Recap video and review of Survivor: Caramoan – Episode 3 – There’s Gonna Be Hell to Pay:
One of the things that interests me about Survivor: Caramoan is that everyone seems to be bringing their strategic A-game, in many respects. In previous seasons, the desperate need to get Shamar booted for the peace of the tribe would have overruled their better senses. They’d have thrown a challenge, and the dominoes would have started to fall in a way that would never allow for the tribe to regain its former stronghold. But this season, contestants are putting strategy first. Perhaps this is because one tribe is comprised entirely of fans who knows Survivor inside and note, while the other tribe is comprised of people who’ve played the game before, and have likely learned from whatever mistakes they’ve made in the past (Brandon Hantz excepted). Regardless, it’s been immensely rewarding to see strategy so effectively deployed. While it might not make for the most riveting television 100% of the time, I found the decision to boot Hope rather than Shamar to be a refreshingly clear-headed decision, and evidence that we’re dealing with a different class of player this season. “There’s Gonna Be Hell to Pay” is doesn’t maintain the standard of the first two episodes this season, but it continues to give me faith for this season’s direction, going forward.
Shamar is a peculiarly tragic figure for Survivor. He’s a man who is aware of the reality show stereotype of the angry black man, yet he’s one that can’t overcome it within himself. It isn’t really his fault that CBS decided they wanted to cast a man of uneven temperament simply to fill a role, nor do I even think it’s entirely his fault that it’s been as difficult for him to overcome his temper as it has been. As we learn tonight in a scene that is equal parts touching and unsettling, we learn that Shamar recognizes how he’ll be edited when his appearance on the show airs back in the States, and he has no intention of being painted as a crazy, unhinged individual – yet he’s still plagued by demons from his time in Iraq. This is a man who served his country, returned home, and found that civilian life didn’t agree with him, lapsing into alcoholism and overwhelming rage issues. There’s a hint of bipolarity to his tirades, not terribly unlike Brandon Hantz, as Shamar can be even-tempered one moment, and explosive the next, and while he deserves to be taken to task for his refusal to do any work around camp, he doesn’t always come across, to me, as the one who’s starting all these arguments. He’s simply the one escalating them, as he does when they return to tribal council after last week, tearing Eddie apart for voting with Reynold and then claiming that it was never his plan to vote against Shamar.
Sherri understands how problematic Shamar can be, and does her damndest to rein him in. When Shamar contemplates quitting the game, because it’s sapping away his happiness and undermining all the progress he’s made upon returning from Iraq, Sherri is the one who turns Shamar’s rhetoric of loyalty against him, saying that if Shamar quits and the Gota tribe loses the immunity challenge, they’ll be down two instead of one. Taken from this point of view, Shamar decides to stay in the game for Sherri and Laura’s benefit, and Reynold astutely observes that it’s ridiculous for Shamar to frame his decision to “unquit” as an act of heroism. But it turns out to be a good thing Shamar didn’t quit, since the Gota tribe might have done far worse without him. The challenge is a race in which a heavy chest must be fished out of the bottom of the sea and pulled across a track, the lengths of which must be secured one at a time by a tribemember hooking it with a ring to reel it in. Shamar was one of only two members of Gota to successfully land the ring and pull the track across, as Eddie just couldn’t get the job done. The Favorites (Bikal) won immunity and comfort in the form of some chairs, pillows and a tarp, exacerbating the wound of the loss for Gota.
Back at camp, Shamar laces into Reynold for snatching away his goggles for the underwater portion of the challenge, as Shamar wears contacts and can’t see underwater. Shamar tells Reynold he disgusts him, and that he doesn’t want to talk to him. Laura fears that her poor challenge performance means that her head could be on the chopping block, so her alliance engineers a vote split in order to flush out Reynold’s idol, sending three votes Eddie’s way and three votes towards Hope. However, Shamar happens to enjoy having Hope around, so he hints to her that if she simply votes for Eddie, she won’t have to worry about being sent home. Shamar’s alliance learns about his loose lips, and a panicked Laura tries to engineer a last-minute blindside of Shamar, offering hers and Julia’s votes to Reynold’s alliance. There’s a genuine sense of unpredictability heading into tribal council, as the vote could go any number of ways.
