Tag Archives: Sugar

I’ve Been In This Town So Long: The Serial Subtexts of Survivor’s “Heroes vs. Villains”

“Slay Everyone, Trust No One”

February 11th, 2010

Every season of Survivor is effectively the same as the one before: the players might change, but more often than not they bring nothing new to the game that hasn’t been seen in some form before. For every “twist” the producers have tried to throw into the game, it all ends up being the same in the end, which isn’t really a problem since the game is at its most compelling when it finds itself in familiar territory. Because we know what’s happened before, and because we have no idea whether the players involved know what’s happened before, we get to watch them walk in the shoes of the players who came before, either triumphing where they failed or tripping up where others succeeded.

What’s interesting about “Heroes vs. Villains,” the twentieth season of the show, is that it simultaneously reduces the game to a simple battle between good and evil while creating a game structure that is without question the most complex the show has ever seen, layered with subtexts (previous alliances, previous rivalries, personal experiences, etc.) that stretch back far into our memory of the show’s early seasons in a more overt way than ever before. By bringing the tribal competition to the surface, along with the binary that often emerges between those the audience loves to hate and those the audience wants to see go to the end, the show is creating the ultimate mind game: they are forcing characters with more emotional and gameplay baggage than ever before into a game which threatens to rigidly define them, ignoring the various subtexts in such a way that they can’t help but surface the first time anyone dares mention the word alliance or whispers about how successful some players have been in the past.

The result is Survivor at its most confident, pushing all the right buttons and getting some all-time great moments, some substantial comedy mixed with some engaging drama, and enough introspection to quite literally sink any other reality show that wasn’t build for just that sort of psychological inquisition.

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Who Won Survivor Gabon, and Did They Deserve It?

survivorgabon

Who Won Survivor: Gabon?

I may have written almost nothing about it this season, but Survivor: Gabon has been an intriguing and entertaining season of Survivor. It hasn’t been that interesting as a far as the game structure itself, which is the same as ever, but the casting people have managed to put together a variety of people who are either desperate to control the game but lacking the wits to do so, or wonderfully flighty in such a way that dramatically impacts the game despite a distinct lack of forethought. Some tribes were dominant, some contestants were emotionally unhinged, and there was enough of a story to keep me as entertained as we’ve seen in the past.

Heading into the finale, the cards were dealt: Sugar the flip-flopping pin-up girl, Bob the physics professor who has dominated the latter part of this game, Matty the personal trainer who has performed well, Ken the video gamer who thinks he owns this game, and Susie who…has done absolutely nothing of note.

Considering this, we ask ourselves the big question: did the winner from the three-person final tribal council reflect the game’s broader developments, or was it another instance where the jury got it wrong?

Let’s find out.

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