Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SSAC Report: One World E03 Cocky

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 third episode“One World is Out the Window"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 "Cocky."
-The theme of this episode was "How much confidence do you need?"
-To demonstrate the answer, the women were shown looking for a little bit of confidence while Matt was shown having an abundance of it.
-A key scene in the episode was the Matt-Troyzan strategy/rooster discussion.

As is often the case, Jeff Probst explicitly laid out the theme of this episode in the Previously On segment. He described what has happened on Manono, "With confidence at an all-time high, Matt and his alliance of muscle thought they were running the show.” The key here is the two clauses and how they’re linked. The first clause is about “all-time high confidence.” Considering how confident Matt was shown to be even in episode one, the use of the superlative here is extreme. In fact, it’s the continuation of the overall theme of negative generation stereotypes, as cockiness is the extreme masculine gender stereotype. The first clause is all about that they “thought” they were running the show. This is a misperception, as the Misfit alliance of five actually had the power. So here Probst has linked “all-time high confidence” with misperceiving reality. Just as the women have been “punished” for being all talk, rah rah, and emotion, so too were the men in this episode.

The women, on the other tribe, were starting at an all-time low. No, they weren’t feeling emo while Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat serenaded them. The episode opened with them recovering from Tribal Council and looking ahead to the coming storm. After Alicia comforted Kat with a hug, Chelsea let us know the young girl was still on watch. Then she sat down and had a discussion with Kim, during which she gave a confessional that echoed the conversation we’ve been having in the SSAC, “Our next move is just to try to stay as positive as possible. If we just get the smallest glimmer of hope, it'll change the whole tribe. Just a little bit of confidence is all we need.” Like Probst’s two clause statement in the Previously on segment, here is the key is the linking of “glimmer of hope” and “little bit of confidence.” Every comeback story requires the underdog to find a glimmer of hope. This episode was certainly David beating Goliath; the women’s “little bit of confidence” contrasts greatly with the men’s abundance of it, especially as Colton and Jay come over to offer them shelter from the storm. The women don’t accept the invitation until the next morning. That’s when the men’s edit starts to get some diversification.

Before the reward challenge, the two opposing poles within the men are set up. As Chelsea looks for the sun (their glimmer of hope), a few of the men walk by. She calls to them and Troyzan comes over. After a brief exchange, Troyzan displays empathy by inviting the women to dry up by the fire at the camp, “Sure, go over there. Go right now. Go on right now.” Matt described it another way, “I get it, they had a rough night, and some of the guys are sensitive to that.” “Some of the guys” does not include Matt, so he is cocky and insensitive. It is what made him unable to deal with Colton in episode one, simply giving him commands to be a runner, that led to Colton not wanting to be his fifth (which led to the Misfit alliance and Jay flipping and etc etc). His personality contrasts greatly with Troyzan’s, who we find out is the leader of the opposing alliance in this episode. The other members of Manono fall in a spectrum between them when interacting with the women on this issue. First was the reward challenge though.

The most striking thing about the challenges for this episode was the lack of confessionals before and after them. Usually confessionals are used to narrate challenges and set up some sort of storyline, to put the challenge into the broader context of the season long arc. This was not the case this episode. Before each challenge, nothing is said. After each, there is one confessional from a woman and Matt gets a confessional after the immunity challenge. All three of these are very generic “this was unexpected” confessionals. Probst does talk about the challenges but likewise only afterward. In all likelihood, the actual way the women won doesn’t mean much (as opposed to South Pacific where the first IC was made out to be a metaphor for the entire game and this season when the first two ICs where made out to be a metaphor for what’s wrong with the women’s tribe).

The reward challenge contained something else that was interesting, the portrayal of Troyzan and Kat. It took Kat seven times to get the pattern right and beat Troyzan, yet this wasn’t played up as an epic struggle for Kat to prove herself. It was a quick montage over goofy music. Afterward, Troyzan was shown smiling about the entire thing, even at the end of the challenge when Probst said, “One thing has changed as a result of today's challenge. The women now know they can beat you at something.” Though this looks like a chink in the armor for the men (sorry, Jeremy Lin), it’s not meant to be taken seriously. If it were, it wouldn’t have been edited so whimsically and the cocky Matt would’ve been featured more rather than the goofy Troyzan.

Challenge finished, we finally got to see the rest of the men’s tribe. After Kat told us the win was a pick up for her tribe and once again failed to tend the fire, the women go over to the men’s camp to get some aid. The men have an array of reactions. Colton, Jonas, and Bill agree with Matt. Colton says he doesn’t believe in handouts (yet look how he got his idol). Jonas says, “If this was a life or death situation, I would help them...this is a fucking game.” It’s interesting to see him associated with the villain, but his comments are a little more tempered than Matt’s as he acknowledges the difference between game morals and real life morals. Bill states, “Oh, no boat? After everything that we've given to you? That's how it's gonna be? So when you want fire, when you want shelter, you use your womanly charms to take care of those situations, but when we ask for a boat, you say no? One World is out the window.” His use of the word “charms” sticks out, as that is how the women have been shown playing the game so far and the truth is that, though Matt and company seem to be beyond it, they actually aren’t. By being so harsh and dismissive of the women, just as Matt was with the chicken deal in episode one, they are subject to their charms as much as a man who is suckered by them. Their reaction is just negative instead of positive.

The other response some of the men give is to try and trade. Jay want to use the canoe and points out that the women have already received something, “Didn't you just walk away with fire a little ago?” He’s not focusing on the charm but only the actual things at stake. Likewise, Tarzan states, “Go back and talk about our deal...then come back with a consensus and then we'll settle it.” He said he was beyond the charm in episode one and proves it here. This isn’t about being intentionally nice or intentionally mean for him. It’s about striking a deal. All of these men are missing something important though.

Troyzan is once again the one to explain the motivation behind the women’s charming to the men. Still being negative, Matt says it makes them look piss poor. Colton, the supposed female on the tribe, doesn’t even understand why the women are acting as they are. Then, just as Troyzan was explaining the way the women were thinking in episode one, he did it again here saying, “Well, maybe that's the thing. We're men, they're women. Maybe we think different.” Those different ways of thinking have been called attention to by the editors in every episode this season and the men siding with Matt’s lack of understanding of the women’s charm hurt them in this episode allowing the women to get a foothold.

In preparation for the immunity challenge (editing wise), the women go out and catch some small fish. They return to the shore and the first person to greet them is Troyzan. Almost like a protective father, he is impressed they were able to catch them from the boat. He then gives a confessional that brings back the theme of the episode, “I think the girls are feeling more confident. You know, they've got their feet under them, and it's going to change the way we feel, the guys feel. We need to win again." The women have their little glimmer of hope, their bit of confidence, and it contrasts greatly with the men’s over-confidence. In a coy bit of editing, Matt is even shown congratulating the women right before we cut to the challenge. In reality it was about the fishing, but it was an editing double entendre, as that is the closest you will get to a concession speech on Survivor.

The immunity challenge is again played straight. The women come back and win but this isn’t epic or anything. Bill isn’t even made to look that dumb. (In fact, that only one who even criticizes him for it afterward is Colton.) Probst calls it a “huge comeback” (which it was). Sabrina says she feels like she just aged a bunch. There’s no contextualization to give this greater significance except Matt’s confessional directly following, “My mind was blown, I can't believe we lost...I'm looking forward to doing this. I've spent eight days out here creating some power, and I want to use it...tonight that's what's gonna happen.” This was about the men’s over-confidence causing them to fall to the women who got a little bit of confidence…and there isn’t any other man besides Matt who has really been shown that way, an observation brought to light by his rooster and chicken speech.

