Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SSAC Report: One World E05 The Numbers Game

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 fifth episode “Bunch of Idiots" 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 “The Numbers Games”
- The theme of this episode was "How should the switch be approached to gain a numbers advantage?”
- To show how the women responded improperly, both the villain and hero of the Girl Power alliance were shown deviating from their alliance’s professed approach.
- Monica was portrayed as strong and loyal in order to drive home the point that her boot was a mistake.

After the “Previously on Survivor” segment reminded us that “the men and women are now even at seven and it’s anyone’s game,” the pre-credits sequences offered us the lens through which to view the rest of the episode—just as it did last episode with Troyzan and Tarzan’s discussion in the water about booting Bill. Over some interesting ominous music, Sabrina—the rational and logical woman—reminds us “it’s a new game” and then observes “The guys are much more of a mess than we thought...the girls are sticking together on this one.” The rest of scene echoes this sentiment as Alicia says “If we're gonna stick as a tribe of all girls, we need to be seven going in strong” and Christina echoes, “We have to stick together because we don't know what the heck these guys are thinking.” Their agreement sticks out because they’ve been at odds the entire game and end up on the same tribe post-switch. The women seemed to have finally reached a homeostasis that could give them the game thanks to the men’s temporary insanity. Alicia’s scene-capping confessional says as much and ends with a foreboding prediction “The guys messed up big time. If we come in strong seven, we're gonna blow them away. We're gonna beat them today in our challenge. They are so dumb. They handed us a million dollars.” The key to understanding the truth behind this prediction though is the word “if.” “If” the women stay “seven strong,” then the men handed them a million dollars. It’s likely Alicia was just talking about the challenge in this confessional, but the editors’ twisted it to make it seem like her topic was the entire game in order to use the rest of the episode to show the women going against that.

The major plot mechanization of this episode almost immediately forced the characters into their roles. The most notable responses were all from women (and Colton). First, Monica was shown struggling to take off her Salani buff saying, “I don't know how to take this thing off.” It may play like a throwaway line, but this is her boot episode. It is clearly meant to symbolize her inability to move forward from original Salani and Girl Power. Kim, on the other hand with her new tribe, says “I mean, this couldn't have gone better for us.” “Us” can only mean nu-Salani. So much for Girl Power. And who can blame her really? Colton rightly observes “they have all the muscle” and “it’s Greek Gods vs. Peasants” and the challenge edit backs this up. Even though it was a reasonably close challenge likely decided by nu-Manono not staying under the faucet for slightly too short of an amount of time during one of their trips, Probst’s commentary and the shots of Kat and the three guys hauling the Nu-Salani tub made it seem like their strength was the difference. Still, Monica and Christina object to Colton’s characterization. Already disagreeing with the new tribe’s “mastermind,” the two are again in an uphill battle as outsiders.
At the nu-Manono beach, that battle starts to take shape. Alicia goes against the seven strong women idea, almost immediately following Colton around, as they declare each other prince and princess. Neither of them are very high on their new tribe either. Alicia says they’re going to be the laughing stock. Colton says they’re on a tribe with people who suck. The two villains ending up together and their negativity infecting the tribe shows how the edit doesn’t create fiction, it reflects reality. And so does Monica’s confessional about aligning with Colton, "I hope you're not the puppet master master manipulator and that you really and truly aren't with the guys and us girls are going down 1, 2, 3. And I feel like I'm the strongest of the three girls, which would mean it would be me first.” Considering it was her first and the future doesn’t bode well for nu-Manono, this prediction could reach beyond this episode.

It resonates especially loudly as Colton pretty much told us that all the heroes were on nu-Salani, “When I cracked that egg and I saw orange and I looked around and Jay was covered in blue and Troy was blue and I looked over and Kim had blue and Sabrina had blue and I just thought “beep.’” That’s the source of his negativity. He can’t ride the heroes to the end anymore. Likewise, Sabrina’s seeming hero edit finally transfers as she observes the results of the switch, “When we picked the egg, I said lord please let it be the same color as Kim, that's what I wanted. When I smashed it and she was blue, Chelsea was blue, that's like our first three in our alliance. Then I saw Kat and I was like is this really real? I can't believe four girls within the five girl alliance on the new tribe? Priceless.” Kim is the female hero of this story, but not only that, Sabrina’s confessional makes it seem as if these Girl Power women are still attempting to stay seven strong. The switch did work out perfect for that to happen considering four of the five of them are on nu-Salani and there are three women and Colton, the surrogate female, on nu-Manono.

Except it doesn’t work that way. In nu-Salani, the men rule the roost. Mike shows Chelsea how to catch crabs (go ahead and snicker if you must). Troyzan, in a scene that echoes Chelsea’s chicken catching from earlier in the season, catches a chicken using his defensive back skills. They even get in strategically as Troyzan and Jay talk to Kim about booting Mike and Kat. Jay begins, “Whenever a merge situation happens, let's intermingle, let's weave our way into it…” and Kim finishes, “...and when it comes time to vote we all have to tell each other what's going down and make sure that it goes not towards any one of us and then pretty soon we're in the majority and it doesn't matter anymore.” So much for staying seven strong. If even the female hero of the season isn’t going to stay seven strong, it doesn’t say much for the Girl Power alliance’s chances. Of course, Kim has never been totally into the Girl Power alliance, and she reminds us of that in a confessional, “This has been my thing all along. I'm trying to keep my options open. So if sticking with the girls works best in the long run, I'll stick with the girls.” “Open Options” is a pretty good label for Kim’s strategy and arc in this story. Is it the winning story though? The opening episode did seem to point toward traditional alliance play failing, or at least the original two alliances. That we can be sure of over the rest of this episode: Girl Power is dead.

