Time is always at a premium in Survivor, and Episode 2 of Survivor 42 was an hour shorter than the premiere. Yet somehow this episode still felt luxurious, rich in its exploration of the contestants and their stories. We learned something about almost everyone at Taku, for example. From Marya's goals and reasons for being on the show, to Maryanne's dating history, to Omar's religious beliefs. We even spent some quality time on Vati's hermit crab hunting techniques (a leaf can be both glove and cage!) and dietary restrictions.
Part of this was possible because as the audience, we were already familiar with Beware Advantages. We didn't need a detailed explanation of how they worked (although we still got a brief one), and there weren't any other big new twists or advantages that needed excessive explanation.
Most of the feeling of roominess, relatedly, was a wise choice *not* to use another semi-new twist/advantage. In Survivor 41, Deshawn and Evvie were whisked away to Dilemma island immediately after the Ep2 IC. That trip took up a huge amount of screentime, despite both of them knowing exactly how the twist worked, and Evvie essentially gave Deshawn a gift in hopes of future considerations (that never materialized). Not only was that trip a narrative timesink, it literally kept Evvie away from camp while Yase was plotting and scheming about which way the vote should go — Xander or Voce.
This time around, the dilemma element was shelved this episode (as far as we know). There was no forced post-IC trip, no gaming of the decision system. All five remaining people at Taku had a chance to scheme together for the rest of the day after their challenge loss. (It is formally possible that Vati was able to choose one person from either non-winning tribe, chose someone from Ika, and it was just not shown ... but since when has Survivor ever not shown an advantage?)
We're going with Occam's Razor here: Survivor made a good call, and decided against the Ep2 shipwheel decision-making in 42. The game may be "fast and dangerous," but less is more when it comes to twists and mandatory activities, and this episode was better because of that choice.
(Coincidentally, I am extremely short on time this week, and this recap will be very, very brief.)
What if the Shot in the Dark actually happens all the time?
It feels like just last week that we noted Zach's futile attempt to save himself in Ep1, and were ready to call the Shot in the Dark experiment effectively DOA after just over one season. (Whoops, it was last week.)
Well, here we are one week later, and we've now had two straight Tribals where someone played their Shot, lost, and went home on actually unanimous votes (5-0 on Zach, 4-0 on Marya). We now have 15 people left in the season, and NONE of them have received a single vote against them. So the obvious question now is: Can we please keep this streak going?
What if every pre-merge Tribal Council ended in someone playing a Shot, getting "Not Safe," and leaving the game without casting a vote? No split votes to dodge Beware Advantages. Just everyone playing straight-up, telling the person who's going they'd better play their Shot, as each Shooter's desperate attempt at salvation falls short in a pile of "Not Safe" scrolls? What if we hit the jury phase, and everyone still in the game has perfect voting records? The game would finally have evolved to a place where Lex van den Berghe's approach is vindicated!
Obviously, this is pretty unlikely to actually happen, and that's probably a good thing. If the person on the outs knows they're going every time, and still can't overcome the numbers, that's not particularly exciting to watch. But there's a fresh new five-in-six chance of that happening every time a Shot is played. That's pretty depressing, actually.
Anyway, it more likely that something else will screw this up. Maybe the aforementioned Beware Idols will, once they're active. Although ... as Probst explained it last season (with Xander), the punishment for holding an inactive Beware Idol is that person (such as poor, overly trusting Mike) is unable to play their Shot. So Mike could still be voted out, 5-0, and the streak would continue, Shot or no Shot.
We're not saying this streak would be *great* Survivor. But it would certainly be weird Survivor. And couldn't that be a little fun? Just this once?
You can be weird too, Survivor 42! It's okay!
Maryanne said so.
Unasked questions about the logo
First off, an aside: It was very cool to see the show open with a shot of a carved season 42 logo underwater, plonked next to a reef. This is the kind of image SurvivorSA routinely uses to ease into and out of commercial breaks, so it's nice to see good ideas spreading internationally. (Let's all pretend it's that, and not just unaired footage from the intro that has been dead ever since Dan Spilo personally killed it.)
More importantly, though: We're now a sixth of the way through the season, and 2/3 of the logo — which has been on every contestant's buff since Day 1 — still makes no sense. As the audience, we know the key in the logo is the Advantage Amulet. So it's a little weird that we haven't seen any of these deeply Survivor-conscious contestants speculate on that so far. (Maybe they thought the key in the opening RC was the key in the logo?)
The other main elements in the logo are still unshown, so players and audience alike are in the dark as to what they mean. Sure, the lock could just be a generic companion/balance to the key, but what is the maze about? It's not a reference to filming in the magical kingdom of Mazevania, so what is it?
A new twist that (hopefully) takes the place of the hourglass at the merge? Just some random table maze from a future challenge? A representation of the path the winner has to take, avoiding appearing too weak or too strong at every vote? Something else?
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes