Thursday, February 02, 2006

Survivor Panama-Exile Island

Tonight marked the beginning of the new season of Survivor. Twelve seasons in and the show doesn't ever get old, imo. My sister and I observed that we don't care if the show never leaves Panama since one island is pretty much like another. It's the cast which creates the novelty from season to season. The producers throw in some change-ups every year and that helps too--but really it all comes down to a new cast each year. Perhaps more than any other show, Survivor depends on the personalities. This edition's twists are intriguing. First there are four tribes instead of two; two sets of men and two sets of women. The men and women are further divided into old and young. They've added the Exile Island mentioned in the title as a twist. One castmate will be exiled there regularly and forced to survive on their own and forego the opportunities to make alliances. There is an immunity idol hidden somewhere on Exile Island which can be used either before or after a vote right up until the final four. Supplies are sparce, in this edition as well, tribes get a flint, a pot and a machete, and that's it.

Here is the breakdown of the Tribes:

Bayoneta: (young women) Courtney-Performance Artist (fire dancer?), Danielle; Medical Sales Rep, Misty; Engineer, Sally; Social Worker

Casaya: (older women) Cerie; Registered Nurse, Melinda-Singer, Ruth Marie; Director of Retail Sales, Tina; Logging Sports Promoter/Performer

La Mina: (older men) Bruce; Karate Instructor and HS Art Teacher, Dan-Retired Astronaut, Terry-Airline Pilot, Retired Navy Fighter Pilot, Shane-Entertainment Marketer

Viveros: (young men) Aras; a yoga instructor, Austin; a writer, Bobby; an attorney, Nick; financial sales

In this episode, "The First Exile", the tribes immediately compete in a reward challenge. The first three tribes to find one of the amulets hidden inside some skulls (hopefully fake ones) will receive flint for fire. The losing tribe will not receive flint for fire and one of their members would be exiled immediately. There is really a limited physical aspect to this challenge other than the race to the pile of skulls. The participants break open the skulls, unwrap some burlap and find either an amulet or a stone. Physicality or speed plays another limited role in that you need to hop up and get another skull quickly. Manual dexterity should have advantaged the women with their smaller and presumeably more agile fingers but it didn't work out that way.

Danielle runs for Bayoneta. Ruth Marie runs for Casaya, Terry runs for La Mina. Austin runs for Viveros. (Tripping a bit right out of the gate; nerves?) La Mina, Viveros, and Casaya return in that order and win the flint. Bayoneta loses and has to leave a member behind. Danielle volunteers to stay behind since she ran in the challenge and didn't win, the others don't agree and eventually resort to rock, paper, scissors. Misty is the unlucky exile.

At camp the older/younger theme of competences vs. imcompetence we have seen so often on other seasons shows up right out of the gate. We see the older women and men immediately begin to set up camp efficiently and effectively. Meanwhile, the younger men can't figure out how to make fire even with a flint. The younger women wander aimlessly trying to pick a camp site without regard for where the water well is located or where the best shelter could be built.

On Exile Island, Misty takes Jeff's clue about spending her time on Exile Island trying to figure out why fate chose to leave her behind as a clue that the immunity idol is buried behind where she was standing. Misty pokes at the dirt with a stick in a desultory fashion. She pluckily eats an earthworm to keep up her strength. Ick. She strategizes a plan to mislead her team into thinking that she found the idol while exiled. To that end when Jeff inferred that she spent a little time looking for the idol. She replied "Enough". Tricky. Now all the tribes are wondering if she found it.

The immunity challenge is partly physical and partly mental. Climb over a barrier, jump in the water, swim to a raft, release the raft from a hook mooring which is under the water, paddle to the shore, solve a rope brain teaser (directions are buried nearby) release the ring, grab the grappling hook with the ring and pull it to release your flag. First three teams to release their flags win immunity.

The teams go into the water and the younger men get significantly behind because they can't figure out how to release their raft from its hook. The older women have this problem too but solve it quicker. I note the older woman paddle casually and with no particular effort. They do make it to the beach before the younger men but they could have had a greater advantage. I am irritated by this lackadaisical effort. Hellloo, old ladies you have a disadvantage here---speed it up, I glare at the tv. The older men and younger women are on the beach and working at solving the brain teasers. They appropriately ration their resources. Two team members work on digging up the directions and two members try to solve the puzzle without the directions. The older women finally make it to the beach a little ahead of the younger men. They apportion their resources stupidly, 3 digging while one tries to solve the puzzle. The younger men follow the two and two division. The older women know that the younger men are getting closer to getting their flag but somehow don't get inspired to speed up. Hurry up!!! Stop arguing about the steps for solving the puzzle, you doofus women. The younger men are going to beat you! They do not hear my cries of frustration and they lose.

Now I'm disgusted with the older women--my natural allies, since they are in my age range. (Cagily, I do not give away my age of 45 to my readers...oops.) Anway, I am glad they have lost now, because they did not try hard enough. Ptew. They are not my favorite team anymore. I will root for the old guys. They have two military men. (Are NASA shuttle pilots military or civilian? Whatever they are very smart, for sure.) They are bound to be better. Except for the dork, Shane, who thought coming on Survivor was a good way to break a three pack a day smoking habit. I can tell already he's going to melt down soon under the double stress of Survivor and nicotine withdrawal. He's already been irritable on Day One.

After the loss, the older ladies begin the cannibalism process involved in voting someone off. Cerie wants to make sure it is not her. She works the other two women. Tina, helpfully, runs off to the beach alone to mourn her only son who was recently killed. This is a secret she is keeping from the others and so they view her self-exile as weird. Big strategic mistake, Tina, if you told them you are mourning your son and they would never vote you off. Is this callous of me to say? It's true, though, isn't it?

The tribal council was actually pretty funny. Melinda and Cerie are a hoot, admitting that they are not having fun. Melinda says, "I would say that I am in Panamanian hell right about now. This is by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life. And it's because it is all-encompassing. It's mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually--I'm mean, that's why it's so difficult. You should try it."

Jeff skillfully (does he have a psychology degree or what?) leads the women around to who's working the hardest. Now Tina was probably already going to go because Cerie did her work very well, but then Tina helped Cerie out and pretty much gave herself the death blow, with this answer:

(To Tina) Jeff asked, “Do you think these other three are pulling their weight?”

Tina said, “Um, not as much as I would like to. I have a really huge work ethic. But I feel like if I keep saying let’s get more firewood, let’s go find a fishing spot, they’re gonna look at me as, as a bigger leader than I am and then my head is on the chopping block. So I just go off by myself and work hard and have a good life.”

That didn't set well with the other women, not surprisingly, and so Tina goes. Her exit comments are a little bitter. She basically thinks that she would have done better with a different (read: better) group of women. I don't think so. What little we saw of her she seemed loud and over-confident. Her social skills were a bit off. She was not sensitive to the effect her behavior (loud and inclined to isolate herself) had on the other women. Some people are "tone-deaf" in their people skills. The surprising thing to me is that they show up on Survivor pretty regularly. Tina also claimed that she had caught a fish to the other women, when in reality she picked it up off the rocks where it was stranded. Woohoo! Way to go-- picking up helpless fish. What a hunter-warrior-provider. Sure she was smart to pick up the fish, good for her, But ick acting like she did something especially difficult. That was not cool.

Next week the previews hint that Shane wants to go home--and lightning comes really close to striking him, maybe. You know the Survivor previews--they can be a liiitle misleading about what is going to happen.

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