Survivor 30 recaps



Previously on EW, Jeff Probst touted this two-hour block of episodes as: "I can’t tease it hard enough—next week is awesome.  Dare I say the best ep of the season?" While these episodes were certainly entertaining and full of action and surprises (although CBS successfully ruined the first boot's surprise with their ads), we're legitimately curious as to what it was that Probst found so great about them. Because as a two-hour block, the theme seemed to be a fairly dark one of triumph of the powerful over the powerless. Or as Homer Simpson so sagely advised: "Kids, you tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is: Never try."


All of this stems from the bizarre decision to cram together these two particular episodes. Yes, we know the double episode was necessitated by the season's late start date (although there was no obvious reason for that, either), because otherwise, the finale would air after the end of May Sweeps. But why place these two particular episodes together? The first hour fit together quite nicely with, and could have rescued last week's plodding Nina boot episode, which would coincidentally have saved the excitement and mystery of the swap for a standalone episode this week. Alternatively, because the swap was so mismatched, the double episode could have combined Max's boot with next week's hour, which is likely the final pre-merge boot. The pairing made here, however, raises a lot of questions (and not just because it foolishly brought the second hour into direct competition with the Empire finale).


The primary question raised is one of tone: The first episode (Lindsey's boot) was a bizarre, testosterone-soaked exercise in triumphant misogyny, in which the woman who dared speak out was all but literally "spanked like a bad baby." This was leavened solely with heavy doses of "hard-working blue collar" self-righteousness at Tribal Council. It was like a Red State propaganda film rallying support for a victory by poor, downtrodden men against Social Justice Warriors in GamerGate War II. There was a stream of offensive things popping out of Rodney's mouth, and every so often he was crowned with a hashtag. The editing was so over-the-top in its celebration of Men's Rights that it had to be parody, yet there was never really any detectable wink in acknowledgement of that being so. Was Probst parodying disgruntled fans' views of his perceived misogyny with his praise, then? Was he just hyping that he briefly, gently called Rodney's attention to his offensiveness at Tribal Council? Who knows? Whatever the case, Rodney won, and the editors slipped his smirking goodbye wave in for good measure. The lesson is: Never try.


This theme carried over, albeit more subliminally, to the second episode (or "hour" if you must) because of the way the tribe swap ended up. After randomly picking buffs, the three tribes became two, but they were perhaps the two most mismatched post-swap tribes ever. New Escameca was all men (fittingly in blue buffs) plus tall, athletic Sierra. New Nagarote, however, was composed almost entirely of women (sadly in red, not pink), plus out-of-shape Will (who conveniently avoided competing in both ICs this week)... and Max. Which might be fine, except for unknown reasons, production planned two almost purely physical challenges for this episode. Not surprisingly, Escameca's height and muscles won both challenges, easily. He-Men strong! Women weak! But wait, the second episode also revealed there's a subtype of people far, far more worthy of your scorn than disrespectful, pathetic women: Superfans. Yes, Max's boot episode quickly became Nerd Shaming Hour. Again: Never try.


Okay, now we see why Probst liked these episodes so much. He's been on a weird anti-superfan kick since before the season began, starting with his bizarre 180 on Cochran, in which he basically insulted Cochran to his face in the opening of the preseason roundtable: "Let's face it, Cochran had no business being out there, certainly had no business getting to the end...." Nice introduction, Probst! So it's not terribly surprising that Max's and Shirin's edits have taken a nosedive since the early glow of Episode 1. Apparently, it's only cool to be a Survivor fan if you're an attractive person in your early 20s (Spencer, Jenn). Which coincidentally is also the only time it's really acceptable to be a Survivor player. Lesson learned, Probst.


Helmets, please

Totally worth it


Okay, okay. We understand as much as anyone that it's hilarious to watch blindfolded Survivor contestants take shot to the groin after shot to the groin from strategically placed barriers. (See? And if that wasn't funny enough the first time, watch it again.) Even so, it's amazing that it took this long for even one blindfolded contestant to get whacked in the head in this kind of challenge. Yes, yes, it doesn't look very "Survivor-y" to have contestants wear protective headgear. But why risk a medevac, or a negligence lawsuit from a concussion, or perhaps even something worse? Put a helmet on each blindfolded stumble-dummy, slap a buff over it, and move on. Preferably without future massive head trauma.


Hashtag #NiceTry



Rodney has been the beneficiary of a huge number of personal hashtags now, so many that he's already approaching Tyson/Tony levels. This is alarming. Or at least it would be, if we hadn't just seen last season's excellent head fake with Jeremy's and Josh's seeming winner's edits crashing down at the merge like so many Dan Foley-guided platforms. That's what's going on here, right? Please say yes.


Making sense of Max's boot



In his pre-game interview with Gordon Holmes, Max worried that "there are probably a lot of people who would love to see me fall flat on my face." Thanks in part to both his misreading Carolyn's loyalty and to a less-than-flattering editorial stance, they probably got their wish. But even if Max was as annoying in New Nagarote camp as Jenn, Hali and Will made him out to be, was it wise to boot him?


Actually, yes. On the one hand, Max was a valuable challenge asset on that swapped tribe (the only Nagarote to make a catch in the Ep5 lacrosse reward challenge, he also made the winning ball placement for White Collar in their last IC). Now they're left with Shirin and Will, neither of whom have exactly lit up the challenge course (again, Will sat out both the end of the Ep4 IC and didn't pull the sled in the Ep5 IC), and Jenn, Hali, Carolyn, and Kelly, who are competent, but hardly challenge dominators, apart from Kelly's gritty determination in finishing the blindfolded RC. On the other hand, they didn't even come close to winning either challenge with Max as a challenge asset.


