Oh man, here we go.
With literal earworms, a neck-and-neck immunity challenge, and a poorly timed aqua dump, I think it’s safe to say Survivor: Kaôh Rōng had a pretty memorable first episode.
For my first blog of the season, I want to talk about some of the players who stood out to me and what I’m expecting from them in the future. Next week I’ll get back to overanalyzing commercials.
Jason: Jason, along with Scot and Jennifer, really took control of the Brawn tribe right from the start. He’s assertive and tough, and he found his people quickly, but none of that is why Jason stood out to me. In his bio, Jason talks about how he believes Russell Hantz is the only player ever to do Survivor right and how he plans to emulate Hantz (in particular, making things disappear even more quickly) in his game. So far, the only emulation of Hantz I have seen is Jason’s degradation of Alecia by referring to her as “Blondie.” Could this be strategic? Yeah, sure. When you give someone a fake name like that, other people around you may start to use it as well. It can psychologically make the victim appear less-than-human, or, in the case of Survivor, less appealing to work with. It’s probably the most effective kind of bullying you could imagine in a game like this. In interviews, Jeff Probst has talked about how a central theme of the season will be bullying.
So why does Jason stand out to me? He appears to be an effective bully, something we don’t see very often. I think he will be around for a little while, getting “strong” people to gang up on “weak” people, at least until the meek revolt.
Caleb: I want to hate Caleb so, so badly. I want to hate his dumb nickname and its dumb matching belt buckle. That said, despite being a pr**k to Tai and his tree, Caleb received a sympathetic edit. We heard about his passion and his service and his determination in the first episode. If I were unaware of the Big Brother shenanigans, I would like Caleb a lot. He’s being built up as the hero of the Beauty tribe, and I think he can pull in allies from any group he might end up with throughout the season. Also, Reddit user YopHop123 pointed out a trend from the pre-season videos posted to Survivor’s YouTube page.
Look, it was probably a total coincidence, but I got a kick out of it. And who knows, maybe his face will be on the DVD box too.
Joe: The Brains tribe almost instantly broke up into two groups: the four younger and the two older. Joe, being one of the oldest people to ever play, is clearly on the targeted side of this divide. Still, I wouldn’t count Joe out. I tend to have a bit of extra faith in players whose first confessionals involve descriptions of who they are. Wouldn’t we want to get to know those, in the long run, better than those on the edge of elimination? Personally, I think Liz and Neal are in more trouble than Debbie and Joe, but we’ll get to that later.
I don’t think Joe is going to be the one puppet mastering any big moves. That said, I do think he can hold his own in challenges and will prove to be more cohesive within his tribe than some may have initially thought. There’s even a clip in the previews of Joe calling out Liz for being irritating, so maybe he’ll be planting a few ideas in his tribe mates’ heads. Joe isn’t an expendable ally; he’s focused and able. And it should be noted that the Brains killed that first challenge. If they continue to perform well, Joe might not have to worry about tribal council.
Debbie: Choo choo! All aboard the Debbie train! Debbie doesn’t exactly fit into any typical mold, and it appears she may be bothering a few of her tribe mates. That said, her good intent to help the well-being of the tribe is clear and present, and everyone knows it. No one will worry about Debbie scheming. When Aubry had an emotional breakdown, Debbie was there to take care of her. Debbie is the kind of person you could tell all your problems to without the worry of being judged because she’s been through it all. Yeah, she’s eccentric, but she’s not stupid, and she’s not oblivious. It may sound ridiculous, but I don’t think the divide on the Brains tribe is as defined as it appears. In fact, I think Joe, Debbie and Aubry could probably conspire to take out Liz together (as I touched on in the Joe segment). I get the feeling Liz is more likely to come off as a know-it-all and bother people with her smartness, where Debbie is just quirky.
Tai: Tai could go one of two ways: he’ll be the first person voted off the Beauty tribe, or he’ll find his way into a solid alliance and stick around for most of the game. His first episode framed him as different and sneaky as he clearly stood out amongst his Beauty tribe mates, and then got caught idol searching.
Now, we can make the argument that Tai is in trouble for, y’know, playing the game, or we can realize that everyone on that tribe wants that idol too, and that it’s understood that Tai is looking for it. I said it about Stephen in Cambodia and it applies here too, there’s no way only one person went out idol hunting. Tai was likely featured because he just happened to be caught in the act and/or he is making progress in his search. If the Beauty tribe loses immunity, I still believe there’s a decent shot of Tai teaming up with the three girls to take out someone like Nick, who hasn’t really been given much character other than “hot guy,” as the three haven’t appeared to pledge loyalty to anyone except each other yet. Basically what I’m saying is, don’t lose all hope for Tai because he made an early mistake… also the previews seem to imply that he’s about to find an idol anyways.
Julia: I’m starting to think I was way too hard on Julia in my pre-game analysis. She didn’t get a lot of screen time in the premiere, but in the time she had, she came off incredibly well to me. Her and Michele were shown analyzing the men on their tribe. They were being thoughtful and cooperative, easily fitting in with the tribe. Basically, I believe Julia will be able to find herself on the right side of the vote regardless of what goes down on Beauty. Everything that comes out of Anna’s mouth feels rehearsed, Nick had little-to-no substance in his confessionals, lord knows I can’t tell what’s going on between Caleb and Tai (especially with the previews; is Taileb going to be a thing?), but Julia simply made it clear that she’s not just a pretty face, but a hard worker and someone who is good at making friends quickly. I think if she starts asserting herself and her ideas to her alliance, they will follow without feeling commanded or forced. I’ve got high hopes for Julia, and not just because I want to see a fellow college kid do well.
That’s all for this week, but feel free to tweet me @JacobDerwin if you want to tell me how wrong I am or just chat about players that stood out to you. Next week we’ll get back to the original Next Time On… Survivor format and chat about the preview materials and commercials in more detail! Thanks for reading!