SurvivorSurvivor Caramoan

DECODING THE EDIT: Haves & Have Nots

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Jeff told us that, at the Fans’ camp, everything was upside down, the strong were on the bottom, while the alliance of the weak (Laura, Sherri and Matt shown) controlled the game.

< “It’s the revenge of the Nerds“ >

What they couldn’t control was their ally Shamar. He threatened to quit, but Sherri and Laura convinced him to stay.

At the Favorites’ camp, everything was working out (we see Phil…working out), spirits were high and Malcolm and Corinne found an immunity idol.

At the immunity challenge, Laura struggled and the Fans lost their second challenge in a row.

Facing Tribal Council, Laura convinced Reynold that the tribe was voting for Shamar again.

For the second Tribal council in a row, Shamar was spared and Eddie and Reynold were duped.

This was more like a reset than a recap. Forget that the couples were the foolish Kool Kids; by saying that everything was upside down, Jeff made it sound as if the nerds had no reason, didn’t even deserve, to be in charge. Laura was singled out as the only reason why the Fans lost even if, last week, we had seen that the Fans were in it to the very end, Eddie losing it in extremis to Brandon.

At the same time, none of the drama in Bikal mattered, everything was working out fine. Normally, I’d say the picture is too rosy over at Bikal but, with the way editing is going lately, maybe what we see is what we get.

Haves – Have Nots

Gota – Night 7

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“It’s mind boggling to me.”

Eddie wanted to know where the tribe was headed.

Michael was first to reply but Sherri jumped in, saying they didn’t vote the way Eddie wanted them to vote.

Eddie in interview: “It’s mind boggling to me. We got rid of Hope because she was the prettiest one here and she was a threat to everybody because of that. Laura can’t lift 20 pounds, she’s still here, she’s the weakest link on our team. I don’t care too much for any of these people right now.”

Reynold told Laura that she made him feel like the biggest idiot ever. He then turned to the whole tribe: “I don’t want to be associated with any of you guys. I don’t respect you.”

Eddie added: “Get rid of me and Reynold and see how many challenges you win.”

Michael replied: “We’re not winning with you guys.”

Reynold gave us a confessional the next morning: “Now, it’s pretty much over for Eddie and I. Our backs are completely up against the wall. I have the immunity idol still so that’s going to protect me but Eddie could be screwed.”

Bikal – Day 8

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The Conqueror & The Silent One

Phillip had another occasion to give us his thoughts: “As the Specialist, one of the things you have to do – and Napoleon knew this when he went to Waterloo. He knew he couldn’t pay his troops, he knew he didn’t have money so he gave them names and honor. – When you obtain a name in Stealth-R-Us, it means that you are a person who is loyal. In the case of Brandon, I’ll give him a name but not in the reason that I would normally do it. It’s just to give him a sense that he belongs and, hopefully, as we say in the business, contain that threat.”

I don’t know if the book he’s peddling talks a lot about Napoleon but, if it were me, I’d quote Napoleon at Austerlitz, not at Waterloo! I’d rather follow the advice that led to the Emperor’s biggest victory instead of the ones that led to his defeat. Does it mean that Bikal, like “La Grande Armée,” is doomed? Maybe not, but the Specialist is going to Ponderosa as certainly as Napoleon went to Saint Helena!

Phillip told Brandon he was impressed: “You have what it takes to be officially a member of Stealth-R-Us. Your name is…the Conqueror.”

Brandon then gave us his reaction: “It took me 9 days of kissing butt to infiltrate Special Agent Phillip’s alliance. Phillip is supposed to discern who’s lied to him. I’m lying to him. This secret agent sucks bad.”

Despite Brandon’s words, we heard why Phillip gave him that nickname and there was an animal shown during that scene that fell asleep once the pair shook hands. The message seemed clear: Phillip put Brandon to sleep long enough for Bikal to gain a strong majority and then the Conqueror becomes superfluous. That realization could be what leads to nest week’s meltdown.

Phillip then “christened” Erik the “Silent One.”

It seems that Erik’s lack of confessional isn’t strictly an editing choice!

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“Serenity now, Serenity now”

In private, Andrea reacted: “It kind of makes me upset that Phillip gives people not in our alliance a name. He gave Brandon a name. OK! I like that idea actually. He should have come to me first but I like that Brandon has a name. But then, Phillip gives Erik a name. So what, are we going to give Brenda a name? I mean seriously.”

Sure enough, Brenda gladly became “Serenity”.

Andrea was shown trying to contain herself.

I wonder if Andrea was saying “Serenity now, Serenity now” but that wouldn’t work for her any more than it did for George! It would only upset her more. It’s noteworthy though that we still heard Andrea’s reaction to all this in an episode that meant nothing for the Favorites as far as game decisions were concerned. Should we make anything about seeing Andrea giving a headlock to Brandon and taking him down at the same time that Phillip called her the Eliminator? I don’t think there will be much strategy involved in eliminating Brandon. It should be a foregone conclusion but I will be keeping an eye on the role she’s given in that elimination.

Phillip had another confessional: “You can’t have an operation of this magnitude unless the Specialist is here in Caramoan island. That’s why I am here: To make sure we pull together as a cohesive unit and we continue to win challenges. That’s the goal.”

Note that there is no irony directly attached to this confessional because the Favorites did win the challenge. There was no kooky music heard during this whole scene so there is no long term foreshadowing. Despite Phillip’s goofiness, his “operation” is working. I also took note that his goal is strictly to win challenges so, by his own words, Phillip is disconnected from the end game. He will be in a nice place at the merge but then he will meet his Waterloo.

The Challenge:

For some reason, the cameras focused on Malcolm when Jeff announced that Hope had been eliminated. Remember that Hope had been the one shown reacting to Malcolm’s arrival. For payoff, I’ve seen much better…

Airai had “broken” this challenge the last time so Jeff told them that they couldn’t carry the girls this time. The ones holding the planks had to stay still while holding someone, moving only when there was no one on their plank.

Fun things to note:

– We heard Erik saying that he hates knots. Will that come into play later on?

– Andrea ordered her tribe to take bigger steps: “Go far, go far, really far.” Almost simultaneously, we heard the “shaky” Laura asking her helpers to come closer. The message was clear: Andrea is much stronger than Laura.

– The Faves said that Phillip had to go first on the platform. Does that mean he also leaves first?!

– This was the third time that we saw a whole tribe have to get together on a small platform. Shamar tried something new. That was weird and it made me wonder how many of them had seen this challenge before? The Faves had no problem doing it the old fashioned way.

Reynold gave an interview after the challenge: “Laura slowed us down. Let’s just vote her off. She’s weak. Can we just move on? We have to start winning challenges or we’re all screwed.”

It’s rare that this confessional doesn’t result in the player giving it getting the boot. Again, no irony in the choice of confessionals. That’s a bad sign for the alliance of the nerds.

Bikal – Day 8: A Dinner and a Show

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Tata!

A 4 ft tall bushman named Tata came to the Favorites’ camp as their reward.

Cochran (solo): “So the Favorites won the reward challenge and we got to have a local bushman come to camp and show us ways of improving our camp as well as cooking a great feast for us.”

Malcolm (solo): “We were excited…Nothing could have prepared us for this little guy. His name is Tata…he’s 60 years old…and he didn’t mess around. It was entertaining to watch. We didn’t understand what he was saying. He was like a Filipino Gollom.”

Cochran: “We got to form a rapport…with Tata, we got a sense of how he functions…He created an unbelievable feast for us…He made it in a way that we could do it once he’s gone. A diner and a show and home improvement came with it.”

Andrea (solo): “I felt bad because the Fans keep losing and losing and this was a reward that they could have used. It boosted the morale of our tribe even more.”

Seeing Tata dance with Brenda and Andrea, Cochran told us: “Tata is a married man but that didn’t seem to impede him from getting his bumps and grinds with the women of the favorites’ tribe. Since he’s this bizarre woodland creature, he gets away with it. If I tried it, I’d be seen as a creepy predator.”

Tata did seem to enjoy hugging Brenda!

Gota – Day 8: A Dinner and a No Show

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“We lost and I was so mad.”

Michael was the one to tell us how the Fans felt: “We lost and I was so mad. The favorites have everything. They’ve won every reward. They have this bounty of stuff back at their camp. Sons of bitches, I was so mad. I didn’t anticipate losing so much.”

Eddie gave us his thoughts: “As soon as we came back from the challenge, Shamar went right back into the shelter. He doesn’t do anything. It’s just pure laziness. There’s no reason to be laying in the shelter for 19 hours. Shamar is the biggest pain in the ass in this tribe.”

Everyone agreed with Eddie when Shamar said they’d have to bring him rice once a day.

Shamar walked away, Laura mocked him by saying: “Be my slave and then I’ll stay in the game.”

Reynold: “The other day, Shamar wanted to quit but he decided to stay. However, today he said, “These are my terms: ‘I will stick it out if I can lay here in the shack and you will serve me rice at least once a day.’ I’m thinking: How much longer can this go on?”

Sherri served him, but not before saying: “I would never do this in my real life. I don’t even wait on my husband.”

Laura told us: “You can make it this deep, dark story of the Iraq veteran as much as you want but that’s not it. I think Shamar is starving but, you know what? We’re all starving. Shamar is a big baby when it comes down to it.”

Then we heard Shamar complaining saying he had scratched his eyeball. That would lead to his evacuation.

Was the medical evacuation staged to give Shamar an “honorable discharge”? They never told us that Jimmy Johnson asked to be voted out, so it’s possible. Counting Jerry Sims, he is the second war veteran to tell us that Burnett’s game is tough, so one wonders if they were paid to say it!

However, we are here to analyze what was shown so, if we assume that Shamar really was injured, why repeat the laziness story? It showed that Bikal and Gota are total opposites: The Favorites are having fun and they are thriving. The Fans are miserable and folding. One scene was entertaining, the other not so much — so why show it again?

There were already complaints about the season’s format because of the tremendous advantage enjoyed by returning players. Why give us more reasons to complain? At this point, the viewers expect the Favorites to come out on top, so a win by any one of them would be tainted. Why do that? Unless a Fan wins. They are definitely the underdogs right now — and which Fan finds herself in the biggest predicament?

Eddie was the first to have a confessional about Shamar’s injury. “Now everyone is realizing that he has to go which is great for me and Reynold.”

Gota – Night 9

The Fans were hit by a hurricane. An invasion of rats added to their misery. At least the rats weren’t abandoning Gota’s ship!

Michael had a black and white confessional: “We had a crappy night; never felt winds like that. Rats were crawling on us. We have cuts and scrapes and bruises, we’re hungry. It’s a hard game and now it’s even harder because we believe that Shamar is going to quit.”

The boat came in to end Shamar’s game.

Reynold had the last words on the subject: “It turns out it was very serious. That was my mistake. Still, he was disrespectful, he was lazy and I’m happy that he’s gone.”

There is a theme of respect building around the Fans and, while Shamar disrespected the people around him, Reynold didn’t show any respect to the war veteran even when he exited the game. Even Eddie, who had given Shamar respect while voting against him, was heard rejoicing at the prospect of seeing him leave. That’s a bad sign for both strong guys.

As soon as the boat left, we heard Matt and Michael saying that they were glad it was over.

Sherri wanted to be sure they were still voting out one of Reynold and Eddie.

Matt agreed.

Reynold had another confessional: “However, now that Shamar is gone, the majority alliance is going to jump right back into their premediated plan and they are going to knock out Eddie and I first. So, we have to win or one of us is going home.”

The Challenge

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Brenda and Eddie were the ones who received compliments from Jeff.

We saw the Favorites reaction at the news of Shamar’s exit but there was nothing special.

The camera showed Laura, Sherri and Michael when Jeff said they were down to seven and the music came to an abrupt stop, underlining their underdog status.

(With another challenge involving throws, I’d say Jeff Kent was on the wrong season!)

Running the first leg for the Favorites, we saw Erik taking a nasty fall just like in Micronesia. He hasn’t learned to protect himself!

Sherri had to go twice since she missed the key on her first jump. Note that, once more, nothing was said about costing them the win. We heard more about Laura’s difficulties than Sherri making them fall down a lap.

Brenda and Eddie were the ones who received compliments from Jeff.

Even if the Fans were well behind, Jeff still had to point out that Laura was having a hard time with the locks.

Gota – Day 10

Eddie (solo): “Me and Reynold are still on the outside of this tribe. I have a huge target on my back, Reynold feels the same way. If we don’t figure out a new plan, one of us is going home.”

Matt was in the jungle, talking to Michael: “The smartest thing would be to vote out Laura.”

Michael (solo): “I assumed we were going to get Reynold to play the idol and blindside Eddie but Matt is saying we need to keep the tribe strong and get rid of Laura. I’m thinking: There goes the alliance. I knew, as soon as the alliance was formed, that it wasn’t the alliance of the strong people, but I trust Laura more than I trust Reynold and Eddie. It could be dangerous to lose her and leave this wild card, Mr. Awesome, with the idol.”

Reynold (solo): “Matt said he wants to get the muscle back together to win some challenges… He’s bold faced lied to me on more occasions than I can count. I should probably play the idol tonight to save myself. However…if they do vote Laura, it’s idol wasted. I don’t know what I am going to do.”

Laura had a confessional saying she knew her name was being thrown around. She could only trust in her alliance.

Matt told Sherri about his plan.

Sherri gave us her reaction: “When Laura’s name got brought up, I was not on board with it at all. First Shamar, now this. It feels like the alliance is falling apart. Also, if they keep saying they are picking off the weak and they need to keep the tribe strong, well, of course the guys are always going to be stronger than the women so of course that concerns me.”

Sherri told Julia she didn’t like the idea of being the last two girls.

Michael had the last confessional before leaving for TC: “Tonight, I can either keep the tribe strong so that we can win challenges or hold on to my alliance and keep that strong. There’s no way to know what the right or wrong answer is going to be. I’m going to have to go with my gut and hope it works out.”

Tribal Council

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there was less tension when Gota lost a big guy.

Jeff started the discussion by asking about the tribe’s morale after Shamar’s departure.

Matt answered that there was less tension but it was bad because they lost a big guy.

After much thought, Sherri said she missed Shamar as a member of the alliance.

Reynold said they would have gelled sooner if they had voted out Shamar.

We saw Sherri laugh at the suggestion.

Jeff noted that the two guys outside the alliance were the two strongest guys.

Laura replied that the vote would come down to strength or loyalty. She was counting on the trust built over 10 days.

Jeff went back to Reynold who was shaking his head.

He said he couldn’t understand that it was all about trust. He asked: “Are you prioritizing winning or are you prioritizing losing?”

Sherri had the simple reply: “But we’re still losing. Even with them, we’re still losing.”

Eddie hoped they would start winning after this. He told Jeff that he considered Sherri a weak player but that Julia was one of the stronger girls while Laura was the weakest.

Laura pointed out that there could be a swap in the next few days, saying she would be more loyal than Eddie and Reynold.

Eddie concluded by saying this was the make or break factor for the tribe.

Reynold played his idol and Laura was voted out.

Jeff left them by saying that time will tell if this was make or break.

The Story

This episode was a study of contrast: Over at Bikal we had a 100 pound bundle of energy who was working hard to make an already comfortable sojourn even more enjoyable.

At Gota, there was a 300 pound package of entropy who was not available for work and tended towards maximum disorder.

The result is a repeat of Moto versus Ravu, and once again the Haves are dominating the challenges. In Fiji, the story had a nice ending, the winner overcoming the hardship and dominating the rich tribe once the real game of Survivor started.

Most viewers must be expecting to see Bikal’s domination continue, but the editors showed so much of Gota’s troubles that a reversal of situation has to be expected. Before the season even started, viewers were saying that the returning players had an unfair advantage over the newbies so we’d expect the editors trying to show some difficulties over at Bikal. The hurricane had to hit both camps, a Favorite or two had to have a bad night, but we didn’t see any of that. All the plagues of Egypt have befallen on Gota so one of their own must emerge out of this, no? If not, what’s the story? The Favorites had no opposition and won? I don’t see a best-seller there.

The thing to note however is that the narrators on Bikal aren’t the dumb ones, the Lisis, the Stacys or the Boos. Cochran, Andrea and Malcolm have had their say and were the ones that talked about the reward in this episode. Sure, Phillip has had his multitude of confessionals, but Bikal has 5 ignored characters which tells us that, as a whole, it isn’t the tribe of interest. Koror, despite their string of victories, didn’t have this many players without a story. Moto had Liliana, Edgardo, Cassandra, Lisi, Stacy and Gary who were mostly forgotten in the first 3 or 4 episodes so I see a pattern there, And Bikal is a tribe of returning players, so that is even more troubling.

The Characters

The Dumb Players:

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I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bikal throwing a challenge to boot the nephew.

Eddie: While Eddie has been shown to be more respectful than Reynold, we still heard him rejoicing at Shamar’s exit. We also heard him complaining that he didn’t understand why Laura was still there when he had never voted to eliminate her! The recap told us he had been duped. Add this to his poor premiere episode and we can say that Eddie, while outlasting Reynold, won’t win.

Reynold: He may not be the biggest idiot ever but he is on that list. The recap didn’t need to tell us he had been duped but somehow it was important for us to be reminded of it. He says he deserves to stay because he can help the tribe win challenges, but we heard that they aren’t winning with him. Finally, he was voting with the majority but he still wasted his idol. We had noted that his quest for the idol had been presented in a very trivial manner and the idol turned out to be trivial.

