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Survivor is back! Finally! Can you believe it?
OK, I wasn’t sure if I was retired from blogging about Survivor or not.
I mean, I did shut down my old blog devoted to Survivor, but you can still see my old posts in my old blog that will remain online for at least a little while. Well, I won’t bore you with the reorganization of online production in the past year, just know that Swamp Media is where the fun is at the moment. My Surviving Survivor Facebook page is still up, and I use Twitter more than ever, including talking about Survivor there.
So, yes, I will try to blog about Survivor as much as possible again, although, just like this season 41 lasts 26 days instead of 39, I need to find a shorter format, one of the reasons I’ve had trouble keeping up with writing a weekly post in a timely fashion in the past was that my posts tend to be a little too long. Hmmm… We’ll see.
OK, so Survivor is back! And yes, it feels fresh and different, while still being the show we all love.
I love this new cast. Everyone feels interesting, real, and likable. I love the diversity and the fact that the various campaigns to bring more of this diversity to the show paid off. I liked the breaking of the fourth wall. It’s a dangerous thing to do in a way that doesn’t feel forced or artificial. I’m thinking of the backstage scenes in some talent shows. They are so unnatural and staged. But this episode of Survivor did it well for the most part.
Sure, we got Probst hiding the advantage (I doubt he’s the one who usually does it usually), but it didn’t feel too forced as a part of his introduction. And the introduction itself was well done and even necessary as a way to reconnect with the show.
I like that we got to see the crew at the beginning of the marooning section – it was a nice nod to them – although it suddenly disappeared during the aerial shots of the challenge a minute later. If you’re a new viewer of Survivor, I have to break the magic to you, but these wide and aerial shots are usually done a day or two after the challenge, with stand-ins acting as the contestants (the “Dream Team” – crew members who test the challenges and many more things). The actual challenge is always full of cameras in every corner. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind an actual air view of an actual challenge one day. We may get it this season, who knows?
I’m not sure if Probst telling the audience that this was tribal council was completely necessary, but I assume that he did it for the new audience. However, from what I understand, this new audience comes from people binging all past seasons during lockdowns as they’re now available on streaming sites (is that Amazon Prime?) But… if they binged it, they know what tribal council is, don’t they? Well, it’s not that important.
More cringy was Probst and the big deal he made about retiring or not retiring the “guys” in “Come on in, Guys.” It felt that he still doesn’t understand the problem Survivor has had with sexism for quite a long time now, and he’s just done it because he was told that he should or something like that. Also, putting the responsibility on the contestants’ shoulders was not the best thing to do. I’m sure that he’s personally on the fence about removing that “guys” in the expression or not, and that’s why he asked the contestants during the marooning. Of course, it was unlikely someone tells him to stop saying it at that moment. Hence, him looking almost vindicated when he told the camera they’re keeping it.
And then, the following day, there’s the discussion with Ricard. And I’m pretty sure it comes from a discussion in the production team thinking that they really should retire it, so, they asked the contestants again, and Ricard is the one who was shown speaking up. It really rubbed me the wrong way. If production wants to retire “guys” just retire “guys” without making such a big deal about it. There, I feel that production wanted to retire it, but didn’t want to upset the conservative and bigot fringe of its viewership, so they deflected the responsibility on the Hispanic gay man. And from what I understand, yes, the bigots are mad at him right now online, not at Probst.
Still, with such a cast, maybe there’s hope that there won’t be many bigots left watching the show at the end of the season.
Ok, after this very long introduction, let’s start talking about this first episode from a game point of view.
And as I’m unsure of the best format going forward, I’m keeping my old format at least for today, that is writing a few words (or paragraphs) about each contestant.
Let’s get started.
I’m so glad we’re done with silly-themed seasons such as Millenials vs Brains vs Hustlers. I never liked that, especially in the first part of the season when contestants feel like that they have to constantly repeat that they are a this or a that (I always suspected production making them do it). With that being said, I feel that Luvu is definitely the “brawn” tribe of the season. They seem much physically stronger than the other tribes, and also they seem to be the tribe that doesn’t listen to the instructions before challenges and makes huge blunders. Yet, they won the first immunity challenge, so there is that.
Danny McCray: Another thing I like about this casting is that they’re playing with stereotypes and expectations. Until now, most NFL players who took part in Survivor weren’t always made for the game. They often lacked smarts or social skills (often, not always). Danny on the other hand looks like he could do very well. He’s definitely the player who impressed me the most in this tribe. Not only is he the strongest physically (very probably of the whole cast), but he also seems smart and with good social skills. I really liked how he handled the small “trip” with Xander and JD. He bonded with them, but just the right amount. They didn’t start having cross-tribal alliances (way too early for that) but befriended each other just enough that they may get into an alliance if needed, but won’t feel like they have to otherwise.
I won’t debate whether he was right to choose the safe option in terms of the advantage choice, it’s just too early to tell. He told the story of what happened perfectly. No unnecessary lie and everyone believed him. It’s rare to go on such little adventure and not gain some mistrust from your tribemates along the way. He really managed the whole thing perfectly.
Deshawn Radden: We haven’t seen much of him, but I have the feeling that he’s responsible for the challenge blunders (maybe not, I need to rewatch). Not a good start if that’s all I remember from him.
Erika Casupanan: I like her. But that’s pretty much all I have to say about her right now.
Heather Aldret: I’m afraid I haven’t really forged an impression about her yet.
Naseer Muttalif: He seems very likable. He may be facing an uphill battle, though.
I really really like the fact that casting immigrants is a part of the new “more diverse cast” policy. However, I feel that Survivor is even more difficult for immigrants than it is for people who grew up in the US. Survivor is first and foremost a social game, and immigrants may start at a disadvantage. The social rules of interaction between Americans are not something that comes naturally for them. And yes, I do speak from experience. When I lived in the US, you don’t know the number of social faux pas I made because I was not aware of the “unwritten rules” of social interactions. And when I started becoming aware of them (this was around the time Survivor came to our TV screens) I always joked that I would do very well with the social aspect of Survivor as I was kinda playing it 24/7.
With that being said, more difficult doesn’t mean impossible, and while some naturalized contestants struggled with their social game sometimes in parts because of cultural differences (Abi-Maria and Shii Ann come to mind) some did great (Yau-Man, Tai) as of course, culture is not everything and personality matters greatly too.
But let’s talk about Naseer a bit. Apparently a very likable and fun guy, but also a quite talkative one. Probably in ways that come from his culture (hence my long pre-commentary), although you can’t be sure when you don’t know either the culture or the person.
In any case, was ratting out Danny and Deshawn the right thing to do? Probably not as it has painted a huge target on his back. He made the Day One Survivor 101 mistake: just don’t rock the boat on day one, just blend in as much as possible, any mistake can make you a target.
Is he going to be the first voted out from his tribe? Maybe not. He probably would have been voted out had they gone to tribal council, but those extra days without going can end up saving him. Still, I don’t know if he’ll be able to stay in the game for very long.
Sydney Segal: I don’t know. She kinda rubbed me the wrong way instantly. Probably the bragging about having visited 50 or so countries at her age. Girl, you think it makes you well-traveled or something, but when you’re telling me this, what you’re telling me is that you have rich parents and that you’re confusing checking country names off a list with traveling. How well do you know these countries? What have you learned in each of them? How many locals have you met, really met? Bragging about such things and not realizing what’s wrong with it is I think quite telling about what kind of person she is. That and her general arrogant attitude. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was this season’s villain.
(when I had an entire blog devoted to Survivor, I had a disclaimer in the header: when I’m saying bad things about a contestant, please remember that I don’t really know the person and you don’t either, all we know is a heavily edited character in a TV show, so this is the character I’m criticizing, not the real person)
I like Ua. All of its members seem likable, people you want to root for, or at least interesting people. It has a lot of potential for becoming a trainwreck, but so far people seem to be getting along and the tribe seems functional, even though a first tribal council that becomes a live tribal is quite a rare thing. But was it really a “live” tribal?
On a side note, glad production finally realized that we need subtitles during live tribals.
Brad Reese: He seems likable. Not sure he’s made for this game. Sara wasn’t completely wrong when she said that he was playing 2000 Survivor. I think he’s the kind of guy who’s interested in Survivor for its physical aspects, not really the strategy. This paradoxically means that he could go very far if he doesn’t annoy people. In this day and age, someone who doesn’t play strategically won’t be targeted, possibly ever, as long as they’re not making enemies nor are too likable. Of course, they won’t win either.
Genie Chen: A very interesting person, I really hope she gets more and more screen time. I’m not too sure about her Survivor skills though. And why did she vote for Ricard? That confused me. Either she didn’t want to vote for either Brad or Sara and threw her vote away (never a good idea), or she was afraid that Sara uses her “shot in the dark.” If she had done that and become immune, it means no vote would have counted. Which most likely means a revote with Sara being immune. So anyone else can be voted out. Was it a way for Genie to avoid this and stay safe? Not sure. And I don’t know how Ricard will take it. We’ll see. If he’s smart (and I believe he is) he won’t make a big fuss about it, and it will remind him to not lower his guard down.
JD Robinson: What is there not to love about this kid? He definitely was one of the stars of this first episode and he’s indeed very endearing. We saw so much of him that I was really afraid he’d be voted out first (which I assume was the goal and misdirection from the editors) although it wouldn’t make any sense to vote him out first. I think he’ll stick around longer and he could become one of the big characters from this season. I don’t think he can win, though. Hmmm… I don’t know. When he mentioned that young people don’t usually win, it could be some sort of winner quote. Is there a winner quote in this episode? I didn’t pay attention. I admit that I was so excited for Survivor to simply be back that I didn’t pay too much attention to the edit. I’ll pay closer attention during my second watch. Yes, in case you wonder, I usually watch episodes twice. Once alone, and a second time with my kids. They love the show despite not speaking English, so I need to explain things at times (and I like to watch it first in a quiet and calm environment).
Ricard Foyé: I like him. And not just because he reminds me of one of my best friends (only physically). He really impressed me with his composure and strategical mind. While most players had the usual “newbie on Day 1-3” attitudes of excitement and confusion, he almost acted like a returning player. The danger could be that he’s playing a bit too hard from the beginning. We’ll see.
Sara Wilson: Honestly, I’m not exactly sure why Sara got voted out, but it may just come down to the fact that it had to be someone, and you know, any mistake during these first days can turn you into a target. The only mistake she did was to lose the challenge (although it really was Shan’s fault for forgetting one piece of the puzzle). Not something that usually gets you voted out, but with only six players at the beginning and the five other players not having done anything that could make them a target, it was her. Unless there are things we didn’t see, this is the only explanation I have.
Let’s talk about the live tribal for a little bit. I’m kinda wondering why that happened. She obviously was the target before the beginning of the council and she was the target at the end. So the discussions didn’t change anything. However, we saw Shan talking with Sara during the tribal and Shan was pretending to be very scared to be voted out when she probably wasn’t a target and she most likely knew it. Was it all for shows? To reassure Sara a little bit, so that she doesn’t use her shot in the dark? It seems a bit farfetched, but that’s the only explanation I have. The other reason is probably that a lot of what happened was left out in the editing room and that’s the story we’re given.
Shan Smith: Wow. She really impressed me. If Ricard seemed like a seasoned player on the strategic level, Shan was amazing on the social side of the game. She really played like an all-star, made friends with everyone, and I’m pretty sure everyone considers her as an ally at the moment. She was a part of every conversation and I’m convinced that she knew for sure that she wasn’t going home. Still, she started the live tribal, didn’t she? Why?
OK, here is what I think happened.
Sara thinks she’s tight with Shan. Sara feels that she’s on the chopping block. So she’s talking with Shan, who messes with her, answering that she feels that she’s on the chopping block too. Some other contestants (JD?) notice their little chit-chat, and then Shan realizes that the other players may think she’s actually tight with Sara and may think something is up and that chaos will ensue. So Shan has no choice but to stand up and start chatting with everyone else. Or something along these lines.
In any case, she handled her first three days on the island beautifully and we can say that she’s pretty much in control of the tribe right now. She should go far, but playing every side is a very dangerous game after the merge.
Probably the tribe that looked the most like a “regular” Survivor tribe, but it doesn’t mean that it was not interesting, far from it. The tribe also has quite a few “characters.”
David Voce: I thought I was going to hate him from the very beginning, he really gave me some “conceited douchebag” vibes – but so far, he was actually enjoyable. I think he only had one confessional and not much screen time overall. The confessional was actually fun, and he showed that he had social skills – not making a fuss when the tribe didn’t want to follow his advice to the point that he was the one ending up carrying the buckets (and he didn’t publicly complain about it either, he kept it for the confessional). Also, his lack of screen time for the rest of the episode most likely means that he got along with his tribe and blended in pretty well without making any waves and that he was not even remotely a target. Good start.
Eric Abraham: I was surprised he got voted out as he got so little screen time, but then, I was not surprised at all he was voted out when the little screen time he got showed someone who is probably very smart, but not really socially aware. All the points he made were good from a logical perspective, but the way he articulated them, showed that he wasn’t aware of how they were being received. It didn’t even cross his mind that people were not on the same page as his. Never a good thing on Survivor.
Evvie Jagoda: She’s another star of this first episode. Very friendly, very smart, very good at this game already. I’m convinced that she’s the one who led the charge against Eric when she realized that if he took control of the tribe, she would be next to go. She led the charge, but I don’t think the other contestants realized that either. They just all talked and she convinced them, by simply talking with them. I get Christian Hibicki or David Wright vibes watching her. The lovable nerd who becomes the mastermind of the season but gets blindsided near the end. She’s one of my favorites so far (I always have a soft spot for the nerd, go figure).
Liana Wallace: She seems OK. Not much else about her so far.
Tiffany Seely: She could go either way, the forgettable pre-merge boot, or a very strong and memorable character. We’ll see.
Xander Hastings: One of the big surprises of the season so far. And I love how casting is messing with our expectations (and prejudices) this season. As the only “young straight white male” of the season, I totally expected him to be an idiot “bro.” Shame on me. The kid is smart. Really smart. And he showed it pretty much every time he opened his mouth. He also seems likable too. I think he will have an impact on this season, a strong one.
Talking about impact, every season, I give “impact player of the week” awards (as every other Survivor blogger/reviewer gives weekly awards too, no reason for me not doing it). That “impact” can be either positive or negative.
This week, I decided to give three, one per tribe.
- For Luvu, it goes to Danny. But that may be because he’s the only player that really stood out, with no tribal council, hard to tell what really happened there.
- For Ua, it’s definitely Shan. I think she has taken control of her tribe and nobody has realized it yet.
- For Yase, it goes to Evvie, who managed to have it her way at tribal without appearing bossy or confrontational or anything.
The preview hinted at a twist already. Could it be a tribe swap this early in the game? A merge? I always imagined a very early merge one season, could it be it?
Next person voted out?
Hard to tell, especially if there is a twist. If there is none:
- Naseer could be in danger at Luvu.
- It could go in many directions at Ua.
- Tiffany is not out of the woods at Yase
My winner pick
I don’t know how some people can pick winners before even the season starts. I usually wait until after this first episode, but today, I really don’t know. Nobody really gave me a winner vibe, except maybe Xander. I think we’ll have an unexpected winner this season.
OK, that’s all for now.
Image source: Survivor 41, CBS