To quote what must be the greatest set opener for any rock band: Hello there, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s been a while. To say this season of Survivor has been difficult to write about would be an epic understatement. Over the past few weeks, there have been so many things that I wanted to touch upon, but, for example, it felt absolutely wrong to criticize Kellee the game player when she had to deal with things she should never have had to experience. How does one separate the game from the bigger issues? I’m not sure you can. And it’s through that prism we’re going to watch the rest of this season, one that might have gone down as a highlight of the series but will instead be relegated to something very different.
Where do we go from here? Well, I missed the chance to write my post-merge power rankings, so I’ll do that now. But, putting aside all the crap we’ve dealt with recently, I thought we could talk about social capital and Elizabeth.
Why social capital? Well, if you’re like me, you’ve been listening to the Survivor Know-It-Alls podcast to help process this season. A couple of those weeks featured the great Shannon Gaitz filling in for Stephen Fishbach. She loves to talk about social capital, but in academia, it’s a much more complicated concept than they give justice to on KIA.
I’ve written about it before, but social capital really entered the mainstream consciousness (outside of academic research) with the publication of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone in 2000; it’s an academic book that somehow became a popular mainstream book. Putnam essentially argued that the very idea of community was disintegrating because people had less social capital than ever.
So what’s social capital? Bourdieu and Wacquant defined the concept as “the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.” It’s basically about the credibility a person amasses through a myriad of social connections. The more groups you’re involved in (both official and unofficial), the more social ties you have, the more social capital.
Now that’s basically how most people define social capital. It’s how Shannon talked about it in the podcasts. Social ties means more bonds, etc. But social capital is far more complicated. In the book, and in his earlier work, Putnam discussed two separate types of social capital: bonded and bridged. For a more thorough discussion, you can take a look at a study I recently co-authored and published (email me if you don’t have access).
Just remember, we all have different types of social connections. There are the strong ones – bonded social capital – that we form with family and close friends. Then there are the weak ones – bridged social capital – that we form with acquaintances who might share similar affiliations or ideologies or whatever.
For Elizabeth, she had plenty of social capital, the bonded ones. We saw her accumulate very strong bonds with, for example, Missy and Aaron. She cried when they were eliminated. The problem, of course, is that Elizabeth basically had no bridged social capital. We never really saw her have relationships with people we weren’t her big allies. Contrast that with Tommy who seems to have relationships with everyone, but might only be bonded to Lauren. You can see where I’m going here. In Survivor, you need both kinds of social capital without having too much of either. That’s the game and the fine line castaways have to navigate.
Well, that’s it. Let’s get to the long overdue power rankings. An aside that I always write: Remember, this list goes from least likely to win to most likely to win. It is not about how far I think someone will go. For example, I think Dan could go far in this game, but I don’t think there is any chance he can win.
Here we go:
8. Dan: Nobody is voting for Dan. Do we even have to talk about it? Let’s not entertain the idea.
7. Karishma: I know there is some momentum building for Karishma on the ol’ interwebs. She seems like a nice human being and I feel bad for her over the way some castaways have talked about her in confessionals. But, I’m sorry, she’s been a really bad player this entire game. You can’t not work around camp. You can’t suck at all challenges, some you volunteered to step up in. You can’t have no social ties and be considered good. She found an idol, which was obviously her best moment. But coasting because everyone thinks you’re a goat is not good gameplay. And playing an idol when you know you’re going home is not revelatory. Sorry.
6. Dean: Was there a more ironic moment this season than when Dean talked about the Goat Army and didn’t include himself? For a dude who talks about himself as a threat a ton, maybe it’s time to show up? I mean, playing Kellee’s idol when she told you to (and when you were fooled into thinking you weren’t the target), is not a Big Move™.
5. Noura: I am still of the belief that this is a four-person game and that the only way Dan, Karishma, Dean, or Noura win is if they’re the only ones in the final three. With that said, Noura’s dominance in challenges is really starting to be impressive. Good for her. I just don’t know if she can do anything to change the minds of people who formed an opinion about her early on.
4. Janet: Keeping in mind that Janet is winning Survivor, I do think she faces an uphill climb. Her unfortunate situation leaves her as kind of a pawn right now. She needs to make a move to up her reputation, but it’s hard when you’re on the outs. I think another idol find could help too. We’ll see, but I’m thinking most of us are rooting for Janet.
3. Elaine: For a while – really since the first episode – it seemed like nobody would let Elaine get to the end. Now, I’m not sure. She’s kind of playing under the radar, but if she makes it to the end, she can point to some actual moves that made a difference. With each episode, Elaine looks better and better. Her issue is she seems tied to Tommy and/or Dan right now. She needs to boot Tommy and get to the end with Dan and another goat.
2. Tommy: Last time I wrote, I put Tommy in the No. 1 position. I have him moving down a slot this time because I think he’s given up some control of late. He’s making good moves, but he’s not dictating those moves ... others are making them for Tommy. Therefore, Tommy slides. I’m not sure he can win sitting next to Lauren, and that final three pairing seems inevitable at this point, right?
1. Lauren: This is what I write about Lauren a few weeks back: “So far she’s been great, but can she pull off – and get credit for – a Big Move™ at some point?” Well, I think she answered that question. She’s the favorite now. The key is making it through.
That’s all I got for this week. Sorry it’s been so long, but this season is exhausting for so many sad reasons. We’ll talk next week, I think.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He's seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he'll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @PatFerrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.