Survivor Season One: Crack in the Alliance
By David Mumpower
August 11, 2005
The last time I wrote about Survivor, Greg's winning personality had won over the Pagong tribe. The youthful, beautiful people were having the time of their lives and appeared likely to overwhelm the older, uglier members of the competing tribe, Tagi. Some guy named Richard was trying to secure his long-term placement in the game by allying with some of his fellow Tagi members.
The problem with such a strategy was that the remaining members of Pagong seemed much more at home in the wilderness. This advantage during challenges had been neutralized somewhat by the presence of cranky tribe elder B.B. and seasick Ramona. With their elimination, the only Pagong-ite who was not performing solidly was Gervaise. As long as Pagong was able to compensate for his struggles, the group should have swept all of the immunity challenges. If not, they would have voted him off, preventing any further difficulties.
Suffice it to say that Pagong should have won a minimum of four of the last five challenges, allowing them to overwhelm their Tagi counterparts through the numbers advantage. All that was required was that the weakest players be voted off and that the members of Pagong work in unison during the votes. Since the first four contestants eliminated were the worst ones, there is no reason to believe this did not happen in my absence. Pagong should be in complete control. Right, Jim? I didn't need to read the last five recaps, did I?
Hmm, the previously on Survivor promo is confusing. Where are Greg and Gretchen? They were the best ones. Why are Rudy and Sean still there? I know that Richard supplies seafood delicacies for the others, so I can understand the Pagong members keeping them around. Rudy and Sean are useless, though. They should have Rich under their thumb enough to not let him put the birthday in birthday suit, too. I am so glad I missed that episode. If I see something that fat, my natural inclination is to put a harpoon in it. Note to Rudy: not a euphemism. Speaking of America's most beloved homophobe, when did Rudy become part of the voting alliance and what happened to cause Kelly to abandon it?
Most importantly, why was sweet little Jenna voted off? Sure, she can be bitchy, but she is as harmless and well-intended as a schoolmarm. I can see why a group of people would be in a hurry to dump 40-year-old virgin in training Dirk and presumptuous Joel, but Jenna? She was carrying a full half of the show's bikini factor! J is for Jenna? What in the blue hell does that mean?
And what's Ratanna?
Jim, I am never letting you house-sit for me again. This place is a mess!
Day 28 finds Kelly discussing the remorse that stems from the dismissal of a fellow contestant. Rudy is more matter-of-fact about the situation, expressing regret that Jenna had gone instead of Gervaise. Wait, Greg and Gretchen are gone, yet Gervaise, the guy who can't swim, remains? Also, both tribes are living at the same camp now. I am so lost.
"The sun is out. It's going to be a nice, hot day. And it's quieter. Sorry, Jenna, but man, you talk a lot." -- White Trash Sue
Well, it's comforting to know that some things haven't changed. Similarly, Gervaise is still having a blast. He had apparently expected to be voted off the previous night. He also offers up some analysis on what I have missed. "If you look at it since the merger, it's only been Pagong people being voted off. You know, so it's like...something's fishy going on. You know, they can deny an alliance all they want but there's got to be an alliance" Wait, what's 'merger'?
Sean discusses the rumor of an alliance, indicating that if there is one, he is not in it. Colleen points out the voting behavior in the episodes I missed. Apparently, Dirk, Gretchen, Greg and Jenna were all voted off with the same number of votes, four. That would indicate that Richard's plan to unite Sue, Rudy and Wigglesworth has come to fruition...unless Sean is lying, also a possibility.
No, wait, Colleen continues to discuss voting patterns and it seems that Sean is such a wuss that he won't vote against anyone. Instead, he has implemented some sort of voting behavior based on the the alphabet. That explains the "J is for Jenna" comment. And here I thought Probst had developed a Sesame Street fetish in my absence.
Okay, so Pagong has completely choked. They had six players as opposed to Tagi after this cataclysmic event known as the "merger". They did not, however, vote as a group, thereby allowing Tagi to get the drop on them. The more talented survivors were too flighty, allowing a more organized assault (i.e. Nekkid Richard) to get the drop on them. Oh, this is bad. This is so bad. I have five more episodes to recap, but I hate most of the people likely to advance. C'mon, Colleen and Gervaise, figure out a way to save the day!
Sean is experiencing an outbreak of guilt over the previous night's results. He had felt his strategy (?) was harmless, existing outside the framework of the game. Since Wigglesworth had voted outside the alliance, though, his vote accidentally became the deciding one. Therein lies a cautionary tale about living a gutless life. Had Sean voted for anyone else, a tie would have been the result, possibly leading to the elimination of Richard Hatch instead of Jenna Lewis. This makes Sean the most gigantic asshole in the history of reality television, even over that weird Puck guy.