Brandon: Even ignoring the previews (I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bikal throwing a challenge to boot the nephew just like Zapatera did to the uncle), Brandon was made to look dumb when he believed that he had infiltrated the alliance. Phillip’s confessional could have been cut short, not letting us hear that he was giving Brandon a nickname just to contain Brandon but we were in on the plot. That made the “Conqueror” look like a fool.

Phillip: Is he, like Napoleon, leading his troops to their Waterloo? For Phillip, the stupidity is more in the manner than the results because what Phillip says, Phillip does…For now! He told us he is good at basketball and he’s backed it up by strong challenge performances. He wanted to unite his tribe so that they could win challenges and they have. Phillip is doing a fine job. How long can that last?!! His game cannot end up any other way than in exile.

The Forgotten ones:

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Her role is that of an extra.

Julia: For all of Gota’s trips to Tribal Council, it’s troubling that we don’t hear from her. Her role is that of an extra, so her story arc will last at most an episode or two.

Erik: His alliance nickname explains a lot but doesn’t help us predict his outcome in the game. Other “Silent Ones” have made it far but none have ever won. Erik isn’t important to the story.

Brenda: Playing a quiet game, Brenda has everything to be cast in the role of the Sweetheart (Tata certainly thought so!) but she is being cruelly ignored. Does it mean that she is an upcoming boot? She already has survived past her danger zone, so why eliminate her now that Bikal doesn’t need brute strength? Like Andrea, she does well enough in challenges and has played her part in some challenge wins. Even if Brenda stays a while, her lack of airtime tells us she will never be an impact player.

Corinne: We were wondering if being put on the block by Andrea was the start of a story arc for Corinne, but it wasn’t even that. It seems that Corinne was shown last week simply because she was there when Malcolm found the idol. She still doesn’t have a defined role in the story so she will go down without making an impact on the season.

Malcolm: He continues to have a small but regular presence. There are no long term story arcs associated with Malcolm except his idol, but no one on the tribe is even talking about the idol. That tells me this idol, like Reynold’s, doesn’t play a big role and neither does Malcolm.

Dawn: Where is she? We really only heard her when she noticed that Shamar was missing. Her strong premiere gives her a better shot at an end game story than the other forgotten ones, but her chances of winning have to be put in question.

The Defeated Players:

Matt: He was the one who abandoned the alliance and went to Reynold and Eddie, hoping to win some challenges. We didn’t hear any confessionals from Matt to make us see that he was thinking further than the next immunity challenge and we heard Reynold say that Matt was a liar. None of that seems to be building a winner’s story.

Michael: His role increased in this episode but his confessionals were mostly narration. He told us how the tribe felt about the weather, the rewards, losing the challenges and breaking up the alliance. There was more defeat in his voice than hope. He wasn’t even presented as the strategist since he simply went along with Matt’s suggestion. Michael has only immediate concerns and no end game connections, so we don’t see him as a long term player.

The Contenders:

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Dawn may be forgotten but Cochran and Andrea are contenders.

Cochran: Our observer had a quiet episode but he was still the main narrator during the reward. Once more, he related it to his personal experience, envying Tata’s ability to get close to the women. It’s not much, but it kept him on our screen, kept this part of his adventure. Of course, this could be a journey of redemption.

Andrea: In an episode that was devoid of strategy in Bikal, she had a strong presence. We can’t say that she was smart to be offended by Phillip’s strategy, but she was chosen to comment on it, giving her a connection to the future breakdown of the tribe. Like Laura, this spike in confessional could be bad, but I prefer to see it has setting Andrea for the long run. She’s a clinical player who is always thinking about the game. It didn’t hurt that the editors let us hear that she is much stronger in challenges than Laura, giving us those contrasting orders: Andrea wanting to take bigger steps, Laura asking her helpers to come closer. Andrea showed sympathy to the Fans after winning the reward which makes me think she could bond with them later on.

Sherri: When she yelled at Eddie at the beginning of the episode, I had a vision of Sandra saying that she could be loud too. She turned on her closest ally, but the way it was presented, no one will blame her. I’m always on the side of loyalty because this is a game of trust, but Laura wasn’t presented as a Victim. The story was clear: It was her time to go so Sherri, in the end, was presented making the “right” decision. Now it puts her in danger, the next weakest one if we go by what Eddie said. On the other hand, we have a pattern that Jeff doesn’t paint her as the reason they lose challenges…unless the next recap resets our perceptions again!

Unlike Matt and Michael, Sherri was heard thinking of more than winning challenges. There were so many obstacles put in front of Sherri’s path to the end that I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the one that escapes the plagues of Gota and reaches the promised land: The Title of Sole Survivor.

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