At tribal council, Shamar feels further piled-on and persecuted when Reynold tries to explain how Shamar has himself and Eddie on a “No Talk” list, while Hope also calls Shamar out for his attitude and combativeness. It’s enough to sort of make you feel bad for the guy. Sherri sticks up for him, saying that she has many temperamental employees like Shamar, so she better understands him. She explains that once you cross Shamar, there’s no going back. She basically implies that you only get one shot to understand him and to be understood by him, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a position worth defending, although it makes sense why Sherri would. As she explains tonight, and has explained before, Shamar is her Phillip. He’s the lightning rod she can use to deflect attention from herself. It’s a remarkably keen strategy, and one that I’m surprised her alliance-mates are allowing her to use, since it’s not as if Shamar is loyal to the entire alliance – he’s loyal to Sherri. In effect, Shamar is an instrument that only Sherri gets to use, and I’d be pretty leery of that at this early stage of the game. In fact, for a few moments, it seems as though Shamar’s time is really up, as Probst reads the votes and we’re deadlocked at three apiece for Shamar and Hope, with three votes left. That’s when it all gets complicated, as we come to realize that the original plan of the six-person majority alliance is coming to fruition, after all: the remaining three votes are for Eddie, and we suddenly have ourselves a three-way tie.
The remaining tribe members, sans Eddie, Hope, and Shamar, will revote. As we learn early in the episode, Sherri’s alliance didn’t actually want to get rid of Eddie, they merely needed a third target on which to pin their vote-splitting plot, and it wasn’t going to be Reynold, since he had the idol. The fact of the matter is that they need Eddie. Hell, they say as much before tribal. Their performance at the immunity challenge would have been far worse without him (even though their performance was no great shakes to begin with), and so it’s Hope who gets voted out on the revote. Her torch gets snuffed, and I’m suddenly wondering if it’s really such a good idea to keep a physically fit guy around, as a potential tribal shuffle could put him on the other tribe. Then again, in a game like this, you don’t really prepare for those kinds of contingencies. In this early stage, you have to play the game one day at a time. In that sense, this was absolutely the right move for the alliance.
While “There’s Gonna Be Hell to Pay” was mostly centered on Shamar and the troubles at Gota, there were some significant moments over at Bikal. Corinne reveals that natural alliances have formed based on season of origin: for instance, Andrea and Phillip played together before, while Cochran and Dawn also played together before. Corinne doesn’t really have anybody, so she naturally gravitated towards Malcolm, another sole returnee from his season. Together, they go out searching for the hidden immunity idol and, go figure, they find it without really looking all that hard. I’m past complaining about how they need to hide these damn idols better, and instead wondering why Malcolm, when looking in the tree and finding the idol where Corinne couldn’t see, didn’t simply pretend that it wasn’t there? He then could have come back for it later! Of course, I say this, but it actually shows how well Malcolm is playing the game when we can see that he has alliances that are independent of his other alliances. He’s playing a far more holistic game this time around, and he has the potential to be dangerous, particularly if he and Corinne become that most dreaded of all Survivor pairings: a power couple. Andrea, for her part, recognizes this threat and confronts Cochran about shoring up their alliance, securing Brandon’s allegiance in the process and even getting Phillip to entertain the notion of voting with them. Nothing comes to pass from this, but it’s interesting to see people playing the game, whether they’re actually in danger of going home or not. That said, I worry that Andrea might be playing a little too hard, too soon.
“There’s Gonna Be Hell to Pay” is a fascinating episode, and even though he can occasionally be insufferable, Shamar is one of the most interesting figures the game has had in a while. I’m genuinely intrigued to see how his gameplay evolves/devolves as the season goes on.