Welcome to the second installment of Jenn-subjects-herself-to-a-travesty-of-television, wherein I will be live-blogging the second episode of Survivor: Race Wars. If you happen to be in my timezone, feel free to turn on the show and keep refreshing this page to watch my comments come in.
The episode re-cap is on, reminding of what happened last week. Major themes? Some of the castaways are uncomfortable with the Race Wars theme, a girl named Flicka (who I am assuming, given that name, must be part-pony) let a chicken the White tribe stole from the Asians escape into the wilderness, and the Black tribe voted out Seku, their self-proclaimed leader who was, until that point, doing his best to “shatter” stereotypes by saturating us with the lazy Black man stereotype.
I am now watching the opening credits for the first time, and am surprised that Burnett didn't take the blogosphere's lead in introducing the tribes as the blogosphere has taken to doing: by the associated race rather than with these silly names. “Puka Puka”? Is that supposed to be reminscent of vomit or Pokemon?
As we wait for the commercials to go finish, I'm going to let you guys know that this time I actually have the CBS Survivor website open in another window. Hopefully, this will help in identifying the castmates this time, such that I can stop calling them “that Asian guy” and “that older Asian guy”.
We return from commercial break to watch the Hiki tribe (that'd be the African American tribe — incidentally, I got several search terms pulling up this site looking for the colour of the Hiki tribe: that would be yellow, guys) attempt to use their new flint to start a fire. They couldn't seem to get their fire started, despite having the flint — suggesting that maybe they really needed to win that fire-starter kit from before. Nate (the lone man, albeit somewhat effiminate) tries for a long time to get the fire going, and finally gives up, only to have Rebecca try it for a few minutes and get it going (editor's note: it might have helped Nate to actually have some kindling under his flint as he tried to light it). It was a blow to sexism, apparently, that a woman — a woman — started the fire.
Then the African American tribe — which Rebecca described as under more pressure because they were the African American tribe — danced around their fire.
Aitu (the Latino tribe) describes themselves as doing well — and certainly they are probably among a minority (no pun intended) in actually being able to catch fish without needing the fishing line and hook. They say they caught nine fish and some clams for food. After Cristina explains how she is a cop who was shot earlier in her career, the Aitu tribe get together and build a chicken trap, catching one of the wild roosters running around the island.
There seems to be a hint of tension between Ozzy and Cristina, although exactly what the concern is is unclear.
Puka, the Asian American tribe, outdoes the Aitu tribe's chicken trap in designing a smaller, more compact and efficient trap involving a box and a stick. Yul and Becky seem to be bonding over their “Korean-ness”. Becky says that Yul is like her, “op-pah” (sp?) or older brother — and I'm sure Probst was watching that piece of film and still raising an eyebrow over the existence of different Asian ethnicities at all. Probst must have been thinking, “They have their own different languages?!? This has got to make the social experiment even cooler! Maybe we can mate Yul and Becky and see what their little Korean children are like!!”
After Chicken Thief returns from exile, the Raro tribe is already falling to pieces, four days into the experience. They did get a fire going, but they apparently spent a second night partying rather than building a shelter. Perhaps they were thinking hot sweaty sorority-girl/frat-boy sex on the muddy jungle floor was going to keep them warm for 30 days.
Back at the Latino tribe, the tribe continues to impress by catching fish without the line. Billy, the rather husky guy on the tribe, regales us with his philosophy on camp etiquette, which can be summarized by the following: don't do shit and try to feed off your tribemates' work. Billy says that he feels inexperienced in catching fish and so doesn't want to do anything to help.
Some of the women take Billy aside and tell him that they want him to fit in, and Billy responds that he's never felt part of the “Hispanic culture”, and that “metal is his culture”. That sounds an awful lot like self-denial; no matter what room Billy walks into, I'm sure his peers will see him first as brown before rocker.
Oh, shit, Mr. Miyagi is at it again. Cao Boi comes in with his “magical powers”, as Jenny describes it, to cure her of her sunstroke. He actually massaged her temples to remove the migraine and then marks Jenny with the same mark as he marked the guy from last week.
However, later that night, Mr. Miyagi starts making racist, anti-Asian jokes, including one that starts with “What do you call a Vietnamese who has three dogs?”. He says “a joke is a joke, right?”, but Yul and the rest immediately retaliate (and rightly so) arguing that such jokes only perpetuate stereotypes of Asians to those who don't know about insider politics. It's a valid point, but were I the Puka tribe, I would've just kicked Mr. Miyagi out of the shelter.
You think making fun of Asians are “small”? See how small your balls get after you spend a night in the freezing cold. Them healing hands won't be much good then, will they?
Over at Raro, we see that the White folk actually were busy and built a cute little shelter in the lee of a rock, that looks something like a stable. Well, Flicka will feel right at home.
Meanwhile, the castaways learn that this is some sort of bondage-inspired reward+immunity challenge. All I caught was an image of handcuffs and something about the entire team being as one. Orgy? I have a feeling the White team will have the edge; they have, after all, been practicing for five days. Meanwhile, over at Aitu, Billy, like an idiot, is acting more and more like a loner, wandering off as the rest of the tribe reads the treemail and strategizes.
At the challenge, Chicken Thief (or one of his male cohorts — shit, you know them frat boys all look alike) shoots a thrilled look to his tribemates, and I just had to wonder if some yucky slur shot through his head. He just looked a little too happy for that to have all been just a “we got an edge in the game” facial expression.
The challenge reward are a pile of tarps. Again, the details of this challenge are a little too complex to explain, all I know is it involves a Reading Rainbow portion wherein Probst reads us a bedtime story, followed by a leg-race through an obstacle course in which all four participating tribe-mates are tied together. Importantly, at the end of the race, the tribes must reassemble the Reading Rainbow book from memory. Of note is the fact that Billy of Aitu immediately volunteered himself to sit this challenge out, further indicating that he has some form of snuff-wish on this gameshow.
The Asian American tribe takes a lead in the challenge and show some good team unity in crossing the rope bridge. I'm starting to be reminded of the model minority myth, 'cept I'm pretty sure it didn't include rope bridges. Fitting into this “we have photographic memories, but we're not stereotypes, dammit!” thing Puka has going for them, Puka initially is named the winner of this challenge.
Raro, the White tribe, immediately become infuriated and protest loudly. “We won!” sputtered Candice (I think). So, of course, Probst sided with the White tribe and declared it a draw (the way it was edited, it certainly seems that when Probst yelled that they had to be on the mats, Puka made it on first). Yeah, 'cuz the Asians don't deserve to win, outright, twice in a row. That's racist!
Aitu chooses to exile Yul following their loss at the challenge. I'm not too sure why. Maybe a hot, virile Asian American man was deemed too threatening. All I know is, Yul is certainly the poor woman's Daniel Dae Kim. If I weren't practically married, I'd swoon.
So, thus far — the African American tribe and the Latino tribe both lost because they were too stupid and too physically weak (i.e. lazy). Stereotypes? Bashing? Not a chance.
Yul wades over to Exile Island where he considers seeking the immunity idol. Incredibly, he manages to actually make sense of the two clues and finds the immunity idol. Let me just say: holy shit! Model minority jokes aside, that was an incredible feat considering the serious lack of clues he got.
Yul is a frickin' superhero. He is a Super Survivor, in the mould of Tom from a couople seasons ago. He shall have to be henceforth named (S.A.M.) Super Asian Man. If Mr. Miyagi is the one-dimensional, “Chop-Chop” shame of Asian Americana, S.A.M. is our Stepford Husband.
The question now is whether S.A.M. will tell his tribe. He shouldn't. He really shouldn't. But I bet he'll tell Becky. 'Cuz, y'know, they've got a Korean unity going on over there (not to mention sexual tension).
Alright, so the Latino tribe is flipping out trying to figure out who will get voted out next. Burnett is trying desperately to create some supense, but if Billy survives this Tribal Council, I will eat my keyboard. It comes to light that J.P., a sort of teutonic-looking frat-boy type, actually threw the challenge in order to try and have Billy eliminated. Moron — Billy is a lazy bastard, but manpower is important this early on.
Then Billy drops a very odd bombshell, suggesting that he has stalker/sociopathic tendancies. He tells Probst and his tribe that he “fell in love with Candice” (of the White tribe) and that they mouthed the words “I love you” to each other at the challenge. What. The. Hell?!? Considering that most castaways have to introduce themselves following the merge, suggesting that they don't get a chance to meet each other before hand, this is just truly bizarre.
I'm not sure I follow the story, but it's certainly interesting that Bizarre Billy falls for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed White girl from the other tribe (who we saw earlier cozying up to one of the frat boys on her team). The ostracized man of colour starts chasing after the first woman he sees who fits the traditional Westernized beauty image? Typical. Bottom line: Bizarre Billy's story is creepy. Not cute. Not romantic — creepy.
Well, Bizarre Billy gets voted out in a decidedly unsuspensful vote. Did he actually have a thing for Candice? Inquiring minds must know! Following Bizarre Billy's departure, Probst actually lectures the Latino tribe on work ethic (I would be offended if my offended threshold hadn't already been reached at the opening credits) and Bizarre Billy is ever-more characterized as “the lazy one”.
Some thoughts on this episode: first, it's clear that Burnett was well aware of the controversy that would surround Survivor: Race Wars. Burnett clearly edited the preview for this episode to up-play the racial tension that surrounded Mr. Miyagi and his Asian dog-eating jokes, but that segment was actually surprisingly low-key with no follow-up after the tribe tells Miyagi to shut up. Second, it's clear that the Asian American tribes are completely intent on not destroying stereotypes, but in fact perpetuating the model minority one, making them this season's early front-runner. And finally, will we be able to get through a single episode in which the African American tribe doesn't dance?
Also noteworthy: Bizarre Billy perpetuates the Burnett agenda by arguing that he didn't belong in the Latino tribe (thereby suggesting that he actually is trying to surrender his identity as a Latino entirely) and would've fit in better in a “heavy metal” tribe. Oh, Billy, don't give Burnett any ideas. Next season, it'll be Top 40 vs. Hip Hop vs. Heavy Metal vs. Country vs. Trance musicians all stranded on a deserted island somewhere off the coast of Thailand, in which they will compete for challenge rewards including an electric guitar with no amplifier and a dual drum-set fire-kit stuffed full of live hamsters.
Next week: The tribes octopus-wrassle, Parvati is a 'ho (will they finally deal with the fact that Parvati has an Asian Indian name but is on the White tribe?), and Miyagi tries to win coon-of-the-year.