In my first ever Golden Ticket, I said I would do something that I barely ever deliver on – and that is examine the timing of the moves that various players make. As it turns out, the question of timing isn’t always that interesting.
This week, though? I feel as though the episode was all about timing. So, let’s get into the ticket for this week.
How to be a power couple (and how not to be)
Everything continues to go right for Ryan & Devon, and Ben & Chrissy. (That’s what an Oxford comma is for, people!)
It’s not necessarily surprising that Ryan & Devon aren’t being picked up, as they seem to have had opposite views on both of the vote outs so far, so they may well be avoiding coming across as being in tune with each other. There’s no better way to make sure you don’t come across as a power couple than taking opposite views from each other to begin with in a public conversation, even if you’ve already privately come up with a plan.
It’s a little more mystifying that no-one is beginning to cotton on to Ben and Chrissy. We saw Ashley this week clearly talking to Ben about which of JP and Alan is to go out first. Ashley ought to see that this means that Ben & Chrissy are tight, as both of their names aren’t even on the table at all right now. On the other hand, Ashley may simply see them as a three, given her name isn’t on the table either…
Ashley was really in a much better position on her tribe if she found a way to keep JP around ahead of Alan. But, if she was going to make it work, she had to make the pitch in the right context, and at just the right time. By advocating for JP on a random walk with Ben, it only reinforces to Ben that Ashley is thinking about her own self-interest, rather than the interests of the tribe. If not for the tribe switch shaking things up, Ashley’s conversation might have been the deciding factor in seeing Ben & Chrissy keep Alan and remove JP (or even Ashley herself). In the context of having actually lost a challenge and being on their way to tribal council, Ashley’s conversation could well have been in the context of Alan pushing hard against JP and Ashley again, and it might have worked. Right idea, wrong time. Going in to the tribe swap, you’d expect both Ben and Chrissy to be telling others that Ashley and JP are a power couple – and they will feel absolutely certain about it.
The echo chamber of secrets (“Yes” isn’t always good)
Cole’s plan this week was to blindside Joe with his idol in his pocket. In my opinion, this was absolutely the right move if the Healers lost. Joe is a variable, a person who will never be controlled and can’t be relied upon to be rational. You don’t want those players in the game – and especially not with an idol in their pocket. What’s more, Joe seemed particularly unaware of the hit coming his way, and I think the hit would have worked. The timing was right, in theory – Joe is far more likely to play his idol in a swapped tribe, given he’s likely to be immediately less confident of the numbers, so he is going to be that much more difficult to plan a hit on now.
In that sense, Cole got his timing right. Where he went wrong, though, was in his timing of telling others about the secret information he held about Joe’s idol, and in his timing of using it to plot against Joe.
It’s natural for both Roark and Desi to tell Cole exactly what he wants to hear – “yes, we are on board with your plan.” With a plan such as this one, a person is often likely to create an echo chamber in which what they hear reflected back to them is going to be exactly what they want to hear. I’m sure that Roark and Desi were genuinely on board, and Cole probably took the positivity as a sign that he was doing the right thing. But I think it could come back to bite him.
If Cole had simply waited until after the challenge, and they had lost the challenge, his decision to tell them about the idol would have been not only the correct decision, but the right timing. As it was, though, he’s now put that information in the hands of five of the six members of the Healers tribe as they go off into swap tribes. If any one person tells someone that they shouldn’t and it gets back to Joe, Joe is going to know exactly where it came from. Cole has left himself open to a huge target that could be coming his way. His best hope, for now, is that Joe opts to tell someone else on his new tribe so that they could equally be the source of a leak – and given Joe’s erratic and impulsive behaviour, it could happen.
Having said that – if Joe ever confronts Cole and asks him if he told anyone, what would Cole say? I’d put odds on that Cole might just admit it. He hasn’t shown much sign of deceit yet.
Ali’s allies (very early jury management)
While Ashley and Cole might be timing things badly, I think that Ali might have made a very timely correction.
Patrick was increasingly showing some very dangerous signs for anyone who saw themselves as his ally. He wasn’t able to build relationships easily (he clearly missed the mark on three of his five tribe members – and of the other two, one he knew pre-game, and the other is clearly very strong socially). He was going to continue to build paranoia in others with his looking for an idol. And he didn’t show good judgment in some of the conversations he had, for instance going to talk to Lauren without a plan in his pocket about who he would tell her that he was voting for.
Patrick is not the guy you want as an ally at the best of times. He’s likely to bumble his way in to ruining your game by accident, with a simple word here that’s out of place, or through over-playing his hand in idol hunting and challenges. That risk was even stronger for Ali, who was managing the possibility of Patrick eventually telling others of their prior college connection (a pretty simple “I’ve got Ali at the merge” or something similar could easily lead to this).
In addition, there wasn’t much to keep Patrick for. He wasn’t going to help them in challenges for the pre-swap, and he wasn’t going to help them build relationships in the post-swap. Lauren at least has a better chance of doing both of those things than Patrick does.
As it happened, with the swap coming up next week, Ali was about to lose control of Patrick, and she couldn’t be sure what would happen. In addition, Patrick was someone that we saw took his elimination bitterly, and probably most of this was directed at Ali. If Ali was to turn on Patrick in the jury phase, she was risking him poisoning the jury well against her. An underrated part of jury management is removing people who aren’t going to be friendly toward you before they can even get to the jury stage; if you know someone is never going to vote for you, it’s best to make sure they aren’t on the jury one way or the other.
Timing isn’t only about not doing things too early – sometimes it’s about not doing things too late. Ali’s move against Patrick was perfectly timed, because she did it while it was within her control and before he could make the jury.
It’s still arguable (to me) that she would have been better off voting Patrick out over Simone last week. It’s probably a credit to Devon and Ryan that Ali doesn’t realise her position is now, at best, 2-2; coming in to this week with Simone instead of Patrick might have left Ali better off, and she potentially could have controlled the numbers by removing, say, Ryan this week and keeping tight with Simone and Lauren.
In any event, though, I think they would probably have simply voted out Simone this week, leaving Ali weak in the numbers either way. Despite losing a little leverage in pure numbers, I still think that Patrick’s vote out is a net gain for Ali’s overall chances of winning the game.
An early switch (timing isn’t only for players)
This one was timed perfectly. Production has a knack for keeping their players on their toes, and I have little doubt that the first three vote outs, and relationship building, was all predicated on the idea that there would be four vote outs before the first swap. It was time for them to try switching up a 3-tribe season after 3 episodes instead of 4. I’ll add that I actually like the choice to go to three teams of five. There’s the likelihood that those teams will come out able to break down in many different ways. I’m looking forward to seeing the drama that could unfold.
As far as seeing people on the same tribe, the one I’m hoping to see most this week is Lauren and Joe paired together. I’m not so confident they’ll both make the merge, but their dynamic could be fun while it lasts.
Overall, my point is that it’s hard for me to criticise the strategic intent behind the various moves we saw on screen this week. Each of them was done with the right personal goal in mind for the decision maker. But, in many cases, a sense of impatience took over and things were done and said that would have been better off waiting. Getting the timing right can be a critical difference in how far you are able to go in the game.
On the statistics front, I note that the non-JP “and things like that” count is up to two – equal to the actual JP “things like that” count. It might be contagious...
In any event, sorry for being late again – I will be once more next week, and then hopefully it will be smooth sailing from there for a while. Catch me in the comments, or on twitter, as always I’m keen to hear from you.
By day, Ben Martell is a public commercial lawyer from New Zealand.
By night, he moonlights as a self-described Survivor 'expert'.
By day or night, find him on twitter at: @golden8284