Good morning! Or afternoon, or evening, or whatever time of day you’re reading this, if you’re reading this at all. If you’re a first-timer around these parts, allow me to introduce myself and this bizarre little room you’ve found yourself in.
I’m Josh Wigler. I’ve blogged about Survivor right here on RHAP since Caramoan, and covered the show as early as Nicaragua for MTV News, TheTVAddict.com, and Spinoff Online. I’m an entertainment news reporter by profession, and a Survivor nerd by nature. I’m the guy at the party (and by party I mean my Twitter and Facebook feeds) who can’t shut up about Survivor, even though most people around me aren’t aware it’s even still on the air. I’m proud to say that I have a healthy handful of friends who remain fellow Survivor loyalists. I’ve even converted some of my dearest non-Survivor-watching friends into weekly watchers of the show. And I am grateful to say that I’ve met some of the friendliest and smartest fans of the show thanks to my time writing and podcasting within the RHAP community; I suspect I’ll encounter even more as the seasons wear on.
As for the Wiggle Room: This is my spot to chat about Survivor when the occasion calls for it. I talk about where players went right, where they went wrong, and what wiggle room they have to get out of tight situations. Also, sometimes I write about New Orleans, ninjas and Lost. Basically, I write about whatever wiggles into my mind, as long as it’s connected to Survivor. It’s my room; if you don’t like it, go get your own!
As regular readers of the column are surely aware, I can be a bit erratic with the Wiggle Room’s schedule. I was nowhere near as consistent or reliable as I wanted to be last season during Blood Vs Water. So, before Cagayan begins, I want to say this up front: I plan on opening the Wiggle Room for business when time allows and when the spirit moves me. I can’t guarantee weekly columns anymore, simply due to time and other commitments. I love the show, I love writing about the show, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon — but sometimes, life and work gets in my way, so much so that I can’t promise a weekly schedule the way some of my esteemed RHAP colleagues can. I hope you’re cool with that.
With all of that said and out of the way, I am happy to report that the spirit is very much moved, and time has allowed me to write up some of my thoughts about Cagayan before the season begins. You got my cast impressions alongside the other RHAP writers in our pre-season blogger analysis, as well as our pre-season podcast. Go read and listen when you have a chance; there’s great material there. But I have some other thoughts I wanted to get on paper as well, before the whole shebang starts in just a few short days. Let’s dive in!
The format may serve an All-Star season.[/caption]
Brains, Brawn, Beauty and Bum-Sauce
Excited as I am for a season of all-new players (the first one since One World two years ago), I can’t say I love Cagayan’s theme of splitting players into tribes of “brain,” “brawn” and “beauty.” I think the concept works better within the confines of an all-star season; the format would allow the return of players like Stephen Fishbach, Brad Culpepper and Chelsea Meissner in unique, specific ways that isn’t just a flat-out Heroes Vs. Villains sequel. I disagree with much of Rob and Gordon Holmes’ fantasy list of such a season, but I endorse the idea. An all-star BBB would kill it.
I even think the concept could work well with all-newbies, if you could look at each contestant and say beyond a shadow of a doubt where they all belong. But… that’s really not the case with this cast, is it? LJ could fit on brawn or beauty, just on looks alone. Samesies with Woo. (Woo!) Garrett looks like a shoe-in for brawn or beauty, but there he is alongside scrawny Spencer on the Brains Brigade.
I’m not trying to knock the format completely. I think the psychological impact of Probst assigning players by perceived strengths (“You six are the sexiest, you six are the smartest, and you six are the strongest”) could be huge. I just think the season’s theme is a bit arbitrary. I think production recognized that they were back in the Philippines for a fourth consecutive season, felt the need to delineate the season beyond calling it “Cagayan,” saw the 18 players they had and arrived at the idea of splitting them up by superficial qualities. To me, it feels more like a last-minute scramble (like Hayden pushing for rocks at Tribal Council) than a long-discussed, well-planned decision (like Tyson taking on King Aras). It could work wonders, but it’s a flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of play, not a carefully laid plan.
