Wednesday has rolled around once again which means it’s time for a new edition of a Survivor Oz Top Ten! This week, we begin a two part edition, with Ben Powell and Nick Chester teaming up to bring you what is sure to be two very controversial top tens! This week, Ben Powell brings you the top ten reasons why Survivor: Philippines is better than Survivor: Caramoan. Next week, the roles will be reversed with Nick Chester bringing you the top ten reasons why Survivor: Caramoan is better than Survivor: Philippines. The next two weeks are bound to stir up some debates, so sit back and relax as Ben Powell takes you through ten reasons why Philippines is better than Caramoan! Don’t forget to get involved by commenting below!
10. More Moments and More Things Happened
One of the main problems that Caramoan faced was that it was, in essence, working around a season where not much happened at the core and trying make people think a lot happened. Because at the core, the season was basically a few big moments here and there and a straight simple “Pagonging” once the Merge came – sure, there were a few moments that got attention such as Brandon’s meltdown and Phillip’s boot, but otherwise it was a pretty uneventful and predictable season, no matter what Probst tried to sell the audience.
Meanwhile, in Philippines the moments and happenings were way more frequent, paving way for a much better season. Characters had their rise and fall, such as Russell Swan, Jeff Kent, Abi-Maria, Malcolm. This lead to huge moments all throughout the season such as the decimation of an entire tribe pre-merge, one of the most hectic scrambles for power pre-Tribal Council in recent history in Episode Eight, an emotional breakdown at Tribal Council in Episode Ten and the buildup and fall of an incredibly popular Survivor leading to his eventual fall in the Finale. That’s not even taking into account some incredibly minor but memorable events such as an unprecedented discussion and deal replacing a challenge in Episode Six as Penner and Skupin discuss what should happen for the challenge Reward instead of tiring themselves out. There was an incredibly grey area of medical evacuation to face as Dana technically quit, but was technically evacuated at the same time.
It’s these events and moments that keep a show going – without it, you have stretches of almost nothing of note happening during an entire pre-merge, like what happened in Caramoan.
9. Hidden Immunity Idols were Hidden better
The Hidden Immunity Idols have unquestionably overtaken the show to an extent that makes people wonder how Survivor could ever have functioned without them. Worse yet, ever since Redemption Island, the Immunity Idols have always been hidden in such a way that makes it look easy to find. Sure they might take a few hours to locate, but it’s always the same deal – reach into a rock wall or a hole in a tree and hope for the best. Is that really hidden?
Compared to Philippines, which took huge inspiration from China, and you can see the difference. The Idol was quite clearly hidden in plain sight, right on top of the rice box, but it blended so well into the environment that it was hard to tell. Nobody in the season found the Hidden Immunity Idol without the clue and a lot of thinking first, which in turn made it overall more rewarding when people actually did find them because it didn’t feel like they were just reaching into a hole in a wall for a few minutes, it was obvious it took a lot of effort, thought and deduction to reach this powerful item in the game.
8. Original and Diverse Challenges
Returning to the season was the occurrence of water challenges, which had taken a break from the series since Micronesia. But on top of that, the challenges this season once again took inspiration from the local flavour, rather than what really could be called the “Parlour Game” era that engulfed post-Nicaragua and included Caramoan – where most of the challenges resembled something that one would find in a carnival, or in other cases were just ripped from other seasons.
In this season, the challenges were incredibly diverse, and for the most part relied on a combination of skills, rather than just “who can toss a bag more accurately”. Many of the tribal challenges saw a combination of athleticism, strength, and mental agility, such as the opening relay challenge; others were simply appropriately named such as “Manila Folders” in the second episode; there was even the unique drum-flipping reward challenge in Episode Ten which required the use of both strategy and athleticism at the same time in order to win. Listing the rest of the examples rather than the standouts would take forever, but it’s easy to see that there was more thought put into theming the challenges right and making sure they looked like they belonged in a season called Survivor: Philippines rather than Survivor: Notting Hill Carnival.
7. In-Depth Tribes
This falls under one of my later entries, but it bears stating first – the first four boots of Survivor: Philippines are the most well-developed first four boots in almost half a decade. We got to know a lot about these people and their story, their pain, their suffering, their joys, and so forth, and maybe it was because they were all on the same tribe, but even Survivor: Palau didn’t get into this much depth with their first four boots. We knew a lot about Zane, Roxy, Angie and Russell through their short but meaningful journey, which in turn made Matsing a well-edited tribe.
