Well, they can’t all be winners. After a fairly strong start to the season—a start that fell just on the right side of the annoying/crazy scale—things took a downward turn tonight, focusing far too much on the annoying aspect and far too little on the more pleasant, harmless side of crazy. It makes for a tedious episode, one that can’t even be saved by a lively immunity challenge and Tribal Council.
As was hinted at last week, the show has basically become The Shamar Show, and everyone else is just tangentially appearing in it. It’s really not the show making a choice to become this; Shamar just has one of those personalities that consumes everything around it, no matter what anyone else wants. This week he conjures himself his very own fully-contained character arc, going from a persecuted rant after last week’s Tribal reaming, to a self-defeated (and very illuminating, considering what he reveals about his struggles post-Iraq) decision to quit the game since it was making him so unhappy, to deciding to stay to help his team win challenges, to lashing out and feeling persecuted again when they fail at the challenge and then bring up his personality conflicts at the next Tribal Council. It’s a cycle that could easily repeat every episode, unless something drastic happens to shake things up.
The fascinating thing about Shamar and his place in the Fans tribe is how his personality is both a help and a hindrance to his alliance. It’s a help in that once they get rid of the Cool Kids Tribe, they’ll always have an easy first target. It’s a hindrance in that it has an edge of unpredictability that can kill someone in this game (much like the Favorites worries about Brandon), and also he’s just plain unpleasant to be around much of the time. Very few Survivor players get their own designated handler within their own tribe, but that’s exactly what Shamar has in Sherri, who is dedicated to keeping him in the game simply because she knows she can use his negative personality to her advantage. The trouble with her commitment is just how much work she has to do to keep him on track, but watching her work her magic on him is actually one of the highlights of the episode. Sherri has skills, and people should look out.
But the most interesting thing that comes from The Shamar Show is how his unpredictability affects Laura, one of the smarter players on the Fans side and a definite player to watch. When Shamar hints to Hope their plans to split the vote between her and Eddie, Laura immediately goes into scramble mode worrying the unsure vote will now affect her in some way. She goes to Reynold and talks of striking a mini-alliance featuring the remaining Cool Kids, her, and Julia, and although it never comes to fruition, it shows a spark that can only mean good things for her game play going forward.
As for the Favorites, the only bad things happening in their tribe are the endless ridiculous stories coming out of Phillip’s mouth. It’s fairly obvious from the beginning there’s no real chance they are going to lose the immunity challenge, as the time spent with them is all about Malcolm finding an idol and having to strike a quick alliance with Corrine so she doesn’t blab, and Andrea getting suspicious of Corrine and working to potentially kick her out of the alliance. Andrea is a much better player than I would have suspected considering her time in Rob’s army, I must say. The only thing she really has to worry about now is Brandon, who at this point is a ticking time bomb of scary insanity just waiting to go off.
In the end, the Fans go to Tribal, and it becomes all about Shamar, all over again. It’s interesting to observe his view of his place in the tribe versus what we can see through the lens of the camera, especially because everything about him is filtered, both from him and from the audience, through the unfortunate reality TV trope of the “angry black man.” Shamar is very aware of this stereotype and doesn’t want to fall victim to it, and therefore sees the negativity on his tribe coming from everywhere but him, while his tribemates see it as solely coming from him. There’s a good chance he will be one of the more interesting post-game interviews, to see what he thinks of the situation when watching it on television versus living it.
We’ll still have plenty of time to see how his journey progresses as well, as strategy reigns over tribal comfort and Hope is the one voted out—via the most mundane tie and revote of all time—and Shamar lives to play another day. As long as Shamar remains on the show, it’s going to be a tricky endeavor for the show to balance his unpleasant tendencies with the more promising things in the game, explored in the first two episodes of the season. My only request? More fun and less yelling, please.
- I would call out Reynold talking about their situation within the tribe as akin to “Revenge Of The Nerds,” but that audio was obviously dropped in so I don’t know if he actually said that. Still, get over yourself, Reynold.
- Phillip is in amazing shape for his age, Phillip works out, Phillip can dribble between Michael Jordan’s legs and dunk a basketball against Wilt Chamberlain! Phillip likes Phillip a whole lot.
- At Tribal we learned Shamar as a “no talking” list of people he won’t converse with at camp. What?
- Shamar: “I’m not going to be the angry black man on Survivor. I’m just not.”