Friday, August 2, 2013

TV Analysis: Siberia Episode 4

Episode 4 of Siberia was a week late, since some royal baby decided he wanted to be born or something (I don’t know the details since I didn’t really care and Siberia being a week late is the only way it’s really affected my life) so I had nothing to break down last week. But now I’m back, to do what I did with the first three episodes!

So! A lot happened in this episode of Siberia, so let’s break down what we’ve seen, shall we?

New Story Threads

The new story threads are the elements introduced in this episode relating to the external conflict and what’s going on around them, as opposed to the internal conflict caused by the characters themselves.

1. The Spear

The plot of the episode really kicks off when Daniel wakes up in the morning to find a spear stuck in the ground directly outside the men’s cabin. There’s a note attached, written in Russian, which Sam translates as “get out.” I’m really starting to get curious as to how much of Sam’s Russian is accurate, how much is mistranslated, and how much is just a flat-out lie. But anyway, Neeko insists that it’s a prop, and that the producers are trying to scare them, but at the end, Sabina insists it’s valid. Most everyone is wondering where the spear came from, but we’ve actually seen them before: in the cave painting that Daniel found in episode 2, with men using them in combat against the thing in the woods I have dubbed “the Creature.”

2. Esther and the Cameraman

Esther, while skinny dipping, seduces a cameraman, then steals the tape, using it to blackmail him into helping her win. That’s all we see from it this episode, but it’s bound to be important later.

3. Fire in the Sky

Remember Victoria’s hallucinations in episode 2 that led her to quit the game? Where she talked about how the sky was on fire, and it was green? Well, the payoff’s happened. The sky got all aurora borealis on us, but in a way that is decidedly not natural. The question (besides the obvious “what is it?”) is whether it’s a fantasy or sci-fi element, since I’m still not sure which way the show is leaning.

Also it’s been proven that Victoria’s visions were prophetic, but narrative kind of demanded they were, so I’m not really going “ha ha, I called it!”

4. Johnny and Carolina’s Amnesia

Carolina shows up dazed, shivering, and injured after going to make amends with Johnny in the woods. Johnny shows up later, also dazed. Neither can remember what happened past what we were shown. Their appearance happened shortly after the sky lit up, but since we don’t get a great sense of when this happened, it’s hard to know if the green fire is related to it or not. There was also something that ripped the bone of a deer apart. That could be the Creature, or it could be what caused their amnesia. Or both, even. I believe that Johnny attacked Carolina at some point in there, but I also believe that it wasn’t actually Johnny’s doing (see his character section below for more details).

5. The Face in the Tree

Miljan ends up running into his old friend Ogdee in the woods! Ogdee, as Miljan tells us, is his “old friend from high school (I’m kidding).” Ogdee is actually some sort of totem pole thing, carved into a tree It doesn’t seem too important in the long run. The bigger question is who carved it and what exactly it means.

6. The Diary

Miljan sure is finding a lot of things in the woods this episode. In addition to Ogwoo, he finds a diary buried at the foot of a tree. Of course, he can’t read it, because it’s written in what appears to be Russian. And being Miljan, the obvious answer isn’t to give it to Sam to translate! Of course not! It’s to keep it secret until he can reveal it at a time that’s convenient. Very likely that it belonged to a member of the 1908 settlement. Of course, as he digs it up, he sees….

7. Someone in the Woods

Miljan may have simply seen one of the cast or crew, but it’s unlikely at this point. It’s been just about proved that there is someone still out there in the woods. Someone other than the Creature, that is. It’s likely that they’re either linked to the people who disappeared from the settlement in 1908, or some sort of native inhabitants.

With those taken care of, let’s move on to

Character Arcs

Character arcs are the arcs dedicated to character development and the relationships between characters. Internal conflicts the characters themselves cause as opposed to external ones.