Even the other tribes got incredibly decent stories and editing, such as truly explaining how Tandang was such a cluster of personalities and how each personality couldn’t get along with the other personalities, and once Denise was sent to Kalabaw it got enough explanation as to the dynamics of the tribe. Compare this to both of the Caramoan tribes, where Bikal was barely seen apart from Phillip and Brandon’s “craziness” while the dynamics of Gota were mostly static and uninformative.
6. A Natural Survivor Villain
One of the problems the majority of people have is that the Phillip Shepard we see on Redemption Island and Caramoan is not actually Phillip Shepard – it’s either “Former Federal Agent(?) Phillip Shepard”, “The Specialist”, “The Lion”, “The Gorilla”, or something or other. Phillip plays a character, he doesn’t play himself – he barely has a genuine moment out there, which makes him such a divisive character because how can you enjoy someone if they’re not themselves?
Enter Abi-Maria Gomes, who was entirely herself and entirely unaware that herself was a borderline insane, paranoid control freak who was pissing off her entire tribe. She had no idea how she was coming off, which is how all most successful Survivor villains start. What we saw of Abi-Maria out there was actually Abi-Maria, not a forced caricature of a book character. She had no filter, a less than good grasp on English and best of all was one of the main focuses of the season with her antics. That in turn makes her a much better villain than Phillip because she was genuine, she really didn’t initially see anything wrong with what she was doing or saying about the people around her. Does that make her a more likeable character? Well, that’s a bit more subjective. Does it make her a better Survivor villain? It definitely does.
5. “Emotional Older Lady” Was Portrayed Better
Dawn and Lisa were on back to back seasons and played into the same archetype of the emotional, frail older woman who is drowning in self-doubt issues. But in Philippines, Lisa was given the hero spotlight while Dawn was made into a crazy, unstable person.
Why was this? Maybe it was because Lisa was a celebrity and made the Final Tribal Council and may have had a better story to tell. Maybe it was because they couldn’t fit a cohesive story into Caramoan for Dawn because the entire season was preoccupied with Phillip and Brandon and nobody else. But Lisa’s story was more internal – it was more a struggle with herself than a struggle with her tribe mates. Could she overcome her confidence issues and become a good player who was able to think for herself? Could she “play this game”, as she would put it? America definitely enjoyed her self-discovery story as she ended up winning Fan Favourite that year.
Meanwhile, Dawn’s portrayal was less than flattering. She was made to look unstable, and maybe that’s because she might have been a bit on the emotional side. But inserted into her story were needless confessionals and dialogue about how crazy Dawn was, how she should have been mentally evacuated, how she didn’t have her head right on her shoulders. They could have been close to actually including horror movie stings whenever she gave confessionals and including the Jaws soundtrack whenever she was alone. Given the reaction to her voting out Brenda, nobody was pleased with Dawn – could this have been avoided had her story and journey been given the same treatment as Lisa’s? Who knows, but Lisa was clearly the victor in this regard.
4. The Winner Felt Like a Real Person
Denise may not have been the biggest character of the Philippines, but she was definitely given an edit that portrayed her in a light that gave her depth. We got to know who she was, what her goals were, how she would achieve these goals in Survivor and even a little bit about her doubts and fears. She wasn’t given the screen time of Lisa nor the presence of Abi-Maria, but it was easy to understand why Denise won Philippines and not Lisa and Skupin, and done so in a way that an audience could be accepting of her win.
And while we did have that understanding with Cochran, the problem with Cochran is that he became a stereotype of himself – he mentioned nearly every episode that he was a nerd and super fan of Survivor, he self-deprecated nearly every episode, and every moment we did have of him as a person always tied into the first two. He got an ungodly amount of confessionals as the endgame grew closer where he continuously mentioned how much of a super fan he was or with some self-deprecating joke; I imagine even fans of Cochran found this a bit tiresome. So while Cochran may have gotten the most confessionals and the largest amount of screen time out of everyone in the final nine in Caramoan, it ended the season on a bit of an un-genuine note.
3. Jonathan Penner
Jonathan Penner is an incredibly in-depth, well-rounded Survivor character and him coming back for a third time may seem annoying to those who are sick of returning players, but it was all for the best. He proved why he’s a great character – he can tell a story better than anyone else out there could ever dream of. He has the rare gift of being able to both write a story and tell a story – not many can do both as well as he can. Showcased in Episode Nine is the extent of Jonathan’s narration skills as well as his aforementioned story-telling skills as he both helps Lisa through her self-doubt issues and even tries to explain to her, in one of Survivor’s most meta scenes, how what she does can change the “story” of the season. There’s not many people, (I would dare say there isn’t anyone), from Survivor who can tell a story or speak with as much sense and persuasion as Jonathan Penner.