Chelsea framed the entire men’s strategy scene, “What's funny is you can tell the boys thought they had it in the bag because they were so far ahead. And so now they're probably just all running around like chickens with their heads cut off not knowing what to do.” The men lost because of overconfidence and she expects it to turn them into anarchical chickens just like it did with her tribe. It didn’t. All of the moves made here were simple, straight forward, and quick. In direct contrast to how the women dealt with Kat costing them the challenge last week, the men, most notably Troyzan, quickly forgive Bill (except for Colton, who starts to tell us how he hates him). It’s exactly how Sabrina said they would handle the situation. The Misfits then gather to discuss whether to vote for Bill or the “real danger” Matt. Jay comes over to join the discussion and after Tarzan invites him to join, he is (editing wise) in the alliance in a matter of minutes. Bing, bang, boom, these dominoes are falling quickly. There isn’t a lot of rah rah or emotions. It’s just quick moves.

Likewise, Matt does what he has to and pulls aside the leader of the other sect, Troyzan to give what will surely become his infamous chicken speech, “All of us are roosters, right? And we don't want any other roosters around. I just want a bunch of chickens with me so I'll be the only rooster. The chicken's they can't break up the roosters.” It remains to be seen how exactly this speech will resonate long term (is the key for a man to get a women’s alliance to carry him to the end? Are all the men roosters?) if at all, but the key for this episode is that Matt saw himself as a rooster, a cock, the over-confident king of the fowls on the farm, and it cost him the game. Troyzan placates him by pretending to be a rooster too, but tells us in a confessional, “Matt, basically, is a jury...it ain't Survivor unless you're lying.” The jury comment really sticks out as it has no place, but Troyzan has been playing both sides (men and women) all episode.

Colton’s framing of the vote right before Tribal Council brings into light what is at stake for the men here, “Right now the vote is between Bill and Matt. If I had my way it would be Bill just because he's annoying and I hate him...and Matt, on the other hand, he's like the head off the snake, and you gotta chop off the head of the snake for the rest of it to stop, whatever, wiggling.” Will they vote with emotion for Bill or logic and strategy for the real danger Matt? We know they choose the latter, and that Colton is basically negated in the process, but a few choice quotes from Tribal are important to note.

The men’s Tribal Council featured a discussion of femininity and how the men should portray themselves. After discussing how the alliances shook out, Probst turned to Colton and called him out for constantly being at the women’s camp. He echoed Kourtney’s comments from episode one, “Here's the thing. Women are more, like, nurturing and they pet you and they tell you it's going to be ok,” except she noted that the women would cut your throat as well. Yes, voting with Colton for Bill would be letting emotion into the decision, emotion that we were reminded Sabrina spoke out against at the last women’s Tribal in the Previously On, “Kat is very young and emotional, and that's a liability.” On the other hand, they could go with Tarzan’s straightforward and honest strategy.

As Matt tells us though, Tarzan may be straightforward now, but you can’t always tell when he’s being so, “Tarzan's always talking and everybody's always laughing at Tarzan. But the downside of that is you don't know how much of him you can take seriously. I'm more of a guy that when I speak, I want people to listen and take me seriously.” While true, the problem with Matt’s game was that he was taken too seriously because of his hyper-masculinity and seen as a “real danger,” so ultimately Troyzan’s alliance chose to do the logical and strategic thing and vote him about. But what about Matt’s dichotomy? It’s clearly not better to be taken seriously, but is it better to not be taken seriously? Everything we’ve seen so far with Tarzan would tell us no, as he has been made out to be a fool, even in this episode when asking to look at the concealed votes. Once again it seems as if the key is the balances of extremes, to find that middle ground between cocky and goofy.

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.”
-The men proved they were "Beyond the Charm" by choosing to vote with logic and strategy, not emotion (and the surrogate woman on their tribe).
-Though the women found a glimmer of hope, the story suggests their inability to survive on their own and the ultimate collapse of their alliance.
-Only one woman remains as a contender.
-One man has emerged as the strongest contender.

The most compelling piece of this episode for the Salani tribe wasn’t their two challenges victories and the accompanying positive symbolism. It was the return to the coping mechanisms they used in episode one when their backs were up against the wall. The women’s story this episode centered on a Samoan storm and their response to it. It progressed from anticipation to weathering to the aftermath. The last section, however, was the least detailed part.

After Probst summed up the women’s troubles in the Previously On (“At Tribal Council it was clear that Kat's alliance could do without her.”), Kim and Chelsea, the clear heroes of Salani, sit together and tell us the state of their tribe. Chelsea narrates, saying how they’re even looking at Kat as a possible boot and that they need a glimmer of hope, while Kim offers the tactical advice when the men come over. It’s the rolls they developed in episode two. Clearly they will continue for as long as the two stick around. The compelling thing is how so many of Kim’s comments seem to double as season long commentary. When Colton offers them a chance to join the men in their shelter, she says, “We'll see how bad it gets over here.” When Chelsea says, “Colton just came by out of nowhere,” she replies, “It’s going to be horrendous.” Are both of these comments one offs or are they meant as foreshadowing as well? The women already have a pattern to the men when they see it getting bad at their camp. Likewise, there has been plenty of foreshadowing of Colton being the women’s ultimate undoing in this game, most notably through the oracle Sabrina. And Sabrina has another scene topper here that really forces us to acknowledge the editing here, "Right now I feel like our whole shelter is about to blow down." Building the shelter is one of the major survival aspects Salani has struggled with.

Chelsea’s narration continues as she notes that they’ve been “crapped on since [they’ve] been there” and asks where the sun is. They still need a glimmer and she immediately greets the boys as they walk by causing Troyzan to come over. Is he that glimmer? Maybe, as he gives them permission to go to Manono’s shelter and dry up. We’re then shown some of the most interesting footage of the episode, as Kim and Chelsea are shown walking to the men’s shelter and then Kim gives an important confessional, “I was thankful last night that we stuck to our guns a little bit after Tribal and didn't run over and jump in the men's shelter, but going over there this morning I have no shame. I've never been so miserable. I couldn't get my tail over there to that fire fast enough. I hope this is a temporary pit stop at the men's camp. I don't think any of the girls want to stay over there. It's uncomfortable mooching off of them. They're all like, 'Excuse me, move, move.'” Her words echo three things thematically: girl power, the cross-gender alliance, and the men’s ultimate victory. First she’s glad they didn’t run over there during the storm, they wanted to prove they could weather it and survive on their own. Second she admitted that when it got bad enough, she was over there in a heartbeat, echoing that she isn’t really committed to the girl power thing as she said in her episode one confessional. Finally she pointed out they were essentially mooching off the men and there was no room for them there, reinforcing that the women aren’t surviving on their own and won’t find success with the men. Though they go on to win the reward challenge in the next scene, the oracle Sabrina once again punctuates with an interesting observation, saying it got so bad during the storm that she wanted to be punched to be knocked out. That’s not a very likable statement from the most visible and correct of the women.

After the reward challenge win, the negative forces in the women’s tribe come back into sight. Kat says the challenge win was huge for the women yet reinforces her major survival issues. As the firetender she says, “Come on ladies, all we gotta do is get this fire together and you know our life will change” and that they need to do that and fix their shelter "Because we're on the verge of a horrible storm right now." Yes, they might have won both challenges, but they still aren’t surviving because they’re using the same old coping tactics.

Kat’s solution to the fire issue is the same one that failed in episode one. She and Monica (an interesting turn of events for her, as she was so critical of Kat last episode) go to the guys to get an ember. The men try to cut a deal, but end up just giving it to them. Perhaps this could be read as the men giving the women the game, as the women win the immunity challenge soon after, but the amount of evidence against that is just too large, especially as this scene isn’t over.

Alicia, the vocal spokesperson for girl power and protector of Kat, still needs to have her say. As Jay tries to trade with them she says “I just don’t think your deals are fair.” Considering the women have been mooching off of the men, as Kim told us earlier, it comes across wrong and perhaps a little bit entitled and crazy. Alicia even follows up with, “Don't come at me like I'm crazy. We don't need to take it all that serious.” You don’t need to take survival that serious and we’re not supposed to look at you like you’re crazy? No, clearly we’re supposed to look at you like you’re crazy and your lack of seriousness as another reason girl power is being done in.

