No team work. Same old story.” That story, as we saw in the first episode and see in the remainder of this episode, is the women being unable to cope with the lack of rules and taking a beating in the editing. As Kat tries to maneuver around the other women on the balance beam she says, “She's got these big ole boobs. I can't get past.” Chelsea echoes the statement at the challenge’s conclusion, “It's definitely the boobs are hard.” A physical symbol of womanhood is associated with why they lost. So is Kat’s lack of intelligence. During the challenge the bag of rocks ironically calls her dumb as a rocks. After the challenge Monica caps off the scene by explaining what happened, “Kat jumped in when she didn't even need to jump in, not once, twice. I'm sad. I'm sad for women. This isn't the way women are. Frankly I'm so embarrassed.” That sentiment leads to Nina eventually seeming a Hunter Ellis-esque tragic victim.

The crushing loss doesn’t lead the women to a different solution. They once again stand around and try to talk it out. Kat attempts to apologize for having “horrible communication skills,” as if that was the issue in the challenge and nothing else. Kim and Sabrina try to dance around the issue, basically forgiving her. Here is when Sabrina puts the issue explicitly on the table, “You're very much of a rah rah girl and that's great and we need that but at the end of the day logic and strategy trumps rah rah.” The women didn’t have a strategy for the challenge until Monica made her way across the beam. Before then it was just Kat attempting to get around each woman. Like the Reward Challenge, she just went at it, rah rah, rather than slowing down a bit to make sure she didn’t get into a bigger knot. It’s why Nina called her dumb as a rock.

From this point on Nina launches a full blown assault on Kat that is meant to be taken as true as the stronger more intelligent women of Salani agree with her. First she says to Monica, “We are in a tribe of the witless. Outwit, outlast, outplay, we are a witless tribe and we are being led by 20 something year old's embarrassing,” to which Monica asserts, “(Kat) should be going tonight.” Monica’s positive edit this episode forces us to acknowledge their state discussion is true, especially when it’s corroborated in a discussion between Nina and one of the members of the Girl Power alliance next. She explains to Chelsea, “I know (Kat's) fun, but she's ruining this tribe...we can actually redeem ourself as a tribe and not look so stupid. Cause right now we look like idiots.” Just like Monica, Chelsea agrees: “Trust me I've been embarrassed since I've been here.” Nina then puts what’s at stake with the vote on the table, “Then let's fix it.” This is about correcting the total dysfunction that Girl Power has brought about.

The only members of the alliance we see discussing the strategic implications of the vote going into Tribal Council are Chelsea and Kim. It drives home the point that Nina is right:
Chelsea: “I just talked to Nina. I mean, she's really right about Kat. Kat makes us all out to be freakin' kills me to talk to Nina because I understand everything she's saying.”
Kim: “I do too. And I know Kat blew the challenge today. I'm totally with you on that.”
Chelsea: “I just feel like Nina deserves to be here more than Kat.”
Kim: “I'm with you, so I'm respecting you and listening to you. I just think we need these girls to trust us.”

Tribal Council does nothing to push us away from the anti-Kat assessment either as the women seem to reluctantly keep her around. Probst opens with a superlative that contrasts nicely with the two the men have used this episode, “You're off to one of the worst starts ever in this game because of the absolute and total dysfunction in this group.” Yes, this is a futility not seen since Ulong (and perhaps Maraamu before that). It doesn’t deter the women from skipping to their script however. There’s talk of voices and communication. Nina notes how information doesn’t get out, such as who has what life experience, because the tribe is divided 5-3. They’re not even talking well. Nina presents a three point argument as to how Kat isn’t a successful athlete. Kim dismisses it with more empty talking, “I mean does Kat bring life experience to the table in our tribe? No. But I do think Kat is a good athlete. Do I think Nina has life experience? Absolutely, but she's bringing different things to the table than Kat is and that's kind of the decision we're weighing out here tonight.” Probst then gets Chelsea and Sabrina to admit that they would make the alliances differently if they did them again and, in the most rhetorically powerful moment of the episode, Alicia, the creator of the alliance, to admit there is no Girl Power going on. If even Alicia sees what’s wrong—Alicia who has been edited as catty, cruel, and callous—then it’s wrong. Kat pleads her case anyway. They keep her and vote out The Walking Dead Nina.

As a bonus, Nina’s final words sound like a less bitter Hunter Ellis from Marquesas as she drives home one more time that Kat is destroying the tribe and should've gone home instead. She then closes with, “I wish the gals a lot of luck but I think they're in deep trouble. I think the guys are gonna take them apart piece by piece.” Hunter made no such concrete game predictions, just stated his tribe wouldn’t survive without him. Will Nina’s prognostication come true? We’ll find out, but that is certainly the sentiment we’re supposed to take away from the story so far. And as we’ll see in the season theme analysis, much of the answer hinges on the still unproven Kat.

