It’s funny, a lot of big stuff happened in last Wednesday’s episode – we watched Jay find an idol (predictable), we witnessed the full emergence of Michaela (the breakout star of the season), and we saw the last of FigTails (thank goodness) – but I don’t want to write about any of it.
Me, I just want to talk about the small stuff.
1) Juxtaposition #1: David vs. Zeke
First, we see David talking about the game coming down to who he trusts – heavily foreshadowing that he’ll be part of a Millennial/Gen-X combo voting chunk (bigger than a block, smaller than an alliance) – and I’m thinking, here we go again, David is being portrayed as this season’s primary strategist…
… and then, suddenly, there’s Zeke in a contrasting confessional, talking about what idiots the Gen-Xers were to get rid of one of their own.
Over the first five episodes of the season, David’s moves have been shown in a positive light, despite the high profile ones being highly questionable; while we’ve been subjected to extensive coverage of David’s social awkwardness and challenge ineptitude, his overall “journey” story has encouraged us to think he might win.
Having Zeke rail against the move to vote out CeCe, though, completely undercuts our impression of David. The edit, thanks to this juxtaposition, is inviting us to believe that Zeke is right and that David made a massive strategic mistake. Which leads us to two conclusions: David’s odds to be the Sole Survivor just took a huge hit, and there’s a good chance that Zeke will eventually get the better of David.
2) Juxtaposition 2: Jay vs. Michaela
It’s bad enough that Michaela walked up on Jay while he was reveling in his idol discovery. But for that to happen RIGHT AFTER his confessional about how he grew up without a father and that he wants to win for his family? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a player’s winner’s edit rise and fall so precipitously in such a short span of time. Jay has been a dark horse for a few weeks now – he’s one of several players the edit has suggested might win the million – but I think this juxtaposition did him in. Michaela may not be the one who orchestrates his blindside – a CBS commercial makes it clear she’s planning on working with him – but as soon as she thinks her head is on the chopping block, she’s going to throw Jay and his idol under the bus (I think there might be an idol head-hunt once the individual game begins, but more on that later).
Oh, and note to future players who are caught mid-idol-discovery: When the interloper asks you where you found it, have a better answer than Jay’s response, “We found it on the floor.”
3) Will’s smile and laugh
Good lord is the edit marginalizing Will every chance it gets. Here we are, in the middle of a hidden immunity idol search and find, and what do we get from Will? Goofy smiles and dopey laughter.
Now, much of this is Will’s own doing: When you’re not participating in challenges, your tribe has decided that you’re not needed (not just physically, but emotionally, too; he’s the Millennial mascot, which was precisely what I predicted he’d be). And if you’re not instrumental in strategy and not competing in challenges, the producers are going to leave all of your confessionals on the cutting room floor. Julia Sokolowski (Kaoh Rong) is the exception that proves the rule: Young players are almost always overmatched in Survivor.
4) Ken blocking his crotch
Three questions about this:
** Did Ken intuitively understand the danger that his equipment was in, or did one of the DVDs in the production cram bag have a blindfold challenge on it?
** Is it really necessary to design challenges that result in repeated groin shots?
** At risk of sounding humorless, are crotch shots truly funny when real people are involved, they’re blindfolded, and they’re meant to crush their testicles into obstacles?
5) Ken’s confessional
There are moments pretty much every episode that make me wonder if Ken is an endgamer… but then we get a problematic confessional like the one in which he ripped Figgy.
** Calling someone “little girl” is never a good look. Keeping that comment in there – even when the episode was exploiting every opportunity to pile on Figgy – invites us to wonder if Ken would be a deserving winner (while I can’t stand the “d” word and think it has no place in Survivor, the SEG producers absolutely edit with an eye towards deserving vs. not deserving). While Figgy was portrayed throughout the episode as oblivious and entitled, in this confessional, Ken came off as arrogant and misogynistic. Hardly the qualities we want in a winner.
** Augmenting that arrogance? Ken’s posture in his rock throne. With the field producer’s encouragement, no doubt, we’re seeing Ken get too comfortable… and that doesn’t bode well for his long term prospects in the game. Some folks think that Ken is going to win the whole thing, but it feels to me like he gets taken out early-to-mid-merge, when earlier allies (read: David and Adam) become his enemies. And he won’t see it coming – because of this arrogance.
6) Hannah’s glare at Michaela
Given all the focus on Michaela and her challenge beasting, it would be easy to overlook a key moment in the middle of the mayhem: Hannah glared at Michaela (well, as much as someone like Hannah – who strikes me as a kind and positive person – can glare at anyone), and added a comment along the lines of “I don’t like getting yelled at.”
Why is this important? Because Michaela – who at this point is undoubtedly around until game’s end – was yelling at someone who will be sitting on the jury. Do you think Hannah is going to remember – and perhaps resent – how Michaela treated her? Might that sway Hannah’s vote? Do you think maybe Michaela has treated – or will treat – other players this way? Do you think the jury might respect Michaela’s moves and challenge beastliness, but hold her social game against her? (In case you’re wondering, the answer to all of these questions is yes. Michaela might still win, of course. But the same blunt honesty that we all love in confessionals is going to make the job a lot harder than it needed to be.)
7) Bret’s comment to Michaela
Many of the podcasters I listen to and the bloggers I read have pointed out that Michaela’s edit got a little boost from Bret’s comment after the immunity challenge (“There isn’t anything you can’t do”). They’re right: this season is quickly becoming the Michaela show (not that this is a bad thing). The piece that they’re overlooking: Bret hugging Michaela.
This moment possesses both good and bad for Bret: on the one hand, there’s no way that Michaela lets Bret hug her like that if he hasn’t gotten on her good side… on the other, the fact that we haven’t been shown Bret’s social game (just how deeply has he managed to connect with the Millennials?), and that the only time he talks is to compliment someone else, just reinforces that he’ll be a non-descript boot either just before or just after the merge.
8) Adam telling Figgy that they should target Ken
Figgy really should have known that Adam had flipped to the Gen-Xers when he told her that they should target Ken. The tribe is multiple boots away from the merge, and they need challenge contributors; under those circumstances, Ken is infinitely more useful than Jessica (and both are easy boots after the merge, assuming that the Millennials stick together – which is the fiction that Adam is trying to sell Figgy in this moment). The fact that Adam – an obvious strategist if ever there was one (I mean, when you look at all of your tribemates and ask yourself why each one of them was put on the show, don’t you look at Adam and think, “Oh, he’s the smart schemer guy”) – offered up Ken is a HUGE red flag: It means he’s telling you what you want to hear (Figgy and Taylor saw Ken as a threat; Jessica, not so much).
Bottom line: As soon as Adam said, “Ken,” Figgy needed to go to Ken and see if she could get him to vote out Adam.
9) Figgy’s hand on Adam’s head
Last week, I wrote that Adam should remain loyal to the Millennials and vote with Figgy and Taylor, then fly under the radar until after the merge, at which point he could build an alliance that could take out the TriForce. I still thought he was making a mistake when it become crystal (Cox) clear that he was going to join Ken and Jessica to vote out Figgy (who had one of the worst boot episodes in recent memory). That is, until Tribal Council.
Psychologically speaking, putting your hand on someone’s else’s head is an act of dominance. If you don’t believe me, imagine placing your hand on your spouse’s head… your boss’ head… a stranger’s head. Wouldn’t end well, would it?
If I were Adam, the moment that Figgy put her hand on my head would be the moment I would vote her out. The gesture was merely a physical expression of the underlying interpersonal power dynamic, which is the real reason Adam voted out Figgy: He knew that Figgy (and Taylor, too, given his insultingly dismissive confessional about Adam) saw herself as superior to him, and would, in all likelihood, vote him out the next time Takali lost an immunity challenge. Despite her responses to Probstian inquiry, Figgy hadn’t forgiven Adam for writing her name down in the first Millennial Tribal – not even close – and as soon as she no longer needed him, she was going to get rid of him. And when someone like that is in the game, you gotta get ’em gone.
That said, there was some pretty heavy foreshadowing that the Millennials will turn on Adam for his decision to turn on their tribe. I mean, why else include Taylor’s Tribal Council rant? I don’t think the Millennials will be mad, really, but they WILL use the move as an excuse to vote him out. That was the danger of this move from the outset, and there’s a good chance that Adam will pay the price.
10) Figgy’s “Win” comment to Taylor
When it comes to Survivor, sometimes I can be really stubborn, and I’ll stick to my pre-season narrative far longer than makes sense given how the game is unfolding. For example, I should have seen the Figgy vote coming (I didn’t – just one of many things I’ve gotten wrong this season). And now, despite knowing full well that Taylor (my pre-season pick to win) would be an historically bad Sole Survivor – probably the worst ever, now that I think about it – I’m going to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Taylor isn’t drawing dead (even though he should be).
It all comes down to this: If Taylor isn’t an endgamer, why on earth would production include Figgy’s post-vote pre-snuff whispered, “Win”? We don’t need it if he’s a merge boot, and it doesn’t really offer any parting emotion from Figgy to Taylor. Unless the editors are trolling us – which is a possibility, given that they also went out of their way to show Jessica thanking David for saving her, only to have her tell Ken that she’ll will the Legacy Advantage to him – then we needed to hear Figgy say this because Taylor makes a highly improbable run to the endgame.
On a related note, is it just me, or does it seem like Figgy and Taylor are trying really hard – too hard? – to convince us that they can’t stand each other now? Figgy is ripping Taylor on Twitter and morning drinking during her RHAP exit interview; meanwhile, Taylor is responding by posting a pregnant girlfriend pic on Instagram (without faces in the photo… read into that what you will). Maybe that’s just how it is with Millennials. But I can’t shake the feeling that this is akin to performance art, and they’re doing this to extend their fifteen minutes (just wait, he’s going to apologize at the finale, beg Figgy to take him back, and then they’ll ask Ordained Minister Probst to marry them – and we’ll finally understand why we were subjected to an early-season Figgy confessional in which she said she might get a million dollars and a husband out of this experience).
11) Fortunes Rising: Taylor
For sh*ts and figgles, let’s take a look at how Taylor might still be in the game during the finale, shall we?
Let’s say that there’s only one boot until the merge (although that would be a Cambodia-sized 13-player merge; would they do that with newbies?)… in that case, I think Taylor is safe, because Vanua has been set up to go to Tribal this Wednesday (more on that in #13). That means Taylor makes the merge, where he can reunite with Jay and the other remaining Millennials (some of whom are part of Michaela’s proposed Final 4). Even if two players are voted out before the merge – the more likely scenario – the second one is likely to be one of the invisible Gen-Xers on Ikabula (probably Bret, especially now, when we’ve been told he gets in trouble this week for lying about his profession; sounds like the edit is preparing us for his looming ouster).
Once we hit the merge, will Taylor really be seen as a threat? Or, with Figgy out of the equation, will Taylor be given a free pass while attention turns to stereotypical post-merge targets like Ken and Chris (despite this being foolish when you remember what post-merge challenges are typically like)? And then there’s the need to deal with David and Jay, the two players who are known to have idols…
And what if there’s a Blood vs. Water-style “let’s break up the power couples” movement? That could spell doom for a lot of players (there are tandems forming all over the place right now)… but not Taylor. He’s flying solo. Even if he and Jay pair up again, Taylor will be perceived the less dangerous of the two, given that Jay has a number of new allies from his time on Ikabula.
And what if, as the finale approaches, everyone opts to target the players with endgame resumes? Assuming they’re around at that point, Michaela, Adam, and David will all be seen as people who made moves, and others will be added to that list as the post-merge game plays out. Taylor, at least with Figgy around, has earned a reputation as a love-blind fool, someone whose endgame resume is as empty as Figgy says his head is, and if he’s just a number after the merge, he might easily be overlooked…
All of that seems pretty far-fetched, now that I’m writing it out, but it isn’t completely impossible, right? I think we’ll know pretty quickly if that comment from Figgy meant anything: either Taylor is going to be completely bitter in his post-Tribal confessional, or he’s going to say something like, “It sucks that Figs is gone, but now that she is, I can really focus on the game.” If we get the latter, brace yourself: Taylor is going to be around for the long haul.
12) Fortunes Falling: Jay
He found an idol, his tribe is dominating in challenges, and in the preview, we see that he’s in Michaela’s proposed Final 4. And his fortunes are FALLING, Baker? What the heck are you thinking?
This: Word about the idols – the ones that David and Jay have, anyway – is going to spread. And if the other players are going to split the votes and flush the idols, they’re going to have to do so while they still have the numbers to do it. Which is why – as I said way back in #2 – I think there might be an idol head-hunt right after the merge.
There almost has to be, doesn’t there? With three idols potentially in play, they have to be a strategic focus the rest of the way. This is especially true when no one – other than Adam – knows who has the third one. Heck, we might even get voting chunks setting aside their differences – temporarily – to get the idols out of the game. Otherwise, they’ll be handing three people a spot in the endgame, which in turn means that complacency will lead to several players ending up in Ponderosa. And which is worse, being the victim of idol blowback, or being voted out because you didn’t do enough to eliminate the idols when you had a chance?
13) Prediction Time
It feels like a foregone conclusion that Vanua is going to Tribal Council for the second time since the swap: We’ve seen David tell Zeke that he has the idol (why do that unless Vanua loses the immunity challenge and David is trying to get Zeke to work with him?); we’ve seen Zeke give a confessional about not trusting Michelle; and really, would you bet on a tribe with David on it winning any immunity challenge that Kirhoffer would dream up (particularly if it involves swimming, running, and feats of strength)?
Assuming Vanua loses, then, who goes home?
If we were meant to see the Chris-Zeke tandem as a short-term thing, we would have been told that the CeCe boot was the result of a tribe coming together to vote out the weakest challenge competitor. Instead, we got some editorial exploration of the connection between the two Okies, which means they’ll be sticking with one another until after the merge. So neither of them is going home just yet.
Which means we’re going to get a lot of “Will it be David or Michelle?” hand-wringing on Wednesday night, when the answer is pretty obvious. Sure, we’ll see David show his idol to Zeke, who will in turn tell us in a confessional that maybe he should just blindside David to take the idol out of play. We’ll probably also get a Chris confessional in which he wonders if they should keep Michelle over David, given her puzzle prowess. And then, just before Tribal, we’ll get a David confessional where he wonders aloud if he should trust Zeke and Chris; he’ll have to bring his idol to Tribal just in case, he’ll say with a sigh, though he’s not sure who he’ll vote for if he plays it. That’ll set up a dramatic Tribal, right?
It will all be much ado about nothing, though: With Chris and Zeke working together, with Zeke not trusting Michelle since the Mari boot, and with Zeke knowing that David has an idol, Michelle is a far easier boot than the edit would have us believe.
Which means that Michelle is going home…
… and then returning in Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites 3 (coming in spring of 2018).
Side note: I’m already looking forward to the November 9th episode, because one of two things is going to happen: Ikabula is going to throw a challenge to boot a Gen-Xer (so that the Millennials have a bit more breathing room, numbers-wise)… or we get the merge.
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