Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SSAC: Member Post 4/25/2012

For those of you wondering how The SurvivorSAC operates, here is a post by member Joe Coombs (@AttackoftheJoe on Twitter). Commonly we share ideas such as these and ask for feedback. The ideas and feedback them lead to further ideas and so on and so forth (as you can see, Joe's post is built off of a previous discussion):
This morning and I sort of had an epiphany, if you will, about JML's proposed final 3 of Chelsea, Kim and Troyzan and why it makes sense. Those three characters a.) each have the most story that really carrys them to that final day and b.) they each represent some place on a balance of how to act in the game. Chelsea is the emotional extreme. She realizes what needs to be done to the game but her emotions cause her to want to reject that reality. Kim is the non-emotional extreme. The cold-hearted bitch that knows exactly what she needs to do, who she needs to charm to get to the end and has no qualms whatsoever about doing so. Troyzan is the balance. He doesn't relish taking other people out. He knows exactly what he has to do to get to this point in the game, which is to win every immunity with his back against the wall. And while this upsets and angers him, it also drives him. He's not reacting negatively to the unfortunate reality ahead of him. He's having an emotional outburst about how he has rationalized what the game has become around him and how he has to adapt to it. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

SSAC Report: One World E10 Take It Like Troyzan

Troyzan: “I’m totally pissed off. I feel like I’m completely alone now. But when I get pissed off, I get fired up. I’m like now I’m going to win every damn immunity. I could give a crap about those people. This is no team anymore. I’m no team player. This is just Troyzan versus everybody else. That’s the way I feel.”

(Opening Credits)

Troyzan: "Listen, it's really not fair that there's three or four people...I don't even know what they're doing here."

Chelsea: "It's just the game."

Troyzan: "This is how ridiculous these people are. They think I'm supposed to come back to camp 'Oh, hey, it's just a game. We're just having fun here.' So I'm like, what are you kidding me? I have the right to be angry."

Chelsea: "As much as I hate to say it, you can't take it like Jonas. He took it like a man."

Troyzan: "These girls are kind of acting like what a lot of women act like in real life. They get their house. They get their food. They get all their stuff. Then as soon as they fell satisfied they go, 'Oh guess what? We don't need you no more. You're done. We're done with the guy.'"

I usually wait until after the season to write a broad sweeping philosophical analysis of the season’s themes and place them within the context of Survivor history and our culture, but the above exchange between Troyzan and Chelsea was too delicious to pass up. Rarely does a scene come along that encapsulates the essential tension of ideas for a story (unless that story is particularly well composed). This season of Survivor must be well designed, as the argument was one of those scenes. Here’s the set up:

-Initially, the men were the powerhouse tribe, building a perfect camp and the women needed to seek shelter from there, only barely surviving on their own.

-Post-Switch, nu-Salani dominated because of the muscle of Mike and Troyzan.

-Post-merge, Kim decided to vote out the men, starting with Jonas and then taking out Mike and Jay (though targeting Troyzan) once she had the advantage.

-In other words, the women, and most specifically Kim, gained the advantage in the game off of the ability of the men, which the men were then punished for (voted out).

-Troyzan is angry about this.

(As always the above is story analysis, though I do argue that the story is a distilled and romanticized version of what actually played out.)

In a confessional before the credits, Troyzan tells us his arc over the rest of the episode (and possibily the season). It’s him versus. everyone else. Not how in the merge episode he asserted that it was him versus. eleven other people and that was what he wanted. More importantly, he’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. He’s completely on his own, as his allies were all voted out (Jonas and Jay) or have turned against him (Kim and Chelsea) and everyone else won’t talk to him (Christina and Alicia). His frustration is completely understandable and justifiable. That’s what setups his exchange with Chelsea after the credits.