So New Nagarote, already at a challenge disadvantage, further weakened themselves, but really, there's no visible downside to that. The merge is probably one more Tribal Council away, and should the impossible happen and they actually win immunity next week, they've already taken out a post-merge challenge threat (who still had ties to Tyler) before the merge. Much more likely, they'll have one more shot at further picking apart the remaining White Collars, and while isolated Shirin might seem like a sitting duck, it's Carolyn who makes a more intriguing target, since she seemed close with Tyler and Joaquin, and she's just demonstrated that she'll vote against people with whom she'd made a Day 1 alliance. If Shirin plays it right, she could save herself by warning Hali and Jenn about all of that. And if Carolyn plays it right, she could play her idol and send Shirin home anyway.


Riding the swap wave



The swap rescued a fair number of people, and hastened the exits of others. Of the remaining players, who found their fortunes raised by the swap, and who was surrounded and drowned? In no particular order.


Climbing the ladder:

  • WillWill: At the outset of these two hours, he admitted that if No Collar went to Tribal Council one more time, he was done. Then he had a birthday, ate some chicken, and finished the second hour going to Tribal again, but now comfortably ensconced in the dominant alliance. There's now no reason for him to worry in the short term, and he won't be a threat post-merge. Hello, final six or so.


  • Kelly: She took a blow to the head, but kept her head in the game, and successfully managed the swing vote position without suffering the fate of the last female cop delighting in the power of being the swing voter. We also learned she seems to have a sub-alliance with Mike, which must be important post-merge, since they're now on different tribes.


  • Mike: In addition to the alliance with Kelly, Mike was presented as the only person in Blue Collar who saw that the men needed to rebuild their ties to Sierra. That's a good sign that he gets it. It'll be interesting to see where that duo ends up in the post-merge shuffling. Malcolm and Denise were able to take a similar bond and post-swap scenario quite far in Philippines.


In the neutral box:

  • TylerTyler: He's here not because his fortunes changed, but because he was in a great spot pre-swap, and remained there post-swap. He probably lost a dependable number in Max, but he's not in any apparent danger on New Escameca. There were hints he'll be pulling in Sierra, and who knows who else once the merge hits? He can probably start making his post-merge plans already. Future leader of an anti-Blue Collar alliance?


  • Hali/Jenn/Joe: As with Tyler, everything remains looking up for these three. There are still embers. They had all the power in No Collar, and Hali and Jenn still do on New Nagarote. Now with an idol! Joe lucked out in swapping into the New Escameca bro-fest, quietly flashing his Cheshire Cat smile and fading into the forest of abs and biceps. If he can link up with Tyler and Sierra, that could be interesting. If not, the rest of his alliance awaits post-merge. Could this Malcolm have two Denises?


  • Shirin: She was probably at the bottom of the White Collar pecking order, but managed to escape the first post-swap Tribal without drawing a single vote. She's certainly on unsteady ground at the moment, but if she can make the merge, there will be much bigger targets to deal with then, and she might be able to slowly work her way back in somewhere. Maybe with Tyler?


  • Sierra: The next episode's title ("Odd Woman Out") probably refers to both Sierra and Shirin, so she's probably in some danger if New Escameca finds its way to Tribal Council. But honestly, the chances of that seem fairly slim. Like Shirin, post-merge Sierra moves from uncertainty to an opportunity to advance. Neither seems to have great winning odds any more, but they could still go far with the right alliance.


Dropping like a platform:

  • RodneyRodney: He's the Number One post-merge target. Sierra will be gunning for him. He will annoy almost the entire New Nagarote tribe. His brewing bromance with Joaquin will further raise alarms with everyone else. Individual immunities and/or idols might delay the inevitable, but after this week's first hour, his comeuppance must be coming, probably soon.


  • Joaquin: Latching on to a sinking ship seems to be Joaquin's forte. Nice work. If Rodney's somehow immune, Joaquin could be the backup plan at the merge.


  • Dan: For a while it seemed like Dan was settling down and fitting in. Then he started pontificating on listening like a woman. Also, the only ally he's been shown having had is Mike, who now seems to be making plans with Kelly. If there's a post-merge Blue Collar coup, Dan could be an early casualty because of that, although he's not an otherwise obvious threat.


  • Carolyn: She just broke a Day 1 bond, and played herself from the #2 spot in a three-person alliance to #4 or #5 in a five-person one. We speculated above that she's now in short-term danger, and even if not, she might face suspicion from Tyler and/or Joaquin when they see the Nagarotes arrive minus Max. Suspicions that will have a few days to fester until the merge. In a post-merge environment with as many moving pieces as this season's seems to have, trust will be at a premium, and Carolyn just obliterated that.

Worlds Apart Episodes 4&5 recaps and commentary


Exit interviews - Lindsey Cascaddan

  • Gordon Holmes at "Lindsey - Rodney Is a 'Two-Timing Scumbag'"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP: "Exit Interview with the 2 Latest Players Voted Off - 3/19/15"
  • Josh Wigler at "Lindsey: 'You Can't Fix Stupid'"
  • Daniel Fienberg at "Lindsey Cascaddan Talks Survivor: Worlds Apart"


Exit interviews - Max Dawson

  • Gordon Holmes at "Max: 'The Reads I Had on Carolyn Were So Off'"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP: "Exit Interview with the 2 Latest Players Voted Off - 3/19/15"
  • Josh Wigler at "I'm A Bit of a Monster, What Can I Say?"
  • Steve Helling at "Max Dawson: I Was Playing to Win"
  • Ryan Haidet at She Knows: "Max Dawson Says This Season Will Make You Shit Your Pants"


Podcasts - Episodes 4&5