Alicia’s attempts to strategize at nu-Manono force us to acknowledge this reality. First she tells Colton, “The girls are loyal. You guys are the ones who are crazy.” Then in a confessional she says, “I don't consider Colton as a guy, so I feel like we have four women against the guys...I need to keep my women here and get rid of the guys, so that we merge, I'm still there.” Any vote should be pretty easy then. Boot one of Jonas, Leif, and Tarzan. We know she doesn’t, however, and that doesn’t seem to bode well for her personal chances at the merge considering the statement. At the very least, this episode is the beginning of the end for Alicia as she stands in the water with Colton and says she’ll vote with him if he promises not to screw her. He then states his strategy in a confessional, “I've been getting rid of the head of the snake this entire game, Matt, Bill, now Monica.” And Monica may be the head of the Girl Power snake at the moment, but, even within this episode, Alicia is the head of the Girl Power snake in the broader game.

In contrast to the female villain, the heroine is reaching a high point in her game over at nu-Salani. Kim finds the idol, tells Chelsea, and declares she has, “Maybe one of the best feelings I've had since I've got here.” She’s truly having fun and enjoying the game. There aren’t much more heroic single episode edits in Survivor. If Kim does win, this was the turning point for her, when her voice was finally heard. Sabrina is listening to her. Troyzan and Jay are listening to her. The idol will make her be heard by everyone else, not that they matter with how dominant her tribe is.

Nu-Salani completely controls the immunity challenge and three things stand out. First, Monica scores the only point for nu-Manono and is built up as strong. This drives home her victim status as a wrongful boot. Second, though Mike scores all three nu-Salani points, that fact is never explicitly acknowledged, and is only a blip on the radar. Finally, though nu-Salani scores the second point, Leif’s fight and effort is made out to be the story of the leg of the challenge. These latter two points confirm that Mike is not winning the game, as this challenge would be edited extremely Tom-Westman-esque if he did, and are an interesting positive turn for Leif considering the beating he has been taking in the editing.

The build up to Tribal and Tribal itself do nothing to derail the train rolling down the tracks of irony. Christina and Monica try to turn the vote toward Tarzan to keep the tribe strong and everyone lies to them. Monica still thinks the women are sticking together as she incorrectly observes, “The guys have lost sight on the numbers game. It's Tarzan and I. In my mind I'm thinking that's a huge win for the women that the men are on board to take out one of the men” then continues her blissful unawareness to open Tribal itself: “Breaking up is hard to do. We'd gotten close, the girls. But it's actually turned out to be a blessing.” She’s right though. On its face, the switch looked like a blessing for the women, if only they had stayed seven strong in the numbers game.

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.”
- Kim’s, the heroine of this story, strategy was shown to be charm based.
- The men coming out one ahead in the numbers, and Colton voting with them as he said he would, bodes well for a man’s chances to win the game.
- The men were once again shown as being the most successful at surviving despite the fact that nu-Manono built an entire shelter themselves.
- Subtle references were made to “one world” with nu-Salani being shown as more successful for embracing the concept.
- Despite nu-Salani integrating the genders better, the men were still shown as carrying the tribe.

Though this episode didn’t feature heavy thematic seasons, several things stood out: the visual demonstrations of the men’s survival skills at nu-Salani, the gulf in tone between the two new tribes, and the portrayals of Kim and Troyzan. As noted in the episodic analysis, Mike was the one shown catching the crabs while teaching Chelsea how. Troyzan was shown catching the chicken. No one on nu-Salani was shown making fire and they didn’t have to build a shelter. On nu-Manono, the three women were shown failing miserably at catching a chicken, Tarzan tripped while building the shelter, and Jonas talked about how Colton never worked while the shelter was being built. Monica was briefly shown working on the shelter, but despite the fact that they had an entirely new decent looking shelter, nu-Manono was never shown building it. Plus, she was voted out, strengthening the case that her boot was supposed to be viewed negatively.

Nu-Salani was not only shown excelling in survival though. They adapted well to the switch. While Sabrina saw it as a good thing for the original Girl Power alliance, Troyzan, Jay, and Kim devised a new alliance on the beach. Jay described his perspective, “I think it's Salani vs Manono right now. I don't think it's men vs women...I don't mind at all working with these women.” This puts him in a different place than Sabrina and all of nu-Manono, as Jonas sarcastically feigned at one point “This is one world.” Kim seemed to be in line with what Jay was thinking and considering they were talking with Troyzan and the three have received the most glowing edits this season with Colton basically calling them heroes this episode, it makes sense why their tribe is being compared to Greek Gods. The tribe is working together as a unit, not looking to manipulate anyone.

In contrast, nu-Manono has clearly been infected by the villains. Jonas even admits to it “I could be Colton's bitch. I'll be whatever you want me to be. But just don't vote me out” as he observes Colton and Alicia’s deceit with amusement as they butter Monica up before and during Tribal. His confessional is ominous for his chances though as Monica echoes his thoughts “Just as long as it's not me. Tell me what to do.” The boot is her and it’s because Colton and Alicia have charmed their way into power in this tribe. Will Jonas ultimately be undone by enabling them as well, or is he supposed to be shown as sufficiently aware enough to escape that fate? He is being shown as removed from it enough in a way that is reminiscent of his early alliance partner Troyzan.
Troyzan’s edit from the start of the episode to the finish should not be underemphasized. As the women talked about staying seven strong, who was talking to them as he has been all season? He was, and he even explained how they dealt with Colton’s charm, “You know in the back of some guys' heads they were like 'oh, I don't want to agree with this, but it's a group thing,' so, I don't know.” That is exactly how Jay dealt with it last episode. That is exactly how Jonas dealt with Colton this episode. Visually, that’s also how Troyzan interacts with the women in this episode, just like has been shown in almost every episode. Could that be his path to victory, being in the charm but not manipulated by it? It’s important to consider, as his chicken catching scenes speaks loudly for his chances.

Since this is the first episode of the second act of this season, the chicken scene clearly echoes the chicken catching scene from episode one, except this time Troyzan was the one who caught the chicken. It also forces us to look back at Matt’s rooster speech to Troyzan. Matt was unable to catch a chicken in episode one, causing Chelsea, who caught them, to take the spoils and walk off. He was also unable to deal with the chickens on his tribe, causing them to turn against him and boot him. In contrast, Troyzan was firmly in power in the Misfit Alliance and has been shown dealing properly with the chick(en)s of original Salani all season. It makes his quote after catching the chicken ring loudly, “I mean, it was it. Game over. Sorry chicken, you lose.” It was extremely reminiscent of Rob Mariano’s “Ding ding ding, we have a winner” after finding the Hidden Immunity Idol in Redemption Island.

Someone did find the Hidden Immunity Idol this episode though, Kim, and this has been the high point of her edit. After talking with Jay and Troyzan earlier in the episode, she sat down with Chelsea to talk about the ramifications of finding the idol, “This could be a gamechanger moment where we take the numbers...and we need to be careful that they don't see us as a pair because then the other one would never have an idea. We just need to make sure that we have our hooks in as many people as possible.” No, Kim isn’t totally sold on Girl Power, but she’s using her charm as much as Alicia. She wants to get her hooks in people. She’s not talking about working with people like Jay did or using logic like Sabrina has expressed the importance of all season. She’s attempting to build connections and ride the best one to the end—at least that’s the story we’re being told. It does lead us to the only remaining question of the season, how will Troyzan (and possibly Jay) deal with Kim’s charm? The answer to that question in the plot will tell us how Troyzan becomes the greatest Survivor of all time. He is, after all, already a Greek God.


Lunch break said...

Ive been waiting all week for this!

lunch break said...

I like how this blog unveils what is unfolding in front of me and makes it painfully obvious in hindsight.


1)Monica's victim status brings to mind Mikayla and her infamous edit which remains a mystery to me. Her edit wasn't to establish her as sole survivor nor did it forecall an upolu disadvantage...Your conclusion is she was seen as the reason Coach lost based on the scene in the recap where he chews the fat obnoxiously in front of her. But her build up as a darkhorse was independent of that one scene. So in the words of Seinfeld, "What is up with that?"

2)I would love to see an article where you contrast the two redemption island seasons. I think the editors had a lot more fun with S22 because they had a stockpile of material to subtly/blatantly make BRob the ubermensch. That unified driving narrative was missing in South Pacific. What do you think?

Jayemel said...

Lunch Break:

1. The point of building up Mikayla was to show how much of a value she was to the tribe to drive home the point that Coach wouldn't adapt his strategy to keep her around. He stuck to his promises simply because they were promises. Ultimately, that was his his flaw that did him in. He stuck to his alliance with Sophie and Albert even though he acknowledged that it was more of a value to take Cochran and Edna to the end. Thus, in his Final Tribal Council arguments he had no other defense beyond "I stuck to my promises.

2. Briefly, yes, I think that RI had a more unified narrative than SP, but I think RI has the most unified narrative of any Survivor season so far. Why? In short, it was a combination of all the factors that Survivor is. It is one of those rare moments where everything comes together. That is one of the many reasons I love RI.

As far as SP, it DOES have a one narrative, just not as detailed as RI. SP was about people being unable to overcome their demons/flaws. Ultimately what caused everyone to lose was their demons/flaws, most notably Coach and Ozzy, and Sophie overcame hers on her way to victory in the final episode.

So far, OW has a wonderful narrative. If it concludes strongly, it will be one of my favorite seasons.

lunch break said...

Thanks for the response Jayamel. I will ruminate on your answers.

Anonymous said...

E06 please