I have no doubt that it could work out in everybody’s favor; after Blood Vs Water, I’m inclined to give Survivor a pass to try almost anything new, even if it seems like a yawn on paper. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not yawning just a little bit.
When Power-Ups Become Power-Downs
Backing up for a second, let the record show that I said I’m inclined to give Survivor a pass to try almost anything new. The announced changes to the hidden immunity idol is not one of them. I have yet to watch the TV Guide special, but if my understanding of Rob’s report during the Corinne-cast is correct, then the post-merge idol has the same power and use as the Exile Island and Cook Islands idol.
I am not thrilled about this. And that comes from someone who ranks Exile Island in his top ten, and has a whole lot of love for Cook Islands (and Yul in particular) as well. But that’s because those seasons existed in the early days of the idol, when the game-makers were just figuring out how to make it work. They got it right starting with Fiji, and yielded some tremendous idol plays as a result. Without the Idol 3.0 rules, we don’t have Malcolm’s display of bravado at the Philippines merge, or his infamous “hold up bro” and Three Amigos power-plays in Caramoan. We wouldn’t have Parvati’s iconic decimation of the Heroes, or Yau-Man’s ridiculously underrated idol-play in the Fiji end game.
The idol works. Why change it? And if the idol rules have to change, why go backwards? Why grant someone Yul Kwonian levels of power, undercutting the post-merge drama? RHAP reader Steven pointed out a few ways that the idol could still provide some slick strategy, and I hope the players are as smart as he is. I’m worried that they’re not, even with “Brains” in the mix. I’m worried that someone gets their hands on a post-merge idol and uses the power of Kwon to bust into the finals, unopposed. I hope I’m wrong; I’m worried I’m right.
More than anything, I’m just annoyed that Tyler Perry influenced Survivor policy. I love Probst and defend him every chance I get, but Jeff, you’re not helping me out here. Though I guess Survivor: Madea has a certain ring to it…
One World Nation
I’m seeing a lot of people worried that Cagayan might turn out to be a snooze-fest ala One World. I take issue with this for a couple of reasons.
For one, I don’t agree that One World is such a snooze-fest. In fact, I actually like One World quite a bit. I’m admittedly biased on the season; I was doing weekly recaps with Rob for MTV News, I attended the live finale and made it on the air (barely, but you can see me in the audience if you know where to look, and as a result I will forever claim that I was on Survivor and there’s nothing you can do to stop me), and interviewed the final five on the red carpet (and subsequently solidified my worship for my Survivor Khaleesi, the rightful Queen of Westerprobst, Kim Spradlin). Those experiences absolutely shaped my appreciation for One World. I own that completely.
But even still, I think One World had some moments that made it a worthwhile season. Colton, deplorable as he was in his short-lived arc, convinced an entire tribe to abandon immunity in lieu of voluntary tribal council. The all-on-one-beach concept was, for me, an original idea that yielded some interesting dynamics; it’s a twist I hope to see again. There were great flash-in-the-pan characters like Troyzan and Jonas and Jay Byars’ abs. There were strong women like Chelsea and Sabrina, even if they stopped short of toppling their obvious adversary. And while some people think Kim’s game wasn’t especially, shall we say, “dynamic,” I enjoyed a beautifully bad case of Kimsanity every single week. One World produced one of Survivor’s all-time greatest champions. I can’t say no to that.
Of course, One World has obvious problems. I don’t need to rehash them for you here. I think a lot of those problems existed before the game even began. I don’t think that’s quite the case with Cagayan. The new cast appears to be much better-versed in Survivor strategy and lore than the One Worlders. It’s an older cast, too, with only four contestants under the age of 27. Wiser minds suggest sharper, savvier players, folks who aren’t likely to give up immunity to cater to the whims of a close-minded brat.
In other words, I don’t think Cagayan is destined for a One World legacy. I think it has more exciting and knowledgeable cast members right from the beginning. But even if things take a turn for the One World (if the BBB twist is a bust, if the Kwondol kills the end-game), I’ll be okay, as long as some true Survivor champions emerge from the rubble.
