Survivor: Worlds Apart

Lessons in Survivor History- Shifting the Target

Three episodes in, and while Worlds Apart has been entertaining, it is yet to deliver in terms of strategic game play. I am finding it entertaining, but I am definitely looking forward to some kind of a tribe swap, where the play might become slightly more strategic. What I am enjoying most about this season is the equality that we have between the tribes. We have seen two of the three tribes visit Tribal Council, and all tribes have come first in at least one immunity challenge. More interestingly, all of the tribes have their problems. We don’t have one tribe that is a complete train wreck- this season, we have all three!

At no collar, after a promising start, things have begun to go downhill quickly. After voting out a strong challenge performer in Vince, they were always going to struggle to keep up in the immunity challenges, but this week it wasn’t even close. They were way behind, and never seemed a chance to win. I’m not sure whether this way because they were lacking Vince’s strength, or because of Joe’s dubious strategy to force Nina to practically sit out of the challenge, meaning that their tribe was playing with one less player. Probably a little of both. At camp, things weren’t as harmonious as you’d expect from such ‘free spirited’ people- Nina had felt as though she was on the outs from day one, and Will’s risky move to vote against both alliances last week has Jenn, Hali and Joe unsure of his loyalties. He’s clearly on the outside of the alliance, and an easy vote out should they lose yet another challenge.

Blue collar have an almost comical array of problems. They are a collection of fiery personalities, and it seems that they spend more time arguing than doing anything else. Mike is mad because nobody else works as hard as he does. Lindsey is mad because nobody acknowledges the work that she does. Rodney is mad because Mike is accusing him of being lazy. And Dan is still trying to bond with his tribe mates, although his efforts this week fell way short. But at least he’s trying, and  if Mike keeps trying to force the others to work at his pace, and on his time, Dan’s chances of staying in the game will only continue to get better.

Over at white collar, there was an early alliance of Carolyn, Shirin, Max and Tyler, leaving Joaquin on the outs. But now it seems that it might be Shirin, whose constant talking and occasional nudity is alienating the tribe, that is on the bottom of the alliance. Tyler and Carolyn have a close alliance, and possession of the hidden immunity idol, and it became clear this week that the rest of the tribe has no idea about this. We’ve seen a lot of Max in the last two episodes, but not much of it has been game play!

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The episode was titled ‘crazy is as crazy does’, and it could have referred to any of the three camps. This week, for our lesson in Survivor history, we are going to be looking back to a player that found herself on the outside of  her tribe early on in the game, and had to fight for her survival. Through a series of both self-interested play and a healthy dose of luck, she made it to the final four. We are going back to Survivor: Vanuatu, and the first appearance of Eliza Orlins.

Eliza began the game on Yasur, a tribe of nine women, and quickly found herself on the outs. From the very first episode, even before the women reached their camp, they found themselves annoyed by her incessant talking. Scout Cloud-Lee said “Eliza, she talks nonstop. She’s probably at the top of my list, just to get her mouth off my face”. The women’s tribe quickly divided into two clear groups, and Eliza gravitated toward the younger women- Julie Berry, Mia Galeotalanza, Dolly Neely and Lisa Keiffer. When the women lost immunity in episode two, Eliza knew that she was on the chopping block. When her ally Dolly failed to convince Eliza that she would be safe, Eliza switched her allegiance to the older group, organising the blindside of Dolly, and keeping herself in the game.

After avoiding elimination in her first Tribal Council, Eliza tried to convince the younger alliance that she was still with them. Ultimately she failed in this, as her apparent untrustworthy behaviour led to Lisa defecting to the older alliance, and Mia was sent home, leaving only Eliza and Julie in the minority alliance. A tribe swap saved them both from being sent home as the women endeavoured to stick together and vote the men out. From this point, Eliza had a period of relative safety in the game.

Each tribe has someone in the Eliza spot at the moment- someone who has been on the outside of the tribe from very early in the game. No collar just voted out the member that they found most irritating- Nina. In deliberating the decision, Jenn mentioned that Nina and Will were equally bad in challenges, but “Nina, she’s a wet blanket on the entire tribe”. They may have been able to trust Nina far more than they could trust Will, but they enjoyed being around Will more than they enjoyed Nina’s company, and that was the deciding factor. Most of the times when someone is on the outside from early in the game they don’t make the merge. More times than not, that player will meet the same fate as Nina- voted out early because they couldn’t connect with the rest of their tribe.

So how did Eliza do it? How did she move from the position she was in from day one- number one target- all the way through to the final four? Which of this season’s players can duplicate her game play and get themselves out of their current position? Is it possible for any of the players currently on the bottom to get themselves into a position where they could possibly win the game? Can they shift the target off of themselves and get themselves to a position of safety?

The most important thing that Eliza did, something that every player needs to be willing to do, is that she knew the way people perceived her, and she fought for her place in the game. She recognised that she was in a weak position, but instead of just taking her chances with an alliance that she didn’t feel secure in, she took her fate into her own hands. Ultimately, Eliza was wrong about her position, and her ally Dolly did not vote against her. But Eliza needed to feel secure going into Tribal Council, and when Dolly failed to assure her that she wasn’t going home, Eliza turned on her ally, joined with the older women, and convinced them to vote against Dolly. I don’t think every player benefits from making big moves and shifting alliances at the first opportunity; Eliza correctly perceived that she was the target of the older women. She had a target on her back , and she had to take her chances. I think that those people who have already made some social mistakes, who are in a weak position in their tribe, need to be willing to take some chances.

On blue collar, Mike and Dan are on the bottom. If they go to Tribal Council before the coming tribe swap, then the best move for either of them would be to sell out their only ally. Dan certainly seems willing to do this- he was seen comforting Rodney after Rodney blew up at Mike. He knows his weak place in the tribe, and is doing what he can to improve it. Some of his efforts may not come off exactly as he hopes (calling Rodney’s mother names was never going to ingratiate him with the group) but at least he’s trying. He’s joking around with the younger people, playing basketball with them, and trying to listen to them whenever they need a sympathetic ear. Dan may not be playing the strongest game, but he is humble enough to see his mistakes, and try to correct them. He wants to stay in the game, and I feel confident that if he has to, he will make a concerted effort to get Mike out of the game, knowing that that’s his best option. Of course, next week’s preview shows Lindsey and Rodney getting into an argument too, so maybe Dan will have a few options, should he need to throw someone under a bus.

Mike is giving himself no options. In fact, he has repeatedly told the tribe that if they want to send him home because he is working too hard, then they should just vote him out. As Lindsey so eloquently put it- he wants to go home? ‘Wish come true!’ He’s almost daring them to vote him out. He knows that his strength is an asset, and he is gambling that they won’t want to get rid of someone who does so much around the camp. But I’m guessing that they would rather have a little less firewood stacked up in exchange for some peace in the camp. The closer that they get to the tribe swap, the less that blue collar are going to need Mike’s strength.If Mike wants to stay in the game, he is going to need to fight for it. He knows his position in the tribe, but is he willing to do anything about it, or is he just going to lay back and hope that Dan’s perceived physical weakness makes Dan the bigger target? I really do think that the best strategic move for them to make would be to throw a challenge and get Mike out of the game, but they seem to be way too competitive for that. They won’t throw the challenge to get rid of him, but if they lose immunity at the moment, Mike is going home. And he has nobody to blame but himself.

The next thing that got Eliza as far as the final four was her willingness to swallow her pride, and work with people that had been against her since the start of the game. At final seven, the game was controlled by Ami Cusack and Leann Slaby, who were in close alliances with Julie, as well as Scout and Twila Tanner. They had voted out all but one of the men, leaving Chris Daugherty as the last man standing. When Ami won immunity, it seemed that Chris was logically going to be the next person voted out, but Ami and Leann, no longer needing Eliza’s vote, decided to blindside her instead. Seeing their opportunity to take control of the game, Scout and Twila, who had openly been Eliza’s enemies until this point, asked her to vote with them and Chris to blindside Leann. Understanding that this was her opportunity to survive in the game, Eliza joined their alliance and voted with them to eliminate first Leann and then Ami from the game. She was willing to work with absolutely anybody in order to save herself, and that is something that all players should keep in mind.

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Shirin

Shirin is clearly the person in the white collar tribe who is in the Eliza spot. After an awkward morning where Shirin spent way too long talking about monkeys, Tyler had a cutting confessional where he made it clear that Shirin was not his favourite person at all. “Shirin spent most of the morning talking about howler monkeys. And she’s just about as annoying and as loud and as obtrusive as a howler monkey right now in our camp…It’s weird and it’s strange. She’s got this like vibe that doesn’t quite fit in. And she’s definitely trying to fit in. And it shows.” Last week, Tyler was clearly uncomfortable with Shirin walking around the camp wearing no pants, and this week it’s her talking that is irritating him. Tyler is in a great position on the tribe, and he and Carolyn (who was also annoyed by Shirin’s monkey tales) will decide who goes home if white collar are to lose immunity again.

Shirin isn’t completely oblivious to the tribe’s perception of her. In last week’s secret scene (where she was explaining the practical reasons for her nudity), she showed some awareness of how she was affecting Tyler and Joaquin. But I don’t think she really understands the danger she is in, and that keen perception was what motivated Eliza to make her moves. She laughed at Joaquin when he was annoyed with her, saying “there was a fury behind what he was saying, which is turning out to be pretty great for me, cause it means he doesn’t know how to manoeuvre himself in this game”. It is clear to the viewer that things aren’t going great for Shirin. Joaquin and Tyler are bonding over their shared dislike of her, and it seems clear to me that Joaquin is in a good position to take Shirin’s place in the alliance.