Speaking of puckers, Rich is infinitely amused by the machinations afoot. With only eight people remaining, the strange, furry man feels confident that his four player alliance is solid. The humorous aspect of this involves the fact that Wigglesworth did not vote with them the previous evening, meaning that if she has flipped while the other three players form a more perfect union, he's toast. Apparently, a vocational choice of corporate strategy never involves basic mathematics. I bet those IRS forms give him fits.
It's not as if the other Survivors don't want Richard gone, either. Even Sean enjoys a moment of schadenfreude as the group contemplates how close the man was to being eliminated on his birthday. Gervaise swings in a hammock and fantasizes about what might have been. On an island with Rudy, Sue and Wigglesworth on it, Richard is THE most despised person. As far as personal accomplishments go, it's not a desired one but it's certainly an impressive one.
Gervaise goes on to speculate that Rich thinks there is an alliance formed against him. He also calculates that Gervaise is the instigator, the ring leader if you will. Gervaise certainly enjoys all this squirming on the part of a man he obviously despises, but the athlete confides to the camera there is nothing to it. No alliance exists against Richard. The strategist's paranoia is proving to be his undoing as he projects insecurities upon Gervaise. This is funny, but it's equally funny to consider that Gervaise could be spending this time coming up with the very union that would unseat King Richard I of Borneo. Instead, he continues to rock on the hammock and think about how funny that would be. If this were the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy would be trying to get Gervaise a brain.
Fish becomes the subject of choice for the next segment. Richard sees himself as the sole provider of fish, and he takes this role as hunter quite seriously. After recent events almost led to his elimination, the man's feelings are bruised and he is not above pouting about it. Rich threatens to withhold some seafood from the ungrateful members of the tribe (read: Colleen and Gretchen), only hunting again after they are gone. An analogy is drawn between Rich's fishing and his game strategy. He sees the processes as similar with individuals being carefully tracked down and stabbed to death. It's Rich's horror movie, and he's cast himself as Freddy Krueger. He's definitely ugly enough for the part, too.
Sue takes a moment at dinner to turn a molehill into a mountain. She feels it is rude of Colleen and Gervaise to eat the food provided by Richard so soon after trying to vote him out of the game. This comparison is not unlike telling a member of the opposing political party that they have to move out of the state since they voted for the losing candidate. Actually, considering the currently divisive red state/blue state political climate, that may have already happened. Sue distracts us from any further social commentary by offering a slew of belches. Her alliance with Richard does prove that politics makes strange bedfellows. Just never ever grope her goodies, Rich.
With regards to game play, Survivor's first season appears to be at an impasse. Wigglesworth and Sean seem capricious, but it's unlikely that a deal will be worked out with Gervaise and Colleen. As such, the next three eliminations appear set in stone. Wigglesworth will return to her previous alliance with Rudy, Rich and Sue, leaving the others to be eliminated prior to the final four. That means dull television in the short term, and CBS is not blind to this concern. A cleverly edited piece demonstrates that there is in fact no honor among thieves. The members of the alliance are already plotting against one another.
Sue considers Wigglesworth to be her closest friend in 20 years and as such, the trucker promises "not to burn her". I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt here and presume she is speaking metaphorically. Otherwise, it's like the end of Billy Madison and Wigglesworth should be glad she called the island's Steve Buscemi. The women plan to take Rudy to the final vote, then gang up on him. Cut to Rudy and Rich. They are having a similar conversation about the women. The plan is to carry Sue, the more resolved member of the alliance, to the final three, then terminate her at the final vote. It's the boy against the girls or the bad versus the ugly depending on your perspective. Actually, that is not completely true. It's the bad and ugly vs the bad and ugly any way you slice this quartet.
Tree mail brings an unexpected announcement A cigar greets Gervaise along with the announcement that son Gunner Peterson was born the prior morning. This is a genuinely touching moment in reality television, though, it does naturally make a person wonder why he is on the show. Of course, I have heard of men doing crazier things to get away from women who are eight months pregnant. At this point, Gervaise reveals that he has two kids from a previous relationship and this is his second with his current girlfriend. Cut to old man Rudy, who can't wait to deride these kids these days with their loose morals and loose sperm.