During the blogger podcast, Rob asked us which Cagayan contestants we’ll see return in a future season. Scott Gallagher gave a great answer: none of them. Sarah Freeman wondered if it would be a Guatemala situation. I misheard her and thought she said “Guatemality,” which sounds like a fantastic finishing move if Survivor: Mortal Kombat was a thing — a move that condemns a whole season of contestants from ever appearing on Survivor again.
But is Guatemality such a bad fate? For the players, sure, maybe, especially when literally every single other season of Survivor has yielded returning contestants. (We’re not counting Steph here, due to her Palau roots.) But for the die-hard, deep-cut Survivor fan, I’d argue that Guatemality is actually awesome.
In my travels, I’ve heard Guatemala and Fiji discussed as two of the worst Survivor seasons of all time. Those claims are baffling to me. Both seasons stand the test of time better than they’re given credit for. Guatemala has utterly brutal challenges (the first reward remains the toughest, most grueling challenge in the history of the game, in my opinion) and equally brutal betrayals. (Judd’s “crocodiles and scumbags” gets less play than Sue Hawk’s “snakes and rats,” but it’s no less amazing). Fiji, a season that produced only one returnee (short-lived as Yau’s Micronesia run was), is the proud owner of some of the best idol-play and last-minute scrambling I’ve ever seen on Survivor. More than most seasons, the Fiji contestants came to win. (Well, maybe not Lisi, but she wins for other reasons.)
If you haven’t watched Guatemala and Fiji recently, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They surprised the hell out of me on recent rewatches. And if Cagayan doesn’t produce returning players, if it fades into obscurity, then perhaps it’ll become one of those underappreciated gems just like Guatemala and Fiji. Many Survivor viewers will overlook those seasons from now through eternity, and that’s just fine by me; I’m happy to hog all of that greatness for myself.
Survivor Cagayan: Zombie Edition
1. Sarah Lacina: She’s my pick to win the game, after all. She’s a police officer and a mixed martial arts veteran. Based on those professions, I assume she has leadership qualities, an inherent bullshit detective, and the ability to whoop some walker ass.
2. Garrett Adelstein: Another guy with a bullshit detector, thanks to his experience as a poker player. He’s got a smile that challenges Colby’s and abs that rival Jay Byars’. He’s strong of mind and strong of body. I hope he’s strong of character, and isn’t the type to betray me in the apocalypse — but I could be wrong on that. Again, just first impressions, here.
3. Woo Hwang: Again, we have another martial artist, someone who could hold his own against the flesh-hungry undead. Head-lopping roundhouse kicks are on the menu, you say? I’ll take five hundred of those to go, please. Plus, Woo seems relaxed, not the type to buckle under pressure. Double-plus, Woo has the most hashtaggable name of any Survivor contestant ever. #Woo!
Presented without comment:
** The three tribe leaders will be LJ (Beauty), Uncle Cliffy (Brawn) and David (Brains).
** The “weaklings” will be Morgan (Beauty), Lindsey (Brawn) and Spencer (Brains). All three will pick idol clues over rice. No idols will be found.
** Brawn and Brains will place first and second in the opening immunity. Beauty will boot Morgan.
** Brawn will lose the second immunity. They will boot Lindsey.
** Two hours of Survivor will be awesome, or at least better than no hours of Survivor.
And That’s A RHAP
As my friend Forrest would say, that’s all I have to say about Survivor Cagayan, at least for now. (Forrest’s other saying, “Survivor is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get,” is totes true.) I’m sure there will be much to discuss in the weeks and months ahead. Survivor season is back, baby! It’s the best time of year. I’ll see you here in a future Wiggle Room column, or, if you’re interested, you can join me weekly at Post Show Recaps gabbing with Rob about Walking Dead (and some other shows, soon to be announced). As always, knock on my door on Twitter if you’re so inclined; I’m @roundhoward, like Ron Howard, but rounder.