"The chaos of this episode reflected a reality of the island I have not seen on TV in many recent seasons. The clear-cut edits of heroes vs. extras fell into disarray as we watched the remaining contestants try to understand how they are being perceived," writes comedy writer Hannah Shapiro
“I think everything in this game is about perception. Each day changes, and it’s going to continue to change. The game is nowhere near over and there is no one threat,” said Survivor season 38 contestant Aurora McCreary.
She was clearly inspired by the famous exit press by me, Hannah Shapiro, brilliantly articulating the thesis statement of this episode years before it actually happened: “Perception is reality. It’s a balance in Survivor between hiding what you’re doing and showing your cards … when you’re on that island, your perception and your perspective of everything is so limited.”
The chaos of this episode reflected a reality of the island I have not seen on TV in many recent seasons. The clear-cut edits of heroes vs. extras fell into disarray as we watched the remaining contestants try to understand how they are being perceived.
Yes, there were talks of threats and goats, but the more interesting aspect of the discussion was the uncertainty of it all. Perhaps it’s because I’m a losing finalist (I was the runner-up on season 33: Millennials vs. GenX), but I genuinely believe that Survivor contestants live in a gray area that is often hard to translate to television. On the couch, watching a highlight reel of what happened, it is easy to point fingers and say, “That person is clearly the goat! That other guy is the obvious winner!” Yes, there are island clues that can let contestants know how they are being viewed — clues that if missed can be the difference between winning and losing — but it is more fluid than it seems.
Many winners who don’t immunity it to the end are considered beatable by a large portion of people! Even if this isn’t always communicated on TV.
The episode began in the uncomfortable aftermath of the Kelly Wentworth vote. While Extinction Island has provided an interesting look into voted out players, I’ve missed the post tribal awkwardness. And we got it back!
Tribal council is often a breakup of sorts, held in a public restaurant and the post tribal is all the restaurant onlookers saying, “So … that happened.” Gavin Whitson questioned what went down, only to feel the bark of an annoyed War Dogs. He said War Dogs talked to him like a dog. Get it?! War Dogs … dog … barking. Pineapples on his shirt and puns in his heart, Gavin was angry and visible this episode.
Lauren O’Connell felt the blow of losing her island sister Kelly, giving viewers a peek into the real sadness when a friend leaves. And Julie Rosenberg, a key decision maker this episode, shockingly took her blindside in stride. I say shockingly because she has had big emotional reactions to past blindsides, often resulting in changes to the game. But this episode, she didn’t play with her emotion or target her usual suspect, and it affected everything.
The biggest thing set up after the Kelly vote out was the idea of “threats and players” vs. “people who still need to build their resume” described by Rick Devens. Rick tells Ron Clark and War Dogs First of His Name that they must now shield and protect each other against the other players who will want all three of them out as resume boosters. Confessionals from the other players, Gavin and Lauren as the loudest voices, confirm this to be true.
Romantic Mud Bathing & Strong Ladies
The reward challenge is pretty hilarious because all the women that were referred to as goats absolutely physically dominated the men that were considered threats. I understand that threat and goat refers to who is in the pilot seat. I just found it amusing how much Aurora crushed it, seemingly not having to breathe ever underwater, after being described as doing nothing game-wise. Post reward it’s the usual Survivor winner vs. loser experience: the losers talk about having forgotten what food tastes like and angrily bickering about rice portions, while the winners enjoy a happy vacation filled with romantic mud baths.
Pre-immunity challenge Rick explains that nobody is playing. This description is intercut with the players who “aren’t playing,” saying that they would like him out. It is again reiterated how one person’s perception of events can so differently be seen by another player.
Kelly’s Dramatic Extinction Island Monologue
We also got a look at the extinct people and a long monologue from Kelly about regret and home. I feel for Kelly here: her pain in making the wrong decisions, her new situation of living with people who are angry and her despair that she may have let down her family. Kelly, a fighter throughout the season, is at her most vulnerable on her new island.
Much like the great theatrical monologues of yore, this one had everything: tears, heart and a very blonde lady baking in the sun.
Reem Daly, queen of the extinct, once again is revisited, making her the most vocal first boot ever. It will be fascinating to see where her jury vote lands, if she does not reenter the game. She hasn’t met many of the players still left in!
Vote Talk & Jury Favorites
Lots of folks (Lauren, Aurora, Victoria) want Rick. Others want War Dogs (Gavin, also Lauren) in the aftermath of the Kelly vote. War Dogs and Rick finally want Aurora out and to protect the threat alliance. Ron juggles between everyone and even mimes juggling in his confessional. Rick wins immunity when he seems to need it!
At tribal, the most interesting thing is the reaction of the jury to those left in. Call some people threats, other goats, other dogs, others redheads — none of this matters! What matters is how the jury views the events and players. And the jury seems to be rooting for a few people over others: Aubry Bracco audibly cheers as Gavin stands up for himself against War Dogs. Kelly and David Wright are proud parents rooting for their baby Rick who won immunity.
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In the mess, with the help of Ron flipping back, War Dogs is sent to Extinction Island, where many people seem to have a dog bone to pick with him.
War Dogs emerged as an entertaining force to be reckoned with, dictating many of the torch snuffing leading up to his extinction! His desire for an all-threat alliance may have come a few votes too late. With Kelly and David, the all-threat alliance may have had more steam. They just didn’t have the numbers, with Ron not being secure and War Dogs “barking,” pissing some of his island cohorts off.
Still, War Dogs was a fun, dynamic island member who will fight tooth and nail to get out of the dog house.
Despite once again not being a part of the correct vote, it seems more and more that we are being told Rick’s story. Rick is considered a threat, the jury is actively rooting for him and though his path may be difficult, his attitude may get him there: “Every setback is an opportunity.” Not to mention, there is still Extinction Island at play, he could be voted off only to reemerge again! It feels like his game to lose. Extra points for the Julius Caesar reference.
A dark horse is definitely Lauren. She is shown to have a keen sense of the game, physically hold her own and still has that idol in her pocket. Her line this week shows that she is thinking critically: “If you tell me, oh I want to go to the end with you, then there’s a part of you that thinks you can beat me and if you think you can beat me, what am I missing?”
While this is how I feel this episode, with the back and forth of this season, including extinction, many surprise players could at least end up in the end!
A Shappy (Fishy)
The Shappy this week goes to ME! CAUSE I’M THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG AND I HAVE THAT POWER! I’m so smart for understanding that perception is reality, even if I did read the room wrong and lose horribly my season. I GET THIS AWARD AND THERE’S NOTHING STEPHEN FISHBACH CAN DO ABOUT IT!!!
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.