Thursday, September 22, 2016

Survivor Season 33 - Millennials v. Gen X - Episode One Recap

Usually when Survivor comes up with a tribe division based on some overriding quality, I can easily plug myself in.  I'm a white collar brain, I'm a nerdy superfan.  Not this year.  As a Baby Boomer, I get to sit back and watch those young whippersnappers, those MTV-watching, latchkey, slacker Gen Xers who separated themselves along the eyeliner/flannel divide have to deal with the reality that they're not young anymore.  Their time has passed.  They're yesterday's news.  And now a whole new group of Vine-obsessed, Snap Chatting, quinoa-eating, entitled Millennials are here to stake their claim.  In this culture war, I take no sides.  I'm just here to observe.

Season 33's conceit of the great generational divide gets a lot of support early on from the castaways.  Proud Millennial Taylor Stocker tells us that despite his young age, he's had much life experience.  He's been to North Dakota!  Scratch that off his bucket list.  If the Survivor producers wanted to give him the Debbie Wanner edit, they could change his chyron every appearance.  Bee Keeper.  Beer Brewer.  Snowboard instructor.  Midwest traveler!  He calls himself a Peter Pan who will never grow up and if he can get away with it, good for him.  He should be allowed to rock that silly hairstyle as long as he wants.

Mari Takahashi echoes Taylor's forever young sentiment.  A professional video gamer, she plans to never grow up - which certainly seems like an early candidate for words that will come back to bite her, not in the game but probably in her forties. She tells us that she wants to spend her entire life playing and I'm thinking maybe she took that board game too seriously when she was younger.  But she gives us the first "I'm going to win" confessional which means she is another Richard Hatch, accurately predicting the outcome, or another delusional player giving a soon to be ironic soundbite,

Immediate fan favorite, Zeke Smith, is dressed like he was blindfolded, dropped in a dumpster outside a Hawaiian-themed restaurant, and grabbed whatever he could find to wear.  He is 28 but does not go full metal Millennial.  He tells us he's a middle aged man trapped in a doughy twenty-something body and is not quite sure where he belongs.  On my TV, Zeke, for the next thirteen weeks.

Chris Hammons has two strikes against him. He's an attorney, and no attorney has won Survivor.  And he's a ginger whose lack of melanin means he'll probably burst into flames early on.  But at least his tribe will have fire!  He talks about being in the "older" group but as he's young enough to be my son, I don't hear anything he says after the word "older."  I was in law school when you were born, Chris.  Don't tell me about old.

Sandy Burquest is auditioning for Fargo Season 3 dontcha know with that cute Minnesota accent of hers (okay, unlike Taylor I don't travel the middle of America so I don't know that much about its geography, but I'm pretty sure N. Dakota and Minnesota are right next door).  She is the mom of four and as a mom of two I salute her and hope she wins and then is invited back so she can spend another 39 days away from having to feed and clean up after that brood.

David Wright is a pale, nebbishy, weak guy with zero survival skills, crippling anxiety and a fear of just about everything.  On his People blog, Stephen Fishbach called him his Dopplenerder and I don't think I can outdo that description.  Cirie Field would call him a wuss.  His idea of a nature walk is the Organic aisle at Pavillions.   He hasn't had a backpack since high school. He says it took him 14 years as an assistant to finally get a writing job and it's probably because he spent all that time curled up in the corner trying to keep all the bad things away.  David, whoever signed you up for Survivor has a sick sense of humor.

18-year-old high school senior (that is not a typo) Will Wahl is excited about the generational war and says may the best generation win.  He's 18, so he doesn't yet know that the best doesn't always win.  Didn't he watch Season 32? (I kid, Michelle. But really, Michelle??).  The castaways are shocked to have a high school student on the show but not as shocked as the teacher who gave him the hall pass two months ago.

Where's the oldest Gen Xer?
On the other end of the spectrum we have Paul Wachter the elder statesman at 52.  He drags out all the stereotypes about Millennials in his comparison of the two groups.  We never got a trophy just for playing, we didn't have iPods, there weren't apps for everything, and no drones were delivering milk.  I have yet to see a milk-delivering drone, so I am clearly missing out on one of the coolest dairy product delivery systems created since the teat.

CeCe Taylor makes a lot of friends over at the other tribe by insulting them with how they don't work for what they have and that everything is handed to them and the looks on the faces of the younger tribe can be summed up with a simple, "oh no she did not just say that."  Each Millennial was thinking of the perfect eye rolling GIF they would tweet her if only they were in the real world right now.  If CeCe wants to make it post-merge she is going to now have to work doubly hard because she is on the Millennial's radar.  Did someone forget to tell her that the tribe divisions weren't for the full game?

Adam Klein gets off to a great start with Jeff.  Jeff points to him and says "Adam," and he replies with a Cochran-esque "Probst" and we all fall just a little in love.  Jeff, already on the hunt for this season's bromance, might have found his soulmate.  Adam throws it down by promising that the Millennials will win the first challenge and show those old fogeys who knows how to work hard.  It's a risky prediction that could come back to bite him, but just from sizing up the two tribes unless it's a program a VCR task, the Gen Xers are probably not going to win.

But before they compete, each team runs to grab supplies for their camp and they have some decisions to make (fishing gear v. chickens, a hammer v. pots and pans).  Amid the chaos, Jessica Lewis, a 37-year-old district attorney, finds a note.  She wisely pockets it and goes on gathering items.  Jeff makes a big deal about the Gen Xers picking fishing gear versus the Millennials taking the chickens.  Paul says the decision was about the long haul, planning for 39 days.  Taylor had a better reason for choosing the chickens.  "They lay eggs, Jeff."  I bet he learned that in his travels to North Dakota.

Jeff gives both tribes some sobering news about an upcoming storm before he sends them on their way to fend for themselves in the elements while he goes back to his comfy climate controlled haven.

Mari has about a dozen confessionals about how awesome the Millennials are and it seems unfair that she gets to do here on the island what she does on the outside - talk to the camera about a game.  Why don't they bring in some criminals for Jessica to prosecute while they're there?  How about letting Michelle pour someone a coffee?

Taylor has found his brochacho.  Jay Starrett, a real estate agent from Florida.  They have a brotastic bromance the two broennials.  They talk about which of them is the hottest and which of the two girls - Figgy Figueroa and Michelle Schubert - is the cutest and how totally rad it would be if the four of them were like you know a thing which would be for real so awesome.  And so three of the four come up with a cute name for themselves, the three bromigos or something, and ignore that three or even four out of 10 is not what you should be looking for.  Great for batting averages, not great for making past a jury vote.

Meanwhile, Zeke, my spirit animal, the light of my life, the cream in my coffee, the salt in my stew (yes, the last two are actual song lyrics.  That Silent Generation sure knew how to write!) is telling us how he really doesn't fit in on his tribe and feels like the crotchety old guy yelling at those youngsters to get off his lawn.

Paul takes his role as the real crotchety old guy by bringing the tribe together to give a speech, which is going great until Ken McNickle decides to grab the mic away and give his old speech.  For a chill, off the grid, go with the flow guy that was a little cold.  Ken goes on to discuss his alternative living arrangements in the jungles of....Maui.  He's picked up survival skills by braving the harsh unforgiving and wildly popular vacation destination.  But he has pretty eyes, so we'll give him a pass.

Jessica wisely gives herself time to go off and read the clue she picked up earlier when everyone was scrambling to grab supplies and it's a Survivor first.  The Legacy Advantage (sounds like something my financial planner might suggest).  Whoever holds the advantage on day 36 will have an advantage in the game.  If she is voted off before day 36, she can hand it over to someone else.  Now we (and she) don't know any more specifics, all we can hope is that it won't be this year's Medallion of Power.  It's great that they're shaking things up, but an advantage with three days to go in the game seems pretty lopsided.

I'm getting mixed messages from Figgy.  Do you want me to think that you're a pretty face?  If so, stop making ugly faces with the cameraman two feet from you.  But I don't think that's what you want since in every preseason interview you dropped in that you didn't want to be another pretty face.  Beauty fades, but being annoying is forever, so you have that to look forward to.  Figgy is hoping to go the Amber route and find a husband and a million dollars, but just as Brett the Boston cop is no Rob Mariano, you are no Amber Brkich.

