Friday, September 15, 2006

Survivor - Cook Island

Episode 1 - I Can Forgive Her But I Don't Have to Because She Screwed Up My Chickens

So Robin and I watched Survivor: Cook Islands Thursday evening. We have been very faithful Survivor viewers since season 1 but I must confess we found the hype about the special "segregated" edition unappealing. I was interested to read a quote from Jeff Probst claiming that the first couple of minutes were the most exciting ever or something like that. So here's my recap:

Act 1 - The Ship
Not the excitement I was looking for. People running around like scared, wait, that really is a chicken. Hmmm, chickens can swim? Well I've learned something. Day not wasted. Still, nothing here like the claim. Until Jeff says "39 Days! 20 People! 1 Survivor!" I don't want to get excited but I can't help myself and my heart beats a little faster: "My name is Judy and I'm a reality tv addict".

Act 2 - On the Water
Everyone seems to paddle easily to their designated areas. Nothing to see here, move along.

Act 3 - Aitutaki aka Aitu

This is the Hispanic tribe. The members are: Cecilia, Cristina, JP, Ozzy and Billy

Billy thinks that the Hispanic tribe has an advantage because of their island heritage. Cecilia sees this tribe as an opportunity to showcase the abilities of hispanics to work and play hard. Upon reaching their camp, Billy steps up big as the leader in the know but turns out to be the big talking leader wannabe. Ozzy steps in, takes over and gets things moving by getting the shelter started and climbing a coconut tree for sustenance.

Act 4 - Puka

This is the Asian tribe. The members are: Becky, Brad, Cao Boi, Jenny and Yul

Right away Cao Boi (pronounced Cowboy) stands out as someone who tells it like it is (or as he thinks it is). He has no fear of seeming to call out sterotypes. On the raft he jokes that Asians can look so little but weigh so much. He blames the rice. One of the girls objects to the joke and says "Don't make stereotypes" He replies: "What's fact is fact". Jenny points out that they are a mixed group themselves: Cao Boi is Vietnamese, Jenny is Filipino, Yul and Becky are Korean and Brad is mixed Filipino and Hawaiian.

Act 5 - Manihiki aka Hiki

This is the African American tribe. The members are Nathan, Sekou, Stephannie, Sundra and Rebecca.

The tribe lands and gets together for an impromtu celebration. A chant of 'represent, represent' begins. Stephannie explains: "We all feel the pressure to represent our people the African American culture". Rebecca elaborates that since the tribes are separated by race that she feels that they need to show that "Yes, black people do swim, yes black people know how to get on a boat and paddle. I mean, we don't just run track." That was a great line! We see several scenes of the Hiki tribe building their hut. What I'm struck by, is the ease and comfort level. Unlike the Asian tribe, which is divided by so many different country origins that they individually don't feel like they have much in common. Hiki shares a familiarity of culture and life experience that allows them to be much less guarded than I think anyone of them would have been had they been in a tribe where they were the only African American. Sundra claims it's not about race, but more about the fact that they are all from a city. I think that's true but not wholly it. A mixed group would likely not have joked about cornrow braiding palms and "I have a dream" as easily. In our politically correct world everyone's always afraid that teasing may be offensive to others. Nate has a private camera moment where he recaps the struggle to build shelter and says "Black people don't like to be told what to do". That's true of everybody, I think, but would Nate have said it that way if he was in a mixed tribe? I don't know-- and it's kind of cool that I'm wondering.

Act 6 - Rarotonga - Raro

This is the caucasian tribe. The members are: Adam, Parvati, Candice, Jessica and Jonathan.

Adam says the division of the tribe by race is irrelevant because "The issue is what kind of people" you have, not what race they are. Jonathan thinks the experiment will be interesting but doesn't believe that cultural similarities will make the tribes more cohesive because after all-- the game is Survivor and someone is going to win a million dollars. Eventually they'll have to cut the throat of the person next to them in order to win. He has a good point. There have been a lot of tribes that were very loving and close and got along really well but they couldn't win. On the other hand-- the most dysfunctional tribe ever won constantly and decimated the other tribe last year.

