‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’ Episode 2

(Graphic by @Survivor_BUFF)

(Graphic by @Survivor_BUFF)

My Big Question: Back in 2008, Jeff Probst and I did a video segment called the “‘Survivor’ Question of the Week” where we’d debate the merits of a specific topic. One of those topics was, “Who was the least deserving winner in ‘Survivor’ history.” I chose Chris Daugherty because I felt like he was lucky that the female alliance fell apart when it did and I didn’t like how he misled people like Eliza before voting them out. The lying struck me as very unnecessary.

However, that was based on a four-year-old season I had watched before yapping about “Survivor” was my actual job. So for this rewatch, my main goal is to critique Chris’s performance to see if he deserved my worst-ever ranking.

And with that, let’s get into this mess…

Buy Survivor Vanuatu – The Complete Season on Amazon

Episode Thoughts:

Sorry, Sarge. The second someone starts talking about island spirits while I’m trying to make fire is the second I consider voting them out.

Are there names for the music cues that always play during specific emotional moments? Like the creepy strings that play when they’re eating something gross or the sad moment slow piano? There should be…

I’d eat boiled maggots out there. They’re only noodles, Michael.

I like that Twila equates being pampered with the Holiday Inn.

This balance beam reward challenge looks familiar. Maybe if Kat had watched this back in junior high she would’ve known not to jump in the water every 15 seconds.

Sitting out Scout for reward? Wouldn’t you rather have your strongest people available for immunity?

Fun Fact: Scout Cloud Lee and Eliza Orlins are both former “Survivor” Power Rankings competitors.

Mia’s moonwalk to win the challenge is the kind of “Survivor” move I hate. It’s like when Russell Hantz randomly picked a fight with Rupert Boneham in “Heroes vs. Villains.” It only harms your game. You never know when someone like Rory is going to hold a weird grudge over something small.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I get such joy out of things like the Yasur pot spilling over into the fire, but I doubt it’s good.

Also probably doesn’t say anything good about me that I’d have no patience for believing in the magic rock.

Oh man, Mark Burnett loves him some blindfold challenges.

Was that Eliza that ran right into (and over) the set of standing puzzle pieces? That had to hurt.

Rory randomly yelling “Lopevi” during the challenge was so weird and counterproductive.

Awesome pause before the reading of the final vote by J-Pro. I knew how this episode ended and still wondered for a second if Leann’s time was up.

I’ve stopped asking soon-to-be Survivors how they intend to play the game because there are too many variables for them to give a good answer. However, if you were to make a list of ways not to play, Dolly’s playing both sides so early in the game has to be up there. Seeing players get cut down like that helps you understand why people are making solid alliances in the first few moments at camp these days.

Discussion Questions:

What other tips should be on the list of things not to do in the game?

Edit Readers: Did the editing point to Chris at all this episode? He seemed to be in the background the majority of the time.

Am I reading too much into moves like Mia’s moonwalk? Does it help tribe unity? Is that the exact opposite of Matt Elrod shaking hands with the opposing team in “Redemption Island”? Is it better to keep your head down and shut up win or lose?

Anyone from this season other than Eliza and Ami that you would like to see play again?

Your turn, I’ll do my best to approve comments as quickly as possible. Also, don’t miss the True Dork Times “Survivor: Vanuatu” awards, scores, and more…

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23 Responses to “‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’ Episode 2”

  1. Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

    I really liked that version of the blindfold challenge. Putting half the pieces in the water added a degree of difficulty (especially for Scout), and the inclusion of statues for bumping into near the pieces was also a great idea.

  2. Drew M Says:

    I always wonder why we don’t see opposing factions come together and vote out the swing person more often like in this episode. It is probably a short sighted move that makes things harder for everyone remaining in the long run, rather than trying to woo the swing player, but it is a quick fix. And we all know so many players think in terms of quick fixes. Very good strategic move for the 5 who ended up voting for Dolly. (Scout, Twila, Leann, Ami, Eliza?)

    Quick other thoughts:
    -Forgot how good this opening theme and credits were. Wish they still played full credits more often.

    -Again, most of the first half of the episode emphasized the brutal living conditions and how much everyone was struggling. Now I know these days there’s so much strategy to focus on you can’t show all this, but I doubt the survival part is any easier now. It’d be cool if there was a little more attention paid these days to the physical struggle, gives a feeling that there’s a lot on the line. (And as a result, everyone just seemed to be taking it more seriously too)

    -Sarge barking out orders in the immunity challenge was born for that. That was like Ozzy in the water or Boston Rob on a puzzle. Sarge probably did that same challenge in boot camp somewhere.

    And Gordon re: Chris, he was probably faded in to the background this episode not only because it was the women’s first trip to TC, but also to begin to establish the women characters he’d later defeat.

    • gordonholmes Says:

      I absolutely miss the “these people are really suffering” parts of the show.

      • Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

        To be fair, Survivor: One World had a similar segment in its episode 2 (I think), where Salani was shown suffering from the rain/lack of fire, including Chelsea crying, as Dolly did here. But yeah, it was a much smaller part of the overall episode. Especially since Manono’s biggest problem was having to share their mountains of stuff with Salani.

      • Survivor BUFF Says:

        Yeah, to echo others, it still pops up. We just never hear it at the end of seasons, anymore. They were usually given more supplies back in the day, but things were still rough, and became increasingly more difficult. Now, they tend to give them nothing. They start out not drinking anything, but eventually win flint or fire through some other means.

    • Drew M Says:

      Yep great point Jeff. S19 in Samoa I remember was pretty brutal just in terms of the rain, and they showed plenty of that. I wonder if with this totally new Philippines location coming up, there will be some attention paid to the environment, just because we’ve never seen it before.

  3. Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

    With respect to the background music, the switch to a romantic strings-plus-piano piece when John K was trying to get past JP on the balance beam was also a nice touch.

  4. gordonholmes Says:

    Oh! I forgot to mention that I found it hilarious that the guy made sure to have Chris at the end of the balance beam challenge.

  5. Survivor BUFF Says:

    It may be a bit late, Gordon Holmes, but I have something to say about what you said LAST week. It’s about season-long stuff, anyway.

    “This Tribal set is really cool. In fact, I’m really digging the stone, skull, and volcano motif of this season.”

    If you like these things, I can point you to other seasons. What you can’t find elsewhere is the tamtam. It’s about to educational up in here!

    Tamtams (or, tam-tams) are far and away the most unique element in Survivor: Vanuatu. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, scroll up, and look at the logo. See those things on the sides? They’re stylized to fit the ring of the logo, normally being straight up and down (save for the top), but you should recognize them after watching the season.

    Tamtams are slit drums. That big line coming up the bottom of the middle is the slit. They’re used for rhythms for dancing, but also for communication, like calling meetings.

    If you’re not too distracted looking at stones, skulls, volcanoes, and now, tamtams, check out the snuffer. It’s the based on the type of hammer used to kill the pig in the opening ceremony. Figuratively, it’s quite deadly in its own right.

    • gordonholmes Says:

      I love that kind of stuff. Annoying the staff in the art department is one of my favorite parts of the set visits.

      • Survivor BUFF Says:

        You really need to go out there every time and prod them more for us. (Have you done any recent traveling or will I need to look for gaps in your twitter feed?) Anyway, we hardly get any info anymore. Even the tribal council tours have become severely uninformative.

      • Drew M Says:

        It will be neat to see some new artwork and tribal council set details in the Philippines we haven’t seen before, not to mention different from the Samoan artifacts that have been burned in to our eyeballs now.

  6. Andy Baker Says:

    GH: What other tips should be on the list of things not to do in the game?

    ** One tip/rule that got violated in this episode — on both sides of the gender war — comes to mind: Unless they’re firmly in your alliance, don’t tell people they were/are targets. There was no reason for Travis to tell J.P. that his name was kicked around before the first tribal, nor should Dolly have spoken to Twila about the bullseye that was on her back had the women lost the first IC. Admissions like this lead to only negative outcomes — the targeted castaway can start the spin cycle, and the one who spilled the beans will be seen as untrustworthy. It may be hard to conceal the truth when you’re put on the spot, but if you can’t lie, you can’t win.

    ** Another rule that came up: Keep your emotions under control (a corollary to the “don’t gloat” postulate). Rory from the beginning… Mia in the teaser for next week… Eliza’s attitude… even Dolly’s mini-breakdown… early in the game, when people are looking to gun someone, anyone, down, why hand them the ammunition?

    GH: Edit Readers: Did the editing point to Chris at all this episode? He seemed to be in the background the majority of the time.

    ** Think Drew’s right — this was an episode to develop the women. Did a pretty good job of it, too. Ami, Twila, Eliza — all are far more fleshed out (particularly Ami — both strategically and bikini-cally) by the time we get to Dolly’s blindside.

