The Characters and Their Stories, a blog in which we use the edit to determine the themes of the season and try to find its long-term players. Each week, we will explore the overt signs as well as the more nuanced nods.
Episode 1 – Short-Term Gain or Long-Term Advantage?
The season opened with a comment from Jeff that made me laugh: “These 20 Americans don’t know it yet, but they are about to be divided into two tribes”.
Jeff, we’re on season 33 so anyone who has watched this show for more than a couple of seasons knows that the people dressed in shades of blue will be in one tribe while those wearing reddish colors will be on the other. Buffs weren’t even required.
When we got down to business, the first confessional was delivered by Taylor: “My generation… it’s all about doing what you want to do and I’ve done a lot…I will never grow up; this is who I am and I can’t change.”
We saw Chris standing ominously behind him as he was delivering the voice-over portion of his confessional. It could be a sign that there will be conflict between those two later on. The cymbal sound heard when Taylor mentioned going to North Dakota as if it were some exotic or extreme destination could be an indication that Taylor will not be someone to take seriously but as the first player interviewed he may be someone to remember. Also, saying he can’t change might have been included as the stereotype for his generation, but individually, it isn’t a good sign in this game where adaptability is key.
Next, we had Mari: “I play video games on-line for a living. As an adult, we are constantly told:’ Grow up. Stop playing. It’s not a game.’ But I want to make my entire life about playing. Survivor is the game of games and I am going to win.”
Mari just delivered the first winner’s quote of the evening. The image of Jay sticking out his tongue to catch raindrops at the moment Mari talked about growing up tells me that Jay will be a fun character.
Zeke: “The stereotype of young people is that they are always on social media…but…I generally resent technology. I think twitter is the worst thing ever invented. I mean, I’m on twitter but I still think it’s horrendous.”
Zeke starts off by being a narrator for the young generation or maybe it would be more accurate to say that he is in opposition to the young generation.
Chris was the first Gen X member to be interviewed: “I’m an attorney and I’m 38 years old. I know the older generation… They actually listen and they use their life experiences. If you’ve never been knocked down then you don’t know how to get up and fight.”
Sunday was next: “I have four kids and I’m surprised at the 25 year old kids who live at home and play video games all day. I feel they are a little bit more Que sera, sera. If it takes me 7 years to do school, who cares? My parents are paying for it.”
Will, the youngest player, was shown when Chris talked about life experiences and when Sunday mentioned her surprise at the young kids. That could be a sign that Will won’t succeed. As a video gamer, Mari was also shown when Sunday expressed her surprise about the young generation.
David’s interview: “I’m a TV writer and it took me 14 years in assistant purgatory to finally become a writer and I don’t think younger people would put that kind of time in whatever their dream is. They would just find a new dream.”
While Jeff was talking, we saw a montage of the faces of many players with Zeke’s face being the last one shown just before Jeff said his famous line: “39 days, 20 people, One Survivor.”
After the introduction montage, we had Jeff going through the motions of distributing buffs. The players dressed in blue all got purple buffs and red became orange.
Will’s interview: “I was like Holy crap! This is definitely a war between generations. We’re at each other’s throats right at the beginning. It’s crazy! May the best generation win.”
I heard a distorted “old dudes” when Jeff mentioned the years that encompass Gen X. It could have been Will saying it in the background but it sounded more like a sound effect created in-studio. Either way, sublimely, the viewers were encouraged to root for the Millennials who, in turn, were “greeted” by the sound of their own applause.
Jeff said this season would show which approach to life is better suited to win Survivor.
After all, Jeff’s primary role is salesman.
Will immediately told everyone that he was 18 and still in high school. Paul presented himself as the oldest one out there and he said that his generation didn’t get a trophy just for participating. “Only the winners got a trophy,” he added.
Zeke and Jay were on screen when Paul talked about the winners getting trophies. Will it come down to those two?
Jeff turned to Cece who had been nodding along. She said: “They don’t work for anything; everything is handed to them.”