Carolina: We had a lot of questions about Carolina after the last episode, when she burned down the food shed. Turns out that we didn’t have to wait long for answers—she’s an actress (hence why Daniel found her familiar—she’s “that one character from that one show and I’m taking care not to give any actual names!”), and she’s doing what the producers are telling her, heavily implying that she’s a plant. And since she doesn’t use her actress’s name, there’s a good chance her character’s name is actually Joyce.

Also, the revelation that the producers told her to burn down the shed answers a question I had forgotten to actually bring up in my last analysis: why there was a conveniently placed camera inside the shed when she burned it down. Now I know. They prepared because they told her to. That’s one potential plot hole that isn’t a plot hole anymore and that I can sleep easy over.

Johnny: Johnny was on his own for most of the episode, and didn’t have too much presence. He’s still doing pretty well on his own, though after this episode it’s unclear whether or not he’ll be returning to the camp. It’s likely that he’s the cause for Carolina’s injuries, since Sam was insisting on looking at his hands, and Natalie commented that she’d “seen that before,” implying he was guilty. However, both his and Carolina’s dazed insistence that it wasn’t him, as well as his statements that he’d never hurt a woman make me think that he wasn’t in control when it happened. Something happened, and I believe his body was taken over by some force, though what actually happened is still vague.

Carolina and Johnny’s Relationship: At this point, it’s looking like this relationship is going places. Carolina stands by him even when there’s evidence he abused her. Johnny swears he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her, even after she’d framed him. Oh, yeah, did I mention that he knew? Apparently he figured it out. It’s probably going to be rocky, but it looks like they’re going to try to make amends.

Both Carolina and Johnny are major players at this point and are likely to be around for a while, especially since they’re in the middle of a character arc and since Carolina’s reveal means that she has information vital to the others.

Daniel and Irene’s Relationship: We didn’t see much from either Irene or Daniel in this episode apart from the development of their relationship. We’ve seen plenty of Daniel already, but we learned a little more about Irene. That bit about her not liking flowers because it’s telling someone you like them by giving them something dying? That right there? All writers should take notes because that is great character development. I’m also fairly certain that she had an idea that he liked her, because the way she states it sounds like she’s hinting. That, or clumsy dialogue writing. But I’m choosing to believe that she’s hinting, because when Daniel finds a pretty-looking blue rock (after she had specifically stated that a rock would be preferable to a flower) and gives it to her at the end of the episode, she certainly does look happy. No ambiguity in Daniel’s intent there. So things are boding well for them. Until everything goes horribly wrong, at least. Daniel’s probably one of the biggest players, but since Irene doesn’t have as much of a role to play in the plot, all this means is that (since she’s less likely to quit if she’s in a relationship) she’ll have a few episodes to build her up before a tragic death. But hey, at least things are boding well for their potential relationship!

Neeko: Neeko’s role is growing increasingly clear: he’s playing the part of the skeptic. He’s in denial of anything strange going on, insisting that it’s all just production trying to scare them, no matter how implausible. The green fire might be convincing him otherwise, but his refusal to believe Sabina when she says the spear is real isn’t encouraging. Add to that my belief that he’s being set up for a fall, and I’ve got a good guess at how his arc’s going to turn out. Sorry, Neeko. I’m pretty sure at this point that your skepticism is going to see our leader leading himself to an early grave, possibly as early as two or three episodes.

Natalie: We learned some stuff about Natalie this episode, for those paying attention, though it’s fairly subtle. She mentions that she doesn’t really need the money and that she has an ex-boyfriend. In addition, she was probably in an abusive relationship (maybe that’s why her ex is an ex), since when Carolina came out of the woods, she stated that she couldn’t deal with abuse right now and when she saw Johnny’s hands, she stated that she’d “seen that before.”

Sam: The more and more we see of Sam, the clearer it becomes that despite his rough appearance, he’s more of a gentle giant. He’s acting as a calm foil to the hotheaded Neeko, making sure to temper him. We also see that he’s forming a pretty close bond with Daniel, and that it’s been too long since he’s really been very close to people. He doesn’t have too notable of a story arc, but the fact that he can read and speak Russian (probably) and that the diary Miljan found is in Russian (probably), that’ll likely buy him a few more episodes.

Esther: Esther proves herself to be as manipulative as before, as she seduces a cameraman, films it, then uses that to blackmail him. There’s also her relationship with Miljan, which I’ll cover after I’ve covered him. It’d maybe make more sense to cover one after the other but since I’ve stubbornly devoted myself to “order listed on NBC’s site,” I’m sticking to it.

Annie: The cameras finally notice Annie! Yaaaaaaaay! We learn that Annie needs the money, and more notably that she has romantic inclinations towards women and likes Natalie. It’s not huge, especially after her invisibility the last three episodes, but it’s something.

Annie and Natalie’s Relationship: After Annie reveals to Natalie how she feels, Natalie eventually comes to the conclusion that with the conditions they’re in, she’s open to love in any form at the moment and reciprocates. The indication is that this is new to Natalie, so how their relationship will turn out isn’t clear from what we’ve gotten. Also, since neither character is a particularly big character at this point, because for whatever reason homosexual characters have a tendency to die, and because this arc hasn’t gotten very far off the ground and could wrap up easily, neither of their prospects for surviving the series look stellar.

Miljan: Well, in this episode, Miljan went from “funny character who’s kind of sleazy” to “charming scumbag;” more details in the Esther/Miljan section. He’s remaining fairly static: a constant joker who keeps things to himself and uses his affability to manipulate other people. Overall, Miljan’s become a very interesting character to me, as he’s simultaneously one of the funniest and vilest people on the show (he’s pretty unopposed in “funny,” but Esther’s giving him a run for his money in “vile”). I have no clue how he’s supposed to make me feel. Okay, that’s a lie: I know exactly how he’s supposed to make me feel, and that’s “conflicted and horrible for considering him one of my favorite characters.”

Esther and Miljan’s Relationship: With four potential relationships between 8/11ths of the cast, one’s bound to go bad. Esther slept with a cameraman to blackmail him, and Miljan’s sick of taking no for an answer. When she flat-out rejects his suggestion to “be romantic,” he grabs her by the throat and slams her against the bunk. He backs off quickly, insisting he was joking, but neither Esther nor the audience are convinced, and I suddenly feel extraordinarily awkward for joking that whether or not Miljan will get laid is the most pressing question in Siberia.

Miljan then talks to the cameras and acts genuinely surprised, going “Whaaaaaaaaaaat? What’s her problem? Are you telling me girls don’t like it when you pretend to rape them?” Anyway, Esther and Miljan were already fairly prominent characters, and this episode gave them both new arcs to boot. They’re going to be around for a while, though karma might catch up to them in the end.

Sabina: Sabina remains an enigma, though she got less screen time this episode. We only really saw her when she was returning from somewhere she leaves ambiguous, when she was confirming the verity of the spear, and in one other unusual circumstance: during a montage at the end reminiscent of the first season of LOST, we briefly see her kiss a flat disc worn as a necklace around her neck. A memento or keepsake with obvious emotional attachment, sure—but the very next clip is Sam looking at the bracelet he found in the last episode, which looks surprisingly similar. Could there be a link between the two? I think there is. It’s likely that Sabina has some connection to the location.

Lingering Questions

This section covers the mysteries touched upon that weren’t introduced in the episode, revisiting what we’re wondering now that we know a little more.

1. What the heck is going on?

Again, the big question. However, while I think they’re at least indirectly related, there are several different things going on.

2. How much does the production team know?

We got an answer in this episode: plenty. While the extent of what they know is unclear, it’s clear that anyone could see that there’s something weird happening, including production. However, while you could interpret the refusal to leave as a wary “they’ll probably be all right if we’re careful” or chalk the injured cameraman’s cries of “I saw them” as the Russian crew knowing something the rest of production doesn’t, the fact that they’ve planted a double-agent and encouraged her to sabotage them after a contestant was killed proves that production definitely does not care that something strange is going on, implying that they already knew.

3. What’s in the woods?

In addition to the Creature, which likely killed Tommy and the tiger and that probably got Johnny’s deer, we now have humans, who I’m going to refer to as the Spearmen, since that’s likely what they use as weapons. I’m tempted to say “the natives,” but that has the implication that they’re some sort of wild men (which they may not be) and discounts the possibility of a relationship to the 1908 settlers. Whoever they are, it’s unclear how hostile they are at the moment, since they haven’t made any direct moves, and the “get out” could be read as either a threat or a warning.

It’s likely that these Spearmen were the “them” the injured cameraman was talking about, but since the Creature’s footprint was found near the site of Tommy’s death, that’s probably what killed him. Since the cave painting implies an animosity between the Spearmen and the Creature, I’m thinking that the Spearmen were chasing the creature at that time, or there’s more than one Creature.

4. Who made the cave painting?

It’s fairly obvious now that it was the Spearmen, though since they’re still around, I have no clue how old the painting might be anymore.

5. What is the significance of Sam’s bracelet?

It’s still pretty obvious that it’s linked to 1908, but now there are hints that it may have some connection to Sabina as well. Mysterious!

6. What is Sabina hiding?

She’s still going out frequently and spending time away from the camp, and she makes a comment on how she’s wants to know her surroundings, but it’s unclear what all she’s doing apart from exploring. Like I’ve already mentioned, the similarity of her necklace to Sam’s bracelet hints that she may have some connection to the 1908 events.

7. What happened in 1908?

The green light. The Spearmen. Amnesia and possible possession. We have more hints now than we did before, but we’re unfortunately no closer to figuring out what happened than we were last episode. Still, they can’t tip their hand this early, and the puzzle is clearly starting to slowly come together in a way that makes me hopeful. Whatever happened, whatever is going on, whatever scheme production has, I’m sure we’ll find out eventually, and I’m looking forward to the reveal.

8. Who the hell is editing this, and why?

A question that I didn’t ask in my last analysis that I really should have. It’s no secret to the sharp-eyed fans of reality TV that reality TV is edited to make story arcs that are more interesting. Since Siberia presents itself as a reality TV show and consequently has that fourth wall issue, it’s clear that there’s someone “editing the footage” they’ve gathered. The question is, who? And what are their goals? Sure, we see the camera drop so Tommy’s death went unfilmed. But there’s obviously a cameraman following Johnny and Carolina when they have their amnesia bout, and no production team would let Sabina walk around all day without a camera following her. That footage obviously exists, and there are reasons it’s not being shown to us. Do those reasons go beyond “for the sake of narrative?” Is there a reason they’re withholding that information from the audience? I’m really hoping this question has an answer, since I’m already thinking of “the editor” as a character.

Well, that’s all I have for this week! I’ll be sure to do this when the next episode comes out as well, since I love overanalyzing things. In closing, I’d like to go on a discourse to give a very, very special thank you to the Siberia cast and crew who left a comment about my blog post on Twitter. It’s mind-boggling and humbling to think that TV stars are actually reading the ramblings of a fan. So if you’re reading this, thank you. It tells me that you not only care about your fans, but that you care about the show enough to be fans of it yourself.

And if you’re just a fellow Siberia fan, well…thank you as well. And please, absolutely anyone reading this: leave a comment or the like pointing me to other people discussing Siberia. Hell, I encourage you to shamelessly plug your own stuff if you want! I’ll be sure to check them out. I’ll even promote them in my posts if I like them. Like this:

Shayla Heavner is doing some really good breakdowns of the show on her NBC by skh blog.

Just like that! It’s mutually beneficial! You get more views, I get that satisfaction of knowing people are reading my stuff, and we all get more discussion about Siberia. Isn’t that great?

Well, I’ll see you all next week! I’m sure the next episode will be as thrilling as the last!


