Survivor: Worlds Apart has an old school approach in terms of editing and characterisation. The episodes so far have managed to sustain a perfect balance of strategy talk and character building. The edit split relatively fairly among the contestants, each of them getting their moment to shine. Even if one character isn’t featured a lot one week (Tyler, Kelly, Sierra, Max) then you can bet the next week they’ll get their turn in the limelight.
But most of all this season is funny. Sometimes for the wrong reasons but funny nonetheless. If you look back at the early seasons, such as Borneo and Australian Outback, they can seem boring to a modern day Survivor viewer who is used to strategy dominating the narrative. But there was a reason those seasons were so popular and took America by storm, and that was because they had humor, silliness, and a human element that often falls by the wayside in recent seasons. Survivor: Worlds Apart has had a decent amount of laughs so far, intentional and unintentional, from monkey sex to manties, to bromances and foot warts, and basically anything that Rodney says or does.
Even in this week’s merge episode, usually an episode heavily focused on strategy, this cast provided moments of hilarity which the editors took the time out to highlight.
Let’s get this out of the way first – Merica has to go down surely as one of the worst tribe names ever in the history of Survivor? But it’s also unintentionally hilarious and perfectly sums up this season and its players. While I agree with Shirin that it makes them sound “like a bunch of redneck idiots,” I think that getting all up in arms about how horrific the name is is rather pointless. Even if Mike, Hali, and co truly believe in what ‘Merica stands for (it stands for nothing, it isn’t a real word), you can’t watch the enthusiastic smile on Mike’s face and not just feel like okay, Mikey boy, we’ll let you have this one. It’s so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh.
Speaking of unbridled enthusiasm, how excited was Shirin to potentially reenact a John Carroll and Kathy Vavrick-Obrien moment when Dan got stung by a jellyfish? Unfortunately, Dan had already peed on it himself even though lifeguard Jenn told him that that doesn’t help anything. But to be fair to Dan, the last time someone took Jenn’s advice after getting attacked by a creature of the sea they ended up sticking their wart covered feet in the drinking pot and were subsequently voted out. Even in the jam-packed merge episode, the producers allowed time out for these comical detours that have nothing to do with strategy or gameplay.
But what is it with people getting stung this season? First Max and the stingray, then Dan and the jellyfish, and then Jenn got attacked by bees.
As if trying to hold on to a 13 ft pole after two weeks of starvation and suffering in the wilderness wasn’t bad enough, a bee comes along and zaps you in the crotch? Are you serious life? Indeed! I enjoy simple challenges like this one. It’s a superb insight into how each person is playing the game, and it shows you how much each person wants it. My pick to win this one was either Hali or Joe, and while Hali did okay, Joe beasted the challenge and continues his ascent into Malcolm-hood.
However, Jenn was also doing well until she was attacked.
Blues vs. Reds
As predicted, the merge led to a standoff between the former Blue Collars and the old No Collars with the White Collars as the swing votes. But there were a couple of twists along the way. First of all Rodney, still upset about his bro Joaquin been voted out, decided to put on his “hustle pants” (cockney slang for Russell Hantz) and form a sub-alliance with Will from the No Collars, Carolyn from the White Collars, and Kelly from the Blue Collars. His plan was to stick with Mike and the Blues for now and then at the Final 7 use this four to take out Mike, Dan, and Sierra. Like always with Rodney, the idea, in theory, wasn’t a bad one, and for all purposes, it could have worked. But Rodney chose the wrong people, Carolyn and Kelly are much more loyal to other people already.
With his new foursome seemingly in place, Rodney was happy to continue working with Mike and the Blues for the time being. The target was Joe until he won Individual Immunity and then the target was switched to Jenn; this put Carolyn, Tyler and Shirin in the swing vote position. Shirin, however, saw how powerful and potentially dangerous the Blue Collars were, especially Kelly who had unwavering loyalty to Mike, so Shirin stuck her flag to the No Collars. Shirin made it clear at Tribal Council when she said: “I don’t think I’m a swing.” That builds loyalty and trust, rather than coming across wishy-washy.
Carolyn and Tyler were the two true swing votes of the episode, and they relished in it, especially Tyler. I think there is a risk of becoming too arrogant when you’re in the swing position; the power can go to your head, and you think you’re untouchable. The way Tyler was speaking to people, Mike, in particular, could have rubbed him the wrong way. That’s not to say Carolyn and Tyler necessarily made a bad move here because their siding with the Blue Collars was technically the right move but unfortunately for them; Jenn played her idol perfectly, and Kelly ended up getting the boot.
The biggest mistake that the Blues and Carolyn and Tyler made here was not doing a proper risk assessment and taking into account the potential use of an idol. I complained in previous blogs about alliances splitting votes so early in the game, but that is because the utilization of an idol in the first few days is relatively rare; especially when you’re in a tribe of only six people, splitting votes is a significant risk. But the merge episode has a history of idol usage throughout Survivor, in fact, eight idols have been played at the merge since Samoa. And with 12 people and a clear divide the chances of someone playing an idol is a definite possibility, so why the Blues didn’t think to split votes is a big blunder on their part.
Jenn’s idol play was one of the most perfectly played idols in recent memory. It tied the record set by Russell Hantz in Samoa for most votes negated by an idol (a Kelly also went home that night). How did she know how to play it? You have to suspect Shirin came in very handy here. Jenn, Joe, and Hali were the ones on the outs, as Will had defected to the Blue corner, so clearly nobody was telling any of those three the voting plan. Shirin is the only one in that alliance that either the Blues or Carolyn/Tyler would have approached to tell her how to vote. If Shirin then relayed this information to the No Collars, they would know that everyone was voting for either Hali or Jenn. Jenn used an essential sense of perception and intuition to realize that the votes were coming to her not Hali and correctly played her idol.
Where does that leave things for next week? Well, on paper, Jenn, Hali, Joe, and Shirin are still drastically outnumbered, but there are so many wild cards that could change that. Will was told to vote for Hali by the Blues because they wanted to test his loyalty. With Jenn and Hali both staying, this could end up backfiring, as now Will might distrust the Blues. Will could very well join back up with his No Collar crew especially if they don’t realize it was him who voted for Hali. Then there is Rodney; he still holds bitterness towards Mike and is desperate to make a move. And of course we still have Carolyn and Tyler in the middle, maybe they will regroup and form a new plan or a new alliance; Carolyn also still has an idol remember
As far as picks to win go, I’m still happy with my trio of Hali, Jenn, and Mike in that order. Jenn’s stock went way up this episode with a masterful idol play. I’m not the type that thinks playing an idol automatically makes you a great player, but I believe that it’s the kind of thing that is easily recognizable as a “big move” by a jury. If Jenn makes it all the way to the Final Tribal Council, she will likely be rewarded for it. On the flip side, Jenn has just made the target on her back even bigger as she has now revealed herself as a dangerous player; the Blues will want her out as much as Joe. That’s why I think Hali is just slightly ahead of Jenn in winner potential because I think if those two do end up in a bad position, Jenn will always be targeted first, and Hali will have time to reintegrate.
In the meantime, is Rodney smart?