Michaela and Adam’s expressions showed they were in complete disagreement.
Jeff turned to Adam who made everyone laugh by addressing our host by his last name. He then added: “When we win the first immunity challenge, we will see who has to work to win.”
Adam’s words carry some weight because the Millennials would eventually win that challenge.
The two tribes were then ordered to scramble collecting items that would either help them in the short-term, or the long-term.
I noted that Ken was the fastest runner, Adam knocked David to the ground to get an item, and Lucy fumbled with some fruits and left a note behind for Jessica to grab.
Jessica’s interview afterward: “There was an envelope… I grabbed it…It was one of those moments where I got to keep working but my heart is pounding because this is obviously something good.”
Jeff was filled with joy to see that Gen X chose the fishing gear over the chickens while the Millennials made the opposite choice. According to him, “Gen X is looking long-term, Millennials are looking short-term.”
Paul said that fishing gear was the most important item out there, that it meant 39 days.
When asked about it, Taylor told Jeff that the chickens will lay eggs.
I would have told the host that it’s dumb to look long-term because soon there will be some lavish rewards to win and they will be switching tribes anyway. It was funny to hear something in the background supporting the Millennials. “Chicken is the good call,” we heard.
We will see how well Takali does with that fishing gear, but I don’t expect to see much fish coming out of the ocean. If we remember the last time they went to Fiji, Ravu would have loved to have 4 chickens while the ocean was infested with snakes, so it wasn’t the ideal fishing hole! Those snakes scared a player so much that she quit before even getting started. Maybe we will be lucky and they’ll rid us of a few losers again this time.
After Jeff warned them about the cyclone, the tribes headed out for their beach.
Mari’s interview: “This is a war between generations. I guarantee you that there are people on that Gen X tribe [who] have spoken the exact words that I have said: “This is the best generation ever.”
The music was very upbeat when we joined the Millennials when they arrived at the Vanua Beach. That kind of island music has proven to be a good sign.
Adam’s interview: “Everybody is so excited. Everybody is happy to get to know each other and we are going to prove a lot of people wrong about their misconceptions about Millennials.”
The castaways introduced each other with “Figgy” going first and she was followed by Mari.
Mari’s next interview: “As Millennials, we’re just all over the map. No one has just a regular job and I think it’s amazing. I absolutely think that our tribe and our generation see things in a completely different way and as Millennials that is a huge advantage.”
With Zeke starting out in the role of narrator sitting on the outside looking in, Mari picked up the role of narrator who embraces being a Millennial.
We then had the first indications of an alliance when Taylor, Jay, and Adam sat together, Jay saying that he liked the group and Taylor adding that they were solid.
Taylor’s interview: “I’ve got an awesome tribe. There this one guy that I connect with really well with named Jay…He’s a bro… He’s going to be someone I can get along with pretty easily. And then I really hit it off with Figs because she’s pretty dang cute! Michelle also is cool and they are both good looking and I’m a sucker for pretty girls, so I already have a connection with these people here.”
Reynold, Eddie, Ally and Hope already tried having a four person alliance in a group of ten in the Gota tribe and that didn’t work out really well. But the editors could very well be hiding the real alliance in Vanua. Are they only four? Adam seemed to be very close to the two other guys and we have no idea where Will would go.
Michelle then proposed using lint or hair to start a fire as long as it wasn’t her hair!
I guess that’s a variation of the “anyone but me” strategy!
Zeke’s interview: “I’m 28 years old but, to be honest, I’ve never called myself a Millennial once in my life… I’m dressed… for the retirement center. I’m an 80-year-old man at heart. I’m on a tribe with children. When I looked around and saw all these kids, I thought: ‘You know what none of these kids have had in their lives? A real job. They can’t do anything.’”
Figs, Michelle, Will and Taylor were all seen during Zeke’s rant.
We then went over to Gen X and the Takali beach. There the music was more adventurous, a precursor to the conflicts to come.
