14 November 2008

Survivor Philippines: In Defense of the Biggest Villain Ever - Marlon

Survivor is a hilarious, thrilling melodrama, where people's minds and bodies are taxed to the limit. There's a lot of politics, a lot of humanity, and a lot of really slick editing. No one is duped into thinking it is 'reality.' It's simply a great show. - Quote
Marlon Carmen, this schemer of a player on Survivor Philippines, has sealed his image as this show's most evil character. Some viewers want his blood. How could someone do such a thing? He must be like that in real life.

Is Marlon showing his true character? Or is he playing a character in order to go further in the game?

HIS STRATEGY: He is playing everybody. He is using every opportunity, every chance opened to him to get into someone else's mind and plant little seeds of doubt and distrust. He is the instigator. He is the perpetrator. He is treacherous. He is dangerously clever.

HIS STRENGTH: For Marlon to draw out his plans, he would need a sharp mind. Thus, he would carry out his moves with strategic thought, never once thinking he could hurt someone. He was ruthless in that sense. He did not let his feelings get in the way of his game. Not once was he offended. Even as Rob tried to tick him off during the endurance reward challenge, remembe? Instead of taking offense, Marlon channeled his disgust into making others feel disgusted.

Marlon also has foresight. He is aware of his "enemies" (the other castaways) and thus, can play his cards right. He knows when to make his moves on them.

He really is the devil personified.

HIS WEAKNESS: For all his "evil genius", Marlon is one noisy player. He wasn't content playing stealth. He laid his strategy out in the open. A good CIA agent he will not make. Heh. He is irritating and LOUD. And I, too, am revolted by it.

HIS MISTAKE: He said this week his argument with Zita was a ploy to tick her off. It was, I admit, a mean-spirited move. What the hell got to him? It was what I was asking when I was watching the scenes unfold. Up until this point, he was already playing a good game. This was the only situation so far where Marlon allowed his emotions to get the best of him. And he began to feel guilty. The devil is human after all.


A lot of the viewers assume that for Marlon to play the game that way, what they are seeing is what he is in real life. Where does that evil drive come from, if it isn't innate in him? To some viewers, his scheming ways go against the Filipino culture. Those aren't Pinoy values Marlon is displaying, they say. It's so Westernized, they say.

And now, let me refute all of those...To quote one narrator in my favorite whimsy TV program --- THE FACTS ARE THESE:

Survivor is a game that transcends cultures. You have to realize that there is no Westernized way, nor a Filipino way to play this game. There isn't even a right or a wrong way. There is, however, a strategic way to play it.

Some Americans, in their own version of Survivor, are also appalled at the arrogance of some of their castaways. They also have Marlons of their own, someone their viewing public also hate with a passion. Just like we do with our Marlon. They also root for the nice ones, they also pick castaway favorites based on their likeability. As viewers, we're not all that different from each other.

Although, yes we cannot discount the fact that our Pinoy culture and the values we hold as Pinoys are big factors to how people play this game differently than other cultures. But being Pinoy or non-Pinoy has little to do with it. Scheming and betrayal is not exclusive to other cultures. Betrayal, turning back on someone, distrust --- it's all about human nature.

The system of Survivor is in politicization. You have to be prepared to give up some of the values you uphold, if you would like to stay longer. You cannot come to this game clueless. You cannot play and be virtuous at the same time because as you will soon realize --- it's going to be hard to make it work.

Case in point --- The Naak Family --- which has somehow evolved into this ideal Filipino family viewers have come to love. Look at how all of them have, at one point, committed offenses against each other, in spite of saying they are in a very tight alliance ---
  • Cris and Kaye betrayed Kiko by voting him off.
  • Kiko betrayed Rob when he gave the black pearl to him.
  • Zita has toyed with the idea of voting off JC.
  • JC has broken her promise to Zita.
  • JC, Kiko and Rob didn't fully disclose to the Zita, Cris and Kaye that they have an inner alliance. That's keeping a secret from their family. That's technically dishonesty.
Were they wrong to make those choices? In the real world, those things would have counted as real offenses you should be confessing to your priest. Because, being Catholic, you know that lying and dishonesty is a sin. People break off relationships because of it in the real world.

But in Survivor? One has to learn to recognize that the system will leave you with no choice but do it. That's the kind of system Marlon understands. And he understands it very well.

To say you won't do those things when you're not really there in the island yourself? It's easier said than done. (Please refer to my analysis of the Naak Family again). Being on the island, you're left with little things to do. You can't drive to the mall, hang out at Starbucks, text your friends, use the internet, relax at the movie house or socialize with other people other than your tribemates. When there is little thing to do, you either sleep, swim at the beach or you become idle. What happens to an idle mind? There is a saying that goes ---
"An idle mind is the devil's playground."

To say that he is very scheming is actually a compliment when one is a Castaway. But I do not believe he is ALL evil. A lot of how Marlon is portrayed can be attributed to beautiful editing. Yeah, yeah...blame it all on editing.

Look, since Day 1, Marlon's boorishness has been pounded to us, the viewers. The pounding hasn't failed even to this day, eight weeks or so running.

And by pounding, I mean we have a "Marlon evil factoid" on a daily basis, did you not notice? You can thank the GMA editors for that. They have prepared very well in making him the biggest villain.

For 24 hours in a day, they have at least a 2-minute Marlon exposure. 2-minutes times five nights the show is aired, that's 10 minutes in a week. Can you honestly tell the kind of person he is in roughly those minutes? Those carefully chosen, carefully edited minutes?

I can't even tell if I've cooked my pasta right in five minutes.


Because Marlon understands this game's dynamics, I'm pretty sure he isn't there to present himself as a role model. And for a player to come to the game aspiring to be one? This would have to be a huge mistake. The show isn't intended to make role models out of castaways. It's not the kind of show one joins because "you want the world to see how incredibly amazing Filipinos are". Geez, you might as well take part in the Olympics. That kind of thinking would serve better there.

And...if you're watching this looking for a role model, you're watching the wrong show. Or better yet, you're looking for a role model in the wrong medium.


This piece wasn't written because I glorify what Marlon does to make it far. And I'm not saying he's supposed to win this game. Because the truth is, that's not for any of us to decide. That's the jury's job.

One glaring truth about this is that Marlon may be doing something right with the kind of strategy he's delivering. As the most hated person on the show, he has already outlasted 11 out of 18 castaways thus far. His time may be up next. But so what? Don't you think Marlon doesn't know that?

The guy is playing. And he is playing very, very well against his fellow castaways.

And c'mon admit it. Without someone like him, it wouldn't make the series that much interesting, wouldn't it? As someone who has given up on Survivor nine seasons ago (my last Survivor Addiction was All-Stars in '04), he sure did revive my interest for it.