The Characters and Their Stories is a blog in which Michel Trudeau uses the edit to determine the themes of the season to try to find its long-term players. Each week, he will explores the overt signs as well as the more nuanced nods.
The Characters and Their Stories: Week 6–It’s All Fun and Games until Someone Gets Hurt
This week’s episode was a shocking example of crossing the line. It started rather innocuously with Jiffy’s previously on Survivor montage.
First we saw Cockroach enjoying his blind date with Daffy. He seemed to be having a good time but I’m sure he would have preferred a Survivor Hottie. After a hug that lasted uncomfortably long, he gave Daffy an extra vote and quickly left. Yes, I would have given her a “Dear Jane” letter and hit the road also.
At the Mañana Tribe, Numskullpepper was working his way to the top by kissing Troyzan’s behind.
At the Kookoo tribe, Sandra and Vermin were on the bottom but Tie was being a chicken so at Tribal Council he tried to shift the target by throwing Oscar under the bus. In the end, Sandra was such a juicy target that she got her torch snuffed for the very first time. That’s when Daffy joined the Kookoo tribe which suddenly became Kookier.
And now, on to tonight’s silliness…
It’s All Fun and Games until Someone Gets Hurt
Night 16 – At the Kookoo Camp, Daffy said she had just seen a horror movie. So, it seems her date with Cockroach included a dinner and a show, but he bailed out on her before the cinema show. Just seeing her was horror enough for the former winner. She was happy to be back to the Kookoo Camp where she belonged. Hey, she said it, not me! The castaways all made the mistake of greeting her as if she was a long lost relative when she could have been an easy vote. Daffy told us that what happened on Exile stays on Exile in order to protect Mr Cockroach’s reputation but we all know that nothing good happened on Exile. Her lips were sealed. Who knew that by the end of the episode, we’d all wish someone else’s lips would have been sealed, like with glue…
Oscar and the Chicken Whisperer started circling each other like two fighters in a ring. “He who talks to Chickens” told us that all this game talk confuses him and he thought he could be at the bottom. Hey, maybe he’ll go look for another idol. In that, he is an expert. By the end of the season he will have searched the islands of Fiji so thoroughly that he could end up finding Lisi’s long lost dignity. She lost it early during season 14 and, from what I heard, hasn’t found it yet. Chicken Whisperer felt like he was terrible at Tribal Council. Well, we’ll soon see that. On a scale of terribleness, Tie was no match for this episode’s “champion”!
Since Vermin couldn’t care less about Daffy’s adventures, he went right back to his favorite confessional spot next to a tree and started bitching about all those bitches. He was mad but he didn’t want to let them know that he was mad. He talked to Z and said he was fine with being blindsided. As long as it wasn’t him he was fine, but when he’ll see that he is next he won’t be so fine… Z told him everything (and maybe a bit too much…) He even offered to work with him until Final 3. Vermin told us that he wasn’t done just yet. No, he wasn’t…
Day 17 – Did you notice that we always go directly to the challenge arena? We used to see some Designated Survivor walking all the way to tree mail, pick up a note, race back to camp all excited and proceed to read a moron’s poem. That moron got fired. (I would have fired the guy in charge instead but shit always trickles down)
When Jiffy told Mañana that the two-time winner Sandra had been voted out, we only saw Brie’s surprise. Sandra had been close to Troyzan and Mañana’s Brunette but they didn’t seem to care about losing an ally. Maybe by Mañana they will realize the significance of that vote.
As for the challenge itself, it was another rerun: A group of players worked their way around Jiffy’s big pole then they raced over an obstacle course to grab big balls which they then catapulted in a series of nets. They would be playing for cold pizzas with the works: Pepperoni, cheese, flies and sand.
For Mañana, we had a hot threesome of Cowgirl, Brown Sugar and the Brunette while Kookoo tied Oscar, Deedee and Bad Cop to Jiffy’s big pole. As the challenge got underway, it became evident that Oscar had experience in bondage because he went through those ropes faster than anyone. Cowgirl, Brown Sugar and the Brunette took their time, enjoying the moment and I must say I liked it also.
Having the lead, Kookoo made the oxymoronic choice of sending Tie to untie the planks. Somehow, he figured it out and next we had Vermin and Z working together assembling the planks. I don’t see them doing anything together anytime soon after this. Brie didn’t wait until Mañana to untie her planks so Numskullpepper or Troyzan had a chance to catch up. Daffy was sent up the ladder to grab those balls and soon the Kookoo tribe was squeezing its way by Annette. Oscar took the balls for Kookoo and started launching them. When Mañana finally got passed Annette, Cowgirl used the catapult. It was hers to win but she had very little success. Numskullpepper took over and landed a few balls but Oscar still had a big lead. In the end, Kookoo won pizza while Mañana would have to wait for another day… Couch Potato told us that she really wanted to eat pizza because she was about to break down physically and emotionally. Jersey Girl, you’ve been twice to the end of this game, you should know what to do by now. If you still don’t then you should have stayed on that couch.
When we got back from commercial, everyone in Mañana was rehearsing for the Final Tribal Council. Ever since Sophie showed us that tears will win the million bucks, the players know what sells. The first one we saw in the crying booth was Cowgirl but she came off as a complainer. She hadn’t eaten for 3 days and couldn’t sleep at night. Well, boo-hoo! We could expect this from a newbie but Cowgirl’s been to this rodeo before. She even lasted 39 days so she knew she’d be ridden hard and put away wet. Next, Brie went for the sympathy vote by telling us that it’s hard to explain the hardship to those who never experienced it. At least she had the chance to experience it so I’m not going to cry over her “misfortune”. As a tough guy, Numskullpepper realized that he couldn’t cry over his own situation so he managed some tears by recalling that his wife made it to day 39 and how hard it must have been to do that. Yes, especially when you know you don’t stand a chance of winning the prize at the end. Having Tyson crush your dreams leaves a mark… Numskullpepper’s tears would not only work well for the jury if he makes it there, it also paid immediate dividend when Brie and Coach Potato both said they were amazed by his openness. Soon Numskullpepper had a solid alliance of five which included Cowgirl, Troyzan, Brie and Couch Potato.
In Kookoo, the music was sickeningly upbeat and the pizzas cold but that didn’t stop the tribe from having a good time. Vermin, talking with pizza in his mouth, realized that Oscar was making him look bad. Oscar was winning challenges and providing for the tribe while he, Vermin, was doing nothing. So he came up with this dumb plan of getting rid of Oscar. If you’re at this party, listening to music, smoking some good stuff and you suddenly get the munchies, you’re not gonna throw out the guy who offered to pay for all the pizzas. You’re more likely throwing out the party crasher and, in this case, that’s Vermin. Even way back in the Outback, Vermin knew better than to go after that Idiot Mike after he killed piggy. We can’t say that Vermin improved with age…
Like a snake, Vermin approached Bad Cop with his plan and she was all in. Like him, she hates it when the true Survivor wins it all in the end while the inept players just sit and watch. Feeling inept herself, she wanted to take out the biggest threats to have a fighting chance. Bad Cop had gotten rid of one Latino so now it was time to cut the throat of the other.
Day 18 – We were right back to another challenge and since the girls just got their bikinis, theymay as well show them so the challenge was going to be on water and then they’d be doing some more pole dancing and juggling big balls. For that, I applaud Deedee, Cowgirl and the Brunette but I’m disappointed in Sugar Cane. She used to show us her tatas but not anymore. She put a plain beige shirt over her swim suit. Why couldn’t Daffy wear a shirt instead? I’m begging the cameraman not to point his lens in that direction… Oscar took no time getting his buoys while Numbskullpepper and Brie fumbled around with theirs but like in every Survivor challenge, all this excitement was for naught. It always comes down to the puzzle so, while Jiffy was commenting on the swimmers, I was watching the Brunette pulling on Mañana’s rope and collecting their balls.
Oscar is so good at these water challenges that the buoys don’t even put up a fight anymore: As soon as he gets them out of the bag, they either obediently stay by his side so that he can just toss them over or they float right to Oscar’s raft by themselves. In comparison, Numskullpepper’s buoys go off in the wrong direction every time!
Numskulpepper tries to gather them but, for him, it’s like herding cats. While Kookoo put Varner on top of their pole, Mañana had to good sense to put Cowgirl on theirs while the Brunette worked the floor. Brunette wasn’t there just for her looks; she was good at word puzzles. The whole tribe jumped for joy when her word was correct. She grabbed the idol and Mañana lived to see tomorrow. Kookoo had a date with Jiffy and Vermin had something special in mind to guarantee he wasn’t going home. After this, maybe he shouldn’t have gone home. Antarctica would have been a more welcoming place…
Getting back to camp, Deedee admitted that she wasn’t even close to a metamorphosis but Vermin said none of them were to blame. Vermin then came up with a novel idea: Since he was the obvious target, he’d like it if they gave him a chance to have one-on-one talks with everyone. Not a bad idea in itself but, as we soon saw, it always left five people alone in camp to agree that the Vermin had to go. Well, at least that’s what Daffy thought but Bad Cop still wanted to get rid of the Latino. Z wanted to save Vermin but he didn’t want to lose Oscar. Then I’d think the alternative was evident: Boot either Tie or Daffy! I’m baffled that their names didn’t even come up.
During his one-on-one with Vermin, Z admitted that there was a good chance he was going home. He wasn’t going to risk his game for Vermin. Suddenly Vermin realized that there had to be a secret alliance between Z and Oscar. He brought that realization to the girls who immediately became jealous that Oscar wasn’t in a secret alliance with them instead. Vermin had another realization about Z and he hinted at it by saying that he had picked up something about Z that no one else knew, that it was insignificant to the game– it meant nothing except that Z wasn’t the guy we thought he was. Well, I think we’d all find out that he is an even better guy than we thought he was…
Bad Cop was angry and she told Deedee about it; Z threw them under the bus so because of that she was ready to vote out Oscar and keep Vermin! Wait…what? You don’t trust Z so you want to get rid of Oscar? That makes sense…
Vermin told Jiffy that he knew he was going home. That got a reaction from Daffy: If Vermin is certain then maybe he has something up his sleeve to shock her. Vermin said he realized that there were things going on at camp Kookoo: They were not six strong because there was a secret alliance between Z and Oscar. Vermin said he was going to vote for Oscar and he wanted the others to follow him. As Daffy said, Vermin was good so his pitch could have worked but now that he had the floor, Vermin was going to infest the whole room.
Varner asked Zeke why he didn’t tell anyone he was transgender. Zeke was in shock and the whole room fell silent. Ozzy and Andrea’s discomfort was immediately visible. They all rallied to support Zeke who handled the situation with class and quality. Ozzy said it right: Varner showed what he was willing to do to get further in the game. Tai said it should have been Zeke’s choice. Andrea said it was painful to see someone being outed this way. Zeke explained that he stopped telling people because he didn’t want to be “trans-person” or the “trans-Survivor-player” but simply be Zeke. He said that the circumstances were crappy but that he felt fine. Sarah was still shaking her head at Varner. In tears, she said that was a malicious attack. She then said that she was happy to have known Zeke and that he was “super kick-ass”. Not being exposed to much diversity, she felt knowing him and liking him made her grow as a person. Zeke said he hoped this would be helpful for someone.
As expected when Sierra read her legacy advantage, we are going to merge at 13. We’ve reached it with 9 original Nuku players and only 4 from Mana. The interesting part is that Brad’s alliance includes 2 of those 4 original Manas: Troy and Aubry. Which grouping will hold up under the pressures of the individual game? Using the immunity challenge solution, Jeff introduced a new theme to our story, saying that “Metamorphosis” is the most important aspect of the game. With that in mind, which players have undergone a metamorphosis?
Michaela: She remains a character without a story. She has changed from an interesting character to one that is mostly ignored.
Troy: In this episode, he was only a number in Brad’s alliance. However, if we look at his trajectory since the beginning of the season up to now we can see that Troyzan isn’t the same player as the one we saw in One World. He isn’t as gullible and he has an alliance that may work for him instead of against him.
Hali: We didn’t hear from her but she had her winning moment. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Andrea’s win but it was something. I find it strange that we haven’t seen her talking to Troy because they were together on the original Mana. Still, it’s hard to say that Hali has gone through her own metamorphosis; she’s still the same as we saw in Worlds Apart: mostly quiet and keeping her head down. She doesn’t even have the advantage of being seen as a carefree “No Collar” because, by now, her competitors all know she’s a law student. Will she be the cobra that strikes or the one that gets hypnotized by some snake charmer? The latter feels more likely.
Sierra: We can hope that the intent behind showing her confessional was simply to underline the hardship of Survivor but she didn’t have to be the one used to deliver that message. Other than that, she was reduced to being a member of Brad’s alliance much like Troy. She has been more assertive this season but can we really talk about metamorphosis? It’s more like a slow evolution. Maybe she’s keeping a surprise in store for the merger. Since her legacy advantage can be optioned at the next Tribal Council then she has to be given a role in that merger episode. We’ll have to see how much of an impact she makes.