Shirin clearly has a strong bond with Max (in the secret scene where she discussed her nudity, she also talked about how Max was the only one who really understood her), but she doesn’t seem to understand how dangerous that obvious close bond can be in such a small tribe. Tyler and Carolyn are playing much smarter, and the other players have no idea how close they truly are. At the moment, Shirin is taking her position in the tribe for granted, certain that Joaquin is at the bottom, and that complacency is allowing her to put a target on not only her back, but also on Max, who is in danger of getting pushed out of the main alliance because he is seen as a tight pair with Shirin. I’m worried that Shirin’s lack of perception will mean that she will want to stay with the allies that she has- when Tyler and Carolyn may not be so keen on sticking with her.

For Shirin, there can be two outcomes. Either she gets voted out soon, or she will need to realise her position in the game, and start making some self-interested moves. She will likely have to work with Tyler, and when the swap happens, she could need Joaquin on her side as well. At the moment, Joaquin’s only hope to remain in the game is to alienate the tribe against Shirin. He’s a dangerous player, and she needs to realise this and repair the relationship. One of her goals coming into the game was to have a working relationship with each player- which is a great strategy, if only she can execute it.

One thing that Eliza did not do was change her attitude, and this was to her detriment. Eliza that was annoying people by talking too much on day one, and she was doing the exact same thing all the way to the final four. Because of this, she was unlikely to win the game. She perhaps could have beaten Twila, but I don’t think she would have beaten either Julie or Chris, who were the people that she wanted to take to the final three. She played an emotional, paranoid game, and ultimately Chris was able to use those traits to outwit her.

I would argue that it was not possible for Eliza to play any other way. In Survivor: All Stars, Lex famously called Survivor truth serum, and it really is. Out there for 39 days, stripped of all comforts and normal relationships, Survivor shows people for who they really are. Eliza is someone who talks a lot and makes emotional decisions.She was very young on her first season, playing at 21 years of age, and that affected her game. I don’t think Eliza could play any other way. She had to play within the limitations of her honest everyday personality.

Mike, Dan and Shirin are the three players still in the game who would benefit from changing the way that they are behaving around their tribe mates. Of the three, only Dan seems to recognise the need to do this, and although he is trying, he is failing miserably. They are all a fair bit older than Eliza was on Survivor: Vanuatu, and perhaps they can use that maturity to adjust their social game enough to ensure their safety. But it is a tough ask, and I’m not sure any of them will be able to repair the social damage they have done with their present tribe mates.

The last thing that benefitted Eliza’s game was luck. Although Eliza was definitely a target for the vote at Tribal Council, there were often times when another target would present itself. After Yasur’s first Tribal Council, the younger women were furious with Eliza. They didn’t feel she could be trusted at all. The older women were still irritated by her talkative ways. There was every chance that Eliza could go home at the next opportunity- but Mia lost her temper with Twila and made herself a bigger target. When Eliza was on a clear minority in the women’s tribe, and was likely to be the next one voted out, a tribe swap put her on a tribe where the majority were women, and they agreed to vote out the men keeping Eliza safe again.

Luck is a part of every game of Survivor. Dan is lucky that he is on the blue collar tribe, who haven’t lost immunity, and lucky that he is on a tribe with Mike who seems to almost have a crazy wish to be voted out. On any other tribe, Dan wouldn’t have lasted past the first vote. But he’s a real shot to hang on here. Mike too is lucky that the blue collar tribe have been so strong in challenges. Shirin was lucky to visit Tribal Council in that first episode when she was so tightly aligned with Carolyn, because if they were to lose immunity for the first time now, the vote would go very differently.

Luck will be on the side of at least some of these players with only one more Tribal Council left before a tribe swap that will change the game completely. A tribe swap will give them a bigger tribe where it is easier to hide. It will give them a new chance in the game- possibly taking them away from their enemies and giving them the opportunity to make new alliances. The preview for next week’s episode hints at a medevac, and while those previews should always be taken with a grain of salt, there is a chance that all of the players who are currently targets to be voted out will make the tribe swap.

To really have a shot at shifting the target away from themselves, Dan, Shirin, Mike and even Will will have to seize the luck that they are given, but be willing to make some moves to change their position in the game. Dan, Shirin and Mike all claim to be fans of the game and should have seen enough Survivor to know what they have to do. If they are successful, the tribe swap should see some new power players emerge- and that would make for some entertaining viewing.

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