Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SSAC Report: One World E06 Miraculous Miracle

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 sixth 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 “Miraculous Miracle”
× The theme of this episode was "How unpredictable events affect the numbers game.”
× In order to demonstrate how random events affect the numbers game, Christina was edited as the hero of the episode, Colton and Alicia as the villains, and Jonas as a interested middle ground.

After a summary of nu-Salani, the Previously On segment culminated with the plot question of the episode “With her only ally gone, can Christina hold on?” The new footage continued as the villains, Colton and Alicia, told us the answer was no. Colton even made an even bolder claim “There's nothing that can save [Christina]...I still have my idol so I'm going to run this game until I'm all the way at the Final 3.” Since everything he’s said so far has come true, we have no reason to disagree with him here. Every Tribal Council he’s been too, the head of the snake has been cut off, the person he targeted. In fact, it’s such a sure thing that what Colton says goes, it’s not really shocking that he and Alicia berate Christina…though that’s when Colton’s word start to foreshadow his own end: “Honestly Christina, you've been the season cockroach. You've survived things because of different things that have happened.” Different things like a medevac.

The Reward Challenge continued the good vs. evil storyline as Colton critiqued Christina for not really trying despite the rest of the tribe giving the same amount of effort and his princess being awful at the challenge. Except his words are prophetic in this scene too. As Probst says that the winning tribe can eat ice cream until his stomach hurts, Colton replies, "Please please please please please." It’s as if he’s asking for his impending stomach ache. Likewise, at the end of the scene, he gave another Christina confessional, “You can quit or wait and go home in two days, or you can jump in the fire and be medevaced, whichever is more convenient for you.” This is material that had to have the editors salivating when they found it in their log.

While nu-Salani celebrates their dominance, nu-Manono finally gets down to strategy. Colton repeats his fire-jumping comment to Christina’s face and as Jonas notes how personal it’s getting, Christina is finally spurred to action. She pulls Jonas and Leif aside and tells them, “Here's the thing. Alicia already has an alliance with the four girls over there. And if you guys want to win the game, if you vote Alicia out, I'm not part of that alliance obviously, so I know I'm gonna go regardless, so I'm just telling you strategies if you want to keep the guys strong, because if there's a merge Alicia will go with Kim, Chelsea, Sabrina, and Kat. You know, it's a numbers game.” Jonas is now stuck in the middle of the Alicia and Christina war and finds the information interesting because he knows nothing about Alicia. Well, he then learns a little more as Alicia shows up and tries the same routine on Christina she did at the first Tribal Council, berating her until she snaps. Christina doesn’t snap this time though, she keeps responding strategically, repeating the phrase “the numbers game” two more times. That is the most interesting detail in this scene. The phrase that this chapter of the story is about is repeated three times in one of the most heated scenes of the season so far. Alicia even admits that what Christina’s saying is true “Christina is for once telling a partial truth. I do have an alliance with the girls, which Jonas doesn't need to know. So yeah, I'm gonna give her a hard time. It's just too much paranoia for me, and I can't handle that. I need to be in control. So that's why she's going.” It’s a good thing the princess is aligned with her prince and his idol.

Here the episode starts to turn. The villain is felled with the stomach pains he asked for. And who is by his side, mothering him at night? Christina and she tells us why: “If someone is sick and needs help, I'm going to be there for him. I think this is also coming to my advantage as well, as far as strategy goes because Colton will realize that I actually am a good person and that I'm not this bad person that Alicia portrays me to be.” To translate, she thinks about doing the right thing first and strategy second. The villain, of course, sees things purely strategically, “Christina just stepped in and took on this motherly role...and of course Christina's going to do that because she's trying to save herself. She will literally do whatever she has to to stay in the game.” It’s echoes of Russell Hantz, a comparison Jonas made earlier in the season. Colton can only see the game as chess, just like Albert, and as we’ve learned since Samoa (however, Survivor historians like Mario Lanza have learned it since Borneo), you can’t take benevolence out of the game.

Christina doesn’t, and her emotional to strategic transition frames the responses to Colton’s medevac. The next day when she finds Colton in the middle of the jungle in pain, she immediately gets the medical team. Colton’s ally Alicia, however, does. When the medical team discusses Colton leaving the game, she says, “Colton and I always talk strategy. That's all we ever talked about, 24/7. We planned and we planned and we planned. If Colton is out of the game, I don't know about everybody else but, that puts me in a really bad spot. I mean, call me a bad person, but all I kept thinking about was strategy the whole time.” So much for the warm and sympathetic women Colton was telling the men about at their first Tribal Council. In reality, it’s Jonas who is benevolent and expresses the most sympathy for Colton, “It just kills me. I'm putting myself in his position and if I was him, I'd be heartbroken, you know?” Since Christina is the good guy in this story, benevolence is the proper response here, and this only reflects Jonas well. He can see all sides, even the villain’s. It’s especially interesting when Alicia’s strategy turns to anger when Colton keeps the Hidden Immunity Idol for himself, “You know what, Colton is a spoiled brat. He's going to keep the idol as a souvenir even though he knows he screwed me like the biggest. I voted off Monica. If Monica was here, the girls would have the numbers, and I wouldn't be in this position. So you know what? Screw him.” It’s the inverse of the transition Christina made in the previous scene and the inverse of the transition Jonas makes to close the scene, “The original plan when Colton was here was to vote off Christina first, but now that I have a little more power in the game I feel like it would be wiser to vote Alicia first. Alicia's got more ties with girls. Having Alicia in the game is more dangerous. I do believe that if there is a karma, Colton got some karma right back at him.” Sure, it was sad to see such a huge Survivor fan leave, but there are moral and strategic benefits to it.

The sun sets and rises over the island. With Colton gone, it is a new day. Still, the game moves on as Tribal Council treemail arrives, and Nu-Salani responds to it in exactly the same way they responded to the reward challenge treemail—with speculation. Mike is the worst culprit, spinning a one vote per person for anyone in the game theory based on the title “One World.” Kim, in contrast, is the most level-headed, continuing her wait-and-see edit, “I have no idea and I guess I'm just gonna go and take my idol in my back pocket just in case.” Nu-Manono is not so calm. With the head of the snake having cut itself off, the body thrashes around erratically as it prepares for Tribal Council. First, Tarzan declares that he is friends with everyone except Christina. Then, Christina tells Jonas and Leif, “I already committed to you guys so I'm letting you know that I'm giving 100%. The vote's going all to the guys.” Funny how quickly the seven strong broke under a little stress at nu-Manono and ran to the men—the men who are currently leaderless. Jonas is trying to change that though as he tells us “I'm ready to take the bull by the horns and make myself the ring leader.” His first act is to tell Leif to vote for Alicia. Except Tarzan has always fancied himself as the leader of Manono, nu or old, and tells Leif differently, “Christina is very, I call it, sycophantic, she likes to suck up...if we have to vote, please vote Christina.” Leif, the mental midget (err) that he is, channels his handicapable predecessor Heidi Strobel, “I'm stuck in between two hard places.” Yes, nu-Manono is now a clusterfuck full of easy gay and short jokes and in the middle of it Alicia has transitioned into full blow anger, “I'm kind of pissed about the whole idol thing. Colton should've given it to somebody. I was hoping that he was going to give it to me being that now I'm stuck with Christina and the guys. Lord knows I need it.” That’s not exactly the way you want to approach Tribal Council.

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 continued to prove they were “Beyond the Charm” by moving beyond their emotional reactions to the episode
× The most notable of the men was Troyzan, whose performance at Tribal Council demonstrated his charm avoiding skills.

Tribal Council is more than a reaction to Colton’s medevac as all the responses fit on the established spectrum to further develop the themes of the season. Probst asks Troyzan how it affects the game and he responds emotionally, “Geez, I don't even know where to start. You know, I feel sad for Colton cause I know how much he loves this game. I mean, that's my reaction. I'm sad.” Kim, conversely, responds to the situation strategically, “Yeah, absolutely. Another person gone is another person gone.” Except she’s not coldhearted, her reaction, like Alicia’s before, transitions, “Yeah, I've had my appendix out too and it hurts like hell, so I do feel sad for Colton. He was so excited to be here.” The strategy comes first but then the emotion emerges.

Consistent with his edit all season, Troyzan’s Tribal Council experience transitions into strategy. After the merge reveal he says, “I'm actually counting numbers now, numbers of people, and where they're going, and who's with who, and who's not...I mean, everyone has their own agenda.” Yes, there is no more emotion. And to be fair to Kim, she does have something strategic to say about the merge, “I think everybody's trying to feel out the people they were previously on a tribe with going, 'Are the women together? Are the men together? Is Salani together? Is Manono together? It's gonna be really interesting.” Except she still ends with something emotional, “I'm excited. I'm nervous too, but in an excited way.” With the way good and evil was portrayed responding to Colton’s medevac on nu-Manono, is the editing revealing the beginnings of the post-merge edits for our two major winner candidates?

The question becomes even more interesting when you consider Troyzan’s response to nu-Manono attempting to bullshit about the idol. Alicia, and Jonas with the skills he learned from Colton, attempted to charm nu-Salani into confusion concerning their Hidden Immunity Idol. Though it’s unclear exactly what Troyzan wasn’t buying, it was clear that he confidently knew how to see through it as he has from episode one: “She is so full of it. I mean, look at her laugh and look at the smile on her face. I don't buy that at all. Not even close.” No other character has made these type of statements consistently throughout the season in such key moments and that’s why Troyzan remains ahead of Kim as our winner pick.

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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SSAC Report: One World E04 All The Doughnuts in the World

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.

Due to technical difficulties, this week’s report will be truncated to three points. Each point will be explained below in one to four short paragraphs.

1. At the end of this first arc of the story, the tribes are all even.
2. The men's decision to go to Tribal Council was portrayed as emotional, but they ultimately chose the more logical boot candidate.
3. The net trade scene was the most important in the episode and made the women look bad.

