Jeff Pitman's Survivor: Cagayan recaps

Fractured (like chandeliers)


Based on recent precedent, there are a lot of far less interesting ways this could have gone. In Caramoan, production forced a fan minority on each new tribe, and forced gender balance, guaranteeing the Sherri-Julia alliance was split up, and that the fans would have no power on the new tribes. Probst justified this by saying the returning players had "earned" this advantage.


Thankfully for the Brains, this didn't happen here. With six men and eight women left, production could also have forced an even three-man/four-woman gender balance in the swap, but wisely avoided doing so, since it might have led to the less-buff women (Alexis, Morgan, Kass) and men (Jeremiah, Spencer) all being on one tribe. Oh wait, that's exactly what happened by chance, anyway. Still, we'd rather let fate decide where contestants end up than the heavy hand of production.


Biggest, most disappointing casualty of the swap: Tony's #spyshack. He promised to tell Trish what it was all about way back in Episode 1. We're still waiting for that explanation. Or any other further mention of it in any way. Now Tony's been exiled to another beach, his poor spyshack is left with seven people who don't understand its important purpose. What if they use it to store firewood? What if it burns down? What then? It had a hashtag, people!


Oh, you thought we meant Cliff, right? - On the one hand, it was a pleasant surprise that the editors treated Cliff as a regular contestant, as opposed to the "OMG! A Celebrity!" overexposure Lisa Whelchel received. On the other hand, perhaps because he went this early, it felt as if we barely even saw him. It's hard to hide a 6' 10" guy, but apparently Survivor's editors have found a way. Ripped city.




These were two great, classic challenges. Pure brawn required in the reward challenge, in which Cliff seemed all but unbeatable as a pole-clinger, but at least a fierce performance by Tasha kept it close for new Aparri. Brawn also was the primary component in the immunity challenge, since mazes aren't particularly brain-intensive. It's surprising that these two tribes, seemingly mismatched in physical strength, managed a split here, but it was still fun to watch them do it.



Reward challenge: Why here? Why now?


The first bizarre production decision was that this immediately post-swap challenge requires gender balance, and new Aparri ended up with only two men, Spencer and Jeremiah. This meant after the initial all-women bout, Aparri was unable to field three guys for an all-men bout, and they were stuck with two men and one woman for the last two rounds. So Woo and Kass didn't participate, even though Cliff, Trish, Lindsey, Sarah, Jeremiah, and Spencer all went twice. To be fair, Solana clearly made the right choice in putting Cliff out there every time they could have. Still, it's weird that the swap was carried out in the way it was, when they had this particular challenge staring them in the face while distributing the buffs.


Update (3/21/14): We almost forgot: Why the heck did the reward only include 6 coffee cups? What's going on with basic logic and counting in this episode? Were they expecting someone to sit out the reward? Were they planning to do the swap by a Palau-style schoolyard pick, with two people getting sent home immediately? This makes no sense!


Don't let LJ do the maze!

Immunity challenge: Huh? What? Six people per tribe?


This was another head scratcher. While we love seeing one of the iconic China challenges make a return appearance, having a challenge in which only six people compete in the same episode where you just made two tribes of seven people seems like particularly poor planning. Also, and we've said this before: We like that the maze element required something other than pure brute strength, and that it wasn't a carnival game, but mazes are somewhat frustrating as a viewer, because it's near-impossible to see which tribe is ahead. Which is great for surprise endings, we suppose, but something of a storytelling morass. And we're not trying to be mean here, but this marks the second time LJ has taken Solana into a maze stage of a challenge with a slight lead, only to end in failure.




The swap created completely new strategic dynamics, so this is a great opportunity to take a look at look at how these changes could affect the players remaining, and who's adapting the best to the new environment.



New Aparri - the more interesting new tribe.


We have yet to see exactly which way this tribe will move once they attend Tribal Council (if they do). But the fault lines seem pretty clear. None of the ex-Beauty people trust each other, while the ex-Brains are a tight three. And then there's Sarah, who is stirring the pot by outing Morgan's Day 1 betrayal, but otherwise staying quiet. Most of the editing attention thus far is now centered in this tribe (except LJ and Tony), which makes it seem likely most of its members will be in this for the long haul.


  • Kass, Spencer, and Tasha - will they stick together? We can hope Spencer's "This could be the final three, we just have to get past two other complete tribes" is foreshadowing. As long as they stick together in New Aparri, it looks very likely they should all make the merge now. What happens beyond the merge, however, is anyone's guess. If they stay together, they could easily be the final three. If they try to out-backstab each other, all is lost. But even in the latter scenario, one could squeak through.


  • Sarah - despite the episode title, she seems to be in a great position now. On her new tribe, the ex-Beauty people are gunning for each other, so if she just keeps her head down, she'll be fine to the merge. Looking back at her own former tribemates, it's clear that Sarah was the glue holding the old Brawn tribe together. As soon as she leaves, civil war breaks out. She had relationships with Woo and Lindsey AND with Tony and Trish. Post-merge, she'll get some of those people back to work with. Unless they all quit, or something.


  • Alexis, Morgan, and Jeremiah - We finally got to meet Alexis, which we requested two weeks ago, so that was nice. It was also great that the editors actually included her saying to Spencer, "Hi, I'm Alexis," because otherwise the audience may not have known this piece of information. Even so, Alexis seems the strongest strategically of any non-LJ Beauty, and appealing directly to the Brains trio seems like a worthwhile shot, because if she'd approached Spencer independently (they're both college students in Chicago, they have even more in common than LJ and Trish), it might have reeked of showmance. By approaching all three Brains together, she took the best available path to alliance-building. But in doing so, she also did the same thing Morgan did - airing her tribe's dirty laundry in hopes of making a new alliance. And neither attempt seemed particularly well-received. Jeremiah took a slightly different approach - talking to Kass and Tasha together, but not to Spencer. Will this work out better for him? Apparently we'll have to wait until/if new Aparri attends Tribal Council to find out. The three Beauties have collectively become targets, simply by trying to do that to each other.


Not winning

New Solana - the more trainwrecky new tribe.


Fresh off the swap, we saw a major power shift in new Solana. But apart from LJ and Tony, this tribe is made up of people the editors have ignored up until now. One of those, Trish, went from invisible to seeming power broker in this episode.


  • LJ - benefited the most from Trish's betrayal. As Lindsey said when voting against him, "The last we need is for you to make the merge." Since Lindsey also correctly predicted Trish's flip, that looks like a fairly safe projection. LJ now has a new majority alliance (in theory), an idol to spare, and a likely merge just one more Tribal away. The intra-Beauty infighting on the other tribe may even benefit LJ, because losing his former alliance-mates can only make him seem like less of a post-merge threat.


  • Trish - she made big enemies out of the Cliff/Woo/Lindsey trio, and they could reunite with Sarah at the merge. But Sarah was already against Cliff and Lindsey, so post-merge repercussions should be minor. And in the short term, Tony is with her, Cliff is gone, Lindsey appears to be on her way out, and Woo is an obvious post-merge target everyone else can agree on. Working against Trish's long-term chances, however, is the fact that Cliff and Lindsey didn't get along with Trish based on her behavior in camp. We haven't heard it from anyone else, but if other people share this opinion, Trish could find winning over potential jurors difficult. Unless they're all secretly from Boston, of course.


  • Tony - the most disappointing change here was in Tony's fate. Not only did the edit largely ignore him in favor of Trish, but he was ostensibly in a driver's seat (perhaps not the driver's seat of the entire tribe, but at least that of a solo vehicle) in old Aparri, but now he's following Trish's wishes. Since he's not from Boston, Tony probably ranks below LJ, the very guy he (correctly) wanted to vote out, in this new majority alliance. (And because LJ isn't an idiot, and probably knows how to count, Tony's probably also below Jefra.) He still might be able to cobble together some sort of counter-strike against LJ post-merge, using Sarah and/or the Brains. But nothing is guaranteed now, and by making this vote, Tony has also torched his tenuous connections with Woo. True, both Tony and LJ do have hidden idols. But LJ seems to be making the social connections he needs to survive beyond that one idol play, and possibly even win, while we haven't seen any real evidence that Tony is doing so, except maybe with Sarah.


  • Lindsey and Woo - even though Tony seems adrift and alone here, Woo's in a much worse position now, especially if Lindsey departs in the next episode, as Probst's visit to camp in the preview seems to imply. Even if Woo makes it to the merge by virtue of new Solana winning the next IC, followed by a merge, Woo should still be one of the top targets for the first post-merge boot, as an individual immunity threat. With no allies left, except perhaps Sarah, Woo is now facing a particularly gnarly oncoming storm.


Recaps and commentary


Exit Interviews - Cliff Robinson

  • Gordon Holmes at "Cliff: 'Being Irritating Was a Part of (Trish's) Game'"
  • Rob Cesternino at RHAP: "Talking With the Latest Player Voted Off Survivor - 3/20/14"
  • Liz Raftery at "Survivor's Cliff Robinson on Tribal Tension, Why He Should Have Gone to the End"