Now, I would give Jay credit for mentioning that if he, Figgy and Jay are a tight three they still need three more (giving them what we like to call a majority), but I would then have to take the points right back from him for never actually going to any of the others outside his core beautiful people alliance to have them join up.  They bring in Michelle but that's it, leaving six normal looking humans on the outside of the people who would have chosen ANTM instead had it not been canceled.  We could be in for some old fashioned Survivor showmances as Figgy likes Taylor's dreamy blue eyes and Jay thinks Michelle is super hot and suddenly this has the makings of a new CW show, The Triforce Diaries.

Hannah Shapiro is already writing her next blog while she's on the island, pointing out the emergency of the Kappa Kappa Survivor gang of gorgeousness.  Now, Hannah is a cute if bookish nerdy girl but the beauty sub-tribe would make anyone feel insecure.  But rather than let any insecurity get the best of her she's taken a page out of her former professor Max Dawson's Survivor rule book (subtitled: Do as I say, not as I did!) and is trying her best to bond with the group she doesn't feel part of.   Keep an eye on that one!

Shelter building is often the first place where a survivor can make a bad game move.   Being too bossy, too demanding is bad.   Not helping, not showing your value is also bad.  You have to find that sweet spot of working hard (or appearing to be working hard) and not barking orders.   Paul and Rachel Ako immediately butt heads over how deep to build a hole.  If you're playing a game for a million dollars, you shouldn't fight over the depth of a hole.  And you shouldn't tell a grown man that he doesn't like to work, especially when he's made a point of how he's on the old hard working people tribe.  You don't tell the old guy that you have to keep him focused. Basically, if you're playing a game for a million dollars do the exact opposite of everything Rachel does this episode.   Too late to say spoiler alert??

David also has his own problem with oversharing.  But in his case, it's not to tear down someone else but to bring self-deprecation to a new height.  He goes way out of his way to tell his tribemates just how bad he is at any and all things that would help them as a tribe.  Not since Prissy famously cried, "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies" in Gone With the Wind has any character so loudly proclaimed just how useless they are for the job at hand.  This is 2016, nor 1816, most people don't have any experience building a shelter, Dave.  The standing and nodding part was good, the volunteering that piece of useless information, not so much.  David then doubles down on putting an "easy target, first boot" sign on his ass by wincing and covering his ears when the men folk get down to the actual shelter building.  But he'll redeem himself later, we all assumed, as he flies through the inevitable puzzle during the immunity challenge.  Let's put a pin in that.

With his game on shaky ground, David then goes full paranoia mode by claiming that part of his team has already found the hidden immunity idol.  He's driving his teammates crazy, but Chris hints at David's secret weapon.  He's funny and he's charming.  This is why there aren't a lot of buff, ridiculously handsome comedians.  David has to hope that on the scale, the funny charming is outweighing the paranoid and unhelpful.

Back over with the young uns, Adam is the sober voice of reason, noting the impending storm and wanting to make sure they're prepared.  Building a shelter should be a priority he thinks, but Millennials just want to have fun, so his tribemates all go off to frolic in the ocean while she stands on shore with Mari, the old married couple who can't control their rambunctious kids.  Adam sounds like a Gen Xer and seems pretty concerned that he's with the Veruca Salt "I want it now" group.

Just a little rain.

So that little wind and cloudy sky turns into a rain, which turns into thunder and lightning, which turns into a monsoon with turns into a long night of regret over not having build a shelter and instead playing in the ocean like a bunch of Millennials.  But guess what, the next morning we find out that the Gen Xers didn't do any better and they too had a long freezing cold and very wet night.  CeCe is in pretty good spirits all things considered and if she can go through a night like that with such a positive attitude, I may have to move her up my standings.

The new day brings news of two things that have never happened - Jeff shows pity of the tribes and sends them each a tarp and whoever wrote the note that accompanied the tarp eschewed the usual poetry format.  This must have been serious if they didn't take the time to find a rhyme for thunder.

Our first confessional with Michaela Bradshaw shows her to be a Survivor fan as she recognizes that if Jeff just hands you a tarp and doesn't make you run through a rope course, jump over a wall, dig through thirty feet of sand and put together a 3D puzzle first, something is seriously wrong.  Despite both team's greatest efforts, the meager stick and palm frond shelters, even with the emergency tarp, are not going to protect them from what Mother Nature has in store.  And so in comes "Jeff Probst" (as Zeke calls him as if there were another Jeff around) to tell the tribes that the weather has been upgraded to a cyclone and so they are getting the hell out of Dodge.

It's a Survivor first!  Obviously, either the weather is the worst they've ever faced or they have a new insurance adjuster/legal team who is wary of getting sued when a falling tree impales one of the castaways.  Anyone who is a fan of the show knows that they are now part of Survivor history in a good way, not in an Erik Reichenbach hand your immunity idol over and then get voted out way.

Using footage from The Perfect Storm lest we lose any camera operator (seriously, why did they leave some behind to film, who drew that short straw??) we see the castaways evacuate before the torrential downpour comes to wreak havoc on their modest shelters.  The sky opens and dumps down on them with enough water to solve the California drought and it is not surprising the next day when they find out they would have been flattened like a baking soda-less pancake has they not been evacuated.

Okay, David, I'm sorry I said you blew your chance at the game with your obvious weakness, your unbridled paranoia and your unrelenting fear of absolutely everything.  You see the words coming out of your mouth and you can't stop them from flowing.  I get it.  I also get the existential angst.  But you have to pull yourself together.  This is your shot to play the game you love.  I'll give you one weepy confessional but then get back out there and play the game!  But, wait, don't play it so hard and so openly.  David goes out waving a flag that says follow me to find an idol and starts very obviously searching around camp for salvation which only increases the target on his back three fold. If he isn't gone next, this will be one hell of a redemption arc.  Because right now he's a candidate for the suckiest survivor ever.

While David is wallowing in his insecurities, Zeke instead is overcoming his.  He is by his own words rising to his potential and my love for him grows exponentially.  He made fire without flint, dude.  This is what you hope to see on the show, someone who tests their limits, who puts themselves in an awkward, unfamiliar position and surprises themselves with what they can do.  We have the "no participation trophy for us" Gen Xer who can't get his act together, and the "que sera, sera" Millennial who pushes himself to do something outside his comfort zone.  And you start to think, maybe these generational constructs are pretty arbitrary.

Hannah pulls in Mari and starts to create a Freaks and Geeks narrative with the awkward turtles banding together to overtake the beautiful swans.  She's lucky that the gorgeous Mari considers herself a geek gamer.  She works on Adam and Michaela - also both very attractive but still feeling on the outs of the four person alliance - and convinces them to let their freak and geek flags fly and take down Regina George (Figgy) and her minions.

The immunity challenge has a nice twist where you have a choice to make at two places along the course.  If you choose a shortcut then the puzzle at the end becomes harder.  It does not go unnoticed that the "work hard" Gen Xers take two of the shortcuts, the Millennials only one.  The puzzle at the end, as it usually does, allows someone to shine while others become the goats.  In this case, it's Figgy and Michelle who bask in glory while it is Rachel who takes the brunt of the loss even though she was not the only one on the puzzle and rather than insisting she do it (as she is later blamed for) she volunteered only after no one else wanted to.

So Millennials beat the "old people" (including someone two years older than their older member) and it's the Gen Xers who are first at tribal council.  David of course looks like the obvious one.  He was there at the puzzle, in fact he was the first to volunteer.  He swapped out when it was clear that he hadn't a clue where to put any piece.  And he's as paranoid as a tin fold hat wearing 9/11 truther.  And he's as useless as Jeff Probt's white shirts.  Plus his tribemates think he found the hidden immunity idol.  The one smart thing David does is tell them that he absolutely does not have the idol and that if they spare him he will forever be in their debt and will be the most loyal person in the history of Survivor.

As questionable as David's game is, it's the Tony Vlachos of games when compared to Rachel.  She sees a bunch of people talking, knows that an alliance "is forming," yet does nothing to confront them, infiltrate them, work with them or even just talk to them.   She and CeCe build a solid two person alliance which she somehow thinks will protect her in a tribe of ten people.  But other than that, Rachel stays far away from the discussion about who is tonight's target, doesn't strategize with anyone besides CeCe and does not capitalize on the fact that David has done a lot wrong these first four days.

At tribal, Jeff says David's name and he jumps out of his skin.  The whole tribe jokes about how he's afraid of his own shadow and Jeff gets the vibe that maybe he'd be happier out of the game and into a nice warm (but not too hot) bath.  But David fights back.  He wants to stay in the game, he tells everyone.  And in the biggest understatement of the episode, he admits that "my biggest enemy is myself."  David is a friendly, funny, trustworthy guy.  The only thing that will ruin things for him is his own insecurities.  And so he makes a plea to stay and have the chance to stop the self-sabotage.

