Survivor Kaoh Rong

Episode 13 – Taking Control

Previously on Survivor:

With the million dollars in sight, everyone wanted control of who would go to the end.

Tai had an idol and an advantage in the game and thought he could control the vote.  He wanted to take out Michele whom he considered the biggest threat and believed he had the support of his closest ally, Aubry…

Tai, to Aubry: “She is the bigger threat” to which Aubry replies: “Oh! I’m with you.”

…But he pushed too hard and offended Cydney who fought to keep her own ally, Michele.

At Tribal Council, Tai played his advantage to ensure he got his way but instead his alliance turned on him, leaving the four strong and Tai unsure of his place in the game.

In this fight for control, Jeff told us that Cydney won this round over Tai who looked completely lost at the end of Tribal Council.  The gardener would soon tell us who he thinks stripped him of all the power he thought he had. 

Taking Control

Night 32

Joe was first to explain the vote to Tai, telling him that the people didn’t want Jason around.

Tai’s interview: “I just come back tonight after Tribal.  I’m trying to think what exactly happened.  I thought everybody vote for Michele but all four of them vote for Jason.  So, my extra vote was just wasted tonight and I was in the dark and that’s the worst thing to do is kept outside the circle.”

Tai said that everyone in an alliance should listen to each other.

Michele countered:  “The thing about an alliance is you don’t turn on it and you’ve done it now three times.”

That’s true but Nick and Julia could say she turned on her allies twice…

Tai said everyone had a voice including Joe but then Michele pointed out she didn’t have one.  Tai’s answer was to say he didn’t know where Michele fit in the group but Michele said she was in the group before he even joined.

Michele’s reaction: “Tai put both of his votes towards me because obviously he wants to put me on the outs and it’s kind of like a slap in the face.  Fortunately, I kind of lucked out that Cydney did protect me but I did get votes against me so I don’t know where I stand and I could get voted out next.”

For someone who didn’t want her bro to carry her, it seems Michele had no problem when her sis did it.  I’m not sure if Michele’s supporters enjoyed hearing her admit that she needed luck to be saved but it was an honest appraisal of the situation.  Used properly in front of the jury, honesty always earns respect.    

Tai then said: “Seriously, there was (sic!) two alliances to me that did not involve you, Michele.  I know that sounds hurtful but you understand where…”

Michele said she didn’t understand but that she didn’t need to understand him.

Well, I don’t understand Tai and it does matter to me!  What were those two alliances that Tai mentioned?  We really only know about the one with Aubry, Cydney, and Joe.  Was Tai still counting Jason as an ally?   He did tell him to vote against Michele so maybe he is that delusional…

Tai in interview: “I’m still really confused.  I don’t know exactly what happened.  Aubry is the one that told me she felt strongly that Michele should go home so my feelings are hurt especially by Aubry.  She is the only one I truly trust and I feel she pulled a fast one on me.”

Sitting alone with Aubry, Tai asked: “Why am I out on a limb when you and I agree that it’s going to be Michele?  I am totally fine with picking Jason.”

Aubry answered:  “People felt that when it came up in a group that they weren’t allowed to express their opinion.”  She then added that she should have told him.

Aubry’s interview: “I left Tai out of the loop on the vote because Tai has had so much control in this game and I needed to reclaim it.  But, Tai feels like I betrayed him and that’s very big to Tai when he feels like he’s been hurt and so I’m not sure I can work with Tai.”

If the recap was somewhat thin when it came to giving credit, Tai was much clearer.  For him, the move was made by Aubry.   Even if it was Cydney’s plan, Aubry pulled the fast one on Tai by shifting the vote and then she told us exactly why she did it.  I think it speaks volumes that we heard Aubry say that she reclaimed control right after Jeff’s recap started with the phrase:  “With the million dollars in sight, everyone wanted control of who would go to the end”.  If this is indeed a quest for control over who goes to the end, Aubry’s reclamation came at an opportune time but Joe’s misfortune will force her to do it all over again.   Her rollercoaster ride isn’t over yet and we also have to wonder if she will make the right decision in the end.

