Guest Post From JSTAR – Survivor Philippines Preview
JStar is back with a preview for the latest series of Survivor. Over to him:
With the Olympics having hopefully distracted all of us fans enough to forget how boring Survivor 24: Stupid Men vs The Moe became after a promising start, Channel 9 has decided to not alienate its few remaining and patient
creditors fans by “fastracking” this season of Survivor four weeks after it first aired in America. So to my regular readers, please stay away from spoiler sites for the time being.
Survivor arguably helped launch the wave of reality TV-based competitions and it and The Amazing Race are the grand old dames of this format. Producers showed great foresight in hiring writers that had worked on soap operas and other TV dramas to help fashion story arcs whilst filming and during the editing suite in presenting backstories and tales that viewers can relate. Accusations of being staged and rigged does these shows no favour (cough, cough, MasterChef Australia) but for the most part the contestants do represent a cross-section of the population within its broadly-defined archetypes. The challenge for some contestants is to somehow rise above the stereotypes imposed on them whilst negotiating a brutal social and physical game. Many fail spectacularly and it makes such guilty reality TV viewing. It may not always be real but it is damn fun watching when interesting!
It is ironic then that just prior to Survivor 25 airing, we were assaulted by another promo of the Big Brother housemates doing the Gangnam Style (badly). Despite all its promises in the promos during the Olympics, the cast were inevitably white and under 30. The producers claimed that the last season of Big Brother (the one where I have purged from my memory with Kyle and Jackie O hosting) left such a bad taste that no one over 30 apparently wanted to apply to be on the show so they were left to choose the best from the low hand of cards they were dealt. To that, I say “Bollocks!” What makes Survivor and TAR so enduring is that the producers are willing to recruit contestants if they are not happy with the applicants. Evil Russell Hantz famously never applied to be on Survivor. He was a failed applicant on Pirate Master. Producers spotted Yau Man on a website doing a completely stereotypical Asian activity –
mathematics tutoring ping pong. However, the Global Financial Crisis and subsequent recession has obviously hit Survivor hard as the producers seem to only have the budget to recruit contestants from the greater L.A. region. Hence the propensity of silicone-enhanced pharmaceutical sales rep and hard-bodied gym-junkie doctors/lawyers. And let’s try to brace ourselves now with another full season of Dimples writing his “poems” after the producers were forced to make redundant all those English Literature Majors who wrote those inspiring treemail messages in the past. Like I said last season, it is always the Literature Majors that suffer the most during any global downturn.
So what can we look for this year on Survivor? Well Survivor 25 is set in the Philippines which has been used for many foreign incarnations (including a local Filipino version) of Survivor. It is the first time since Season 16 (China) that the show has been set in an Asian country. No doubt Dimples and crew will be aware about how important it is to be seen as respectful to the people of this exotic and pro-American outpost in the Far East. Survivors should leave this game having taken in some of the cultural experiences of the host country. That is why I am personally looking forward to the future reward challenges the producers have lined up including outings to the Museum of Imelda’s Shoes, reward lunches sponsored by Kenny Rogers Roasters, and a future immunity challenge where the Survivors have to pretend to be helpful customer service operators for major Australian banks and internet service providers. And any sadistic fans out there would be secretly hoping for the return of the gross food challenge. Who could forget the contestants in China eating balut (fertilised and embryotic chicken/duck eggs)? Your esteemed guest poster’s personal favourite was seeing how the softcore porn actor’s wife in Survivor: Thailand took one look at the boiled tarantula’s eight-legged hairy legs and declared that she was no longer willing to swallow foreign appendages for the camera anymore. 😛
Anyway, part of doing a preview post that segues briefly to the start of this first episode is to get all of the loyal readers to sit up and try and spot the clues that uber-producer, Mark Burnett, loves to leave during the first couple of episodes. These clues will always point out who will most likely be in the final 3, who the villain/villainess will be this season, and who will be one of the early bootees. For example, during the first twelve seasons, the winner of the season could always be identified in the introduction with his/her image being superimposed by a flickering flame “because in Survivor, fire means life.” Eventually Mark Burnett realised that he had been outed by the clever internet sleuths and stopped this but that does not mean he does not leave other clues within the promo. But a warning to my sisters-in-arms who are still celebrating our Prime Minister’s ass-kicking slamdown of Tony Abbott in parliament recently; in order to spot the clues on Survivor you must channel your inner sexist-pig. As I said earlier, although Survivor-casting is based on archetypes, these archetypes do not always rise above the stereotypes imposed on them.
