Let me just put it out there right now: Besides maybe Heroes vs. Villains, this four-episode beginning of Survivor: Cambodia might be the best yet. It’s been a hell of a start.
Now, this doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best season or anything. Plenty of seasons have started slow only to turn it on right near the merge. And, to me, that’s what makes a great season: A killer post-merge game. And many seasons have started well, only to become a horrid viewing experience. (Hello, Redemption Island.) But I’ve got high hopes for this season. So far, so amazing.
But enough with all the praise, you came to read about some theory. Let’s get down to it. We’re going to dig deep here. Or really not. I just wanted to impersonate Jeff Probst.
I don’t think there is any doubt that Abi-Maria catalyzed the action this week. She was the driving force behind the voting. Let’s look at one of the most used theories in mass communication today. We’re going to talk about Abi and cultivation theory.
University of Pennsylvania professor George Gerbner introduced cultivation in the 1960s. Basically, the theory argues that television has significant effects on people. But that’s pretty general. So let’s be more specific. Gerbner and his colleagues found that heavy television watchers see the world differently than light TV viewers, and they see the world as being more like what they see on TV.
Let’s put this in real-world terms. Cultivation is sometimes called the mean world theory. It’s called this because it posits that if, say, I spend all my days watching Law & Order: SVU, I’m not just an odd human, but I’m also going to think the world is a much more violent place than someone who doesn’t watch SVU as much. Don’t spend 12 hours a day watching SVU, ok?
We learn about the world around us through TV. Most things we don’t get to experience. We know about China, if we haven’t been there, for example, from what we see. And, instinctually, we believe what we see … to some extent. So when we see so much violence on TV shows and the news, we end up believing the world is way more violent than it actually is. That’s the gist of cultivation.
For example, the world we live in the safest it’s basically ever been; we know this through empirical evidence. But you would never know that from watching television, especially television news, which bombards us with story after story about this shooting or that kidnapping. All of this affects us; we think the world is much worse than it actually is. And this brings us to Abi-Maria.
Abi thinks everyone, literally everyone, is out to get her. She’s watched seasons of Survivor and knows that people, gasp, vote each other off. She simply thinks the world is a bad place and people are plotting against her. In this episode, she’s obsessed with the idea that Woo tried to vote her off … twice. A rational person would know that we’re talking about Woo and if someone told him to vote the little baby monkey off the island, well, he would do that. And I would cry.
But, seriously, Abi can’t wrap her head around the idea an alliance could be a good thing, that everybody in her alliance isn’t plotting against her. Now, a healthy skepticism does a world of good on Survivor. Never get too comfortable, of course. But, for Abi, she’s the antithesis of too comfortable. She’s going to eventually get herself voted off because she’s so paranoid and an alliance cannot count on her.
And, really, we can argue that Abi acts this way because of a deep mistrust of people, a mistrust partially formed through seeing so much Survivor and so many blindsides. Or she might just be nutso. Your call.
And now for some thoughts on the remaining players:
- 1. Terry — I’ll admit it, when Terry didn’t win the reward challenge, a little piece of me died. Terry should win all challenges. I mean, isn’t that the Terry we know? And why did he even volunteer? Joe’s on his team. Come on, Terry.
- 2. Kelley — I hope Kelley doesn’t mistake Kass’ present for her own immunity idol? You know, Kelley is about to get voted out, but she jumps up to play her idol and gives Jeff that little trinket Kass gave her. That could be a problem.
- 3. Joe — When Terry volunteered for the reward challenge, do you think Joe laughed to himself, “How can this old man think he could be better than me? I’m Joe. I was built in a lab by Jeff Probst to be a Perfect Survivor Specimen™” I feel like if I was on Ta Keo, I would vote off Joe for not volunteering for the reward challenge. What other purpose does he serve?
- 4. Ciera — I have this vague memory of Ciera. She’s the one who voted her mom out. It was a couple seasons ago, so you might not remember. But, yeah, basically, she told her mom she was going to vote her out. Then she did it! I’m not sure if you knew that about Ciera.
- 5. Kass — Kass made some nice jewelry. Kass is a new human. Kass reads books. Kass smiles. I miss the real Kass. Please come back.
- 6. Keith — Keith couldn’t hear during the immunity challenge. Why? Don’t be dumb, you know why: It’s hard to hear over the spitting. Keith spits a lot. And it makes a noise. Sadly, all that spitting makes it hard to hear Kass. Keith likes to spit. It feels good. It clears his throat. Keith will continue to spit.
- 1. Spencer — Another good week for Spencer. Each week that doesn’t result in Bayon hitting up Tribal Council is a good week for Spencer. If he can make the merge, especially with all these alpha males still around, I really do think Spencer will be in a good spot. I couldn’t imagine writing that a month ago.
- 2. Jeremy — You could have (and I did) make an argument for Kelley playing the best game so far. But that’s so two weeks ago. Jeremy is emerging as not only a physical and social threat, but also a Winner’s Edit™ threat. These last couple weeks have been very kind to Jeremy. He’s finding idols. No one cares when he’s losing challenges to old men. He’s becoming J.T. What more could someone ask for?
- 3. Stephen — Stephen, at least to this Survivor columnist, is in the same position as Spencer. They just need to get to the merge or survive whatever tribal shakeup comes next. Once there, the focus will more than likely turn to the challenge beasts who also, for the most part, lack the strategy necessary to turn to the target elsewhere. But, again, Stephen needs to get there first.
- 4. Kimmi — So finally Kimmi yelled. Sadly, it was during a challenge. Kind of like Kass, I want the real Kimmi back. I mean, we haven’t even seen a tender moment between Kimmi and the chickens. What’s happening in the world? I’ll tell you, a world without Kimmi yelling at people is not a world I want to live in. I would say Kimmi seems like she’s in a good spot, but I don’t know because we don’t see her.
- 5. Monica — And speaking (but not too much) of not seeing someone, my winner pick continues her invisible edit. I’m starting to agree with Andy Baker… she can’t win at this point, right? We’d have seen her more even if producers were slow-playing her game? This saddens me. I mean, Monica isn’t my favorite player or anything, but I want to be right. Being right is good. Being right makes me happy. Please say I’m right.
- 6. Kelly — Another pretty tepid showing for Kelly. I’m beginning to think she might stick around for a while and that’s kind of sad, because, and I may have mentioned this before, she’s just not great TV.
- 1. Abi-Maria — I predicted last week that next week will be the last episode for Abi-Maria. And after another episode where she made me wish her ill will, let’s hope I’m right. I get that she makes the game more unpredictable, but I think I speak for most of us when I say that the unpredictable nature of her game is, simply, unpleasant. Meanness is no fun when there isn’t any rationality behind it.
- 2. Woo — Woo spoke with conviction. Woo fought for his life. Woo. Wow. That’s more fight than we’ve seen in Woo. I’m happy it’s there. It’s easy to root for Woo, so maybe this means he’ll turn a corner and start playing a good game. I doubt it.
- 3. Tasha — Tasha is in a power position right now, but I wonder how long that lasts if there is another tribal shakeup. I think she’s playing a really good game so far. Right now, in this person’s opinion, Tasha is a top-5 player in the game. But, in my gut, for some reason, I feel like she’s not going to last too long. I have no idea why, though.
- 4. Andrew — This had to be a really bittersweet week for Savage. First, the bad: He won the “hero” challenge and I don’t think there’s any doubt Andrew’s a hero in his own mind. But he lost so bad in that immunity challenge and, again, he didn’t look good in confessionals. He came across as cocky. But there was good news this week for Savage! Playboy announced they would discontinue nude pictorials, making that stack of magazines on his desk potentially priceless!
And that’s it. Come back next week for more theoretical musings, predictions and, of course, bad jokes and sentence clauses.