‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’ Review: ‘Bring the Popcorn’ Is the Best of the Season
Recap and review of Survivor: Worlds Apart – Episode 10 – Bring the Popcorn:
“Bring the Popcorn” is a study in how just one afternoon can turn the entire game on its head. Survivor: Worlds Apart has been a fairly straightforward game so far, which is why “Bring the Popcorn” was such a welcome surprise. Put plainly, this was the best episode of the season so far.
Of course, the result was still fairly anticlimactic, as Jenn went home. Yet what was interesting about is that we had the same result we would have had, except Mike is no longer on the top of the numbers, In essence, he took Jenn’s place as Shirin’s only ally, as his actions this week took him from an almost guaranteed final five, to a position where he could be the next to go (well, if he either loses immunity or neglects to play his idol). Mike has been one of the savviest players in this game, yet there’s a point where a player can become too savvy. And that’s more or less the point Mike reached during the Survivor auction. Shirin’s used her Survivor knowledge to let the rest of the tribe know that they’d be able to buy their letters from home for the same price as whatever the winning bidder paid, so they arranged to have Sierra buy the letters for $20 so everyone would be able to afford them. Carolyn, Mike and Dan were waiting for an advantage in the game to come up, but Carolyn and Dan were totally cool with going in on Shirin’s plan. Mike, however, makes the colossal mistake of trying to hoodwink the rest of his tribemates by hanging back and letting everyone else buy their letters first. Then, once everyone had purchased their loved ones letters, he’d forego actually purchasing one. This would leave him with enough money to buy the advantage uncontested. Dan immediately catches Mike’s trick, and Carolyn is so livid she’s willing to sell her letters right back. But Mike decides to go through with Shirin’s plan anyway, on the notion that this runs contrary to his morals. However, the damage has already been done. If it ran contrary to his morals, he wouldn’t have considered doing it in the first place, so the morality argument doesn’t really hold water. Worse, it makes Mike sound like a hypocrite, which makes it harder for him to maintain the trust of his allies, since he’s already shown himself to be devious, even if only strategically so.
And yet, I can’t say Mike wasn’t justified in his paranoia. At the top of the episode, he overhears Rodney telling Carolyn, Tyler and Will that they need to blindside him at the next vote. And so, even though he has a hidden immunity idol he can play, Mike feels a desperate need to change the game in his favor, since he’s clearly losing control of it. Unfortunately, by trying to get Jenn and Shirin on his side, he looks like even more of an outsider. This gets worse when he calls Rodney out at camp for plotting against him with Carolyn, Tyler and Will. Sure, he’s right about their alliance, but had he simply kept his mouth shut, he’d still be able to work against them from the inside. But between the auction and his outburst around camp, along with his fraternization with the enemy, no one is willing to work with Mike anymore, not even the formerly loyal Dan. Dan is particularly heartbroken by what he feels is a betrayal of trust by Mike, and although Mike delivers a really passionate plea for why the Blue Collars need to stick together, it ultimately isn’t enough to prevent Dan or Sierra from flipping over to Rodney’s quartet. Just like that, Mike goes from being on top of an alliance of seven, to being on equal footing with Shirin in an alliance of two. Mike won immunity this week, so he was able to avoid having to play his idol to stay in the game, but if he’s going to get to the end, he either needs to win immunity every damn week, or he’ll need to turn someone. And this is going to be harder to do, since no one trusts him anymore. This is why the auction move was such an enormous blunder on his part, since I don’t think he really needed the advantage anyway — especially when you consider what the advantage ended up being.
Dan ends up winning the advantage in a rock draw, and he learns that the advantage is an extra vote at Tribal Council. By playing his extra vote before Jeff goes to tally the votes, Dan will get to go up and vote again. Dan compares it to Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket, but if anything, it seems like it would end up painting a huge target on Dan’s back. If a person who wouldn’t have gone home ends up going home because of Dan’s extra vote, wouldn’t their alliance-mates target Dan as payback? What if Dan uses his extra vote and the play ends up failing (i.e., he casts an extra vote against Mike, but Mike plays his idol)? This extra vote is more dangerous than helpful, in my opinion, since there’s such a large margin for error in using it. Dan says he’s terrified of being the swing vote like he was tonight, but he should be far more concerned with how using the extra vote in the wrong way could cost him a million dollars. Then again, winning the game is as much about social connections as it is about strategy, so how he uses the vote might be a moot point to his game, since I’m not even sure Dan COULD win if he got to the end. He’s essentially in the same boat as Will, who ends up buying a letter that eliminates him from the Survivor auction, but earns him a private stash of snacks back at camp. Will tries to curry favor by sharing the snacks with everyone else, but Mike is suspicious that Will is still hiding something for himself. Tyler spreads the rumor to Will and attributes it to Shirin, and this results in Will absolutely flipping out at camp.
Will laces into Shirin by saying she’s a loser, and that she has no family. He says no one in the world cares about her, and adds that no one at camp likes her. It’s one of the more brutal segments in Survivor history, and it’s an absolutely terrible look on a supposedly religious guy, yet it also serves the function of eradicating whatever good will that Will might have received from sharing the snacks, as Mike is disgusted with Will’s behavior (in no small part because he drags Mike into it, calling him Shirin’s “bitch”). And yet, it leads to a moment of pure poetic justice at the immunity challenge. Will tearfully pleads with Jeff to let him trade his spot in the immunity challenge for his letter from home. Jeff agrees to the terms, but only if it’s cool with everyone else. However, when it’s time to vote, Shirin is the lone holdout, giving Will his payback for ripping into her at camp. Some might call it a nasty move on her part, but she’s really only repaying Will in kind. It’s bad blood that carries over into tribal, as Will doesn’t seem to recognize he did or said anything wrong, standing by every single statement he made about how unloved Shirin is. For Will, those aren’t personal attacks, because he was simply recounting facts. Honestly, I’m not sure any Survivor since Colton Cumbie in One World has come across as despicably as Will did here, especially after Shirin explains why his comments hurt so much (turns out, Shirin comes from a broken, abusive home where she was frequently the victim of domestic violence). Granted, Will never had a hope in hell of winning, but his comments pretty much signal that he’s unlikely to even get a single vote if he somehow worms his way to the end. Lord knows, his lack of threat — either physically, strategically, or as a potential vote-getter in front of the jury — makes him the perfect person to take to the end. But now, it’s only a question of who actually is going to get to go to the end. All I know is that last week, it seemed obvious Mike would be there. But now? I’m not so sure. Even with the result of tonight’s vote being as foregone a conclusion as it ended up being, this game has still been utterly flipped on its head.
“Bring the Popcorn” is the best episode of Survivor: Worlds Apart this season, as Mike’s game is coming apart at the seams, Dan and Sierra are abandoning their Blue Collar loyalties, and Carolyn and Tyler must become more shrewd in their big plays. This may not have been first-rate Survivor from a gameplay standpoint, but it was top of the line when it comes to pure entertainment.
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