Paul had the first interview: “I expect Gen X to be Gen Xers. I expect them to be people of my caliber… They work hard, have good core values with their families with very strong opinions but based on sound decision making.”
Addressing the tribe, Paul said their odds improved by being on this tribe but Ken countered that they couldn’t underestimate their opponents. He said that this tribe works with their hands while the other works with their brains.
In other words, we have a rerun of Brains versus Brawn!
Chris put an end to that by saying they needed shelter and fire. Before they could get started, Ken interrupted again saying he spent four years in the jungle of Maui so he knew what to do.
Ken’s interview: “To me, this is home and I want to help kind of guide my team to the way I think is necessary but do so as the guy who is supporting, uplifting and they know that I’ve got their backs.”
Jessica’s interview: “When I was running around to find items, I found a nice little envelope. This is Survivor; it could any number of wonderful things and I don’t want anyone to find me with it because I feel that would put a target on my back.”
The bat that we saw in the intro was seen observing Jessica as she walked into the jungle to read her message. It will be interesting to see if the bat continues to be associated with Jessica because we will soon see that the little critter is very resistant: It would outlast even the cyclone that was about to hit.
Jessica’s envelope contained a new twist called the Legacy Advantage.
I wonder how many people will have it in their possession before we reach day 36? Jessica was confident she’d be there to get the advantage in the game, but I’ll say it changes hands two times!
Back from commercial, we joined the Millennials.
Figgy was handling the chicken.
Figgy’s interview: “Back home, I am the center of attention. I’m a flirty girl and I’m good at manipulating men. People think I’m just a pretty face, but they don’t know the brains behind the face. Maybe I’ll end up getting the million dollar check and I get a husband.”
This is the second winning quote of the evening even if Figgy has two objectives. That won’t help her focus.
Realizing she was alone in camp with Jay and Taylor, Figgy wondered where everyone went. Jay joked about idols. He then said that this three was solid and that they only needed three more.
Figgy’s interview continued: “Jay and I had a connection right off the bat and Taylor is my blue-eyed beauty and I think he’s so attractive and I knew those two boys were tight, so of course, I want to be a part of that. It’s going to be something strong.”
Taylor told his two friends that they were invincible and he called his trio the “Triforce.”
Jay’s interview: “I love Taylor. Taylor is my boy. I call him “Tails” because he’s like my homeboy from home. He’s just one of those guys who is like ‘Bro’ everything is fine. Let’s go hang out.’ And then Figs is a cool chick. Tails and Figgy; they are my go-to and I really appreciate them and they are good people. And I’ve got Namaste which her name is Michelle and I know we’re cool. She is freaking hot girl too by the way– super hot!”
Figgy said they needed to add Michelle and the guys agreed.
We soon saw Jay telling Michelle that they were cool and so were Taylor and Figgy.
In reaction to that alliance, we had Hannah’s interview: “So, looking around, it makes me nervous seeing all the beautiful faces…just because I don’t want to be the obvious first out, but it’s hard when you don’t immediately fit in.”
Michelle’s interview: “I think people see me as truthful probably because of my faith, because of my prayers. People have been coming up to me. Jay and I have a little bond. I also have Hannah telling me she trusts me and in this game, having people trust you and view you as someone who really cares for them, that’s very beneficial.”
Right then, we saw Michelle using the machete to give a hard chop. Could this woman have some surprises in store for those who trust her? Now that would be fun!
We returned to Gen X where a gecko was licking itself after spotting an insect that looked appetizing. At least for the gecko…
After observing Rachel working with Paul, we heard Sunday’s interview: “Rachel is definitely over-eager; she’s overly ‘confrontive’ (sic!). When you’re in a group setting, it can really bring a lot of negativity to the group and people don’t like it.”
Turning to Bret, Chris said they needed to work on the shelter because there was too much talking going on. David offered his services.
David’s interview: “I don’t really like sleeping outside, I don’t like bugs, and I don’t like the sun, the water, the ocean; all of those things are terrible. What I do love is the gameplay and that’s why I’m here.”
Bret’s interview: “Dave is afraid of his own shadow. I was chopping the bamboo and he was jumping up and covering his ears as if it was too loud. Dave’s got to man-up. There are girls with more testosterone back at that camp than he’s got.”
Dave then told Bret and Chris that he was sure Ken and Paul had found an idol. He then told both Bret and Chris that he trusted them and had their backs
Chris’ reaction: “Dave got really paranoid with us. He’s a guy that’s scared, but he’s also funny at times, charming at times. He’s trying way too hard. He’s running around talking strategy and I think it’s too early to be pushing too hard.
We went back to the Millennial’s beach where the wind was really picking up. The Vanua tribe flag dropped to the ground which wasn’t a very good sign.
Adam’s interview: “Heading into the first night, I’m a little nervous because we are in a world of hurt when it comes to our shelter. We have no real roof, but every single person on this tribe thinks everything is going to be OK. Everybody is so excited; everybody is really happy to get to know each other. I’m looking up at the sky and it’s getting dark and it’s only going to get worse but nobody seems to care. I think the difference between Gen X and the Millennials is that Gen X believes that you have to put in your time in order to get to where you want to be; Millennials don’t believe that. They believe that if you set your mind to something and you dream big, you can go and accomplish it now.”
Will’s interview: “We were having a little party on the beach and it started getting dark. We rushed back because the shelter is not built. We started trying to build palm fronds to keep ourselves dry because we think rain is coming. We are rushing to get the shelter done. Jay and I are up trying to tie the roof together. Our shelter was definitely one of the worse in the history of Survivor. We all went into the shelter but when weight went on it, it started sinking and it eventually cracked and I’m thinking to myself that there is no way we’re getting the shelter finished in time.”
To think he was about 6 years old when Rupert built that horrible shelter in All-Stars!
Taylor was sure that they would survive the night.
Hannah’s interview: “We’re terrified because it’s pouring rain and we don’t have a shelter. We’re just sitting in the rain, freezing cold. It’s just the hardest thing I’ve ever been through; it’s the longest night ever. I’m shaking and you can feel people mentally breaking down. You feel like it’s endless. We could hear the booming, the thunder and the lightning, and we saw the storm from far out on the water making its way to us and it was like a monster was coming to get us, to punish us for not building a shelter.”
Gen X – Day 2
The bat was hanging tough on the tree limb.
Cece’s Interview: “We just had basically a night in hell. We didn’t get our shelter built in time and it started raining and it never stopped. It never stopped raining and it’s still raining.”
That’s when the mailman delivered a tarp for protection.
Chris’ comments: “I don’t remember an occasion when a tribe was actually given a tarp. We are going to see what people are made of. This is going to be a difficult season of Survivor in my opinion. I think this weather is going to be something none of us are prepared for.”
Millennials – Day 2
Michaela’s reaction: “Man! You know it’s bad when Jeff gives you a tarp. You don’t even have to win the tarp; it just comes in the tree mail so that’s when we also knew that the weather was going to get worse so we got a lot of work to do.”
Zeke’s confessional: “I would rate our camp at pigpen level. It is just a mud flat with sticks of bamboo stuck haphazardly. I’m thinking: ‘Great! We are going to build a base, hang the tarp and it isn’t going to be as bad as last night.’ It’s hard, though, because the rain never lets up and last night was like one of the hardest nights of my life. I don’t understand how it could get much worse than that.” Thankfully, Jeff came in so that Zeke wouldn’t have to see how much worse it could get. “Jeff casually strolls into camp and I’m a little nervous.”
Hearing the news of the evacuation, Adam gave us his reaction: “My jaw dropped. This is unprecedented. This is something we’ve never seen. There have been bad storms on Survivor, but we have never done this in 33 seasons of Survivor…This is a real cyclone…”
At Gen X, Paul was the one that spoke for the tribe: “When I saw Jeff, my breath completely left my body. I knew something was wrong because Jeff very rarely comes to camp unless it’s a safety situation.”
Rachel told us about their evacuation.
It felt like the Gen X tribe’s evacuation came very late because the sea looked very dangerous. Maybe Jeff should have sent the boats simultaneously instead of taking the time to visit both camps. At least, everyone got safely off the island. We had some very impressive pictures of the storm, but I hope they were taken by remote control and that no cameraman was left behind just for that.
Day 3 – Gen X
Now, it was nice and sunny, time for the hermit crab and the bat to take a peek at their surroundings just like the players were about to do.
Cece’s interview: “On day 3, we came back to the camp after the cyclone passed and everything was knocked over and a tree actually did fall on our shelter. This is alarming; this is scary because now you are talking about our lives and someone getting injured by a tree falling down. So it was good that we were evacuated. That was definitely a saving grace that Jeff decided to do that.”
I’m thinking production could have simply delayed the start of filming by a couple of days but that they wanted to take the risk just to have something new to show.
David’s interview: “The first few days on Survivor are all about building a shelter and I’m terrible at that and we had to do it twice. I don’t think anybody sees me as physically strong, so there’s no reason they’d want to keep me over anybody else. So it’s really resonating with me, that paranoia, that nervousness, that anxiety that I’m the chopping block. I’m not sure there’s much hope for me in this game of Survivor but I am a Gen Xer and I don’t give up and I’m going to work hard to make this happen and I’m going to turn this around. I’m going to look really hard for the immunity idol. It might be the only thing that could save me.”
His struggles with the branch reminded me of the scene with Stephen but we certainly didn’t have the time to make the same kind of connection with David as we had with Stephen so it didn’t have the same appeal. That scene was accompanied by the kooky musical theme, but as soon as David started talking about not giving up, we heard the melancholic piano that serves to make us sympathize with a character’s struggles. As for looking for the idol, it was the very thing that nearly got him voted out because he certainly wasn’t casual about it. If David survives next week, we may have to endure watching his neurosis for a while and that’s not why I watch Survivor.
Chris, Bret and Paul all thought that David’s obvious search for the idol was a dumb move.
Jessica, showing the first signs of the infection to her eyes, gave us an interview: “David was out madly looking for an idol while we were building a shelter and that upset a lot of people. If David has an idol, it certainly would complicate things moving forward so if we lose, it’s going to be David.”
Anyone who thinks that Jessica will still be in the game on day 36 to use her advantage should take notice that we never heard about her eye infection. An interviewer must have asked the question and she must have talked about it since it was already very apparent but it wasn’t included in the story until much later.
Millennials – Day 3
Zeke was taking charge and speaking for the tribe: “We get back to camp and it’s a mess. We have a base for the shelter but we don’t have a roof…I led the building of the second shelter. Look, I don’t know how to build a shelter. I live in Brooklyn! I know how to ride the subway and that’s about the extent of my outdoors skills, but you know what, I stepped up and I did it. So, against all odds, I have become the leader of the camp.”
We even saw Zeke attempting to make fire! His interview continued: “I never think of myself as the person who feels adept out here in the outdoors. I’m not that kind of person, but I am very intrigued by the idea of proving how tough I am, and so in a weird way, Survivor is helping me rise to my potential. We have fire and I made it! I never, in a million years, thought that I’d be the guy who makes fire without flint. I feel like a milestone has been reached in my life, like I’ve become a new man. I feel like I am growing as a person out here; I am affected by this experience in a very positive way and I’m very proud of myself right now.”
My first impression was that Zeke would fail in his attempt to make fire like so many others before him, but no! The music was too upbeat for a failure and he actually got the fire started and he was congratulated by the whole tribe, particularly by Jay and Adam, giving him high fives and Mari who called him the “Fire Starter.” In the end, Adam put his arm around his shoulder and Figgy put her arms around his neck.
The juxtaposition of Zeke’s story to David’s is astonishing in its contrast: Their first scenes showed that both were out of their elements, but where David whimpered, Zeke took charge. In fact, from a narrator that was on the outside compared to Mari who was speaking for her generation, Zeke is now the one that’s on the inside while Mari would soon find herself with the Misfits! What a fascinating roundabout we are witnessing.
The next scene showed Taylor, Jay and Figgy sitting alone on the beach saying how solid they were together. That didn’t escape Hannah attention.
Hannah’s interview: “When you look at the group, I started noticing that there really has been that sort of division between the High School Cool Kids and the sort of Weirdo Nerds. Cool Kids versus Misfits and I do feel like the Misfits are going to be on the outs, so I need to squash that in the bud.”
Hannah quickly talked to Mari about her impressions, telling her that Figgy and the boys were dangerous.
Mari’s interview: “So the good looking popular group is isolating themselves from the entire tribe. So, we need to tear apart that popular group. My goal is to play like I would play video games, so at this point, I’m pulling together kind of like the misfits and kind of like the outcasts. So, I kind of started putting into people’s ears that the four pretty people– they are inseparable and that’s dangerous– so while we have all the numbers, this is our opportunity to strike.”
We saw Mari talking to Adam and Michaela.
I really wonder where Adam, Will, and Zeke will fall? I’m not sure that Mari and Hannah will have the numbers when they need them but, like so often, the edit could go both ways so we will have to wait and see.
Day 4 – The Immunity Challenge
After Jeff’s explanations, we heard the tribes talking about their strategy. We heard Rachel say that she was going for the first club and that she would do the puzzle with David while, on the other side, Zeke said they should use the shortcut on the balance beam.
Once more, Ken was the fastest out of the gates, something to remember for future challenges involving speed.
Chris had a good short term idea when he blocked two members of the other tribe but for the long term, he made many enemies.
With much larger bodies, the Gen X tribe (Yes, I did say you were fat but so did Jeff!) took the shortcut at the first obstacle but these challenges always come down to the puzzle. Gen X chose the short-term benefit and it hurt them in the end.
Rachel and David didn’t make any progress on their puzzle, so they gave way to Jessica and Sunday.
Jeff took a cheap shot at Rachel, saying she didn’t accomplish anything.
For their part, Michelle and Figgy flew through their puzzle and gave the Millennials the first win.
I heard a few: “Good job, Figgy” but nothing for Michelle.
Chris gave an interview while his tribe left the arena: “The challenge did not go as we wanted. It was a disaster. Rachel was barking off orders, David told us he was a supreme puzzle maker and they failed on it, so those two are on the hatchet.”
Day 4 – Gen X Scrambling
Bret: “I wanted to beat the Millennials so bad and I really thought we would. I think we have a lot of people with strength and experience. I really thought we would outshine them today and I’m shocked we didn’t. Rachel tells everyone that she can do puzzles, puzzles are her thing and she screws it all up.”
Sitting in the ocean, Bret told Sunday and Jessica that they should have done the puzzle from the start since they did well when they stepped in.
Jessica’s interview: “If someone doesn’t do well in a challenge it’s always going to magnify on that person… So we are going to be voting for Rachel, but my fear obviously is a hidden immunity idol…”
David’s interview: “Everybody has been strategizing and they are not including me in any of it. I don’t think anyone trusts me at this point. I know the position I’m in; I’m on the chopping block. I think I’m going home tonight.”
Unfortunately, he was wrong… This was Rachel’s only episode so it’s a shame that the editors wasted time on this neurotic, whiny guy instead of giving her more airtime.
David told Jessica and the other guys that he didn’t have an idol.
In confessional, Bret told us he still thought Dave had an idol. He wanted to vote out either David or Rachel, so he was going to split the vote.
That tells us all we need to know about this police officer’s ability to tell when someone is lying. For him, David is guilty until proven innocent. Bret’s first thought was to split 6 votes, leaving Rachel, Cece, Ken and David out of the loop, but luckily for him, someone was better at math so they used 8 votes.
Rachel and Cece saw that everyone was talking and not including them so Rachel finally had an interview telling us that she knew she was on the chopping block along with Cece. She also saw right through Paul and Chris who lied about not knowing what was going on.
