Survivor Kaoh Rong

Episode 6 – Stepping up to the Plate

Previously on Survivor

After a surprise switch, Survivor: Kaôh Rông went from three tribes to two tribes and Julia was forced to go to Brawn beach alone to fend for herself until she could join the tribe that lost immunity.

01

Over at the new Chan Loh tribe, it was an even split and Debbie didn’t waste any time forming relationships.

Debbie was shown walking in the jungle with Cydney saying: “I want to see a woman win this.”

We also heard a repeat of her confessional where she said she was on the offense, not the defense.

At the new Gondol tribe, the switch left the Brains with the numbers and the Beauties with good reason to worry.

At the last immunity challenge, the new Gondol tribe lost.

Back in camp, the fate of the Beauty was left in the Brains’ hands.

Sensing trouble, Tai considered playing his idol.

Scot advised a very worried Tai to keep his idol.

At Tribal Council, Tai kept his idol and the Brains tribe found Anna to be their biggest threat.

As she left, the camera showed Peter and Tai smiling after Anna’s torch was snuffed. 

Bye Bye Anna! “Bye Bye, Anna!”[/caption]

The images we had of Julia in tears at Brawn Beach weren’t very promising.  It would have been better to see her attempting to make fire at least.  This episode would mark the beginning of her story and she could go far as part of a new women’s alliance now that she made the merger but there’s no attempt to present her as a player.

As for the other players, it’s worth noting that only Debbie was mentioned before Gondol’s scrambling scene.  Didn’t someone find an immunity idol in the previous episode?  Hearing Debbie expressing her desire to see a woman win for the second time sounds very promising for those women still left in the game.  Their numbers are dwindling so we aren’t hearing about that alliance as an immediate threat or even as a sort of scarecrow like it’s often been used in the past.  The women’s alliance in the Beauty tribe was a mirage that set up Tai’s story more than anything else.  Now that Anna is gone and Tai joined Julia in eliminating Peter, the women are using a much more quiet approach and they are driven by a strategist that has received much more attention from production.  It has a much better chance to succeed, especially considering that Jeff hasn’t used the words “women’s alliance” and the unappealing story lines that most men have received.    

Stepping up to the Plate

Gondol Night 13

Aubry, Joe and Peter all reassured Tai that they wanted to keep him.

Tai’s confessional: “At tribal, Anna was completely shocked and I couldn’t even look at her.  I feel bad but I’m glad that Scot told me: “Don’t play your idol.”  I didn’t want to show anybody my idol.  The more people know, the less power it has… I definitely need some luck.”

Tai’s words contradict what we saw during the recap:  Not only did he look at Anna but he was smiling.  Of course, that smile was meant to say goodbye and I’m not suggesting that Tai was happy to see Anna go but it reminds us that Tai had a moment of weakness.  He could have forced a tie vote and we know that Aubry would not have risked her game by picking rocks to save Peter.

Peter’s confessional: “…Everything is up in the air…In the old Brain tribe I was on the bottom rung….I might actually disband this Brains tribe.”

Peter talked to Tai about being on the bottom of the former Brains tribe because they voted out Liz.  He added that he’d like to vote out Joe who wasn’t helping them with anything.

In confessional, Peter said that Aubry and Joe pissed him off because they lied to him.  He said that it was time for him to make a move.

Yes, Peter would disband the Brains tribe by making his move all the way to Loser lodge.  We would witness quite a fitting end for such an arrogant playerWe would witness all his betrayals so he won’t even be able to say that Aubry made a wrong decision. 

Chan Loh Day 14

Day 17!

“Day 17!  Production can’t count”

It’s funny but Day 14 started with the image of Nick using a saw to mark the days on a branch.   Sheldor, a poster at RTVW with eagle eyes, noticed that image in the previews and noticed that Nick was marking the 17th day!  Since we knew before the episode aired, that this episode would be showing the events from day 14 to 16 then we knew that Nick would be safe until the next episode!  Luckily, the vote didn’t come down to him or someone else.

Nick’s confessional: “Although I’m happy at camp and smiling, what is going on inside is just thinking, non-stop.”