After telling Aubry that she made him sound unreasonable, Tai had another interview: “I feel completely alone.  I don’t know who to trust.  I’m most worried about is Aubry and Joe.  I put all my eggs in their basket and I don’t know where to move from here.”

Having put all my eggs in Aubry’s basket myself, I know how Tai feels but I find it encouraging to hear him put some doubt on Aubry’s chances just by saying he may go in another direction.  Winning Survivor should never look easy despite what we’ve seen for some lately. 

The Reward “Challenge”

I found it interesting to hear Jeff first say: “We are down to five” and then see the camera lens move away from Joe and Tai to focus on the three women. 

Step aside, boys Step aside, boys[/caption]

It almost implied:  “Five for now but soon it will be only those three.”

The challenge was supposed to be a race but why even include the run through the jungle if the players had to wait for everyone to toss their bags before they could retrieve the ones that missed the targets? 

Thay called it a Race

This is not The Amazing Race

It looked as dumb as those scenes at the end of The Amazing Race where all but one team has checked in and we still see the last pair go through the roadblock or detour even if it means nothing.  We just saw the most exciting 2 minutes in sports Saturday in Kentucky while Cambodia showed us the most boring 5.30 minutes!   And I’m not even sure these were the most boring 5.30 minutes of this episode…

I guess they wanted to let Joe have his day.  Doesn’t that make the rest of the episode look staged?  Jeff nicely kept to the script, giving Joe a lot of credit for being… how shall we call it?   The slowest??

Joe first picked Aubry to join him at the spa.  When asked for a second partner, Joe let Aubry make the decision and she chose Cydney.

In those rewards, it’s always better to be picked than to be the one forced to make the decision so why would Aubry make that decision?  We didn’t hear recriminations, though, so it didn’t hurt her at least as far as the edit showed.

Aubry in interview explained her decision: “I chose Cydney to go on reward because everything is kind of up in the air with Tai so that kind of forces me to look at what my other options are to go to the end.”

Michele’s interview: “As I was leaving the reward challenge, all I’m thinking is OK, Cydney, Aubry, and Joe; that’s maybe the final three.  So I definitely have to take a risk and try to find a way to change the pecking order.”

Once more, luck will work in her favor.

The Reward

Last week, we had first gone back to camp, the images of the reward coming later.  The order was reversed this time.  Was it because it showed Aubry and Cydney before Michele and Tai both times?

Aubry was the spokesperson: “We land on this gorgeous beach and we scarf and gorge ourselves on all this magnificent food.  It was like heaven.”

Joe told us he wasn’t a big steak guy but he sure went for it here.

Considering the difference between 5th and 3rd, that was probably a $25,000 steak so I certainly hope it was good.

Cydney’s observations: “Mr. Joe is loading up on beef… and I knew from my personal experience that Mr. Joe wasn’t going to be in a good place later on.”

Joe then said he’d like all three to stick together to the end.  When Cydney agreed, Joe asked if they were going to vote off Tai next.  Aubry pointed out that they couldn’t because he had an idol.  Cydney and Aubry showed Joe that they would happily get rid of Tai at the one after.  That’s when Joe said Tai was Aubry’s only competition. Cydney agreed, saying they were just going along for the ride.

Cydney thoughts: “Aubry, Joe and I could potentially be a Final 3 but I’m still trying to downplay myself as much as possible.  At this point, I’m nodding, smiling, just going along for the ride and I’ll be happy to win the million dollars when I make it there.”

Joe went on about Aubry being the best even if she thinks she has enemies but she played the game hard and just being social won’t get you anything.  He added that he and Cydney were no threats at all.  That’s when Aubry said there were other threats out there.

Aubry’s thoughts:  “Joe said I am the only threat basically in this game right now and that Cydney was content just being in the Final 3 which is such baloney.  It made me realize: Oh! my god! Cydney is a threat in this game.  She was a key part in some blindsides, she’s won a challenge and to a degree, she is more likable.  So maybe I don’t want to go to the Final 3 with Cydney.  Tai might be a better option for me.”

The scene concluded with Aubry telling Joe and Cydney that this was what she needed to get her head back on.

Is Cydney a threat

“Is Cydney a threat?  If she’s coming at me with a knife, she is!”

The expression we saw on Aubry’s face showed the importance of this realization.  It seemed to tell us that she had seen Cydney’s threat just in time.  This is also why I prefer Aubry’s story to Michele and Cydney:  We see the different layers of the game through her eyes.  From Michele, it is mostly a story of getting by another day while Cydney has reacted emotionally in some situations but she mostly wants to downplay her game and just wind up in the finals.  Aubry has told us about the obstacles facing her and has shown a good read on her opponents.

Camp

Tai had the first interview to give us a rundown of the situation: “We lose the challenge today so Joe bring Aubry and Cydney.  Obviously, those are the final three they’re thinking about.  So, I’m genuinely hurt by Aubry because I don’t know where Aubry’s heart is.  As I came into camp I wondered how I was going to spend the next 24 hours with Michele after I just fought with her.  The only thing I could do was air it out with her.”

Tai told Michele that he wanted to have an honest talk so they went to sit in the water.  Tai told Michele that he is always drawn to certain people and not to others and that he didn’t feel the chemistry with her, adding that he felt uncomfortable next to a beautiful girl.

Michele’s reaction: “Tai says that he bases all his relationships in his life with the chemistry he feels with people.  I get that; you have stronger connections with some people than others but when you’re in a game like this you have to play all your avenues.  I think what it comes down to is that me and Tai are very different people.  We have very different perceptions on this game.”

After telling Tai that her door has always been open for him, she said they should just relax and have their own spa day.  Tai offered her a massage.  Michele couldn’t wait!

Tai’s interview: “I think Michele and I, we are on the bottom but Michele and I were on the Beauty tribe before we merged.  Maybe…she’s genuine.  Maybe I missed something but now I have an opportunity to get to know Michele a little bit better.”

Michele was really enjoying her Thai/Tai massage.

Michele’s interview: “The top menu of the day was a Thai massage.  It’s a Thai massage because it’s a Thai method and Tai is the masseuse.  We are kind of having our poor man’s spa while they are having their real men spa.  Who would have ever thought that Michele and Tai would have a bonding massage and a dinner date?  It’s like, I don’t know.  What has this world come to?”

Mark looked jealous of the attention Tai was giving to Michele.

Michele’s next interview: “I’m tentative to say anything or do anything with Tai after what happened last time but me and Tai are seemingly both on the outs.  It would be such a great move on our part and completely shocking because no one thinks at this point that me and Tai have the capability to work together.”

Tai told Michele he had an idol and he wanted to target Cydney.  Michele thought they could sway Cydney.

Tai’s comments: “The idea of working with Michele just never crossed my mind but I feel completely betrayed by Aubry, so I’m open to work with Michele because Aubry will never see that coming.”

The two agreed they had nothing to lose.

This segment showed us that Michele can be charming and she can use her charm to adapt in a difficult situation but I think it mainly served to put doubt in Aubry’s chances.

Day 34

Even for those who hadn’t followed the previews closely, Survivor has become so formulaic that when we didn’t go to the immunity challenge in the first minutes of this segment, we knew something was up.  This would be mostly another episode to build confusion, to misdirect our attention away from the eventual winner.

Tai’s interview: “Survivor is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Not the physical part; I’ve actually enjoyed all the hardship of daily living.  It’s mostly the part about trust and not trusting people.  It take a toll on my emotions.”

Michele was shown sleeping in the shelter when Tai mentioned the physical aspect of the game.

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The trio soon returned from the reward and Joe had to tell Tai how much he enjoyed it.  Aubry immediately went to Tai for a hug.

Aubry’s confessional: “Right after reward when we got back to camp, I know Cydney’s a threat and my ideal final three is Tai and Joe.  But I fear that Tai is so emotionally needy that if he feels he’s been betrayed or slighted, he might just completely go another way.  Today, I need to talk to Tai and make things right and at the end of the day. I know that Joe will go with what I go with.”