Who is not going home tonight?
Everyone is worried they could be on the chopping block.  Rachel realizes that she can be a bit confrontational and promises that she'll reel in back in if she stays.  Probably something she should have discussed with the tribe before sitting around the fire minutes from the vote.  To no one's surprise, Rachel is the first person evicted from Survivor 33.  The recruiting director from LA was probably recruited to be on the show and was not prepared for how quickly you need to get your bearing.  Before she knew it, her game was already over.

Want more from Rachel?
Interview with Josh Wigler/Parade.
Interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Interview with RealityTV World.
Interview with GoldDerby.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 7 Recap: At the Codfish Ball

And down goes Bluto.  While Sally Draper talks on the phone to her friend Glen, complaining about her evil step-grandmother, the telephone cord (remember those?) causes the old woman to take quite a tumble.  Of course, Sally lets the blame fall elsewhere and becomes the hero who saves the day.  But with Pauline out of commission and Betty and Henry gone for the weekend, this lands Sally over at her Dad's for the weekend.  That ultimately leads her to fall headfirst into adulthood as she experiences things way above her pay grade.  She dresses up to join the grownups at a big fancy dinner only to discover the adults around her acting like irresponsible children. And we're left wishing Sally could have stayed an innocent child just a little bit longer.

At the Draper residence, Megan's parents are in town for the weekend.  They bring baggage both literal and figurative and pull out some dirty laundry to shake out in front of their daughter and her new husband.  The Calvets are not happy and their favorite activity to do as a couple is snipe at one another which is what they proceed to do within seconds of settling down in the Draper's "exquisitely decadent" apartment.  Dr. Calvet is particularly adept at managing to appear to be self-effacing while his actual target is his wife.  But then he doesn't reserve his condescending dismissiveness just on his wife, mocking the Drapers' wealth and extravagance.

While this married couple play out their version of George and Martha, Roger Sterling and his ex-wife Mona are getting along famously.  Roger is a changed man since he dropped both acid and his young bride and Mona likes the more mellow and self-aware person she sees beaming with happiness before her.  He comes to Mona asking for a favor and he is so honest and straightforward that she's captivated.  Plus, he does still support her so any success for Roger is a success for Mona. So she agrees to help him find out what potential clients may be ripe for the picking.

News that Pauline has injured herself and that Sally and Bobby will soon be visiting is a welcome relief from the marital battle at Chez Draper.  While Don is picking up the children, Emile turns his attention from Marie to criticizing the Draper's wealth and Don's attempts to seem high class.  The constant derision appears to much for Marie who excuses herself from the table no sooner than the children start in on their heaping plates of spaghetti.

Later that night, Megan sees the dynamics of her parents' marriage a bit differently.  She sees her mother as jealous of her - she's Emile's favorite - and notices that the jealousy manifests in her flirting with Don.  Don is oblivious, but then when you look like that you're probably pretty used to stray women flinging themselves at you.

Peggy is still seeing Abe and he's trying his best to work himself into her busy schedule, sharing lunch with her and her coworkers.  But Abe wants more.  When he suggests a special dinner during the week, Peggy knows something is up.  She thinks he's ready to break up with her - Stan did mention that Abe was too good-looking for her after all - but Joan suggests that maybe he's going to propose.  So Peggy takes Joan's advice, goes out an gets a fancy new dress for this special occassion.  And Abe does pop the question.  Will you...shack up with me.  This is not the proposal that the good Catholic girl was expecting, but that girl probably wouldn't be having sex out of wedlock with a Jewish guy so maybe she'll say yes.  Joan certainly makes her feel better by letting her know that it is a beautiful statement that Abe wants to spend more time with her.

Heinz has not been an easy client to please and the team is scrambling to make a new presentation that can keep the bean account.  Megan has an epiphany - a way to sell beans as a family tradition passed down through the ages.  Everyone loves the idea, even Stan who has to scrap all his work to provide artwork for the new pitch.  At dinner with the Heinz exec and his wife, however, there are some signs that it may be too late to keep the client as Raymond lets slip that he and his wife Alice have been in town for a few days.   

Don had planned on doing a formal presentation back at the office the next day, but Megan's intel from Alice that Heinz will be going with another agency forces their hand.  Megan whispers to Don that they're about to be fired and you see his wheels turn as he tries to figure out a way to keep Raymond at the table.  Megan adjusts on the fly and starts to direct the conversation towards the pitch.  And Don clicks into gear and starts doing what Don does - weaving a story full of familial love and bonding.  Over beans.  This resonates with the Heinz exec who thinks that everyone should feel as deeply about the little legumes as he does.  And Don assures the pitch's success by letting the client believe that he came up with something they hadn't thought of before (casting the same mother and child). 

Don is getting an award from the Cancer Society for his open letter against the evil tobacco industry and will be accompanied by his wife, her parents, and Sally, who ends up becoming Roger's de facto date to the dinner.  Sally looks beautiful all grown up in her Nancy Sinatra boots and sparkly modern dress, but Don is not ready for his little girl to be a woman quite yet (especially not after Emile's unfortunate malapropism).

At the dinner, Roger engages Sally as his date and co-conspirator for the evening as he tries to go to work on networking.  Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove are also there to swoop around for potential new clients.  Pete has an interesting moment with Emile Calvet when the good doctor (*PhD) tries to belittle him, asking what exactly an account manager does.  But Pete gets the upper hand as he schmoozes the hell out of Emile, buttering him up and playing to his wounded ego's need for reassurance, and after the French Canadian is fully puffed out Pete tells him - that's what I do.  Ouch.

Over at Peggy's place, her mother has come over (and brough cake) to hear the big announcement.  But Katherine, who we've seen as a good practicing Catholic with the local priest a frequent dinner guest does not want to hear that it's 1967 not 1947 or that all the kids are doing it.  Her daughter is not living in sin.  So she takes her celebration cake and goes.  But not before dealing out what she considers to be some hard truths.  Peggy, she tells her, is selling herself short.  Abe may not want to marry you but he will marry someone and start a family with them and it won't be you.  You think Katherine is being old-fashioned and unsupportive, but you later realize she's being protective.  Peggy is a grown woman, but to Katherine she's still her daughter and she needs someone to look after her and make sure she doesn't get hurt.

At the dinner, Emile is looking at Roger like he's a perfectly cooked steak and she has just come to the end of a long meatless Lent.  She laughs at all his jokes and notices when he moves around the room.  Emile, her husband, is invisible to her.  Not only has she been watching Roger all night, turns out he has noticed her as well.  They have a brief conversation about life and decisions, ambition and mistakes and next thing they know they're off in a secret corner and Marie is playing Aloutte on Roger's flute.  Or something like that.  At least that's the story Roger will try and sell poor unsuspecting Sally when she walks in on the two of them.

But before that, give Emile credit for being the first one in her orbit to notice that Megan is not deliriously happy with all her Heinz success, her fancy apartment and her dashing husband.  There is some emptiness in Megan that he sees.  He scolds her for giving up on her passion, for trading it for the Capitalist symbols of success.  She argues with him, but his words hit a nerve and speak to something that's been gnawing at her.  She may be very good at what she is doing, but isn't not making her feel very good.  Something is clearly missing.

Sally has a shocking experience when she walks in on Marie pleasuring Roger and her father has his own shock when Ken Cosgove's father spills some true on him while a bit inebriated.  The Cancer Society Board and all these big executives may love Don's work and shower him with praise, but they don't trust him, can never trust him, and will never hire him.  Don turned on his biggest client, they all saw it.  That's why they're there.  How can they not worry he'd do the same to them?  Don may be an advertising genius, but he's also poison.  So enjoy that award, Don.


Emile:  My daughter pretends to find interesting what I find interesting because she loves me.

Emile:  I see she's convinced you that she's particular.  I'm the proof she is not.

Roger:  My whole life, people have been telling me I don't understand how other people think.
And it turns out it's true.

Mona:  I thought you married Jane because I had gotten old.  And then I realized it was because you had.

Stan: Well, it's not fair that just because you're a boob-carrying consumer that your opinion means more.

Megan:  I think I have an idea.  It might be really good.  But it might be terrible.
Don:  Well, you've established a firm bed of insecurity.

