Hey! Wait a minute! I thought lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice? Isn’t that, like, science and stuff?
Well, just as there’s no crying in baseball, it appears that there’s no science on Survivor — unless you count the cosmic shame that rained all over Francesca Hogi on Wednesday’s premiere of Survivor: Caramoan – Fans Vs. Favorites as science. Which, I suppose, I do.
Speaking of science, Caramoan’s got chemistry, and lots of it. Two incredibly brutal, nail-biting, physical challenges; two tribes filled with lovers and fighters, masterminds and morons; and an absurd, almost unthinkable final act that cemented its unforgettable place in Survivor history. As far as Survivor premieres go, this one definitely rocked. For Francesca, it rocked in more ways than one. Let’s get into The Wiggle Room and rock out ourselves, shall we?
SO, UH, THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM?
If you paid attention to my writing on RHAP leading up to the premiere, then you know I was not in favor of bringing Fran back this season. It’s nothing personal; I just don’t think a first-boot belongs on a season dubbed “Fans Vs. Favorites.” (Of course, you can make plenty of arguments about the other so-called “Favorites,” but that’s a debate for another day, or perhaps for the comments down below, if you feel so inclined.)
But even though I was perplexed and, yes, even a bit annoyed by Fran’s casting, I truly wouldn’t wish what happened to her on anyone. Getting voted off first sucks. Getting voted off first twice? “Embarrassing” doesn’t even come close.
What’s worse is that Fran got off to a promising start. I liked what she was doing at first. She forged an immediate alliance with Andrea and Dawn (with Brandon, Cochran and Phillip as their ideal four, five and six), attempted to bury the hatchet with her old nemesis, performed fine in challenges, cracked wise in confessionals … what’s not to like? But when she started promising to eat rocks if she got voted out first again, it became immediately clear she was going to get voted out first again. As our fearless leader wisely tweeted during the show:
And happen it did. But why did it happen? What led to Francesca’s history-making exit? What could she have done to wiggle her way out of her tribe’s crosshairs?
Honestly … not much. As we saw in Phillip’s reaction to Fran’s apology and, later, his private and solemn vow to expel her bloodline from the face of the Earth, there was no way these two ancient foes would ever become friends, let alone exist on the same beach. After all, BR Rule #17 explicitly states: “Francesqua + Survivor = No Nope and Never.” In The Specialist’s eyes, Fran was immediately and irrevocably marked for death.
So, Francesca and Phillip were never going to work together, not no way, not no how. And we’re surprised because…? Well, we’re not. But it’s important to make that point clear, because Phillip, with his hot-pink briefs and feathers and sweet electric-blue kicks and various other outlandishness, presents more value to the gang of Favorites, already a crafty bunch, than a legitimately sharp, social and savvy threat like Francesca. You beat Phillip Sheppard at the final tribal council every single time, unless you’re Brandon Hantz. If you’re there against Francesca? Not the same certainty.
It’s a shame, you know. Having seen her on the show again, I get Francesca’s appeal as a contestant. She wants to make big moves, she wants to talk strategy, she wants to play the game. Given a reasonable chance, she might actually be pretty good. But putting her on the same beach as Phillip Sheppard is not a reasonable chance. It’s a death sentence. Like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, Francesca was dead the whole time. (Not literally, fwiw.)
For me, the biggest irony in all of this is that I am now officially rooting to see Francesca play a third season of Survivor. Not just out of morbid curiosity, mind you — though I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a big part of it — but because she’s become such a memorable part of Survivor history that she actually does qualify as a Favorite in my eyes. I hope Francesca gives Survivor another shot some day … after she spends the next year or two trying to digest that rock, natch.
Fran’s exit was the biggest fireball, but it wasn’t the only bomb to go off in the premiere. In this section of The Wiggle Room — awkwardly (awesomely?) titled Little Wiggles — I’ll run down some of my other observations from each episode outside of the exit, looking at who is wiggling well, who is wiggling wildly out of control, and who is wiggling their way out of their pants. (Looking at you, Malcolm.)
— Let’s start there. Pants or no pants, Malcolm is no Hantz. The Philippines returnee showed a lot (too much?) and said little in the Caramoan premiere, opting to let his challenge prowess and his affable attitude do the talking. Sure, he biffed it on the bean-bag toss, but his performance in the reward challenge proved two things about Malcolm: dude can compete, and dude can compete while hanging dong. Just like our ancestors, Malcolm proved his worth through actions and nudity. I think we can put “The Hantz Factor” question to bed now. Malcolm will be sticking around until the merge at least.
