There are 13 players left, and you know what that means: It’s time to check in with each castaway and see how they’re faring. And given that we’ve arrived at the merge, it’s also time for me to come up with another potential boot order, because people like lists and disagreeing and, of course, mocking when I get everything horribly, terribly, breathtakingly wrong. So here we go: the baker’s dozen Baker’s Dozen.
It’s gotta be weird to be Will. He hasn’t really had much of an opportunity to play the game: He was on the right side of the Mari boot, but that was Michelle’s maneuver, and then he didn’t go back to Tribal until last week, when Jay orchestrated the Michaela blindside. He also keeps sitting out of challenges, so he’s not even getting that part of the Survivor experience. In many ways, he hasn’t really been on the show for the first three weeks of the game; he’s just been on the worst camping trip ever.
Now that he’s arrived at the merge, Will probably thinks he’s safe, because he’s a non-threatening member of the majority alliance… only he’s going to find out that the Millennials aren’t going to stick together, and that he’s one of the few players on the outside looking in. And given that his buddy Jay has an idol, and the real majority – the Gen-Xers and those who have chosen to work with them – is big enough to split the votes, Will is going to leave without ever really getting to play the game. But hey, he’s got a great story to tell the girls he meets in college.
For the record, I agree with Jay’s move to vote out Michaela; while it was premature, the move was necessary: as soon as Michaela shared her Final 4 scenario, she had to go. If they had pulled it off, it was Michaela’s plan, so she wins; if Jay had flipped later, he loses jury votes, and someone else gets the million. Not to mention, Michaela’s plan involved Jay betraying members of his Millennial alliance – Taylor and Michelle – which would cost him even more votes. Long story short: If Jay had partnered up with Michaela, there was no way for him to win the game. He might be drawing dead anyway, given how the merge seems likely to shake out, but he had a move to make and he made it, which is far better than just crossing your fingers. Hope doesn’t get you very far in Survivor.
Anyway, it seems like there’s a massive majority forming: David, Chris, and Zeke look to be a tight trio… Sunday and Bret will be happy to reunite with their fellow Gen-Xers, as will Ken and Jessica… Adam has crossed the Rubicon and thrown in with the older players… Hannah and her “Use me!” approach to the game will be eager to work with Zeke and Adam… and that gives us nine, just enough to split the votes at the first post-merge Tribal.
And then there’s the other four: Taylor, Michelle, Will and Jay. As good as the editors have been about including misleading scenes, we probably got the Taylor-Ken-Jessica “I won’t write your name down” moment for a reason (he’s going to work with them at some point)… and Michelle is sharp, so she’ll be looking to abandon the sinking Millennial ship.
What’ll be interesting about the first post-merge vote is that no one will want to reveal where their deeper loyalties lie, so they’ll be seeking an easy vote. Let’s take a look at the members of the minority alliance: Is there anyone there who could be considered a challenge threat? Someone who is also smart and charismatic? And might have made a significant strategic move that could appear on an endgame resume? Michelle might be a possibility, but almost everyone will agree that Jay has got to go. His idol will save him once, but after Will heads home, Jay will soon join him.
Side note: Rachel… Mari… Paul… Lucy… CeCe… Figgy… Michaela… Will… Jay. What an odd pre-jury trip that must have been.
Part of me wants to put Adam at the Final Tribal Council… but four scenes put him here:
** Taylor vowing revenge. Once again, the editors might be trolling us (as they did by including Michaela’s comment about being willing to snitch on Jay about the idol). But really, why show Taylor at all – seriously, I’d rather watch an extra 30 seconds of David struggling in a challenge than listen to Taylor, and I HATE watching David in challenges – unless he actually accomplishes something?
** Adam’s “apology” to Taylor. That post-Tribal night vision scene was selective editing at its finest: There is no way that Adam botched his explanation to Taylor this badly. Of COURSE Adam said something like, “Look, you two were a power couple, that was dangerous, and I was afraid that you’d take me out next because I voted against Figgy at our first Tribal. Anyway, if you can forgive me, I think we can still work together and help each other out… and then you can backstab me.” We didn’t see that, though, because the editors want us to buy into the “Taylor gets revenge on Adam” narrative.
** That conversation between Ken, Jessica and Taylor. They talked about how much of a threat Adam is… which means he’s going to become a target, right?
** Taylor explaining the dangers of flipping (at the Figgy boot Tribal Council). Why include that unless Adam is going to find his head on the chopping block for flipping on the Millennials?
For me, Adam is the hardest player to predict: He could leave this early or he might win the whole thing. I’d prefer he stick around. But there are enough signs in the story for me think that he doesn’t.
Okay, time to speed things up as we head into the “doomed by the edit” portion of the festivities.
With Adam gone, Taylor’s narrative purpose is at an end. Might he become a number for someone else and stumble his way to the Final Tribal Council? Sure. But I’m not going to be the one to beat that drum any more.
This is the point in the game where the majority alliance is going to have to make its true intentions known.
Chris, David, and Zeke will want to team up with two other players so that when they hit the Final 9, they’ll have the majority. Zeke’s a smart guy: He’s going to lobby hard for two Millennials, so that he has an edge at Final 5. Thankfully, he’s got Hannah and Michelle there, both of whom would be grateful for an endgame alliance.
Bret, I believe, has been playing a MUCH better game than we’ve seen. Did you catch that ass slap that Michaela gave Bret last episode? Clearly, Bret’s social game is on point. Sadly, though, his edit is invisible, which all but guarantees that he’s a “hard easy” boot in the middle of the merge. Hard because he’ll be betrayed by players he trusts (most notably Chris); easy because the other players all have a reason to get him gone (the Millennials need the Gen-Xers to lose numbers, and the Gen-Xers know that Bret could win over a jury).
It must be brutal to get on Survivor, endure a typhoon, starve, be sleep deprived, experience constant paranoia, and somehow subsist on rice, coconut, and hope, and then watch every Wednesday and wonder, “Where the **** am I?”
To get this deep into the game, Sunday’s been out there for a month. Does she have an endgame in mind? A Final 3 she envisions winning? Is she making moves that we’re not seeing? Does she have a chance if she’s sitting next to the right people (say, David and Hannah)?
Or was she living what I’ve long said must be the hardest existence on Survivor: Knowing you’re a pawn that will be sacrificed or a goat that will be taken to the end?
You know, this cast is beginning to remind me of One World: while the game they’re playing is largely unremarkable (and full of strategic mistakes), a lot of the cast will probably be invited back. One World has seen Monica, Colton, and Kat return, both Troyzan and Sabrina were on the Second Chance ballot, and you know that they’ll have Kim back as soon as she stops bringing beautiful and strategically brilliant babies into the world… and in this cast, depending on how the rest of the season plays out, I can see Mari, Figgy, Michaela, Jay, Michelle, David, Zeke, and Ken getting serious consideration for future seasons. Indeed, I think SEG will struggle to limit themselves when they cast the Favorites for Season 36.
Anyway, this is the point where David finally betrays Ken… which may very well cost him the game. Because Ken – and the sense of honor that makes him a more charismatic Coach – won’t respect David’s decision. Had David decided to go with Ken, Jessica, and Chris here, they could have been the Final 4… and when you rip something like that away from a guy like Ken, as compassionate, empathetic and understanding as he’ll be, he’s still not going to reward you for it.
I’m torn… maybe she DOES stick around until Day 36 and play the advantage. But I can’t shake that post-Tribal “Thank you” to David when he saved her with his idol. So I’m gonna indulge in some fan fiction – which is really what all of this is, right? – and say that she leaves before she gets to use it.
And since I’m crafting overly dramatic nonsense, how cool would it be if Ken tells David about Jessica’s advantage, and THAT’S why David turns on Ken and Jessica? Ken gets voted out – which David assures Jessica he had nothing whatsoever to do with – and then David convinces Jessica that he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure that she’s not the next to go. And then, when his valiant (and non-existent) effort fails, she wills him the advantage, which he uses to wend his way to the end.
That would lead to some interesting questions at the Final Tribal Council, don’t you think?
And now, the players I feel have a real shot to take down the title.
I originally had her up in Adam’s #11 spot… and really, now that I think about it, she’s a lot like Adam: She’s a dangerous player, but because of her earlier moves, a lot of the other castaways KNOW she’s dangerous. She’s also got the physique – and puzzle solving skills – of someone who will thrive in post-merge challenges, so the other players would be wise to vote her out long before this. But as an orphan of the TriForce, she might be used as a float vote, and then be targeted with the Final Tribal Council on the horizon.
I don’t really think she has much of a chance to win the game – she’d be edited far differently if she made it to the end – but she’d have an argument to make if she got there.
Remember back when Chris told David, “If you’re backstabbing me again, I better be up there [getting my torch snuffed] or I’ll wring your neck”?
This is when David finally backstabs Chris.
Everything about her edit screams “newest member of the zero votes club.” But if she continues to emerge as a strategic threat – building on her confessional about trying to undermine Bret – then maybe, just maybe, she becomes this season’s Aubry. I doubt it, though… Hannah, I suspect, is just along for the ride.
The impression the editors have given us of David – the strategic journey player – is a LOT different, I would imagine, from how the other players see him. To them, he came into the merge as a massive challenge liability who repeatedly backstabbed his alliance. Post-merge, for him to get to the end, he’ll have to betray more than half of the jury, quite possibly turning himself into a goat. Could David talk his way into a win? Maybe. But I don’t know that the other players will want him to be their winner, especially if there’s a better option available.
The narrative we’ve been given so far foreshadows a Millennial victory, as well as a win for a generation gapper. Is there anyone more of a mix of the two starting tribes than Zeke, who described himself at the outset as an old man in a young man’s body? And is there anyone better positioned than he is at the merge?
He’s got alliances. He’s got alliances within alliances. And within those alliance alliances, I bet he has alliances.
He knows David has an idol. He’ll probably find out that Adam has one, too. And Zeke’s a great candidate to find the merge advantage (he’s going to make short work of that ridiculous note).
He’s going to be at the center of everything.
It’s funny, before I sat down to write this, I wasn’t sure if I was rooting for anyone. As exciting as last week was, losing Michaela really took the wind out of my sails. But often, writing can carry us to clarity, and it did so this time:
I really hope Zeke wins.
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