You can’t be excited if you’re a Survivor producer and this is the story that the game gives you for an episode. After two initial weeks of great game drama and intriguing personality moments, this week’s episode is pretty much dead on arrival, forced to play out inevitabilities and scramble to fill the rest of the hour. When the most interesting thing in the first half hour is a woman describing a howler monkey mating session, you know you’re in trouble.
The inevitability playing out here is Nina’s eventual eviction from the game, which is a story that was set up last week and meets its end here. Nina has a lot of things working against her in the game—her deafness and her age being the biggest impediments—but it really feels as if the biggest obstacle was the tribe she was put on, and the way the forced “No Collar” ethos shape the narrative surrounding that tribe. Nina can claim to embody the free spirit, no collar lifestyle in her daily life all she wants, but as shown here she is innately more structured than her fellow tribe mates, and has drastically different life experiences. From Nina’s perspective, her deafness was the great divide that separated her from this tribe she desperately wanted to feel like she was a part of. This undoubtedly caused issues, no matter the protests of the rest of No Collar, but even without that aspect, Nina still would very likely be on the outside looking in. Why? Because she is an older woman, and older women traditionally do not fit in on Survivor.
The disadvantage of older women in this game isn’t a new thing, or a surprising thing, or even a certain thing—“older” women like Tina Wesson have done very well for themselves at times—but it is a bias that’s hard to get past at the beginning of the game when your tribe is losing challenges. No Collar declared this loud and clear when they almost fully excluded Nina from the Immunity Challenge, sending her ahead to navigate a tricky portion of the obstacle course when there was really no reason she couldn’t run it with the rest of the tribe, and help them keep the water in their bucket in the process. It was a gamble by No Collar (and more specifically by Joe, who is the clear leader of the tribe right now) that absolutely didn’t pay off, a fact that Jeff Probst gleefully reminded them of repeatedly throughout the challenge itself. Their certainty that not even letting Nina try was preferable to having her on their team was a clear red flag she wasn’t long for the game, both to her and to viewers.
The final nail in the coffin for Nina might not have been her deafness, or her performance in challenges—as her fellow tribe mates pointed out, Will struggled two weeks in a row himself—but the simple fact that her personality just didn’t mesh with the game or with her tribe. Nina felt like an outsider because as an older woman on a tribe of young adults, she was an outsider. Outside the game, the thing that excludes her is her deafness, so it’s almost like it never occurred to her that there could be other factors at play here. (And, granted, her deafness was certainly a factor here as well, just maybe not as large of one as she realized.) As an outsider in her tribe, she refused to not be a quiet outsider, letting her team know that she felt excluded and asking them to be more inclusive, which only made them feel more uncomfortable. And yet, the issue of her being an older woman never came up, like the awkward old elephant in the room. At Tribal Council, when Nina was calling out her tribe for not including her because she was deaf and then her tribe reacting that this definitely wasn’t the case, I was sure her age would come up from someone. But not even Jeff Probst brought it up, leaving her to be voted out without the subtext ever becoming text; yet another older woman a casualty of a too-young tribe. Nina was never going to win this game—she didn’t have the temperament for the stress of the social game, and she wasn’t great at making and maintaining relationships—but it’s always frustrating when the game dynamics are so darn predictable.
Outside of the No Collar tribe, things were generally an unpleasant mess. The whole first half hour of the show was people being unpleasant to other people for various stupid reasons, from Joaquin and Tyler’s displeasure with Shirin’s oddball behavior (okay, the monkey sex description was odd) to Blue Collar’s revolt against Mike for him constantly asking them to do work. In Blue Collar’s case it was decidedly more unpleasant, as Rodney’s reaction to Mike’s requests turn into an angry tirade completely disproportionate to Mike’s initial requests. This evolves into a highly uncomfortable conversation between Mike and Lindsey where each accuse each other of not saying “thank you” enough, or something, and it’s a circular, boring bit of nonsense. All we need to know is that Mike (and to a lesser extent, Dan) are certainly on the outs with their tribe, should Blue Collar’s number get punched next week. I don’t care who from that tribe goes home, as long as it causes them all to shut the hell up about the damn chores.
- If surfing is number three, what do you think Hali’s number one and two passions in life are?
- I don’t understand the point of everyone eating the tiny lizard. Just to say they ate a lizard? There isn’t much actual nutritional value being gained there.
- Between Joe’s vote plan last week and his Nina plan this week, his “plans” aren’t turning out very well. At least he still has that hair going for him, I guess.
- Shirin’s monkey sex obsession was truly strange. Go beyond a passing mention to your tribe and you just look weird, lady.
- Of all the White Collar players we’ve seen so far, Tyler seems to be in the best position and playing the most long-term game. Very curious to see how he does going forward.
- Carolyn, if you secretly have the idol and everyone is out looking for the idol you have, go with them.