1. Over the last few seasons an interesting trend has developed. The first four episodes of the season comprise a mini-arc. In Redemption Island, it was the story of the false Survivor god Russell. In South Pacific, it was the construction (or lack-there-of) of a solid core alliance. This season, it is the storm of the men’s dominance. Over the first three episodes, the women weathered that storm (as much as said in the Previously On for this episode). In this episode, they gathered snails and squashed their beef in the sun as the men went crazy. What’s important here is not to jump to the conclusion that the women are ahead of the men, as there was plenty of evidence in the episode that point to this being how Manono let Salani pull even.

First, it is impossible to ignore the result of the immunity challenge. Not only were the women dominated, but the editing emphasized it and the problems they had afterward. Probst mocked them throughout the challenge and after. During the challenge Jay, the nice guy, even told them they sucked. After the challenge the women’s dysfunction was re-introduced, as Alicia admitted her performance was embarrassing (yes, that theme was repeated) and the battle lines between her and Christina were drawn.

Second, the reward challenge and its aftermath foreshadowed the ending of the episode being an even game. After the challenge, Troyzan told his tribe “we have a tarp, they have a tarp,” literally concretizing that the challenge didn’t push the women ahead. Jonas then replied with the reality that Manono was still up a number. Well, after giving up immunity, the men are no longer up a number and what Jonas said is no longer true. They are even now.

Finally, the decision to give up immunity was portrayed as a big move that is possibly stupid, but was never endorsed as completely stupid. It was shown in a way that was similar to Ozzy’s decision to send himself to Redemption Island in South Pacific. It could be argued that Ozzy’s move saved Cochran which was ultimately Savaii’s undoing, so this thread is an important one to watch. However, that move was coupled with a storyline about Cochran’s mistreatment at the hands of Savaii. This season’s storyline is has shown the men as capable of surviving and able to overcome emotion and charm. Regardless, both tribes have lost two members and have had one completely absurd Tribal Council. That’s a tie game.

As begun in episode three, Colton’s dislike of Bill and desire to vote him out was shown as mainly emotional. The two had a fiery disagreement and then an equally uncomfortable Tribal Council. The disagreement was edited as one of the main factors that caused the men to give up immunity, as immediately after it Colton went to Jonas and Troyzan with his suggestion. However, Colton’s emotion wasn’t the only one that spurred the decision. Tarzan’s anger at Leif was shown to be a major reason the men went to Tribal as well. As the group stood around and discussed the decision, Tarzan turned his anger on Leif, saying he needed to be voted out because what he did was bad. That was also the opening riff at Tribal itself.

Interestingly though, if the episode is taken as a whole, the men’s actual vote was the more logical of the two choices. Giving up immunity itself was emotional, there is no debating that. However, starting with the opening scene of the episode, we see a logical case for booting Bill that is consistent with the themes of the season. As Troyzan and Tarzan discussed who goes next, Tarzan says that Bill’s charm is an issue. Just like the repetition of embarrassment being bad for the women, the use of the word charm and Bill’s boot remind us that the men are beyond the charm—or at least Tarzan and Troyzan are. Likewise, Bill himself gave the logical reason for his boot at Tribal. You don’t want to go into a merge with numbers that aren’t on your side. Colton had even delivered that rational a few scenes earlier. So yes, this episode was dicey for the men, but they still made a correct decision in the end. It may turn out this episode’s story is a microcosm of the entire season.

This scene features two opposing confessionals and interpretations.

Chelsea: “Isn't it funny? In the beginning it was us struggling and now the boys come by wanting everything that we win in challenges. It's just crazy how much the roles have reversed in 9 days.”


Troyzan: “The women are trying to be such hard noses. I just don't get that. I don't know if their emotions are turning them wacky or what, but they're just emotional creatures and they just can't seem to think straight… ‘Don't think I'm a bitch.’ Well, you just made a bitch move…It's a free offer. They're doing nothing. They can suntan on the beach while we go fish and bring them half of the food. Like, hello, us anybody home?”

So who is correct, Chelsea or Troyzan? Are the roles reversed or are the women’s emotions turning them wacky? There are three factors to consider for the answer. Internally to the episode we know that the roles aren’t reversed, just evened out. Internally to the season, this deal parallels the chicken deal. It would have benefited both tribes and created an air of compromise between them, but Chelsea denied because she saw the men as her enemy. Thus the rift between them grew, just as it did with her chicken deal. In reality, it is fairly obvious that what Troyzan said is correct. The decision should be a complete no-brainer for the women. They would literally do nothing and would still receive 50% of the haul. In what world do you not make that deal? Is the answer One World?

In a final interesting note on this scene, Troyzan has seemingly taken over Matt’s role as the rooster. After Chelsea denied the chicken deal, Matt’s confessional was shown as the men’s response. After Chelsea denied this net deal, Troyzan’s confessional was shown as the men’s response. Is there a difference between the two or is this scene meant to signal Troyzan’s downfall as the other did Matt’s? Well, we just established that in his confessional Troyzan was right. In contrast, Matt’s was wrong. Likewise, Matt’s was an emotional response (anger) that proves he wasn’t immune to the women’s charms. Troyzan, on the other hand detached himself from the moment and critique how the women were thinking, just as he has done all season, proving he is Beyond the Charm.

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 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.