Woah. Desi and Roark had notable moments of speaking this episode, and the audience was reminded that (Doctor) Mike is out there, too? This was a big episode, dearest readers, even though Desi, Roark, and Mike still seem a little more like props than people at this point.
Not How I Thought You’d Go Out, but Out You Went
I’m going to make a claim to start this sucker off that many will likely disagree with: Alan wasn’t bad at Survivor. I don’t mean for this to be a plug to bring him back (because, please, don’t bring him back) or to say he was genuinely good, but given how he started, he found himself in an astonishingly favorable position. Alan is a trial archetype, one that fits both of its possible meanings: firstly, he overcame the fact that he was the main, if not only, source of drama for Ashley in the first few days, to solidify a relationship with her that he claimed in front of the entire camp. Not only this, he overcame what could have likely been a majority against him at the old Heroes camp to pull Devon (with much of Ashley’s help) to his side as well.
This is a trial many on Survivor cannot overcome, one of a poor social start. Yet, if not for an idol, and the second meaning of the trial archetype, Alan might have even been able to coast into the Merge. Of course, based on Joe’s edit, Joe seems to be one of the bigger characters this season (at least in the pre-Merge section), and given as the cards were somewhat stacked against him, his trial became using the idol correct to slay his competition. Alan’s doom proved to be Joe’s triumph in what’s easily been the best Tribal of the season. Sorry Alan, and sorry Team Ben, but sometimes you can do everything right and still find yourself screwed because of a twist or two—just ask Cirie.
Worse by the Day
I’m going to make another claim now, one that I think will be generally more agreed upon: Cole is probably the worst player out there (based on what editors have shown us). What started, to me, as endearing foolishness and even commendable quick thinking in helping Joe find an idol rapidly became stupidity that lessened his power in the game, which had now come at the price of possibly isolating himself from his closest, chaste ally. I know I took some flack of being too hard on Cole last week, but please, someone, explain to me what sense it makes in telling the whole tribe about an advantage? Doesn’t that somewhat lessen the purpose of said advantage?
What’s more, while I was honestly kinda saddened to see how personally Jessica took Cole’s stupidity, she did have a point. Imagine being out there for basically two weeks at this point and feeling like you formed a super strong bond with someone, providing a real, emotional outlet for you in what I’m sure is an incredibly taxing situation. Now, imagine that pillar of stability begins not just to bend a little the wind, but little crumble from a charming cowboy-Marine smiling at it. While Jessica continues to impress me in her ability not to blow up at Cole when he does something he shouldn’t, thereby maintaining that bond on a surface-level, at least, Cole continues to wallow as the worst player this season—at least now that Patrick is gone.
All Ideas, No Execution
After seeing this episode, and comparing it to the rest of the season editors have given to us regarding Joe, I think I’ve come to a conclusion about him: Joe knows what to do in Survivor, but he’s not quite smart enough to be that effective. For instance, it was a solid idea to try and become a decoy-martyr in order to ensure votes were cast for him and not Desi, allowing him to play his idol, taking out Alan. Still, when he said he was voting for Ashley because of lack of strength… not a lot of thought went into that given that Desi is a petite person, comparatively to Ashley's muscle. Good idea, poor execution. Try and plant a seed of doubt in Devon’s mind to get him to work with you? Good idea. Coming off as a Brian Heidik knockoff? Poor execution. Reading Ashley’s face to know to keep the idol for himself? Solid play. Gloating about it so openly after? Dude… come on. In short, while I have no doubt Joe understands this game more than many give him credit for, he thinks he’s smarter than he is, making him not that great at it. Still, at least to me, I thought audiences were nudged by editors into supporting Joe over Alan last week, making Joe more of—at least in the short-term—a protagonist to Alan’s antagonist. Interesting development, and one that might bode well for Joe’s longevity… or maybe Desi flips next week and he’s gone… or rocks….
The Ins and the Outs and the In-Betweens
Three new pairs emerged this week, all with various seeming levels of control in the game. Let’s go from the worst to the best, positioning-wise.
Although, on paper, Ben and Lauren seem to be in some hot water, I have a hard time believing the new Yawa sees a Tribal council before another switch-up or even just a Merge. They have brawn in Ben, Cole, and Lauren as well as puzzle-peoples with (Doctor) Mike and Jessica. Let’s run with the hypothetical possibility that Yawa does lose, however. Ben and Lauren seem to be the immediate targets as I cannot imagine the OG Healers wanting to tarnish their impeccable numbers before they have to. Yes, I admit, there was not a lot of bonding scenes between Lauren and Ben, but the two were shown talking about how they were on the outs together quite a bit. Their best bet is to sway Jessica or Mike to take out the least trust-worthy person on their tribe before the Merge makes that weakness too big of a liability. Considering I like everyone on that tribe but Cole, I’m really hoping they can pull that off.
Devon and Ashley didn’t seem like an immediate pairing to me—Devon seems like too much fun, Ashley not enough—but I s’pose the love of the ocean and stuff is as good a bonder as any. Still, it appears from the preview that this pair is sticking together, and given as I don’t think either of them will flip and I have a hard time believing Joe or Desi flip (though I think one of them flipping is more likely), let’s go to rocks! After all, it’s become something of a staple these past few seasons.
Finally, we have my favorite pairing. As mentioned in a previous post, why would editors waste time on showing Ryan wanting to work with Chrissy after giving her his One Day Twist advantage if they didn’t ultimately get together? Well, my friends, it happened, and the lovable dork and the perfect mother seem to have a firm grasp on the pulse of Soko. Chrissy has JP and Ryan has Ali. Yes, the preview seemed to imply Roark might try and shake things up with a lady alliance, but considering she’s the odd one out in a situation where she should be an easy swing vote and the Healers make up roughly 43% of the remaining players… Chrissy, Ryan, and Ali aren’t stupid. They need to even up the score.
One Day Twists
The Jury is Still Out
After Survivor injected its second ODT (One Day Twist) into the game, I feel it’s pertinent to mention it, even if I myself don’t really know how I feel about it. On one hand, the ODT injects some level of chaos into the game that can be greatly appreciated and it prevents a Cirie-esque situation of allowing folks to hoard their advantages until the very last moment, effectively screwing someone out of the game by default. I like that, especially in theory. On the other hand, ODTs can screw people over in their own right, despite a solid game. Let’s even take this week’s Tribal as an example. Alan and Ashley appeared to have done everything right, courting Devon against Desi and Joe, and yet, due to powers far beyond their control, the very best they could have hoped for would have been rocks. Let’s look at this even further, had Joe and Desi been the ones to court Devon, Jessica could have blatantly harmed the Healers’ game in forcing Desi and Joe to go to rocks when they otherwise would’ve voted out Alan or Ashley with a 3-2 majority ( poor move, Jess).
Now, yes, Survivor is built on luck, to a certain extent, but my biggest problem here is the ODT relies on luck. If something is only useful for one day, there’s less long-term strategy one can employ to make it work. It almost forces moves based on knee-jerk reactions and desperation rather than the cool, calculating plays that some HII have given audiences over the seasons. I hope, through this rant, you understand my mini moral quandary over this twist, but given how we’ve seen it used twice in four episodes, expect it to come up at least once more, if not two or three more times (especially at the Merge Feast, for instance), hopefully with more impactful results (I think).
A Closing Thought, Dearest Readers
The Wonders of Casting
I’m actually very curious to see if y’all agree with the following statement. Casting, this season, has been shockingly solid to me. With the exceptions of Patrick, JP, and Cole, I think everyone on this season understands Survivor well enough to compete (except maybe Desi and Lauren, because who knows what they’re thinking?). Furthermore, with the exceptions of Katrina, Simone, and Lauren, the original tribes seemed to have no clear outliers right off the bat (though, I suppose you could argue Chrissy and (Doctor) Mike). With that being said, Lauren has obviously proven she can rise above that, given the opportunity, and now sits on a tribe that may not ever have to face Tribal. No, this isn’t Cagayan or MvGX, but, my friends, this cast has thus far exceeded my expectations. No fan-fic this week, dearest readers. I’m sure that’s somewhat refreshing.
Okay, everyone. Let’s do some predicting! As I mentioned, I don’t see Yawa losing. That leaves Soko and Levu. Jeez, this is hard, as I could see any of Ashley, Joe, Desi, Roark, and JP getting the boot…hell, even Devon Zoolander because #rocks. However, I think Soko is overall weaker, and Levu will be keen on avoiding Tribal and therefore avoiding rocks. On Soko, I’d think Roark and JP would be the big targets. Why? Roark is the odd one out due to the Chrissy-Ryan-(and by proxy) Ali & JP connection, and JP because, even if the ladies do come together, Chrissy and Ali would likely want to protect Ryan as they both have connections to him… plus JP’s social game leaves something to be desired. Still, I can’t believe Chrissy and Ali think it’s smart to keep a Healer and ditch their best physical asset when they’d likely have another Tribal or two before the Merge. Roark, sorry about the swap-screw, but I think you’re toast.
Dan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.
Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki