Survivor: Hindsight Bias 5: Sugar How You Get So Fly

I’ve spent the better part of five days trying to figure out how the hell to cover this episode. It’s not that it was bad or boring- far from it, for my money it was the best of the season. The Nuku segment in particular I nearly shed a tear over, it was so good.. It’s just that… duh, it’s very largely self explanatory and this episode has gotten people so primally id-driven that I don’t think people would pay attention to what I write- or, at the very least, I put myself in very dangerous territory by discussing it as people have already made their minds up on it and prescribed it to their deeper theories on life. Still, I’d rather enjoy this episode than focus on how dark shit has gotten.

I have heard that All-Star seasons tend to get nastier than most seasons, and after the participation trophy that was Millennials vs Gen X, that makes Game Changers, especially J.T. vs Michaela and Debbie vs everyone, quite the shock to deal with. People have gotten insanely stupid about it but I’m not about to let that detract from my entertainment. I’d say more about the fanbase but my inbox is already blowing up so I’ll keep mum on it. We have an episode to try and talk about.

Somehow.

Where Is My Mind

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That may be from Kaoh Rong but I will be damned if it isn’t Debbie here.

I mean, the big story of the week is Debbie and how utterly buried in every way that she was. It wasn’t the most light fare that we’ve seen- it was actually pretty dark- though it was one of the rare times someone edgically got an OTTNN (over the top super negative) without being morally offensive or… just doing shit in an early season. I mean, she took it to levels I did not know she could reach, and when I thought there were levels of crazy Debbie could not reach, it’s really something.

I think it’s entirely possible that Hali could have dragged on the balance beam- some say Jeff’s comments could indicate that. At the same time, so did Debbie- we saw her fall off multiple times. And her being upset wasn’t just about Hali potentially flopping- it was about how amazing she was (she wasn’t) and what a dictator Brad was and how he told her to do the balance beam (he very much didn’t). And we saw the way she went about it- it was really heated, manic, and kind of uncomfortable- or at least it was for me and my uncomfortable closeness with manic. It was not faked at all like some people say- I’ve seen genuine rage before. While I’m learning not to get too specific, I have experienced genuine rage before. The amount I saw of that in Debbie was a little too close to home, though now I gotta laugh rather than cry.

There was an interesting component to her defensive outburst- I get the sense that for talking herself up as an amazing person who can do anything, her failure at her part in the challenge really hurt her and she couldn’t face it immediately, so she disassociated from it. (Remember at the immunity challenge where during the challenge she kept bragging about how great she was at what they were doing? That was rich). I think that’s the anger and what it stems from- Debbie is not great at acknowledging that she may not be the greatest human ever.

At the same time, that was the Michele position last season, where she flubbed the buoy part of the challenge. While this didn’t seem to inspire Debbie to work with Michele, Debbie was quick and careful to see that Michele didn’t hate herself or think less of herself for doing this challenge wrong. Now, I can see why- when Debbie doesn’t do a challenge well, she is very hurt, and it can bring out the worst in her. This ties back to the point I made in Kaoh Rong- she is very supportive to make others love themselves as much as she loves herself, but that might be because she’s worried they’ll be just as disappointed in themselves as she was here.

I think her claims to Brad being a dictator are way off, but Brad unconsciously giving out orders, I can recognize. Sure, he’s flexible and a really sweet guy, and when Debbie tells him that he probably doesn’t realize he does it, I get it. I think that’s on the right track. Right now Brad seems like he thinks he’s taking a backseat role, but before the challenge started, he told everyone where they should go. Debbie said she’d be good at the balance beam, and he happily accounted for that, but Brad is definitely a leader and he does tell people what it’d be best for them to do (though he’s willing to hear the desires of others).

Again, Debbie’s problem was not that she was wrong about everything. I could imagine Hali also did poorly on the balance beam and Brad does tend to give orders. However, she took a 2 out of ten and managed to make it about a 35,000. I don’t think Brad was simultaneously a giant dictator and a kissass subservient to Hali, I don’t think that Hali took ten minutes in the challenge while leaving Debbie enough time to not take thirty seconds to own it, and I really don’t think that Debbie handled this at all the right way.

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Still, her self-awareness after it happened is what separates her from other Survivor mental trainwrecks like, really, name any Hantz. As you can see in the tweet that will be either above or below when I upload it, she’s quite aware that she made an ass of herself but finds it all quite silly in retrospect. A lot of people compared her to Brandon Hantz, but the thing that separates the two of them is that Brandon would probably tell you that his meltdown was great and proved how awesome he was. Debbie recognizes how downright goofy she looks and moves on.

I wasn’t laughing as much at this as some people were, but I also wasn’t on track to condemn her as much as others were. I think that the frustrations she had were bottled in and when released took a small deal and made it huge. And, ultimately, as much as that was a hurricane for Mana, I think Debbie will be over it as the next round starts.

Rising Taid

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I’ve made so many Tai puns when covering Kaoh Rong that I may have used this one, but it makes sense since this is basically Katching Up On Kaoh Rong the article. Really, I think this has largely gone undisclosed, since it is generally law that Tai follows everyone and is a goat. Still, even if he is a goat, he’s being a lot better a goat than he was in Kaoh Rong, and I actually see sort of a growth arc from him.

I mean, last time in Kaoh Rong he was definitely a goat, but how come? Well, it’s because he did a lot of moves that were selfish and against who he was as a person, no more than the (still otherwise glorious) moment where he made sure Scot fucked off with Kyle’s idol. Not only that, but he quite clearly wasted potential items to get things done that only he subscribed to, and that plus his loyalty to Aubry and his erratic behavior colored in the perception that he was a nice person who played like shit. Which, essentially, he was.

In this season, we started off with the Greatest Hits of Tai- him not being able to convincingly lie worth a shit and him loving all living creature. In the third episode, he had his relationship with Caleb that was brought to light but Brad convinced him it was a good move for him to vote Caleb out. To be clear, it was a very hard decision for Tai as he sold it, and I reckon that’s how it really was- Tai is too heartfelt to see that as anything but him committing the highest of betrayals.

Still, Tai has managed to translate that propensity for moves, naivete, and self-defense into something less selfish and more team-oriented. I mean, the idol play on Sierra is iconic, and while the credit is given to Brad when it’s talked about, the fact that Tai’s immediate thought was defending the tribe when a bad situation was on the horizon is already a shift. Compare to when he and Anna were swapfucked and Tai let her go and kept his idol. Not only did he find the idol, he told his original four and actually played it on one of them with no hesitation. While the benefit to him was there, it was a huge benefit to Sierra, and quite unlike the Tai we knew.

Plus, for all his talk about not going home with the idol in his pocket, he actually pulled off his first ever idol play… for someone else. I like that, it makes me happy.

Last episode, Mana was dominated by the Debbie freakout. Tai wasn’t shown doing much in it other than trying to calm Debbie down by agreeing with her, but honestly I’m kind of bizarrely proud of him for keeping his cool during all of that. It sounds condescending, but I’d have jumped out of my skin if I were there. Also, when everyone else on Mana was down, he went and looked for the idol, showing a bit of game savviness that the others were too exhausted to have. Plus, he stopped himself when he felt he was out for too long- a far cry from looking for it for the whole first three days and then telling the tribesmates who caught him he would like more time to look.

This is all my predictably long way of saying that I think Tai is experiencing his own growth arc. Unconventional, true, but I see signs of actually changing his game compared to last time. Will it lead to a win? I can’t say, but at the very least I see him leaving with the respect people didn’t have for him before the game.

Ta-Who-A?

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…anyway!

Nah, guess I should talk a little about them, but I really don’t wanna. Hopefully they tribe swap into a much more interesting configuration because this one is just boring. As a tribe, they had 3 confessionals this episode. That’s .5 a person. That’s less than Debbie got when Caleb was medevac’d. And basically all we got this episode was Sarah saying she might flip because this tribe is “boring” (which I agree wholeheartedly with) and Phillip J. Troyzan trying not to soil himself in both glee and fear. And really, that’s it. Tavua is not an interesting tribe, end.

