Survivor Psyche, Episode 3: Chinese Take-Outby Melinda Smith and Suzanne Tromblay -- 03/04/2003
The following article is our tribute to the late, great Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, whose work, The Little Prince we have shamelessly plundered in the pursuit of low humor and high counter hits.
"Children," I say plainly, "watch out for the baobabs!"
Some of the players we've seen in the past two episodes have now graduated from watching and waiting to more active plotting. Jeanne and JoAnna start designing the target for Deena's back, Rob continues his campaign of insidious manipulation, and Roger takes dead aim for Daniel's soft, white underbelly. Or, as Roger puts it, "a kung-fu chop!"
Roger goose-steps up to his minion Daniel, in his usual subtle fashion, "asking" Daniel to fetch some water. Why let your underlings use their own judgment when you can dictate every little step of your order? Roger actually instructs Daniel how to carry the water back! Like he couldn't figure out how to put the container on his shoulder himself! When Daniel doesn't immediately click his heels together and dash to the water hole, Roger cops an attitude and stalks off with the water jug. Roger's opinion is that Daniel is lazy. Daniel's opinion is that Roger "barks orders" and smells like rotten vinegar. (And not even a nice rice vinegar, either.)
Daniel seeks out his only ally, Matthew, the cosmopolitan restaurateur, for solace. It turns out that Matthew was born in Hong Kong and speaks Mandarin. In one of the coolest moments in Survivor, Matthew slips easily into their shared language, and offers his advice. Daniel's eye-blinking anxiety is soothed for the moment and they go on about their business.
Way back yonder at the trailer park, it looks lahk the tornada already done hit. Reeking undies hang from the branches, critters have invaded the cookpots, and trash litters the campground. Camp elder Jeanne is determined to have things done her way, and has called a meeting. Shawna, who is a little done in by the whole Amazon experience, is dead out on the shelter platform. "We all have to call this meeting in order - now!" barks Jeanne. When everyone is assembled, Jeanne begins to unveil her scheme for camp domination. In their first sortie, Jeanne and JoAnna snuck over under cover of darkness and tried to paint a target on Deena's back. Now, Jeanne presents a motion to "initiate a leader," which seems straightforward and practical. However, in a soliloquy to the camera, Jeanne reveals that she and JoAnna have cooked up the "initiation" in an attempt to bring Deena down. Deena is a "little hot-headed," Jeanne asserts, and they believe that offering her a leadership position will create friction among the women. (If you perceive Deena as "hot-headed" what does that make JoAnna? A serene, saintly Christian font of compassion like we saw in last week's episode?) Jeanne and JoAnna hope that Deena's patience will blow, as well as her chances at surviving the game.
Slytherin teammates JoAnna and Jeanne watch stony-faced to see how their plot unfolds. But valiant prosecutor Deena deftly evades the trap and steals the golden snitch. Deena is wise to the risk of assuming a leadership role, but accepts the position anyway. "Nobody wants to be leader, because that puts a big target on your body." She presents her ideas matter-of-factly to the group, which are accepted enthusiastically by the younger women. Group Leader Deena is swept forward in a wave of clapping and high fives, and even JoAnna and Jeanne join in. Now that the women have a bona-fide leader, the trailer park is soon transformed into a respectable domestic habitat. All they need are a few chintz curtains, a wall-to-wall twig berber, and a set of tarantula-proof Tupperware.
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey.
The Reward Challenge takes place on a beautiful sunny beach. The women have cleaned up amazingly well, and look very fetching. And the reward this week …ding, dong, it's Avon calling! The winners will get the top-end Survivor Spa line of beauty products - including soap, shampoo, conditioner, and tweezers for those errant eyebrow hairs that can be oh-so annoying in the rainforest. It doesn't take long for the women to captivate the men with their feminine charms. In the game of Concentration the men are so enraptured by the females that they've forgotten all thoughts of strategy. Charlie Brown asks the little-red-headed-girl if she got his valentine - oh wait wrong show. Daniel succumbs first, when he inquires of the "really-cute girl with the curly hair" whether she has soap. The challenge quickly becomes a mixer, with the women taking every advantage to work their seductive mojo. There's simpering, hair flipping, flashing eyes, and the captivating sway of hips as the women mince forward to collect their booty. The slack-jawed, glassy eyed men are smitten, and quickly reduced to monosyllabic hormone heaps. ("Duh… girls!") All except Rob, who is trying to work the "I'm a witty nerd … wanna sleep with me?" angle, which Rob says sometimes works. (Or, as Saint-Exupéry would say, "When one wishes to play the wit, he sometimes wanders a little from the truth.") Deena deftly delivers a deadly blow, in a deadpan delivery when she asks Rob, "You got any soap there, buddy?" Christy is equally cool in thwarting the men's advances. To no one's surprise, the women clean up.
Even when the men get back to camp that night, they're still so twitter-pated all they can talk about are "twinkles," "cute butts," and "eye-contact." Another hilarious scene emerges as the young guys rhapsodize about the fillies. Daniel says Shawna, "digged him." Alex says he and Jenna had "eye contact!" Dave says of Jenna, "You are innocent and true, and you come from a star..." (Realspeak: "Her butt is so sexy!")
Rob likes Heidi, but in true resentful geek fashion, finds it necessary to trash her, by claiming she's gone from a 9 1/2 to a 6, and "needs the conditioner." (Even if this were true, she's still way out of your league, Melvin.) Rob gets in a few licks at JoAnna, as well. Even in limited doses, JoAnna still manages to annoy the hell out of anyone around her, with her incessant Jesus-screeching, and sermonizing. "I didn't know Jesus had a vested interest in Survivor," Rob muses. Principal Butch rolls his eyes at their all-too-familiar sophomoric humor.
The women's group is beginning to polarize into recognizable factions. We have the "older women" a.k.a. Jeanne, Deena, and Christy, who makes it in by default, since her peers, "The Cheerleaders" a.k.a. Shawna, Jenna, and Heidi, have excluded her. (Maybe she's not thin enough, pretty enough, or shallow enough, eh girls?) JoAnna is off in some weird elliptical orbit, which sometimes brings her in close enough to link up with Jeanne, then she spins off again on some personal crusade. The older women bathe first, and it's all very efficient and matter of fact. But when the cheerleaders head for the ole swimmin' hole, the producers (not to mention the cameramen) get all lathered up! We hear airy strains of women's voices, caroling angelically as the cheerleaders slowly soap up every inch of their glistening nubile flesh. They are inspired to drop their halters, and even act as one another's personal bathing attendants. In a soliloquy to the camera, Heidi lets the mask slip, and says, "Me, Jenna, and Shawna went off from the older women cause we're younger and cuter, we've got better bodies and for some reason that's a huge issue with older people." (Nothing like being hung with your own words, Heidi.) "We don't have these older women judging us and telling us what we should be doing." (Are these women in general, Heidi, or is this aimed at the "old ones" in your tribe?) Heidi caps off her snotty refrain with a repeat from last week of how she intends to "go topless after the merge" because that's all the men think about anyway. This is the kind of sexist jokiness that Brian Heidik indulged in last season, which we viewers brushed off at first. Brian joked about how the women deserved their lot as worker bees and actually liked it. Heidi is being just as stereotypically manipulative by thinking that the men can ruled by her boobs.
As Matthew and Dave are off fishing for guppies, Dave's hidden identity as an emissary from Asteroid B-612 is revealed. Dave, aka The Little Prince, has had his head in the clouds, and hasn't noticed the maneuvering that has been going on below him on the earthly plane. Until, that is, Matthew "opened up my eyes." (Once again, we're forced to ponder - have you ever watched this show?) Our little rocket scientist has been focused solely on "survival," the mundane shelter, fire, and water kind, and has been totally clueless to the scheming of the others. Even Rob's skullduggery has gone undetected by the Tambaqui brainiac. Imagine a conversation between Dave and Rob, that goes something like this.
Foxy Rob and Prince Dave.
"Good morning!" said Foxy Rob.
"Good morning," the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.
"I am right here," the voice said, "under the palm tree."
"Who are you?" asked the little prince, and added, "You look very cunning, with your big ears and pointy nose."
"I am a fox," said Foxy Rob.
"Come and play with me," proposed Prince Dave. "I have landed in this swampy place and cannot find my way."
"I cannot play with you," said Foxy Rob. "I am looking for allies against the dominion of Roger."
""Ah! Please excuse me," said Prince Dave.
"You do not live here," said Foxy Rob. "What is it that you are looking for?"
"I am looking for men," said the little prince.
"Men," said the fox. "They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also go fishing. These are their only interests. Are you looking for fish?"
"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends, and for someone who lives by honor and integrity and never, never lies about fish."
"Ah," said Foxy Rob. "To me, you are nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other star-struck little boys. And I have no need of you. But if you ally with me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world, for I declare that you are the best player, ever!"
"I am beginning to understand," said Prince Dave. "There is a flower named Jenna... I think that she has tamed me."
"It is possible," said Foxy Rob. "On the Earth one sees all sorts of things."
Immunity Challenge: Mousetrap
Only the children know what they are looking for. They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry...
Compare and contrast. The women are in full battle mode as they prepare for the event. We see them girding their loins, hoisting their bodacious bosoms into place, donning clean socks, and arming themselves with the power of minty freshness. They march off to the challenge to a martial drumbeat. In contrast, the men arm themselves with the mighty powers of their Magic 8 Ball, with the burning question at hand: Will the guys "hook up?" "It is certain," the orb promises them.
When the tribes meet up at the challenge grounds, we notice that the men have festooned the idol with feathers in their tribal colors. Deena deadpans to Probst, "We'd like to remind them we had it first." Then, the two tribes are locked into the tree-limb cages and the race is on. By means of their superior finger dexterity, the women quickly surge ahead. For some unknown reason, Rocket Scientist Dave tries to finesse the rope securing the board instead of just whacking it apart with his machete. The tried-and-true cave man approach would have been the better choice. The women win their fourth challenge and get the idol back for the second time. (We're picturing Christy sneaking up behind JoAnna some night and scaring the Bejesus out of her with a petrifying performance of Idol Puppet Theater.)
The search for a worthy victim for the night's Tribal Council ensues. The machinations and back-stabbing kick into high gear as Rob feels out the other players, Alex realizes his pivotal position, and Dave, once again, is brought back to earth by the gravity of his tribe's situation. "What am I missing?" our Star Man wonders. Even though he's been in the Amazon for several days, Dave is surprised by all the scheming so "relatively early in the game."
Rob and Alex have been jockeying for position, neither one wanting to admit to playing the game or the alliances he has formed. Rob sucks up to Alex, telling him he's "the bestest player, ever!" and Alex acknowledges his swing position, since both Rob and Roger have approached him for votes. But Daniel is the sacrificial lamb tonight. When Probst pointedly asks Daniel how he feels about his standing, Daniel admits that he feels "different" and an "outcast." The same feelings, in fact, that Christy admitted to last week. And like Christy's feelings were denied by Jenna, Daniel's are dismissed by Rob, who says that they are "completely false." Whether or not the other players agree with Christy and Daniel, their feelings are their feelings and to deny them is to insult their owners. If Daniel and Christy feel they are different and outcasts, that's the way it is. Perception is everything.
Next week, the women play Hot Potato with the piranhas, and Shawna goes into Jessie/Ramona/Tanya mode.
Let's look at the players.
Alex: Still fabulous this week. You had us cracking up with your "Chick-A-Bow-Bow" routine. You're the suave and cool Dean Martin to butt-kisser Rob's nerdlinger Jerry Lewis schtick.
Butch: You did your best to keep a sense of humor during the students' locker room boastings.
Daniel: Mr. "I'm so buff I-can't-put-my-arms down," was Shanghaied by Roger's superior tactics.
Dave: Dreamy - in more ways than one. Get your head out of the clouds, stupid! This is Survivor!
Matthew: We got a good sampling of your cooking techniques this week. Anyone who tries to make a court bouillon out of three nasty sardines and some brackish pond water deserves all the credit. And it was refreshing to hear an American say something besides "yo, dawg" and "what's the dilly-O."
Rob: The others are catching on to you. This Puppet Master will be the next one to go, since you don't seem to have one solid ally in the tribe.
Roger: You've bulldozed the others into submission once again. Can you keep your Fortress of Solitude intact, when so many of your teammates resent you? Your closest ally is Butch, but only by virtue of his age and work ethic. ("To vain men, other people are admirers.")
Christy: Your droll personality is coming out more and more. We thought your mockery of the cheerleaders at the swimming hole was hilarious.
Deena: The highest kudos to you for stepping up to the challenge of leadership without antagonizing the all-important cheerleader contingent. You judiciously organized Jaburu, at least physically.
Heidi: In contrast to Deena and Christy, we're liking you less and less. You manifest the worst aspects of women who use their looks to get what they want, without ever questioning your motives or if the ugly people deserve your abuse. ("You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you.")
Jeanne: You're not smelling like a rose, either. Your calculated targeting of Deena is bad enough, but allying yourself with JoAnna is a thorn in our sides.
Jenna: Your womanly wiles have been bottled up for too long. When you had a chance to strut you stuff in front of the football players, you ran with it.
JoAnna: You continue to win friends and influence people with your unique brand of speechifying. Even the guys on the other end of the Amazon have gotten your number.
Shawna: You're getting a little shaky, there girl. You've started to wilt, and we don't mean your hair. Hanging out with the old and not-as-cute people a little more would be to your advantage.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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