Welcome to Instant Reactions, a new weekly feature where I’ll be giving my immediate thoughts on the latest episode. These are unedited, unfiltered feelings on the episode, mostly written during the commercial breaks.
Blocked and Booted
How fitting that the player named Jason was booted on Halloween, eh? He was doomed the moment he said Elaine was a sitting chicken waiting to be slaughtered. It’s always over when the horror villain gets cocky!
Seriously, though, I feel kind of bad for Jason. There wasn’t much he could have done in this situation. The tribe was split 4-4, and before Elaine’s visit to the Island of the Idols, it certainly looked like the old Vokais had the advantage, as Aaron & Missy seemed committed to flipping. What can you do when a member of the opposition suddenly gets their hands on a Vote Blocker? There is no real way to combat that in this scenario, especially when you have no idea it’s coming.
I guess you could argue that Jason and the other Vokais underestimated Elaine. Both Jason and Lauren seemed to downplay Elaine’s chances of finding an advantage or making a strategic move. But even so, I don’t think cockiness is what caused Jason’s downfall here. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time—and the brief reason given for why he’d be targeted was that he was seen as smart and strategic.
Was this the right move for the old Lairo? In a vacuum, yes, there was no reason to give up a numbers advantage when they’ve already lost so many Lairo members. It was definitely the right move for Elaine, who, without this advantage, looked to be toast. But it gets a little bit more complicated for the other ex-Lairos, especially Aaron and Missy.
The problem that could be facing Aaron and Missy in the long-run is that they made promises to the Vokais. As soon as the swap happened last week, Aaron & Missy were quick to rid themselves of the orange buff and pledge their allegiance to purple. As Aaron said, he was looking ahead to the future and had all but given up Elaine. It wasn’t a terrible move in theory… it just happened way too early, before the tribe had even lost a challenge.
Once Elaine got hold of the advantage, they had no real choice but to go back on their word—as I said, they’d have been stupid to throw away such a lifeline. So while they momentarily have a numbers advantage, Aaron & Missy have just made themselves untrustworthy to three other players… and they were already sketchy in Elaine’s eyes from back on Lairo.
Nothing I say here can express just how powerful that conversation was between Jamal and Jack. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the subject of race, cultural biases, and white male privilege discussed in such an honest, open, and well-articulated manner on Survivor… or on any reality show for that matter.
It all started with a misguided, insensitive “joke” from Jack, who referred to Jamal’s buff as a “durag.” Jamal was quick to highlight why this was inappropriate and hurtful, and he did it in such a thoughtful and intelligent manner. As he stated, it might not seem like a big issue to many, but the implications behind the “joke” are deep-seated and complicated. It perpetuates a stereotype of black men. A caricature.
This didn’t turn into an argument. Nor was it brushed aside. Jamal and Jack sat down and had a real, honest, human conversation. These issues are hardly ever discussed in this kind of depth on a show like Survivor because, as Jamal pointed out, they are playing a game. People always have to be aware of their social capital, and that sometimes means biting your tongue, even when it comes to deeply personal issues. Jamal recognized how badly it could be taken, that he could be perceived as “coming on too strong” for airing his grievances.
But what we got was one of the best scenes Survivor has ever put to air. Jack apologized, and Jamal shared his experiences, and something was learned, not just by Jack, but I’m sure by many viewers too. “White straight men have a long way to go when it comes to self-awareness,” said Jamal. An incredible moment and one that proves why diversity in casting is a must.
Rob & Sandra’s Bamboo Mansion
Did you see the size of that thing? The shelter, I mean, get your mind out of the gutter! Come to think of it, did the shelter have guttering? It wouldn’t surprise me. It’s like they were building a hotel over there.
There’s no way Rob & Sandra built that from island materials alone, is there? Where the hell did they get the ladder? Maybe Angelina left it behind from her 100ft idol climb in David vs. Goliath. The shelter looked about 100ft tall, so the ladder would be appropriate. But yeah, I’m thinking production was a bit more generous with the supplies over on Island of the Idols.
As for this week’s test, it was short and sweet. The sand timer was a nice touch. And the “grab advantage during challenge” is always a winner. Elaine almost had herself a Sharn Coombes* moment though at the challenge with her butterfingers. (*In Australian Survivor, an idol slipped out of Sharn’s pants in front of the entire tribe).
Other Bits & Pieces
-The best part of the IOI twist continues to be Rob and Sandra’s Tribal commentary. The highlight this week was Rob trying to keep Sandra quiet during her giggling fit, like a couple at the movie theater.
-Noura, bless her heart, just can’t seem to get people to work with her. Even Dean, who is a goofball in his own right, and is clearly on the bottom of the Lairo tribe, turned down her offer of an alliance because he thought she was crazy. A shame—I really wanted to see Detective Dean and Deputy Noura as a Survivor buddy cop story.
-I didn’t touch on it earlier with the Jamal/Jack stuff, but there was another wonderful moment before the race talk, where Jamal was teaching Kellee some classic West African dances. It’s moments like that that remind you of Survivor’s appeal beyond the strategy and idols and blindsides. It’s a melting pot of people from all different walks of life sharing their stories with each other.