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Are The Trust players being greedy, strategic, hypocritical, or something else?

Are The Trust players being greedy, strategic, hypocritical, or something else?
Jay, Brian, and Julie on The Trust episode 3 (Image via Netflix)

During The Trust episode six, Jay was offered $25,000 from the group’s shared prize fund to exit the Netflix competition.

“I will take that,” she said immediately. “Give me that $25,000, and I am out of here.”

Host Brooke Baldwin asked Jay about bailing on her friends and alliances, and Jay said, “I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel it.”

That seems cold and callous, but I think it’s quite a rational, logical move: $25,000 is more than the $22,000 she would have had if the players just stuck together at the beginning, and it’s a lot more than the $0 she’d get if she was voted out.

Meanwhile, Jake repeatedly insisted, “I’m about family” while referring to complete strangers he met a few days ago. Is he auditioning for The Fast and the Furious? But after not voting the whole season, Mr. Family Man did cast a vote to boot out a family member, Winnie.

The subtitle for The Trust is “A Game of Greed,” and through that lens, Jay might be considered more greedy than Jake.

But I’m not sure that it’s greed powering their decisions, or even a good lens by which to think about the strategy. Perhaps it’s greed, masked?

A person holds up a glass of wine and grins
The Trust’s millionaire, Bryce, on episode 4 (Image via Netflix)

Both Jay and Jake are emblematic of what’s made The Trust such great television: they’re more complex characters than what I expect from a Netflix competition.

The Trust’s players have various relationships, but there have been two central alliances, and those have been organized around shared genitalia. Yes, we’re back to the Survivor Amazon era of men versus women.

Julie, Lindsey, Tolú, and Winnie first voted together to oust Juelz and later Bryce. But like every game of Big Brother, the women’s alliance fractured.

Jay was not part of their alliance, as she had other priorities, namely embroidering: “nothing comes between me and the needle,” she said, content to stay away from the other players, lay in her bed, a bandana covering her eyes and a bag of potato chips on her chest, which may be the most relatable image on a Netflix competition I’ve ever seen.

Meanwhile, after coming out as a person with a girlfriend, Bryce also decided to come out as millionaire Uncle Brycey.

“I knew he was a millionaire,” Gaspare told us. “I share a room with the kid. He’s got a Louis Vuitton toothpaste holder; mine was wrapped in toilet paper.”

Bryce had some guilt about being in the competition and competing for the amount of money he’d usually use as toilet paper. As Tolú reassured him (“you deserve this!”) Bryce had doubts (“so do others”).

What exactly “deserve” means is never defined, but this seems to be one of the internal rules the players have created, perhaps to mask that titular greed.

One thing that’s made The Trust particularly fascinating is that its players can quickly get to a level of depth that may not be profound, but is deeper than what I’m used to.

Bryce insisted his millions were “all on me,” as they came from commissions. That’s like me insisting it’s “all on me” that there’s sunlight streaming into my living room because I opened my blinds; sure, I did work, but the earth’s rotation and the sun may have had just a little something to do with it, too.

But then Bryce admitted, “I do come from money. I do come from wealth.” He told Julie, “I can’t relate to you. I can listen to you” because “I’ve had a very, very privileged life. It is nice. It is nice to say that I didn’t have to go beg for food.”

But all this braggy introspection backfired. Tolú told us, “I really genuinely do like him as a person … It’s the fact that he sits here, and he’s trying to victimize his privilege.” So it was bye-bye, Uncle Brycey.

Three people standing and holding hands while smiling at each other
Julie, Tolú, and Winnie on Netflix’s The Trust (Image via Netflix)

Tolú wasn’t alone in voting Bryce out, nor is she alone in creating justification for her actions that .

When Brian declined to look at The Trust’s version of Survivor’s beware advantage—look at the offer, and you must take the offer—he cried, “my integrity is not for sale.” (Julie took the $15,000 offer.)

Brian didn’t cast votes in the first five trust ceremonies. But then he was of the votes to oust Winnie, breaking up the Tolú/Winnie alliance and ensuring he and his buddies—even the budding couple who snuggles in bed out of wedlock next to him while he’s reading his Bible—get the money for themselves.

Winnie’s exit may have been the most pivotal, in that she exposed Lindsey as a floater (my apologies for using that term). It wasn’t enough to save her, but it did plant the seeds that led to Lindsey’s exit next.

All of this was fueled by The Trust’s simple format: the option to vote or not; actual votes never revealed to the rest of the group, thus creating paranoia; missions and offers to complicate things.

The challenges alternate between creating rifts and bonds. One challenge was a slide board, offered them the chance to add money to the trust, or choose a chance at immunity. Everyone went for the money, and bonded. Then Julie landed the $3,000. “This is the easiest money I’ve ever made, besides that time I took it out of that dude’s wallet,” she said.

Three people sitting with their hands on a
Julie, Luke, and Garpare on The Trust episode 5 (Image via Netflix)

Host Brooke Baldwin promised “higher stakes, harder choices” in this second group of episodes, and the producers delivered.

That came in both the challenges and vault, which are effectively the producers’ opportunity to fuck with the players and ensure there will be good television, not just hand-holding on the way to receiving a check for $22,000.

The candle challenge—in which players anonymously blew out candles of the player they think lied the most—ended up exposing Lindsey as playing both sides, as she blew out one of Winnie’s candles.

Winnie called her out, but that super-awkward, pre-vote table talk wasn’t enough to save Winnie. But it contributed to Lindsey’s eventual exit.

“You outed your spy, and it sucks,” Lindsey later told Brian, Jake, and Gaspare, pointing at each one and saying, “You’re an idiot, you’re an idiot, you’re an idiot. Now I’m happy.”

“We can live with an air of mystery without lying,” Lindsey argued, mad that their candle-blowing admissions effectively outed her as blowing out the final candle.

But to Brian, lies of omission are actual lies, as he said. That’s a fascinating divide.

Lest we think Brian is somehow on moral high ground, though, he’s totally playing the game, too. “We’re trying to calm her, because let’s face it, we need the numbers,” he told us. So people are just pawns to be used, then?

Watching Brian apply his own set of rules is fascinating, perhaps because he’s the most adamant about sticking to his principles.

His next trip to the vault came with an offer from producers that was quite tricky. If he looked at the offer, he had to take it; if he didn’t, it would be randomly given to someone else. Brian decided he’d fall on his sword for the group—and took $30,000 for himself from the trust. “I don’t deserve this,” he said, and Brooke took his hand and told him he did. Again with the deserving thing. You’re in a competition reality TV show!

The penalty was that he had to choose three people, at random, whose votes would be blocked. (Just as I don’t like Survivor taking away people’s votes, I did not like this, though none of the three he selected voted anyway, and it was perfect that he ended up taking away his own vote.)

The most diabolical and brilliant mission was the final offer in the penultimate episode: $60,000 to the group if they chose to reveal the record of their votes throughout the whole competition. Anyone who wanted to give up their secrecy would add $5,000 to the trust; if everyone did, that’d be doubled, hence the $60K.

That would effectively expose everyone’s game play—either throughout the competition, or right then, if they were unwilling to reveal their votes.

Everyone ultimately did share, and it was quite revealing. The group learned of Julie’s vote to save Jake that inadvertently sent Simone home (which was just amazing by itself).

Ironically, the ceremony left Tolú seeming more trustworthy and loyal—voting to protect Winnie, staying with her alliance in other votes—and Lindsey exposed as voting with the women and then the men. Gaspare joined with Tolú to vote out Lindsey.

What’s been particularly fascinating is the range of reactions—both from the contestants and the editing, which is more playful than one might expect from a show like this.

“I just don’t like when people are mean,” high school teacher and stand-up comedian Gaspare told us. Then, after saying angry Lindsey was like someone in Children of the Corn, he did a hilarious bit of physical comedy in the interview room, sneaking around its chair.

Just when I think Julie, 28, can be immature, here comes Lindsey, 43. “She called me so many names,” Lindsey said about Tolú, tattling to Brooke. “She’s just mean.”

And Julie herself has surprised me. “Jake does not like you, babe,” Winnie told Julie, offering what I think is probably good advice and some true facts about Jake. “Do not let this man play you. Jake does not care about you.”

But Julie told us, “I’m only on Winnie’s good side if I’m doing what she wants me to do; that’s not love, that’s control. And I don’t want Winnie to control me anymore.”

Then cut to Brian looking for starch to do his laundry, and asking no one, “Can I just steam that shirt?”

11 people stand in a line, two are not visible
Nine of The Trust: A Game of Greed’s 11 players (from left to right): Gaspare Randazzo, Tolú Ekundare, Brian Firebaugh, Bryce Lee, Lindsey Anderson, Juelz Morgan, Julie Theis, Jacob Chocolous, and Winnie Ilesso (Image via Netflix)

Now we’re down to just five of these characters splitting the trust—Brian, Gaspare, Jake, Julie, and Tolú—and just one trust ceremony remains.

I’m fascinated to see what kind of endgame the producers created. I’m guessing it won’t simply be an option to vote one more person out; I’m imagining some kind of mechanism that could allow just one of them to win.

What’s been consistently interesting about The Trust is the internal logic that the players have created for themselves inside a game that is deceptively simple at its core.

It’s not all that different than Outlast, where players had no rules except they weren’t allowed to hatchet each other to death. But I have a feeling some heads will roll before The Trust ends.

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Monday 22nd of January 2024

So, I am really liking this show. And yes, I do get embarrassed by my love of reality tv sometimes! I was surprised they went after Winnie when Tolu seems more in charge. I really kinda like Tolu. I'm sick to death of saintly Brian. UGH! He seems the type that could have a really scary other side to him. Like when his starch runs out. I did not like Jake much at all at first, but he seems pretty decent. Julie is sneaky, but has made the she show more interesting. Lindsey was weird and kinda scary. Gaspar is pretty cool, I like him. I was happy to see Jay go, she was awful. If Bryce really wanted to stay he should have NEVER told them he was rich. I also like the host.