Survivor: One World: Let the Gender-Segregated Games Begin!

Last night’s premiere of Survivor: One World was promising. First of all, this season has retired Redemption Island, which I found sort of boring and full of too much creepy night vision, and second of all, the cohabitating tribes are divided into men (Manono) versus women (Salani). That’s fun, because every time someone opens his or her mouth, something offensive pops out: Women can’t agree! Real men give up immunity to finish challenges! Ladytribe, strip down to your skivvies and see if we feel like giving you a doggy bag of fire to bring back to your domestic corner of One World beach!

Remember when Survivor segregated the tribes by race back in 2006? In the two episodes before the tribes merged, it was hard not to wonder what the point of the racial division was: What were we supposed to be noticing? The pressure for castaways to represent their ethnicities positively? Variations in cultural identity? The myriad ways in which humans tan? Or just how discomforting it is to watch reality show producers comment on something like race so casually and so briefly that it seemed to lack a point at all? I don’t think that the decision to play with categories — race, gender, morality, age — is necessarily bad; in fact, in a game like Survivor it can be thought-provoking regardless of whether it confirms or dispels your hidden prejudices. A little cavity formed in my feminist heart when I saw how many huge, dangly earrings the women were wearing for 39 days on an island, until I realized that they could take them apart, fish with the hooks and make fake idols out of the gold-flake circles. I hope they do that. I hope they’re not just doing it for the same reason one lady, Kourtney, wore a hat with the stunned caricature of a whale on it: because they are insane.

Kourtney, the whale-hat pixie, met her demise when she broke her wrist in the first challenge and had to be spirited back to her pod by medics. Jeff Probst offered the men a choice: They could accept immunity by default, or finish the game. Unsurprisingly, they accepted immunity — hearing someone’s wrist snap will do that — and, also unsurprisingly, were heckled by members of Salani for being poor sports. THIS was a surprise, though: On Survivor: One World, there is a castaway by the name of Tarzan, and also a castaway by the name of Troyzan. What a delightful slice of American pie that is! Think about it for as long as you need to. At tribal council, during which nobody had to squelch their torch and run down a stone pathway thanks to Kourtney’s exit, the women obtained fire (which they had failed to nurture after trading woven palm fronds for embers from the men’s side of camp) and received some warnings from Jeff about their lack of unity. Alicia, a special-education teacher whose makeup will certainly erode in the most fascinating way during her time on the island, and Christina, the ember bargainer, got into a decently heated argument about the palm frond/fire trade and hurled some spicy shut-ups at each other — one so spicy it made Jeff mouth “wow,” which is a pretty big deal if you think about the fact that he spent part of the intro to this episode seamlessly delivering a monologue while glued to the side of a helicopter over the ocean.

This season, there are tribe-specific immunity idols, so although Sabrina from Salani (“Sabrina From Salani,” what a stirring Polynesian pop ballad) found an idol, she had to give it to a member of Manono. Her choice was Colton, otherwise known as Country Club Colton because he wears lime Polos and has feathery country club hair. He’s the lone member of Manono to wander boldly into the women’s camp to make friends, risking further alienation (first strike: There’s no good marriage between “Colton” and “Tarzan”) from his tribe. It’s hard to tell if Colton is being totally strategic in charming the women, or if he just feels bro’d to death by all of the serious-faced, macho outdoorsmen on his team, of which there are way too many, and whom I can’t tell apart even though only their chests look alike. By the way, one of these specimens, Michael, stole an ax from the women when they were grabbing supplies off the truck at the start of the game. To punish him for this moral crime, I am going to say that he reminds me of Carson Daly, but way less chill.

This season will include DIY challenges with no Probst hosting, which could mean forcing outspoken leaders into a game-losing pair of bossypants. I imagine that it’s horrible to be bossed around on an island, because the most outspoken Survivor contestants are always booted before the dude who is usually pictured lazily floating in waist-high water, probably peeing all day long into the fish supply, or the girl who sits on a stump and braids hair while everyone else tries to make fire using wet sticks, muscle, and bifocals. Also of note: Leif Manson, the first little person to ever appear on Survivor, is a phlebotomist, which means that he can corner the Twilight market and win Fan Favorite if he stays pale enough and files his teeth. If ever there were a time to glamorize phlebotomy, it’s now. (Well, two years ago would have been better, but now is still pretty good.) Let the games begin!

Filed Under: Jeff Probst, Recaps, Survivor, Survivor: One World

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