In regards to the overall themes of the 24th season of Survivor “One World,” The Midside's Survivor Story Analysis Commission has reached the following conclusions:
×A thematic subtitle for the season would be “Beyond the Charm.”
× If this is an epic underdog comeback story, the ladies or a lady will have to be shown proving they can play the non-traditional game and survive on the island, and much of that thematic responsibility now rests with Kat.
× In this episode, the women did not prove themselves, as they chose to keep Kat over Nina. In other words, they are not yet "beyond the charm" as they chose "rah rah" over "logic and strategy"--they continued to play the "traditional game."
× However, gradients are emerging in Salani, benefitting three women.
× On Manono, Troyzan, Jonas, and Leif are receiving extremely crafted edits that are in line with the theme of gender extremes being detrimental, whereas Colton seems to be taking the idea of being the woman on the men's tribe to the extreme.

Upset they weren’t being given a chance in to finish the first Immunity Challenge of the season, the women voiced their complaints to the men. Troyzan, the interesting spokesman of the men, told them they’d have plenty of chances to prove themselves over the season. The choice between Nina and Kat was the first such chance. All of the women acknowledged there was a problem with the way the tribe was divided and how they were approaching the game. They took two concrete measures to address that: appointing Sabrina leader and keeping Kat in the game over Nina. The latter was the focus of the “proving themselves” theme due to two quotes. First there was the Nina and Chelsea exchange. In it Nina uses the words redeem and fix: “I know (Kat's) fun, but she's ruining this tribe...we can actually redeem ourself as a tribe and not look so stupid. Cause right now we look like idiots…let’s fix it.” As Nina was established as a reliable and correct voice, clearly this vote was a failed attempt to prove themselves. However their chances still remain. They’ve just been transferred it to Kat as heard in her plea at Tribal Council: “I thought I could do it. I thought I could bring it home. What I can only hope is that my tribe believes in me the way that I believe in myself and they'll keep me around so I can show them that I'm learning.” They did kept around so she has to prove that she is learning. In short, Kat’s plea is the entire tribe of Salani generally, and the Girl Power alliance in specific.

As we noted last week, if a woman is going to win this season, it is going to be in an epic underdog comeback tale. Thus one of the major questions raised in our discussion this week was what the elements of an underdog comeback story are. In order to properly identify a story, you must know what its element are. Essentially there must be three things: 1. A weakness in the Goliath 2. A unique strength in the David. 3. A glimmer of hope in the underdog’s story. Number one is taken care of easily with the gender extremes are bad theme. The men are confident. If they lose, it will be due to overconfidence. Number two is a major issue, as we have yet to see anything like this from the women. Perhaps they will be able to turn their talking from a weakness to a strength as Kim says at Tribal Council, “I feel like I'm a good communicator and that's something we need, but I don't feel like there's a place for my voice yet.” The “yet” opens up the possibility of that place being found later. Number three, though it seems like it might not be there, is. As much as the women have struggled, they have addressed all their issues. When they needed fire, they negotiated for it. When they faced anarchy, they elected a leader. When they had to address the rah rah issue, they threw their lot in with Kat. The last was, of course, forced by Tribal Council and shifts the focus back to Kat, which raises all the concerns for the women.

The honest truth is that Kat received one of the worst one episode edits in the history of Survivor. She was raked over the coals as not only stupid, not only the reason the tribe lost, but an embarrassment to women in general. The members of Salani even recognized it, as the terms about embarrassment and stupidity were repeated over the last part of the episode. All that needs to be looked at is this series of statements and exchanges:

Monica: "Kat jumped in when she didn't even need to jump in, not once, twice. I'm sad. I'm sad for women. This isn't the way women are. Frankly I'm so embarrassed."

Nina: "We are in a tribe of the witless. Outwit, outlast, outplay, we are a witless tribe and we are being led by 20 something year old's embarrassing."
Monica: "(Kat) should be going tonight."

Nina talks to Chelsea: "I know (Kat's) fun, but she's ruining this tribe...we can actually redeem ourself as a tribe and not look so stupid. Cause right now we look like idiots."
Chelsea: "trust me I've been embarrassed since I've been here."
Nina: "Then let's fix it."

Chelsea: "I just talked to Nina. I mean, she's really right about Kat. Kat makes us all out to be freakin' idiots."

Probst: "Chelsea, if you could start over, do you think you guys would form different alliances?"
Chelsea: "Yeah, it would probably be different."
Probst: "Sabrina do you agree with that?"
Sabrina: "Yes, 100%."
Probst: "Alicia there's no girl power going on right now. No young women at home going 'Go Women's Tribe.'"
Alicia: "No there's not."
Probst: "Is that embarrassing?"
Alicia: "It's very embarrassed, especially in that challenge. Monica figured it out but because everybody was talking, we couldn't hear Monica's suggestion, and it was embarrassing to watch."
Kat: "It was my fault."

The problem this raises for the women, especially in the Girl Power alliance, is that they voted to keep Kat despite all this negativity. When sentiments and arguments are repeated this often and strongly, it is about more than crafting the decoy boot. We’ve already established how Alicia and Kat were established in this episode as the personification of Girl Power. By keeping Kat, the women have shown that they are not Beyond the Charm. The question is if they can ultimately move beyond it. Right now, the fate of their tribe rests with Kat making that journey. However, there are three individuals from that tribe who have shown hints of moving Beyond the Charm, and they comprise the female side of our players to watch list.