Jessica "Call me Flicka" conveniently stereotyped the group for those of us afraid to do so. "We've got a jock, the sorority type, the steady type, the family man, and then you've got me who's the alternative option." After these diary moments, we discover that 'alternative option' is code for idiotic moron. Jessica inexplicably takes the cover off of the tribe's two chickens and seems shocked and dismayed to discover that chickens run. Very fast. Whoa. Bye chickens. I wonder if that's where roadrunners get their speed? No wonder Wil E. Coyote never catches him. Robin is convinced Jessica is a secret vegetarian and she really intended to free the chickens in order to save their lives (flee flee) --or she could be just dumb. You pick.

Act 7 - Hiki

The scene here opens with sting rays. Before Labor Day weekend and Steve Irwin's death from a sting ray barb, I would have enjoyed looking at them swimming so gracefully in the water. Instead, I got a little chill down my spine because I see them as deadly now. For the record this does not make me want to go out and kill and mutilate them, as some appear to be doing. Does retaliating against an animal species actually make any sense? One has to wonder about people sometimes.

The two New York girls bond while finding the water--useless until they get fire to sterilize it. Hey--good to know where it is, though, right? Sekou claims to know how to build a fire but we see no proof of this. He tries for a period of time but it is tiring and unproductive. Has that rubbing technique ever actually worked. If I was lost in the woods and needed fire I'd go for the light through my glasses technique. Does nobody in these tribes need glasses? Darn that Lasik surgery. Stephannie, as an older woman, notes that the girls are bonding without her that concerns her. She's also bothered that Sekou needs a break from rubbing for fire, so she gives it a try. See--it is hard--she is not successful either.

Act 8 - Raro

It's night and cold. Everyone's sleeping as close as possible for warmth but some of us (Candice and Adam) are enjoying it more than others. Do I smell a showmance? The new reality term cuddle puddle is coined at this time.

Act 9 - Puku

Brad wakes with a headache. Cao Boi believes he has a 'touch of bad wind', not a normal headache. Bad wind headaches are connected to being on the ocean, apparently. He performs a complicated rubbing procedure on Brad's face. He squishes and rubs so long--it looks pretty painful He leaves an odd red mark between Brad's eyes but it takes away his headache.

Act 10 - Aitu

Tree mail arrives in the usual form of a poem. Annoyingly, the complete poem is not presented so all we get is:

"Life is tough on the island but if it's fire that you lack -whatever whatever whatever - you paddle for your flames."

I'm finally noticing that two tribes, Aitu and Puka have 3 men, 2 women and two tribes, Raro and Hiki have 2 men, 3 women. It seems that the third man is older, like Cao Boi andBilly but then wait-- Jonathan is older but he is in better shape that Billy, but wait-- Sekou is older and out of shape plus-- their third woman is older so double whammy. Hmmm. I'm wondering how the producers managed to pick teams that could compete fairly without stroking out over the possibilities. I've only been thinking about it for five minutes and I have Brad's headache.

Act 11 - Immunity

So the Immunity/Reward challenge this week is a race. The tribes must put together a puzzle boat; paddle it to a burning buoy; light their torch; return to the beach; put together some small compass points puzzles; use the connectors from the puzzle boat to build a ladder; insert the completed compass point puzzles at the appropriate spots in the ladder; and then use their flaming torch to light their fire barrel. Whew. Does this challenge seem unusually long to you?The first three teams to finish will win immunity and flint. The very first team also wins a fire kit. The last team wins a trip to tribal council. See how positive I made that. Self-esteem is very important. The last place team isn't going to lose, instead they'll win. Winning is good, right? Even winning the opportunity to reduce your tribe by one. Jeff teases all of the tribes with a teeny little envelope which he will open after the competition is complete.

