Jeff Pitman's Survivor: Vanuatu recaps
Survivor: Vanuatu recaps - Episode 13
"Eruptions of Volcanic Magnitude"
By: Jeff Pitman | Published: August 22, 2012

trollyThe Russell Hantz Memorial Troll of the Week award (the "Trolly"): Volcanoes
Honorable mention: ?

Okay, we get it, volcanoes. It's a really bad idea to win reward trips to you, since both people who have done so this season have promptly been voted out. (Retrospective note: This trend did not carry over to Nicaragua, which is yet another reason that Nicaragua sucked.)


Although the idea of natural, continuous, nocturnal fireworks shows is, admittedly, pretty cool. Still, we think you've been overdoing the camera time a bit this season, especially since you're mentioned in the season name's subhead.


icuThe Purple Kelly Memorial Invisibility Cloakee Unmasked! award ("ICU!"): Scout
Honorable mention: ?

The mystery continues. While Scout was seen, very briefly, in this episode ("Touché, Eliza!"), it's bizarre that here we are, with five people left on the show, and she doesn't get a single confessional in the episode. Traditionally, of course, that's also been Julie's role, but she had to go and mess up the editing pattern by winning reward, then struggling mightily to not get voted out (and failing at that).


That's not to see we necessarily would welcome more Scout on the screen. Her contributions thus far can be counted on four fingers: 1. Complaining about Eliza's excessive talking, 2. Singing in camp, 3. Suggesting the alliance with Chris and Chad that didn't actually happen until after Chad was voted out, and 4. Making us feel bad for mocking her challenge ineptitude. So, uh... good call, editors?


beastyThe Colby Donaldson Memorial Challenge Beast award (The "Beasty"): Eliza
Honorable mention: Julie

Before we get into Eliza's Beasty-worthy IC performance, we should point out that she did quite poorly in the Super-Challenge (SuCha) RC, which seemed to have been designed by production to embarrass at least one person in each leg. Scout predictably struggled through the mud crawl, and who could possibly have guessed Eliza would still be really terrible at catching muddy pigs? Not to mention the balance beam, which Chris cleverly avoided having to cross by "forgetting" to use the puzzle piece the camera operator kept zooming back to (*audible cough*). SuChas have fallen out of favor in recent seasons, but they used to be a reliable late-game staple. We miss you, SuChas!


But back to Eliza (and Julie). This is the perfect example of a time in which winning immunity actually hurt her strategically. As the narrative of the episode made clear, Chris had a huge decision to make here: Does he go to the final three with the Scout-Twila pair, or the Eliza-Julie one? The two vote targets were clearly Twila and Julie. Chris had said repeatedly he couldn't make a decision until after the IC. So what does Eliza go and do? She makes the decision easier for Chris, by winning immunity.


Eliza barely won, seconds before Julie. So if Eliza had tanked the challenge, even a little bit, Chris's decision would have been much more difficult. Eliza, Chris, Scout and Twila had a final four pact, and Julie was the last remnant of the opposing allliance they'd overthrown. Does Chris go against his fellow outsider (Eliza), or does he join her in breaking up Scout-Twila? We'll never know, because instead he got to make the easy move, and take out the obvious target, Julie, who'd made her own threat status worse by winning RC, then nearly winning IC.


Now, to be fair, had Eliza lost the IC while Julie won, there was a decent chance Eliza would get booted instead. But at least Chris's decision would have been harder. And now, as Eliza herself explained to Chris, his next vote is pretty much pre-cast, since it's either 3-1 against Eliza, or forcing a tie. The only thing saving Eliza going forward is immunity. But she won this one, so as long it's not more catching pigs, there's still a chance it could work.


slittyThe Cirie Fields Memorial Smiling Backstabber award ("Slitty"): Chris
Honorable mention: ?

This episode was a tour de force for Chris strategically. And it really pointed out the relative power of one person caught between two alliances of two, at least at the final five stage of Survivor. Chris's decision to keep Twila (and Scout) and dump Julie (and Eliza) sets up the way the remaining two votes will go, barring immunity messing things up.


Getting to that decision, however, took a lot of work. Chris was playing hard the entire time, "hearing out" both competing pairs of women, while constantly reassuring both camps his true loyalty was solidly on their side (or at least that he was "open" to what they were saying). Had he played it wrong, there was still a chance (however remote) that both groups would decide, "Screw it, Chris is playing us against each other, let's vote him out instead." But even when caught, red-handed, in the act of plotting against Scout-Twila with Eliza, Chris masterfully managed to wriggle free.


That's not to say it's smooth sailing for Chris from here on out. He inflicted unnecessary injury on Julie by reassuring her, right before tribal council, that he was still planning to vote with her against Twila. And in the instant that Eliza's face changed from delight at two votes for Twila to dismay at three for Julie, Chris's relationship with Eliza probably took a nosedive as well.


But in the end, Chris made the right decision. In the final three against either pair of women, there's a huge risk that one of the women will win immunity, and, due to stronger ties to the other woman than to Chris, Chris will be the F3 boot. Chris's decision maximized his chances that this won't happen (as mentioned in the Beasty discussion, above). Against Scout-Twila, his chances are pretty good of winning the final IC himself: Scout has almost no shot, and he's generally finished ahead of Twila in most of the individual challenges. In contrast, Eliza-Julie finished 1-2 in the challenge held just hours earlier, each won one of the three preceding challenges, and both have strong ties to Ami and Leann, who are already on the jury. He still has work to do, but Chris essentially just reserved himself a spot in the final two.