Probst sighting! Day 28 means an individual reward challenge. The winner gets to become the envy of E.T. and phone home. All they have to do is walk across a set of bamboo poles faster than everyone else. There are a series of three heats. Four contestants make it round two followed by a pair in round three. This is the quickest challenge in the show's history, so there isn't much to describe. Gervaise, Sue, Sean and Rich make the second heat after Wigglesworth has a violent spill into some bamboo. Gervaise just edges out Sue to join Rich in the final leg then beats him by a nose. The new father gets to enjoy a slice of pizza and call for an update about his son. I'm sure this is the result most desired by the producers and even the other competitors cannot begrudge him the win considering his circumstances. To cement this opinion, Gervaise shares his single slice of pizza with the other survivors. He seems like a genuinely good guy despite what Rudy might have you believe.
"There's no family life. And then they're blaming the schools. It starts way before them kids go to school. They need a family. They need somebody beating them in the head." – Rudy, presumably recounting a quote from a very special episode of Father Knows Best.
A Hallmark moment occurs as Gervaise calls home to speak to his girlfriend and daughter. I could not do it justice with any description. I will say definitively that some toothpaste company should immediately sign Gervaise. That man's smile is a joy to behold.
The happy moment is lost in the framework of the game. Wigglesworth is shown as being the key figure in the upcoming vote. She almost destroyed the foundation the quartet had laid out with her last vote, but they were luckily saved by Sean's idiotic voting "strategy". It's not hard to deduce that Wigglesworth did not vote as expected, so her allies are understandably nervous about her status. For her part, the young river guide seems to feel bitter about the fact that she was originally slotted with the older Tagi group than the fun bunch at Pagong. She equates working with Rich as making a deal with the devil then says she feels like she's in Star Wars and has gone over to the dark side. As Rich quizzes her about recent events, it becomes clear that she is misleading him and he picks up on that. Since he has no choice, though, Rich is left hoping that Wigglesworth will come to her senses by the vote. If she does not, he is in a world of hurt.
The episode's second Probst sighting brings on a visually pleasing immunity challenge. Survivors are asked to acquire as much kindling wood as possible in three minutes. Then, they must wade out to a buoy and use the fire contained on it to light their torches. From there, they must return to the beach and use their torches to light the kindling. As was the case with the first challenge, there isn't much to describe. Gervaise gets what I can only describe as a bad torch and is unable to keep it lit. Everyone else goes about completing the task in workman-like fashion, but Rich is faster than the rest. After being nearly voted out last episode, he is secure from the night's tribal council. Rats.
After Rich rubs Gervaise's nose in the fact that he will be surviving for at least three more days, some planning ensues. Colleen and Gervaise make costumes and refer to themselves as Bullseye and Sitting Duck. Sure, these would make lousy superhero identities, but they still beat Aquaman. The remaining Pagong members attempt to woo Sean and Wigglesworth into a new alliance. Sean is told that she will join only if he is definitely in. Since he has shown no desire to compete in this contest, the result appears inevitable.
At Tribal Council, Sean is held accountable for the prior vote as Jenna and Greg watch on. Hey, why are previously eliminated Jenna and Greg watching on? Seriously, Van Nest, what the hell did you do to my show? While I'm talking, Sean mumbles some sort of answer which proves every bit as dull as his personality. Afterward, Kelly and Colleen are quizzed on their game play. Each offers an innocuous answer. Sue, however, takes the opportunity to rant. She starts tying the existence of an alliance into the American society infrastructure, pointing out that even the president has an alliance. Wait, Richard has made a deal with the president? No wonder he's doing so well on the show.
Sue rambles on about the fact that people join churches in order to become members of an alliance. I'm disappointed to relay the fact that lightning does not strike her for her blasphemy. Ah well, a boy can dream. The gist of Sue's life lesson is that she's a smart truck-driving woman and people without alliances are dumb. 10-4, good buddy.
The failure of the attempted new alliance is revealed right off the bat. Gervaise votes for Sean, saying that it's the doctor's fault that they're in this position. The new father goes on to say that for a smart man, Sean has zero common sense. Colleen follows this up by saying, "he's a putz". I reiterate that if you are unhappy with the potential results of this competition, it is Sean's fault. Had he agreed to work against Rudy, Rich and Sue, things could turn out much differently. After Gervaise receives the remaining votes and is eliminated from the competition, though, there is no going back. The evil trinity has numbers and is now nearly unstoppable since Sean will continue to do nothing constructive strategically. At least the new daddy gets to go home and enjoy time with his family. Also, Gervaise, if you want to slap Sean on the way out, that would be great. How did this motard ever get through med school?