Those two aren’t very good liars. It would have been so easy to sell a David vote.
David had the last confessional of the episode, telling us he was at the mercy of his tribe.
Jessica explained that the blowing sand had irritated her eyes and that it developed into a bacterial infection.
Bret said the storm was 10 times worse than a Boston northeaster.
David got scared as soon as Jeff said his name. All the members of the tribe broke out in laughter.
I wasn’t much amused.
Hearing him say that the last few days seemed like a year, Jeff said that Dave sounded like someone who would be OK with going home.
For once, I was happy to see Jeff interfering with the voting decision. I knew it wouldn’t work but maybe next time!
David said he didn’t want to go home but thought he would.
Cece said she didn’t want to see anyone going home.
Sunday said it was nice to feel less pressure about being the one going home.
When Jeff asked who felt that it could be them, I saw everyone raising their hand except Lucy and Bret and even Bret’s hand could have been hidden by Jessica. So Lucy? Really? For someone who was totally irrelevant in this episode, she showed some confidence…either that or foolish bravado.
Jeff turned to Chris who said he thought he was on the outs on day 2.
Rachel told Jeff she felt that she was in trouble when no one talked to her. She apologized to everyone in case she had made them feel bad.
Jessica said that there were idols in the game and opportunities to find them.
In the end, we had:
Cece voted for Dave while Rachel voted for Sunday.
Jessica, Lucy, and Sunday voted for Cece.
The 5 guys voted for Rachel.
We all saw the contempt in Cece’s face.
Jeff sent them back to camp after saying “One of the hallmarks of Generation X: You’re not afraid of working hard. There’s no question you worked hard these first few days but the question is: How are you going to recover against those Millennials?”
How can we understand the story that is being presented when we know that Jeff, the host and main narrator, can lie to us? We’ve often had seasons where the eventual winner wasn’t the main focus of the story: Marquesas, Guatemala, Gabon, Samoa and South Pacific come to mind, but looking back we could always see the themes of the season fitting well with the eventual winner.
Looking at Marquesas, most viewers were disappointed when they realized that Kathy wasn’t going to win. It wasn’t only because of their affection for the Vermonter; it was because the editors presented her as the player of the season, giving her more confessionals than the two finalists combined. We saw that she was respected by her rivals and that she was the season’s strategist.
Still, with everyone getting nicknames that season (Cleopatra, McGyver, Johnny Pots and Pans, the Robfather, Malcolm X, Tinkerbell, the General) and with Sarah attracting immediate disapproval because of her grand entrance, the season’s main theme became: “You can’t stand out if you want to win Survivor.”
Evidence of that was seen when Peter was voted out first simply because of his weirdness and when the biggest move of the season, only the fourth big move in the show’s history, was possible only because the Rotu 4 stood out at the coconut chop challenge. With a theme like that, the winner couldn’t possibly be a huge character, and Vee, the one who made a point of staying out of drama and who was never dubbed with a strange nickname, certainly fit the role.
Similar observations could be made for all the other seasons so that the winner always emerged from the story that we had been told. That is until last season where there wasn’t a “winner’s edit”.
With the themes of the story last season, only Cydney or Aubry could have been seen as possible winners. Many put a lot of weight on Michele’s premiere confessional but that’s just because they had been told where to look by spoilers. Starting with Silas, we’ve had many bartenders say their job will help them in the game to the point it became insignificant. It was so insignificant, in fact, that Michelle’s confessional probably wouldn’t have aired in a regular 60-minute premiere.
So what about this season? The first theme we’ve encountered is that you have to decide between short-term gains or long-term advantages. With the Millennials finding long-term advantages in picking the chickens and then knowing to avoid the first shortcut in the challenge, we have to say that the premiere favored them. We can also add the subliminal messages that we heard during the introductions that seemed to encourage the viewers into rooting for the young tribe. However, I think it’s best to simply file this information away and return to it when we have more information.
