As many of you know, Little Baby Anna Claire arrived this past Monday afternoon… and as many of you suspect, she watched her first episode of Survivor on Wednesday. She apparently shares our general opinion of San Juan del Sur: during the show, she spat up, soiled a diaper, then fell asleep. Can’t say I blame her; the strategy on display (or lack thereof) threatens to do the same to me each and every week. ;-)
Anyway, given that all I want to do right now is hang out with A.C. and my family, instead of baking up a five thousand word screed, this Dozen will be a batch of donut holes: they taste a lot like the real thing, but they go down much faster.
By the by, apologies for not responding to your comments on last week’s column (which were great, as they always are). I’ll get to them this week, promise. My replies may not make a lot of sense – I’m operating on fragmented sleep! – but I’ll do my best.
1) Kelly and the Conspiracy of Dunces
My first reaction to Kelley’s ouster: I feel awful for her. If her exit interviews are to be believed – and we have no reason to doubt her, do we? – she was targeted by people who knew nothing about the show solely because she was a SuperFan. As I said before the season started, I was worried that this might happen: strategists need pawns to play with, but a critical mass of “game ignorant” players, particularly those who think they know what they’re doing, can spell doom for those who might, on a more balanced season, emerge as masterminds. Kelley could have been a contender, but casting, wittingly or unwittingly, set her up to fail.
My secondary reaction: Kelley should have known enough to keep quiet about her game awareness. When Drew – DREW! – identifies you as a threat, you’re being waaaaaaay too obvious. Her days were numbered, all because she wanted to be seen as a strategic asset; what she needed to realize was that in a competition fueled by paranoia, her understanding of the game would trigger anxiety and insecurity in those who knew nothing. Were Kelley a great player, instead of just a good one, she would have known that strategically limited players would use her Survivor savvy as an excuse to send her home.
Side note: Once again, I am reminded of the need for castaways to find their One True Person: that’s the only player a SuperFan can geek out with, strategize all night long with, hatch crazy plans by the light of the moon and revise them as dawn gives way to day. If that one person is aware of how much you know – instead of the whole tribe – you are MUCH better off.
2) RiceGate: It only SEEMS foolish
Hunahpu has been given a lot of grief for running out of rice, and rightfully so. But I totally understand how it happens: When you’re eating and winning, you don’t mess with success. I’m not saying it’s SMART – it isn’t – but collective willful ignorance is almost inevitable in this sort of tribe dynamic; who is going to question how much they’re eating when their bellies are full, they’re winning challenges, and – other than Missy – they’re not the ones doing the cooking?
As for Missy, I’m sure she arrived on the island looking to cook; providing for her tribe is all about securing her place in the game. Even when the supplies were dwindling, I’m sure she thought that a resolution would present itself, or that she wouldn’t be held responsible for the food crisis when the rice ran out (or that she would be insulated by an alliance at that point).
Now that the tribes have switched, it’s a no-win situation for all involved: Hunahpu has no food… Missy has resumed her role as excessive provider over on Coyopa… and Dale has become the bad guy for being RIGHT about the rice.
In a starvation situation, there’s no easy diplomatic solution for how to handle rationing: people are going to get angry.
The only way to avoid this mess? Agree about everything food related at the start of the game. Too late for that now.
And heaven forbid you start talking about how the food has to last 39 days: anyone with half a brain will gleefully label that rationing rhetoric as presumptive and arrogant (“He’s assuming that he’s going to make it to the end of the game!”) and use it to turn everyone against you.
One last thought: Anything short of forcing Hunahpu to vote out a tribe member to get their hands on the massive bag of rice Probst is carrying on his shoulder in the CBS promo undercuts Probst’s argument that Survivor is harder now than it used to be. And maybe they would have been that harsh if they hadn’t lost two players before the season started. But I have a feeling this is going to end with Hunahpu giving back all of their comfort items and – given that Probst won’t be able to resist the twist of the knife – both of their flints.
3) You can’t spell JOurNey without Jon
We finally got a callback to Jon’s father’s brain cancer… and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. The pieces:
** We didn’t learn much new – other than the fact that Jaclyn has been by Jon’s side throughout the ordeal. Is this as far as the story is going to go? Or will there be a narrative payoff to this emotional journey?
** Soon after Jon’s confessional, we saw Jon telling Jaclyn that he didn’t know how much longer he could have lasted in the game without her. Is this a hint that Jon might quit?
But that wouldn’t fit his edit: He’s the “Saved by the Swap” guy, a Survivor staple, someone who narrowly misses elimination and makes a deep run in the game.
That said, he’s also PDA guy – making out in front of the other players is HORRIBLE social gameplay – so his edit isn’t entirely positive.
Here’s what I’m thinking at this point: Jon feels like he’s getting an endgame edit… Jaclyn, meanwhile, is comparatively invisible… and I think that the brain cancer storyline might end with someone quitting. How’s this for a scenario: Jon reaches a point where it’s eating him up, not knowing how his father is doing… and he really needs his father to hear from him… but instead of him quitting, JACLYN does?
Side note: The castaways really have to start paying attention to where everyone is told to sit at Tribal Council (it’s assigned seating)… power players are almost always positioned right in the middle… and that’s where Jon was sitting this past week. Were I to play the game, I would have two rules about Tribal Council: don’t ever sit in that middle seat, and vote out whoever does.
4) Jeremy: Coronation or Comeuppance?
I love Jeremy and how he’s playing the game: he’s aware and he’s aggressive.
Why, then, can’t I shake the feeling that he’s NOT getting the Tyson Coronation Edit?
One reason: Jeremy is being shown as arrogant. No one should be saying that he’s in a beautiful spot pre-merge. Too much can change.
Will the tandems “Surround & Drown” the Survivor Fagin, leader of the Orphans, before turning on each other?
I fear that will be his fate.
Which would be AWFUL.
I’m sure that at least some of these people are interesting and fun and kind in real life. But as Survivor players, they’re all underwhelming (even worse, they’re BORING). A win from anyone other than Jeremy or Josh would be a travesty.
5) You can’t spell “fuLCrum plAyEr" without Alec
You KNOW that he’s going to flip over to the orphans, right? He’s a little brother. He wants to be wanted.
It’s clear he’s resisting Jeremy’s early overtures – Jeremy said “it’s not over” in a confessional, implying that Alec wasn’t initially receptive – but eventually, his need for male validation will overcome his attraction to Baylor.
All we need to know about the quality of this season: Alec is going to be instrumental in how the game plays out.
6) Speaking of Baylor…
Do me a favor: Fast forward through all of the episodes and watch only her confessionals. It’s as if the producers said, “Dammit, this girl makes it to the end – we need to see SOMETHING from her. Put in some random confessionals! Doesn’t matter what she’s talking about.”
She’s going to go deep – she might even be in the Final 3 – but with the constant reminder from other players that Baylor can’t be trusted, we’re also being set up for her to lose.
7) And finally we meet the real Missy
Early this season, I was fortunate enough to appear on the Survivor Talk with D&D podcast, and we talked about Missy and Baylor – and I observed that there’s a perpetual sneer on the faces of both mother and daughter. Yes, they’re intense competitors – but I’m willing to bet that they’re also not very NICE competitors. Do me another favor: Watch last week’s episode, but do so with the sound OFF. Just watch Missy and Baylor – their body language, their expressions, their interactions with each other and their tribemates.
Missy is mean.
And the apple doesn’t fall far.
8) Josh and Reed
The extended sequence about their relationship spells doom for one of them: Reed. If Hunahpu loses the next immunity challenge, he’s out (his invisible edit all but demands it), but even if they win, he’ll be booted right after the merge (the tribe will in all likelihood be unified against potentially dominant tandems, which means that Reed will go in the Aras spot from BvW1).
Josh, on the other hand, feels like he’ll last a bit longer… but not TOO much longer. As I wrote last week, the orphans who have had time to bond will ultimately shape the endgame; Josh will be on the outside of that alliance, and will discover, as Troyzan did on One World, that players who have no idea what the hell is going on are utterly unable to emerge from ignorance-driven inertia.
9) These players are getting coached
At this point, I think it’s pretty clear that casting and/or production heavily coached the players before the game began: we’ve had two “splitting votes” scenarios so far this season (from players who haven’t watched the show), and Rocker was aware of when players like him tend to be targeted. The understanding isn’t deep – it’s like novice poker players who know which hands beat which but don’t really comprehend what to do with the cards once they’re dealt – but they’ve quite obviously been given the rudimentary information they’ll need once the game starts.
I’m not saying that this is bad, necessarily – were I an SEG producer, I’d have written up a handbook by now – but is it really that hard to find people who really know the show?
10) Praise for Probst! (*gasp!*)
I LOVE that Probst called out Missy for being willing to sacrifice her chance to win a million dollars to protect Baylor.
Yes, I give Probst grief about a lot of things, but one thing I’ve always appreciated about the guy is that he prefers players who are willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Missy is a bad Survivor player. Probst is an exceptional Survivor host. And I LOVE that the latter called out the former.
11) Fortunes rising, Blood vs. Water Edition: Keith
We keep getting “aw shucks” confessionals from the guy.
He’s got an idol.
He gets air time at every Tribal.
He still has two moments from the SuperTease which haven’t aired yet (“I’m glad he’s gone” and “I did the worst thing you can do on Survivor”).
And he’s figuring out the game as he goes.
He ain’t winning, but he could be a more charismatic Cowboy Rick.
Fifth place ain’t so bad.
12) Fortunes falling, Blood vs. Water Edition: Wes
Once again, he was GREAT in a challenge, and we didn’t hear anything about it.
What’s he gotta do to get any air time?
13) Prediction time: I’ve finally figured it out.
Production isn’t going to bother showcasing strategy – because it doesn’t determine who ends up winning the game. As a result, they simply don’t care: they’re just going to keep on telegraphing the boots. They’ve thrown in the towel, folks: they’ve moved on to Season 30, and aren’t going to waste any time trying to mislead us.
With that in mind…
Coyopa is hopelessly outmatched, physically speaking, and they’re going to keep losing immunity challenges until the merge (which will likely take place next week, when there are a dozen players left).
Missy, Baylor, Jon, and Jaclyn aren’t going to turn on each other – and they’re going to want to keep Keith around to reunite with Wes after the merge (so that the tandems, theoretically, would have an 8-4 numbers advantage).
Which means Dale is the target.
Not one to go quietly, Dale will attempt to use his fake hidden immunity idol (as shown in previews); unfortunately for him, Keith knows what they really look like.
Which means that Dale is heading home.
(One has to wonder, was Losers Lodge utterly unbearable? Nadiya, Val, Rocker, Drew, Kelley, and possibly Dale? WORST. PONDEROSA. EVER.)
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