After last week’s breakneck premiere, Episode 2 took a moment to sit back and help us get to know the Heroes, Healers, and Hustlers fighting it out on the beach. It may not have been the most dynamic episode we’ve ever seen, culminating in a largely predictable boot, but Survivor gave us a clearer insight into the budding dynamics on each tribe.
We’re at the beginning of the season, and we’re at the beginning of the story. Last week, the show caught a lot of flak for severely under-editing the first one out, Katrina – and rightly so. The course correction this week gave some substance to the castaway sent packing, but also gave us a clear foundation for the narratives that we’ll follow in the months to come.
Grab a slice of cake, put on your party hats and let’s celebrate the birth of some exciting new stories.
BIRTH OF A POWER COUPLE
In the aftermath of Alan’s aggressive pot-stirring in the first three days, the Heroes camp was understandably turned on its head. Alan had hoped that his finger-pointing at the perceived “power couple” of Ashley & JP would cast suspicion on them, but it also unravelled his own security as his fellow Heroes grew suspicious of a player quite so erratic. What could have been a comfortable core-four majority was gone – compared to cracked, disintegrating old paint in an apt metaphor from Ben. Someone on the beach, however, was ready to apply a new coat of paint.
The narrative on Levu centres on the hotly contested notion of a “power couple.” As Ashley struggled to shake the stigma and JP fearfully tried to evade the label, a new – and secret – power couple was born as Chrissy turned the tables in her favour. She had no allies yet – but she had plenty of options amongst the fragments of the original core-four. Putting her actuarial mind to work, Chrissy took stock of her tribe, running the data to select her perfect match. JP – strong in challenges, but not too bright and things like that. Ashley – a good competitor, but a troubling connection to JP. Alan – far too erratic and unreliable. Ben – charming, likable and compatible. 98% match – a perfect partner.
Chrissy and Ben came together and seemed like a natural pairing from the first moment they talked strategy on the beach. With Ben’s charisma and Chrissy’s intelligence and a compatible outlook on the game, they agreed to work together and foresaw a long and fruitful partnership. With so much chaos in the tribe as the rivalry between Ashley & JP and Alan bubbling over, Ben & Chrissy’s newfound alliance put them in the driver’s seat of the tribe. A new power couple was born – and best of all – they kept it under wraps.
BIRTH OF AN IDOL
Another power couple was brewing at the Healers beach that just might make the most of it (unlike the lamenting JP). The flirtation between Jessica and Cole was hinted at in the premiere, but in a “super cute” moment out fishing on the raft, it became evident that their attraction to each other was growing. Romantic partnerships are always dangerous in the game of Survivor and for Cole and Jessica to be painting a target on their back is risky.
However, in the idyllic peace of a tribe full of generous personalities, there’s only one source of mischief, and it’s on Cole’s side. Hungry for the Idol and for power in the game, Joe had manufactured a scapegoat in Mike (who he begrudgingly admitted having grown fond of, even after their confrontation in the premiere), but he wanted the Idol. Snatching a rare moment of solitude as Desi, Mike & Roark fetched water and Cole & Jessica were out flirt-fishing, Joe fulfilled the expectation everybody had of him, scampering into the jungle like Tony Vlachos on an Idol Hunt. His efforts paid off as he located an Idol clue painted on the side of a tree.
This “twist” for the Idol clues was mentioned pre-season, but I was not sure it would add anything to the story. I’m always happy to be proven wrong on such things, and the ambiguous and public nature of the clue led Joe to make a potentially devastating mistake. Misinterpreting a symbol in the pictographic clue for the raft, Joe approached Cole and revealed everything – he’d found a clue, and he needed help finding the Idol. Naturally, Cole asked to be shown the clue and quickly recognised Joe’s mistake – the symbol on the picture represented the well, not the raft – and so the two snuck away and dug up the Idol, bringing new power into the game.
It’s a catch-22 when it comes to Idols and whether you should keep them secret or share them to build trust. Ostensibly, Joe’s collaboration with Cole and, in turn, Cole’s enabling of Joe’s Idol find could foster a new alliance between them. However, the risk is that the two – who didn’t appear to be working together before – don’t end up seeing eye to eye in the long run. Joe is playing with an eager intensity that could give him an upper hand or paint him as too dangerous. Cole brings a lot to the table physically and socially, but his budding showmance could make him an easy target. If favour in the tribe starts to swing against one in this fresh new partnership, there is extra motivation for the other to take them out. When someone else knows where the bodies are buried, sometimes it’s best to silence that secret.
BIRTH OF A RIVALRY
The Hustlers beach is where the episode really sprung to life. On track for Tribal Council, we saw plenty of Yawa beach and most memorably, the budding feud between hyperactive toddler Patrick and even-keeled non-nonsense Lauren. It’s not surprising that these two players butted heads, being polar opposite personalities despite their shared hard-working attributes. Whether it was jumping out of his skin dealing with crabs (maybe that crab in his pocket last week got a little too close for comfort and spawned a new fear), surveying his tribe’s dance skills or literally jumping up and down for no apparent reason, Patrick was unhinged. Constantly moving, constantly mischievous, constantly constant. The supercuts of his antics made for great b-roll for the viewer at home, but his erratic behaviour was exhausting. Patrick’s rationale was that his class-clowning would keep the mood light and fun around camp, but it seemed to have the opposite effect for some.