Which is why the selected narrators of Caramoan, Phillip and Cochran, couldn’t even begin to compare to the selected narrator of Philippines. They may have a spiel, a caricature they stick to, but they don’t talk with the same amount of conviction that Jonathan Penner can, a man who could read names out of a phone book and it would still be better than most of the episodes of Cook Islands. Caramoan suffered as a season merely because it didn’t have Jonathan Penner, or even people who come close to matching the confessional or persuasion skills as Jonathan Penner, in it to tell the story in a comforting, Phillip-and-Cochran-less way.
2. Power Shifts and Changing Alliances
The problem Caramoan had is that the same people who were in power from Day One on the Favourites Tribe were also the same people who were in power on Day Thirty-eight. There was no shift in power, no alliances changing up or overthrowing the cocky leaders, or even the people on the bottom of the alliance overthrowing the people on the top – on the contrary, the people on the bottom of the alliance were voted out in twelth and ninth place respectively.
Compared to a tribe such as Kalabaw, where it was initially everyone against Jonathan, then the men against the women, then everyone against Katie and then back to everyone against Jonathan once again. Or on Tandang, where it was initially Abi, R.C., Pete and Skupin in power. Then it was Abi, Pete, Artis and Lisa in power. Then once they merged, it was Lisa and Skupin in power and R.C., Artis, Pete and Abi never even made the Final Four. Nobody who was in power on Day One ended up in the finals, (except for Skupin who was a late edition to a Day One alliance), because power shifted from one end of the spectrum to the other. Alliances were formed late in the game that decided the end, instead of the alliance formed on Day One deciding the end.
The shifting of power and changing of alliances is essential to a great Survivor season. Without it, a season becomes predictable and stale. Even though there was one vote off in post-merge Caramoan where the “Stealth ‘R’ Us” alliance didn’t control the vote, they still held the power and decided who would be eliminated every other Tribal Council. Corinne, Michael, Malcolm and Reynold were all gone within four of the first five post-merge Tribal Councils, people who never had the ability to control the vote for any portion of the game. This is ultimately one of the key items that makes Caramoan a worse season than Philippines.
1. Better Editing
The editing in Caramoan was, without a doubt, some of the worst in Survivor history. There was no direction within the season, it wasn’t clear how they wanted the season to go or be portrayed – it was the season of “Stuff is happening, and it’s crazy!”. There were entire blocks of characters without purpose other than to be either background characters or pitchers of loud noise with no substance. People like Allie, Hope, Julia, Erik, and Brenda were given no purpose in the season other than being there. People like Shamar and Phillip were given no other purpose than being loud caricatures with very little substance underneath.
The difference between Caramoan and Philippines are like night and day, because like what was mentioned in an earlier entry, all four of the first four boots were given purpose, depth and were clearly characterised. Even people who barely appeared in the season were given a role to play, however miniscule it was – Artis was the vocal Anti-Skupin spokesperson. Katie was the “bitch” who wanted Jonathan gone. Carter was the “nice guy” who was good at challenges. Dawson was Jeff Probst’s stalker. If things did happen, such as the power shift in Episode Nine, they happened because it was well established why in the narrative of the season that they happened – Lisa and Skupin were heavily portrayed as being on the bottom of the Tandang Five, so Skupin flipped on the Tandang Five and took them down. The editing all had that magical “P” word in it – Purpose.
There was no such clarity in Caramoan, because Caramoan had no room for narrative, clarity or even being able to tell who to root for. The “Three Amigos” were cocky, sexist assholes one episode and heroic underdogs the next. Phillip was portrayed as being a source of comedy one episode and an unbearable annoyance another. They reduced Corinne, one of the most brutal confessionalists in Survivor history, down to an Anti-Phillip confessionalist, without any build-up or explanation. We knew next to nothing about any of the people who played in Caramoan because it was all pointless strategy – we didn’t know Matt sold BMX bikes for a living or how long he’d been growing his gigantic beard, only that he and Michael were the swing votes of the tribe. Allie being a genuine super fan of Survivor was barely an afterthought in her closing lines. Michael was reduced to the demeaning nickname of “the gay” for the second half of his game, no questions asked. This never happened in Philippines because Philippines got how a season should be edited.
Editing can make or break a Survivor season. It made Philippines and it ultimately broke Caramoan. Philippines was ultimately a diamond in a patch of what is quickly becoming Survivor’s roughest stretch of seasons, but all it went to prove was that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place anymore. Caramoan proved the direction in which Survivor editing is going, and it is not a good direction, because as outlined above, there are many, many reasons why Philippines is a vastly superior season to Caramoan in practically every way.
Next week, the roles will be reversed with Nick Chester bringing you the top ten reasons why Survivor: Caramoan is better than Survivor: Philippines
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!