Chelsea even gets in on it here, talking to Monica about how the men using the canoe for the ember wasn’t discussed. Well, no, they gave you the ember, but that makes you a mooch. Hard to see her agreeing with Alicia that the deals are unfair, but she was shown reneging on the chicken deal in episode one. She is then shown as weak and emotional, something that Kim has never been shown as, when she says, “I'll give them all the fishing gear and the boat...I just want to sleep for one friggin' night. I'm losing it.” Chelsea is not handling the game very well, a fact that is driven home by Kat’s echoing of her comments with, “We're girls. We're just not meant to be beaten down this way.” That’s some great girl power there. It’s just not possible to say that these women have turned the corner, even if the universe does brighten for them in the next scene.

The sun comes up for little orphan Chelsea and the women’s story this episode basically ends in this scene. After two storms where they were unable to survive on their own, Kim, Chelsea, and Monica go out fishing and successfully catch a few small ones. It’s an important scene for Monica, as she was linked with Kat before. It’s also a small glimmer of hope as Kim tells us, “Things are starting to feel different. I actually feel like people get that they're here. I felt like before everybody was just like, 'Where am I? What am I doing?'” There seems to be a hint of the women finally adapting to the anarchy, but they’re still behind the men in major survival aspects, so was this small uptick in confidence and hope meant to explain why the women won both challenges in this episode or is it something more? With the repeated negativity the women have received, even in this episode where they won both challenges, and the fracturing of the girl power alliance editing wise, it’s hard to see a woman winning this game. Kat and Alicia just don’t seem suited for the game (Kat said so herself). Chelsea is somewhat like them. Meanwhile, Kim’s voice is starting to be heard (she was shown guiding Sabrina in the puzzle during the immunity challenge), but she still seems committed to the girl power thing. For all the negativity cockiness has gotten so far in the men’s edit, none of the men (except the surrogate female Colton) have been shown as unable to survive. Though the season seems to be about both genders moving to the middle on some level, any such compromise would seem to favor the men unless they let a woman mooch off of them to the end—and if that’s the case, why would the editors make their winner a moocher and which woman has been edited as a clever moocher so far? They wouldn’t and none have.

Players to Watch

Early Winner Pick – Troyzan
He has been subtly all over the edit the first three episodes, shown as a leader among men and the man who is best coping with the women. He has the confidence of a rooster, but the sensitivity of a chicken. The reward challenge could’ve made him look really bad but was instead played up to be goofy and inconsequential—inconsequential like both challenges seemed to be treated this episode.

Jay –
He is the biggest mover this week, as he was the man who looked the best strategically after Tarzan. He deftly moved himself from the failing alliance to the dominant alliance of five. Editing wise he’s also escape an association with Mike and Matt, more so than even Bill, and there has been foreshadowing of him working with the women.

Jonas –
He is linked with Troyzan so he will likely go far with him but his agreement with Matt this week may be the beginnings of his thematic flaws, just as Albert’s hyper rationality early in South Pacific made him look bad.

Mike –
A strong contender over the first couple of episodes due to his diplomacy with the women, his constant association with Matt is an issue for his story. He will need to be shown overcoming and disassociating from Matt’s cockiness if he wins.

Kim –
If anyone from the women’s tribe wins, it’s her. She has been shown making all the smart tactical decisions for them and as the most balanced of their personalities, trying to make girl power work but also going to the men when need be. However, she has still been shown as being unable to survive on her own like the rest of her tribe.


Taking a s.hit said...

Long entry! I like it. It's interesting how 3 of 4 of the most likely cross tribal alliance, Kim jay troyzan, are oNes to watch. My prediction is Chelsea will go on an immunity run symbolizing her comeback after her breakdown. At final 5, troyzan jay and another male will elect to eliminate Kim over Chelsea because she's seen as more of a threat. Knowing her ass is on the line, Chelsea will win the next two immunities and ultimately win the game. The women unanimously vote for her as the men's lack of chivalry at the beginning kills their jury threateningness. Furthermore, jay will make final 3 while troyzan is eliminated just shy of the final 3. It should be noted I am historically inaccurate with game predictions.

Still on throne said...

F3: Chelsea jay Jonas