— So, I have to apologize to Reynold. I kind of dumped on him in my preseason assessment, making fun of him for talking. Really. Really. Sloooooooowly. In. His. Pre. Game. Interview. The rest of the RHAP bloggers saw something I didn’t. Well, I see it now: the guy is a complete badass in the challenges. Both Reynold and Malcolm were star players in the premiere’s two challenges, and that rivalry is something to look forward to and watch out for as the season progresses. I agree with Fishbach; assuming their ongoing feud is compelling enough to warrant it, Malcolm Vs. Reynold could be a great set-up for a future season of Survivor.
— So, I have to apologize to Reynold. I kind of just showered him in praise, and now I’m about to dump on him again. Reynold, did you not read the BR Handbook? Rule #28, amigo: “You do not make out with your fellow Survivor unless you’re going to marry her.” And based on your assessment that Allie is not the cutest gal on the beach, something tells me you’re not proposing at the reunion show. Showmances are bad, bad, bad for business, and they are especially, epically bad when half the competitors on your season have played the game before. There is no room for this kind of low-level idiocy, Reynold. Don’t prove me right after I already said I was wrong!
— That brings us to the Cool Kids Alliance. It’s vindicating to see that all these years since high school, some things haven’t changed: cool kids still don’t know how to count. Listen closely, jocks: four is not equal to or greater than six. You need two more people on your side, and you need to make them feel included and special and stuff. Based on the reaction to your private bathing and hard make-out sessions, no one on Gota is foolish enough to think they would be anything other than five and six in your locked-in-lips alliance. You guys need to change the perception of you as quickly as humanly possible, assuming the damage you’ve done to your brand isn’t already permanent. It probably is for at least one of you. Put it in ink then, Wigler: when the Fans head to their first tribal council, a “cool kid” is going home.
— I don’t have much to offer on Michael and Matt other than a) I think those two are an excellent pair and are doing it exactly right, especially Michael, and b) now all I want in the world is for Damon Lindelof to make a Lost follow-up starring Ryan Hurst from Sons of Anarchy.
— Let’s look at the Favorites. The Fishbach-dubbed “Dawchran” is an extremely powerful couple, if somewhat expected. If left unchecked, they could steamroll their way to the very top. Reynold, take note: this is the acceptable form of showmance. Although I have to admit, I would not complain if Cochran and Corinne suddenly coupled up. I’m not the only one who saw some chemistry between those two, am I?
— Oh, Erik. It’s looking very, very grim for my pick to win the season. While I’m disappointed in his episode-one performance, even I have to admit, it’s straight-up hilarious that he’s gravitating towards the only other player in the game foolish enough to give up their individual immunity (so far). The Brandon-Erik bromance won’t burn long, but lord have mercy will it burn bright. Luckily for you and me, Erik, you’re pleasant enough around camp to outlast Brandon and Brenda, and powerful enough in the challenges to be worth keeping over those two. If you, Brandon and Brenda really are next up on the chopping block at Bikal, then you and I can both take comfort knowing you’re the third scoop on this Ice Cream Banana Boat to Nowhere.
— Taking things full circle, I want to close out with Andrea. I try to keep Survivor gossip out of my Survivor viewing/posturing/everything, but I’m finding that you can’t pay attention to the current season without hearing about Andrea and Francesca’s pre-game friendship and how Andrea’s actions were cruel and unusual, even by Survivor standards. First of all, I subscribe to the view that Survivor is a game, and should be played accordingly — i.e., with as little emotion as possible. Secondly, I understand why Andrea would want to work with Phillip over Francesca; he’s nuts and she can beat him. Keeping Phillip happy and in her corner required Francesca’s exit; Andrea couldn’t have it both ways, and so she chose the self-interested path over sticking with her friend. It’s a brutal, harsh world out there, quadrupley so on Survivor. I have my issues with Andrea — she has a lot of confidence for someone who did jack-all last time (and, by the way, the look on her face when she thought she was going home? Priceless) — but targeting Francesca isn’t one of them. Does it make her a good friend? No, no it does not. But as far as surviving Survivor goes, I think she made the only move she could.
That’s all for this week, little wigglies. Let me know what you thought of the column in the comments below or on Twitter (I’m @roundhoward, like Ron Howard but rounder). I’ll see you next week in The Wiggle Room!