As with the story, I will wait a bit before analyzing these characters too deeply. For now, I will simply place them into three categories:
The Background Actors
Lucy: Besides not being worried about the vote, there isn’t a thing to say about Lucy. Even Jeff wasn’t intrigued by her confidence, so why should we?
CeCe: She finds herself in the role of underdog, but we barely connected with her. Will she recover or will she be next? It probably won’t matter in the end.
Michaela: She was approached by Mari to be part of the Misfits alliance, but we didn’t hear her point of view.
Sunday: While her role was very limited, she did get an introduction confessional, but it was more about setting up the season’s theme than a true personal presentation moment.
Ken: He wanted to guide his team, but it looks like they made the decision without him. We saw him slightly hesitating at the voting booth so maybe he wasn’t told about the vote and simply voted against Rachel because it was the obvious thing to do.
The Supporting Cast
Mari: In a fascinating turn of events, Mari started as the narrator for her generation but ended up forming an alliance of Misfits because she felt like an outsider in her own tribe. The conflict between the Misfits and the popular kids should be interesting. This time, the popular kids aren’t aligned with bullies and they seem much more likable so Mari may be facing a tough battle.
Hannah: She had a nice introduction: We got to know her and we saw that she is aware of the game being played around her. She first got close to Michelle but not her three friends. How will that work out?
Will: He gave us many confessionals and we could see him as another narrator for the Millennials but his role isn’t well defined yet. Which way will he go? It seems that he would fit in better with Jay and Taylor than with Hannah and Mari but we haven’t heard anything to help us with that question. Will could have a big role to play in the tribe’s dynamics.
Bret, Paul, Chris: Takali’s three big guys were mostly on the same page so they should continue working together even if the previews make us wonder about Paul’s health. When we hear heart attack, we have to look at the older guy and we saw that he struggled climbing the hill that leads to their camp, so how much exertion can he take? Bret and Chris were big characters but they could very well become Villains.
Taylor, Figgy, Jay , and Michelle: The four members of “Triforce” could be in trouble but their alliance was treated with more care than the two couples in Caramoan’s Fan tribe. Figgy and Michelle’s role in winning immunity could very well help them gain people for their side if they didn’t already have them. Everyone in Vanua owes them for making sure they wouldn’t suffer the humiliation of being voted out first. Jay and Taylor were seen as fun-loving young men with no signs of arrogance or rudeness to make them targets. Of course, that could change with a challenge loss.
David: For me, his story was so negative that I wouldn’t mind seeing him leave next. This isn’t Big Brother. As long as the word “Survivor” is in the title of this show, someone like David should not be cast. Unfortunately, the time that was devoted to his story makes it look like he could be there a while.
Adam: I thought that he had a very good presentation and his description of the Millennials could be seen as his winner’s quote: “If you set your mind to something and you dream big, you can go and accomplish it now.” Will Adam accomplish this goal? Interestingly, we didn’t hear him talk about his mom’s health so there is a lot of room for his story to grow. Mari talked to him about the alliance of 4, so how will he react? We first saw him sitting with Jay and Taylor, agreeing that he liked their group.
Jessica: It’s hard to say how much of a story she would have received if Lucy had grabbed that envelope first. The fact that Jessica didn’t talk about her eye infection in interview, and that it was only brought up at Tribal Council, could be a bad sign for her chances but it’s too early to tell.
Zeke: The real revelation of this premiere, it seems evident that Zeke will be on a journey to prove how tough he is and it was fascinating to see him get with the tribe so quickly after hearing him say he couldn’t possibly fit in with these young kids. Have we ever had such an unusual tribe leader, someone whose outdoors experience is the Brooklyn subway? I hope he doesn’t get carried away to the point where he tries to impose his voting decisions, but his unique position could very well decide which way the votes go. He could vote with Mari’s misfits but he really seemed to enjoy the way Jay, Adam, Taylor and Figgy embraced him after he made fire so he could join their side.
For the complete schedule of Survivor blogs: RHAP Survivor Blog Schedule.