Welcome back, dearest readers, to another season of It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Thank you, as always, for opting to waste your time on reading my thoughts, feelings, and opinions on the game we all know and love. Before we get to the overarching themes I feel the season is setting us up for, let’s pay tribute to someone few are likely to remember in a month, shall we?
Would you believe me if I initially wrote “Kristina?” Well, you should, because I did, because was she even there before Tribal? Seriously, I cannot remember a first boot in recent seasons getting so little coverage. Yes, she wasn’t very important, but she deserved something for three days of suffering—at least something more than a few beige confessionals and a few words at Tribal. Alas, she is a villager archetype, a nobody who’s just a prop to the larger narrative. Sorry, my friend. On the plus side, at least, I predicted she’d be an early boot! So… yay.
The Power of Duos
Pairs Seem to be Quite the Trend this Season
Now, I know this may seem painfully obvious, but pairs can wreak havoc on Survivor—Rob and Amber, Tom and Ian, Stephen and JT, Tony and Trish, etc.—but I think it was abnormal how many pairs this episode set up and/or the “Next Time” preview alluded to. To me, this speaks to one of the main storylines this season: pairs and power couples.
Ali and Patrick
Beauty and the Beast
Although we didn’t get too much of this one, I can’t help but feel as though the “Next Time” preview was only there to misdirect audiences. Patrick seems like a strange dude, for sure (I mean, he’s tearing apart a live crab in the preview, it seems), but why ditch him so quickly? Much like our next couple, Ali needs Patrick’s strength and Patrick needs her brain. They’re a match worth keeping so long as they both just relax, go with the flow, and ironically, hustle just a tad bit less in these early stages.
Devon and Ryan
Zoolander and the Geek
Yes, their bonding scene was brief, and yes, it didn’t seem to matter that Ryan shared his Super Idol secret with Zoolander given as their tribe didn’t face the chopping block… yet this was shown. Why? The simple reason, my friends, is this pairing is going to be important. Something tells me the editors didn’t think to bash us over the heads with the two bonding because they’re going to be doing it for a large chunk of the season (yay chances of Ryan winning me Survivor Fantasy!).
Cole and Jessica
Who’s Prettier? You Decide!
Ah, two attractive people being attractive together. While we only really got Jessica’s side of this blossoming pair this week, looks like Mister Wilderness is right on board next week. What should we make of this? Jury’s still out, folks—which is coincidentally where I think both these pretty people are going to end up. Still, they both have each other, and therefore both seem safe for the time being on their surprisingly competent tribe.
Ashley and JP
Simply Not What I Expected
This was the relationship, for obvious reasons, that the editors focused on for the bulk of this week. To be honest, although Ashley seemed a bit boring, I thought the pair did a swell job of mitigating Alan’s outburst. They seem to be quietly building trust in one another, and I respect them for that, not a bad strategy. Of course, Alan helped in dismantling what good they had managed to do, and although Alan looked a bit off his proverbial rocker, the edit showed one crucial thing: outburst or not, Alan is not wrong. If Alan isn’t wrong about the threat level these two represent to everyone else… well, to put it simply, I’d stake that this season’s story goes on without at least one of these two players. Much like Alan, they’re here for a sprint, not a marathon.
Ben and Chrissy
Level-Head Meets Experience
This part, obviously, is just speculation because it has yet to happen, but to me, this could be the most important duo given to us by the narrative edit. I’d argue Ben had one of the best, if not the best, first episode edits to kick off HvHvH. With that in mind, Chrissy also provided solid personal information about being a mom, coming across as someone who’s willing to lay it all on the line for the good of others (i.e. post-challenge exhaustion), and showing the ability to sit back and think rationally about her choices when presented with an advantage. Ben’s levelness with Chrissy’s motherly experience—dear friends, this might be a couple who last deep into this game.
The Other Notables
Because Not Everyone Worked Together
To me, aside from the couple-focused players, there were three players who got notable screen time—Alan, Joe, and Mike. While I think two of these players are gone sooner rather than later (betcha can’t guess which ones, he typed sarcastically), I think the third is being set up for a potential deep run. Let’s take a look at some blossoming archetypes, shall we?
Survivor Ain’t a Sprint, My Friend
Alan’s confessional about coming out of the gates sprinting is the most damning thing about his edit. Narratively, it contextualizes why he was so excited to stoke the proverbial flames of paranoia, decimating what early trust at least JP and Ashley put in him far before he should have. Again, I’d argue he was edited as showing some amount of sanity amid this (he denotes in a confessional that he is acting oddly, but both he and the edit imply he’s correct in his assumptions), but treating a game like Survivor as something you have to come out of the gates swinging with all your might… as fans, we know better. Alan should, too. He doesn’t, however, as while I think he’ll avoid the next boot by a decidedly slim margin (should Heroes go back to Tribal), he’s not long for this game. Sorry, Cliff Robinson.
Ah, The Worst Part of My Fantasy Squad
As Ben arguably had the best week one, Joe probably had the worst. Throw any comparison to Russell or Tony out the window, because even Tony had the good sense in the early part of his game in Cagayan to be a little less… thuggish. I mean that only insofar as the narrative framed Joe as a person who looked to be strong-arming Mike into giving him protection money for the mob. He seemed like a caricature, one who might provide some early, maniacal entertainment, but one who is destined to fall in the wake of a bunch of genuinely good and kind people, including one who he tried, unsuccessfully, to threaten (which only furthers the idea that his first confessional all about manipulation was just wrong).
My Favorite Person Thus Far
Wow, what a man. Although I still think Ben edged him out for a better week one, Mike’s was pretty fantastic. He showed insight to his personal life—talk of family, job (complete with a sex joke!), and even specifically his son—proved capable at helping in tense challenge situations, and remained cool under pressure while Joe grilled him. Although I mentioned Mike was probably gone pre-Merge in my pregame analysis, I think I’m as wrong about him as I likely am about Joe. Swap those two folks, dear readers. Mike could very well be an end-gamer, Joe the early boot. In fact, I’ll do y’all one better, after one episode, Mike has the most winner-ish edit to me (though there’s still plenty of time for my girl Chrissy to come roaring back). Just food for thought.
Das Super Idol
Better than Tyler Perry’s?
At first, as Ryan was reading that he had a super idol, I literally groaned, waking up my girlfriend who’d already begun to fall asleep next to me (she’s never seen Survivor). I was almost so upset that production would reintroduce such a game-breaking advantage, even if that statistically boded very well for someone on my Fantasy Team taking home the gold. However, the indication that it could only be used at the very first Tribal of the season, not even the first one the finder found himself or herself at, I thought was a super-interesting take. Personally, that is what I think a day one advantage should be. Much like Kathy and Yau-Man finding idols right off the bat in Micronesia—idols that only protected them the first time they went to Tribal—I think Day One advantages should work similarly. It’s silly to me that something someone happens to notice in the first five minutes of the game can have such a dramatic impact on Day Thirty-Six, yanno? I don’t know, just my thoughts.
A Heroic Curse
Because Some Stories Stretch Through the Seasons
Ah, the Heroes tribe. Is it any surprise they lost the first immunity? Well, honestly, to me, yes. Yes, it is. Much like HvV, the Heroes were the baddest, strongest team on paper… yet they failed. Is this indicative that the Heroes, despite their strength, are destined to follow in their forefathers’ footsteps and lose, lose, win, lose, lose? No, I don’t think that’s the case, simply because there will be a swap before they can run that many challenges as a fledgling, but I just think this is a funny aside, paying homage to the biggest heartbreak I’ve faced in Survivor (Steph, Cirie, and Tom all gone within five episodes? That’s too much, man!... Bojack reference… anyone?).
A Closing Thought, Dearest Reader
Because, For Whatever Reason, I Decided to Bring This Segment Back
Questionable choice, I know. Anyhoo. Remember how Ben, Chrissy, Mike, Cole, Ali, and Ryan were the focal points on the boat before the game really got started? Now, while it seems unlikely Survivor would allow a Second Chance-esque reveal of people who make it far in the game (eleven of the twelve people given confessionals right off the bat making the Merge)… what if? Ben, Mike, and Ryan all seemed to have undoubtedly good first episodes, and Chrissy’s, for being firmly on the bottom and opting to go with the majority to save face by not playing the Super Idol (which I think was the proper and prudent move, by the way), got a good-enough edit. On top of that, despite their tribes not being in any jeopardy of going to Tribal, Cole and Ali both received at least marginal facetime, both of which, to me, seemed positive, more or less. Cole was the kind, alpha-male sort Jeff fawns for, and Ali was the intelligent, hard-working, beauty who came off as casual and approachable rather than abrasive or overzealous. Still, is it that hard to believe these six people—all who appear at least marginally capable at first glance—are our final six? What’s more, three of my Fantasy Team making it to the final six? I can work with that, I think.
Now, is all this just wishful thinking? Probably. But at the risk of damning my own prediction… I’m not crazy. I’m confident.
That’s all, folks!
Oh, wait. Prediction time. Well… although my initial reaction that the Healers would be the weakest tribe, they’ve thus far proved to be the strongest. Still, I can’t help but feel that the Mike versus Joe story was brought up for a reason this week. So, I’m willing to offer up one of my Fantasy Team—the first Fantasy Team-er from any of us, as it were—to ensure Chrissy, Ali, and Ryan see their true potentials. Joe, buddy, you shouldn’t have been a bully.
I think it’s going to cost you.
Cheers, friends, and welcome back. I have high hopes after episode one.
Dan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.
Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki