Jeff Pitman's Survivor NZ 2: Thailand recaps

The Outpost vs. Ghost Island


Last week, I made a few offhand comparisons between U.S. Survivor's Ghost Island and Survivor NZ's The Outpost, both of which are "new" twists that fall between the RC and IC and involve one person departing a tribe, then returning to camp later. They're similar, but very, very different.


So different, in fact, that compared to the Outpost, in the hierarchy of current island-based Survivor game elements, Ghost Island is a ziploc bag full of melted chocolate, while the Outpost is a reward feast.


Maybe we're being a bit hasty in that judgment, but with Ghost Island having almost run its course, while the Outpost is two-for-two in solid entertainment, we're willing to make an early projection. So... feel free to call it "Duel Island" or whatever when you steal it, er, come up with it as a "brand new twist," U.S. Survivor. Because you really should. Here's a short list of reasons why:


  • The challenge: As much as superfans seem to enjoy pooh-poohing challenges and claiming "I just fast-forward through them, anyway," it turns out it's much more interesting to watch two people compete in a mini contest than to watch one person deciding which one of two (or three) bamboo tubes to open. Difficult as that may be to believe! Even if it's just fire-making. And that doesn't even begin to address the ridiculous "No game for you" wasted Ghost Island visits. Advantage: The Outpost.

  • One person vs. two people: There have been a few moments on Ghost Island where people's self-reflection was revelatory, and gave us a deeper understanding of their character (Chris Noble, mostly). But while those are welcome in small doses, they also tend toward being weepy extended confessionals, which being to lose their impact after the third or fourth iteration. In contrast, the highlight of the Outpost has been the negotiations, interrogations, and general banter between the two visitors (spurred on by the additional presence of Matt Chisholm). The Outpost hasn't achieved a cross-tribal alliance yet, but it's not entirely out of the question that it could. Advantage: The Outpost.

  • Staying overnight vs. a brief visit: Stephanie Johnson's visit to Ghost Island cut her time trying to dig her game out of the Malolo hole in half. That was terrible. Plus, there's never been an instance of Ghost Island where we've even seen someone struggling with an overnight stay. In fact, they go there, they think about the Game/game/themselves, they cook a pot of rice, then they magically reappear in camp or at a challenge later in the episode. So apart from forcing someone to sleep in the snuffer shelter (which, again, has never been shown), what's the point of the overnight stay, apart from just screwing with contestants? They're basically they're for that long because the boat driver said "Oh, I'm not making two trips." The Outpost's speedy arrivals and departures schedules works just as well, with limited strategic damage. Advantage: The Outpost.

  • "The only certainty is that whatever plays out here will have consequences on the wider game": As mentioned in the Stephanie Johnson incident, Ghost Island has produced consequences in the larger game, but that's almost entirely a byproduct of being absent from camp. Sure, the Legacy Advantage and Kellyn's extra vote have come and gone, but clearly, they could have been introduced into the game via a different mechanism. For the Outpost, in contrast, both what happens at the island getaway and what happens when the attendees return to camp have paid off handsomely in entertainment value. Save for Jacob's return to Malolo camp in Ep2 of Ghost Island, we've seen absolutely no GI-related discussion in the U.S. version. A complete bust. Whereas in just two episodes, the Outpost has already generated believable lies (JT's story in Ep.2), ridiculously illogical but highly entertaining lies ("mattresses"), and complete, 100% truths that were nonetheless received as lies, and resulted in dental inquisitions (poor Kaysha). No comparison here - Advantage: The Outpost.

  • Stale repository of completely ignored Survivor memorabilia: Well, Ghost Island wins that battle, obviously. Although the Outpost has already has its visitors compete in the (painfully) iconic challenge "The Ball Drop" (above), which ended the games of both Cirie in Micronesia and Malcolm in Philippines. Ghost Island... has a bunch of snuffers and old tribal idols that nobody is allowed to touch or interact with in any way. It was cool once, and now... I mean, I guess it probably still appeals to some people, right? Advantage: Ghost Island?


So there you have it. Instead of fixing Ghost Island, please steal, er "borrow," this one instead, America. Call it Ghosts Island, if you must.


Chani power rankings

Chani power rankings


We really haven't had any way to test how effective anyone's gameplay is at Khang Khaw yet, so Dylan and Kaysha and all the others who don't seem like they're in any trouble for now? For all we know, they could all be Survivor savants, or they could be the cannon fodder. So we'll have to give them an Incomplete for now, at least until they've taken their first exam at Tribal.


In the meantime, with three Tribals under their belts, the remaining Chanis are starting to seem a bit more three-dimensional. They're clearly getting a downtrodden underdog edit, much as the hapless Mogotón tribe (which produced the winner) was last season. Could Chani also be the origin of Thailand's winner? Maybe. If so, based on their edits thus far, here's a rough power ranking of their tribe:


1. JT is clearly the strategic leader, which is great, except that everyone sees him as such. Or at least as sneaky. It's unclear how far he can go with this, but so far, he's been admirably restrained and understated in his interactions with his tribemates. He volunteered to be the first Outpost attendee, but was willing to "rock off" (heh) for the honor, if others also wanted a shot. He supported the Franky boot, but did not directly push for it. As a result, he's firmly in power in Chani now. The main worry is, with some kind of swap likely coming in the next couple of episodes, how will the Khang Khaws take to him? Tess seemed overwhelmed by him before he (logically, not forcefully) got her to share her idol clue with him. Even though he did this with a light touch, the fact that she came away from the Outpost feeling like she'd been bamboozled is not ideal. Given that JT will probably be in a minority position in a merge or swap, that's a concern.


2. Arun is probably in the best position of anyone in Chani. He was the first person JT approached (in the edit, at least) to form the core alliance, and he's been a valuable member of that group. He's strong, supportive, and a hard worker, but key to his success thus far is that he's been a listener. Franky felt comfortable enough with Arun to openly discuss both targeting Eve, and her lack of trust in JT. While everyone is wary of JT, they all seem to trust Arun. That's great news for Arun. Furthermore, because he's a big, strong guy, he should easily slide into the good graces of the alpha bros of Khang Khaw after a merge or swap. Going forward, the ideal outcome here would be Arun and JT continuing to act as a semi-secret tight alliance, with Arun as the intelligence gatherer and JT as the obvious tactician/public enemy. Together, they could do a lot of damage, even to a seemingly overwhelming Khang Khaw majority. Together, he and JT could be the new Ethan and Lex.


3. Renee is a bit of a wild card, and not just because her closest ally was the ZM Wild Card contestant (Franky). She's the last Chani remaining who was not in JT's core alliance, but she's proven herself capable in challenges, and she has voted with the majority every time. So she seems to be playing just fine, but she hasn't yet found a strategic home. As such, she's probably an easy next boot if Chani loses immunity again, but if they can avoid Tribal this next time, she'll probably find herself in a much better spot after a swap. We haven't really been given much insight into her individual game. Rather, she mostly seems to talk about the tribe's mood and/or fortunes. That's not a good long-term prospect, but maybe once she's free from Chani, her game will have more depth.


4. Eve has an idol. That's the good news. She's also, according to Arun, in a tight alliance with him and JT. Also good news. Everything else about this episode seemed like bad news for Eve, though. Her name came up as a blindside target, simply because she has the idol, and everyone knows she has the idol. She has underwhelmed in challenges thus far, although she did score two of Chani's 10 points in the RC. She was unable to trick Kaysha into revealing anything useful at the Outpost. Unfortunately, we're guessing this was not the last time someone will propose blindsiding her.


5. Next, we have Liam, a.k.a. "Little Nubs." In the past couple of episodes, there have been a lot of scenes showing JT discussing strategy with Liam, gauging his opinion, keeping him in the loop. While it's possible he could defect to a Khang Khaw Bros alliance along with Dave at a merge/swap, he seems more likely to remain a loyal Chani footsoldier. He could even be a core third person in an alliance with JT and Arun, should someone be successful in taking out Eve. He probably won't win, but he could be a key participant if Chani is somehow able to dismantle the Khang Khaw empire.


6. Dave has been both laid back and quietly contentious. His chief storyline, which has popped up in multiple episodes, is his pre-existing friendship with Khang Khaw's Matt. Apart from that he's been thoughtful (wary of JT, but willing to let his trip to the Outpost serve as a test of his trustworthiness), but at other times has seemed to fall into the physical game/ no strategy archetype. Still, his go-with-the-flow demeanor has limits. He was adamantly against booting Franky this episode, but ended up doing so, anyway. The most likely scenario is that this leads Dave to feel discontented, which festers, and the second he meets up with Matt via swap or merge, he's abandoning the Chanis for his old mate. Once he does so, his chances of winning will probably end.


Shorter takes

Cleaned up Jose


  • Please don't do this, Survivor NZ: As Aaron "AK" Knight from Survivor AU pointed out on twitter, Franky had an odd-appearing confessional with a different background, appearing visibly cleaned up relative to her other confessionals. (The same interview was also used in Episode 2.) Jose had a similar one in Episode 1 (above). They even appear to have been filmed with a different camera, because the have brighter, more saturated color palettes. Were these filmed a day or more after they were voted out? And if so, why include them in the show? They don't fit, visually, and that's an alarm bell that the player in question is not long for the game.


  • Always be throwing: In the episode that JT hinted at the intentional Matsing, did Khang Khaw throw the reward challenge? They seemed... suspiciously overmatched, let's say. And since losing each bout meant a statue being tossed to the ground, it's possible they were literally throwing.


  • Burying the lede: With all the hoopla about Eve's clue, an important question was left unanswered this episode: Did Chani ever catch any fish? If we had to watch them eat sun-baked rice, we ought to get at least one shot of a fish cooking. It's only fair.


  • Just keep swimming: Despite being excoriated for booting their "strongest swimmer," what swimming expertise was Franky actually providing? She was able to retrieve exactly one wheel in the IC, and it was the wrong one at that. Renee matched her output, while Matt and Josh each returned four for Khang Khaw. Then during Episode 2's "Smash and Grab" RC, Franky didn't even swim! Without her, Chani actually outperformed Khang Khaw on the swimming leg of that challenge. Franky, meanwhile, retrieved the ball after Arun's errant tile-smashing tosses.


Jeff Pitman's recapsJeff Pitman is a New Zealand expat, is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, you can do so on twitter: @truedorktimes


Other NZ: Thailand Episode 3 recaps and analysis

  • Luke Harries at The Spinoff: "Week 3: A villain emerges"
  • Kemper Boyd at "Episode 3 recap"
  • Evan Francis at "Eve and the Forbidden Fruit"


Exit interviews - Franky March

  • George Fenwick at the New Zealand Herald (5/7/18): "Survivor NZ's Franky March calls out 'chauvinistic attitudes' behind shock elimination"
  • Woman's Day (5/8/18): "Franky March opens up on her traumatic Survivor experience"