SurvivorSurvivor Caramoan

Individual Games: Divorcing the Dominatrix on Survivor Caramoan

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I have to say that thus far on Survivor I am more interested in the Fans than the Favorites, because there’s been a greater dynamism in their tribe, with games going in different directions. However, even for Gota, the Tribal Council vote ended up being the obvious one, after all. I’m feeling a little frustrated with everybody’s game, for we’ve reached a state of inertia: the majority on both tribes is married to their alliance and wary of changing anything.

In all honesty, that’s probably not a bad tactic to take with a tribal swap so likely, but we’re probably a full episode away from that event, so at least one person needs to take action now. It’s not hugely clear who that is, of course, and at least one person who is taking action is making herself a target that way.

The Dominatrix and the Enforcer make it official

Last week, I was utterly bemused by Corinne’s attitude to the three outsiders and by her declaration that the best thing was for them to lose challenges so that the outsiders would be gone by the time of a tribal swap or merge. This week, Andrea reassured me with her concerns that Corinne was having ‘intense’ one on one conversations with everybody. To be fair, I think Corinne is just a fairly intense person anyway—it’s those pale eyes of hers—but I’m relieved to know that she is having conversations with everybody and forging some kind of bond. That’s precisely what she’s going to need in the event that a tribal swap separates her from her majority alliance. (Although Alicia in One World proved there’s a get-out clause in flipping temporarily to the other tribe, that was a unique case where she’d been able to form a prior bond with Colton.)

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Corinne’s biggest bond is with Malcolm.

Of course, Corinne’s biggest bond is with Malcolm, as the two members of Stealth R Us without a previous alliance to fall back on, although, honestly, I think their shared sense of humor had at least as much to do with it. They’re still good friends today, to the point that Corinne was compelled to tweet that they were not dating—I imagine Mark Burnett shedding a tear at the news, his dreams dashed for the Freberg / Kaplan dynasty of Reality TV Gold.

The other thing we learn is that our dominatrix was actually under strict instructions from Daddy to find the idol. So she dutifully went off hunting with Malcolm. (Is this the evolution of idol-hunting? Avoid suspicion, by going off in pairs to search?) She explains that she’s too much of a wuss to stick her hands into trees and under rocks, so she did what every good dominatrix should and got her toyboy to do it for her.

I have some sympathy for her squeamishness which reminds me fondly of Cirie’s aversion to leaves in Panama, yet I have this to say on the matter: “Man up, Corinne!” Due to that phobia, it’s Malcolm who holds the idol, not her, and that’s a vital distinction. After the show, she tweeted in response to a question, that she had genuinely believed it was “joint custody.” Malcolm on the other hand, in EW’s secret scene, is quite clear that it is his alone and he’s only playing along with the ‘joint custody’ thing.

For the record, I believe production are quite clear that they will only recognize one holder of the idol, so that thing is ‘legally’ Malcolm’s unless he expressly gives it to Corinne. He is under no obligation to play it when she wishes to do so. However, as I understand it, if she wants to go and dig it up from where it’s buried, then it’s finders keepers (though a shockingly bad move alliance-wise—we had this discussion last season about Pete and Abi).

The possible relevance here is that should Malcolm be shuffled off the beach in a swap while Corinne stays, she would be able to take possession of the idol. I consider it unlikely that Malcolm would be caught so off guard though—I fully expect that idol accompany him to every challenge. However, I wonder what would happen if Corinne insisted that they take turns digging it up and carrying it to challenge or Tribal Council? Because that’s as close as they’ll get to “joint custody.”

At any rate, Corinne is relieved that she knows precisely where it is and needn’t be paranoid about it, which is a fair point, and being allied with the idol rather than holding it herself never hurt Denise! Malcolm is relieved, because it’s bound him and Corinne as allies. According to Malcolm, their strategy is to keep it secret, and he’ll advise Corinne that if they reveal it to anybody later, that ally will just be suspicious that they weren’t told earlier. I should note that Survivor precedent does not support this theory, but I’m not surprised that Malcolm would like to have a go at keeping his secret this time around.

The really important thing about all this is that the Reynold and Malcolm parallels continue! I don’t care if it’s coincidence; if we don’t end up with a climactic showdown between these two, I shall feel cheated!

Malcolm felt that Corinne was somebody he could beat at the end, but he might have misjudged her, for of the two of them, she’s the one who’s on the others’ radar. More ironically, the one person who is having second thoughts about the Stealth R Us alliance is the one who can least afford to make a move: Andrea. Last week, Andrea was paranoid about her name coming up and I fully expected her to settle under the radar for a little while. However, this week, she decided she needed to put a plan in place for blindsiding Corinne should they lose the immunity challenge.

Before we get into her methods here, let’s analyze the goal. Andrea doesn’t like how Corinne’s talking to everybody, building relationships and essentially strengthening her own position to pull a coup further in the game. Backstabbing somebody before they backstab you is, of course, one of the BR rules and a vital tactic in Survivor.

But when exactly does Andrea expect Corinne to make her move? Stealth R Us have presumably made a final six agreement, though any player worth their salt will be expecting a power struggle before that, say final nine or final seven. In that case, taking out Corinne now is far too early. They’re destabilizing their alliance in advance of a swap they’re openly anticipating. If Andrea’s worried that Corinne’s getting too cozy with one of the outsiders, vote off that outsider! Corinne is very unlikely to flip before the merge, an outsider might.

Obviously, it never hurts to raise your concern with people you trust. We’re not sure who Corinne’s been having intense conversations with aside from Malcolm, but Andrea felt safe to raise her suspicions with Phillip and Cochran. Cochran, once alerted, will presumably pass a warning along to Dawn and keep closer tabs on her. And reaching out to an outsider isn’t a bad idea—weaken Corinne’s bargaining position by giving the outsiders other options, even if it’s just false hope.

