Last week I talked about all the positives of this current season of Survivor, from the editing, the characterisation, the humor. But today I think we need to discuss the negatives. There is a tone to this season that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. its been there since the very start, this overarching theme of misogyny and intolerance. It reared its head most prominently in Episode 4 at the Blue Collar camp with Dan and Rodney’s insensitive comments about Lindsey and Sierra and women in general. But it has been present at the other camps too, most notably the White Collar tribe’s reaction to Shirin’s naked activities as opposed to Max’s equally naked antics.
Because this season has been relatively strong and featured lots of comical moments it has been easy for the most part to laugh these incidents off and chalk them up to uninformed idiots spouting ridiculous tripe. But the consistent misogynistic nature of this season continues to be a driving force and last night it wasn’t so easy to just laugh it off anymore. The comments made by a particular castaway seemed to be coming from a place of real hate and anger and unbelievable stupidity.
Okay Dan, here are some life lessons. If you don’t know how to pronounce a person’s name because it isn’t a traditional white Christian name then perhaps politely ask them how to pronounce it. Intentionally mispronouncing it or calling them “whatever her name is” is borderline xenophobic and deeply intolerant. Although maybe I just expect too much from a man who can’t even spell the words outwit, outplay, and outlast.
Probst himself certainly isn’t Gloria Steinem when it comes to women’s rights issues, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the enthusiasm Jeff took in telling Dan he was wrong, not once but twice, in the Immunity Challenge. If Dan weren’t such a failure in every aspect of this game, from the challenges to the strategy to the social, then he’d be a dangerous man. “Somebody just slap this woman. For the love of god somebody slap her and shut her up already.” No matter what way you slice it, that isn’t acceptable in any context. He didn’t say it with any sense of wit or irony; it wasn’t Dan trying to be snarky or tongue in cheek like a Boston Rob or a Corinne Kaplan, it came with real venom and malice.
Earlier in the season, Rodney made a comment about slapping Lindsey; that was pretty dumb too, but if I’m not mistaken Rodney was quoting a Jim Carrey line from Liar, Liar. While still not the smartest comment to make, at least with Rodney there was a sense of awareness and humor behind the remark. I know Dan wanted to come on this season and make an impact so that he’d be remembered forever but is this the way he wants to do it? Not only is he displaying one of the worst social games ever seen but he’s lost any appeal he might have had for viewers.
Hopefully, this is all setting Dan up for a huge downfall later in the season, preferably at the hands of Shirin. I don’t understand the intolerance and disrespect that has been shown to Shirin by many of the people on this show. What is it about her? Her super fandom can be overbearing, yes, I understand that. It is natural for human beings to get irritated with each other, especially if you are sharing close quarters in a high-pressure situation. I can accept that. But it seems to go beyond just a mild annoyance into something more personal and deeply rooted. It isn’t fun to watch, particularly since these perpetrators continue to stay in the game at the expense of the likable players, like Hali.
Alright, I hold my hands up, I was wrong. Hali has been my winner pick since around Episode 3 and last night she was tragically voted out. While Hali had a somewhat under-the-radar edit, she always had confessional time every episode, and the way she approached the game seemed to suggest an awareness of its social complexities. I felt that was a good sign of a potential winner in the same school as a Danni Boatwright or Natalie White. A couple of weeks ago Hali had a confessional which boiled Survivor down into a basic yet perceptive summation of the game: “Just be a decent person. That’s how you get far in Survivor. Don’t be a weirdo. Don’t be annoying. Don’t be inconsiderate. You’ll do okay.”
It was a big over-simplification because Survivor is one of the most complex game shows ever created, but at its heart, it tapped into the key element of the game – the social aspect. Practically every winner won their season because they were more liked than the person they were up against in the finals. Yes, you can talk about who had the better strategy or who won more challenges or who played more idols, but primarily people vote for the person they like more. Hali seemed to grasp that concept, and I thought that was a good sign for her. Unfortunately, this season is full of indecent people, and when those people are working together, it’s difficult for the decent folk to stand a chance. But rest assured, in the end, the type of person that Hali describes will win this game.
With Hali gone I have to look at my second and third picks to win, which are Jenn and Mike, respectively. Mike had a good episode. He complimented Jenn on her idol play at the last Tribal Council. He blew up Joe’s chances of looking for and finding the idol. He then found the idol himself and kept his alliance in line on voting Hali out. Mike is currently in a good spot; he has numbers, he is surrounded by goats (Dan, Rodney, Will) and has an idol nobody knows about in his pocket. But one of the main reasons Mike is in such a good position currently is because of boy wonder Joe.
Let’s face it; Joe is pretty much the second coming of Ozzy with slightly more strategic sense. His choices on who to take on the reward were almost spot on, except he probably should have taken Sierra instead of Shirin to help build a bond; although then we would have missed out on Shirin’s excitement and zip line failures. Joe has won three challenges in a row and has clearly painted himself, with a little help from Probst, as the biggest target in the game.
So how is this good for Mike? Well, as Mike himself said in this episode, after Joe goes, then he will become the next big target; this is the reason why Mike said he needed the idol so badly. That is a great awareness from Mike, but I think he is missing what could potentially be a great strategy. Mike should try and keep Joe in the game as a shield for himself. The longer Joe stays, the longer he remains the number one target and people will keep Mike around to lead the charge against Joe. Joe winning all these challenges might be a source of frustration for Mike, but it is simultaneously a reason why Mike himself is still in the game.
My second winner pick, Jenn, had a quiet episode apart from her growing hate towards Dan and Rodney. We all feel you there, Jenn. I’m not sure how high her chances are now that her numbers are dwindling, but I do know that unlike Mike, who is benefiting from Joe’s challenge dominance, Jenn is, in fact, suffering from it. Every time Joe has immunity, it means someone else from his alliance becomes the target. Hali took the bullet this week; you have to believe Jenn would be next in line if Joe wins immunity again next week. The best bet for Jenn right now would be for Joe to lose the Immunity Challenge and have him voted out. That way, she and Shirin become way less of a threat and the Blue Collar alliance might start turning on each other.
It’s a real shame that the girl’s alliance didn’t work out. I expected a lot more from Sierra based on her words earlier in the season when she said the Blue Collar tribe was dead to her. But she has voted with them every week since. It would be unfair to criticize Sierra for this, as jumping ship to the No Collar + Shirin alliance would have been a risky move. They would still have needed one more vote to take the majority, and that meant one of the Carolyn, Tyler, Will trio flipping too. Will has proven to be a wild card with his votes. And Carolyn and Tyler are smooth operators who are difficult to read. Sierra couldn’t make this move without 100% assurance; if she took the leap and it backfired then she goes from a potentially Top 3 position to maybe the next one out.
Right now the Blue Collar + Carolyn, Tyler, and Will alliance are in control and all have their sights set on taking down Joe. I think until Joe is gone nothing will shake up that dramatically. Rodney has his pieces in place or at least thinks he does, and will start chopping away at Mike and his allies at the Final 7. It is a solid strategy in theory but Rodney’s plans never seem to come to fruition, and I think if Joe goes next week then people like Carolyn and Tyler aren’t going to wait around for Final 7 to make a move against Mike. I guess we shall wait and see.
Until next time…