Being a tradition-heeding and chocolate-addicted parent, I went trick-or-treating with Bentley on Friday – he was Falcon from Captain America: Winter Soldier and I was Sleep-Deprived Dad – and now we have a massive bowl of brightly-colored sugar bombs on our coffee table.
Not only is that candy currently serving as my column-crafting rocket fuel – it has also conveniently provided this week’s theme.
Much like the column that preceded it, this Dozen will once again be bite-sized, appetizing, and really, really bad for you.
And now, my loyal readers, I will compare castaways to candy.
1) Dale = Lemonhead
But not just any old Lemonhead – he’s the one that fell under the couch LAST Halloween. Hard. Sour. Alone.
A player has a choice when he finds himself on the wrong side of the numbers: accept his fate or do something about it.
On the one hand, Dale did not go gently into that good night: he fought to stay in the game, attempting the fake-idol gambit, and even went so far as to barter with Jon (give me three more days and I’ll give you the idol).
On the other, more important, hand, Dale had lost the game in tiny, but critically significant, increments since the start of the game: every time he went off by himself (as he did once again after Kelley got the boot), every time he was gruff with a tribemate (apparently, Missy wasn’t the only one Dale annoyed along the way), every time he opted to carry a grudge rather than bury the hatchet (the social game of Survivor demands that players forgive, if not forget, those who vote against them; Dale needed to patch things up with Baylor long before the swap) – those were the infinitesimal moments he was digging his grave with a teaspoon. He admitted at his final Tribal Council that he had no connections to anyone left in the game; while he was obviously saying that to appear non-threatening, it also happened to be true. And the moment you can say that in Survivor is the moment your game is over.
2) Jon = 3 Musketeers
A 3 Musketeers LOOKS like a really good candy bar, but when you bite into one, you realize there isn’t much to it. Kinda like Jon and Survivor strategy.
When Dale revealed his idol to Jon, the human howler monkey should have immediately wondered (and perhaps inquired about) three things:
** Where are the instructions that come with the idol (players need to know how deep into the game it can be played, if it can be given to another player, and if it has any special powers)?
** Why didn’t Dale mention the idol when Kelley was still in the game (so that he could possibly save them both)?
** How did Dale find the idol when neither he nor Kelley ever went to Exile Island?
Of course, Jon did none of these things.
This is the Survivor world in which we live: Val lied about having two idols, and several players bought it. And now Dale peddles a fake idol, and despite it not looking like one (nor did the story pass the sniff test), Missy’s minions split their votes (in the process, possibly alienating Keith).
And so I have to ask: Which is worse, that the Survivor producers cast recruits whose strategic awareness, knowledge of game history, and/or intellectual capacity are limited enough that they accept at face value the elaborate lies of desperate players…
… or that Survivor has become so enamored with idol-based twists that these lies are, to one degree or another, plausible?
3) Hidden Immunity Idols = Good & Plenty
The Survivor producers are planting plenty of hidden immunity idols – and that might be a GOOD thing.
The clue that Baylor and Natalie got on Exile means that there are two more idols in the game, one at each camp.
So it’s quite possible that 25% of the remaining castaways – three of twelve – could have an idol at the merge.
You might think that this would annoy a purist like me – and you’d be right.
You’d also be wrong, though. Given the stultifying strategy thus far this season, extra idols may add intrigue to the post-merge game…
… and I can’t believe I just wrote that.
Sigh. Cagayan, take me away…
4) Post-Merge Alliances = Kit-Kats
Pretty much every house in my neighborhood was giving away Kit-Kats this year – some singles, some doubles, some full-sized quad bars.
And that’s sort of how the post-merge game is gonna work out, don’t you think? There are singles (Jeremy, Natalie, Julie, Alec), doubles (Reed-Josh, Keith-Wes) and a quad (Jon-Jaclyn-Missy-Baylor). It’s going to be about how the pieces fit together, I’d say.
On the surface, it doesn’t look good for the orphans… but when I look at the connections between players, I think the orphans are going to be just fine.
I think Jeremy has settled on Natalie as his #2…
Given the confessionals we got last week, Natalie is with Missy…
… who is obviously with Baylor…
… who has something going on with Alec.
Add Julie to that mix, and suddenly you’ve got six… and you need only one more to have a majority alliance at the merge.
5) Missy = M&M’s
There are not one, but two, Missys playing this game.
In last week’s column, I said that Missy was mean. In the Dozens before that, however, I kept insisting that Missy was playing an exceptional social game.
As I so often say, contradictions can be true.
Missy IS mean (as we’ll no doubt witness as the pressure of the game builds and her alliance turns on itself)… but she is also the most connected player in the game.
Baylor, obviously, is with her.
Natalie volunteered to go to Exile to lock down her alliance with Missy, which means Mama Bear is in good with Jeremy and probably Julie (we’ve seen Missy be empathetic with her).
Via exit interviews, we’ve learned that Missy is close to Jon (and thus Jaclyn) as well as Keith (and thus Wes).
The only players, then, that Missy isn’t directly connected to: Alec, Josh, and Reed.
Baylor’s got Alec wrapped up – which means that Josh and Reed should be very, very frightened.
Indeed, it says a lot that we haven’t seen Missy and Reed conspiring together despite being on the same tribe for two weeks.
So, even though I’m not Missy’s biggest fan, I’ll freely admit that she’s playing an great social game…
… but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s mean. And I can’t help but wonder if this meanness may cost her. The trouble with being so reassuring to the other players for weeks on end: they’re going to blame her when the betrayals begin.
Just ask Dawn Meehan.
6) Jeremy = Butterfinger
If Jeremy isn’t careful, he’s going to lose his grip on the game.
At the moment, he’s doing the right thing and saving his consternation and complaining for his confessionals.
And I totally understand his frustration: with the merge on the horizon, and a reward challenge on the way, the need for food isn’t as pressing as the players and Probst would have us believe. Within days, the two tribes will be combining supplies – never mind the merge feast – so why trade your tarp and make yourself miserable when you don’t really need to?
But when he starts referring to other players as dumb and their decisions as stupid, I fear that he’s going to express his discontent in camp. And that would be horribly unwise. Starving, cold, and paranoid people don’t like to be yelled at.
7) Reed = Smarties
Reed, as I’ve been arguing for weeks, is attempting to play the Iago to Jeremy’s Othello.
He’s been usurped, however, by Natalie, who is quite clearly Jeremy’s #2 (she’s an orphan, she’s smart, she’s loyal, and she’s annoying – a great person to take to the end; Reed may be too nice, and too bright, for his own good).
Reed still wants in on that alliance, however, so he’s gunning for the #3 position, currently held by Julie.
That, more than anything, is why Reed initially picked Julie to go to Exile Island: He wants to have some uninterrupted time to work himself higher in Jeremy’s hierarchy. If he can’t be #2, he most definitely wants to be #3.
Natalie, of course, thwarted his plan (because she had an agenda of her own)… which I would guess is fine by Reed, because it gives him access to Jeremy without Natalie around.
The edit so far says that Reed is unimportant to the season.
But I think he’s a lot smarter than we’re seeing.
8) Josh = Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are the best candy on earth; the Halloween pumpkin shaped ones (and the Easter eggs) improve upon perfection by nailing the peanut butter/chocolate ratio.
And Josh is the best player so far this season.
(Jeremy’s great, too, but I give the edge to Josh; he’s been more active, mostly because he’s HAD to be.)
Josh isn’t playing a perfect game – he and Reed are making the same PDA mistake as Jon and Jaclyn (honestly, I think it’s impossible not to seek comfort in such a stressful situation; Josh the player knows to stop with the kissing and touching, but Josh the person simply can’t) – and he’s about to be tested by the machinations of the merge.
But all we need to know about Josh’s relative importance within his tandem: After Reed won the reward competition, which of the two got a confessional talking about it? Right. Josh.
(I still stand by my prediction from last week, however, that Josh won’t be around for the endgame: he’s not connected enough to counteract his status as a triple threat.)
9) Keith = Jolly Rancher
HE DIP SPAT ON SURVIVOR.
Oh, man, what I wouldn’t give to see him use the immunity idol clue urn as a spittoon.
I love this guy.
10) Alec = Dum Dum Lollipops
11) Fortunes rising: Natalie
So nice to see someone not named Josh or Jeremy stepping up and playing this game.
Of course, no one should be buying Natalie’s excuse for taking Julie’s place on Exile Island – wouldn’t going to Exile prove to Rocker how tough Julie is? – but if anyone saw through her ruse, the editors didn’t go out of their way to show those confessionals to us.
Let’s just say, though, that other players DID notice, and plan to use Natalie’s obvious ploy as an excuse to target her after the merge.
What does Natalie care?
As she sees it, she’s down in numbers and needs to make moves: if cementing her relationship with Missy – and Baylor – puts her into a majority alliance, then what does it matter that a strategist like Josh knows what she’s doing?
When your back is against the wall – and if a move helps more than it hurts – then go down swinging, I say.
(One added benefit: if Natalie gets to the end of the game, everyone will remember this move, and it will be central to her argument that she, and not Jeremy, played the better game.)
12) Fortunes falling: Julie
She has to be the quitter, doesn’t she?
Let’s look at her qualifications:
** Girlfriend of a millionaire ex-athlete (probably pampered)
** Lots of plastic surgery (insecurity)
** Became a castaway because she wants to be a model/reality show personality (no desire to win the game)
** Exposure to the elements
** Sitting in challenges (not an asset)
** Not helping around camp (checking out)
Heck, even Jeremy’s attempts to convince her to stay seem half-hearted – he wants her around as a number, not as a player. I think he knows she’s gonna go. And if he didn’t need her so badly, I think he’d let her leave without a fight.
Ironically, if Julie – like Lindsey Ogle from Cagayan – could just hold out until the merge, she would transform from a target into an asset, and likely make it to the endgame, getting all the camera time she could possibly want along the way.
But I don’t think she’s built for that.
And at this point, why mention a quitter in the SuperTease – then show Julie on the brink – and then write in a cheat tweet that a castaway “contemplate[s] throwing in the towel” – if Julie doesn’t quit this week?
I mean, they wouldn’t hint at this since the start of the season and then say, “We got ya – no one quits!” That would be the most ridiculous resolution to this storyline, right? The producers wouldn’t be THAT foolish, would they?
13) Prediction time: Julie quits… or does she?
And yet, still I wonder about Julie quitting.
Julie’s departure would almost have to be before the merge (and the food and shelter improvements that come with it); if she feasts and sleeps, she’s going to rebound.
She’s also been getting a third-place edit.
And let’s not forget that there’s narrative support for a Josh/Reed departure this week.
Hmmmm. Maybe it’s both!
Julie quits and…
(head says Reed but heart says Josh)
… Josh? …
(head says Josh but heart says Reed)
… Reed is voted out.
That’s it for this edition of The Baker’s Dozen – if you’d like to keep the conversation going, leave a comment below!
Andy Baker is a long-time, but definitely not long-winded, Survivor blogger.
Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius