Interesting episode. While I’m not a fan of a predictable few weeks right after the Merge, there were a few gem-worthy moments this episode. I’ll take what I can get.
So, I guess what I said two weeks ago about the Merge boot being a relatively UTR player wasn’t quite right. Maybe if I said… first Jury member? Regardless, Desi is an unfortunate villager archetype, one who’s only there for the sake of numbers. An unfortunate reality of Survivor is not everyone can be the star or the protagonist. Although I feel Desi could’ve dominated in other seasons, this just wasn’t her lucky one. Too bad. I guess on the bright side, we didn’t really know enough of her personality to miss her now that she’s gone. So… can’t miss what you’ve never had, right?
Nailing Down a Clue
How Few Nails Had Been Used?
Was Cole really the only person to miss the clue hidden in the nails? Because, that seems statistically improbable to me. Regardless, the blunder of Cole (and likely others) became the plunder for someone I’m super pleased to see get a little extra boost. Not only that, despite what I think of as a poor requirement to then obtain the reward (i.e. take a piece of parchment at Tribal), she pulled off the nab masterfully. On top of all of this, Lauren is silently putting together a pretty fine résumé and edit. Once more, I must say it, I greatly misjudged Lauren as a player and a fan. Bravo, Lauren! Now! What are the chances she makes the most of an extra vote…?
Side Note: why was there not a bigger commotion made about the fact that only ten votes were cast? If I were Desi or Joe, you have to imagine I’m counting every vote through eleven. But, instead, everyone just seemed to blink and simultaneously forget there were still eleven people sitting there. Really, people? Not even any hushed whispers?
Showing Calibers of Players
Devon. JP. Cole. There are many things I consider these gentlemen to have in common, but this episode, one thing stuck out more than another others… why were you instinctively not looking for a clue from the moment you sat down? Production is purposefully telling you to eat alone. Why would they do this? To hide how much you really eat? It’s baffling to me that the three of them just ate and left… well, until Cole lucked out on his placement. If not for the fact Devon and JP ate as much as they did, Cole would’ve waddled back to the beach, none the wiser.
Chrissy and Ryan, on the other hand, showed how much of the show they both watch… saying nothing for the mere concept of common sense. Both intuitively sought out a clue, and once Ryan found it, he did the most logical thing he could: he hid it! What a novel thought! Once more, the juxtaposition of Chrissy and Ryan’s game-savvy attitude versus the utter obliviousness of the others is meant, from a story point of view, to let audiences know two things: these three aren’t real strategic threats; these two are. Not that it’s news to anyone by this point, but Chrissy and Ryan are the ones to watch here, not the three stooges.
Also, shout out to Joe for wisely opting to eat last while not being shown whether or not he looked for a clue that wasn’t there. I thought that moment narratively signified Joe was toast since his caliber of player was irrelevant. Guess I read too much into that one.
The Innocent Bystander
For all the flack I’ve given Ryan these past weeks, I have to say, he played getting the idol very, very well. Yes, he took a small, risky window to get the idol, but by having Chrissy cover up the hole, he ostensibly protected the knowledge he has it. Yes, Chrissy must know—at least I’d think, given as he whispered to her—but her telling anyone is effectively betraying her closest ally. Not only that, Ben got it in his mind that Cole had the thing, and all Ryan had to do was make a half-hearted attempt to grab the thing when the big fray went down. Now, does it look like he might muck it up next week? You’re damn right! But credit where credit is due, for the time being.
The Little Drew Christy Who Could
Other people have to be seeing this comparison, right? He’s a long, fit, clueless guy who’s there so he can be narratively compared to other cast members, accentuating his flaws to highlight others’ merits. Now, I don’t think Cole is as questionable of a person as Drew seemed for his brief sojourn in SJdS (he always gave me creep vibes), but the similarities unfortunately exist. That being said, it would appear Cole’s role has been fulfilled: we get he sucks and Chrissy doesn’t. This week, once more, showed audiences why Cole is so out of his element in Survivor.
He was shown previously missing the clue hidden in the nails; he was noted as being selfish, saying he was going to eat as much as he wanted to screw over the others who hadn’t eaten yet at the reward; through his selfishness, he bumbles into a clue that he (and again, Devon and JP) never even thought to look for; he barrels over Chrissy in his hunt for an idol; and instead of immediately stripping to prove he’s idol-less in paradise like JP did earlier this season, he kind of bluffs that he has one to the enemy alliance when said alliance is (apparently) able to split votes (when it’s seven on four… logic that everyone else seemed to just accept as right, somehow) to get you out! Small mistakes and big ones all jumbled together in a vessel only known as Cole. So where does this fool’s arc go from here? Maybe to a fairly predictable next boot? I mean… I can hope.