This shows us the accuracy of Aubry’s read on Tai and we will soon see that her social game is just as good if not better then Michele’s because it wouldn’t take long for Aubry to get back on good terms with Tai.  The other interesting comment is Aubry’s ideal Final 3 because now that’s down the drain.  It’s a very good way to make us think she can’t succeed.

As she walked to the water well with Tai, we heard more of Aubry’s thoughts: “I want Tai to trust me and to know that the only way to the end is for us to do it together.  Because we have five people left, I need to be in a group of three people.  If I have Joe and Tai, that’s three against two.  That gives me a little bit of, hopefully, power I need to get to the next vote and I have my fingers crossed right now that Tai is going to the end with me.”

When Aubry said that you have to put a lot behind you in Survivor and just put one foot in front of the other, Tai broke down in tears and the two hugged.

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Tai’s thoughts: “Aubry really poured her heart to me and said, ‘You know we need each other.’  That made me feel so comfortable and I am relieved of this burden that really took a toll on my emotions and I just break down a little bit.  So far, I have played the game with my heart so it feels right that Aubry is on my side and I have a tender spot for her from the beginning.”

In this social game, Aubry’s plan was very well executed but it did attract Cydney’s attention.

Cydney’s interview: “I’m aligned with Joe and Aubry pretty tight right now but I see Aubry and Tai come back from the water well and it looked a little suspicious.  They were having a conversation but the kind of conversation you have with an ally.  Tai was the person I thought we wanted to get out. So, I had to rethink and that didn’t sit too well with me.  It seemed very, very suspect.”

It was an identical situation that got Nick voted out so this puts more doubts on Aubry’s chances.

Taking a walk in the jungle, Michele told Cydney they had to be thinking two steps ahead now.  Michele added: “If you and me are solid, no matter who wins immunity, we just have to convince the other person to come with us.”

If Michele is thinking two steps ahead then this doesn’t make sense.  At Final 4, they would need to convince the person that won immunity to come with them because the other person would be their only option to kick out.  If she was talking about Final 5 then she should have said that they had to convince one other person to come with them, not the other person.

Cydney’s interview:  “Michele’s been pretty much trustworthy this whole time so I’d rather have her around to strategize with but I kind of want to keep it under wraps that I’ve been doing it and hope that I don’t screw myself by trying to better my game at the same time.”

It’s funny that when Michele said, “Every little thing we do has to be with a purpose” because, at that moment, the two seemed to be aimlessly walking into the jungle, just looking around and not finding what they were looking for. 

Everything has to have a purpose

“Every little thing has to have a purpose..but what are we doing here again?”

I enjoyed what looked like an inside joke.  It certainly wasn’t as funny as Sean and Dirk’s search for tapioca but it made me smile.  Luckily, Cydney once more came to Michele’s rescue when she finally found some fruits.  

Michele’s comments: “It’s crazy the way things turn here.  I mean I thought I was on the outs but me and Cydney have had a great relationship for a really long time and me and Tai have our own plan so now it looks like we can pick and choose who we want out– Joe or Aubry.  That would be a crazy twist in this game.”

As they returned to camp, Joe’s problems surfaced.  He told the group that he was having bladder problems.

Aubry’s reaction: “I’m worried about Joe.  Joe has been a steady force for me. Joe is my second vote; Joe is my confidant; Joe is the anchor to my entire game.  I want Joe to be OK. Joe needs to be OK right now.  I need Joe to be OK.”

Michele’s interview: “It could be something that could pull him from the game and when you’re this far in, five people, that’s the last thing you want to see happen but at the same time, if Joe goes, it’s beneficial for my game.  So, I feel bad but it’s also positive.  Weird.”

While Michele’s comment could be called petty, I don’t think that’s what really matters here.  The troubling part for her story is that she feels positive about her chances.  In a misdirection episode, it is much better to appear to be in trouble.

The doctor came to make a first shelter call.  The scare was that Joe could have long-term kidney problems.

Tai’s interview: “If Joe go home, it would screw up everything we planned for Final Three.  I’m very, very nervous.”

At the start of the next segment, we saw that Joe was still in a lot of pain.

Michele gave a confessional saying Joe’s condition showed how crazy the game could be.  We saw her hug Joe.

Tai told Joe to keep fighting but Joe seemed resigned. In tears, Tai told us that Joe was a good guy.

Cydney told us that Mr. Joe was like her substitute grandfather.

At sunset, the group sat waiting for the medical boat.  It was carrying Jeff and the doctor.  Joe was pulled from the game.

Aubry told us that it was like seeing a family member being sick.  It was a nightmare, but it was good to know that Joe was receiving treatment in order to get better.

When she hugged him a final time, Aubry thanked him for letting her make decisions and helping her put one foot in front of the other.

Jeff addressed the four remaining players: (He was probably worried that, without a Tribal Council, his paycheck would be cut…or maybe he thought his adoring fans couldn’t live without his sage words) “This is the most evacuations of any season of Survivor… It has been the one constant theme of this season:  Just when you think you’re safe, or just when you fear you’re not, something changes and it’s happened again.  Your quest for the million dollars is within sight but now, more than ever, you will have to Outwit and Outplay if you are to Outlast.”

OK, Jeff we get it.  Now isn’t there something of a medical emergency and a boat waiting?  As for the way the scene was edited, I think it’s worth noting that we saw Michele and Aubry when Jeff talked about something changing which told us the theme really applies to those two.   Cydney was shown when he mentioned the quest for the million dollars. 

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Michele and Aubry were again shown in that order when Jeff ended his harangue.

Aubry’s confessional: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.  My biggest ally Neal goes out right after the merge and now my other biggest ally, Joe is out.  I feel bad for Joe but this changes everything.  I had a really good plan but now that everything is ruined, I don’t know what the hell is going to happen.  Anything is possible.”

It’s rare that someone other than Jeff has the final word in an episode.  What has this world come to?  Could anyone but the winner upstage our host?

Since we didn’t have a Tribal Council, I think the Next Time on Survivor takes more importance.  Jeff is selling us the story of each member of the Final Four:

JP: Next time on Survivor, after 35 of the toughest days in Survivor history, we are down to four, and with alliances up in the air, it is anybody’s game to win.

Tai (talking to Aubry): I realized last night, all the game became individual.

JP: Aubry has lost her closest ally for the second time this season…

Tai: It’s sad that Joe left.

Aubry (solo): With Joe gone, I don’t have many options.

JP: …and must scramble to find a new one.

Aubry (talking to Tai): The best move for your game would be to stick with me.

Aubry (solo): I played this game making hard decisions. I’m not going to throw it all on an emotional decision at the eleventh hour.

JP: Michele has played a game centered around loyalty.

Michele (talking to Cydney): Your name’s not getting written down by me.

JP: …but now struggles to find someone she can trust.

Michele: If Tai wins, I feel like I’m screwed.

JP: She will have to fight her way to the end.

Michele (solo): I’ve been on thin ice but I will fight as hard as I can until my torch is snuffed.

JP: Cydney is playing with fire with competing alliances.

Michele (talking to Cydney): Aubry definitely wants to go to the end with you.

Cydney: But I’m tight with you too, though.

JP: Will they carry her to the end or blow up in her face?

Cydney (solo): There’s definitely a trick to being in the middle. You have to play the game and not let the game play you, especially at the end, that’s the most important part.

JP: Tai is without an advantage or an idol. For the first time in the game, he is vulnerable.

Tai (talking to Aubry): I’m at the bottom, right? You girls all get together.

JP: Without a solid alliance Tai may have to draw on new resources.

Tai (solo): Every single decision I go with my heart, but I have to look at the bigger picture, because ultimately, I want a million dollars at any cost.

JP: It all comes to a dramatic conclusion as these four battle it out for the title of Sole Survivor.

The Story

The last four players each have an interesting story:  Aubry is on a roller coaster ride trying to make the right decisions, Michele is using her social game to stay safe, Cydney is always alert and she is trying to downplay her game while Tai is emotionally strung out.  However, Jeff’s choice of words during the finale’s preview changes our perception of those stories.  According to him, it’s Cydney who is being carried by her allies while Michele is the one fighting her way to the end.

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If we add these words to the images of Tai struggling under a net and Cydney taking a hard fall, I think it’s obvious that Michele will be in the Final 2 while Cydney will see her allies vote her out and Tai will not find the necessary resources.

The Characters

Tai: He showed us that this game can be hard even cruel at times and Tai doesn’t look equipped to handle its rigors. Despite being a sympathetic guy, his atrocious performance in multiple Tribal Councils would make it hard for him to earn the jury’s votes.  Will he even get the chance to present his case?  In a Final 3, a pair could risk sitting next to him but he has shown great resources in some challenges so it would be safer to vote him out before a Final 3 immunity challenge if you don’t want him to steal your stump.

Cydney:  Like Aubry said during the reward, Cydney is a big threat to win and while both Aubry and Michele have considered taking her to the end, it would be dangerous to do so.  She and Aubry have worked well together and they have been the ones making all the big moves this season so either would make a great winner.  However, Cydney’s story is very thin when compared to Aubry’s.  She had her own struggles with the conditions in that horrific challenge for nothing but even that scene was stolen by Jason who showed his devotion by tending to her when the medical staff had a more urgent case.  After that, her character never really took center stage and she even looked mean-spirited when she turned on Jason and the boys only because she suspected they doubted her.

Michele: Her story has emerged in the last three episodes in much the same way it did for Natalie Anderson but her game doesn’t have the same impact as the San Juan del Sur’s winner.  Natalie made some game changing moves to earn her spot in the Final 3 while Michele has been lucky to see the other women’s decision play in her favor.  Despite that, we constantly hear her talk about the need to make that big move so how will she present her case to the jury?   We even heard Joe say that just being social won’t get you anything.  Michele is in need of a move to present to the jury and time is running out.  Sophie greatly impressed the jury when she walked into Tribal Council with the immunity necklace at Final 4 and promptly eliminated Oscar but Michele winning Final 4 immunity and booting Tai wouldn’t really compare mostly because Tai doesn’t have Ozzy’s track record.

The main thing working for Michele is that she doesn’t really have blood on her hands.  She betrayed Nick and Julia but she was more or less forced to do so by her other allies.  Aubry once remarked that Julia could easily win the game because she was playing a savvy game between the two alliances so maybe the same will apply to Michele.  However, I feel Michele did it much less adroitly than the college student.  Julia made those steps, put one foot in front of the other to get in that strong position while Michele just went with the flow moving from one side to the other, ebbing and flowing like the tide mostly because she was always the last person in the alliance.  She could argue that it kept her safer than Julia when the winds turned but will that argument satisfy the jury?

Aubry:  Her constant questioning is very interesting because it shows the multiple layers of the game.  Everyone can be useful but everyone can, in turn, be the person that brings you down.  Joe was the rock solid foundation of Aubry’s game, the one person she could trust but now that he is gone we heard her already thinking of the next plan.  The placement of that confessional was very interesting because it gave her the last word of the episode.  In a way, her hesitations about her Final 3 partners remind me of Kim’s own questions regarding Sabrina and Chelsea.  Kim strongly considered voting out Sabrina because she was so nice and she considered going to the end with Alicia and Christina.  Aubry’s own doubts could just as well be exaggerated because if we are to believe Joe, she is the only one with a chance to win the game.

A Final 2 is always tricky, though, and it’s rare that you can do like Hatch and let the others make the final decision with the assurance that you will still win.  Aubry could be in that position but it will depend on her presentation to the jury.  I think she will want to win that challenge in order to make the decision once more.  That could easily backfire because it certainly will cost her one vote.  It’s hard to defeat someone with a good social game but this episode showed us that Aubry’s social game may be even better.  Michele had practically solidified a plan with Tai but it took only a few well -hosen words from Aubry to draw him back into the fold.

Neal, Joe, Nick, Jason, Scot, Tai and even Debbie at one point, had great things to say about Aubry so, with a good final presentation, she should get most, if not all, of those votes.

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