  1. First I wanna give a big thanks for the shout out & I will make sure to include you in my next post. It's no good if all of us sit on our own blogs & don't communicate with each other as we put a lot of time & interest into the show. Bouncing ideas off each other is essential. I also wanted to say that I wrote a big response to your first blog & it was all deleted because for whatever reason my tablet internet app wont post it. :(

    I really like how your flow and I kinda feel like I'm reciting a rap song when I read it because you're like a non-stop train of details, insights & observations. It's very different from me which makes it easy to read even though I too have watched, re-watched & scrutinized the show. But enough with the flattery ;) there's a few things that I want to address about your ideas:

    The main thing is your observation about the spear in the cave drawing. Nice catch! I really have had a hard time hypothesizing about other "humans" in the woods because their has been little to no evidence until the recent episode. After a long debate with my husband, I'm sold on the presence of other people in the woods. I agree that the tiger, deer & Tommy are products of the "creature" but I'm beginning to come around on the idea that the spear was a warning from something or someone else. In the first episode it was George who said that he just flat out made stuff up, so I don't know about Sam's faulty Russian. I did however read the mushroom sheet (after numerous pauses & rewinds) and it named the Evenki people as the original settlers. After a quick search, I found that they didn't speak Russian. I'm not sure if the producers didn't do their research (which I doubt, due to our previous conversation about the mushrooms) or it was too unlikely to have a cast member who understood the rare dialect. I think the people in the woods are guarding the land and the "creature" to help prevent more deaths. As for the "Valleymen" I wrote about of real legend, I think it might refer to the people rather than the "creature". Still hypothesizing as to who or what these "humans" in the woods are as well.

    As far as Annie possibly getting killed off, I think she has more to contribute. I am highly suspicious of Sam's bracelet having the name Anne and after some recent discussions it seems like she's always around right before shit hits the fan. She's with Tommy before he's axed, the tiger chases her which is then axed etc. Kinda like Sabina, she's hiding in the background but has more to her storyline then we've yet seen. As you probably read in my blog, I think Sabina has a lot of attachment to this land. She knew about the terrain before she even got there and her being an Israeli solider makes me think her relatives have been there before.

    But by far, the biggest eye opener from your post is the editing. I have NO idea what to take from this. Is it like the mysterious host on House on Haunted Hill who wants to re-create the events of 1908 to show the world? Or is it just a necessity for the show to be aired, I mean someone had to shoot it, right? Are they just cutting clips to build up drama, or do they have ulterior motives? Very interesting and something for me to chew on.

    I'm not sure if you hate long detailed comments, if so - my apologies...I guess that's why I have a blog right? But some great observations and again, love the flow. Look forward to more bouncing of ideas and theories, take care.

    1. No, no, I LOVE long, detailed comments. Thanks for the comment on my writing, by the way. I've never gotten a compliment quite like that before!

      Anyway, I'm agreeing that Annie's got more promise. I really can't quite tell with her, though. Sabina's been a clear enigma from the first episode, but Annie's just now gaining a presence. We're past the setup and things are really getting rolling, so this is about the latest they could have set up Annie as important. This means that I have one episode to go on to calculate her chances, so I may be completely off. She could last until close to the end. She could die next episode. I just can't tell at this point, since she got enough characterization to move past Red Shirt at the time she needed it most.

      Basically, at this point, Annie, Natalie, and Irene are most expendable in terms of narrative. Neeko too, though with him it's less that he's expendable and more that I don't think his character arc is going much further.

      This, as opposed to Carolina and Sabina, who we have unanswered questions about; Miljan, Esther, and Sam, who are in possession of elements (the journal, the video tape, and the ability to speak Russian) that are clearly going to be important to the plot; and Daniel and Johnny who aren't that relevant outside their own story arcs but who are (along with probably Carolina and possibly Sabina) probably our "protagonists."

      That's definitely something that could change, though. Some character arcs start up later (Carolina's importance wasn't that prominent until episode 3) and some come to a close (like I'm predicting Neeko's will soon). The balance of importance in an ensemble cast shifts. I think one of the four "expendables" will die before any of the others do, but if the other three hold on long enough to become vital players, there's no telling what will happen.

      There's one thing I'm pretty sure about, though: after two episodes of our cast remaining static, someone's going home in some form or another, and soon.