Roger:  We are being lowered in a bucket into a gold mine.  I'm gonna bring my pick and crack something off the wall.

Roger:  Who knows why people in history did good things? For all we know, Jesus was trying to get the loaves and fishes account.

Marie: Every daughter should get to see her father as a success.

Marie: You seem like you were born in a bow tie.
Roger:  I didn't tie that one either.

Emile:  Don, there is nothing you can do.  No matter what, one day your little girl will spread her legs and fly away.

Katherine:  I need my cake.
Peggy:  Why?
Katherine:  Because I'm not giving you a cake to celebrate youse living in sin.

Peggy:   You want me to be alone?
Katherine:  You know what your aunt used to say? You're lonely, get a cat.


Emile tells Don "My daughter pretends to find interesting what I find interesting because she loves me."  What Don doesn't know is that is what Megan is doing for him as well.  She's not in love with advertising and it's not her passion but she pretends because it is Don's passion and it means so much to him.

Don is reading "The Fixer" by Bernard Malamud.  According to Wikipedia, the book "provides a fictionalized version of the Beilis case. Menahem Mendel Beilis was a Jew unjustly imprisoned in Tsarist Russia. The 'Beilis trial' of 1913 caused an international uproar and Russia backed down in the face of world indignation."  Megan jokes to Don that her father won't mind finding out he reads James Bond, but this reflects Don's possible insecurity especially when dealing with a erudite scholar like Megan's father.  Don may be rich and sophisticated now, but down inside there is still lurking the country bumpkin who used an outhouse.

"At the Codfish Ball" was a song and dance routine made famous by Shirley Temple in her movie "Captain January" in 1936.  Apparently, there was nothing at all weird or creepy about a bunch of grown men standing around as a little elementary school girl sashayed and swiveled her hips around.  Temple's dance partner was pre-Jed Clampett Buddy Epsen and their twenty-five year age difference was not meant to arouse any concern as they performed together.  The parallel between their pairing and that of Sally and Roger is clear (if they age gap much, much larger) and we see Sally the young girl being caught up in very grown up activities that the adults should be sheltering her from.  Stolen childhoods and misbehavior by the adults who should know better are strongly paralleled.

Don doesn't mind carrying the bags and doesn't see the need to bother the doorman, perhaps harkening back to his rural, no-frills roots.  Dr. Calvet seems much more to the manor born than Don and is more comfortable with being waited on.  For all his money, there is still part of Don that is the poor, humble farmer's son who was taught not to take any help.

The theme of children growing up too soon comes forward in Michael Ginsburg's discussion of how to market Playtex bras.  Peggy's approach, he says, is to sell sexy bras to old ladies whereas he believes that they should target young girls who are in a hurry to grow up.

In the Heinz pitch at dinner, the back and forth between Don and Megan is pretty erotic.  She's feeding him lines he's in her head and they're communicating on a nearly subatomic level.  She pretends the idea was Don's, inspired by her domesticity.  He accepts the credit but feels guilty enough to try and let Megan take some credit for at least a part of the idea. It's a pretty sexy scene between the two of them, not unexpectedly leading to a little make out session in the back of the taxi that leads, we imagine, to a longer one back at the office.

The next day everyone is celebrating, but Megan is fairly muted.  Peggy, whose account this was and who was fired for not making Raymond happy, is overjoyed for her, yet Megan can barely muster a toothy smile.  Why is she not ecstatic over this, why is she having trouble accepting praise and feeling celebratory?

Notice how Peggy's mom greets Abe with the formal "Abraham" and seems surprised when he tells her that ham is his favorite.  You get the feeling she's still processing her daughter having a Jewish boyfriend.  Not surprising then that her reaction to their big news is about as ebullient as Megan's reaction to landing Heinz.  But it's not his being Jewish that's the problem, it's his not putting a ring on it.  She's dealt with Peggy's unwanted pregnancy, her being a "career girl," and her dating outside of the faith.  But shacking up is a bridge too far.

When Bobby and Sally arrive at their Dad's place, Bobby tells Megan that Sally doesn't like fish.  Megan realized this so she made a different dinner for the kids.  But at the American Cancer Society dinner, Sally showed that she was dabbling with becoming a grown up and tasted the fish.  She wasn't immediately repelled and, as it turned out, it wasn't her worst experience with adulthood that night.  

The episode was bookended with two phone calls between Sally and Glen.  Glen is only a couple of years older than Sally, but he's always been the more mature one.  She was the wide-eyed innocent to his jaded adolescent.  But with what she perceived as Roger's betrayal (and seeing her step-grandmother in that position) she's now as world-weary as Glen.

Spoilers - Don't read until you're all caught up.

Stan tells Peggy that Abe is too good-looking for her.  Typically joking around for the two work buddies.  But, a few years hence, Stan decides he's the right one for her after all.

Of course, Emile was right.  Being a copywriter was not Megan's passion.  She came to New York to be an actress and she was determined to make that dream come true.  So she eventually tells Don that she is going to pursue her passion, despite her natural gifts as an ad woman.  She had some middling success in New York, getting cast on a soap opera, but when she moved to Los Angeles she can't get arrested.

Marie is flirting with Don and she later flirts - and more - with Roger.  We see this as a sign of her unhappiness in her marriage, perhaps also her reaction to growing older and losing her looks.  But no one could have predicted then that she would ultimately find love and happiness with Roger!  Two old coots who lamented their lost years and lost youth coming together in the end to find the person they were always meant to be with.

Learning that practically no one wants to work with Don hits him hard, understandably.  That plus Megan's decision to quit working with him makes him go down a very dark, very deep hole from here on out with various levels of success and failure.  He almost completely bottoms out before rallying.  But Don will be battling the demon he created with "the letter" for years to come.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong, Episode 6: Disbanding the Brain Trust

Anyone with a perfunctory understanding of reality TV narratives knew that the cocky, arrogant ER doctor who alternately proclaimed himself the smartest in the game and the best positioned was not going to win.  Peter Baggenstos was given the "Pride Goeth before a Fall" edit from day one. But with his former Brains tribe still in the majority, and numbers being crucial pre-merge, he would have to do something pretty dumb to get booted this early.  And he did.  In fact, showing again that the smarts necessary for success in the real world do not necessarily translate to Survivor, the doctor made not one but two strategic blunders that led to him becoming an undateable pre-merge boot.

But first, we come back from the last tribal council at Gondol beach with hugs all around for Tai Trang.  He managed to be more useful and lovable than Anna Khait and that bought him at least three more days in the tribe.  Tai basked in the compliments, especially hearing everyone tell him what a great guy he is.  How many would share that opinion had they known he had the hidden immunity idol and had led Anna to believe he was using it on her?  Tai doesn't have to worry because the only person left who knows about the idol, Scot Pollard, is keeping mum as he plans to use the info down the line.  Tai plans to continue to provide for the tribe with the tacit understanding that if they have to go to tribal again, it will be Julia Sokolowski and not him sent home.

But wait, before the smoke from Anna's snuffed torch has completely faded, Peter is scheming.  He pulls Tai aside and tells him that he's fed up to here with Joe Del Campo who is not pulling his weight and is more ripped that he is (and 40 years older).  That old guy and his six pack has got to go.  It occurs to Peter now, as opposed to, say, before tribal council, that he is the low man on the Brains totem pole and he needs to get rid of one of them before they target him.  Last vote, when Scot, Tai and Anna were scrambling for what to do and who to target, he could have pulled the three together against Joe and Aubry Bracco and picked them off like overripe mangoes.

It's like looking in a mirror
Over on Chan Loh beach, Nick Maiorano just realized he's on Survivor.  It's Day 13.  But, better late than never.  He does have a keen insight into the wonder that is Debbie Wanner and recognizes that what she admires most in others are their intrinsic and extrinsic similarity to her.  So he does his best to be what Debbie believes herself to be which is, among other things, a finely chiseled Greek god.  I'm a little worried about Debbie as the two quotes from her early in the episode are that her main goal is to make the merge (which we assume is next week) and that she can make fire with one match (which possibly hints towards a fire-making challenge).  Hopefully, though, the overwhelmingly loopy, fun, positive edit she's been getting was so strong that the producers decided to throw a few red herrings in there on the way to her ultimate march to victory.