Over the Top… Negative, Mixed, or Positive?
Wow, did Ben have himself an edit this week. It was loud, it was proud, but was it good? The answer is, I honestly have no idea. Ben was all over the map. I believe CBS wanted every other word coming out of Ben’s mouth to be Marine-related as a ploy to make him seem more heroic, and therefore a positive figure to counteract Joe’s negative edit. That being said, the amount they were hitting us over the head with the fact he’s a Marine made me consider this would be the end of Ben’s story, that he would become the first Juror, because why else would they take a wonderfully fleshed out character and reduce him to a single fact about himself? While, once more, I feel this was meant to be positive, Ben just came off as… simple, to me. That’s not good.
Furthermore, Ben’s reactions to Joe, while heartfelt, only reminded me of Alan. Yes, Ben’s undoubtedly got mental scars Alan did not—Marines versus NFL—but to give in to Joe egging him on so easily… he seemed to get heated pretty quick. And yes, I understand the stress of the situation and the lack of food and everything else affecting them, but Joe clearly came out of that exchange as the more cerebral player, if a shittier person. I think this was a bad look for both Ben and Joe.
This supposed good combined with the uncomfortable bad, however, does it net one way or the other? I’m not sure. If his effects Ben in the long run, and it may, this will have been the beginning of his demise, one Joe, likely long gone from the game, set in motion. I don’t dislike Joe, and after this episode, I don’t particularly adore Ben, but given JP, Devon, and even Cole look like they could float a few more weeks while Ben and Joe go at one another… well, that makes me a bit sad.
A Closing Thought, Dearest Readers
Fears Moving Forward
I’m going to rattle off three seasons real quick: Redemption Island, One World, and Worlds Apart. To me, these seasons are fairly synonymous to me, only insofar as: a) the ultimate winner was clearly the best person out there and b) they featured some level of Pagonging (which, if anyone is unfamiliar with the term means the systematic elimination of a whole alliance, one after another, after another), either outright or very nearly so. For the sake of my point, let’s throw in South Pacific, as well… though Sophie wasn’t as dominant as Rob, Kim, and Mike. Anyway…
I bring this up, because I’m afraid this could be what happens here. Yes, (Doctor) Mike and Ryan have idols and Lauren has an extra vote and Joe is still out there, so there’s plenty of opportunity for some chaos to ensue. That being said, Chrissy seems to be running the show. Yes, numerous confessionals this week noted Ben’s prowess when it came to decision making for the group, but he’s been noted as a threat by the opposing alliance (not necessarily a bad thing) and his own in Ryan and Devon (this is a bad thing).
Chrissy, with her fandom and poorly concealed whispering, could hypothetically oust Joe, Cole, and Mike in succession before moving onto her own alliance (of which, I have to believe, Ashley is the first one out, followed closely by Devon). I’m not lamenting the fact that Chrissy could be setting herself up for a colossally deserved win—I love when the winner is the undisputed champ of a given season—but I’m also not here to watch predictable boot after predictable boot. Why was Cagayan so much fun? Because it was impossible to know what Tony was going to do next (not to mention Tasha, Spencer, Kass, and Trish)! Why did I have a good time with MvGX? Plenty of solid players paired with so much back-and-forth power struggles that it kept me guessing.
Obviously, we still have a little ways to go this season—seven people still need to be eliminated—but Chrissy can see a clear path to the end and to a victory. Unfortunately, that might mean a Pagonging. Let’s wait and see, my friends.
Alrighty, I guess it’s prediction time. As noted above, I think, at least for one more week, the Chrissy-Ryan-Ben trifecta is going to stay the course, no matter how badly Ryan ends up misusing his idol info. Cole’s victory this week might have bought Joe an extra week if Cole can’t come up with another win, and for the sake of not seeing him anymore and for keeping Joe (because, if nothing else, he does cause havoc), I hope that’s the case. However, and for what I believe to be the fifth time this season, I’m going to say Joe is a goner. He can’t be a finalist, so he has to be going at some point, right?
Final note, I may be taking next week off due to traveling for the holidays (going to Denver to see the family!). If there is a week hiatus, well, see you in a hopefully, less predictable game, dearest readers.
Dan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.
Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki