Survivor: Island of the Idols, week nine

First thing’s first: I’ve decided to stop checking up on the various online Survivor communities and social media for this season. I usually enjoy doing this for shows I’m watching, but since last week’s double episode I’ve seen too many toxic and nasty comments about this season’s cast. I don’t think it’s fair to try and assess someone’s value as a person based on an edited version of their behavior on a TV show. I realize some readers might think that’s rich coming from me, so let me draw this distinction: in these blog posts, I choose to write about the contestants on Survivor as though they were characters that CBS has invented for me. I realize there are real people behind those characters, and many of them may not even be people I particularly care for, or who would not care for me. But all I get to see about them is the little bit CBS has edited together for the television program they each, individually, chose to be on. I think it’s fair to criticize their gameplay and their social behavior in the context of the game.

I do not think it’s fair to fantasize about killing them in disgusting ways.

A tiny bit of toxic seasoning is all it takes to ruin the usually-frothy soup of social media integration, so I’m checking out of it for the remainder of this season. I don’t think you’ll even notice a difference, but I have had some very sad moments this week where I wept for our shared social contract, and it was on my mind the whole time I watched this week’s episode. I feel some of the comments I read this past week have been far, far worse than anything any of the contestants have been shown to do on-screen this season, or any season. It’s not fun to be part of (even as a lowly lurker) so I’m going to stop. Thanks for understanding!

The first thing that happens is a rat jumps on Karishma’s face and she freaks out. Heh heh heh!

Noura and others on the newly-merged Lumuwaku tribe are complaining — 27 days in — that Karishma does no work around camp. They continue to do this despite the fact they are the ones who keep not voting her out. Listen up, dopes: the time to vote someone out for not being a hard worker is back in the tribal game, during the first ten or twelve days. After that you just need to lump it.

Noura does not lump it. She wakes Karishma up and demands she go look for coconuts. Karishma cries a bit about how nobody understands her, but then she stumbles on a hidden immunity idol and instantly about-faces to her usual “look how strong and capable I am!” spiel. Then she rolls back up at camp an hour later holding two goddamn coconuts. When challenged on this, Karishma concocts a story about how she’s been feeling sick. When her tribe offers to summon medical, she accuses them of trying to get her medevac’d out of the game. She takes two sips of water and insists she’s feeling better now.

I understand the other contestents have decided to bring Karishma along to the end, and I-the-viewer am just going to have to accept that. But man, for my own sanity, I wish this floopy woman would decide what kind of terrible player she wants to be. Also I hope more rats jump on her every night for the rest of the time she’s out there, heh heh heh.

The Immunity Challenge comes early this episode, and it’s another endurance-y kind of thing. Today everyone has to stand on a balance beam and keep a ball rolling around the inside of a vertical wooden hoop. It’s revealed it’s a double immunity, and buckle in kids, because it’s another twist! Lumuwaku is divided into two groups, each group will supply one immune player, and both groups will separately vote someone out of the game. The last person standing wins sandwiches for their group, and the right to go to the second council. (So they get to see who the first group voted out.)

I very doubly do not like this. Day 27 is far, far past the point where we should be seeing game twists thrown around. (Jamal’s case last week was a sort of grey area, but since you’re asking, no, I didn’t like that twist either.) These poor players! How is anyone supposed to put a game plan together or form a reliable voting bloc if the game keeps arbitrarily twisting and turning? This isn’t even a particularly interesting twist. It’s just… hey, do you have an alliance? Well it doesn’t matter tonight, lol!

I suspect this might be indicative of the current Survivor metagame. My journeys through social media — before swearing off of it — revealed that the fanbase has had a few recent seasons where they haven’t been happy about some juke or jive some showrunner cooked up in an effort to be clever. If so, maybe it wasn’t the right time to come back to this show just now.

And look, I really don’t want to belabor this point, because I realize some of the game twists have been a really good thing for the game. Early tribal shuffles, hidden immunity idols, getting exiled to some far-off island out of the tribe… these were all weird gimmicks once, and now they’re cherished elements of the game. But the merge should really be the end of this kind of thing. Stir the pot eary on to make sure all the flavors are mixing, but then let it simmer. Sometimes this is going to give us boring, foregone conclusions, yes. I understand that is not desirable from the standpoint of making interesting television. But you know what’s worse? Getting to the very end of a seasons of Survivor and feeling like the person who won only did so because of some unforeseen change in the rules.

Well, okay. Noura and Elaine are immune. Noura was the last woman standing for her group, and she jumped immediately off her platform to celebrate even though she could have stayed on and won everyone sandwiches. Whoops!

The Purple Group — Noura, Aaron, Janet, Dan, Dean, and Lauren — are sent to old, decrepit Lairo beach to think about what they’ve done. The foregone conclusion here is Janet, but it is noted that this may well be the only time Aaron sits a Tribal Council with no immunity necklace around his neck.

To hear Janet put it, “This group is done with the meat shield.”

The Orange Group — Missy, Karishma, Elizabeth, Elaine, and Tommy — return to the main camp and eat sandwiches. For some reason this twist hit at a time where two equal groups coudln’t be made, and it doesn’t look like any effort was made to respect existing alliances (nor should there have been; if we’ve already decided to do this stupid twist a month into the game, might as well go whole hog). This means Tommy and Lauren are split up and vulnerable, while Missy and Elizabeth are tight and together.

No one knows about Karishma’s idol, but she’s still not in any danger tonight. Everyone wants to take her to the end because she sucks and nobody will let her win. So that’s settled. This sets Missy and Tommy against each other, and therein lies a story.

Missy’s situation here was very bad, because of Karishma’s idol. If she stayed the “obvious” course and voted out Karishma next, and Karishma plays her idol (for purposes of this thought experiment, we’ll assume Karishma is slightly smarter than a sack of potatoes), the person Karishma voted for leaves with one vote against. That’s Missy. Missy doesn’t know any of this, though, unless she’s sussed out the idol. Which she hasn’t. In that context her move against Tommy makes perfect sense, but again, she doesn’t know the context. She starts gunning for Tommy anyway.

Her reasoning here is sound enough: take the opportunity to get rid of the person everyone likes most. Oh wait, Elaine’s immune. Well then, take the opportunity to get rid of the person everyone likes second</i most. That’s Tommy. She needs three votes to do this, and she knows Tommy’s closest ally is stuck on some other beach somewhere. But she still has Karishma, this should be a slam dunk. This part isn’t the misstep.

The misstep is she goes to Karishma first.

In Missy’s mind, Karishma is going to fall over gushing about how glad she is it’s not her tonight, and kiss her feet and hang a branch of grapes over her head. Which, okay, Karishma may have done if she were idol-less. Instead, Karishma gives her some static and storms off. (And explains in a confessional that acting like an immature little brat is her right because she’s older than Missy, or something.) So now Karishma knows about the Tommy plot but not the wheres or whys, and goes to sulk on Elaine’s shoulder.

Elaine doesn’t want Tommy gone. I don’t have a good handle on Elaine’s alliances or loyalties in this game. She doesn’t feel particularly “buddy strong” with anyone, but she’s aware the tribe sees her and Tommy as social threats. It’s understandable that Missy didn’t go to Elaine first. However, in Karishma’s self-congratulatory victory lap about how ain’t nobody gonna manipulate her she totally lets Elaine manipulate her. Elaine explains to us how this works in her own confessional: Missy comes at you like the boss, telling you what’s what and how’s it gonna be. Elaine comes at you with a big smile and friendly understanding. The end result is, Karishma is going to do what Elaine wants because she made Karishma feel like she was heard.

It’s still manipulation. It’s still devious. And it’s why I think Elaine is a good player. She’s leveraging her social game to get what she wants, and what she wants right now is 1) Karishma to stay in the game, and 2) to break up the Missy/Elizabeth bloc.

When Karishma cools of and deigns to speak with Missy once again, Missy offers an apology for acting like a bully. She doesn’t mean her apology, of course, but she thinks she needs to give a fake one. And it’s so obvious it’s a fake one! I’m actually very turned off by the current trend in our culture where everyone is felt they’re owed an apology for slights great and small. My strong feeling is you should only offer an apology if you really feel like you’ve done something wrong and really intend to change your behavior. Even if you’re wrong, and it’s clear to everyone else you’re wrong, it only makes things more wrong to fart out an empty apology out of social obligation.

But goodness, Missy, if you’re in a situation where you do need to fake-apologize, like, say, you’re on a game show and you need the person you’re apologizing at to like you, make it believable. Every muscle in her face was screaming “DO NOT ROLL EYES, DO NOT ROLL EYES”.

