Monday, July 8, 2013

Siberia Finds a Common Bond: Reality Competition & Action/Mystery Flick

NBC has done something really interesting with its new show Siberia.  The first few previews I just fast forwarded through because it looked like just another Survivor type show and I wasn't interested.  Then as the images flickered by, I realized something else was going on.  Intrigued, I added it to my list of premieres to check out and I have to say I was quite impressed!  I thought it would be a little like Harper's Island or I Know What You Did Last Summer, where everything is normal until strange events begin and cast members are plucked off.  However the first episode had a lot of the normal reality components and it wasn't until the last minutes that we see any crazy horror action!  It wasn't so much that the reality competition was the premise and then everything goes haywire.  There was more of a balance between the two genres than I had expected.  That being said, now that the action has begun, it does seem like we will get more of the horror, mystery, drama in the coming weeks.  It was an awesome premiere and did a lot of things right, we got great introductions to the cast and their personalities, but waiting for those final seconds when everything falls apart might have turned some of you away who tuned in for the non-reality part.  Don't lose hope!  There is a lot Siberia has to offer!  So let's dive in to the characters and events of the show!  If you missed the premiere this will catch you up and even if you did tune in, this will help you to recap the 16 characters in preparation for next week's episode!  Enjoy!

The show begins as any reality show, the contestants are taken to a remote location, read the rules and given their first challenge.  In this game there are no rules. They are only to survive the winter.  They can form a government if they choose, to help divvy up each person's responsibilities i.e. food, water, fire, or they can each play for themselves.  They are to live as the people did 100 years ago, off the land with no modern conveniences and whoever survives a prize of $500,000 will be split among them.  An old trading post has been recreated as it was a century ago when the 14 residents mysteriously vanished, similar to Roanoke Island, so it is revealed that they do have some supplies and rudimentary shelter.  The first twist and challenge is given which is they are not allowed their luggage, only the clothes on their backs and the 16 contestants must race following the path of the original trading post marked by red flags to the settlement where the last two to reach it will be eliminated.  The whistle is blown and they are off!
  • Johnny, a bull rider from South Carolina immediately takes the lead.  While he is obviously athletic, it is one of his only skills in the group.  He claims that he grew up on a farm and an advantage he has over the others is that while they are city folk, he finds their surroundings to be comfortable and right up his alley.  He is first to make it to the trading post and while the rest of the group looks for food and water he chooses not to participate claiming he can take care of himself and sunbathes on the roof instead.  While he watches the other members attempt to start a fire, it is revealed that along with the clothes on his back he has smuggled in a lighter.  He mentions that it wasn't like they strip-searched you like they do when you get in the back of a police car as if he has had some experience with this.  As far as personality, he is smug and arrogant thus makes enemies quickly, as Carolina, Sam, Miljan, and Neeko have already voiced disapproval, and the likelihood of someone helping him out when he comes across trouble is rare.  When the group starts to bond over the campfire he approaches them and offers up some berries he picked.  I am not sure if this was a tactic, or he was feeling lonely and left out and it was a genuine gesture to make good with the group.
  • Neeko also has athleticism on his side but unlike Johnny also has a diplomatic nature.  After keeping a close second and arriving right after Johnny, he went to the other cabin surprised to find Sabina already there.  He view the no rules clause of the game as a challenge as it means you have to keep an eye on everyone else and you are the only one in charge of your survival.  This being said he realizes that arguments will be tough to settle and some sort of authority is needed, so he took the lead after the others joined them and divided the contestants into groups to accomplish the different jobs needed.  There was no battle for authority and everyone seemed to take Neeko's step up positively.  He comes off as a likable guy, level-headed and a good candidate to help the group survive the unknown challenges that lay ahead.
  • Sam is a mechanic from Brooklyn and possesses the stereotypical attitude from that area.  While not the fittest of the group he does have other strengths, or so he says, as he leads the fire attempting efforts like a boy scout.  He admits in his personal interview that he exaggerates or maybe even flat out lies about his skills, and is not able to make a flame or even a spark after directing the team in an elaborate fire pit setup.  However he doesn't hesitate to put Johnny in his place for his lack of participation and claims that the no rules policy is the producers, but there is a law of the land that states everyone needs to help.  He also barks at the group whose chore was to find mushrooms and they bring back water instead.  This act didn't make him any friends as Esther voices her discontent and Johnny just finds it amusing.  Sam is a conflict starter and it is not yet clear whether he will panic or step-up after terror strikes the participants.
  • Esther, a model from Australia, is devious and manipulative.  During the race to the trading post, she removes one of the red flags marking their way in an attempt to throw off the other contestants.  When Daniel is injured Esther makes no attempt to aide him, instead she asks him if he did it on purpose because now he can play the sympathy card and what a great idea that would be.  I know it starts out as a game, but really?  Making enemies quickly isn't a good idea as any Survivor watcher knows, they can always come back to vote you off, while that won't be a problem on this show I have to question her personality; is she really a bitch or is it just a front for the game?  When everyone arrives and comes to the realization that there are less beds than people, Esther makes a scene and attacks Irene's logical argument, she even goes as far as to threaten Irene not to push her too far.  Esther then goes to the boy's cabin and using her feminine charms, gets Miljan to agree to share a bunk with her.  Like Johnny's actions, when the game changes and becomes a real fight for survival without a medical crew and helicopter to rescue them, I'm sure few people will jump to help her out. 
  • Miljan is a DJ from Montenegro and I am not too sure where his place will fall in the group.  He seems like a nice guy, but a bit clueless as he falls for Esther's charms when all she cares about it getting what she wants.  He says he's flattered she chose him and it's a game tactic to make all the other men jealous and emotional so they are at a disadvantage.  While others were impressed with Tommy's good Samaritanism, Miljan thought giving a helping hand was a poor choice, I wonder how he'll feel when the stakes change and a good Samaritan is just what he needs!  He helps out the entire group by looking for mushrooms and instead gathering water, but still wants to play his cards close to the vest when he and Irene find a locked shed he advises they keep the info to themselves.  Who knows, that shed will likely contain crucial clues or help for their survival and when the shit hits the fan, Miljan will be their savior in a time of need.
  • Daniel is the geek of the bunch, a computer guy from Minnesota, who is probably used to being behind a desk rather than in the wild.  Right off the bat, in the rat race to the settlement he trips and injures himself putting him out of the game.  Luckily the kind-hearted actions of Tommy saved him, as he practically carried Daniel to the finish line.  Later on Daniel was able to prove himself useful by utilizing the magnification from his glasses to start the fire.  He makes a strange comment regarding how Carolina seems very familiar to him, I think this will likely play into the strange events to come.  After Sam's misleading actions got them nowhere, Daniel was able to swoop in and save the day!  He earned Neeko's respect with his wits and has proven to be helpful to the group with his survival know-how also recognizing the need to boil their water to avoid disease.  He also is able to catch a mutated frog and while Johnny sees it as more food, Daniel's wits kick in and he is weary not only about eating it but also about what in their surroundings caused this anomaly.  He is a nice guy, but has already proved himself to be a bit of a klutz and probably won't do well in the stressful situations that lie ahead.  Hopefully his smarts will come in handy or else he will just be extra baggage in everyone's fight for survival.
  • Carolina possesses beauty on the inside and out.  She is a bartender from Colombia which doesn't give us much clue as to her personality or how well she will do in the survival scenario.  However, she does recognize how the absence of rules will cause problems. (While I realize everyone's feelings on the rules won't matter when it is no longer a game, I do think it gives us insight into the characters and how they will conduct themselves when the game stops.) She also shows a good moral fiber when she discourages Esther's "cheating" and describes her beliefs as "you have to play fair to win and life rewards you back".  Similarly, when she sees Johnny choosing not to participate in the quest for food, fire and water she's irked and tries to persuade him to help out, without being condescending.  Overall she is a good natured girl who I think will act as the heart of the group.
  • Irene, a fashion designer from Milan, is a soft-spoken, kind-hearted person which, while admirable, doesn't make her stick out and plays for a easy character to kill off.  After her confrontation with Esther she is brought to tears, not wanting to offend anyone or make enemies.  She found Tommy's help with Daniel admirable and when she finds the shed with Miljan wants to be open and up front about it with the group.  While her personality isn't the best for a cut-throat game of survival, we will see if it aides her when the game becomes reality. 
  • Natalie (Veterinary Assistant, California), Victoria (Sales Clerk, Canada), Annie (Graphic Artist, Louisiana), and George (Accountant, Kentucky) didn't leave much of an impression in this first episode.  We learned Natalie is comfortable with her Siberian surroundings which will come in handy as well as her knowledge of animals.  However the strange growling that the group witnessed their first night was unlike anything she had heard before, put that together with the mutated frog the wildlife in the area will likely be nothing like they've ever witnessed.  She also apparently doesn't know that a mushroom isn't a vegetable.  She also had sympathy for Irene after Esther's verbal attack.  Victoria is shy and not very social so she has trouble making alliances and all we really learned about Annie is that she also smuggled some items in and that she doesn't trust Miljan. George says he won't steal or attack anyone but we will see if that changes as their circumstances do.
  • Sabina is a soldier from Israel and I suspect she is really with Mossad.  She was a recluse for the entire episode and how she made it to the camp first remains a mystery.  I think that she has ulterior motives and isn't there for any reality competition.  We did see her however inspect the cabin before the other women arrived and find a switch blade that she kept for herself.  She is definitely not interested in working as a group and it seemed like when they learned about the mushrooms in the area she was uninterested or perhaps already knew.  She is probably the character I am most interested in seeing develop and her whole persona reminds me of Ethan from Lost who was really just a plant by the unknown local inhabitants of the island.
  • Berglind was the journalist from Iceland who saw a fork in the road and chose the wrong path.  Esther's sabotage further delayed her progress and Harpreet, a Graduate Student from DC, was mesmerized by Berglind's speed and "Viking warrior" look and chose to follow her.  Being the last two to arrive at the settlement they were both eliminated, however we didn't see them leave.  With no idea what or who else is with them in the wilderness, you never know, we might see these two again in the coming weeks.
  • Tommy is a philanthropist from Massachusetts who is a genuine good guy.  He says if he wins the money he would use it for charity.  When Daniel falls and sprains his ankle everyone leaves him behind for dead, but not Tommy.  He practically carries Daniel to the camp to find out they both are safe!  Later, Tommy leads the expedition to find mushrooms but comes across a remote stream instead.  Understanding the need for water above food, he brings the group their water.  The following day he continues the search for mushrooms, wanders too far from the settlement and he and his cameraman are attacked by an unknown being.  Tommy is declared dead with little to no explanation from the crew or producers, to the other contestants dismay, and the real plot behind Siberia begins!
By reading the above character profiles, you get the bits and pieces of the remainder of the episode.  By I'll do a quick recap to sum it up:
After they arrive at the settlement, Berglind and Harpreet are eliminated and host Jonathon explains the rest of the need-to-know information.  He introduced a huge ironclad box named "The Revealer", it is an impenetrable box that contains an item that will help them  in their survival.  How they use the item and who possess it is up to them.  I personally believe that the box is rigged and will keep opening at random times even without the producers and with the chaos that will ensue not everyone will be at the settlement when it opens so some characters will have the advantage of taking the item for themselves, other times their will likely be arguments as to who will keep the item.  In this episode the item was a simple piece of paper describing a mushroom that was grows naturally in their habitat that is also edible.  What I found particularly interesting was the clause that stated the mushrooms were used by the ex-natives for rituals.  It was also strange that the attack on the cameraman and Tommy happened right after Annie and Natalie found and removed the mushrooms.  Maybe these fungi have special meaning to whatever or whoever attacked.  Jonathon also introduced the big red button; if they want to leave or need help they are to push it and a helicopter will come and take them away thus forfeiting the game.  The next peculiarity was a strange growling heard their first night in the camp, which caused them all to flee to the cabins.  Finally we have the tumultuous ending that begins the horror show we signed up for.  The group, beginning to prepare the mushrooms, hears a loud noise which is followed by a cameraman running back to the settlement shouting in Russian with a large head wound.  The group is curious and terrified but the crew refuses to tell them what happened.  Sam however understood the man's cries, interpreting them as "I saw them, I saw them".  This obviously implies that whatever attacked them was something the crew was aware of.  While it's probably something like an old-folk tale and the reason why the people in the region refer to the site as cursed, not the viewer nor the cast was given any explanation as to what the "them" he referred to was.  Again it has tones of Lost, where the "them" were the Others or the native inhabitants of the island.  I thought before even watching the show that they would be in a Lost, type situation where there are ex-prisoners who still live out there or some kind of spiritual force like the ghost of the disappearing settlers.  However, when the footage of Tommy's attack played out, it was clear that whatever ambushed them appeared threatening because as soon as he saw it he took off running clearly knowing it was dangerous.  Put that together with the growling and it might be the Chupacabra of the area, a violent group of before thought mythical animals.  I am not yet sure what the danger they face will be and in the panic if they will band together or fight each man/woman for themselves.  Jonathon explains that it is their choice whether or not to stay after the life affirming events and that they will each be given $5000 if they choose to leave, but after the preview of this week's episode, I have a feeling leaving is no longer an option.   

The premiere of Siberia was a little slow for me as I am not into reality competitions in the wild, however I would say that the producers did a good job giving it the authentic feel of a reality series and I see the cast as contestants rather than characters.  Not till the end did we get into the fun supernatural aspect I am viewing for and it left me wanting more!   I would recommend you tune in, especially if you liked other series like Lost, or supernatural shows in general.  My premiere blog is always more detailed then the rest as I believe that getting to know the characters, particularly in a cast this big, is important to understanding the show and I also need a recap just to remember them all.  I keep thinking what it would have been like had I reviewed the Lost with it's humongous cast!  Anyhow I will keep posting weekly updates 2-3 day after Siberia airs, so check back after you watch the all new episode when things really start to get interesting!      

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