Usually in this here column, I talk about communication theory and how it applies to things happening in the game. This week, I’m going to shift a little.
This column is later than usual primarily because I just couldn’t think of a great theory to apply. The reason? All I could think about was Darwin’s theory of evolution. Sorry if you don’t believe in evolution. It’s real, there is proof, and you’re wrong, 100% wrong. So with all that said, let’s talk about evolution in Survivor.
Now, I know Rob and company have done a gazillion hours of podcasting about the Evolution of Strategy, but most of us probably haven’t listened to all of that. I listened to a couple early season chapters during a really long road trip, but nothing recent. So forgive me if I’m repeating something they go over.
Let’s be clear: Ten to 15 seasons ago, Natalie goes home this week and there is no doubt in the world.
I really love how producers do tribe shakeups early and often now. I think it makes the game more exciting and adds more interesting strategic variables that didn’t exist in older seasons. But with that change to the game, comes strategic evolution.
If the Goliath tribe didn’t know a tribe shakeup was coming, they get rid of Natalie to keep the tribe not just strong, but also civil. But with a shakeup coming, they don’t care about those things. They care about eliminating a threat. And that’s Jeremy.
To put it simply, if the only tribe shakeup came at the merge, then the Goliaths would have known they would need to rely on Natalie in challenges, but also have to live with her attitude and personality at camp. Even with a tribe shakeup before the merge, but after episode four, the Goliaths would be thinking about that.
In general, while this newer Survivor trend is changing the game, for the good, I would argue, there is one clear negative … to me. I haven’t gone back and looked at the data – we’ll leave that to TDT fearless leader Jeff – but I would bet that more goats make it longer in the game now. As I mention in my comment about Lyrsa later on, in the past, it was all about making the merge for folks like Natalie. If she did that, she could float to the end because everybody would want to sit with her at the end. Essentially, she could float unless something unexpected happened.
Now, someone like Natalie can get to this first shakeup and coast. Why would anyone boot her now? If after the shakeup, her tribe features more Davids, they need her vote to eliminate a Goliath. If she’s on a tribe with more Goliaths, they are going to focus on bigger threats.
And that’s evolution. That’s how one seemingly smaller change can affect everything, can change the ecosystem of the game considerably. Make sense?
That’s it for the theoretical portion of this column. Here’s where the remaining castaways stand in my mind:
Carl: In the previews for this latest episode, it looked like Carl’s life in the game was about to get worse. That really didn’t happen, though. I think with the tribe shakeup coming, Carl’s in a good spot.
Christian: Here comes the biggest challenge for Christian: Can his personality, which has been really embraced in the David tribe, work with the Goliaths in the same tribe? I’m not so sure. I really think his first-challenge domination and his talk about designing slide puzzles makes him a target. I mean, is there any other David that a Goliath is afraid of? I don’t think so.
Bi: Poor Bi. It looked her best attribute and skill in the game was going to be athleticism, especially post merge when stamina wins some challenges. I know her injury isn’t exactly painful, but how is she going to perform in a lot of these challenges? Not well, I think.
Elizabeth: We barely saw Elizabeth this week and, I guess, that’s good for Elizabeth? With the shakeup coming, I think she’s in a good spot.
Gabby: As I said last week, I’m not really liking Gabby’s spot, though. This is basically two weeks in a row of seeing previews of Gabby crying. That kind of stuff can work once, but does anybody want to spend 24-7 with an emotional and, thus, inherently unpredictable tribemate or, god forbid, alliance member? I think not.
Davie: At least in some ways my fantasy team looked good this week.
Lyrsa: I think it’s people like Lyrsa that really benefit from these early tribal shakeups. Hear me out: There are the people on the top in their tribes and these moves hurt them, obviously. And then when these new tribes happen, typically, whichever tribe with the numbers advantage goes to tribal, they tend to take out threats. That’s not Lyrsa, who probably would still be the next out for the Davids, but she won’t be a target of a mixed tribe. Make sense?
Nick: While I didn’t particularly like his game in episode one, these last two episodes have shown me a different side of Nick, one that looks like someone who can connect with people. I like his chances moving forward because I think, no matter the grouping, Nick is smart enough and social enough to make solid inroads with fellow castaways.
Natalia: Unlike last week, I came away with a really good feeling about Natalia this week. She showcased, to me, a really clear case of common sense. I think I like where she’s going.
Natalie: Natalie survived this week. Good for her. But I don’t think she did anything to earn it. This was clearly about eliminating Jeremy and not about Natalie’s good work to save herself. She’s still not long for this game.
John: I’ve been saying since the preseason I don’t think someone like John can win Survivor in 2018. I still wholeheartedly believe that, but this dude is doing way better than I would have ever predicted. Good for him.
Kara: I’m still trying to get a good read of Kara. To this point, I’m lost. I want to say she’s doing great work and manipulating other castaways, but she might really just be flirting to flirt. I don’t know.
Angelina: So last week it hurt me to admit Jeff made a great pick with Angelina. Now I’m taking it back. Her singlemindedness might have worked this week, but it won’t keep working. You simply can’t dictate to people; you have to make them think they’re making the decision ....
Alec: Alec’s haircut will try to make its way further in the game after this tribal shakeup. It will be interesting to see how his haircut socializes with members of the David tribe, most of whom couldn’t have that haircut even they wanted it.
Alison: I still don’t think Alison wins this game, but I do like how she played this week. I think it’ll be interesting how Alison works with David tribe members … especially after talking down to them a bit in the premiere.
Dan: I feel bad saying this because he’s on my fantasy team, but Dan’s not long for this game. A lot of folks know about the idol and he’s a target in any shakeup.
Mike: I’m sorry Mike lost his friend in Jeremy. I feel you, Mike. I lost my fantasy pick. In general, though, I think this shakeup helps Mike.
Pat Ferrucci started watching Survivor when episode two of Borneo first aired. He's seen every episode since. Besides recapping here, he'll be live-tweeting this season from the Mountain Time Zone. Why? Because nobody cares about the Mountain Time Zone except when they want to ski. Follow him @PatFerrucci for Survivor stuff and tweets about anything and everything that enters his feeble mind.