Survivor Psyche, Episode 1: Discontinued Modelby Melinda Smith and Suzanne Tromblay -- 02/20/2003
We're back, did you miss us? We just couldn't resist putting in our two-cents worth for this season of Survivor, with its delicious buffet of idiocies - oops we mean idiocycracies. (I bet you can't guess who we're rooting for - especially after hearing some of these bozos opening their yaps.) Three of us sat down Thursday night to watch the premiere, Melinda, Suzanne, and Suzanne's friend Maggie, and a raucous time was had by all.
The episode starts with a big white, double-decker ferry boat trundling down the Amazon River. When it stops in the middle of nowhere, Jeff Probst makes his usual proselytizing/cautionary speech and then points out the two rowboats tied to the side of the ferryboat. Jeff announces that the first names he calls out will get in the first boat. It all sounds very mundane until the unsuspecting men realize that all the names called belong to the hot chicks they've been eyeing on the ride over. There are open-mouthed stares as Heidi walks past. This really throws the little horn dogs for a loop. As comprehension dawns, Ryan's expression goes from smug complacency to dismayed confusion to despair so heavy he holds his head in his hands as he realizes he won't be featured in an Amazon Girl's Gone Wild video. (Woooo!)
The women are Jeanne, Heidi, Joanna, JoAnna, Jenna, Christy, Deena, Janet, and Shawna. Roger, the 56-year-old construction exec., spouts off the first macho chest-pounding declaration. "They don't have the strength - they may have the will - this is a forbidden (Huh?). It's pathetic." You said a mouthful there Roger. This is only the first of many stupid Fred Flintstoneisms that the men utter in this show. Daniel chimes in with more trash talk. "No way that the women are gonna beat us in anything physical or mental. We're never gonna go to Tribal Council." If we were you, dear readers, we would be very scared right now. Rocket scientists and computer geniuses and execs, my eye.
The men climb down into their boat. They are: Rob (yes, another one), Butch, Daniel, Dave, Ryan, Matthew, Alex, and Roger. Probst gives the obligatory rendition of the Amazon women fable. The women clap, and the men smirk. The men's tribe is called Tambaqui, (which roughly translates to small penis/large ego) and the women's is Jaburu (can't build a fire to save my life). The men's buffs are blue and the women's yellow. Before they cast off, Jeff can't refrain from another cautionary announcement, saying that they will have very "meager" supplies. Here comes Fred Flintstoneism No. 2. Ryan, the model, says that he's had to scrap his old game plan, and it's now "one big sausagefest!"
But the men aren't the only idiots. Jenna admits that being on an all-woman tribe is her "worst nightmare" because the men are easier to manipulate. Remember Jenna? The swimsuit model?
When the men get to their camp, they immediately spot the "meager" supply box Probst told them about. As they're trying to pry it open, Dave, the rocket scientist, launches into the next testosterone-fueled speech. It's the usual gaseous bit, about how men are strong, blah blah, women blah blah, (insert testicle scratching here), until he makes his own Fred Flintstoneism. "We're physically more adapt." Um, Dave, that would be adept, you rocket scientist you. The younger guys stop what they're doing and hoot appreciatively, then go back to grooming one another. The older guys, the ones actually working, don't even pause. Ryan makes his second FFism, first calling the women "eye candy," then ridiculing their weaknesses. "When it comes down to it, you want people who are gonna be useful." Please note that he is sitting on a log, breaking wind, and scratching his ass while his elders are working. Boys, boys, did Legally Blonde teach you nothing? Women may have totally different likes and inclinations, but that doesn't make us stupid!
Then it's Butch the high school principal's turn to go into speech-mode, when the men get the lid off the supply box. What should be inside, but a big honkin' clutch of machetes. Our impetuous young lads immediately reach for the weapons, amidst much hooting. "Be carefu!" warns Principal Butch.
Meanwhile, the women find their camp. Christy, the nature guide, quickly takes the opportunity to explain the fact that she is deaf, but it's not a "big deal." Christy can lip-read and hear minimal sounds, but has not been able to pick up any information on the boat trip over, including anyone's name. The women are startled at Christy's announcement and introduce themselves to her. To the camera, Jenna expresses doubts on how Christy will fit in. During her speech, Christy nervously smoothes her hair and touches her face.
Back at Tambaqui, Principal Butch steps forward offering suggestions and asking for input on what to do. "Nobody wants to be the first voted off," he admits candidly, expressing all the alpha males' fears. But Roger, the construction engineer, charges ahead. He soon has the men chopping trees, fetching tools, and starting a fire. Fire good. The women don't have much luck getting their fire started, struggling for hours with their flint and sticks. Deena, the criminal prosecutor, wants like crazy to get things moving in terms of shelter, but is much more wary than Roger. She calls a team meeting, asking the other women what they want to do. Still, she is perceived by Heidi as being bossy.
The women agree to split into two groups, one to build the shelter and one to start the fire. We see many painfully inept scenes of the women whacking at trees with their machetes. One woman was even trying to sever a Lantana vine, the second densest thing in the jungle, besides the men.
Meanwhile, at Tambaqui, the men have finished building the base of their shelter. Alpha Male Roger introduces Butch, the other silver-backed male. Butch shows off a huge banner he brought with him, entitled "Believe in Yourselves." Principal Butch strokes the men's egos, telling them they're not likes his students - they have goals! This banner will be very symbolic later in the episode, but not in the way Butch had intended.
Now, we hear for the first time from Rob, the computer engineer and self-described "master strategist." What is it with guys named Rob? This makes the third Rob in Survivor history whose ego has overwhelmed his good sense, if he had any to begin with. Rob makes a FFism, saying that the men have expert fishermen, and the women won't catch anything.
Back to Jaburu. It's six hours later and the women have finally made fire and managed to cut four whole logs. They huddle by the fire in the dark, gabbing and teasing each other. Christy cannot read their lips in the gloom, and begins to "shut down." They need a "communication stick" to regulate the conversation and give Christy the opportunity to follow the flow. We think it's worthwhile to note that women are supposed to be better at communicating and forming bonds, and yet they have managed to drop the ball where Christy is concerned. She finally gives up, rolls over, and goes to sleep.
The next morning, there is a hilarious girly scene where the women find a big icky-poo spider right in their sleeping area. They start the day right by valiantly dispatching the tarantula. In days to come, they'll be gnawing on the thing instead of pitching it in the fire. Deena sees the need for shelter as a moral imperative and the women agree on the chore assignments. Everyone that is, except Christy, who has been completely forgotten by the supposedly empathetic women. "Doesn't anyone care that I'm the only one out here?" she asks plaintively. Heidi says that she hasn't really bonded with Christy because of the "communication barrier." Wasn't communication a course at teacher's college, Heidi? Or do you just ignore the little kids who don't tell you how pretty you are?
Back in Never Never Land, Peter Pan and the lost boys have erected a pretty impressive shelter. It's very sturdy, and even has a thatched frond roof. Roger, however, is coming across as "bossy," according to Rob. Roger has cast a baleful eye at Ryan and Daniel, who have been swinging from the trees and throwing coconuts around. Roger already thinks of himself as the glorious leader, and even remarks that he's "made up his mind" about them. Alex, who is the real wit in this episode, calls the shelter a "post modern construction," that Home and Garden will want to photograph. Pretentious Matthew, the jet-setting restaurant designer, trash talks the women, describing the men's tree cutting as "dismantling the jungle."
The he-man women haters' club (ala Our Gang) triumphantly celebrate their achievements by standing in a circle and touching the tips of their machetes together. Dr. Freud, paging Dr. Freud. (Suzanne giggled uncontrollably at this part and says that the four-year-old boys she taught in nursery school had the same fixation.)
Cut to the women's camp. They're trying to wedge the poles together and build their house of sticks. After carefully considering all aspects of their situation, Jenna has decided her top priority is to do a load of delicates, including her buff. Deena is noticeably frustrated at this. "I'm thinking shelter," she fumes. (Here is where you can see how past seasons of Survivor have influenced these players. The men and the women are very conscious of appearing too aggressive and being voted off early. But the men (that would be Roger) are too driven to heed this, while the women fear it so much that it's rendered them almost helpless. Or horrors - could it be from taking "What Survivors Should Have Learned" a little too seriously!) Deena decides that discretion is the better part of valor, and bites her lip.
Day Three. Jenna, Janet, and Heidi go out fishing with the net. Jenna and Heidi paddle, while Janet slowly wilts into a pathetic sodden mass. "I can't do this," she quavers, "I've hit rock bottom." (Insert universal outcry from viewers: "What did you think, woman? Have you never watched this show before? It's the Amazon, for Pete's sake!" Janet would rather be home watching Passions and eating Hot Pockets.) Heidi and Janet try to commiserate with Janet, saying that they feel bad and they're not even sick. "Yeah, and you're 20 years younger," whimpers Janet in response. (Janet, you're giving older women players a bad rep. here.)
The Lost Boys have abandoned any pretense at working. It's that old standby at slumber parties - the Magic 8 Ball. A fascinating psychological snapshot happens here that reveals the men's different perspectives. The younger men flock around Rob and the Magic 8 Ball, oohing and asking questions about the "hot chicks" in the other camp. The older men don't even break stride, just glance over and smile. Alex, one of the men who straddles both age groups, impulsively darts over to touch the magic totem and then scurries back to the worker bees. Daniel, the Asian eye-candy, is especially fascinated with the Magic 8 Ball, asking it if he'll "hook up" with Heidi. Rob gushes that Heidi could put "Viagra out of business."
Now it's JoAnna and Jeanne's turn to catch some fish. At first, they snag something they call a "hard-shelled horn pout." JoAnna, the black guidance counselor, is so excited she starts shrieking "halleleuja!" (Burnett always seems to include one holy-roller in each group, and several have been black.) While they're working with the spiny fish, the boat drifts away from the oars they've planted in the riverbed. (Once again, this is further proof that this batch of Survivors hasn't learned from previous shows, and if they did, they certainly weren't taking notes.) Visions of rabid piranhas danced through our heads as JoAnna and Jeanne retrieve the oars. The women actually do catch a fish and JoAnna sings hymns of praise all the way back. Jeanne is not irritated by JoAnna's outbursts, and thinks she has a "good spirit." (JoAnna is doing better at this than Lynda of Survivor: Africa.) On their return with the sardine-sized offering, they divide it up among themselves, but this time, there was no loaves-and-fishes miracle.
It's mail time at Tambaqui. After reading about the challenge, Roger remarks that if they lose to the women, they're gonna get "ragged on big time." The women read their mail and set off. Both tribes have figured out that the challenge involves balancing. Heidi, the gym teacher frets about this, and Jenna offers Heidi the advice that she should "show them her boobs." (There has been more juvenile behavior, bragging, and all around grossness in this first episode than we've seen in the entire run of Survivor. Overall, a seventh-grade mentality, and that's putting it kindly.)
At the challenge grounds, Probst flat-out asks the men how they're doing and Daniel blurts out that they've caught "a lot" of fish and they're all stuffed. All the men wait expectantly for Pinocchio's nose to grow after that whopper. When the women truthfully answer that they have caught some fish, the men don't believe them. Par for the course. Probst explains the very complicated challenge, where all the players are roped together and must make their way through an obstacle course of physical and mental challenges. The men and women are neck and neck until the first puzzle, when Deena, Christy, Shawna, and Jenna bog down. The men advance to the next task where they encounter their nemesis - the balance beam. The balance beam has historically been a female only event, because of women's wider hips and lower center of gravity. Sure enough, the men blow at this. They have broken up into groups of two, and four of the men, Ryan, Daniel, Rob, and Dave, keep tumbling off. This gives the women the opportunity to break the code and play catchup. (We were all yelling at the screen as the women struggled with the word puzzle. Women are supposed to be good at this stuff!) The biggest albatross around the men's neck proved to be Daniel, with his top-heavy musculature. (He reminds Suzanne of one of those he-men Master of the Universe action figures - not that that's a bad thing.) No matter what technique he used, top-heavy Daniel kept tipping over.
Meanwhile, the camera keeps cutting back and forth between Daniel's inept attempts and the women. We see the women blithely traipsing across the balance beam with ease. La la la la la. Like young girls skipping hand-in-hand on the way to Sunday school. (Happy, carefree, easy as pie.) None of them have a problem with this; they even cluster one team behind the other on the way across. Finally, a desperate Ryan grabs Daniel's head and shoulders, and hauls him bodily off the end of the beam, like the hunk of useless meat that he is.
At the second puzzle, the women have no difficulty. JoAnna and Jeanne quickly fit the pieces together. The women are supercharged and race ahead, until Heidi, the gym teacher reaches the last key and the women surge onto the victory mat. Heidi was an excellent choice as an anchor person for this last leg.
Probst berates the men. "You had a big lead and you blew it! You had a ROCKET SCIENTIST and a COMPUTER GUY stuck on a puzzle!" (Bravo Jeff! We couldn't have said it better ourselves.) When the dejected men reach their camp, the first thing they see is the big banner. The camera pans slowly across "Believe in Yourselves." In his first intelligent comment of the show, Rob says it's "Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs for the new millennium." But it's Dave's moment again, who wastes no time venting. He's stuck on Daniel's remark about catching a lot of fish. Dave is covering up his own sense of failure by singling out Daniel's "lie" and going on and on about his own "character and integrity." Daniel says that Dave needs to lighten up. Rob says Dave is an honest guy - which Rob will exploit because he will lie and cheat. Oh, those Robfathers, you gotta love 'em.
Much skullduggery ensues as the men size each other up. Alliances, that is. Except for Rob, who refers to "coalitions." Wrong show, Rob. It's the classic old vs. young alignment again, with a few twists. Matthew, at 33, hangs out with the youngsters, while Alex, 32, works with Butch and Roger. Dave, at 24, jokes along with Ryan, Daniel, and Rob, but gravitates to Butch and Roger as they work on the camp.
Ryan, Daniel, and Matthew automatically form an alliance, seeking out Rob for the pivotal fourth vote. Rob agrees to vote with them against Roger, but just as quickly gives the yes to Butch and Roger when they approach him. This is classic Rob behavior, as we saw with Rob #1, in Survivor: Marquesas. Dave is the odd man out, gunning all the while for Daniel.
At Tribal Council, Probst feels out the men with questions aimed at comments made during the last three days. All the men eat Humble Pie, admitting to cockiness and worse. Roger says the women beat them physically as well as mentally. Probst retorts that they were beat "all the way around." Toying with them more, he oh-so-casually asks them about the women and the floodgates open. Cute and clueless Ryan asserts, "none of those girls is worth a million dollars," after panting after them for the past three days. (Suzanne was mesmerized throughout the show by the realization that Ryan and Rob have had their eyebrows waxed. And they say women are vain.) Daniel is so worked up that he blurts out, "Shawna is pretty damn hot!" like a nerd on the back of the bus on the way to bandcamp. Matthew yucks in agreement. Rocket scientist Dave fares just as badly chiming in with a "quarterback doesn't screw the cheerleader at halftime" reference, delivered in his usual self-righteous manner. Alex and Rob get in a lather over whether Ginger or Mary Ann, oops we mean Shawna or Heidi is the hottest thing in the jungle.
By this time, all the men are relaxed and smiling! They are so enraptured by the images of the nubile women that the significance of their being at Tribal Council is completely forgotten. Probst smacks them back to reality with this comment. "You came out from Day 1 talkin' more trash than I've ever heard ever. You got your asses kicked and when we get here - 'I wanna get hooked up!' "
It's time to vote. In a close 3-4 decision, Ryan is ejected and Roger remains to "Boss Another Day." Master strategist Rob swung towards the oldsters and voted against Ryan. Meathead Dave clung to his anti-Daniel obsession and voted solo.
Next week: a mysterious object is found in the women's supply box. Something so hideous that confessions must be extracted and identities hidden. Something so vile that our editor David dares not speculate - but we will! We think it's somebody's feminine hygiene product! (What we're thinking of has wings - but they don't fly. Remember girls when you were nine, and you got into your big sister's stash, peeled off the backing and stuck it in the bottom of a shoebox? Voila! Instant Barbie mattress.)
Time to take a look at the players.
Alex: Did a good job of working with Roger and Butch while enjoying the jokes and camaraderie of the younger men. He has a good chance at this game if he can keep it up.
Butch: Not nearly as aggressive as his name or his past history would imply. Has bonded well with Roger while still appearing as a "nice guy" to the others.
Daniel: Even with the giant target across his bodacious shoulders, he's managed to dodge the bullet so far. We predict he'll go down in flames in the next couple of episodes.
Dave: As Melinda predicted in an earlier article, Dave is having trouble deciding between his youthful impulses and innate intelligence. He's like the Frosted Mini-Wheats character. Kids like the sweet frosted side, while the grownups like the crunchy substantial side. He could be very vulnerable if he doesn't get his temper and impatience under control.
Matthew: At 33, he straddles both age groups, but has consistently allied himself with the juveniles in the tribe. This could make him a major target if the grownups keep the upper hand. (Yes, it comes down to this yet again - juvies versus grownups.)
Rob: A Rob with an inflated sense of his own importance - what a surprise! We consulted our Magic 8 Ball to see if Rob would make it to the final three - "definitely not" was the answer.
Roger: The luckiest player in the Amazon right now. We wonder if Roger really, really understands how vulnerable his assertive behavior has made him - or if he cares?
Ryan: You're awful pretty but managed to annoy the worker bees by being too "loud." Daniel was clumsy but less irritating and you took the bullet.
Christy: You go, girl. You did your best to clue in your tribemates, maybe sooner or later they'll catch on.
Deena: She's been walking the fine line between assertiveness and bossiness. She has the maturity and experience to get things done, but can't speak her mind as she would like. Everyone gets drenched next week because of the lack of shelter, so maybe they'll be willing to pitch in without your nudging them along.
Heidi: Can you feel the heat from the other camp, Heidi? There's a lot of love mojo coming your way. (If you're blushing, someone's thinking nice thoughts about you!)
Janet: Buck up, sister. A lot of mature women have made it through this game. Don't drag down the sisterhood because you've never camped in the rough before.
Jeanne: As supportive and hard-working as her profile implied. Let's hope that future episodes show more of her spunky and impulsive side.
Jenna: If she's this emaciated now, how will she look by week four, if she makes it that far? She better get her priorities in line - there's more important things to boil than your skivvies. For example: DRINKING WATER!
JoAnna: Her outgoing and effusive personality is working well for now. Let's hope she can keep on the women's good side and not antagonize them with more hosannas.
Shawna: Has been the most hard working and uncontroversial of the players. But the men think she's the shiznit!
Melinda Smith is a technical illustrator and writer with a background in graphic arts. She and her family live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her sister, Suzanne Tromblay, is a licensed social worker with the State of Ohio. Melinda can be reached at email@example.com.
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