Players to Watch

In the first episode, she wasn’t fully committed to Girl Power. In this episode, she said she hasn’t found a place for her voice yet. Her story seems to be one of waiting for her moment in the game. Strategically, she urged Chelsea to stick with the Girl Power alliance to gain the trust of the other women. The shot of her swinging the axe speaks loudly in the women’s talking edit.

Elected the leader, this episode featured her telling her tribe what they needed to do to fix things, and trumpeting the superiority of the male style of communication. Though she is clearly being built as a reliable commentator, she seems to be trending more toward the oracle, as she makes statements that hint at the women’s ultimate undoing and Colton’s involvement in it. If that is the case, it will be especially ironic as she gave Colton the HII (a common technique in Survivor editing).

In episode one, her stating “I’m beyond the charm” to Tarzan seemed more like a ploy to distract the men so Alicia could try to steal fire. In reality, that is likely why she said it. An episode later, however, it seems it was included editing-wise to show that she actually is beyond the charm. She was one of the harshest critics of Kat and, like Kim, was one of the women shown actually working.

Out of everyone in the last episode, Troyzan received perhaps the most crafted edit. He had two new quotes in the Previously On segment, one about wanting to be the greatest Survivor ever, and was basically edited as putting the men to work and evaluating the work positively. He was also involved in the Colton-reveals-his-HII scene.

While the men aren’t receiving much story, the editors make sure we know Jonas is there and that we like him. He comments on Colton’s strategy and has a defined character, the underestimated guy. What remains to be seen is how he’ll fit into the season’s themes. Could being a sushi chef who has skills that work toward survival because of the lack of rules be his arc similar to John Locke in S1 of LOST?

He opened the episode strongly, helping the women by tending their fire. However, his story took a hit when he was linked with Matt as the muscle that needs to go soon.

Largely absent this episode, he was shown working hard with Tarzan. His role may just end up being a member of a cross-gender alliance.

We include him here not because we think he has a chance at winning, but because he is inextricably linked to how the plot of this season will unfold, linked to both tribes in a season that may turn out to be about the mixing of gender traits.


Unknown said...

Interesting analysis here, & lots to comment on. Firstly I should state that I feel like while yes the girls have been pretty abysmal so far, the feel I am getting off the editing so far is that this is a comeback story, or rather, this is a 'learning from your mistakes' story. Or maybe even (come shuffle/merge), this will be a 'putting aside your differences & working together' story.

Secondly, I reckon we'll be seeing a female winner. The Salami tribe have been hogging the screentime for a reason, and it's not just that they had to attend the first two TCs. To put it in terms of the what to do/what not to do themes you've explored above, I would ask why is so much focus on the females disarray? Why hasn't there been more focus on the male's positive camplife? The one big scene of putting together the 'best camp ever' was used more to highlight Colton's outcast status rather than using the oportunity to actually paint Manola in a good light.

My biggest point of difference with your own opinions is the lack of Chelsea in your ones-to-watch segment? She's actually my winner pick for the Season :D She didn't get much of a confessional, yet every damn reaction shot in the episode seemed to be her popping up over and over again. Kim bowed to follow Chelsea's lead and decision when mulling over the Nina/Kat decsion. Despite Sabrina's leadership status, who does Nina shown going to? To tie in with your own theme of the girls needing solutions, who exactly was it that offered the solution of needing a leader (while cleverly avoiding the spotlight herself :P ). Hark back to her Ep 1 confessional; “if we just keep our head in the game and try to stay together and just take the boys down, then we will just be one huge ball of badasses.” That's a big if there at the start. You may not agree she's going on to win outright, but she's certainly one to watch. Certainly not out of the running yet.

My 'most likely to win' rankdown after Ep 2 reads along the lines of Chelsea > Kim > Troyzan > Jonas > large gap > Sabrina > Monica > Everyone else eliminated. It is this particular order for a variety of reasons which I won't go into for fear of making this post too long, but in brief;
I feel like Sabrina has fallen into the narrator/oracle role not because she has a shot at winning, but rather simply because she has one of the the better grasps on the big picture of any of the ladies bar Ki/Chelski, and she just gives better confessionals than either. I believe Monica's increased coverage was simply a foil to contrast Kat against this episode, or perhaps the beginning of a short term story arc, but I won't rule her fully out in case these are actually the seeds for a Season long arc that I'm just reading incorrectly. No comment on Kim or Jonas because I believe we're both reading them the exact same way, but I would like to hear more from you about Troyzan.

I feel like Troyzan could have very easily received a buffoon edit. He is perfect laughing stock material, yet instead, we are being shown him at this wisest & most positive, particularly when the editors contrast him with Tarzan, most notably in the 'He can't be Tarzan, I'm Troyzan!' and the 'Beyond the charm' scenes. As you say, it's a very carefully crafted edit he's receiving, but to what end in your opinion? I have an idea or two myself but I don't want to taint your thoughts before you lay them out.


Lazy Saturday said...

Very well thought out commentary Yog. It's funny how the comments here are full off Chelsea wins picks. Hopefully it won't effect the sanctity of the midside T_T