Friday, October 21, 2022

Survivor S43E05: Stop with All the Niceness


Survivor offers some repeated beats but showcases a fitting blindside.
by Jeremy Fogelman

The latest episode of Survivor is called “Stop with All the Niceness” and gives us that delightful showcase of “pride cometh before the fall”. Sometimes on Survivor it’s a direct line from someone’s arrogance to their getting voted out, and sometimes it’s about someone’s arrogance getting their ally voted out. This episode we got both at once.

Geo has been delighting in his theoretical majority alliance for a little while, with him being the obvious unknowing target last week until Lindsay tanked herself. He and Ryan are a very strong pair, but they also both think of Karla and James as being part of their alliance instead of another strong duo associated with their duo. Last week this wasn’t an issue as their interests aligned in voting out Lindsay, but both Geo and Ryan remained in the dark about their so-called allies' true goals and plans.

The episode gives us a little tease about Cassidy potentially spiraling like Lindsay, but this was just a bit of misdirection, as the ball was firmly in Karla’s court, with her ally James by her side. The “loose lips sink ships” had two instances this episode, one being Geo gleefully telling Karla about his lie to the tribe and actually getting an advantage, while the other was Elie on Baka foolishly telling Sami about Jeanine’s idol for no reason I could detect.

If it hadn’t been for both Geo’s luck in getting his advantage (the third failure of Knowledge is Power, as it wasn’t even used) and his inability to keep it to himself, he might not have triggered Karla’s warning senses enough to be a target. So Geo, in a way, voted himself out through his own hubris and the episode was glad to show us his arrogance in interviews juxtaposed with his actual situation.


The other stupid game decision was Ryan “throwing” his challenge (although it’s unclear how much he was doing) to get a chance to vote out Cassidy. Intentional tribals are almost always a bad idea, with the one possible exception of feeling the need to get rid of a toxic, chaotic person who’s not helping in challenges and will screw things up when they merge. Cassidy was neither of those, and Ryan’s glee at thinking he fooled everyone was another clear note by the episode to foreshadow his potential downfall.

Cassidy correctly picked up on his poor acting, but only Karla was shown making the game-changing decision -- despite James being on her team. As it often happens when big tribes finally lose, Coco was only a little bit away from completely destroying itself -- and this sort of unknowing back and forth is always fun to watch. Nothing though from new champions Vesi, who have certainly been dominating lately.

But the real chaos was on our Baka tribe, as per usual, even though they didn’t lose. Jeanine and Elie (another very tight duo) go searching for idols and we see another use of the Bead Beware Advantage. This time they tell Owen about the advantage because he accidentally runs into them while she has it out -- and he seems to be pretty smart about telling us he’s hedging his bets because Gabler is unpredictable and he wants to be shown as trusting the two ladies.

In contrast, Elie (who I suppose incorrectly still thinks of Sami as her ally) tells the secret of Jeanine’s idol, while Owen kept it to himself! So too late, Sami tells Gabler they just gave Jeanine an idol -- I suppose Elie telling Sami did back him into a corner, because if he didn’t participate with the bead thing, they’d have been screwed. But instead now the whole tribe knows about it, and that can’t be a good thing.

Similarly, Jeanine revealed her loss of the Risk It challenge, which means that now everyone also knows she has no vote. And with the merge coming up soon, she’s in jeopardy. It was a pretty fun episode, with a lot of great personality conflicts and people not seeing their own weaknesses. It’s setting the season up to be a pretty chaotic post-merge situation.

Next time on Survivor, the Merge is coming and there’s some sort of twist.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law S01E09: Whose Show is This?

© Marvel

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law breaks the fourth wall to shreds to mixed results in the season finale.
by Jeremy Fogelman

The season finale of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is called “Whose Show is This?” and completely decides to break from its chains entirely. The episode amusingly starts with its first significant fourth wall bleed with an extended reference to the old Incredible Hulk show that was pretty funny, but then immediately forgotten -- which is unfortunately the big issue with the finale.

I legitimately enjoyed the fourth wall explosion nonsense, which is classic stuff from the comics (they even had an actress play showrunner Jessica Gao while the real one was in the background). That was all fun even with the silly robot acronym “K.E.V.I.N” Matrix knockoff, and a lot of the back and forth meta stuff was cute -- the issue was how it ended.

© Marvel

Jen correctly states that the final storyline of the big fight scene with Todd the “Hulk King” (which had been obvious for a while) was a pretty uninspired plotline, but that’s what the show has been setting up for seven episodes! The resolution that Jen simply wishes away the consequences of what she doesn’t want felt limp and dispiriting, because although it was amusing to hear her say that Matt should show up, the rest didn’t entirely track.

She says that the real villain is Todd and he should pay for his actions -- and that happens offscreen, I suppose? Same for what happened to Josh and the perfunctory nature of Emil going back to prison. Titania was 100% wasted entirely -- I guess she wasn’t erased by Jen at the end but was just there for some reason?

I understand that due to the fourth wall stuff logic isn’t entirely important, but I want some sort of consistency with either the rules the show establishes or the ideas the show wants to consider. There was a plot about the toxic dudes and their overreaction to non-white male superheroes, which is fine, but if we’re deleting the blood storyline, why spend so much time on it? It just feels like a lot of wasted time.

© Marvel

So when Jen complains that “this can’t possibly be where the season is going”, fair enough -- but where was it going then? The idea seems to be that very light, cliched family picnic at the end of the show, which is that everything is back to normal -- except that Hulk shows up with his son “Skaar” (with not great CGI) and so everything isn’t back to normal?

Is the point of the show “screw you haters!” because if so, I’m pretty disappointed because the potential of a fourth wall breaking funny show was a really interesting idea to me. Instead I felt that the show cared very little about itself except as a tool to complain about online haters -- but they don’t really say anything interesting about that systemic toxicity or anything really innovative other than that they suck. Which is inarguable.

The end tag is similarly annoying -- the “jokes” about wi-fi and TV shows have already been made about Wong, including in this show already! The show ended up feeling very rushed overall, with a lot of “okay” moments and only two decent episodes that both were heavy on the cameos.

© Marvel

I think that the show had a real uneven quality to it, perhaps more than any other of the Marvel shows so far -- none of its dramatic moments had any heft and the storylines were all other the place. When the MCU robot archly says that you could call it a legal comedy if you wanted, that’s because the show had presented it that way, so what should I have really expected?

Sadly the finale didn’t really save the show for me, as much as I liked the conceptual stuff behind the fourth wall break, the way it ended felt like coming down from a high into disappointment again. That has been the cycle for me watching She-Hulk and I really hoped for better than that.

Get it on Apple TV

Survivor S43E04: Show No Mercy


Survivor has a fun episode with an inspired new twist and a tragicomic self-immolation.
by Jeremy Fogelman

Ah, poor Lindsay, sometimes it can be a bit tricky to figure out why people get voted out of Survivor, even on this episode which is called “Show No Mercy” -- and she certainly didn’t get any. The problem is that Lindsay had her mental wires crossed and became increasingly paranoid, yet didn’t do anything about that paranoia except make her allies worried about her reliability.

In fairness to them, if someone is suddenly saying they can’t trust anyone and that you’re lying to them, it’s hard to accept that they’ll be a safe ally in the future. James really wanted to keep Lindsay and calm her down while Karla (shown to be the savvy one at times) just wanted to flip on her ally to save their future.

Amusingly at the same time Geo was planting the seeds for his own voteout, being too obvious in his strategizing and being arrogant enough that other people totally picked up on it. His mention to us that he’s controlling things was a classic ironic interview moment. It felt likely he was doomed until Lindsay essentially self-eliminated -- the truth sadly is that if she really felt paranoid, the absolute worst response was to show that paranoia to anyone, especially her allies!


So the little last minute scheme where Noelle from Vesi tells Elie from Baka how to solve the immunity puzzle served very well to take down Coco. All of those potential allegiances and personalities collided and detonated. We can at least note that James and Karla are still quite solid -- Karla also had a great moment post the Cody stealing scene, which was a great twist idea.