Act 12 - Competition

So the race begins. Robin calls out that Puka is going to win. The race begins--Aitu takes the lead by finishing their puzzle boat first. I must confess to a little stupidity here. I couldn't figure out why everyone was dragging their puzzle pieces into the water, I thought that would make them harder to put together. Robin kindly (hardly rudely at all) pointed out that putting the pieces in the water meant they didn't have to drag the heavy boat out and the pieces were easier to manuver and put together while floating. Oh. Puka follows Aitu into their boat and out to the buoy while Raro comes in third--their boat keeps coming apart. Aitu is first to the torch buoy with Puka right behind and Raro a distant third since their boat continues to separate and they persist in paddling it anyway. Meanwhile poor Hiki is still back at the start. I don't know what their problem was: No puzzle solvers on their team? The camera doesn't spend a lot of time showing us where the difficulty was with putting their boat together. Unfortunately, they don't get their puzzle boat together and on its way until both Aitu and Puka are already back on the beach and starting their compass point puzzles. One Hiki gets going though they are able to make some gains against Raro--still struggle with a boat that isn't really seaworthy. Raro finally makes it to the beach. Now three teams are solving the second set of puzzles while Hiki finishes the sea part of the course. Puka finishes first and starts up the ladder. Hiki made it to the compass puzzle before Raro solved it and when Raro goes up the ladder they don't take their puzzle pieces with them. For a moment, we have the thrilling feeling that maybe after all their struggle Hiki will pip Raro at the post. Sigh. Another Survivor tease. The final standings are 1- Puka (Robin is right!) 2 - Aitu, 3- Raro , 4 - Hiki.

Jeff passes out the three pieces of immunity statue (I just can't call it an idol, don't make me) and reads the contents of the note he had mentioned earlier but did not read. Apparently, Exile island is going to be continued this year. The last place team, in addition to winning the right to send someone home--also gets to choose someone from the winning teams to spend the next two days on Exile Island. So the last place finisher actually won two things--the right to send someone home and the right to Exile someone. Still--winning these two special rights does not make Hiki particularly happy. Go figure. For the exiled one the plus side (well really it's all a plus for me, I'm not on the island, after all) is that they will have a chance to find the hidden immunity token which played such a large role in last year's game.

The men of Hiki make the decision about who to send off without consulting the women of their tribe. Yoohoo, guys, you are out-numbered. Do you really want to ignore the majority of your team? Jeff kindly points this out--just in case the women didn't notice and weren't already offended about it. Jonathan, the chicken thief, is sent off with the first clue. Karma is a bummer. But wait, wasn't karma satisfied when the chickens fled into the woods? Hmm, karma is also complicated I guess.

At Exile Island--a smaller version than last year's with a cute little shipwreck playhouse--we learn the first clue to finding the immunity token thingy:

To make a top grade
Stand in a line
If the southern isle vanishes
A salvation you'll find.

Act 13 - Tribal Council

Back at the Hiki camp, the guys realize that they are outnumbered and in danger. The men believe that the women would be fools to evict one of them. Still, it's possibly, maybe something they might do, thinking they can get along fine without the men. They worry. They strategize. Sekou goes to Stephannie and points out that she is the odd woman out in the trio. He thinks she should ally with him to vote out Sundra. Sekou tries to convince her that the tribe needs him in order to have fire and keep it going. Somehow while making this argument, he is able to ignore the fact that he has not actually made any fire. Stephannie notices this flaw in his reasoning right away, however. I'm guessing that made his argument less persuasive to her.

At tribal council the guys vote out Sundra, the girls vote out Sekou. Stephannie, the swing vote, elected to hang with the female alliance. Historically, in guys against the girls contests in Survivor the women have done very well so I think she made the right choice. She still has the option of allying with Nathan against the other two girls if she needs to. We'll see. The one thing you can predict with Survivor is that alliances will shift.

For Sekou-- the tribe has spoken. Bummer. First out is always the worst.

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