Clearly, the highlight of the episode was the dual and competing advantage and idol plays at Tribal Council. And despite Probst's season-long promises that the extra vote advantage "played out perfectly," it turns out the extra vote is completely meaningless if someone plays an idol to cancel out both of those votes. Furthermore, as discussed on Know-It-Alls, it's quite possible that simply by playing his advantage, Dan tipped off Carolyn that she needed to play her idol. Which makes the extra vote even less of an advantage than it initially seemed. While it was entertaining to watch, this was hardly a battle for the ages. More like an opening-minutes knockout for the idol.
But was there anything Dan could have done? Well, no, because he's Dan, and he doesn't listen to anyone. But a wiser player might have taken Mike's warning to heart, that Dan's own alliance was gunning for him. And it's possible that person could have guessed Carolyn was flipping, and that she had an idol. That wiser person could then have used the two votes to force a split: two votes for Wiser Dan, two votes for, say... Sierra. Rodney and Will vote for Sierra, Mike and Carolyn vote for Dan... and then we go to rocks! (There is no way this group would ever go to rocks.) Yeah, there was pretty much nothing Dan could have done, even if he'd known Carolyn had an idol she was planning to use against him.
Where Dan's advantage might have worked is if he suspected Carolyn and Sierra had aligned with Mike (which seemed possible), and if Carolyn didn't have an idol. Then it would have been a 4-3 vote, with Carolyn going home. So, basically, Dan's advantage was pretty much useless, because of Carolyn's idol, and Mike, Dan, and Carolyn all wasted $480 at the auction. Nice job, twist-makers. That "advantage" was almost as useful as the challenge advantage Malcolm won in Philippines.
But there are ways to improve the Extra Vote: (1) Don't have the holder announce that they're using it. Just let them vote twice at the voting booth. Or (as speculated pre-season) attach a physical object (a pin? a paper clip?) onto their ballot. Sharp-eyed Tribal Council attendees might still notice any or all of that, since they're close enough to see the person voting, but it would be a start. Alternatively, (2) have the extra vote opportunity come after the idol play opportunity (or at the same time). As it stands, one prompts the other. If they're simulataneous, that might still happen. If the extra vote invitation comes last, it might be more in balance: For example, the advantage holder could throw in a last-minute split vote, if they wanted to.
We noted on twitter that it was odd that production didn't hide any idols post-merge this season. Having seen this demonstration of the advantage in head-to-head competition with an idol, we can see why. Production must have been hoping the idols would all have been played before the advantage was used. It's not their fault Carolyn (wisely) held onto hers for almost the entire game.
Can an idolator actually win? - Revisited
We now have five people left, and two boots left (assuming a Final Three). There are really only two people who could plausibly win if the editing is any guide (Mike or Carolyn), and they're both the favorites to win the next two immunity challenges. The chances are really, really good that one of them is in the final three, and if either gets there, they're going to win. Right?
If this happens, this would be the first time someone saved by an idol after receiving the most votes (either their own or played for them) went on to win the game. Admittedly, the sample size of finalists for whom this is true is small (just four): Amanda Kimmel, Micronesia; Russell Hantz, Samoa; Parvati Shallow, Heroes vs. Villains; and Jaclyn Schultz (played for her by Natalie), San Juan del Sur. Other people were only saved temporarily, then booted later (Yau-Man, Fiji; Penner, Philippines; Jon & Keith, San Juan del Sur). It's not clear that having been saved by an idol was really held against any of these people, but it has been an interesting correlation, at least.
So... it only took 19 seasons, but idols appear to finally be an acceptable path to the win. Hooray? (No, we don't need another 16 seasons of Redemption Island, thanks.)
Okay, sure. But who will actually win?
Back to winning chances. Working against both Mike and Carolyn is that they're down 2-3 in the numbers, and they're both perceived as huge immunity (and jury) threats. Even so, we would put the winning chances at around 70% Mike, 25% Carolyn, 3% Sierra, 2% Rodney, and 0% Will. More detail on a case-by-case basis.
1. Mike is the overwhelming favorite to win both of the remaining immunity challenges. His Mean % Finish in individual challenges is a whopping 83%, followed by a tight pack of Carolyn/Sierra/Rodney (58%, 53%, and 50%, respectively) and Will, who will also be present at the challenges (32%). That's right, the distance between Will and Carolyn is almost the same as the distance between Carolyn and Mike. And if Mike reaches the finals, he wins, period. He already has four votes on the jury locked down (Hali, Joe, Jenn, Shirin), probably would get Tyler's, and might get a Sierra or a Rodney, if they're not also finalists. Mike was the star of the pre-season ads, he's been a focus (or the main focus) of the editing for the entire season, and Lindsey famously predicted a Blue Collar would win this season. All signs point to yes.
- Statistical notes: Mike has a spectacular 9.98 SurvAv heading into the finale. If he wins two more challenges and sweeps the jury vote (which seems unlikely, because... Dan), he would have the highest single-season SurvAv of all time (current leader: Tom Westman, 17.81 in Palau). And if he gets cuts down before then, he should still have one of the all-time best non-finalist scores. Either way, solid prospects of a historic performance.
2. Carolyn has put on a show the past couple of episodes, taking out Day 3 ally Tyler last week, and dismissing Dan with an idol flourish this week. If she reaches the finals with any combination of people that doesn't include Mike (who we note will still be the automatic boot if he doesn't win immunity either time), she should win. Probably. She doesn't seem to be particularly beloved by the current jurors, but if she's there with Rodney and Will, no contest. Conversely, one of Mike or Carolyn, whichever doesn't win Final Five immunity, is probably the first boot of the finale.
- Statistical notes: Carolyn's SurvAv is a more normal 6.91. If she goes on a challenge/jury sweep herself, she could still have a top 5 all-time score. If she wins, she would be the oldest female winner, at 53. But she's still much younger the oldest winner overall (Bob Crowley, 57 when Gabon filmed). Additionally, a finale challenge sweep for Carolyn would place her in the top 10 for individual challenge wins (also true for Mike).
3. Sierra probably has the next-best chances. She has better ties to the early jurors, particularly Jenn, Hali, and Shirin, than do Rodney or Will. Then again, she's also hung those same jurors out to dry as they hoped in vain she might flip to their losing causes, but her reasons for doing so are solid: she knows she'll win against Will (and Dan, so she might be a bit upset that he's now gone). If it's Sierra, Rodney, and Will, it'll be close, but Sierra should pull it out, especially if she can articulate and defend her goat-herding strategy.
4. Rodney still has a non-zero shot at winning, but only against Sierra and Will. His constant complaining about rewards was openly criticized this episode, and it seemed to play poorly with the jury. He's pretty sure he's been controlling the game, yet he's only voted for the person booted three times in nine Tribal Councils. Those 6 non-vote-for-boots are tied for the third-highest futility total in Survivor history. One more wrong vote and he's tied with the illustrious Keith Nale (7), although sadly, the great Eddie Fox's mark of 9 whiffs remains out of reach. Even so, Rodney's charming, he might win jurors over with humor, he's much better than he appeared coming into the game, and people seem to like him. It could happen. Maybe.
5. Will is also still a contestant on this season, although to be accurate, he entered a plea of nolo contendere quite a while ago. He's all but guaranteed a seat in the Final Three, and if he receives even a single vote, it will be either because a juror didn't understand they were supposed to be voting for someone, or because their name is Dan, and they really want to make sure they do something memorable.
A second chance at doing the Second Chance voting the right way
As far as we can tell (with no data beyond Jeff Probst's tweets and the seemingly unquenchable level of interest on twitter), the online voting for the Second Chance cast has been a rousing success. And we're happy about that, because it might convince CBS that this concept and the audience voting is worth doing again (assuming the season itself isn't awful). Another round of Second Chance would mean a lot of the worthy people overlooked this time might still have a shot. That would be good all around.
We do, however, have a couple of minor points we think should be addressed if Survivor plans to do this again:
1. The voting/campaign period should not overlap with a season that's airing. As we said last week, it's perfectly understandable that CBS wants to maximize returns, and generate even more buzz for the Survivor finale/reunion block. But we still think it would be better to have the voting open after the finale, then doing a standalone results show a week later, in Survivor's regular time slot. True, this season's finale does fall on the last day of May Sweeps. But they also started the season a week or two later than normal. At worst, they could have had another double-episode somewhere in the middle to create space for an extra week.
The reason to do this is simple: The final two episodes of Worlds Apart have been all but lost in the hoopla about Second Chance. Certainly, the 32 eligible contestants are far more interested in the ongoing balloting than in the wrap-up of this season (except maybe the five that were on it, and even then, maybe not). If you looked at RHAP on Wednesday, Tyler's exit interview was buried under three pages of Second Chance candidate interviews.
Frankly, fans seem far less excited about the Worlds Apart finale than the Second Chance cast reveal that will follow it. In music, you don't have a 2.5-hour opening act in front of a 15-minute headling act, because the "Get off the stage!" screams would reach a crescendo around the 1-hour mark, and rioting would probably break out before the end of the second hour. If someone other than Mike (or maybe Carolyn) wins Worlds Apart, you'll hear the same thing Wednesday night. And this shouldn't be the case. One event should complement the other, not act at cross purposes.
2. People still active on a season should not be in the voting pool. This would be simple to fix by just addressing point 1. But if they insist on overlapping with an active season as they did here, it's a disservice to both Mike and Carolyn that the audience will not know if one of them won Worlds Apart before voting closes. As a voter, you're tempted to not vote for them, because it feels like you're (possibly) throwing your vote away on someone who may not even be eligible. Which is upsetting, because both Mike and Carolyn have played really well this season, and are certainly deserving of serious consideration for Second Chance. Not only that, but if one of them did win Worlds Apart, that's unfair to people who could have been in the voting pool, but were cut in favor of someone that casting/Jeff Probst were 100% sure was ineligible. It's a waste of a spot, the same as casting someone on a season that you are 90% sure will quit by the end of the second week.
Worlds Apart Episode 13 recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Dan Foley
Podcasts - Episode 13