The Vesi tribe is concerned about Cody offending the tribe and “going for the jugular” and the episode plays a fun trick on us, making us think that Cody was indeed going to go too far with scorched earth tactics and steal their machete. But instead it’s all part of his plan, getting the Coco tribe to agree happily to give what Vesi wanted in the first place.


All well and good, but then Karla realizes that perhaps they’ve been played -- quite a good episode for Karla, despite her tribe losing this time. As for Baka, there’s some fun stuff where Gabler and Elie have a personality clash, with a very silly moment of him putting a palm frond on other people in the middle of the night in lieu of a blanket. He’s certainly an interesting character.

In terms of the steal-an-item twist, I thought it was a good idea -- doing it in broad daylight and allowing the tribes to negotiate with each other down to the wire gave a lot more room for interesting gameplay and character interactions. Sadly we’re now getting to that point in the season where I basically like most people, so any vote-out is going to be rough -- but that’s all thanks to the new, great recruiting efforts the show has made.

Since we don’t have that stupid Hourglass twist to worry about, I’m pretty excited about the potential episodes to come -- there’s even more ways everyone can implode and plenty of people to root for, which is what I prefer.

Next time on Survivor, revenge is coming, Owen thinks he can screw things up and things are about to blow up.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law S01E08: Ribbit and Rip It

© Disney+

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has its first great, if way too short episode.
by Jeremy Fogelman

The latest episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is called “Ribbit and Rip It” and essentially handles the integration of Matt Murdock/Daredevil nearly seamlessly into this show. The episode starts with a complete trolling of the “twerk” haters by remixing that scene into a few seconds of a precursor, which is fine, I suppose -- I still think it was not very funny and a date joke, but I don’t mind the show trolling the worst parts of the audience.

The episode revolves around a new wannabe superhero calling himself “Leapfrog” but is actually the rich son of one of the evil law firm’s many major rich, terrible clients. His attempt at a cool catchphrase of “Ribbit and Rip It” isn’t so funny at first, but it’s very funny when he uses it later before jumping out a window and seriously injuring himself. Idiots seriously injuring themselves is always funny, as long as they don’t die.

It turns out his suit is allegedly defective, wanting to sue the manufacturer, who is obviously Luke Jacobson, the designer we’ve seen already because who else could it be? His character is really one of those “your mileage may vary” sorts of camp fashion designer types, meaning sometimes he’s funny and sometimes he sounds like what a writer thought a sassy fashion designer would say.

Here the main little courtroom scene is both fun and nonsensical -- Luke says “Your Honor, I’m not a fool” which is hard to imagine going over well, and apparently this hearing is taking place the same week (because the female lawyer gala is mentioned as being later in the week)? That’s extremely, unrealistically fast even for this show, and the whole “dude incriminates himself” has already happened on this show -- but the fun part is everything Matt Murdock does and how Jen quickly changes her perspective as the episode goes on.

© Disney+

At first she’s annoyed by his capable legal tactics against her, but then they have a legit flirtatious moment where he seems to be the first to truly understand both of her sides (which makes sense considering his own secret identity). The episode also contrasts their real chemistry with the cheesy, cliched awfulness of rich jerk Todd who turns off Jen in seconds. The whole Todd thing feels like an obvious villain foreshadowing, but if it isn’t, he’s kinda a pointlessly annoying character, and if it is, it’s too obvious to be a surprise.

But the actual later fight between Daredevil and She-Hulk is pretty fun, even if Jen is certainly causing a lot of property damage (she throws someone’s car!) and only offers to “leave a note” afterward. In fairness comic book movies rarely consider such things, but considering Matt mentions it, it does strike a discordant note.

Happily, the chemistry between the two only escalates, with a pretty heated moment of him “listening” to her accelerated heartbeat. Jen actually breaks the fourth wall a lot in this episode, and I was glad to see it, except for the final meta moments of pondering the final segment twist, which felt a bit too meta, honestly.

The actual hookup between the two made a lot of sense, as did the cute walk of shame moments afterward. The episode also serves to set up a decent cliffhanger for the finale, with She-Hulk being portrayed as a sort of out of control monster, something that she’s been able to avoid since the first episode.