    GH: Am I reading too much into moves like Mia’s moonwalk? Does it help tribe unity? Is that the exact opposite of Matt Elrod shaking hands with the opposing team in “Redemption Island”? Is it better to keep your head down and shut up win or lose?

    ** While it may be difficult to control each and every reaction they have, castaways — the best of them, anyway — need to be playing, and thus thinking about, the long con every time they’re around the other tribe. Sure, it’s good to celebrate a victory — your tribe will notice if you don’t (and the smartest of them will see that you’re trying to shape your reputation with the other tribe) — but mockery never goes unpunished. In a stressful environment, we search for things to cling to — and in an antagonistic, competitive, and stressful environment, one thing social animals like to hold is a grudge. (That said, it’s pretty clear they cast people for conflict — thank you, psych evaluations!)

    GH: Anyone from this season other than Eliza and Ami that you would like to see play again?

    ** As I attempt to view this season through new eyes (I watched the season way back when, so I know who wins and I know the macro endgame, but I have next to no recollection how we get there), I am stuck by just how many characters “pop” for me. Bubba… Sarge… Scout… Twila… and Chris, of course. I’d welcome a return from any one of them. Ami, too; I’ve never understood the Eliza love, however. She’s annoying, she thinks she’s smarter than she is, and there’s just something… off… about her face. Not a fan (that said, her spitting moment in this episode was pretty bad-ass).

    A few other random thoughts:

    ** I kept wondering — why the heck do they show bungee jumping in the opening credits? So I googled it. Holy crap — I had no idea it was such a huge thing in Vanuatu.

    ** I, too, like season when the castaways suffer — and I think Vanuatu occurs in a window of time when the survival aspect of the game was at its most brutal. In the earliest seasons, the producers let them bring clothes to layer (Rob C. has talked about this on his podcasts — they could bring rain gear, fleeces for the cold nights, etc.) — that’s gone by the time Vanuatu is filmed. And in more recent seasons, have tribes had to go six days days without boiling water? I could be wrong, but I do think the castaways have it easier now… (this is apparently a pretty divisive topic within the Survivor family)

    ** Interesting to see Bubba voice the same “I’ve known my family a lot longer than I’ve known you guys — I’m playing for them” argument that Boston Rob and Kim Spradlin made in their final tribal council speeches.

    ** I wonder, on a long, cold night, do castaways fight over the blankets? The women got three… someone is gonna be left out, even if they’re squeezing two to a blanket. Now THAT would be a crushing way to ostracize someone — “sorry, you’re just going to have to suffer all night.”

    ** Leann’s eyes are intense (and beautiful). Glad she didn’t leave early. Had totally forgotten about this particular Survivor crush.

    ** First votes in seasons which begin with fractured tribes (as opposed to the five-person alliances which have dominated over the past couple of years) are fascinating, aren’t they? Doubt and discord dominate as players seek something resembling stability in the midst of psychological and social chaos. The fundamental psych/sociological realities of Survivor are what keep me coming back season after season, and the conflicting forces at work early in the game — unity and division — are endlessly compelling.

    ** Okay, I’ll hush up now.

    • gordonholmes Says:

      ‘An Idiot Abroad’ did a big bit on the bungee jumping. It is fascinating. I’d assume the tower they’re jumping off of rocks enough to keep them from breaking their legs.

    • Drew Says:

      Ill see your Leann and raise you a Julie. Loved her at the time, looking forward to seeing more of her in our rewatch. Ohbytheway, Julie and Leann (and Ami), substantial, interesting non-models. These types of girls do in fact exist.

      • Andy Baker Says:

        You’re right, Julie is lovely… and she’s got the “free spirit” personality that adds some substance… clearly, Probst has good taste.

        Agreed, too, that there are interesting and lovely people out there eager to be cast and with an understanding of the game. If there’s one facet of old-school Survivor I’d like Burnett et al. to bring back, it’s the interesting/attractive normal folk who used to make for great television. Mactors need not apply (or be recruited).

    • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

      AB: “There was no reason for Travis to tell J.P. that his name was kicked around before the first tribal,”

      I’ll agree with this, but JP’s reaction was all wrong too. He got very agitated when he realised that he was a threat just for being a good looking Alpha male and there was nothing he could do to change Travis’ mind on that. While his frustration is understandable, he’d have done better to keep his cool. He was the one who asked the question and he really should have been able to predict the answer. Taking his cue from Travis (the person he’s trying to convince!) and staying calm would have been good. Turning on the charm would have been great. Going crazy-eyed… not so much.

      AB: “And in more recent seasons, have tribes had to go six days days without boiling water? I could be wrong, but I do think the castaways have it easier now…”

      No, I was pretty surprised that Jeff didn’t give them flint at the first Tribal Council. I wonder if they had a statute of limitations on that… I mean, the men could feasibly have kept on losing challenges. Would they have made them go ten days without water?

      I’m not sure where I stand on the suffering… I like seeing them weather the elements and go through an actual struggle, but I have a fairly low threshold before I think they can be helped out. After all, only a handful of players have made fire without the flint / matches despite many trying, so the lack of fire isn’t really driving them to be more resourceful. On the other hand, getting hungry enough to kill a rat or a pig *is* interesting to me…

      That said, Survivors who have to endure rainy seasons are clearly the ones who have it hardest.

      • gordonholmes Says:

        Jeff had a great point on his site about JP staring down Bubba during their conversation. Bubba seems like the type you could guilt into keeping you around. That might’ve been the better play.

      • Andy Baker Says:

        Sarah, absolutely agree that J.P. totally misplayed that conversation… getting confrontational and attitudinal in that situation, rather than appealing to Bubba’s better nature (“I can help you get further in the game — I’m an asset, not a liability — if you want to get to the end, let me help you get there”), is foolish. Be what people need you to be — a friend, an assassin, an Iago-manipulator — until you can turn things around and force them to be what YOU need THEM to be.

  7. Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

    I’ll agree with everybody who said this episode did a lot to flesh out the women and make them characters to root for. This is our first time watching Vanuatu, and while I vaguely remembered that Leann is important to the later women’s alliance, my husband only knows that Eliza returns, and therefore was hardly going to go home second. He thought Leann would be the boot. Great suspense indeed!

    It was a slightly bizarre vote off in that the swing vote became a target (Dolly) while a target became the swing vote (Eliza). On the face of it, it seems a strange move for Eliza to make, essentially flipping to the side of the people who wanted to vote her off! On the other hand, I’m so glad she did, because, as usual, I was a lot more interested in the older women than the younger girls. Especially after Dolly’s constant worrying to different people and needing reassurance. That’s a tip against right there: if you’re going to play both sides, do it with confidence, instead of telling people that you feel bad and don’t know what to do.

    Of course, the reason Eliza flipped was because she wasn’t flipping to the people targetting her. Ami very smartly pulled the two targets (Eliza and Leann) aside and let them hash out a new plan. Now both women are grateful to her for saving them and that gives her sway over the new alliance. I’m curious to see how Twila and Scout treat Eliza now, but I’m hoping somebody will act to patch things over.

    My husband complained about the balance beam challenge, because it favoured the women so much–this despite my repeated citations of the same challenge in One World. I do kind of agree with him though… that challenge does look like it was designed to favour women, and one of the big reasons the men won last season was because Colton guessed it would be the same challenge from Vanuatu and had all the men practice beforehand (proof that Colton did make some well-reasoned, useful moves!)–the other reason, of course, was Kat. Who knows how things would have gone had the women started with Monica.

    In a mixed gender season, I’d have no problem with a challenge that favoured women, but that makes it all the more disturbing that it’s only been used for tribes divided by gender (or has it made another appearance?). It’s not fair on the guys, and the women shouldn’t need hand-outs!

    Mia’s dance… The flipside of this argument is that it might have appealed to her tribe, winning her some friends. However, since she’s now in the minority, I don’t think it had that effect. As cases of gloating go, I don’t think it’s the worst–remember Upolu’s prayer of thanks afterwards, which must really have rubbed Savaii’s nose in it… “We’re God’s chosen tribe!” But Upolu were doing it as a group, and for at least some of them it was a deliberate way to encourage enmity between the two tribes.

    All that said, I doubt it’s going to really hurt your chances in the game…. It might contribute to an obnoxious reputation, but I don’t think anybody’s likely to get voted off for that alone…

    Re: the magic rock. I kind of liked seeing how it started becoming a factor in the men’s morale. I’m sure there were people rolling their eyes over it who didn’t get camera-time, but it’s interesting to see the players resorting to superstition. All part of them showing the struggles to get through.

    In other words, after two episodes, the magic rock has been more entertaining than the medallion of power.

    • Drew Says:

      So, yes, the rain right after putting the rock on a pedestal was likely an editing trick. But, still kind of weird right? And one of the guys did say the rain followed pretty soon after. It probably was raining every hour there, but, I think I reserve 10% hope that a Vanuatu rain god was looking down on them.

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