In Lauren’s case, that was a growing weariness of interacting with an unpredictable and loud personality. Survivor inherently requires people management, but this is not Lauren’s strong suit. Already alienated by her relative age on a tribe of twenty-somethings, she is also used to a solitary lifestyle as a commercial fisher. Dealing with someone like Patrick is as foreign as his atrocious attempt at an Australian accent. Naturally, Lauren’s instinct was to try to coordinate a way to take him out, drawing on outsider Simone and her growing rapport with Ali. The trouble was that Patrick had safety nets – his physical strength in challenges and his alliance with Ali.
When the Hustlers lost the Immunity Challenge – side note: the new signpost puzzle was a beautifully elegant element, and even though it was a throwaway feature, the reference to Survivor’s globe-trotting past was a nice touch given the show has put down some roots in Fiji) – Lauren’s desire to eliminate Patrick was brought to the fore, an alternative to the easy and obvious vote against Simone. Ultimately, it came down to the three in the middle, Ali and the quiet partnership of Ryan & Devon – for amongst the chaos of Patrick’s antics, strategy had a strong presence on the Hustler beach.
BIRTH OF A STRATEGY
Ali has finagled her way into an excellent position in her tribe. Her alliance with Patrick set a good tone, and even though she viewed him as expendable if the tide turned, she knew she would have a loyal ally. She also made a continued point of building rapport with the disenfranchised Simone and Lauren, as well as forming a strategic connection with Ryan and Devon to put her at the nexus of Yawa. Her efforts to listen to and hype up a shell-shocked Simone early in the episode, as well as her open ears to the disgruntled Lauren, are the mark of a really good player. Ali knows how to connect with people and how to engage with them in their own way to gain their trust, and even though she had to weigh up the lesser of two allies tonight, she is the conduit for the tribe.
Meanwhile, Ryan and Devon teamed up in the premiere, and their natural rapport has put them in a solid position. Devon admitted that he felt extremely comfortable talking strategy with Ryan, whose confident and outgoing personality is a refreshing spin on his archetype. Ryan appears to be the deal-maker in their partnership, seen hashing out the upcoming vote with Ali and putting a three-strong alliance on the table with her, which is a smart move. Ryan is going to succeed if he can play with intelligent people – game-savvy players like Devon and Ali are his necessity, unpredictable factors like the wild banshee Patrick or the weird outcast Simone are dangerous.
Ultimately, as the vote lay in the hands of this potential alliance of three, it ended up going the predictable way. It got rid of a mouth to feed, but it also secured the position of the strategists in the game, giving them a clear majority where the two outliers – Lauren and Patrick – are never going to work together. For Ryan & Devon and Ali, Tribal Council was an unpleasant birthday party, but at least they came home with a great lolly bag of opportunity.
FUNERAL FOR A HUSTLER
A lot of new alliances, rivalries and characters were born in tonight’s episode, but not everybody got a birthday party – unless you count a torch snuffing as blowing out the candles. Instead, Simone was in for a funeral.
Ryan spoke of the devastation of going home early, leaving your story unfinished, and Simone’s Survivor adventure certainly felt abbreviated. She was one of the standouts in the pre-season for her sharp wit and snarky attitude, but we saw very little of that personality on the show. Instead, she became an early outcast, uncomfortable living in the outdoors and struggling to build strong bonds with her tribemates.
In her interactions with the Hustlers, Simone was generally reserved and certainly seemed to be playing the “little sister” she spoke of pre-game. Even her efforts to grow and learn to deal with the harsh conditions, whether it be braving the aqua-dump or getting her hands dirty to gut a fish, Simone’s contribution to Yawa centred on her tribe supporting her rather than her contributing significantly to the tribe. However, she appeared more confident in confessionals. Her well-spoken articulation of Patrick’s drawbacks (“It’s very easy to have opinions about Patrick”) and her discussion of the need to “shape the narrative” of the vote revealed some savvy, but the writing was already on the wall for Simone. The narrative had already been shaped.
The first few days of Survivor are essential – if you don’t get a good foothold early or if you make a negative first impression, that’s all it can take. Simone clearly struggled out of the gate, and even with an unreliable quantity like Patrick in the mix, who boldly misspoke at Tribal about only trusting “most” of his tribe, she became an even more unreliable factor. She wasn’t involved in the drama with Patrick and Lauren, and she wasn’t involved in the strategic planning with Ali or Ryan or Devon. Because she was so disconnected from the growing Hustler narratives, she was an easy loose end to trim.
BIRTH OF A SEASON
With fascinating dynamics on each tribe, a cast full of unique personalities, and a mix of Idols, alliances, and rivalries already on the table, Heroes v Healers v Hustlers is gaining momentum. Let’s hope that we’ll be throwing many celebratory parties along the way as this season flourishes into a fun adventure.
Send me back to the bugs – I want to know where this story goes next.
OTHER SURVIVOR CONTENT