We all know that Survivor is edited reality; when we see only 42 minutes out of every 72 hours, a lot of compelling material ends up on the cutting room floor. As a result, what we DO see matters a lot: every moment has been selected for the story, every episode has been carefully curated from all of the possible versions of the tale. What we get, then, isn’t the whole truth… but it’s the truth the producers want to tell.
Nowhere is this more true than when two tribes become one and the second half of the game begins. Pre-merge stories are put to bed, and the endgame players step to the fore. With tribe-based challenges behind us, there’s only half the race left to be run; what was once a marathon now seems like a sprint, with twelve players and six episodes left to share the story the producers feel like sharing.
What matters in a merge episode, then, is who gets to talk and what we see them say. Words have power; when you’re at the merge in Survivor, context, I would argue, is as potent as content. Thankfully, in this elliptical episode, just about everybody talks… so let’s examine their sound-bites, shall we?
1) I tried to bring out Chaos Kass, and really threw a bomb on my game, and I just got caught, so it’s on me. – Kass
Given how well Kass 2.0 had been doing so far this season (admit it, you didn’t expect her to make the merge), the only reason for her to “unleash the beast” was if she was cornered. The question is, why? There are threats everywhere you look, and she’s the player the group settled on as the merge boot? These players are too smart to waste an opportunity, right? And yet I have a hard time imagining that nine second chancers looked at the hands they had been dealt, studied the cards and how they could play them, and thought Kass was the most dangerous castaway at this point in the game.
I guess the conflict between Kass and Tasha must have been REALLY bad. Three more days (never mind three more weeks) is a long time to live in a small space with a big problem. The rest of the tribe must have decided that one of the two simply HAD to go.
It’s a shame that they couldn’t be more civil with one another. The old Luzon tribe could have done a lot of damage together. Instead of working with one another, though, Kass is at Ponderosa and, because all wars of words are Pyrrhic, Tasha’s path to victory has become far more treacherous.
Kass may be right, she may have thrown a bomb on her own game… but I’m guessing that when we look back, we’re going to realize that there was a LOT of collateral damage.
2) Let’s play. Let’s play. – Ciera
When you have to say this – at Tribal Council, no less – you’re not long for the game.
Indeed, when you throw away your vote to register your annoyance (with an admittedly annoying player), you do so only when your neck is on the chopping block and you’re just waiting for the axe to fall.
In a game that’s all about the gray, I don’t know that it gets any more black and white than this: Ciera is going home next week.
3) I just wanted to make a statement. Got these young studs. I just wanted to show that I can hang with them. – Savage
And this, my friends, is why Andrew Savage cannot win this game. Ever. He simply can’t stop himself from making ego-driven decisions.
Andrew, if you really don’t want “pieces of ****” to target you, consider not spending every waking minute trying to paint a bulls-eye on your chest.
4) I have a poem to share with y’all. – Stephen
Personally, I love poetry. And frankly, “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a good one for Survivor, contrasting the modern world with nature and the divine. But I’m an English teacher who enjoys coaching kids how to recite poetry; safe to say, most people who were in that shelter are not.
Stephen’s had some killer quotes at Tribal Council recently, and he had that all-timer confessional last week. This scene, then, serves as a counterpoint, a harsh reminder that not all is well in Stephen’s world. When the other players roll their eyes, we’re supposed to rolls our eyes, too.
It’s as if the producers said, “So, we’ve heard people arguing that Stephen might be getting a redemptive winner’s edit… we just wanted to set the record straight.”
5) Abi’s good. She can’t win. – Kass
Abi didn’t say much this episode other than talk about vultures, so we have to turn to the newly elected Mayor of Ponderosa for insights on the Brazilian Dragon.
There are few hard and fast rules in Survivor, but one of them is this: When post-merge jury-bound players agree that you can’t win… you can’t win.
The only question is if the dominant alliance will waste another opportunity to make a meaningful move and instead Pagong Abi, or if she’ll float to the endgame.
(I’m guessing the former; it will allow them to delay the betrayals.)
6) Game on. It’s day one again. It’s dangerous, but it’s fun. – Joe
Joe’s edit is a bit baffling:
On the one hand, he earned another dismissive hashtag (#JoeLanguage); on the other, he was given multiple confessionals to talk about his post-merge strategy.
On the one hand, Spencer, our “journey narrator,” insinuated that Joe was a dumb jock; on the other, Joe is shown articulating an effective approach to the game.
On the one hand, Joe seems well-insulated within his alliance; on the other hand, Joe has not yet been vulnerable at a Tribal Council, so there’s no way we, or he, can know where he stands.
If I had to guess, I’d say that Joe is being built up as a true triple threat to make his elimination feel like an achievement rather than an inevitability.
Given how much he talked this week, though, it’s clear that’s not happening any time soon.
7) I truly have changed and progressed in this game and that’s why I’m here today. – Spencer
At risk of repeating myself from last week, let’s take a quick look at the real reasons why Spencer is still in the game:
** Varner changed his mind and went after Shirin instead.
** The first swap saved him from being the next boot.
** That same swap put him on a stronger (non-Angkor) tribe.
** Bayon 2.0 targeted Monica (after first focusing on Kelly over Spencer).
** After the second swap, Kass decided to save Spencer.
While I believe Spencer when he says that he’s embraced the social side of Survivor, and that the connections he’s made probably contributed to other players being willing to work with him, I think even Spencer would admit that the producers are going a bit overboard with this whole “I’m seeing people as people now and that’s why I’m the poster boy for S2C” thing.
8) It’s always good to split votes. – Jeremy
No. No it isn’t, Jeremy. And if the Kass/Tasha drama hadn’t been so intense, you might have found out the hard way.
Jeremy has allies and an idol. But I can’t help but think that definitive confessional statements like this one are a set-up for his downfall. At some point, he’s going to be absolutely sure that something is going to happen, only it won’t, and he’ll go home.
9) If they want Kass gone, I’m down for it. She stirs up a lot of bickering, and at this point, yes, I’d just as soon let her go. – Keith
Keith said something! Something largely pointless, yes, but at least he spoke when a camera was pointing at him. This felt very much like a check-in confessional, a quick reminder that he didn’t get voted out before the merge, so that when he makes it to the Final 5, we’re not totally unprepared.
10) Woooooooow! Woooooooow! – Kimmi
Kimmi didn’t get a confessional… but she did get to register her surprise that Kass and Spencer worked together.
What jumped out at me – other than how grating a Long Island accent can be when vowels are drawn out – is how comfortable Kimmi seems. It was the voice (and body language) of someone in a dominant alliance who knows that no one is going to target her any time soon. I can’t think of a single scenario where she’s even mentioned as a possible target before the Final 7… and at that point, isn’t everyone trying to grab her as a goat?
11) – Kelly
At this rate, she’s not even going to get any post-boot final words.
12) Oh, my God. – Tasha
If there’s one take away from the hack job that was this week’s Tribal Council (I can’t be the only one who found it to be curiously disjointed), it is this: Tasha did NOT like finding out that Kass was going to be the first member of the jury.
Are we being set up for an ultimate confrontation at Final Tribal Council, as Tasha has to face not only Kass’s question, but also a jury that has been prepped by the Pontiff of Ponderosa?
And if so, what’s the likelihood that McQuillen and her Kassociates offer Tasha the forgiveness she has told us repeatedly she will need to seek?
13) There’s one winner. One person gets a million dollars at the end of Survivor. I came here to play. – Kelley
And that, dear readers, is what you call a winner’s quote.
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