Before we get into that “intriguing” thought, here’s a quick recap on the “major twist” of this season. Three returning medically-evacuated contestants will compete for yet another chance to win a million dollars. This will also be the first season since Survivor 13: Cook Islands, where there will be more than two competing teams. Let’s just hope the producers have learnt something and stick with the three competing teams scenario for longer than two episodes – [in both Survivor 12: Exile Island and 13, they had four teams which quickly merged into two teams after one and two episodes respectfully]. As mentioned by many posters in the past, having returning players is inherently unfair as they have a major advantage over the newbies. Some of you, including your guest poster, still have not recovered at how blatantly rigged two recent editions were to ensure that a former contestant would go far, and in one case win the damn thing. [Cough, cough, Survivor 22: Let’s bring in Redemption Island so that Boston Rob can win the damn game on his FOURTH chance or Survivor 23: Endless Prayer where the concept of Redemption Island benefited such a socially-poor player like Ozzy who ended up being voted out of the game three times in one season!]. Anyway, the three returning players are Michael Skupin (Australia), Jonathan Penner (Cook Islands and Fans vs Favourites), and Russell Swan (Samoa).
How far will these three players go? Given that they are immediately sold to the contestants as leaders with experience (and ladies, in Survivor, leaders are ALWAYS male), you know the producers have done as much as possible to ensure they last as long as possible. Trust me, hidden immunity idols will just happen to be located in an area these three will “serendipitously” stumble upon when the rest of their tribemates are off sun-bathing. The most obvious threat out of the three is Jonathan. He is one of Dimples’s man-crushes. Jonathan is smart and he looked like he deliberately put on weight before the show began. He quickly saw through Parvati’s act on Fans vs Favourites and tried in vain to get her voted out first as he knew she was a major threat but no one listened to him. And we all know who won. He will be the one with the biggest target on his back.
Russell is an interesting choice as I never personally saw him as a great leader of his tribe in Samoa. I’m going against the tide here but I felt that his tribe dominated in Samoa in spite of his leadership. Also, Mick (who I felt was unfairly maligned as the leader of the opposing tribe) had to deal with men like Evil Russell (who was sabotaging the tribe from within), Ben (who was obnoxious to the females and would not take direction), and Jaison (who despite his beefy size, whined and threatened to quit every second day). Compared to what Mick had to put up with, Russell Swan was always going to look like a strong leader. Because he was given almost a halo-edit last time – (the enduring workhorse who collapsed out of exhaustion due to the laziness of his Gen Y team – kind of like Boxer in Animal Farm) – he will be underestimated by his tribe. If Russell is prepared to play this game against-type, he will go far this season.
And finally onto Michael who played the game in Australia during its second season during which time honour and integrity was deemed important as people could not separate how one played the game as not being a reflection of one’s character in real life. He played the game before there were hidden immunity idols or exile islands. He harkens to a “simpler” time in Survivor which may mean he is toast if he cannot adapt. The major thing going for him is that people view those early years of Survivor fondly and as such, he may not actually be viewed as a threat. If the producers are keen to keep this three-tribe format for longer than one episode, I can see Michael being seen as a fatherly figure on his tribe, given that he has two younger females on it along with a fellow bible-basher in Blair from The Facts of Life with him. Believe you me, the producers will do everything possible to ensure these three make it to the jury at a minimum.
