Oh, Rory. What's amazing, re-watching this season following the far more hyped advent of Russell Hantz in Samoa, is how similar their (initial) games actually were, yet how much more likeable the whole antagonistic rabble-rouser act came across in Rory's hands. Maybe it's the difference in how they got there: Rory fell into a minority position via bad luck (the switch), whereas Russell intentionally weakened his tribe to get there. Or maybe it's that Rory saved himself via his own efforts, rather than through a magical, always-appearing-when-needed "hidden" immunity idol.
But still, there are parallels: Rory and Russell were both squat, balding, goateed, mid-30s guys from the middle of the country. Both gave impassioned, occasionally irritable speeches to their tribes, then chuckled in confessionals about how their tribes fell for their mostly made-up stories. Both used the divide-and-conquer technique to "create a fissure" in a much-larger alliance. Both preferred solo strolls in the jungle to helping out around camp, at least when they could get away with it.
The difference, so far, is that Russell had nine other people from which to carve an alliance (on Foa Foa), which led to a mere 8-4 imbalance once he hit the merge with the weakened Foa Foas. Post-switch Rory is now just one guy, and still has the baggage of the pre-switch tribal alliances from Yasur and Lopevi to contend with. The aggrieved, hard-working, 110%-efforting victim of circumstances act is only going to take him so far. Then again, Russell started needing hidden idols at his second post-merge tribal, while Rory could be up against his third post-switch one in the next episode. Still: Twins!
Scout is a bit of an enigma at this point in the series. She was all over the first episode, but has all but disappeared since. Considering this episode was almost entirely focused on the woes of New Yasur, and the various members thereof feeling terrible for its many failings, we were shown surprisingly little of the person almost single-handedly responsible for putting them in that position in the first place: Scout.
Sure, she got in an early dig at a post-(Ep5-) tribal Rory "sitting on his pity pot." But did she express any second thoughts about her tribe-picking acumen, which so far has resulted in what may be the worst tribe in Survivor history? Or, after previously reassuring Rory that she "wanted to play with" him and the freshly departed Bubba, that she may have put him in a position of near-certain doom? Nope, it's Rory's fault.
Similarly, when Eliza's pig-catching failure brought her to tears, any words of wisdom? Doubts about tribe strength? Possible regrets that maybe Bubba, the guy from rural Tennessee, might have been useful at catching pigs? (Which Eliza had correctly foreshadowed in Ep5, no less.) None were shown. This is the team that Scout picked, and they're failing miserably. A word from the founder might have been welcome, instead of just more foundering.
Maybe this is why Survivor stopped doing water seasons shortly after Chris was on: Chris is really good at them. You might logically expect a strapping, younger guy like John K to do well at swimming- or diving-related challenges (and he has done well), but a burly, less-young guy like Chris, with the (created by wardrobe) red wife-beater shirt and pony tail? Yeah, that guy. Whether at diving down deep (admittedly, after screwing up), or shoving puzzle pieces along ropes under water, Chris is no slouch.
Not exactly what you'd think of as a stealth performance, but at least in the case of challenges waged in the water (as opposed to on balance beams over it), Chris is non-traditional challenge beast. Does this set him up for future targeting, though? Not really. Rory is also surprisingly good (as seen in this week's IC), and Chad and Sarge both seem to have an edge in land-based strength challenges. Basically, Chris has quickly overturned his Ep1 impression, and proven himself an asset in tribal challenges, while still not appearing overly intimidating for the post-merge individual competitions. Which is pretty much exactly where one would want to be at this point.
One of the puzzles of New Yasur is who is actually calling the shots. In previous episodes, it was implied that Scout was commanding the older women's alliance (they did pick her as their chief, after all), which still remains mostly intact post-switch with Scout, Ami, and Leann. But Ami's facilitation of the Eliza-Leann conversation when Dolly was booted, and her clear preference to save Rory over Lisa, whose word she didn't trust (which couldn't possibly have been partially because Lisa voted against Leann when Dolly was ousted, then double-crossed the younger women on the very next vote), makes it certainly seem like Ami's wishes are the ones being observed. Scout's hand-based faux Bible might have fooled some people, but Ami's a little sharper than that.
Seriously, though, while some of Ami's decisions have seemed unnecessarily hostile and seemingly counterproductive (not wanting Lisa to share Dah's food-finding tips with Bubba and Rory), her social insights have been pretty spot-on. Lisa was playing a mostly individual game, and with a merge approaching, seemed fairly dangerous, especially socially. Still, Rory's claim that he's not going back to Lopevi at the merge seems a little suspect, and Ami's original intention of keeping the men at arm's length seems like a safer play. Luckily though, this is Survivor: Vanuatu, before the days of final threes and nine-person juries, and merges don't come with a preposterously high number of people left, such as eleven, and all signs point toward New Yasur continuing to lose it up for the near future. So for now, Ami has seeming power, and with that, this episode's Slitty award.