I’ve already discussed swap episodes and the fact that they’re used as setup episodes as we transition into the individual game and put the earliest bonds and moves to the test. As such, they become information dumps that are rarely too much fun for a first watch. There’s something very obligatory about it, and it takes a lot of the human, natural element out of it. We sort of have to have all these MOR edits talking #stradegy and laying out their plans and less of the witticisms and the character scenes. I think more changes in swap episodes than even in merge episodes so it’s a lot of dynamics, but little time to shove it all into.
However, this does mean that once the dust has settled there’s a lot to work with for reading the future. In a season with little strategic progression, a swap took us from 0 to 100 at breakneck speed, meaning that there’s a lot more to process, but the potential for a lot more clarity in the future than we’ve had. Before this episode all we had was “Nick, Peter, and potentially Cydney are on the bottom, and also there’s an alliance of girls.” Now, there’s an endless amount to comb through for the future and I’m going to go through it all and see where it takes us.
Two and a Half Idols
I almost like Scot again after seeing him go giggly over his love for Tai, and it’s still interesting to me how much Tai’s companionship reforms bad boys. I still can’t look past just what an ass he was about all of Episode 4, and how unapologetic he is, but I prefer him to be tolerable than a Kyle-level of constant icky. As it stands, the bond he made with Tai may actually decide the season. The thing about the super idol twist is that even though I find it to be a red herring as far as its strategic validity, if one is wise and game enough they know it’s better to keep the person with the idol around instead of flushing it. I’m starting to believe the dots will be connected, and Tai will join the Brawn tribe alliance at the merge.
As it stands, Brawn stands the best chance at making connections on the other tribe, most likely to Debbie and Neal. A triple-idol alliance would be pretty fucking insane, but it also depends on whether or not Chan Loh makes it to five at a merge. Will they reunite, or will they split? I think either way, Chan Loh hits trouble at a merge. The three brawns plus Tai, however, are probably the safest bet of them all, and as much as I don’t like it, they probably hold the game in their hands.
Pulling Up a Contender
Notice me senpai!
Recently I did a full edgic contender list offsite, to mixed results. Edgic is a colossal, confusing minefield that would require probably several bonus articles on here to describe something many of you probably wouldn’t find worth it or would find a bit of a detriment to watching the show. Me, I like analyzing the show’s edit to figure out how it tells its own story- well or not- and the hunt for a winner has been an enjoyable nerd sport for a long time. Consistently, there hasn’t really been a true winner contender, just “less bad people” but because of the structure of this episode, I’d say we might have one or two people go up, and one or two people go down.
Heading up to this episode, Cydney was always a decent contender, in many ways for her comparative lack of bad content mixed with her occasional good content. The one thing holding her back is her declaring she’d save Darnell in episode one because she found Alecia a detriment to the tribe. She didn’t get her way, but she was shown to be right as they went to three total TCs, in many ways on the back of Alecia’s less than stellar performances often as stronger players stood back and watched to let her fail. We’ve consistently gotten her thoughts rattling around in the back of our minds, and she’s been shown, accurately or not, to be the only one acting like a grown-up to Alecia out of the three To Tangs left. Already, she’s been a solid second or third contender, but this episode gave her what most good winner contenders need: characterization.
It was already known that Cydney was a well educated student in an Ivy League college which is less expected from someone who comes off as the tough as nails no bullshit body builder, but it was finally brought up this episode to develop her character as someone with a highly impressive mental background as well as a strong physical one, who took a giant leap from what she considers a shoddy public school system to a very esteemed college and then into a career few would find traditional for women at all. All of this together not only makes Cydney a solid player, but now someone we’re meant to admire as a person. Because of this, I feel like we’re supposed to be rooting for her to keep finding success since she’s defied the odds already.
In addition, and I want to say this as sensitively as possible because I don’t want this to sound like I’m complimenting Cydney because this would be a very backhanded compliment. The fact of the matter is, editing relies on a lot of bias, very notoriously so for black contestants, and very very notoriously so for black women. A lot of black women get sold out as being too loud and confrontational, especially with the unfortunate tradition of black women being early boots. As far as age, build, and career go, the black women Cydney identifies with most are Alicia Calaway, and NaOnka Mixon.
