My favorite part of this episode was when Chrissy lied to JP and told him there was an all-ladies alliance, and JP immediately said, “Oh. Well. Then she’s got to go.” It was so genuine and yet so thoughtless. I don’t know. I found it hysterical…
You Had Game, I Think
Much like Chrissy’s experience with her on the beach, this was the first time anyone got to know Roark in any substantial amount, and I have to say: I liked her. Will I remember her? Unlikely, but still, that way she spoke seemed careful, planned, and like someone who knows what not to say on Survivor. If for no other reason, this villager archetype (because, aside from a decoy boot edit, what did she really do?), was my respect. Maybe you should have tried harder than we, the audience, saw to pull in JP and convince him neither he nor Ryan were in any danger, but regardless, you made the logical choice to try and work with Ali and Ryan. While it’s good for my Fantasy Team… I think Roark had too much potential to go home early, predictions damned. Let’s just lose JP already and be done with it.
Helluvuh Good-Looking Bad Move
This episode, more than any prior, convinced me that both Chrissy and Ryan (and Ben and Mike, but more on them later) go far. Why? Any time Survivor editors make a player's bad move—and, my friends, I believe this to be the objectively worst choice Ryan could have made—look good for the sake of long-term story, you know the decision-maker and the recipient are focal protagonists of the season. Perhaps there are those who think I’m being too hard on him, and maybe I am. Still, please allow me to run you through a few things:
That, to put it simply, is the narrative logic editors used on this episode. That being said, the fact this move had to be doctored so much—at least in my mind—is because it was, on paper a bad move. Please. Let me explain:
While, yes, bonds can be reforged and I don’t think Ali is dead in the water, I just don’t see the sense in Ryan’s move. More than anything, not telling Ali seems to have no benefit, and while the logic surrounding who he picked to boot is questionable still, my biggest problem boils down to the fact he purposefully did not include Ali. Still, the fact we were shown this move as an altruistic social one instead of a knee-jerk dumb one means it must, at least for a while, pay off. So… good for you…? *sigh* Least it looks like three of my Fantasy Team will see the Merge.
A Tragic Hero in So Many Ways
My old man was a Green Beret, and I have incredible respect for the individuals who go out and put their life on the line for our country. As such, it really resonated with me to see Ben’s honest reaction toward the fire popping. He, to me, seems to be the tragic hero this season, not just because it’s tragic that he, a true hero, is out there without anyone who can truly understand or appreciate what he’s going through mentally, but because we, the audience, are meant to emphatically root for him and his emotional journey through this game. Sadly, however, Ben’s story seems to hinge a little too much on a personal growth, at least in some sense. As such, like Cirie, David Wright, Wentworth, and plenty more before him, I think Ben will do very, very well and give a memorable performance along the way to the finale. Tragically, my friends, that where his journey will end, before the Final Tribal Council. Too bad. He seems like a damn fine dude.
Tides are Changing
Idle Hands v. Idol Hands
Again, dearest readers, we see how Joe is just not quite that good at the game, and we see it through the lens of (Doctor) Mike’s success. Until this episode, Joe was the only person who’d found an idol. After a swap, I think one could reasonably assume the idol would be hidden in a similar place at all the camps, as is a Survivor pattern. Why Joe isn’t sitting pretty with his second idol right now shows a lack of productive thinking. Whether or not Ashley and Devon swing Desi next week (and if Levu goes to Tribal, I think they do), Joe should have had the foresight to go and grab the idol for himself already—or at least look! Now maybe he does this next episode, playing the idol and saving himself while Desi or Ashley go home, but still. A fool indeed.
(Doctor) Mike, on the other hand, the likely last of the OG Healers to know about Joe’s idol, had the clairvoyance to look for the idol in a similar place at his new camp. He did so, and succeeded while Jessica got water and watched him (why, Jessica? Why not look too?), and much like Mike’s confessional stated, he might start at the bottom, but he finds a way to the top. I said it week one, Mike’s got a winner-ish edit, and although we may have forgotten him for a few episodes, take note, my friends, Mike’s here to stay.
