It's been a wild week--I watched the second episode on Thursday and wanted to listen to a few podcasts about the episode before writing my response, so apologies on the lateness of this installment. I’ll be discussing developments at each camp, the tribal council, and my general thoughts on the the deception of the reality show format.
A few interesting developments this week. When we left off with the first episode, things weren’t looking so great for Tai, one of my personal early favs personality-wise. After a promising start where it seemed possible he’d be able to align himself with the girls, he threw it all away in one of the most ill-timed idol searches of all time. It would be an understatement to say I was bummed to see him put such a huge target on his back and was thrilled when beauty stayed out of the first tribal council because I felt pretty convinced that with a few more days, he could win his tribe over. So this episode Tai actually finds the idol in a locked chest, but then realizes he needs to scale a tree in order to get the key to open the chest. He gives it his best try, bloodying his feet in the process before realizing his life in the game is perhaps slightly less important than his literal life and decides to hold off. The reveal of this complicated idol situation makes sense. They shared with the audience that this season, two idols could be joined together to form one super idol which could be played after the votes had been read. Given that people generally keep the fact that they have an idol to themselves so as not to put a huge target on their back, it would be fitting that they’d make getting the idol complicated enough that you might need to enlist the help of someone else, thereby establishing a partnership and setting you up for working with someone.
Back to the beauty camp, I loved the evolution of the friendship between Caleb and Tai. I really thought I wouldn’t like Caleb coming into this season. I made so many assumptions about him and in the previews for this episode they showed Tai seeming to go in for a kiss with Caleb who in turn made a wide eyed expression of surprise and confusion. It was interesting to see this play out only to realize that they were actually forming a super adorable bromance and that Caleb was super chill about the whole thing. It really won me over and made me wonder if perhaps Nick is in trouble, as he was virtually non-existent this episode and doesn’t seem to be forming bonds with anyone.
Unfortunately, Debbie seems to be digging herself a deeper and deeper grave. It’s hard to tell if this is just the producers throwing us a red herring, but she certainly seems to be getting on everyone’s nerves quite a bit. I was unable to keep myself from physically cringing when she cheered on her team from the sidelines during the challenge with what looked like homemade pom poms fashioned out of dead fronds. Just no.
There seems to be a prominent rivalry dynamic forming, and that is between Liz/Neil vs. Debbie/Joe. When the beauty tribe won the challenge they received a fully loaded fire making kit. Joe managed to waste most of their kerosene? propane? causing Liz to become frustrated. Joe and Debbie also seemed completely fine with drinking unboiled water (leading James and me to wonder if this is perhaps foreshadowing for some medical evacuations?), while Liz rightly insists on playing it safe and keeping their water pathogen free even if it takes a bit more work. Liz was at least smart enough to recognize when she was getting too riled up and went to do an interview confessional and cool down, but sure made it seem like these two sets of twosomes will be the core of the dominant and minority alliances, leaving the power up to floaters Aubry and Peter.
Speaking of Peter, I was impressed this episode. I know I was down on Peter last time, but I think he has the potential to go far in this game. As a doctor, he really understands how to placate others and tell them what they need to hear in order to help them calm down. In fact, he was the only one who I saw really stoking Debbie’s ego which seems to be a good strategy for befriending her. He seemed to be playing both sides of the tribe without coming off as two-faced, an impressive (and highly useful) skill in the game of Survivor.
For a tribe which everyone expected to beast through challenges, Brawn this season is simply a hot mess. They have the worst wilderness skills out of any of the tribes, the most in-tribe contention, bullying sub-alliances, and have now lost the first two challenge in a row. It’s not looking so good.
The episode started out with some pretty strong buyer’s remorse tribe-wide on keeping Alecia, who seemingly rubbed everyone the wrong way with her stupidity and general airhead qualities and—while the edit is at least partially to blame—the producers can’t make this up. She spent FIVE. HOURS. trying to start the fire and finally succeeded, but only after she had morned the loss of the “embryo” that had briefly burned before going out. Embryo.
So here’s where it gets interesting, because I would be writing a very different recap had I written it right after watching the episode vs. writing it now. This is due to the fact that I like to listen to the podcasts put out by Rob Cesternino, two-time Survivor contestant and host of the creatively-titled “Rob Has a Podcast.” During Survivor season, he puts out five episodes a week related to each Survivor episode. One of the most illuminating is always the half hour interview he does with the contestant who has just been voted out.
The editing strongly suggested that Jennifer, having how recovered from her traumatic bug-in-the-ear incident, decided it was the perfect time to make a big move and approach Alecia and Cydney with the idea of an all-girls alliance to take out the men…who were her two closest allies. Off to a great start. Then, at Tribal, it’s clear she’s decided to stay loyal but also for some reason thinks it would be a great plan to be honest with the guys about the fact that things were “up in the air” at the beach when Jeff asks. She seems to dig herself the biggest hole, eventually getting up on the bench and standing with her arms wide proclaiming her allegiance to Scot, Jason and Cydney, before she gets promptly voted out of the game as Alecia somehow weasels her way out of her second time at the chopping block.
It all seemed a bit fishy to me. I get the concept of wanting to make big moves, but this was decidedly too early and she had far too much to lose. In her interview with Rob, she shed some light on the situation, saying that it WAS Alecia who had come up with the original plan (even though it had been edited to make Jenn sound like a liar when she was calling out Alecia as the instigator), and that she felt like Jason and Cydney had already made up their minds before going into tribal council which left her with the only option she felt like she could take in a last-ditch attempt to prove her allegiance: pure, unadulterated honesty.
This makes total sense to me. It’s so interesting to remember that while it is a reality show, everything is so fabricated and biased based on how the editors splice their footage together. There are times when I tend to forget this fact, thinking I’m aware of the way in which they throw in red herrings to keep the person who gets voted off a surprise, emphasize drama which doesn’t actually exist (such as the preview with Tai going in for the kiss with Caleb seeming to suggest it would be a big point of contention).
I’m curious to see if Brawn tribe will go the route of Matsing from Season 25: Phillipines, another tribe from a three-tribe season, who went to tribal council four times in a row until they were down to their last two, only to have those two underdog their way right into the final four (with one ultimately winning the game after breaking records for surviving every single tribal council in the season). It seems unlikely, but you never know...Brawn tribe sure does seem pretty dysfunctional and not capable of catching food for themselves, a bad combination for group challenges. I am kind of curious to see one of the other two tribes called to tribal, just to see how the tribe dynamics shake out when push comes to shove and talk gives way to action. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what goes down on Wednesday night!