Okay, let’s roll now. Dim the lights. Season is rolling! The season starts off with picturesque National Geographic-like shots of archipelago islands forming parts of the Philippines. A boat speeds into view and this is our first look of Dimples standing behind the steering wheel as the boat whizzes past out screen. In the past, Dimples has been put on cryogenic-ice to preserve his flawless complexion between seasons of Survivor however now that he has launched his talk-show, rumour has it that he insisted on having the Philippines as the setting for this (and next season’s) show due to the country’s ready access to Hollywood-grade botox. Dimples intone in his oh-so-serious but wrinkle-free face about the dangers the Survivors face whilst competing in a controlled environment. [Shots of exotic animals like sharks, spiders, monkeys, and snakes flash before the viewers eyes]. Dimples explain that the majestic beauty of this place can be disrupted by furious storms which will test the contestants. [Perhaps, if it was shot during the rainy season, which the next season’s competitors had the pleasure of enduring. All this time whilst Dimples was talking to the camera, I just can’t help but notice that that he is not steering the wheel of the boat once. Go figure! It’s a very tight camera shot. If only the camera could pan back and reveal who was really steering the boat. Perhaps Skipper from Gilligan’s Island?]
Anyway, we now get to see shots of the fifteen competitors already divided into the three teams of red, blue, and yellow. We hear snippets from only three contestants – Jeff Kent (Red), a former professional baseballer for seventeen years, hoping that no one will recognise him. Zane Knight (Blue), a tattooed red-haired guy explaining that he got a tattoo of Frankenstein on his right-forearm to match his looks which can only be kindly described as a face that Kerry Packer would love. And Lisa Whelchel (Yellow) who was a former child star when she starred in the sitcom “Facts of Life” during the 1980s. She explains that she wants to show the world that she is Lisa, not Blair, by ditching the make-up and soft-lighting of 1980s analogue cameras so she can be judged by millions of people around the world in HD glory. She too hopes not to be recognised. [Immediately, I sit up. Was this a clue already this early in the game? Why show these three particular people? I’m going to go out on a limb and say one of these three will be the first boot, the second will be an early jury member but will be influential in determining how the vote goes – (i.e. Erik’s jury speech in Samoa which pretty much meant do-nothing Natalie robbed Evil Russell of the win), – and the last one will make it to the end].
As I try to simultaneously YouTube “The Facts of Life” theme song, Dimples baritone inflections remind me to concentrate at the task at hand. Dimples remind the viewers about how dangerous playing Survivor is to one’s health. Shots of past contestants vomiting and being stretchered-off flicker past on the screen. So this season, three people who have had their game cut short due to no fault of their own will return. And according to the gender-specific rules of Survivor, only men are allowed to be medically evacuated whilst women can only leave the game through being voted out or quitting.
He introduces the three returning players to the audience as they are on a separate boat waiting to be revealed to the unsuspecting newbies. Dimples conveniently leaves out the fact that his man-crush, Jonathan, had played previously in Cook Islands and was not medically evacuated and in fact played a pivotal role in shaping the course of the game for Yul and Ozzy to reach the final. Jonathan cut his leg during a challenge in Fans vs Favourites and developed an infection and had to be removed from the game. He triumphantly predicts that in 39-days, he will walk away with a million dollars. [Potential clue people! However, I’m leaning towards a red-herring here as you can only do this trick once and it was done all the way back on Season One with Richard Hatch crowing from the trees (thankfully fully-clothed) that he will win this game.]
The flashback for Russell consists of him passing out in Samoa during a challenge. He does make one interesting comment which was that “these people will have to run with him or he has to run them over.” I think a major clue in how he is going to play this game: like a dictatorial bulldozer.
And finally Michael is revealed where he reminisced about the time he vivisected a wild boar piglet in Australia that just happened to stumble into his camp, alone and drugged-out. And ofcourse, we get to see the infamous footage of his freshly burnt skin peeling away after falling into the camp fire.
And it is now a quick cut to the intro for Survivor Philippines. Unlike last season where we had to wait till the finale to be shown the full introduction, we are gift-wrapped it within the first five minutes. Why? Well, there are clues in there me thinks. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot the use of the shot of a snake wedged between Abi-Marie and Artis. I think this is a very non-subtle clue from Mark Burnett. One of them is going to be the villain/villainess this year. According to my primary school religious studies classes, Eve is the reason why we aren’t frolicking in the Garden of Eden anymore. Apparently she tried to blame a snake when she told Adam that she would show him her apples if he ate the fruit. So as per the rules of sexist, Bible-basher stereotypes on Survivor, I’m going to say that Abi-Maria is this year’s Jerri. The second stand-out clue for me in this intro was of a shot of a reptile lurking just before we are introduced to Lisa. Given that Blair was one of the featured three contestants, I’m going to say she will make the final three by lurking and sliding her way there (aka under the radar).
The intro ends and we see Dimples “steering” his boat towards the wooden Filipino fishing boat the fifteen contestants are patiently waiting for him, all dressed in an item of clothing matching their tribe colour. Carter, especially, is happy that bright fluoros and neons are in season as he is rocking some spectacular red chinos. Interestingly, none of the fifteen contestants have yet to figure out why the three teams consist of three females and only two males. Dimples, dressed in his trademark navy-blue rolled-up long sleeves and Survivor cap he picked up from the local giftshop, starts off by firing questions off to random contestants. Zane makes a comment that he hopes there are no celebrities amongst them which immediately makes Lisa and Jeff nervous. The very articulate Roxanne explains how she remembered Russell Swan collapsing on Survivor because she just finished watching that season as part of her inflight TV choice. Cue segway by Jeff about how some people left the game due to medical reasons. And with that, the bombshell is dropped on them that three returning players will join them. Russell, Jonathan, and Michael’s boat comes into view and drops them onto the fishing boat. Dimples introduces them and reminds the contestants that all three of them were leaders when they last played the game and have something they don’t have – experience. [All the other contestants nod in unison whilst the off-camera producers hands out wads of $100 notes to contestants to ensure that their new tribe leader will not be voted out first].
Because Russell is wearing a purple-shirt, he is the leader of the Matsing tribe (blue). Go figure. All his tribemates seem excited to have him. As per the archetype casting rule of Survivor, Matsing consists of:
- Russell [older alpha male who is a leader according to Dimples because he has a penis],
- Angie [former blonde beauty pageant queen who has brought her inflatable floaties with her for swimming challenges],
- Denise [older stronger woman who is a sex therapist in real life. Perhaps the real authoress of 50 Shades of Grey?]
- Malcolm [younger alpha male who refuses to conform to Gen-Y stereotypes by being a long-haired bartender/slacker in real life],
- Roxanne [fellow bible basher who is articulate and African-American. Obama who?], and
- Zane [this year’s redneck/hillbilly castmate who will prove to Americans why they need to consider their upcoming vote for the POTUS very carefully, particularly since one side of politics is threatening major cuts to education. Oh the horrors of reading the spelling of past redneck/hillbilly contestants can attest to that – think Sue Hawk (Season 1), Big Tom (Season 3 and All Stars), and Ralph (Season 22) who famously voted for “Ressel”].
Clearly Jonathan got the memo of wearing an item of clothing reflecting his tribe colour. He has a red shirt and he is the leader of the Kalabaw tribe. His tribemates grin through gritted teeth when greeting him. Kalabaw consists of:
- Jonathan [older alpha male who is Dimples’s man-crush and playing for the third time],
- Dawson [younger female of exotic ethnicity who goes against type by being in insurance sales and NOT having silicone implants],
- Carter [younger alpha male who is a track coach with abs of steel. Plus he rocks in red pants],
- Dana [younger spunky female channelling the Pink-look complete with nose ring, bleach-blonde short hair, and tattoo over her left shoulder],
- Jeff [older alpha male and obligatory celebrity who producers hope will duke it out with Jonathan to be the leader of this tribe], and
- Katie [former brunette beauty pageant queen who producers hope will engage in a future mud or jelly wrestling challenge with Angie].