Round and Round we go!

“Round and Round We Go!”

(Just then we had an image of Michele using the coffee grinder, symbolizing that Nick’s thoughts were going around in circles like the instrument’s handle).  “It’s a nervous energy just like before you’re going to take the field as an athlete.  So from here on out, I will be bonding; making relationships.  It’s time to play:  Play or go home.”  We saw him going out on a walk with Debbie who told him she always steps up to the plate.  Nick’s confessional resumed: “Debbie is easy to read:  She just needs to talk; she needs to be heard, listened to.  She wants people to step up to the plate so I just have to remember to be that person for Debbie.  Whatever person she admires, which is herself– just be her.”

Debbie, (now described as a former model) gave us a confessional: “I think Nick looks like a Greek god…The angular features of his face make for great photography.  I know because I modeled on and off for years and years.  I bet anything he gets a real modeling contract.  But it’s going to have no effect on my strategy to make it to the merge and that is still my number one priority.”

For some reason, we heard Debbie say she could start a fire with one match.

Nick’s confessional: “Debbie might have a crush on me– she probably does.  Maybe she’s buttering me up, though.  Maybe she’s blowing smoke up my rear end but I doubt it.”

To show that was exactly what was happening, we saw Nick coming back into camp carrying tree mail and passing by the fire which was blowing smoke at him! 

Blowing Smoke!

“Blowing Smoke!”

Nick thinks he has a read on Debbie but, like others, he seriously underestimated her.  She’s still focused on the game and the immediate need to make the merger.  We now know she will indeed make it to the merger, so maybe that is all she gets, but her story is rich enough in personal development and strategic content to make us believe she will go much further than that.  

Neal reacted to the mail by saying that Scot would be shooting baskets for the other team.

The Reward Challenge clearly was designed to help the star basketball player get in the good graces of his teammates right when his strength was becoming a danger.  The Immunity Challenge would obviously also favor a tall man but Scot wouldn’t use his height to its full advantage until it was too late.  I mean, production isn’t even hiding the fact that they fix the game to favor certain individuals yet some viewers still dismiss any mention of it as conspiracy theories.

Debbie’s confessional: “Sure enough, we have a reward challenge which involves some form of basketball.  Our opponents have a professional basketball player,  but we have our own secret weapon: Adonis, aka Nick.”

Nick’s confessional: “I was a point guard in high school but going up against an NBA player, I’m not expected to win so I’m not feeling too much pressure but if we have a big lead going in, I better sink a couple.  I will not go down without a fight.”

Despite looking pretty bad during his practice session, Nick really stepped up to the plate in the challenge.

The Reward Challenge

We saw Michele’s disappointment when Jeff told Chan Loh that Anna had been voted out. 

"No Anna!"

“No Anna!”

When Julia was told she’d be replacing Anna, she hid her emotions behind a nice smile.

While Michele swam faster to the buoys than Aubry, we heard Jeff say that she couldn’t get it done when it came to untying the knots.   The former Brains tribe member once more did great under water, releasing the buoys first and giving Gondol a lead they would keep up to the time when Scot took the floor.  It took him a long time to get the range and Nick was outshooting him.  The high school point guard soon had an 8-6 lead (I use the word soon even if I have no real way of knowing the actual time involved.  Looking at the stands where the tribes placed the balls, we saw that there was a discontinuity in the numbers of ball in the racks.  In one shot, there were no balls left while, in the next, the top rack was fully stocked) but Scot’s smile when he sank his 7th ball told us he had found that elusive zone.

"In The Zone"

“In The Zone”

From there, maybe it was a question of handling the pressure better. Maybe it was a return to form or maybe even simply editing but Nick couldn’t get another one to drop while Scot couldn’t miss.

Michele immediately told her tribe that it was her fault, but Nick couldn’t shake it off.

As they left, Scot said: “Way to shoot, Nick.  You put the pressure on me.”

That little exchange could lead to friendship after the merge: two competitors showing respect for each other, but it could also tell everyone that Nick is extremely dangerous.  Let’s not forget that Nick said: Play or go home.  He could actually be going home just when he starts playing the game!