Cirie: Like Sierra, her only confessional was simply to set up the tribe’s moment of despair. Cirie’s biggest change is due to the fact that her tribe never went to Tribal Council. In Panama, not only did Cirie go to Tribal Council in the first 2 cycles, but she was a target in both and told she’d be next to go even if she survived that 2nd Tribal Council. Cirie had to scramble early and often. The start of her next two seasons, Micronesia and Heroes Vs Villains, weren’t much better for Cirie. She trusted Yau-Man but felt betrayed by him so she had to improvise and switch sides and then the Heroes kept losing. Now Cirie will be going to Tribal Council so we’ll see if she’s considered a target or if she can remain in the shadows. If she can manage to stay out of the crosshairs, then this silent assassin could go far.
Aubry: Considering that we had seen her breaking down in her first season, it was nice to see that she was the one being supportive this time. Is that enough to be called a metamorphosis? Maybe, but her main contribution in the episode was to make a case for Brad not for herself.
Culpepper: The star of Mana may have just assembled the alliance that will take over the game. His confessional about Monica had to remind viewers of Jeremy when he talked about Val. The tattooed names of his wife and his kids made me think that he is carrying his family on his back! And if “Metamorphosis” is really the theme of the season then Brad has really changed. He went from public enemy number one in Blood versus Water to being the most trusted by some and seen as the most genuine by others in this season. Being a former professional athlete, Brad will need to work hard in convincing a jury to award him a million dollars but if he can show them tears then anything is possible.
Debbie: She didn’t cause the night’s drama. That’s a plus but we know that the real Debbie will soon return.
Tai: Like everyone else, Tai handled the Tribal Council situation very well. For once, he found the right words to show Varner the gigantic error of judgment he had made. But Tai is still confused about this game so it will be hard for him to get to the end.
Ozzy: If Varner had stopped after making his original pitch and let it sink in instead of outing Zeke, there was a possibility that Ozzy would have been voted out. Did we hear that they had to vote him out before the merger because he will run the tables or was it to prepare us for his downfall? In Cook Islands, the tribes merged at 9, not 13 so the odds aren’t in favor of anyone running the tables even if Ozzy’s competition is weaker this time. His best option is to rejoin Brad and Sierra who connected with him during Nuku’s first days. Do they still need him though? Ozzy has changed; he is much less arrogant this time and much less of a hot head. Twice now people have put the target directly on him at Tribal Council, but Ozzy hasn’t once raised his voice or even shown agitation. We didn’t hear anything approaching the “Mutineers die first” he kept yelling at Candice and Jonathan when he felt betrayed by them. It won’t be an easy road for Ozzy, but he’s managed it before.
Andrea: She served as the audience’s conscience when Varner dropped his bomb. Like her, we were very uncomfortable. Her tears also showed her empathy. Since we didn’t see her aligning with anyone on the original Nuku, it’s difficult to see where she will go after the merger. Brad has an alliance of five so he’ll need two more in order to have majority at the merger, so will she be one of his numbers or will she take charge? If Andrea changed, it is that she seems less trusting than in her first two seasons. She still seems too nice for this game but maybe she has more changes in store for us.
Sarah: Much like Tony tricked her into believing that Cliff was targeting her, it didn’t take much for Varner to convince Sarah that Zeke was her enemy. In comparison, Andrea didn’t react as strongly to that information. Sarah seemed to consider the option when Varner made his first pitch at Tribal Council only to recoil after he dropped his bomb. By the end of that scene, Varner was starting to get off the hook when she called his action for what it was: malicious. She was the last to express herself before Zeke delivered his message of hope and she did it very well. Her words and her tears showed that the tough police officer had a softer side. Was it enough to say that Sarah has changed?
Zeke: I admire the way Zeke handled this difficult situation. Even if he says he is happy with the way Probst and production handled the situation, it must be said that they didn’t give him much time to think about it. When Jeff said there was no need to vote then Varner’s outing couldn’t be edited out of the episode; it had to be shown. Zeke was still under shock so he never had time to calmly reflect on the situation. I wonder if the others will see him as a bigger threat now that he can tell that story to the jury. I don’t know a thing about what a person must feel before undergoing such a transformation, but there must be some awkwardness; one cannot feel comfortable in one’s own skin. If so, then the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly is an apt comparison because what we saw of Zeke in the latest episode still had a bit of the butterfly’s fragility but he certainly had all of its elegance.
If you haven’t read it already then I encourage you to read Zeke’s article: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/survivor-zeke-smith-outed-as-transgender-guest-column-991514.
And if you have time, (it’s a long song!) maybe you’ll give a listen to Magenta’s “Metamorphosis”, one of my all time favorites.