Side note: if four of the five finale folks are Chrissy, Ryan, Ben, and Mike, not only is this basically the oldest average age of finale-ers we could ask for, it’s a fine crop to represent this season!
Bravo, Chrissy. Bravo. You truly had no business surviving this week, so far as I could tell, and yet you manipulated JP with hilarious ease and got Ryan to make a move that brought him closer to you yet isolated from everyone else. I don’t have a whole lot more to say on this, but props needed to be given. I’m actually sort of surprised that my winner pick is still looking this good, not to mention Ryan and even Ali, still.
Down but Not Out
Is There a Comeback A’brewing?
Regardless of how you slice it, Ali does not look in the best spot. While I think she’s playing a solid game, sometimes things just don’t pan out the way you’d like, and when your most trust ally shuns you on the plan… that’s not necessarily your fault for trusting him. Still, I think there’s been too much put into Ali’s edit for her not to at least make the Merge. My logic, here, is that we’ve been given substantial face time with Ali, even when her tribe wasn’t in danger, and she seems more three-dimensional than someone like Ashley or Joe (both who have a lot of face time, as well, but lack the emotional resonance I’d argue editors have given Ali). This season’s story needs Ali to be around to blossom a little more, and while the cards seem stacked against Soko challenge-wise, I have to believe either they somehow win or Ali does the unlikely and convinces Chrissy and Ryan to turn on JP. Right now, I’m thinking the former, and we get a Merge confessional of Ali saying, “I needed this more than anyone else.” There’s one every season, folks, and can you think of anyone who needs it more? Lauren? Maybe. But only maybe.
A Closing Thought, Dearest Reader
On Being Average
Again, no fan-fic. (Hooray!) I just wanted to briefly touch on how I believe this season, thus far, seems poised to break away from an unfortunately common mold plaguing the most two recent newbie-Survivor seasons: mediocrity. This is not to say MvGX or Kaoh Rong were bad seasons by any means—MvGX was actually quite fun, in my opinion, and Kaoh Rong had plenty of memorable characters, despite its blaring flaws—but the winners of both seasons were decidedly blah. Again, please don’t mistake me saying this as saying Adam and Michele are bad at Survivor. With the exception of Fabio, I don’t think any winner is bad at the game, but compared to their competition, Adam and Michele seem lackluster. They were the best of the average, and as a bunch of power players began to gun for one another toward the end in both of their seasons, Adam and Michele could play under the radar for a lot of the game. There is no shame in this, and both winners were at least capable enough to read the proverbial room to have it pay off for them on Day 39, but was it as satisfying as watching David or Jay win? How about Aubry or Cydney? I don’t think so, and, hell, I’ll go one step further and say Jeremy Collins implemented a lot of this for the bulk of Cambodia, and he deservingly won!
Now we have HvHvH (still a horrible name). How many people on this season truly seem mundane, from a gameplay perspective? We have some people who clearly know what they’re doing (Chrissy, Mike, Ali, Ryan, more or less, Jessica) along with others who seem solid and you want to root for them (Lauren, Ben, and even Devon). On the flip side, you have people who aren’t super great at the game (Cole, Joe, and JP) and someone who I have to be reminded it out there (Desi). Who, then, does the season leave in its normally flush band of adequacy? Right now, I think there’s only Ashley, someone who seems to have a grasp on the game, but doesn’t appear overly concerning to anyone.
My lone point here is, statistically, doesn’t it seem like someone at least marginally exceptional will break the norm as of late and win? I’m not saying mediocrity isn’t a winning strategy, because it seems to be the best way to go about it recently, but I think and hope this season will be different. Besides, who really thinks Ashley is going to win? *knocks on wood*
Alrighty, my friends, I s’pose I’ll end with a prediction. Since y’all’ve already waded through enough of my rambling, I’ll keep it short and sweet. Levu loses again, and Joe and his lack of idol searching go home after Ashley and Devon flip Ms. Desi. Too bad… Joe always seemed more like a Merge boot to me. Maybe I’ll get lucky and Cole will go. I can dream, right?
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