Posts Tagged ‘Survivor: Nicaragua’

Survivor Survival Guide: “What about Me?”

“It comes down to knowing yourself very well. I’m very aware of the vibes I’m giving off and how people perceive them.”

—JudFabio, summarizing in two sentences the essence of Survivor

So much of this 21st season of Survivor has paled in comparison to its 20th iteration. The castaways were not only unfamiliar, but seemingly unenlightened in how to play the game. The outsize personalities were less polarizing than simply unpleasant, and none of the final five could really lay claim to controlling the game for extended periods of time.

But Survivor: Nicaragua did deliver something that Heroes vs. Villains couldn’t: a completely compelling and satisfying finale with a more-deserving-than-we-thought winner. Let’s take a spin.

FROM FIVE TO FOUR

The “Previously on…” established the narrative arcs and the relative strengths and weaknesses for each of the final five castaways. Dan had done nothing, but that included not making any enemies. Holly had a nervous breakdown before taking down the game’s most powerful player in Brenda. Chase seemed to show genuine remorse each and every time he voted off an ally. Sash had made innumerable side deals, allying himself with everyone (and, as a result, no one). JudFabio was dumb—or was he?—and is a physical threat to win immunity.

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Survivor Survival Guide: Previewing the Finale

I hope you don’t have a problem with me poaching part of this from last season’s “Previewing the Finale” post. My attitude on Survivor finales hasn’t really changed in the last seven months. If you already read that post, just skip down to the first bold headline.

Tonight is the season finale for Survivor: Nicaragua, and even though this has been, by nearly every measure, a disappointing season, I would describe my excitement for this evening’s proceedings as embarrassingly high. Survivor finales have regularly amped me up more than the finales of any other drama. This is for two main reasons. First, they provide closure in a way no other series does, for I think the obvious someone-wins-and-there-ain’t-no-cliffhangers reason. Second, most of the great dramas I have watched recently (The WireThe SopranosDexter, Mad Men, and Lost), I have watched either online or on DVD, meaning I can watch the finale immediately after the penultimate episode. This is one of my least favorite things about watching shows on DVD.

I love the Survivor finale because, no matter how clearcut it seems going in, you can never rely on the fickle psychology of the jury. You can’t predict which players will graciously vote for the person who caused their elimination because he was the best player, which ones will remain loyal to their alliances long after they’ve died, and which ones will hold long-term grudges. These questions are only amplified by the ambiguity of watching a season of Survivor: We the viewers only see so much, and it’s no secret that the editing plays a big role in the portrayal of different characters.

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Survivor Survival Guide: “This Is Going to Hurt”

“The wrath of Jane will break out tonight.”

—Umm, Jane

Survivor: Nicaragua’s penultimate episode finally gave us what we’ve been waiting for all along: shots of Dan’s grown son kissing him repeatedly. The last episode before Sunday’s finale was the traditional family show, with castaways meeting family members—or in the Survivor parlance, “loved ones”—before competing for a chance to spend even more time with them. The family episode is always an interesting one because it provides us with glimpses into these contestants’ home lives, teaching us things like Dan’s grown son is overly affectionate, JudFabio loves his mom even though he doesn’t get to see her, and that Jane works on her farm only with her daughter. It’s also an overly sentimental one, with plenty of tears and emoting, which to be frank grows tiresome to the loyal Survivor viewer since we see the same emotional outpouring each season.

“This Is Going to Hurt” opened with a “Previously on…” that established Chase as a capricious villain. JudFabio was on “high alert” after thinking he would be voted out at the prior Tribal, and Sash reassured him that it was Benry who tried to get him out—right before Sash told the camera that JF is definitely gone provided he doesn’t win immunity.

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Survivor Survival Guide: “Not Sure Where I Stand”

“I’ve been a little flighty throughout the game.”

—Chase

“That kid’s been shifty.”

—Benry on Sash

We kind of knew last week how this episode would shape up, and if we didn’t, the “Previously on…” made sure we did: Sash was going to be the pivotal swing vote between one established alliance of Chase, Holly, and Jane and the loose collective of Benry, JudFabio, and Dan. Sash had seen his own alliance—with Brenda, NaOnka, Purple Kelly, and at times Chase—collapse over the last few episodes, and with his help (in voting Brenda off). Still, he held a lot of power. Each alliance knew they needed Sash, and with the Hidden Immunity Idol, he was pretty much the only person we knew wouldn’t be voted off last night.

With that in mind, he gathered Chase, Benry, and JudFabio to tell them that he was going to play the idol at the next Tribal Council to get any target off his back and be a “free agent” between alliances, which was a refreshingly candid way to put it. He didn’t attempt to pretend that he had lasting ties with either side, something Dan comically tried to call him out on later in the episode by acting surprised Sash would be shopping himself around to BOTH alliances. Dan also says at one point that he doesn’t trust Sash after what he did to Brenda and Marty;* it’s true that Sash can’t be trusted, but who is trustworthy by now in the game? And as we’d find out, Dan was pretty much the pot calling the kettle black here.

*Really? What he did to Marty? That was shrewd.

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Survivor Survival Guide: “You Started, You’re Finishing”

“I’ve been sucking it up for 28 days. There’s nothing left for me to suck.”

—Purple Kelly

“Realistically, you think you had a shot at this game?”

“Yes.”

“Based on what?”

“Based on my drive, once upon a time…”

“This is amazing. Regale me with a story, woman.”

—Probst and NaOnka

How am I supposed to feel about Wednesday night’s Survivor? On the one hand, we finally saw NaOnka have her torch “snuffed” out, and in about as selfish a way possible. On the other, we saw TWO castaways quit within the final nine in an unprecedented show of wimpiness that drew about as much of the show’s editorial ire as possible. This is to say, it was complicated, like watching Boise State lose to Nevada or LeBron James return to Cleveland.*

*What? That WASN’T complicated for Cavaliers’ fans?

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Survivor Survival Guide: “Stuck in the Middle”

“It does look like a king and queen situation. But Sash is more a queen and I’m more a king.”

—Brenda, apparently channeling Shannon

“What do I have to lose? Something has to change, and it has to change soon.”

—Holly

We finally got our shakeup episode of Survivor: Nicaragua, coming one week before I thought it might* and two weeks before it did last season. “Stuck in the Middle” was a classic case of an alliance crumbling, precisely because it failed to properly buttress itself.

*Equivocate much?

“Stuck in the Middle” started with a “Previously on…” that was careful to mention the two Hidden Immunity Idols still in play and an image of stars that, like Kirsten Dunst, was crazy/beautiful. That’s what we call scene-setting, kids, what with Holly and Jane sneaking away from camp in the middle of the night to discuss their big strategic maneuver: what would later be referred to as “Operation: Take Out Brenda.”* Holly had some quick takers. With Marty gone, Jane could finally vote for someone else, and she considered Brenda “a villain” by this point.** Benry called Holly’s idea “a wake-up call,” which is odd considering Marty basically told Benry the same thing last week, and it was presumably a wake-up call then, too. NaOnka was the biggest possible get for Holly, with Na referring to her one-time closest ally Brenda as “Marty, Jr.” The one person who was resistant was Chase, who thought Benry should be the next to go.

*Ooh boy, I’d like to take out Brenda…to like a nice dinner, maybe a romantic comedy. I hear that Morning Glory is good. We’d have a nice time.

**Jane’s last non-Marty vote was for Dan, and she did it because “that’s what Coach wanted” one week after Jimmy Johnson had been eliminated.

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Survivor Survival Guide: “Running the Camp”

“I personally don’t think he can beat me physically, much less mentally. So I’m still playing my game the way I’ve been playing it.”

—Jane

“It’s just frustrating to play a game with people that are so stupid.”

—Marty

Back when the original La Flor and Espada tribes shuffled members, I wrote that the contrivance only moved up the season’s defining battle between Marty and Brenda, which I figured had to take place before the merge.

Well, I was wrong on multiple fronts.*

*Yeah, I’m used to it by now.

Brenda and Marty had their moments—such as the back-and-forth about Jane at Tribal a few episodes back—but it never boiled down to a me-against-you tête-à-tête the way it had between Boston Rob and Russell, the way I hoped it would here. In its place, though, we got as personal a feud as I can remember on Survivor, between the technological executive Marty and the down-home dog trainer Jane (bless her soul).

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Survivor Survival Guide: “Company Will Be Arriving Soon”

I want her to know I have her back, even though I don’t.”

—NaOnka on Alina

The merge* episode is traditionally one of the most intriguing of a Survivor season. Usually, you get each tribe buffering its fortifications and trying desperately to come out on top of the numbers. With Espada and La Flor each having six members left coming into last night’s merge, it could have been an especially significant episode.

*Does it bother anyone else that Survivor always uses “merge” as the noun and not “merger”? No? Okay, carry on.

Of course, it wasn’t really significant at all because there aren’t really two distinct alliances. There were barely two distinct tribes. There’s Brenda, Sash, NaOnka, and Chase—and then there’s everybody else. Dan is tight with Marty but no one else. Jane is close with the BS Alliance but not really “in” since she keeps voting for Marty. Purple Kelly and Benry haven’t done anything strategically yet. JudFabio listens to everyone but has yet to go against the group. As of now, there is a large group of castaways who are simply willing to go with what the group wants, which will be fine until we get down to eight and everyone is tied, in some way, to that group.
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Survivor Survival Guide: “What Goes Around, Comes Around”

“I want the cake, I want to eat it, too, and I want those two to go home.”

—Jane

There are often early, subtle clues in a Survivor episode that hint at its basic structure: “What Goes Around, Comes Around” had an especially long “Previously on…” and the full intro sequence, which accurately portended a rather light episode. The Reward and Immunity Challenges both ran a bit longer than usual, and there wasn’t much time at all dedicated to strategy and camp plotlines.

After a brief shot of Espada, with Dan thankful to be back yet again and Chase saying Alina should be the next to go, the action went back to La Flor, where Marty was upset Jane (bless her soul) had turned on him last Tribal. Marty told Jane that he never lied to her, never misrepresented himself, and never wrote her name down, and he confronted her about voting for him last time. Jane responded to this about as non-confrontationally as possible, by laughing off the idea while simultaneously making it very clear that she had indeed voted for Marty. This is what passed for early tension.

The Reward Challenge involved castaways leaping off a platform and trying to throw a ball into a net past a “defender,” standing on a pole halfway between the platform and the goal.* It looked fun. JudFabio and Chase served as their tribes’ respective defenders, and Espada was able to win despite the fact that Dan’s attempt — weak as it was — didn’t count because he was unable to jump off the platform. At this point, I think it’s reasonable to call him the worst participant in Survivor history.

*Calling the position “the defender” is a more subtle than usual way for Survivor to market another CBS show: The Defenders.

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Survivor Survival Guide: “Worst Case Scenario”

“Don’t ever fluff on a Southern woman. I ain’t no sittin’ duck, honey.”

–Jane (bless her soul)

Man, where to begin?

The twin tribal council episode is another Survivor contrivance, but one I’ve grown to accept more so than the tribe switcheroo. Within a season, it’s a change-of-pace runner: the Dave Meggett to the rest of the season’s Rodney Hampton. Things move more quickly — the Immunity Challenge begins at about 8:10 — and the majority of the episode is spent in the taut setting of Tribal Council.

Before we get there, we had a long “Previously on…” segment that established Marty and Yve on the outsides of their tribes. This was not too surprising; last week I predicted Yve would be the next to go from Espada precisely because Dan had changed his vote while she had not.

Dan threw a wrench into that thought early, by telling Holly he was thinking of quitting. Now, I understand Survivor is hard, and I also understand that Survivor is still harder than I think it is. But I’m getting pretty sick of people considering quitting. This didn’t use to happen, right? I mean, I know people do occasionally quit. But this is the third time in six episodes we’ve had a “___ might want to quit” storyline. That’s too much.

Over at La Flor, Brenda outlined her plan to flush out Marty’s idol with the help of Jane. Jane’s vote gave Brenda six votes to work with against two, meaning her alliance could split three and three for Marty and Jill while not risking any of their own.

The Immunity Challenge involved digging with a paddle for small rope circles, tossing them into a bucket on your back, and then hanging them on a pole. First to three would win individual immunity, represented by some pretty sweet immunity necklaces. It didn’t look too difficult, which is kind of a theme when it comes to twin tribal episodes: The Immunity is always forgettable and unclimactic. Holly and Jill won in forgettable and unclimactic fashion, setting up a final duel for the reward, which was to “feast” on chicken and beef kabobs during the other tribe’s Tribal Council. Jill won, forgettably and unclimactically.*

*The only thing that interested me about this whole challenge was the draw for spots. Probst always talks about drawing for spots, but they never actually show this draw. Apparently, there was a Rock-Paper-Scissors contest to see which tribe went first in the challenge, which begs a lot of questions. Who played? Was it a series? What did they go with? They don’t even show this in the bonus content online.

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