Whether or not they should’ve showed the actual revenge sex footage in the episode is up for debate, but it certainly served to make it quite understandable that Jen would “Hulk out” for the first time since she got the Hulk powers. It’s perhaps not a great sign that the two best episodes of the show had extended cameos (Daredevil and Wong), but this was also the first time that my issues with the episode were ignorable instead of making it all worse.

Still, it was an episode that felt too short, like they all have, which is a classic Disney+ problem -- things are too rushed and there’s way too much coming out at once. No wonder there are concerns about the Phase 4 MCU properties overall. There have been way too many things released. I’m just hoping the finale works better than the show’s been overall.

Get it on Apple TV

Survivor S43E03: I’ll Sign the Divorce Papers


Survivor takes a step down with a fairly straightforward and well-meaning episode.
by Jeremy Fogelman

After all of the sparks that have flown in the first two episodes of the season, this episode teases us with a so-called divorce of “island married” Jesse and Dwight but ultimately has everyone performing a very normal and expected blindside. The gang on Vesi loses immunity again this week, which will send their numbers down to four -- and the tribal lines are already pretty stark, with Noelle and Dwight sticking together in secret, Jesse theoretically still friends with Dwight, and Jesse and Cody very tightly allied.

Last time Nneka and Jesse ensured that Cody got his idol and didn’t lose his vote, although that part also helped their moves out too. This episode got a brand new backstory from Nneka, talking about her plans with a mission team for displaced children in Nigeria. We also get an emotional speech from Jesse about how voting out Nneka would feel like voting out his mom -- but I guess we have a new Ciera Eastin (she famously voted out her mom and Jeff kept bringing it up again even on later seasons)!


But at this point Nneka was unfortunately in the “challenge weak link” category and was unable to get her alliance to keep her in the game to prioritize loyalty over theoretically a better chance at winning. It’s hard to argue that she wasn’t doing as well as she could at the puzzle when she admits it both to us and out loud to her tribe. Sadly it didn’t seem too likely we’d keep Noelle and Nneka, because even if Noelle had been the target and used a steal-a-vote, she likely would’ve voted for Nneka too.

Her blindside was about as nice as you could get, with the whole tribe playing pretty nice despite everything -- we even get a cute moment where Jesse asks for the team to perform their survey of confidence in a better way. Similarly on Mysterious Island, Owen and James (who I guess don’t feel the risk is worth the reward, but James has barely been in the show so far while Owen technically got a vote already) agree to overtly not risk their vote so that Noelle can get an advantage. It’s the sort of thing that could potentially be a real allying moment between the three of them or maybe nothing at all.

On Baka and Coco, things get a little interesting in different ways. On Baka, a game is played where Gabler is used as a tool to trick the ladies, and he totally doesn’t realize it. Ellie, Jeanine, and Sami discuss trying to trick Gabler into revealing whether or not he knows his idol is still good, but Sami wants to play his own 19-going-on-22-year-old game (he gives a side-eye of sorts when Elie says that she’s closer to Gabler than he is, which doesn’t seem true).


Sami just flat out asks Gabler, who says he knows his idol is still good -- and Sami drop the bombshell that the ladies went through his bag. And then most amusingly, Gabler tells this bombshell to Owen, who pretends he didn’t already know about it! So Gabler ends up telling the ladies a lie, that he thinks his idol is defunct, and they buy it! Not a great look for those two ladies, but a great look for Sami and Owen.

On Coco, the only thing of note is that Karla initially doesn’t open a Beware Advantage, but then changes her mind and goes back to get it after all. Sadly it’s the same old bead thing, which is a shame for originality, but Karla’s approach is completely different from Cody’s.

Cody was able to use his connection with Jesse and Nneka to get both a plan to get beads and help to do it, while Karla uses social skills to barter for beads by creating jewelry for people. It’s interesting because both use social capability but in different ways, but it does make the episode a bit less interesting in terms of the nature of the advantage. The post-tribal stuff wasn’t as interesting this time around, but there’s a lot of really interesting potential coming with this cast, which is already great.

Next time on Survivor, revenge is on people’s minds and there’s a war coming.