I don’t know what Missy’s play should have been here. I would say the smart thing to do was sacrifice Karishma now and then regroup with your allies on the other side after the dust settles. That would be the safe play. She’s snaked by Karishma’s idol if she does this, but since she doesn’t know that, I’m forced to conclucde she just wanted to play hard at a spot in the game where playing hard was not appropriate.

The Purple Group goes first, and it’s what you’d expect: the only reason Aaron isn’t voted out unanimously is the poor man can’t vote for himself. Probst sends him immediately to the jury box.

The Orange Group’s Tribal Council is a little more vibrant. Missy makes another misstep here, when Karishma doesn’t say the things she “agreed” to, and she tries to call a time out. This is at a point where she ostensibly thinks Karishma is voting with her, so now is not the time to argue. An arguement ensues nonetheless, and of course Elaine comes out on the top of it with some down-home folksy charm. (See, Karishma? This is what “chaos is a ladder” means!”)

Missy tells Probst when it’s time to vite, then stops things in their tracks to have an awkward moment where she calls out the host of the show because he didn’t celebrate the first time in Survivor history where two black contestants have been immune at once. She’s referring to two Immunity Challenges ago, when she and Jamal were immune. Jamal was voted out at the previous Tribal Council, and the Tribal Council before that was the super emotional one where Kellee was ejected… which makes me think she was sitting there that entire time, and everyone’s talking about Kellee and Dan and Janet and the whole deal, and she’s just stewing and seething and waiting for the right time to bring it up and score her points on Probst. And then she couldn’t do it the following Council, of course, because she was gunning for Jamal at the time.

I’m going to reveal my gross un-woke-ness by commenting on this, but eyes up people: this is an appropriate use of the often-maligned accusation of “playing the race card”. Taking a shot at a white man for doing something you percieve as racially or sexually insensitive, and then backing the shot up with factually inaccurate information. Missy’s claim is that women are voted out of Survivor first, and minorities are voted out second, and so when a woman or a minority accomplish something in the game that should be celebrated.

Lots of women have won this game. Lots of minorities, too. The first winner was a gay man. The second was an older woman. The winner of the first comebacks season was a woman, and so was the second. One of my favorite seasons ever had an all-black final three. One of my favorite winners ever was Asian (and he’s coming back next season, hooray!). One of the most storied winners ever is a Hispanic woman and is currently watching from a secret bungalow. I think it’s very unfair to suggest that Survivor, its host, or its producers haven’t done right by people of all shapes and colors. And it’s just wrong to state that these types of people are “always” voted out.

And not to veer off too hard into spoilsport territory, but the previous two people Missy voted off were an Asian woman who was vocal about inappropriate touching that she lied about supporting, followed immediately by one of two remaining black players in the game. I do not fault Missy for this. They were the correct moves to make, at the correct times. I’m glad she showed up to play.

But she’s not the Peoples’ Champion, over here. I didn’t like her dragging out the soapbox.

Probst defused the situation by pointing out the reason he didn’t say anything was because he didn’t want people to think he was surprised that two black people could win immunity. Which is correct, a lot of people would have taken it that way. He thanked Missy for speaking her mind, which she took as a victory.

After her tribe voted her off, Missy spent as long as she could hanging around the Tribal Council hugging people, whispering things in Elizabeth’s ear, and generally being a nuisance. I was starting to see Karishma’s point about her. I think Missy viewed Survivor as her singular adventure, and all these other pesky contestants were just bit players in it. The other players all left immediately upon having their torch snuffed, but Missy was a special player so there are special rules that apply only to her. Not very woke of her, really. Kind of selfish. Glad she’s gone now.

Who’s gonna win?
I’m honestly expecting another game twist before it’s all said and done, so it’s not really possible to make predictions based on the current game state. I also think a lot of what happens is going to end up at the whims of Karishma and Noura, who have the combined tactical acumen of a bowl of Cheerios. I get why people want to take them to the end, but it’s also very dangerous for players like that to still be around at key places like 7-left and 5-left.

That said, Tommy still has his closest ally Lauren, and Elaine just stuck his neck out for him a little, and Karishma will probably follow Elaine along for another vote or so. If all this happens, Tommy can let the rest of the tribe take Elaine out for him, let Laura take a bullet later, then maybe have his pick of the unpopular kids (Noura, Karishma, Dan) for the end.

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