After this episode of Survivor, I was left a little cold. All in all, it was just a boring episode that didn’t make a lot of sense, and left me blank as to what to write about. But then a couple of things happened. First, Martin Holmes of Inside Survivor put out his ‘player of the week’ poll. I vote every week, but this week I simply couldn’t think of who to vote for. It felt like no one did anything of particular note at all (at least, anything good).
Then, we learned through Cole’s exit interviews more about Mike’s behaviour at tribal council, where he not only had his own idol but a fake one that he gave to Joe as well. I can’t imagine why this wasn’t shown to us.
So, having figured out what I want to write about – here’s what’s on the ticket this week?
A return to baffling editing (perhaps we’ve been there all along)
I’ve praised the editing previously this season, but now I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been wrong all along. In seasons 33 and 34 I felt that the edit was unbalanced – it would start stories that never paid off, and it wouldn’t tell other stories that felt important, leaving the viewers confused. At times, it felt like we weren’t seeing the full product.
But in neither of those seasons did an event come out that was so blatantly misedited as Mike’s idol play. We saw him say to Joe ‘follow my lead’, only to show nothing of a lead that Joe needed to follow – clearly that comment was about Mike’s fake idol play. We also then saw Mike’s speech about justifiable ethics and how they should vote Joe if they are going to vilify him – but this simply felt like he was throwing Joe under the bus after having told him to follow his lead. The whole thing left me entirely confused. Now I know why – what we were seeing was a bald faced attempt by Dr. Mike to keep Joe in the game and let Cole go. This was something that would have happened anyway, but it would have been hugely more satisfying to see Mike’s play in full, not just snippets of it presented out of context.
It seems almost unanimous that people feel this is an editing failure, and I can’t blame them. There’s two main reasons for this. The first is that the episode wasn’t that great to begin with and time definitely could have been found to tell this story. The second is that this community tries to use what we see on screen to assess how people are playing and how good they are at the game, and this is done under the assumption that all of the biggest and most important things are shown.
Leaving this out makes me question what else gets left on the cutting room floor. Devon took praise this week for not telling Ben that he already knew about Ryan’s idol – can we trust that’s true, or did they just not show it? There’s always been an extent to which the show tells the story it wants to tell and so misleads people along the way to get there, but this feels it is being taken to a new level.
Last, it calls into question the decision to put a whole lot of advantages in the game. Each of those advantages is given air time even if it’s ultimately irrelevant. It’s necessary to show Lauren faking her vote and taking a second vote for later, and then this week it’s necessary to have a confessional where she talks about how she did it. There have been a lot of minutes this season given to the various twists the producers have been throwing into the game. But now it appears this could be coming at the expense of showing the players using their own creativity to put their own twists into the game, and this is a bad thing. It leads to a season that feels more contrived, and contrived is the antithesis of what has made Survivor work for 25 seasons and counting.
We can only hope that Jeff Probst and the executive production team gets to hear how people feel about this. Seasons 31 and 32 were so well edited to tell the stories of the people out there. That should be the primary goal every time.
Is Devon really that good? (is he getting the “winner’s edit™”?)
Every season, it feels that people start making edit-based predictions for who they think will win around merge time. This season, those people appear to be coalescing around Devon Pinto.
Now, as much I try, I’m really not good at reading the edit (as demonstrated by failing to get any predictions right this season at all). So whatever I say has to be seen through that lens.
But in my mind? Devon doesn’t look like the winner. As I noted before, we’ve heard him talk about his own death and being a zombie a couple of times, which doesn’t seem that it bodes well to me. We also had Desi say in exit interviews she would want to sit next to Devon at the end. And it’s difficult to see why a jury would pick Devon over many of the other candidates left in the game.
It’s certainly possible – if he got to the end with some combination of JP, Ashley and Lauren, or perhaps even Joe? But at this point it feels like he would lose to Ryan, Ben and Chrissy, all of whom seem to be his major allies. In addition, he seems like a “Jay” archetype, the kind of person who will need to go on an immunity run if he is going to stop people from voting him our around 6th.
Despite this, I have to say I do think Devon is playing a good game. He is keeping himself as under the radar as it is possible to do, and he is making connections with everyone. There is a chance that Devon wins for being likeable when his opposition at FTC is being criticised for playing a cutthroat game.
I still believe in a Chrissy win – but I do think that a Devon win would be a satisfying end to the season. And if we truly are still heading for a tie? Maybe Chrissy and Devon are the two people who will be fighting for the deciding vote.
Who played well this week? (Anyone? Bueller?)
If Devon was to get given the player of the week, it would only be for being likeable enough that Ben revealed Ryan had an idol to him (and, possibly, that he didn’t blurt out that he already knew – although as noted above, who knows if he really did or not). Devon didn’t do anything particular that would lead to a vote for player of the week.
Mike’s fake idol play might have gotten him my vote if I knew about it, but on the surface he seemed confused and he misplayed his real idol.
And beyond that, it’s hard to know who really did anything of note in this episode. Lauren didn’t really feature strongly in the narrative. Joe only got to fight with Ashley and Chrissy. Ben went down the tubes as he gave up Ryan’s information to Devon while getting nothing in return, and then appeared to alienate Ashley and Chrissy my steamrolling them. Ryan started talking about his idol far too widely. JP was absent again. And Cole went home.
This leaves only Ashley and Chrissy – neither of whom had great edits either, but who did feature as a pair twice; once in defending Ashley against Joe’s attacks, and then in coming together to see Ben as someone who was steamrolling their opinion. Neither of these moments became anything this episode, and so it’s hard to call either of them ‘player of the week’ either. But of everything that happened this week, these two pairing up so overtly against both a traditional foe and a current ally seemed like it was the most relevant and interesting thing going forward – especially given they’re also the two closest to JP.
So all in all – I can’t vote for a player of the week this week. There just isn’t one. Another indictment on the edit, in that it just didn’t show us the story of anyone playing well (which is probably an element that brings satisfaction to the viewing experience). But I suspect that Chrissy and Ashley’s play will lead into them playing well this week, and if I’m right about that it could be an exciting week indeed.
What are Lauren and Ashley up to? (Prediction time)
The preview showed Lauren and Ashley go to Joe and Mike to talk about making a move. Lauren and Ashley are an unusual pair to show, and it got me to wondering what their plan would be.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, we would be led to believe that Lauren would be hesitant to turn on Ben, and Ashley has good existing relationships with JP, Chrissy and Devon. The only one that we’ve seen neither of them really relate to is Ryan. Could this mean that Ryan is the next target? Maybe – but I’m not convinced.
The interesting question is, for me, who are Ashley and Lauren working with? 4 into 9 doesn’t go, so they must believe they have at least one other person in the loop, and you’d suggest that they’d probably bring in anyone that they trust to make a particular hit. But could they trust any of JP, Chrissy, Devon or Ben to make a hit on Ryan right now? JP and Chrissy went through the fire with Ryan in the post-swap, while Devon and Ben both appear close to Ryan right now.
So, my first theory is this – their target is Ryan, but they don’t actually have anyone else on board, despite the fact that they believe they do. The hit doesn’t go through.
But, once again, Lauren and Ashley are an unusual pair, and I’m beginning to wonder what would have them working together in the first place – and I suspect the true answer is that Lauren has decided it’s time for her to cut Ben.
We’ve seen the downfall of Ben foreshadowed now for a couple of weeks. Last week, I mentioned that the way they juxtaposed Joe against Ben seemed to be foreshadowing that Joe would last longer than Ben. This week, we saw Chrissy and Ashley both feeling as though Ben was steamrolling his way through people and alienating them. The show has now given us both an edit reason to believe Ben would go, and a human reason.
I think that the fifth person Ashley and Lauren have is Chrissy – and that it’s possible they also have JP, and who knows if they have more besides. A blindside of Ben in the first episode of the week would certainly shake things up.
But, having fulfilled his edit destiny, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe go in the second hour, with Ashley and Chrissy having removed the man who was (this week) seemingly the most vocal proponent against a Joe vote.
Am I likely oversimplifying? Yeah. But whichever hour it’s in, and whether it happens by majority vote or idol play, I’m not going to be at all surprised if Ben goes home this week.
And that does it for this week. As much as this week’s episode felt like a downer for me, I have a really good feeling about next week. I love the Herstler 7, but it’s time to see how they break down when push comes to shove.
Please comment and tweet, as always.
Till next week
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