It’s back ladies and gentlemen. Or should I say “girls” and guys (how many times were females referred to as “the girls” tonight?). You may have guessed by the title of this episode’s analysis that I’m less than impressed about the direction the producers have taken with this season. Those who follow me (thanks to both of you, you know who you are) may have noticed that I’ve chosen not to engage in my usual pre-season commentary or contribute to any of the speculation and discussion within the community. To be honest I’ve been hesitant to think about it for fear I will just get my dander up. But fear not loyal Featherheads, this year once again I endeavour to bring you my unique analysis and perspective on every episode, ready to read on your morning commute or when you first fire up your device upon waking. To those new to Drop Your Buffs! a quick explanation of my format. This is not a show recap blog. This blog focusses on Survivor the ‘game’, rather than Survivor the ‘show’. That said, being the first episode there’s not a lot of gameplay to discuss, and I need somewhere to vent my frustration about the format of the show this year, so I’ll talk about that a little bit here. That’s enough introduction for now, so in the words of the late, great Richard Swift “We’re all good to go cause it’s time for the show, when I take back my soul”. Grab your torch and settle in.
A Pretty Face
Glad to see the return of Mike Munro’s This is Your Life to Australian television. Gee Mike is looking buff! What the baby Jesus is all this player background footage about?!?! This is not Survivor! When I watch Survivor I want to see what happens on island, not what happens in the ‘contestant’s’ personal lives. To me this stuck out like (big) dog’s balls. Especially that footage of Matt the traffic police officer pulling over a speeding motorist. The footage was shot inside driver’s car!!! C’mon channel 10. We deserve better than this. And lots of footage of other champions in their natural environment, yet no footage of Russell on previous Survivor seasons (unless I missed it). I understand of course that channel Nine may have rights to US season footage, but the fact that Ten couldn’t strike a deal with Nine for it, or didn’t care to try suggests to me that Ten don’t really care that much. More on Russell later.
Perhaps I’m in the minority here and over-reacting, but if we have to watch two fugging hours of Survivor just for one elimination (I’m hearing rumours we’re looking at four fucking episodes next week!! I’ll save my commentary about that for next week), I want that to be quality time. Knowing contestant’s history means little to me. What I care about is what they do on island.
Not a Clue
I’ll try not to get too bogged down talking about the theme. And really, I don’t have a problem with the theme as such. Similar themes on US Survivor have played out to my satisfaction. I’m more concerned about the way the theme is manifested here. I’m talking of course about “celebrities”. There’s not a doubt in my mind that a number of these ‘champions’ were approached by the producers to be on the show. In my view that’s just not cricket. That Russell got a spot is evidence of this. Russell didn’t go online and fill out an application form and create an application video. He wouldn’t have been able to, applications are only open to Australian residents, which I assume Russell is not. Putting Russell aside for the moment, I couldn’t care less about footy players. At least I thought I couldn’t care less, then it was announced Steve The Commando was ‘playing’, and I realised I could care less. A WHOLE LOT less. I don’t intend to belittle the incredible achievements of people like Shane Gould, Moana Hope, and Mat Rogers. Truly, they are champions in their field. But I don’t watch Survivor to see incredible feats of human physicality. That’s not what I’m here for, and I’d like to think most of you reading this feel the same way. What we want to see on Survivor is everyday people put in extraordinary situations, having to rely on cunning and strategy to outlast (please tell me if I’m wrong).
I feel like Australian Survivor is suffering from an identity crisis. They want to be all things to all people. I get it, they’re a show and they have to make money, and Australia is a relatively small market. But by trying to appeal to so many they are in danger of losing the diehard fans who have kept this game alive for more than 15 years. Russell’s inclusion is little more than a piss-poor attempt to appeal to ‘superfans’ (fuck I hate that word, I promise to never, ever use it again). In my eyes this pandering backfire’s harder than Matt’s poorly maintained service revolver (and his poorly executed plan to call out Steve at tribal), and is more cliched than a smarmy white man in a fedora and waistcoat. Speaking of…
It’s Good to be the King
We need to talk (more) about Russell. Full disclosure, I’m off Russell. The prospect of watching him play again neither stirs my loins nor ruffles my feathers. He was fabulous on his first two seasons. He changed the game and practically defined what it meant to be a Survivor ‘villain’. I would argue though, that’s easier to do when you’re unknown. His co-contestants on his first two seasons did not know his play style and Russell worked this to his advantage beautifully. There is for me however one moment that epitomises Russell’s take on the game. At his second reunion show (#factcheck please), he argued to Jeff that the show needs to change so that viewers vote on who the winner should be, not the fellow contestants. Oh Russell. This comment speaks volumes about the flaws in his conception of the game. The game is not about getting to the end and then arguing the case and hoping the votes go your way. The game is about getting to the end in a way which facilitates a win, keeping the numbers and players on your side. Russell is/was great at getting to the end, but the gameplay he used to get there isn’t the sort of gameplay that gets you a win. His comment to Jeff tells me that he’d rather have the game change to get a win, than change his play style to one which is deserving of a win. Jeff quite perfectly responded to Russell’s argument with, I’ll paraphrase here because I don’t know verbatim, ‘If you want to make your own game called the Russell game with those rules, go right ahead. If you want to win Survivor, you play by our rules. Players voting players is crucial to what Survivor is. That’s how Survivor works’.
That Russell did not make it far in his third season tells you all you need to know about how well he can adapt his play style. His first two seasons he had the element of surprise. His third season, everybody knew his game and got rid of him early. When I heard he would be on this season I suspected we would see something similar here in Australia. He’d be labeled a threat and taken out early. However, having watched episode one I’m not sure that is going to be the case. This has less to do with Russell though, and more to do with his tribe-mates. I get the distinct impression that many of the champions are not overly familiar with Survivor or Russell. This gives Russell just enough wiggle room to play the game he always plays, to get a foothold through until merge. And good on him for finding an idol. He did well to get it. He was more furtive in his search than Steve was. But again I have to suggest, Russell would not have gotten away with that were he on the other tribe. It’s pretty clear that the contender tribe is the tribe of players who know what is what and are more attuned to suspicious behaviour. If Russell really is going to be a king, he’ll be less Charlemagne and more King Joffrey, with luck playing a huge part in his ascension.
Po-Po be Trippin’
Finally we get to talk some actual gameplay. Let’s first revisit Steve’s attempts to find an idol. Nice try Steve, not exactly stealthy however. I don’t need to go into how stupid it was to be so obvious you’re looking for idols at this stage of the game. The show made it pretty evident. What I don’t appreciate though is JLP drawing attention to what Steve was doing in front of the rest of the contestants. Not cool JLP. Quick question though, was Steve serious when he approached Zach, asking how the vote works? Was he just fishing for info. He’s clearly enough of a fan that he knows about looking for idols, I’d love to know what he was playing at when he approached Zach. Give me your thoughts below.
Of course the big story here is how Matt failed so badly. I can totally understand his paranoia. He’s tired and hungry. The rest of his tribe was not doing much to make him feel safe so he had to take things into his own hands. If he is thinking they were going to split the votes, would the safer bet not be to chat to Steve to find out if he knew where the vote was going, or to try and swing something with Steve so that if Steve does have an idol, Matt can vote with Steve. Instead, he panicked, ‘spooked’ as it was, and sketchily looked for the idol and tried to pin down his tribe-mates both before and during tribal.
His attack on Steve at tribal seemed very desperate and his behaviour was erratic and volatile. Again, I can understand him behaving this way when he feels like his back against the wall. The way he did this though was to suggest his tribe-mates didn’t have their eyes open, and then jut kept digging his hole, calling out alliances and putting down the women.
Not surprisingly, this behaviour was his downfall. We all know by now that if you want to get through the the first couple of tribals, and particularly the first, is to not make any waves at all, go with the flow, and do whatever everyone else wants to do. To Steve’s credit, he did a pretty good job of letting Matt have all the rope Matt needed to hang himself. To quote Steve himself, he “subdued his enemy without firing a single shot”. Matt on the other hand shot himself in the foot. How he managed to do that with the pissy little taser he was packing was truly mesmerising. Going out with a bang indeed. I’m not saying anything particularly revealing or enlightening here. This is Survivor 101. It was entertaining though.
I think I’ve rambled and ranted enough for one evening. Despite my reservations about the season I’m committed to seeing it through. Hopefully most of the opinion about the show is out of the way now and tomorrow night we can really focus on the game. I got nothing else for you, head back to camp.
– Russell Feathers
(Most memes created by Russell Feathers, most everything else and all Survivor gifs Channel Ten)
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