Accurately or not, Alicia was edited as ignorant to the opinions of others and too self-satisfied and confrontational to gel with others. Similarly, NaOnka came off as very cocky and posturing and showed signs of selfishness, even though even the slightest glimpse into her background we were allowed (her talking about the emotional drain of divorcing at a young age) painted her exterior in a new, defensive light. Cydney could be like this and quite frankly she has every right to and I don’t have to like it, it’s her life, her mind, and her body. But in a season where even Darnell got the incompetent swimmer black man trope that’s been around since the dawn of Gervase, Cydney has been edited quite differently from the unfortunate and narrowminded black tropes that CBS still has not outgrown with its contestants.
This could be a sign in her favor, that they want her to stand out as particularly strong. The morals are questionable as to whether or not they want her to be seen as a “good” black woman, but they definitely want her to be seen as the better person in almost every crowd she’s in. When people learn she’s a bodybuilder they fall in love with her. She escapes a terrible tribal situation with zero votes and the tribe punching bag rooting for her to win the game. People respect her in a way that is rather refreshing and for reasons that transcend racial dynamics. She’s confident, she’s intelligent, she’s respectful even when voicing disagreement and disapproval. She’s strong, but never cocky, and she’s satisfied with the life she leaves without being morally superior about it.
As much as I’ve said about her understanding of gender dynamics, which is admittedly still hard to swallow, I admire Cydney a lot in this game, and I admire the edit she’s gotten, even as I fear CBS will not stick to it in too many instances. I hope they do, and I hope Cydney gets the popularity that warrants CBS a look at how to change that perception of black women and other minorities that leads to positivity and change rather than the fear of regression. I can imagine many people like her being more complex than they seem, otherwise I could never rationalize why NaOnka has all the friends she does in real life. With Cydney, I’m glad they’re giving us that. If she doesn’t win, I’ll be even more impressed since then there’d be no warrant other than a desire for change and a strong show of character on Cyd’s part, but if she does win it’ll be satisfying.
Much love to Eri Caleb, the artist behind my cartoonish doppleganger I need to use more often, and would were my photoshop skills not blatant shite. I’ve been meaning to incorporate his comics as a thank-you, but either I’m too late or too early, or I can’t figure out a way to incorporate them. This one, however, is perfection.
For the longest time I had Michele towards the top of my contenders list because she was easily the least awful of anyone there. She had enough sprinkling of details going into this episode that set her up for a potential under the radar win. As such, I was looking for details for her to show that she’s going to step up now, and to be fair, we got talk from her that she would… but then she didn’t. I’m starting to fall off the bandwagon for Michele, in that I think in a world where she wins Nick goddamn Maiorano would not be shown doing the strategic legwork while she shows signs of not being able to let go of the girls alliance in time.
I feel more and more like with Michele there’s a lot of overjustification for things that anyone not named Michele would have been condemned for. I don’t think the reasons are invalid, but definitely stubbornly overblown. I think the amount of people who had predicted Michele to go far are getting a bit stubborn, and yes I was one of them. It’s just interesting people bend over backwards for someone with barely any content and they pick apart any little grain of hope and hype it up as the absolute proof. I’m starting to see this as ridiculous for many reasons.
For one, Michele’s content was insanely superficial this episode. The only “good” content she got was mentioning her career. Anna got most of the narration for the girls’ alliance. The constant references to the women’s alliances in the Previously ons mention Anna, if anyone at all, not Michele, who outside of the bartending confessional hasn’t had that development. For another, Michele said she was going to do work to get a foothold in the tribe, yet even Nick was shown putting more effort into it. It’s all talk and no bite. She has room in the future to be worthwhile to the game depending on how the dissolvement of the women’s alliance affects her story, but it’s insanely much ado about nothing.
Honestly, it kind of baffles me how hard people are holding onto this female alliance thing. I’m starting to get the feeling the buildup of this nameless, generic female’s alliance was to explain the swap, where I can’t help but feel we will lose one more. Between Julia and Michele, what happens? I think it depends on how the two react to the Anna boot.
We miss you, TrashTalkTV. ;_;
Natalie Anderson got a lot of good content before the catalyst for her uptick in edit, the Jeremy boot, where she started to play hard and tore a swath through those who wronged her. Michele could get the same sort of revenge edit if she takes the Anna boot a certain way, but there hasn’t been a true personal connection between them and there would need to suddenly be one now to justify her playing the game on behalf of Anna, and potentially Julia. Natalie and Jeremy were seen standing up for each other to Rocker, and strategizing together during the swap. On day one Boston Rob and Sandra were betting on Coach climbing a tree and being buddy-buddy. Because of this, when the bigger character fell, those who wanted to avenge them made emotional sense and it gave us a reason to be angry. It’s not just, screw those guys who voted out Rob and Jeremy, it’s screw those people who voted out Sandra and Natalie’s friends. I’ve never really had a moment where I cared about Michele’s bond with the two women and what they mean to her.
So if that leaves Michele in a rather impersonal space, where does that leave Julia? I’d actually put money on Julia surviving next TC. I think of New Blue goes to Tribal, there’s a chance Michele bites it. This episode didn’t look great on Julia, but it did give her a reason to need the other two women. Julia has lied about her age to sneak closer to the twenty-something ages of her compatriots, but as a teenager suffering alone on Exile she realizes just how much she needed the help and the guidance of people who were older and had more life experience, which could directly connect to her friendship with the girls, fifty-something nature extraordinaire Tai, and the departed Beast Mode Cowboy who played his ass off for her.
If Caleb, Anna, and Michelle all go, Julia has a story because those she relied on to make her feel like she was bigger in a group than solitary left her could be gone except for Tai, and that means she either has to step up, bite it early, or have an unimpressive showing at the end as being too reliant on new people rather than showing what she can do. I say Julia has better odds at longevity, but more likely as someone who loses at the end because she can’t overcome her flaw of dependence on people with more skill than her, even if she acknowledges it.
I’m looking forward to seeing the dynamics of beauty after next episode. It’s not a guarantee one of the two girls or even a Gondol in general goes home, but I see it as statistically likely. If a girl does go home, Michele’s story seems like it was leading here. It could be a harder blow for Julia to face because while Anna was just shouty and gamebotty, Michele has something more naturally human about her, and I’ve noticed that from the moment her profile dropped. A Caleb loss is brutal but not confidence-ending. An Anna loss is more direct, but less personal. A Michele loss could be a shot to the heart that would kickstart a truly personal journey for Julia, and in such an emotional season, it could be good for her.
The Scoop on Neal
Yeah, you know what, I don’t normally do this but in this instance it’s earned. I rewatched the episode a third time in the privacy of an IV chair and I caught just how freaking witty and enjoyable Neal is, so he gets his technically second intro shot, but the first aired one. I’m surprised at how he’s been written off as “boring”- sure, he’s got a monotone voice but unlike similarly boring sounding LJ he actually says things that are worth something, and has a snarky sense of humor that befits his monotone rather than a complete inability to show personality. I called Neal as the entrepreneur on a fantasy adventure, and his occasional cockiness proves that. It’s admittedly a little offputting but it also is endearing in his own way because when he smiles or gets into it emotionally you see this thirty-something sardonic hipster weirdo become a kid playing pirate king way before he’s playing the game of Survivor. He snuck in a lot of funny one-liners this episode and I think he consistently brings it, just as the rest of his tribe does. Chan Loh is a pretty great tribe in general with five members still alive, all of which deliver a little.
“What’s the prognosis, doctor? Will the patient live?” -on Peter treating Joe’s finger injury
“That’ll be $475, please!” -Debbie in response
“Which one do you recommend?” -Neal as Jeff passes out tribe swap buffs.
“We have a mix of beauty, a mix of brawn, and a mix of beauty. So we’ll take it… I’m mostly referring to myself, of course.” -Neal describing his new tribe setup.