Taking Back The Crown

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Now this is the tribe I would much rather talk about. I mean, my God, the alliance of Sandra, Michaela, and Varner seems like it came out of a dream. That’s enough funny gifs and photos to recreate the internet, right there. Sandra is not someone I am convinced can win, and this episode hasn’t convinced me one way or the other on that, but as far as victory laps go, Sandra is running a hell of a trip and she’ll stay far ahead of the rest until her tires inevitably are blown out. I think when she does go, far too many will turn on her and say she has no skills in playing the game. However, for this week, we have Sugargate.

It did not take much to set J.T. off. Make up all the stuff that you think Michaela did off-camera, what we saw was J.T. losing his shit because Michaela wanted coffee and sugar. I am not at liberty to discuss this without people jumping out of trees and manholes and garbage cans to give their two cents, so I’ll just say that J.T. really doesn’t like Michaela and J.T. has an idol (because producers are giving them out like skittles this season). Sandra uses that to her advantage in a way that’s kind of masterful- she eats the sugar in front of Varner, who looks like he’s made eye contact with the devil. Then, she just waits for what she expects to happen happen- J.T. sees it, immediately blames Michaela, then wants that “crazy bitch” gone.

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Originally, I thought Sugargate was Sandra’s way of keeping her name out of J.T.’s mouth, but after the challenge it appeared that Michaela may not go. This is when it became less of a spoonful of sugar and more of someone taking the whole jar. Sandra pulled off a plan to use that to distract J.T. to thinking Michaela would go, Michaela acted the role of scorned, angry woman at J.T.’s plans, Sandra would convince J.T. that it was Michaela’s time, and she, Michaela, and presumably Varner would vote J.T. out. The best part is, it worked.

J.T. should have played his idol. He was the only Nuku left with five Manas. Even if it was shifting there he still shouldn’t get the idea of safety especially after shoving the tribe on a raft and looking for the idol. At last week’s Tribal he buried himself by accidentally telling Brad who to idol, and them idoling out his best friend. Everyone left with him thought him running over to Brad was the dumbest of bullshit. Miraculously he did find the idol the next morning, which would fish him out of the shit he started to bury himself with.

He didn’t even bring it with him.

He pulled a straight-up Garrett because he was convinced that Michaela was J’Tia, and Sandra booted him out of the game like Klubba did to the Kongs.

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It’s hard to talk about this without talking about Michaela. My health is already bad enough and too much stress impedes my recovery, so I will be a good girl talking about Michaela. Not only was she awesome, she was quite levelheaded for someone so open, keeping most of it to herself, and only really snapping on J.T. when he questioned her intelligence- not something you can do to someone who went to a premier college and paid off their student loans over coffee. J.T. kept insulting her, though I’d say a few were willfully blind to it, and Michaela kept defending herself. As she would reveal in Survivor Tea With Michaela B, she was told to act up at Tribal to make it seem like she was going home. It was only after J.T. didn’t play an idol that she let it all go, like taking a bra off after a long day.

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What a work of art. Some would say it was planned, some would say it was disrespectful, and some would say she was literally Phillip and Shamar for it. She certainly went against the grain of certain power structures with it, but no matter what people say to believe about it, I LOVE it. It was so great, so amazing, and made me laugh harder than really anything that I’ve seen before. I almost wish that it was done by Malcolm or something so that people could see it as the god-tier moment that it was rather than getting triggered by it and posting Breitbart articles about how we should expect less from minorities.

That’s what a good girl acts like, right? Eh, fuck it, stress may hurt my health but anger gets these articles done faster. 

Also, as soon as J.T. was out of earshot, Sandra revealed that it was her who took the sugar. This made Michaela laugh even though that could have really fucked her over, Varner found it amusing even though Sandra took back whatever ammunition Varner could use against her, and got begrudging compliments from Aubry for it even though it chiefly killed her and her ally’s game. When Sandra raised her hand over the sugar, it ended sugargate right there.

It’s been pointed out a lot that with Sandra voting out Tony and J.T., by her own hand, no one else will match being a two-time winner this season. The queen stays queen, indeed.

Next Time on Survivor

I don’t know who’s on that boat we saw in the NToS but I will be damned if the boat doesn’t have capabilities to jump a shark.
-Cameron

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