Let’s get the bad news out of the way first, then we can talk some theory. The bad news? I haven’t been this down on a season after two episodes in a while.
Now, I know, a Survivor season can hit plenty of peaks and valleys not only over the course of a dozen or so episodes, but within the same episode. With all that said, though, I thought the first episode was OK, but this one bored me. I’m sorry for being a Debbie Downer, but I needed to get that off my chest.
But we’re here for theory, so let’s do it. Last week I teased the theory/concept of identity priming and this week we’re going to talk about it.
Essentially, I would argue, identity priming is a huge part of Survivor producers’ strategy to create drama on a season. Think about it: Every season with a theme basically is all about telling castaways how they’re being labeled. That’s identity priming.
Basically, priming is a theory very popular with social psychology scholars. When conducting experiments, oftentimes researchers will utilize a prime to make people think about something. Usually, the prime is implicit. Really, you’re trying to influence a group’s behavior by making something very salient in their minds.
So, when utilizing priming, you’re basically exposing participants to one stimuli in order to potentially influence their reaction to another different stimulus. For example, when producers label a group blue collar, white collar or no collar, they are trying to make castaways embody those attributes once they’re on the island. When you’re telling people over and over and over again that they’re “hustlers” or whatever, as Probst definitely did this week, you’re going to get people to behave in a certain way because of that.
During this episode, we saw the Hustlers tribe mention the fact that they were hustlers numerous times. Now, I’m not saying this is the reason Simone went home, but I have no doubt it played a role. Think about it. If this was a brains, brawn and beauty season and producers put Simone on the brains tribe, might her aversion to the outdoors and camplife been more accepted? I think so.
We saw two confessionals by my count that implicitly criticized Simone for not being much of a hustler. I get she didn’t perform well in challenges or look mighty helpful around camp, but producers primed her tribe, in my opinion, to have certain expectations of what a tribemate looked like and how one acted.
Simone very clearly, early on at least, did not at all look or act like a hustler. If producers put her on the Healer tribe, and that tribe lost the challenge, I don’t think she would be gone. It could have been Joe, who’s not all like a “healer.”
This is how identity priming works. I briefly talked about this last season also, when producers labeled the castaways “game changers,” even castaways who barely played the game their first season. This was a way to encourage Big Moves™.
I don’t know this for sure, but I have to think producers started doing these themes after consulting with someone who knew social psychology. And I also believe they pretest these themes by talking to people about whether each group (like hustlers, healers and heroes) is distinct enough to prime the castaways in very different ways, which will obviously lead to some drama.
That’s all I have for theory. What’s my take on the remaining castaways? I’m glad you asked. Here goes:
- 1. Alan – I was searching for a bad analogy to use with Alan and here’s what I came up with: Alan is the guy that always complains his car is about to break down, but it never does. Then he blows his own car up and tells everyone, “See, I told you it was about to break down.” Now, that’s a horrid analogy, but I just don’t understand how Alan can continuously talk about how his “move” last week worked. Seriously, dude? Everyone thinks you’re nuts and completely untrustworthy. And they’re right.
- 2. Ben – Another week, another good episode for Ben. I’m not sure if he’ll have the strategic acumen to win this whole thing, but he’s done a damn good job of keeping cool amidst the poopstorm that is his tribe. And he’s always remained basically at the top. Basically, it’s what you’d expect from a Marine.
- 3. JP – Oh, poop, Chrissy called my Winner Pick™ dumb. I don’t know, though. My man here found a lobster, decided if he’s in a power couple then he better get to hook up and stayed out of the fray this week. I think JP is a genius. And he lasted another week! Woo hoo. My curse isn’t working well.
- 4. Chrissy – I criticized Chrissy’s play last week and let me admit I’m wrong. Even though she used “data” in a sentence in the singular form, I still thought she was good this week. But, Chrissy, as an actuary, you should know data is plural. Of course, her analysis of her tribe made for my favorite part of the episode.
- 5. Ashley – You know that scene where Chrissy basically called Ashley untrustworthy? I don’t know why, but I totally agree. We haven’t really seen Ashley do anything untrustworthy yet, but she just seems that way. And it’s a bad thing when others perceive you as untrustworthy.
- 1. Patrick – Dude, have you ever watched Survivor? You can’t act like a hyperactive five-year-old boy and win. That just doesn’t happen. We’re six days in and Patrick’s annoying everyone. Just wait until people are even more hungry and easily irritable. Patrick’s going home soon.
- 2. Ali – Before the season, I didn’t think Ali would adapt too well to the outdoors and this game’s environment. As of right now, I’m dead wrong. Out of anybody so far, I think Ali’s playing the best game. We haven’t seen anyone talking about her as a threat, but we have seen everyone talking to her. She’s the nucleus of the Hustlers’ tribe and playing a killer game so far.
- 3. Devon – I mean, I don’t really have anything to say about Devon. I love the shot of him doing yoga. I’m just happy he’s on my fantasy team. Maybe Ryan will drag him to the end and people will realize Ryan’s a threat, leaving Devon to win the whole thing?
- 4. Lauren – I’m not sure Lauren is long for this game, but like I said last week, I’m happy she’s here. I feel like Lauren is the type of person producers cast frequently in the old days of Survivor. And she’s also someone who would have done well in, say, season four. But people like Lauren aren’t really on Survivor anymore and her skillset isn’t really valued. So I’m really enjoying her so far.
- 5. Ryan – I thought Ryan looked sneaky and wouldn’t really get that far in the game. However, I might be wrong. His speech about staying under the radar showed he’s not fixated on making sure people know he’s smart. That’s a good sign.
- 1. Jessica – What we know about Jessica so far? She’s purty and super old. I’m amazed that someone so elderly can, um, survive out on the island.
- 2. Roark – I don’t understand why the rest of the castaways aren't super upset. Why does Roark get the advantage of getting to the island six or more days late? It’s really nice of producers to let her stay back at Ponderosa or whatever for the first couple episodes.
- 3. Cole – Why oh why did you help Joe find the idol, Cole? I called Cole a triple threat last week. Not anymore. That was a dumb move. I still don’t understand it.
- 4. Joe –Surprisingly, at least to me, Joe had a good episode this week. He’s got an idol, people seem to like him, and he knows Cole should go because information is power. His Tony impression will wear on me, but I’ll give credit where credit is due.
- 5. Desi – You know, I think it’s important to know that an “assistant professor” doesn’t mean Desi is an assistant anything. It just means she’s on the tenure track but doesn’t have tenure yet. Academia is weird. Why am I writing about Desi’s job and academic language? Because I still have no idea about Desi the Survivor player.
- 6. Mike – We didn’t really see Mike this week, which I thought was a positive sign. I’m rooting for Dr. Mike, so his lack of screen time made me happy.
This column is now complete. Please, everyone, go back to regularly scheduled daily activities. Let’s talk next week. And I hope when we do talk, we’ll be discussing a better episode and all have a more optimistic view of this season.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He's seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he'll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @PatFerrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.