Neal is the type of snarkster that Nick wishes he could be. It’s natural, and it comes from a mixture of self-aware ego and humility to risk being the ass of the joke. I think Neal just likes being where he is and it brings a level of excitement out of him. Thus, I was kind of glad he got the idol because, come on, Neal is the type of guy who would instigate an idol play with absolute panache. However, because of the idol find and a few quotes he gave, people have started to look at him as a potential winner. My take remains the same, however, in that he’s basically if LJ and Tyler were fun. I predict an eighth or seventh place for him, possibly a blindside that takes a few people by surprise.
There are a few minor things that bring me to this conclusion- inconsistent airtime and dedication, little solid character development, and sporadic signs of strategy that come and go rather than build a narrative. The two big things, however, are this- when his ass was at risk during the Liz vote, he wasn’t shown having the ability to save his own ass like any winner would, especially a male winner with a pretty sharp mind. Instead, he was shown being saved by DEBBIE. Debbie, the loony cat lady with fifty careers and experience in lying about healthy water, was shown saving the ass of Neal Gottleib. Hang it up and just congratulate yourself on a good try, because you can’t recover from that.
For another, he says he’s gonna go for as long as it takes to find the idol, and it’s funny he says that, because as long as it takes in TV is literally two minutes or so. This process took up twenty minutes for To Tang and several episodes for Tai, yet Neal gets it done faster than you could play the full intro. Several people I’ve talked to outright didn’t know Neal had the idol, which is a sharp contrast to someone like Tony nearly humping his first idol as he found it in the lake, or Mike climbing up trees to Jesus music and crying as he holds it before launching into a happy dance. There’s rarely been so little fanfare over a situation like this especially in an idol-slutty era of Survivor, but this is peculiarly underplayed. I wonder if his idol will even matter.
I see Neal as a decoy, plain and simple, and even if there are strengths to his edit I wouldn’t count on him pulling through. I think if you are, you’re gonna get the wool pulled over your eyes. At the very least, though, I can enjoy him while he’s here. I like him as a character and I hope he enjoys his experience.
So who’s outright eliminated, and what’s in their future?
Nick- “I’m a mastermind and I’m gonna manipulate everyone into doing my will!”
*only scene is of him having the world’s most awkward conversation with Kyle*
Yeah, just a refresher, Nick still sucks. I see him just being dumped in, like, a double episode.
Joe- “I think the twist is that there is no twist and there are no idols.” Apparently someone else missed the Neal scene too. I like the idea of there being no idols in a season just to f with people and make them play real Survivor, but it’s not here, and this with Joe’s general underutilization as a character I think Joe might be penciled in for a sudden Taidoling in the future.
Peter- Rewatching the episode just amplified how much this guy is begging for the most humiliating downfall ever. Again. He might wanna go see a doctor for his Impulsive Douchebag Quote Generation before his mouth claims his brain and his torch with it.
Scot- Someone pointed out a long list of generally Alecia-related contradictions in Scot’s first four episodes, which coupled with his OTTN episode four, even his great Episode 5 can’t save. Still, I think he goes possibly very far and I think he’s still a pretty respectable strategist. He’s going to have a huge round in deciding the future of this game, as far as the deal with Tai goes.
Jason- I think Jason will be important in the future and maybe even show himself to be a good player, even if I think he had a large hand in letting ego torpedo his tribe. However, I just highly highly doubt after Worlds Apart led to such a huge backlash that someone edited as a bully or sexist in any regard, especially to the point where Probst apologizes for how awful it was, whether it was as awful as he thinks it was or not. However, he will likely last longer than I wish he would. I think he’ll end up using the Super Idol at some point but I think it’ll be a “too little, too late” last stand type of thing.
Character is Character
Could feasibly be a Survivor winner.
To call Kaoh Rong an unconventional season at this point is an understatement. There’s been a strong mixture of idiotic douches who need a downfall or reality check, people in general making poor decisions, and the “masterminds” or big stars of each tribe being some genuinely odd and unconventional people. In seasons like Kaoh Rong, a season which has already been compared to Gabon, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, we usually don’t get a traditional strategic winner, although I’m not sure if I can say we’re at that stage of looniness yet. We usually get a winner who is considered a big character, maybe an outright caricature, who accents this abnormal season with a highly abnormal win. If this is the case, I think we need to look no further than Tai and Debbie, two polar opposites with two deliciously maximized stories.
Debbie started off as this know it all overcompensating loon. She’s the ultimate Penelope- she has to top everything and make sure her awesomeness is emphasized at every turn. Even six episodes in, as shown by a TV preview, she still has this trait. However, what should have just been the Coach-esque character she was painted as has turned into a surprisingly intelligent, go-getting strategist. She has a lot of shades of Trish in her which is alarming at times in how well she can play socially. Trish is in many ways a less polarizing version of her- a cheesy and dorky Boston mama who is really great at many aspects of the game including interactions with others as it relates to strategy, who also will go hard as a mofo if something goes against her and she doesn’t want to take it.
Debbie’s overplaying and her desire to be a mastermind is also very Tony-esque. Tony and Trish were seen as a solid pair of two talented players creating a juggernaut. Tony’s social faux pas could be covered up by his sweet bestie Trish, while Tony busted his ass to give Trish the forward motion and maneuverability that he could until the Final 5 where he made the tough decision to cut her loose. While not as strong as the two combined, Debbie has traits that made both of them pretty good, and if she can minimize their negative aspects, it could be the winning combination no one sees coming.
Could feasibly be a Survivor winner
As for Tai, it’s more obvious to see why he could win. He’s just so freaking lovable that even strangers will bend over backwards to keep him in the game, and because he worked hard to get the idol he also got a twist that makes him more valuable to others for having it, not less. He gets along with everyone who isn’t Peter (which lol Peter) and he does his best to provide for them. In this cerebral day and age the provider role does not usually get a lot of kudos, but at his age and in this horrid environment, it becomes a true asset, and it’s easy to tell that Tai means it from the bottom of his heart.
Now, with the idol, he becomes a pawn in the schemes of others who are more nefarious, and his provider role has the cover of “just the pawn” when there’s still a good chance he wins despite being anyone’s pawn because he is naturally a good person. Strategically, Tai has moments, but it’s neither his forte nor his focus. He gets into hot water sometimes and he can be too naive for his own good. However, as you hit the merge, if you aren’t seen as anything more than a nice pawn, you can get far. With the rather unlikable crowd Tai is hiding in, he can also win if they’re dumb enough to take him to the end.
I think this is my favorite part of Kaoh Rong- we have a season where feasibly you can have a Tai win or a Debbie win, and if you don’t, the options we do have are pretty satisfying. However, there’s one dark horse I see getting little discussion, and seeing as people float around Jason, Neal, and Michelle as contenders, I think this is pretty criminal.
The Midnight Blue Horse
Secret weapon of our Kaoh Rong winner?
I think a lot of people have been sleeping on Aubry even though, at least by a little bit, she hits the requirements of a believable winner. I think she has more content than Michele, more consistency than Neal, and isn’t disagreeable like Jason. I’d have her as #4 on my contenders so I’m not saying we’re sleeping on the obvious winner, but Aubry deserves credit especially after this episode. This episode, she was clearly in control, and at TC she got the sharpest and the least judgmental comments that made her seem like a fairly benevolent leader. Even before this, she’s gotten content that shows her as being in the loop.
Episode one was a big episode for her, where she lived the underdog role of Holly Hoffman and company in one day. Aubry had an emotional breakdown as she crash-landed in the conditions and felt like not only was she weak, others saw her as weak and were judging her. She earned the comfort and sympathy of Debbie, a bond that came down the road for later, and she also got moments with Joe implying they’d be in it for the long haul. Later that episode, despite being the least athletic on the surface as the techno geek nerdy type, she dominated all aspects of the challenge in grand form, and even now pushes herself hard in every challenge as though she were just as valuable as Peter.
Speaking of Peter, her content has been irrevocably tied to him. She believed that Peter should have been voted out because of the danger he proposed in the future, and judging by next week’s preview, sedentary neutered Peter is not going to lie down forever. She could be predicting the doomed future of Chan Loh as an entity, but she also isn’t jumping the gun. Will she be behind Peter’s downfall? I think it’s very likely. Chan Loh seems to be more united around Aubry than anyone else- Joe is Debbie’s soldier, but Debbie and Neal aren’t shown to be best of friends. Aubry has connections to everyone except Peter, and even Peter is on a leash and isn’t out for Aubry’s blood.
Because Chan Loh is Chan Loh, I can’t say I see them surviving all the way to the end. If they don’t turn on each other early, they will reach the merge likely in a 5-3-3 scenario with one side possibly becoming six and deflecting an idoling with an idoling. However, if they pull through, I’d say Aubry would be the most likely of them to win save for a possible Debbie shock win. If they don’t, Aubry probably lasts the longest, potentially even via immunity, and might wiggle her way through. If not, I think her edit will show her as being the casualty of a mess of a tribe she tried to guide to doing the right thing.
I reckon if Chan Loh wants to have any hope, a Peter vote-out would actually be the most viable option. If they hit the merge as five of eleven, it will be hard to avoid targeting them simply for numerical advantage, which would wash down the drain a lot of the connections made from Chan Loh cross-tribe. It’d be better to enter with the same amount as Gondol while also ditching the one unlikable asscanoe that would ruin everything, giving Chan Loh a deceptively solid four while Gondol’s still could have divides due to Tai not saving Anna and Nick being a total Nick. That having been said, I still think we could easily have a repeat of the last episode where one of the beauty women or even Nick goes home and there’s not jack that can be done until the merge where the two crippled tribes gang up on the juggernaut of Chan Loh.
If Gondol and To Tang team up, I see Tai having a leg up on the two other beauties due to the idol connection. There’s a good chance he can ride it out with the three To Tangs and take the two less likable ones to the end. In a Tai Tang Final 4, either Tai or Cydney almost certainly wins over the two Brawn dudes, it’s just a matter of the FIC determining things. They’ll be even better off if they flush Neal’s idol early on.
If Gondol ends up wiped out and the Debbie-spawned bonds work out, it’s much more of a mess. Chan Loh could pull ahead, Peter could be an agent of chaos, and the idols suddenly have a lot more importance. I think in this scenario the dynamic shifts are off the wall and true chaos reigns. The voting blocs that could form here would embarrass Stephen if he knew he was “beaten to it” by these lunatics. Still, there’s a messy amount of fluidity that makes it hard to tell who wins and who doesn’t, but the contenders that most name anyways would probably still mostly stand a chance of having one maneuver to the end, especially someone like Cydney.
If Peter goes this next round, then I think the game is largely determined based off of swap bonds. I could see a Debbie-Cydney-Neal-Jason-Tai-Scot alliance ruling all, with Debbie still potentially able to dig back into the Chan Loh well to keep things uniform. This alliance holds a lot of the contenders, which means it could both be the Final 6 while causing a little chaos at the end (freaking Jesus, three idols in six people?) If Debbie and Neal play both sides, then we could easily see a Super Idol play and some of the other dynamic-jumbly type of plays that would make an exciting, but more manageable post-merge. Honestly, out of any of them, this is the type of post-merge that would fit the narrative. It’s just a matter of, can Peter be that much of a nuisance that he would finally be eradicated from civil society?
Next time on… Survivor!
Joe hears that Peter was talking shit but he didn’t think that Joe would hear it. Now Joe’s getting everybody caught up, chewing Peter out and investigating him with all seventy two years of America-loving FBI agent badassery. Will this be enough bad blood to go through, and lead to Julia’s salvation? Meanwhile, on the other tribe, the trifecta might not be in Jason and Cydney’s hands alone after all, as Debbie follows her… heart… to make a bond with Greek God Nick. I’m still amazed people find Nick… attractive? Bearded and toupeed ostrich man still doesn’t strike a chord with me, but what do I know? Nick’s face is perfect for camera shots, and also being a model, Debbie would know. Does this kind of lust mean danger in the ranks, or is it just a passing phase?
I would reckon more lies in the balance of next episode than even in the merge episode. The impact of the Anna boot on the other two girls, the next eliminated contestant, developments on the new blue tribe, and how old Chan Loh breaks down on new Gondol, will determine a lot of the future before the tribes can merge. If there’s one thing that’s always true in Survivor, however, it’s that things can change faster than you can blink.