Michael, who too got the memo of wearing an item of clothing reflecting his tribe colour, gets a big welcome from his tribe known as Tandang. Everyone is curious in seeing how his hands have healed. Michael later confesses that he recognised Lisa and almost called her Blair. The yellow tribe consists of:
- Michael [older alpha male who has a penis and therefore the default leader. Further, he knows how to anger animal-rights activist by hacking piglets to death. Major bible-basher.],
- Peter [younger alpha male with abs of steel. Put in this tribe to wrestle with Michael in a future cock-fighting scenario for the leadership mantle],
- RC [younger brunette female with Latino heritage who decided to wear a suit to commence her adventures],
- Abi-Marie [younger blonde female with Latino heritage. If the clues in the intro are correct, she is the
Latino firecrackerbitch for this season. From the couch in her loungeroom, Bully Spice Alicia yells that she will punch Abi-Marie’s face if she dares take the mantle of most obnoxious Latino woman on American television],
- Artis [older, but athletic, African-American male whom producers hope will live up to past crazy older contestants like Shambo, Special Agent Phillip, and cross-dressing and non-microbe fearing Tarzan], and
- Blair [former Facts of Life star turned bible-basher who openly lobbied on social media to be cast on Survivor. If only acting gigs were this easy to obtain. Cast as the easy first boot being an older woman].
The game is about to start. Dimples tells the castaways that the wooden fishing boat is laden with supplies for everything they need except for fishing rods, nets, and fish. They have 60 seconds to grab anything they can, load it on their raft, and set sail towards their island. Clearly the contestants learnt something from last season because when they grab an item, they refuse to let it out of their sight so as to avoid someone else stealing it. Both Jonathan and Russell are yelling out for people to grab machetes. Carter is busy chasing some free-range chicken whilst Jonathan wisely grabbed the caged chickens (I’m sure this show must be sponsored by the Egg Association of America). Most people make bee-lines towards the fruit with Angie holding onto an extra pair of coconuts for dear life. Jonathan is yelling out for people to grab wood (which in insult is a poorly phrased expression) whilst Michael looked like he hogged most of the baskets of fruit for his tribe. Dimples tells the contestants they have ten seconds which results in a lippy retort from Jonathan (that is why he is such a great reality-TV contestant). All the contestants run towards their raft to untie it and release it overboard. As Jeff was climbing onto the raft, his team managed to release the bamboo raft and he takes a tumble with his knee being caught in some rope. He later confesses that he may have injured himself badly and it was ironic that this season featured returning medically-evacuated players. Anyway all the Red Tribe’s items fall into the water and we see shots of chickens drowning in their cage. (Thankfully they were rescued first). Everyone jumps overboard (bet RC and Russell are now wishing they didn’t wear suits) to fish out their items and put it onto the respective raft. Finally, Carter manages to catch the free-range chicken with one hand and impressively tosses it to Dawson who is sitting on the raft. Everyone finally gathers onto his/her raft and sails off into the distance. And in my ode to Tarzan from last season, “The Game is Afoot.”
The proper recap will be coming shortly but I hope everyone enjoys spotting the clues left behind. Remember Scary Spice from last season? She announced very early on that nobody remembers who comes second and she was runner-up. Stay away from spoiler sites, drink plenty of coffee for these late-night finishes, and enjoy this year’s fast-tracked season of Survivor – four weeks late. And from what I understand from the rumours on the internet, one contestant makes such a major impression on Dimples that this individual was asked to compete in the next season. So yes, another season to look forward to of returning players will follow this – (groan). Be interesting to see who this individual is as the season unfolds. But that rant can be saved for another day.