At the reward challenge we have former professional NBA center Scot Pollard in a basket sinking contest against former amateur point guard (and Adonis, according to Debbie) Nick Maiorano.  Putting aside that centers are not that accustomed to shooting from the perimeter and that the buoys into a basket is not exactly the same as basketballs into a hoop and that Scot was not exactly a scoring beast in his NBA days, it looks like Gondol might have the advantage.  This goes from theoretical to actual when their go-to challenge beast Aubry manages to untie and free their buoys about an hour before the hapless Michelle Fitzgerald.  Nick is waiting patiently for his chance to show his moves which watching Scot go out to an early lead.  Eventually, they get their buoys and he makes it a race, but ends up losing in the end.  It was a feast for the reward which I'm sure Julia enjoyed after her two days alone in exile on To Tang beach.

"As long as it's not my name I'm gonna go with it, because I've gotta save myself."  Julia may be young, but she's not naive and she understands the basic rules of Survivor.  So when Peter comes to her after their feast to tell her he's thinking about voting out one of the Brains, she is all in favor.  She could have not gotten better news that the fact that there is a fracture in the main alliance and she may not necessarily be meeting up with Anna in two days.  Peter is pissed at Joe but he also recognizes that Aubry is a threat so he's gunning for both of them.  Or not.  He's spit-balling here, sharing his strategy with the only person lower on the totem pole than he is, trying to formulate a plan by saying everything he's thinking out loud and to the one person with nothing to lose.

Peter makes the fatal mistake of strategizing right under the watchful eyes of Joe and Aubry.  Scheming is not something that endears yourself to your old alliance and Peter is doing it blatantly.  So Aubry starts thinking that he may be more of a liability to the Brains alliance than he is an asset.

Meanwhile, the Chan Loh tribe is trying to forget all about the wonderful feast that they missed out on because Michelle failed to unhook the buoys until the other tribe had an unbeatable lead.  Michelle is worried that if they go to tribal council, she'll be the logical scapegoat/target.  She is consoled by Debbie who manages to be wherever she needs to be at all times and I have no proof that she's not actually a twin.  Debbie tells her (as she previously told Cydney Gillon) that she wants a girl to win and that her target would be Kyle Jason.  Michelle feels pretty good about their talk until Nick wet blankets all over her warning her that Debbie is manipulative and cunning and could be setting Michelle up for failure.

Let the man do all the thinking, little lady.
Michelle is not keen on being told what to think by Nick.  She is a grown woman with her own mind and she does not want to be babysat or handheld by the big strong guy.  Nick tells her not to trust Debbie or Neal and Michelle tells us that she'll do whatever she damn well pleases.  He tells us in his confessional that he has to coach Michelle, that's his job, making sure she's under his wing and says the right things.  And Michelle tells us that she plans to go along, letting him baby her and think he's controlling her, waiting in the wings to pounce at the right time.  I love their close trusting relationship!

Peter is still scheming and scrambling but "retired FBI guy" Joe sees right through it.  In fairness, Stevie Wonder can see right through Peter as he actively chases down everyone who is not Aubry or Joe and tries to pull them into his plan.  Joe wants to get to the bottom of this and he goes all NCIS/CSI on Peter, staring him down and demanding that he tell Joe the truth.  Peter, sadly, does not shout back, You can't handle the truth.  Instead, he stammers, looks like a cornered puppy standing next to an unfortunate puddle, answers questions with questions, hesitates and finally gives a too sincere and ultimately unconvincing denial.  Busted.  Peter knows he's been caught and all he can do now is a few mea culpas as he meekly crawls back into his alliance.  Or help his tribe win the immunity challenge and then he'll never have to worry about this conversation.

But Peter shows he's not only incapable of good game strategy, but also good challenge strategy.  With a twenty foot high tower of blocks to build, he decides not to build from the bottom up, loading the bigger squares first, but from the top down.  (Tai meekly questions, why are we stacking the small ones first, but no one listens).  Not surprisingly, this plan fails and though they were behind for most of the challenge, Chan Loh ends up winning.

Now it's really time to scramble.  Aubry and Joe don't trust Peter and know he's a liability and knows that he tried to turn on them and that he probably will bolt the next chance he has but, like the last vote, they decide to go with the devil they know and stick with him, voting out Julia.  Peter recognizes when he's beat and so he decides to go along with his former tribemates, bury the hatchet, and go with the original plan a - voting out Julia.  Scot comes over to Peter to find out what the plan is and he hears that Peter has abandoned the get rid of Aubry or Joe plan and is back on the voting out Julian bandwagon.

Scot has had enough of Peter's vacillation.  While Aubry and Joe may not be in his alliance, they at least don't tell him one thing one minute and another thing the next.  Peter is untrustworthy and unpredictable and those are not great traits in a tribemate.  So rather than go along with his plan to target Aubry or Joe, Scot talks to Tai and Julia about going after Peter.  Julia, who may be 18 but is pretty smart, recognizes right away that Joe is loyal and not likely to abandon his ally.  So she suggests they target Aubry.  And they have ammunition - Peter did throw her under the bus.  But will she believe them and be willing to take out one of her own.

So I just have one teensy weensy change in our plans.

Scot, Tai and Julia make their pitch to Aubry and she's not thrilled at what she's hearing. It was one thing for Peter to throw Joe's name out there, but a whole different thing when it's her name and her life in the game on the line.  Now she's pissed and now she's rethinking her devil you know strategy.  Why keep someone around only for them to stab you in the back.  Get them out before they can get to you.  So she goes to Joe.  You know how we had that long talk and we decided to let bygones be bygones and welcomed Peter back into the alliance and agreed to vote out Julia.  Yeah, let's forget that.  Let's vote out Peter.  Joe cannot believe what he's hearing and he thinks Aubry has fallen victim to island fever/game paranoia and is no longer in her right mind.  Joe is a loyal guy and he made a deal with Peter and he wants to keep it.  Aubry thinks this might be a huge mistake.  Or not.  It's day 14 or 15, it's volcanically hot, they don't get enough food or sleep and there are all manners of creatures feasting on them.  Give her a break, it's hard to think straight!

And so Aubry and the rest of her tribe go to tribal council with the vote up in the air.  And it's not at all clear what is the right move. More than likely, a tribal merge is coming and going into the merge 5 strong would be good.  But is Peter really Brains-strong or will he bolt the moment after Jeff Probst tells them to drop their buffs?  But if you vote out Peter, you guarantee going to the merge with a 4-4 split between Brains and Beauties, with the 3-member Brawn tribe potentially having the deciding votes.  Has Aubry noticed how close Scot and Tai are, who does she think the Brawn tribe will side with?  But on the other hand, Joe is her closest ally right now and he's asking for her to stay the course.  Does she want to break his trust?

At tribal council, at first, it looks like the vote will be the non-controversial, expected vote as Tai and Scot decide it's easier to go along with the plan to vote out Julia.  If Aubry, Peter and Joe are solid, it would be a 3-3 tie and no one wants that.  But it doesn't take much prodding for Jeff to get everyone talking about the elephant in the room.  Peter's bouncing back and forth beween different factions has brought him unfavorable scrutiny and so the logical vote of Julia is no longer a no-brainer.  You can see the growing recognition sweeping across Peter's face as one by one his tribemates point to his scrambling, his uncertainty, his unreliability as concerning traits going forward.  Meanwhile, Julia can only hope this conversation is having some impact.  And it does as we see Tai mouth something to Scot.

As the conversation continues, the two switch their plan on the spot and decide to go after Peter.  Peter has fallen into the trap that he himself created.  When Jeff asks him if he made the case on why the five should stay tight and vote out their newest member Julia, Peter instead mentioned how that is one way to look at it but that the tribe is more complex than that and there might be some fissures in it.  Peter basically admitted that he was not gung ho about the plan to get rid of Julia and had entertained other discussions.  Scot jumps on this to point out that someone - whose name rhymes with Meter - makes a decision then five minutes later changes his - or her, but really it's his because I'm talking about Peter - mind.

Joe picks up on how the discussion has taken a turn and instead of the farewell Julia show it's suddenly become the outing Peter for being deceitful show.  Joe isn't so sure where the vote is going either.  Meanwhile Tai and Scot have changed their plan and are now conveying the change to a surprised Aubry.  For those who think tribal council is an unnecessary waste of time, that the decisions are all make ahead of time, and that Jeff's questions and the Survivors' answers have no effect, this last minute whispering and rethinking is a big surprise.  On the fly, we're watching peple take in new information and make last minute decisions.  It may not be the optimal way to make a decision that could ultimately cost you a million dollars, but it's better than stubbornly sticking to a plan without giving it any additional thought.  Perhaps.  Time will tell.