Michele’s confessional: “I screwed up the reward challenge. I failed our team and, you know, it’s nerve-wracking for me.  I just have to go back to camp, keep fighting and, hopefully, I can turn things around.”

Gondol Day 14

Julia’s confessional:  “Walking in to my old camp with a ton of food right after being alone was really kind of awesome and it was a good way to enter the tribe.  Entering on good vibes is definitely better than entering losing.  I was definitely trying to get a read on this tribe because it was: Crap, I’m next; I’m the next to go.There’s no question. They got Anna out and I have to start from scratch.”

Julia wants to hide her age but I wonder if the other players got suspicious when they noticed that alcohol wasn’t part of their bounty.

Peter had a confessional where he told us he was happy that Julia came in for Anna because she wasn’t conniving.

Julia and Peter went for a swim and they talked about the game.  Peter told her that Joe was pissing him off lately but that it was more important to get Aubry out because she was a big time player. Julia was down with the idea.

Julia’s confessional:  “It’s funny:  Peter immediately latched on to me and was like: “Let’s work together and get Aubry out.  I was like I’m totally on board with that. It sounds good.  As long as it’s not my name, I’ll go with it because I got to save myself.”

The sound effect heard right then was like a warning that Julia wasn’t on the right path.

Joe and Aubry were watching the pair.  Joe said that he didn’t understand Peter who was smart but really a dope.

Aubry’s confessional: “The Brains have control of this tribe right now and I prefer that we get out Julia first.  That’s the easy vote. The Brains keep the numbers but Peter decides to isolate with her and I’m a little suspicious about that.”  To Joe, Aubry said that Julia was miscalculating the status of what’s going on.  Aubry’s confessional continued: “Peter is a little desperate right now which makes me feel like I need to seriously consider whether now is the time for Peter to go.”

That told us about Julia’s ability to read the group…and Aubry’s indecision.  She would waver between the two options until the very last moment.

Chan Loh Day 14

Debbie told everyone that they made a noble effort and she gave the thumbs up to Nick who still said it was his fault.  Debbie interrupted him saying that he held his own and that he was amazing.  Neal added that they were behind so that Scot started ahead of him and finished ahead of him.

During that time, the camera was on Michele’s expression of defeat because the implication was clear:  It was her fault.

Neal added: “You did great,” and Debbie concurred.

Nick’s confessional: “I was angry with myself.  I should have won that.  Of course everybody goes: “No, No, No, don’t worry about that. You were going against an NBA player,” but I should have closed the deal.  On the other hand, Michele botched the very beginning.  She couldn’t untie the knots.”

To the group, Nick said: “Well, Anna’s gone.”

The smile that accompanied the remark was like sticking a banderilla in Michele’s back.

Michele’s confessional:  “Today was not the best day for my Survivor game.  A girl who was in my top two alliance got voted out.  Besides that, I just put my head on the chopping block by blowing that challenge and it freaking sucks.”

Michele may think this was a bad day for her game, but it was actually the best day for Michele’s edit!

Michele went for a walk in the ocean.  Debbie, who was sitting in the shallow water, observed Michele going much further out and said: “Don’t beat yourself up.”  To the group, Debbie added: “She might go drown herself.  You guys better keep an eye on her.”

Debbie smiled at her own remark and Cydney responded with laughter: “Damn, Debbie!”

Michele’s next interview: “Everything that’s been up to this point, it feels like it’s teetering, but I’m not one to give up.  It does seem like I have to start over so I’m going to try and use my social skills to build me back up.”

The confessional was accompanied by the slow chime of a single bell, an indication of the gravity of the moment for Michele.   We saw her rising from the ocean just as she said she wasn’t one to give up, clearly indicating that she wasn’t going drown in the ocean or the game.  The image of the centipede that followed was an indication that her rebuilding process won’t proceed very quickly.

"Going Down"

“Going Down”

 I wonder if Michele will even go in the right direction because the centipede was going down on the tree trunk! 

She talked to Debbie about needing to step up and she admitted she didn’t and that she was bummed about it.  Debbie empathized with her.

Michele’s confessional: “I like Debbie a lot.  She’s really quirky and I think she’s pretty honest and up front about what she thinks and what she respects so maybe Debbie’s my best option.”

I need to show Michele’s expressions, first when she talked with Debbie and, later, with Nick. 

9 expression

Those facial expressions tell us exactly how she felt about both and they are a great indicator of which side Michele will choose. 

Michele asked Debbie what she would do if they went to Tribal.

Debbie answered by saying she didn’t care about Jason all that much because he doesn’t do anything around camp.  She once more mentioned that she wanted to see a woman win even if they were outnumbered big time now.

The camera showed us Jason at that moment in his most familiar pose: Lying down in the shelter.

"Lazy"

“Lazy”

 That image was simply wonderful and I do believe it was worth a thousand words, but I’ll spare you about 800 of them!  First, showing us Jason’s laziness once more in a totally unnecessary context is extremely detrimental to his image and his story.  I’m not sure it completely rules him out but why include Debbie’s remark when the tribe wasn’t even going to Tribal Council?  Secondly, and more importantly, it showed us Debbie’s ability to use honesty to her own advantage and that Michele was wrong about the quirky woman being up front about what she thinks.  We know Debbie does want to eliminate Jason because she wants to see a woman win, but would she have voted him out right then?   Her alliance with Cydney makes that choice quite improbable.  Deception takes a lot of skills and Debbie has it in spades.  Finally, hearing Debbie mentioning once more that she wants to see a woman win despite their numbers right now makes me wonder if the carnage is over for the women.  I think Anna could very well have been the last woman eliminated before Final 5 or so.

Next, Michele told Nick that Debbie wanted them to work together to get Jason out.

Nick immediately interrupted her by saying they were not going that way because Debbie was only buttering her up. He added that Michele was definitely their target.  He wanted to stick with Brawn.

Michele’s confessional: “The way that Nick speaks to me is not in a way that I would ever tolerate a man speaking to me in my regular life.  I want to be like: Bro, I know.  But that’s his ego.”

Nick’s confessional: “I almost have to coach Michele in this game.  She’s young and she doesn’t really know how to manipulate so that’s going to be my job from here on out:  Making sure Michele is under my wing and making sure she says the right things and comes across the right way.”

Michele had another interview:  “Right now, what I am going to do is just let Nick baby me and make him believe that I need all the help that he can offer like an innocent little girl, like I’m stupid but actually, I’m a strong, independent woman and when it comes time to make a move then I will.  I don’t need to be carried, bro!”

If it’s his job to make sure Michele follows his lead then I think Nick will be out of a job shortly!  Not only did Michele show us that she can be manipulative enough to fool Nick who sees himself as the master manipulator but the editors chose the moment she mentioned being strong to show her carrying a much bigger load of firewood than Nick. 

"Feeling Stronger Every Day!"

“Feeling Stronger Every Day!”

The message was clear:  Michele is indeed a strong woman, bro!   Looking at the way Michele’s interviews sandwiched Nick’s and contradicted him I do believe that her move will include blindsiding him.

Gondol Day 16

Peter was telling Scot that he wanted Aubry out and that Joe should be next because he is bossy and eats all their food.

Joe’s confessional:  “Every time I turn around, there’s Peter walking away with those guys and it makes me nervous because Pete’s been after my butt from the get go.  The problem with Peter is; he plays both sides and he’s so transparent, you can see right through him.  Fortunately, I’m a retired FBI guy and I’m trained to deal with somebody like that.”

In the middle of that confessional, we heard Joe telling Aubry he would talk to Peter and he’d know if he was lying.

Joe asked Peter directly if he was trying to take him out.  Peter tried acting shocked.

He did look like a bad liar even to me!

In confessional, Peter admitted that he was playing hard and that it blew up in his face.

Joe’s confessional: “When you corner somebody like that and they don’t want to tell the truth, they start dancing which is what happened.  He’s like a cancer. I don’t know.  He’s just not trustworthy so I’m done with him and if we lose the next challenge we got to take him out.”

The Immunity Challenge

This one had two stages where a very tall man could help his team!  Seeing Gondol lose that challenge tells us that production help doesn’t always work!  Jeff said the challenge would come down to teamwork and the camera immediately turned to Joe and Peter. That was a clear hint as to which team didn’t have good teamwork.  However, it really came down to which tribe figured out first that the best tactic was to put their lightest person on the shoulders of their tallest man.   It’s weird that Gondol, the tribe with the mountain man, didn’t figure it out immediately.

"Where is Tai Putting his Hand?!"

“Where is Tai Putting his Hand?!”

Despite an early lead, Chan Loh, as expected, had problems pushing their cubes out of the net.  It was quite simple:  Jason had to jump each time to reach the cubes while Scot didn’t even have to stretch.

Chan Loh won when Debbie got on Nick’s shoulders.

Despite a head wound, Joe gave us another interview: “Keeping Peter, numbers-wise would make sense if he was a straight shooter, but you just don’t know what he’s going to do.  Before you get in a position where, Oh, my God! I’m in trouble: Pop! You take the trouble out.”

What happened to that great plan, Joe?  Did medical inject you with something that made you forget about it?  Indecisiveness is not good when it comes to Survivor editing.  They often use it to depict a poor player even if weighing options isn’t always a bad idea.

Gondol Day 16

Aubry had the first confessional after returning to camp: “Today, Peter had a strategy for how to stack the blocks but that didn’t work out so well and now we got to go to Tribal.  Even though I don’t trust him, I feel it’s not the right thing right now to get rid of Peter because if we do that, Tai, Scot and Julia will have the numbers: 3 – 2.  That really scares me.”

To Joe, Aubry said it had to be Julia or they’d be the next targets. She told him to talk to Peter and work it out as guys.

Joe’s confessional: “I’m sick of Peter but Aubry does make sense because if we vote him out, we are going to be down one and that’s really dangerous so we might have to keep him short-term even though he is a big pain in the butt.”

Joe went to make amends with Peter, saying he wanted to keep the team together.

Peter’s confessional told us he wanted to blindside either Aubry or Joe, but he felt that it was better to take out Julia.

The two guys agreed on Julia as their target.

To Scot, Peter said he was scratching his planned mutiny because Joe was on edge so they were voting Julia.

Scot’s confessional: “Peter is voting with the Brains so everything he told me is a lot of BS. He is a snake and I think everybody sees right through his veneer but they are still going to stick together.  That doesn’t give the rest of us a lot of options.”

Scot informed Tai and Julia about Peter’s decision.  Julia said that Joe and Aubry were stupid to keep Peter around.

Julia’s confessional: “I’m definitely concerned about Tribal tonight.  I know I’m on the chopping block, coming in late to the game.  So, if we don’t do something, I’m pretty much going home.”

Tai and Julia went to talk to Aubry.  Julia told her about Peter’s original plan.

Aubry’s interview: “I wasn’t surprised to hear that Peter was trying to blindside Joe but apparently he also threw me under the bus.  I was going by the mantra it’s better to stay with the devil you know but, at this point, Peter is such a wildcard.  Are we really going to keep someone who you are afraid is going to blindside you before you blindside them?”

Tai told Aubry they didn’t need Peter so he’d be happy to vote him out.  Aubry thanked him for the heads-up.

Tai’s confessional: “Aubry didn’t say much at all so I don’t know what she thinking, but they got the numbers so why wouldn’t they do anything else than the most obvious thing which is vote out Julia?”

To Scot, Tai said that Julia had to go because it would be a tie.

Scot’s reaction in confessional: “Our original plan was to convince Aubry to come with us and take out Peter but the reality is we don’t know what she is going to do so we may just have to vote out Julia and live to fight another day.”

Scot told Tai he had no affinity for Julia and he’d go with what Tai decided.

This whole exchange reflected very poorly on Tai and Scot’s tactical skills.  Why did they fold under the threat of the tie vote instead of using it to pressure Aubry?  If it had been me, I would have started by reassuring Aubry that she wouldn’t be the next to go, that she would be in the top three ahead of Julia and Joe if she voted with me.   If that didn’t convince her then you pull the threat of the rock because a tie was just as bad for her as it was for them.  Also, why didn’t anyone even consider the possibility of a merger coming up?  They were going down to 11 players so someone should have realized it was a very strong possibility, so it was the perfect time to ditch Peter. 

Aubry tried to get Joe to change his vote but Joe was adamant:  Aubry had decided to stay with Peter so she couldn’t change at the last minute.   He wondered if it was part of her neurosis.  Joe wasn’t switching; he was going with the plan.  He added: You start doing that last minute and you get yourself caught up.  I’m gonna vote Julia.”

Aubry in confessional: “I don’t know what’s going to happen and it puts me in a bad situation.  Do I stick with these Brains or do I flip, take out Peter and potentially lose Joe’s trust?  I have to make a decision and I feel that no matter what I do it’s going to blow back and bite me in the ass.”

Tribal Council

Julia told Jeff that the tribe was split so that it would be very interesting to see what happens.

Aubry agreed with our host that it gets very complex when you mix tribes and form new relationships.

Scot said the tribe was going through growing pains and that Julia picked up on that.

Peter conceded that he was the one to blame for the challenge loss.

Aubry told Jeff that Peter’s mistake during the challenge was a reason to eliminate him but they also saw other sides of Peter that made people question where he stood.

Julia was happy to hear Peter getting some heat but she told Jeff that Peter was the first to talk about the game with her.  Everyone else had something to say so it was hard for her to grasp what was actually happening.

Peter said the tribe was complex and that fissure could show up.

Why didn’t he simply agree with Jeff that they were a tight five?  It could have saved him because it was his remark that started the ball rolling.

Scot agreed that it was a juggling act because people make a decision, but ten minutes later they go off to talk about it again.  He added that it created distrust.

While Aubry was telling Jeff that she was trying to be logical, Tai turned to Scot and whispered: “Peter?”  Scot agreed they should go with their original plan.

When Joe told Jeff he didn’t know how the vote would go, we saw Aubry turning to Scot and quietly ask: “Her or Peter?”  Scot answered: “Peter”.

Jeff told Peter about all the talking going on but Peter said he couldn’t read lips.  He said the council was alive and dynamic making it very scary.

Turning to Julia and speaking so that everyone could hear, Scot said: “Julia: Original plan.”

While Jeff wanted to know what was happening, Joe told Aubry it still should be Julia.

Julia told Jeff they should vote.

Jeff noticed that Joe and Aubry were still talking, but he agreed: It was time to vote.

After some hesitation, we saw Aubry writing Julia’s name and putting the pen down but she kept the parchment in her hands and we didn’t see her putting it in the urn.

When Jeff went to tally the vote, Aubry didn’t look particularly sure or even happy about her decision.

"Why did I do that?"

“Why did I do that?”

The revelation of the final vote showed us that Aubry had crossed out Julia’s name and sealed Peter’s fate.

That was a fun way of presenting Aubry in the voting booth but it became evident she was changing her mind when we were allowed to see her hesitations.  I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to cut away from Aubry as soon as she wrote Julia’s name.  I know it would have been better if Jeff had turned her parchment first instead of saying “the 6th person voted out”.  A well placed silence is much more powerful than useless words… 

Jeff’s final words: “There was clearly a lot of uncertainty about tonight’s vote.  The only thing that matters to you guys is you survived and will live to see another day in which the uncertainty of this game will most certainly return.”

The Story

While I found the mention of a women’s alliance in the Beauty tribe to be simply a false trail, a mirage to make us fear that Tai could be voted out early, the new version led by Debbie offers much more promise mostly because it isn’t perceived as a women’s alliance yet and that they are not in a majority yet.  There was no need to include Debbie’s words at this stage of the game but we’ve heard her saying it three times now.  This episode was a constant reminder that the guys are either not aware of what’s going on around them or unable to change the course of events. With the exception of Tai, their portrayal is rather dismal: arrogance and cruelty seemingly their main traits.  But they do have all three idols…

The Characters

Nick: Having been relegated to relative anonymity up to now, I think it’s very troubling to see Nick’s story gain this much attention in one episode.  Not only did we hear many confessionals from him, but they were also really setting him up for a big blindside.  He said that Debbie was easy to read but I think she read him much more accurately.  He also said that he needed to coach Michele but she found someone with a much better game plan.  Nick’s downfall can’t be too far and it would be quite ironic to see him leave just when he is starting to play the game.  Play or Go Home? No, it would be Play AND Go Home!

Joe:  It was strange to see him go from one extreme to the other when it came to eliminating Peter.  He first wanted to get rid of the guy that was a pain in the butt then he stood up for him, preventing Aubry from changing their vote.  His sudden show of loyalty looked completely misplaced in this game especially since as viewers we knew exactly what Peter wanted to do.

Jason: We know that he must have been happy to see that Scot had survived Gondol’s vote.  That must have been quite a relief for the bounty hunter to know that his closest ally wasn’t sent packing.  He had also made some nice deals in the previous episode that could have been developed this week.  However, nothing seemed to matter to the overall story.  Not only was Jason’s point of view completely ignored in this episode but we heard that he still does nothing around camp, spending most of his days in the shelter.  Jason’s story depended heavily on his trips to Tribal Council.  In those, he was a force that drove the votes.  Now that his presence at Tribal Council is assured for as long as he remains in the game, we will likely see him as a danger; someone who could derail someone else’s game.  Despite some very interesting personal moments, he typifies the arrogance and cruelty that we’ve seen from the men this season.  With that in mind I don’t see Jason as this season’s Sole Survivor.

Scot:  In the recap, we only saw Scot’s utilitarian role.  Convincing Tai to keep his idol was apparently his only contribution to the story.  Nothing was said about his very endearing friendship with Tai and his integration in the tribe.  Jeff even ignored him when he said Gondol was dominated by the Brains tribe.  He said that the Beauties had reason to worry but what about Scot?   It seems his isolation would have been worth mentioning if he was going to outlast everyone.  Outside of the challenges, his only presence in the episode came when Gondol had to go to Tribal Council and it was disturbing to see that he was ready to concede victory to the former Brains tribe members even if the score was tied.  His words about living to fight another day would have been good if he had been thinking that other day was going to bring the merger, but we didn’t hear him saying anything about that.

Neal:  While he hasn’t shown arrogance on the same level as Peter and Nick, or cruelty like Jason and Scot, we’ve still heard some demeaning comments from Neal.  In fact, he was one of the first to underestimate the women and that has become the main theme of the season.  At the time, it could have been a way to present his unusual sense of humor but that would have required a more personal connection with the audience.  On the contrary, he hasn’t given us a confessional in two of the last three episodes and his successful search for the idol was completely ignored in the recap.  It appears that his camera presence, including his close-up following Darnell’s at the very start of the season were only to highlight the last man standing.  The key to those two close-ups could actually have been Debbie’s presence in the background: The first man to go, the last man to go, and the woman behind most of the exits.  I still see Neal as the only possible contender if a woman doesn’t win but, like Cydney during the scramble aboard the boat, I have to push him out of the way to leave room for the real contenders.

Tai:  He is the only man this season who hasn’t received a negative edit.  Tai has a personality that would shine in any season but his gentleness really stands out in the middle of so many macho guys.  It must also be noted that Tai was the first man to save a woman from the vote this season. Even that was done with gentleness as he only whispered Peter’s name to Scot in the middle of Tribal Council.   It was one word that started an avalanche that eventually buried the doctor.  (You could say that Alecia was saved when Darnell was voted out, but we heard Darnell was always the target, not Alecia)

Julia:  Some will say that Julia’s story is finally taking off now that Anna is gone but I think that would be an erroneous interpretation.  Her strong episode was simply due to her position in the game and now that she’s escaped immediate danger, she will probably fade in the background of the women players once more.  Even if she smiled her way in the tribe, and most likely in the heart of some viewers, we can’t ignore the fact that we saw and heard that she completely miscalculated the situation in the tribe when she bought Peter’s pitch.  We also heard her say: “…If we don’t do something, I’m pretty much going home” and yet we hardly saw her doing anything to save herself.  Yes, she told Aubry that Peter was gunning for her but her precarious position demanded much more than that.  Aubry needed reassurances herself if she was going to take that leap yet nothing was said to give her even a toehold in a new alliance.  Tribal Council seating seemed to tell us that Julia wasn’t important, that Julia was left on the far left in order to put Aubry, Scot and Tai in the center of things so that they could talk.

Cydney:  Her story was starting to gain some momentum but it stalled again in this episode.  Besides laughing at Debbie’s remark about Michele, we had nothing from Cydney.  I’m sure there are plenty of posters that think she could win but to the average viewers she is a nobody.

Aubry:  On the plus side, she was called a big time player by Peter but we saw that she was prevaricating on a level never matched in the series history.  Joe even told her that she had to stop flip-flopping neurotically.  Her approach to the vote will not gain respect from the other players.  Everyone will know that Aubry can’t make a decision on her own, at least not a quick and firm one!  The image we had of Aubry when she returned from the voting booth told everyone who saw it that Aubry wasn’t sure of herself so how will she be able to sell her game?

Michele:  This was a great episode for Michele…but more as a narrator than a key player.  She did have a great personal moment when she said: “So I’m going to try and use my social skills to build me back up” but her main role in the episode was to show us the difference between the male approach, as demonstrated by Nick, and Debbie’s.  While Nick infantilized Michele, Debbie talked to her as an equal and, more than that, she gave Michele hope.  We clearly saw Michele’s different reactions to these approaches. The hope that Michele received from Debbie must now be shared by many viewers because she is certainly an attractive candidate.  Production synchronized her rise from the ocean with her words about not giving up and the image of carrying a large pile of firewood with her words of being a strong woman.  Those are all good indicators that Michele will outlast most of the players left in the game but she isn’t the player of the season.

Debbie:  That title clearly belongs to Debbie.  She was the central figure in both of Chan Loh’s segments.  We first saw her talking with Nick in what appeared to be a very superficial talk but was actually quite the fencing match.  Nick probably thought he was the only one with a foil in hand but we know that Debbie is quite the skilled sabreuse and she successfully danced around him.  Nick mentioned that Debbie could be blowing smoke up his ass but he dismissed that idea much too quickly   She was also seen supporting him in his preparation to face the NBA champion.  Later, Debbie was there during Michele’s crisis.  Some will say that her words about Michele possibly drowning herself were offensive but the editors took care of that when they let us hear that Michele likes Debbie. Nick was right to say that Michele needs help in the game but there is no way she’d feel comfortable under his wing.  She is much more likely to decide she wants to fly in Debbie’s formation instead.  So, after outflanking Nick by reaching Jason first last week, Debbie stole Nick’s only possible ally in a very subtle way this week.  That’s two weeks in a row that we are presented with scenes that suggests she outwitted him.  This episode was mostly about stepping up to the plate and while Nick did an admirable job in challenging Scot, we saw that Debbie was the one to step up when it came time to complete the cube structure.   She’s stepped up in many different ways this season.

Nick was right to say that Michele needs help in the game but there is no way she’d feel comfortable under his wing.  She is much more likely to decide she wants to fly in Debbie’s formation instead.  So, after outflanking Nick by reaching Jason first last week, Debbie stole Nick’s only possible ally in a very subtle way this week.  That’s two weeks in a row that we are presented with scenes that suggest she outwitted him.  This episode was mostly about stepping up to the plate and while Nick did an admirable job in challenging Scot, we saw that Debbie was the one to step up when it came time to complete the cube structure.   She’s stepped up in many different ways this season.

There is always the danger of the heat and we’ve already seen that Debbie can get in trouble after a strenuous challenge so we have to consider her edit as being designed to salute a valiant soldier.  There is also the mention of the merge being her first priority which could be another danger sign.  Maybe she does get voted out after reaching that stage but I felt it was a way to show that Debbie had her priorities right.  Making the merge has been difficult for many women of her age but that stage usually offers them a respite.  Most use that time to simply coast to the end and they wind up in a position with nothing to show to the jury.  I don’t think Debbie will fall in that trap.  She will probably continue to manipulate everyone behind the scene and emerge as this season’s Sole Survivor.

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