The two sides of the argument that are set up is “it’s just a game” and “the game is a reflection of reality.” Chelsea falls into the former category, as her only defense to Troyzan’s assertion that there is no rational reason for some players to be in the game is “it’s just a game.” This catchphrase has been repeated in recent seasons by players such as Russell Hantz and Chase Rice or displayed in the thought processes of players such as Sash Lenahan and Albert Destrade. No, that’s not very company to be in. Troyzan falls into the latter category, as he ends the disagreement with a confessional about the real life parallels with the situation. This broader perspective has been linked with some of the most successful and heroic players. What makes the clash of ideas interesting though is the interpretation of both players.

From Chelsea’s perspective, Troyzan is acting villainous. He is being overly emotional and erratic. There is no purpose to acting as if he does. Her and Sabrina’s responses to Troyzan throughout the episode followed from there. They were often disgusted and offended at his behavior. Likewise, this analysis is what many fans are supporting this week. The fun loving fan of the game that Troyzan was has become a bitter old arrogant jerk.

From Troyzan’s perspective, the women are acting villainous. They are ingrates who used the men to get where they are and deserve to lose because of it. His determination and approach to the game over the rest of the episode followed from there. He refused to shift his focus from defeating those people who were succeeding off the backs of others. Fewer fans are supporting this analysis this week. It is a difficult position to take in modern society where gender roles have been blurred and relationships between them are growing in difficulty (the divorce rate is about 50%, here’s a complex table about it:

What is being questioned this season is the definition of manhood and womanhood. This particular episode explicitly asked what it means to be a man when Chelsea told Troyzan to, “Take it like a man.” In her estimation, manhood meant to live silently and happily the way Jonas did. However, there are two major problems with her assertion. First, Jonas’ situation was a lot different than Troyzan’s. He had no alliance with the women (though he could have been understandably angry at some of the men for voting for him). Second, and more importantly, why is “taking it” what a man does? When did the definition manhood become silently and stoically accepting reality? This is what Troyzan is referring to in his confessional of the women getting their stuff and ditching the men. I have to wonder, do modern men just take it because that is what they are told manhood is? What about fighting for what you believe in, want, and what is rightfully yours? That is what Troyzan is doing.

(Note: This discussion traces all the way back to the first Immunity Challenge where Troyzan defended the men’s choice to take the win whereas the women fought against it and Kim complained in a confessional that the action wasn’t very chivalrous. I asserted back then, against the prevailing tides, that the men weren’t made to look bad and stand by that assessment. It is Kim who is yearning for an archaic definition of manhood, and that may ultimately do her in as Troyzan isn’t going to take it chivalrously.)

The response to these questions is that it’s not that Troyzan is fighting, but how he is fighting. He’s being abrasive and rude, angering everyone that he could work with or will be a jury member. This, however, begs the ultimate question of Survivor: who defines what is moral, the individual or the collective? In my estimation, Survivor, especially of late, has continually come down on the side of the individual…and it did again this episode. Troyzan played the ultimate trump cards in his disagreement with Tarzan. He stated that he was acting within his personality (and by extension he wasn’t intentionally attempting to harm anyone else) and that he hoped everyone else would act toward him as he was acting toward them. He has his standards and that is what he holds himself and others too. Then at Tribal when he was explaining the proper move to Christina, Tarzan, Alicia, and Leif, he told them that the move wasn’t right for him, but for themselves. Yes, though it was exacerbated by the game, Troyzan argued the logical end of individualism—rational self-interest.

That is the concept Survivor has always, explicitly or implicitly, brought to the discussion table. That is what good storytelling does, creates a slightly unnatural exaggerate situation that places ideas and the actions that stem from them at odds. That is what has made Survivor One World such a great season so far. Kim versus Troyzan isn’t just Kim versus Troyzan, it’s The Head of the Snake versus Beyond the Charm. It has been my and this commission’s assessment that this season has always favored the latter, and this episode only strengthened our resolve. We urge to re-watch the episode, especially the auction and the challenges, with the above discussion in mind.