Well that didn't go as I planned.
"As long as it's not my name that's written down, I'm cool."  And those are the last words of Peter as his former Brains teammate Aubry does what I don't remember seeing before - writes one name down, then crosses it out and changes her vote.  I'm not sure I love Aubry's play.  It's not that I don't think she should have voted against Peter, it's the uncertainty and seat-of-her-pants redirection that does not look good (and is not a great resume builder). She should have hammered this out with Joe better ahead of time and planned for various outcomes.  Instead, with this vote, she has shown herself not to be a strong ally and to make executive (and potentially rash) that potentially undermine her alliance.  At the merge, I'm not sure how strong the Brains will be after this vote and whether she was more at risk of Peter switching post-merge or of going into the merge down in numbers.  And don't think Julia will forget that her name was written down on that parchment first.

With Aubry's last second change of heart, Peter is the sixth person voted out of Survivor Kaoh Rong.  Peter was doomed from the beginning.  He was too cocky, he overplayed his hand and he was too unwilling to play the social game of Survivor, i.e., pretend to get along with people, pretend not to have to be right all the time, practice humility, and don't make yourself the center of attention.

Want more from Peter?
Peter the day after on CBS
RHAP interview
Josh Wigler/Parade interview
EW interview
SheKnows interview

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong, Episode 5: How Not to Play a Bad Hand

Much was made pre-season of the fact that Anna Khait is a poker player.  This was supposed to give her an advantage over the other players, much as it was supposed to for Jean-Robert Bellande (voted out 8th in Survivor: China) and Garrett Adelstein (vote out 2nd in Survivor: Cagayan).   Anna ended up splitting the difference, voted out 5th her season and further establishing no correlation between poker prowess and Survivor smarts.  But while Jean-Robert and Garrett were most to blame for their boots, Anna was a victim of a poker player's worst enemy - the random deal of a bad hand.  But any poker player will tell you that it's easy to win if you're dealt aces, what sets the greats apart is what they can do when they get, say, 10-2.

Before the swap that ended Anna's run in the game, the Brains tribe is highlighted after having voted out Liz Markham the night before.  Dr. Peter Baggenstos continues to vie for the combined title of most un-self-aware, most narcissistic, and most tonally clueless contestant ever.  He recognizes he's at the bottom of the totem pole, but rather than show any contrition, any humility, he boasts to the camera how he'll play the game and pander to his tribemates.  He just doesn't get it.  Pandering to them is what put him in the position he finds himself.  But he reluctantly lowers himself and offers medical advice to Joe Del Campo whose finger is swelling up like a cantaloupe.  Peter will leverage his life-saving - or in this case, digit-saving - capabilities to make him an asset to the tribe that hates him.

It was not lost on the viewers that the tribe labeled the Brains had still not located their hidden immunity idol after the other two intellectually-challenged tribes had.   So this episode, Neal Gottlieb fixes that by going on a successful idol hunt (motivated by his desire that Peter not find it).  We now have all three idols located, one with Kyle Jason, one with Tai Trang and now one with Neal.  So it's a perfect time for Jeff Probst to utter those famous words - drop your buffs.

This doesn't seem like an even split
Jeff explains that they had planned on going from three tribes down to two at 14 players, but with Caleb Reynolds' unexpected departure last episdoe, they were in an unusual situation where they were splitting at 13.  Now, they could have gone the Solomon way and cut up one of the contestants.  As Tai noted, Scot Pollard is like three Tais, so he could easily have been rationed between the two.  But since the show is shopping this short of actually killing any of its contestants, they instead decide to split up into two groups of six, with one person left out of the two tribes.  That person spends a couple days on the old Brawn tribe beach alone to wallow in misery and loneliness and thirst while everyone else scrambles and strategizes and hydrates.  After one of the two tribes loses the next challenge and votes someone out, that extra person will join the losing tribe and we'll then have an even 6-6 split.

After a random draw this is how the three teams (and let us all bid a fond farewell to the brains, beauty, brawn alliteration) split up:

Chan Lo (blue buffs):

Gondol (yellow buffs)

Lonely girl (red buff for now)

Chan Lo has a 2-2-2 split with no one tribe having an advantage. Gondol has a 3-2-1 with the Brains in the majority.  But within that group is Peter, the outcast, the pariah, the royal pain in the Brains' collective butts who they cannot stand and who resents his teammates and his status among them.  But it is Scot who seems the most in peril.  He is the lone member of the Brawns tribe and at 6'11" a gargantuan physical threat.  As Jeff surveys the new tribes and makes some obvious observations, you can see the survivors all taking in what he is saying and wondering how this all plays out for them.  Chan Lo is all lovey-dovey with a lot of hugging and laughing, but over on Gondol there is more contemplation of what this all means.  And then Jeff talks to Julia Sokolowski about being the lone wolf and she makes a huge blunder.

There is nothing in the Survivor rule book that says you have to speak the truth and you don't have to say anything to put yourself or your allies at a disadvantage.  But Julia does just that, saying that she is concerned about her position in the game - especially if a Beauty is voted out.  Right there she highlighted that whatever you might have wanted to do in the next vote, your only correct, logical, right, safe, and proper decision is to vote out a Beauty.  Only moments after being told the old tribe designations were over and this was a new game, Julia reminded everyone where her loyalties lie and that she would consider the loss of a Beauty member a loss of an ally.  Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.  Dumb.

Who's not dumb is Peter.  He may have absolutely no emotional or interpersonal intelligence, but the guy can do basic math and a 3-2-1 will become a 3-3 if they vote out Scot and Julia comes in.  Worse for the Brains, who currently have the majority, if they target him, when Julia comes in it would be 2-3-1 with the Beauties in the majority.  No matter how much Aubry Bracco may hate him, she has no choice but to agree that voting as a solid block right now is the only logical choice and voting out a Beauty if the only logical move.  Scot, realizing that as the lone Brawn in this new tribe he could easily by the target, is happy to join Peter and Aubry in targeting either Tai or Anna.  Smart move on his part.  There is no reason for him to wheel and deal and try to stir things up.  If it's not him, that's all that should matter right now.

I like your coconuts

Also not dumb is Debbie Wanner.  Loony as all hell, sure.  Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, most definitely.  But she looked at her new tribe and immediately zoned in on Cydney Gillon, recognizing not just her amazing physique but the fact that she's also a very smart cookie.  Cydney, who has only had a small dose of the crazy cat lady, immediately gravitates to Debbie.  This is a dynamic duo and I would love to see them stick together. Debbie tells Cydney that she and Neal are tight and Cydney agrees to get Kyle on board with them.  Debbie also tells Cydney that ultimately she'd like to see a woman win this season and Cydney is a-okay with that plan,

Speaking of a woman winning, Michelle Fitzgerald is devastated that her tight all-girls' alliance has been split up and she hopes she can get the band back together.  But with Julia on a brief exile at the old To Tang camp and Anna in the minority on the other tribe, she's not feeling too good about their prospects.   Debbie, though, is feeling pretty pretty pretty good about her position as the mastermind and the tribe shake up has not at all dimmed her enthusiasm that she is controlling the game.

While Debbie plots and schemes, Tai falls back on charm and talent to further himself in the game.  With a Beauty being the natural next target, Tai has to find a way to be more valuable (or less of a threat) to his new tribe than Anna and he does it by being the warm, lovable provider for the team.  Scot immediately takes a liking to Tai and a new bromance is formed.  Tai and Anna both know what they have to do - it's the old joke about two people being chased by a bear.  You don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to be faster than your friend.  So she directly targets Tai by telling everyone within earshot that he probably likely definitely has the hidden immunity idol and he indirectly targets Anna by being adorable and getting food for the tribe and talking zero strategy.  Let's guess which approach will work better.

Over at Chan Lo, Nick Maiorano is vying with Peter for most delusionally self-aggrandizing and giving the ER doctor a run for his money.  “When it comes to being manipulative, I think I’m the most intelligent person out here,” he boasts.   Nick thinks he's brilliant and charming and conniving and fails to realize that it is Cydney and Kyle who holds all the cards on their tribe.  He also is ignoring the huge threat that Julia poses to his chances as it would take a miracle for his team to keep both Beauties and let them have the majority once she joins up.  But this won't play out as they won't be heading to tribal council tonight.

It's another multi-stage immunity challenge, with a water, land and puzzle component and the only noteworthy thing is that no one died.  Chan Lo won with Neal and Debbie smoking the puzzle at the end, taking down Peter and Anna.  Then the theoretical turned into the realistic as Gondol now had to finally choose between Scot's man crush Tai and the perpetually plotting Anna.  Scot wanted to keep the little guy.  He liked his work ethic, his positivity and how much fun it is to toss him up into the trees.  But the pro-Tai tide came first from an off-handed remark by Peter.

Showing, for the first time, some savviness and, dare I say, good gameplay, he listened as Joe and Aubry presented their decision to vote out Tai and then tactically weighed in with a different opinion.  But he didn't Peter his way about it - showing them how stupid they were, taking control and masterminding everything with pompous glee. No, he subtly mentioned that he'd be okay with voting out the person who provides food for the tribe and never talks strategy and keeping the smart schemer.  He then oh-so-gently suggested that they might go the other way and vote out Anna, but it's okay with him either way.  And you know what, that approach actually worked.  Had he tried to bully them, Joe and Aubry would have immediately closed down.  They might even have rethought their plan to keep him.  But he used tact (something I didn't think he had in his arsenal) and the power of suggestion to get them on his side.

While Peter was working to get Tai to stay, Tai was targeting Peter.  Recognizing that either he or Anna were on the chopping block, he thought of a way to get rid of Peter.  He could play his idol and voila, one less Brain.  So he tells Anna and Scot that he has the idol and that he's going to play it at tribal.  Anna was down with the plan, of course, and Scot liked it as well. Because even after one day with Peter it was impossible for his new tribemates not to fall in loathe with him as quickly as his old tribemates had.  He wears his arrogance with all the subtly that Donald Trump styles his hair.  So, bye bye Peter.

Say hello to my little friend.
Not so fast.  Just as Anna was gleefully telling us that she loves blindsides and hidden immunity idols especially when they're played to get rid of someone other than herself, there was a change in plans.  Aubry told Scot that the new target was Anna, not Tai.  This got Scot thinking.  Let's pause for a moment.  Scot has voted in three of the four tribal councils this season and his votes have not always made the most sense.  In fact, he's often been at odds with his own alliance.  So seeing him thinking so strategically was a bit of a shock.  But when it came to his attention that Tai would not be the traget, he got to thinking.  If Tai stays, with an idol, then he, Scot, knows where two of the idols are in the game.  One with his new broski Tai, the other with his former BFF Kyle.  He would be sitting pretty.  So he did not want Tai to play his idol, even if it would get rid of the smarmy conceited doctor.

What I like about Tai's game is that he doesn't immediately decide which way to go.  He weighs his options - the risk of not playing the idol and getting voted out holding it, the benefit of using it o Anna to blindside Peter, the chance to escape tribal council safely with his idol intact - and decides to take it to tribal council and get a feel for what is going on while he's there.  He handles tribal council beautifully, telling his tribe how he wants to be straight forward to them while lying to their faces about not having the hidden immunity idol.  He also tosses in how he would love to continue to provide them food if they decide to keep him around.  It's a pretty brilliant pitch and would make me very nervous about going to final tribal council with this guy.

Conversely, whatever kudos I gave to Peter for handling Aubry and Joe earlier in the day I want to take away for his abysmal performance at tribal council.  Having learned nothing from his last trip there, he continues to go on about how unconcerned he is about the vote and what a position of power he is in and how he could not be in a better spot, blah blah blah. He is tempting the Survivor gods once again and he escapes again by the skin of his gleaming teeth only because Scot had other plans.  Peter had no clue he was one idol away from having his torch snuffed.

But you just lit it, Jeff!

Alas, it is the poker beauty whose torch is snuffed just moments after it was lit for the first time.  Could she have strategized better, should she have told the Brains that Tai had the idol, was she too trusting of Tai?  Tai comes off so genuine, so friendly, that it's hard to see him as a calculating game player, but as a poker player it was Anna's job to see through the ruse and read her opponent better.   Not only did she not see him for the dangerous competitor he turned out to be, but part of her was so fond of him that on her way out of the game she decided NOT to blow up his game by telling the rest of the tribe that he has the immunity idol.  When you can get someone you just turned on and helped get voted out to not undermine your game, you're doing something right.  Tai is on a roll.

Want more of Anna? Check out:

Interview with Josh Wigler/Parade
Interview with RHAP
The Day After on CBS
Interview with Dalton Ross/Entertainment Weekly
Interview with RealityTVWorld

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong, Episode 4: Pushed Too Far

I may sound like a hypocrite, but that wasn't fun to watch.  This comes from someone who watches pro football even knowing about the risks the players face due to concussions, from someone who did not get morally outraged at Chase Utley breaking a guy's leg in a MLB playoff game, from someone who questions how daring aerial acrobats are if they're wearing a harness.  But watching people who haven't had much to eat or drink for ten days digging in the sand in 118 degree temperatures for 45 minutes is not my idea of great entertainment.  Someone could have died.

I get overheated when it's in the high 80s and have been known to embarrass my family by pulling out a small battery-charged fan if I'm the least bit uncomfortable in the summer.  And this is when I'm standing still.  The survivors were physically exerting themselves beyond the point of collapse while just out of camera view, the crew filming the show have chilled water, fans and umbrellas to stave off the sweltering weather.   But the Survivors had no respite from the intense direct sunlight, ambient heat, crushing humidity and the solar radiation soaked sand.  It must have been like being trapped in the seventh circle of hell while running and digging.  And for what?   A million dollars?   No.  For some salt and pepper.

It was a low moment for Survivor and showed a cavalier attitude towards the survivor's safety and a startling lack of awareness that these are human beings who have normal physical limitations and not TV characters immune to their surroundings.  The show is not live, like Big Brother, but shot on film for later broadcast.  If it was too damn hot to run the reward challenge, you don't run the reward challenge.  No one needs coffee and spices that badly.  If you were wedded to having that challenge run, then put up some lights and run the challenge at night.  We understand that Survivor is punishing and grueling, but even within those parameters, there needs to be some common sense.

What's disturbing is that last season --  which was filmed AFTER this brutal season -- there was a challenge held during the middle of the day with the sun bearing down on the contestants as they held a pole aloft, looking straight into the blinding, cloudless sky.  Joe Anglim, the buff young stud, collapsed during that challenge.  So even after three contestants went down in one challenge, during the very next Survivor -- filmed at the very same location -- the powers that be again scheduled and ran a competition in spite of the conditions and one of the contestants again passed out.  So not only did Survivor not learn its lesson from the evacuation of Caleb Reynolds and the heat-induced collapse of two others (Debbie Wanner and Cydney Gillon) but they actively put more contestants into harm's way, pushing them beyond their limits while the cameras rolled.

It is not enough that Jeff Probst sounds concerned or that Dr. Joe swoops in to save the day.  The contestants should not have to risk death to be on a reality tv show.  Should Survivor be hard, sure.  But living on restricted rations, with little shelter, exposed to the elements, feasted on by all matters of bugs and physically and mentally challenged is enough.  Doing so in 118 degree weather is inexcusable.

There won't be a recap of this episode.  Caleb was pulled out of the game, airlifted to a hospital where he spent five days.  According to his post-show exit, it took him months to fully recuperate.  Alecia Holden was voted out with no help from Jeff who took her boot as a fait accompli.   Caleb is fine now and will likely make a return to Survivor.  Alecia is having fun on Twitter poking at her island tormentor Scot Pollard by mentioning his not-very-impressive NBA stats.  Bur if you want to read more, here are some links:

Caleb and Alecia with RHAP
Caleb with Josh Wigler/Parade
Caleb with Entertainment Weekly
Caleb with Inquisitr
Alecia with Josh Wigler/Parade
Alecia with Hollywood Life
Alecia the day after on CBS

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong, Episode 3: Never Underestimate the Cat Lady

Hubris is generally defined as "a great or foolish amount of pride or confidence." In his treatise Rhetoric, Aristotle defined hubris as "doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim…simply for the pleasure of it. Retaliation is not hubris, but revenge.…Young men and the rich are hubristic because they think they are better than other people."  When Muhammad Ali proclaimed he was the greatest, that was not hubris.  It was boasting, sure, but it was not a put down of his opponents, just a clear statement of his own superiority which he was able to back up.  Hubris is not just building yourself up, it involves tearing others down just for the fun of it.  And it involves a complete lack of awareness of your own shortcomings.   We've seen it this season over at the Brawn tribe as Kyle Jason takes verbal swipes at Alecia mostly for his own amusement.  And we see it this episode repeatedly coming from two self-satisfied members of the Brains tribe. 

It is understandable that if you are put on a tribe designated the "Brains" you might get a big head about your mental capabilities.  Even more so when you are, say, an ER doctor or a quantitative strategist who graduated from MIT.  Peter Baggenstos and Elisabeth Markham gave us so many classic hubris-filled quotes this episodes as they smugly surveyed their kingdom and plotted how to dispose of their lowly subjects, you knew that the Survivor gods were going to make them pay. The only question was who was going to be sacrificed to the gods.

Over on the Brawn tribe, excessive thinking was not a problem.  Coming back from tribal, Scot Pollard explained to Alecia Holden that he wrote her name down because he knew she was safe and he wanted to keep his promise to Jenny not to write her name down.  Pretty straight forward.  But according to Alecia, "that was the stupidest thing she ever heard."  She's obviously not been listening to Donald "I have the best words" Trump's campaign speeches.  Try as we all might to knock Kyle for his verbal attacks on "Blondie," the girl does not help herself when she says things that can't help but make her seem demonstrably thick.

At Beauty beach, Tai Trang is getting more than his share of TV time so either the producers think he's this year's Rupert, or he's set for an early exit.  We watch his efforts to get the key to open the lock that will finally give him his long-awaited immunity idol.  About an hour of the 48-minute show seems dedicated to Tai kissing things - clues, keys, idols, trees, rednecks.  If he's not kissing things he's talking at length to the cameraman who is apparently paid by the word.  He is one of the most camera-aware contestants I've seen in a long time and everything that comes out of his mouth seems calculated to create a lovable odd ball fan favorite, but it's not working for me.  With all the coverage of Tai, however, we never see how he manged to hide the idol considering all he was wearing was a skimpy bikini brief.

It's FLOTUS and POTUS  .
Back to the Brains tribe, Peter starts his litany of unfortunate quotes.  Why is there never a camera to record Survivors watching the episode where they repeatedly insert their foot into their flapping mouth?  "Here we are strategically planning how to win this game and we have a guy working on his six pack.  This is the Brains tribe" Pete sneers at Joe's exercise routine.  He and Liz "are managing two separate groups of two."  They are "in control."  Debbie Wanner and Joseph Del Campo "are goats."  Liz chimes in how they are looking for a group they can "shepherd" into the merge.  If you miss what she means, she's saying that they are looking for sheep.  Debbie is the "court jester."  Joe is a "loyal soldier."  Aubry Bracco doesn't want to talk game.  The only person they don't speak of dismissively is Neal Gottlieb (at least until tribal).  He is smart and they worry that he could turn on them post-merge.  So he is their target.  They will tell Debbie and Joe who to vote for.  They have this in the bag.  "We're actually doing this in an analytical sense. ...  We're putting it together and we ]have a good plan," says Pete.  "I think we have our finger on the pulse," says Liz.  "We're acting like bosses right now," says Pete.  You two are so dumb, says Jeremy.

So remember last week when Pete was wondering how many cats Debbie has?  Well, he should have been thinking whether crazy cat lady was really a calculated, savvy player in disguise.  Because Debbie may be nutsy cuckoo on the outside, but inside she is observing and thinking and plotting.  She recognize Pete's arrogance and the tight bond he and Liz have and how their plan is to control the tribe while everyone does their bidding.  And she is having none of that.  She gets Joe on board with her plan to target Liz (not Pete because she thinks he's necessary for challenges) then she goes to Aubry and beautifully plays that moment. She asks a question she knows the answer to - does Aubry like and trust Neal.  Of course she knows the two are close.  But this gives Debbie the chance to say I agree with you and I like him too.  Rather than imposing her will she pretends she's going along with what Aubry wants.  Then she goes to Neal and tells him she wants them to be a solid four, all while Pete thinks she's talking to the clams or dreaming up sweaters to knit for her cats.

Nick Maoirano continues to try to undermine Pete's attempts to be the douchey-ist guy on Kaoh Rong, giving confessionals about how robotic and unemotional he is and yet how great he is at faking it.  The girls on the Beauty tribe are having none of his BS and so they reach out to Caleb to join them in voting out Nick.  If they ever lose, which, of course, will never happen because they have probably the most physically fit player on their mis-labeled tribe. Over at Brawn, there is a mad dash for the hidden immunity idol after Alecia finds the first clue while Cydney was standing nearby.   Alecia, Cydney may have voted for you last tribal, but she's not your friend.  Oh, nevermind, she probably wouldn't understand.  As she said, "it's completely confusing."

Cydney immediately told her allies and the two guys went off to find the idol and there was a ridiculous three minute segment where we had the two huge guys work together, ultimately pushing aside the 90-pound girl to grab the tool to open the box that contained the idol.  I miss the old days when we could talk about finding an idol, if at all, in one sentence.  Soon there'll be a riddle that takes you to a location that has a puzzle that you unscramble to create a map that leads you to a native singing a song that you need to translate to get a clue to a pictogram that you have to decipher to lead to a location where you dig for an immunity idol.

How is this guy not a Brawn?

The immunity challenge is, naturally, a walk in the park for the Beauty tribe and so it comes down to a race between the twice-defeated Brawn tribe and the super confident Brains tribe.  Cydney fails in her first two attempts to get her ball in the hole, but her tribe trusts her to give her the final ball and she edges out Debbie by mere seconds.  And finally Brawn will not have to see Jeff and find another excuse for not voting out Alecia.

Pete is not worried about finally having to go to tribal council.  In fact, he's looking forward to seeing his and Liz's plan put into action.  "Now Liz and I are going down the hit list like a mobster and the first one is Neal.”

Liz is feeling great about going to tribal council because she and Pete have a plan and they're in control.  They will simplify the process for the slower, elderly members of their tribe.  "They don't have to think about anything complicated."  Which is good thinking, since it frees them up to organize a blindside of her.  Now, I know that the producers probably egg people on to give good confessionals, but the glee in Liz's eyes as she denigrates her fellow Brains is unsettling.  "I am so confident that this is going to work out the way we want it to.  I think losing today was a blessing in disguise."  It was, Liz, it was.

"Although Liz and I are good looking people and we have great smiles, we’re actually out for blood.”  You can't make this up.  What question could the producers have asked him to elicit that quote?  And how would they know he'd follow that up with, "everyone else, they're like clay that we mold.  they are indecisive unless given a decision.  They need paternal direction and I"m that paternal person providing them direction."  At that moment, I run to check Pete's bio and heave an audible sigh of relief discovering that in fact he is not anyone's paternal person.

At tribal council, Pete mentions that there are three voting units - not to be confused with voting blocs or voting alliances.  They are Pete and Liz, Debbie and Joe, and Neal and Aubry.  He of course is confident that the two Oldie McOldsters are going to vote in lockstep with him and Liz to target Neal, who they perceive as the only strategic threat in the group.  But the other four do not see things Pete's way.  What is cool is how they don't let on during Jeff's questioning that Liz and Pete are in for a big surprise.  The only possible crack is Neal's comment that each of the "brains" may think they're the smartest person in the game.  Because that comment certainly hits home for Pete who knows that he feels that way and knows it's true.

There is a good discussion of emotional intelligence versus intellectualism and how good people are at reading other people,  Pete tells us that reading people is a great skill of his that he needs to have as an ER doctor.  I'd say the better skill is decisiveness, focus and the ability to process information quickly.  I'm not sure understanding people is a big part of his job.  It was a big part of Joe's job, as both a cop and an FBI agent.  Those skills carried Tony Vlachos to a deviously-earned victory.  But Pete, the great judge of books according to their covers, takes Joe's background as a sign that he is a trustworthy person.   He then decides he can needle Neal a bit on his way out, telling him that the plan going forward is not Neal's plan and calling him a potential snake in ice cream pants.

Before they go to vote, Jeff asks Liz about whether tonight's target sees it coming.  She responds, cluelessly, "I think the person who goes home tonight will not be completely shocked."  And slowly, first in the 2-2-2 vote and then in the 3-0 revote, Liz discovers that she and Pete were not in control and that she was the target all along.  And with that we have this week's example of pride going before a fall and the super-confident, super-cocky duo of Pete and Liz shot down at its first tribal council appearance.

Want more Liz?
Entertainment weekly
RHAP exit interview
Interview with Josh Wigler/Parade
Interview with Reality TV World