I will applaud Andrea for having the foresight to prepare her plan before they lost the immunity challenge, even if I disagree with the plan itself. A prepared plan is better than one scrambled together at the last minute. I am not so sure about her choice of collaborators…

Step Away from the Loose Cannon

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Making sure her plan to blindside Corinne stays ready.

Andrea’s webclip this week is set after the immunity challenge, and she is concerned (0:50) that she’s now got her work cut out for her to make sure her plan to blindside Corinne stays ready for a Tribal Council visit over the next few days without anybody spilling the beans. Which is precisely why she should never have told Brandon! Even before they won the challenge, the moment she started telling Brandon the plan, my husband and I were demanding of the screen: “What are you thinking? Brandon can’t keep a secret!”

Brandon then went straight into a rampantly paranoid confessional, which rather confirmed our fears. Even if he wasn’t a wildcard, he doesn’t trust Andrea and that makes him untrustworthy. Andrea’s going to need to watch her step around him, otherwise he’s going to go straight to Corinne with the goal of getting Andrea out.

And this is the big problem Andrea has, because I don’t see any way she can allay Brandon’s fears. She was wary of him from the outset because of his history with pretty girls, yet when she was talking to him, she had her head rested adorably on her arms and those big eyes were disarmingly wide. It was probably entirely unconscious on her part, but it was striking that her innocent look did not match the cut-throat words, and that’s only going to make her more suspicious in Brandon’s eyes.

So why did she pick on Brandon of all people? Why not Erik, who would seem a far more malleable and discreet player? Perhaps there’s some bad blood somewhere between Brandon and Corinne that we’re not aware of. Perhaps it’s as simple as his connection with Dawn and Cochran, who are already in the alliance. The big danger of that, as was observed on the Know It Alls recap is that surely Brandon will also be more likely to side with them when it comes down to final six. Does Andrea have some reason to believe those three won’t make a finals deal and turn on her at the endgame?

There are a lot of questions here, which we can’t really answer, but ultimately, it’s hard to believe that Brandon would really be a more desirable ally than Corinne. They already have Phillip to worry about, they don’t need a second wildcard in the alliance. If they are serious about bringing Brandon on board, they should probably consider the “Only tell him the plan ten minutes before Tribal Council” strategy.

It might of course be that telling Brandon was Cochran’s idea, since he was one of the people Andrea confided in. For the second time now, we’ve seen Cochran escorting Brandon to a meeting with the higher ups of Stealth R Us, nodding and smiling along with what they’re saying, though speaking little himself. Clearly, Cochran is wanting to keep his options open with Brandon, which brings us right back to Dawn’s pre-game concern that those two were very, very close.

In fact, I speculated in the first episode that the main reason Dawn wanted to go with Stealth R Us was to separate Cochran from Brandon. I could be wrong, and she might be in approval of a South Pacific final three, but it’s always very risky to be the third wheel in a final three deal, especially when you’ve got a reputation as the last person anybody should take to the finals. We didn’t see Dawn’s opinion of the collusion with Brandon, and I have to wonder how much she knows about it.

Thou Shalt Not Scramble

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He’s not actively making moves, but he’s in on everything.

If he’s actively deceiving Dawn, then Cochran’s playing a dangerous game, but he talked pre-game about trying to play more openly, to let everybody know he’s allied with everybody else and let them use him to feed information. I’m still not sure how open he’s being with Dawn, but I would say that his tactic is paying off in dividends in these early stages. He’s not actively making moves, but he’s in on everything, observing, acting as a sounding board and arranging strategy conversations between ostensible rivals.

In this, I think Cochran has found his social groove. He doesn’t and will never have the ready charisma of so many great Survivor players, but with the benefit of confidence he can make use of his unobtrusive presence. Also, from the limited material we have, he’s got a better grip of when and when not to speak up. When Francesca raised Corinne’s name for the boot, he gently rebuffed the idea. With Andrea, he agreed with everything she said.

Rob’s rightly observed on the podcasts this week that we’ve never seen Cochran make a big move, and it remains to be seen if he will ever have the courage to step up and push the pawns about the board (though if he and Dawn remain a mutually supportive pair, they will probably be able to psych each other up for it). What is certain is that he’s going to have an awful lot of information at his disposal—any move he does make should certainly be a well-planned one.

There’s one other Bikal who’s doing a tremendous job of playing under the radar, and that’s Brenda. In a season where the women are emerging as the dominant players and taking the targets on their backs, we predicted that Brenda would have the biggest target of all. Yet so far as we can tell, nobody is worrying about her!

And the reason? She’s not scrambling. As much as this strategy has been decried, I think in this season, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. Corinne has been targeted for having intense conversations with everybody. Brenda’s keeping to herself and being available as needed. Andrea’s mistrusted for her position of power but won’t relinquish the reins, Brenda’s accepted that she’s out of the loop and has only an idea of what’s going on.

It seems a ridiculous strategy, and she admits that it’s very different from what she was used to last time, but I think this is the exact situation which calls for it. She’s cast herself ostensibly adrift but claims she has several people who trust her; she is presenting herself as their option, should they need one. I actually have a lot of respect for her flexibility and her nerve—sometimes playing the reactive game requires a far cooler head than the proactive one.

While Brenda has my full admiration this week, I’m not quite ready to call her safe. She thinks the target will be on Brandon and Erik’s back before hers (0:45), and there’s nothing to prove otherwise, but equally, we haven’t seen Stealth R Us discuss the pecking order of the three outsiders. While she thinks she has an idea of what’s going on, we haven’t heard what that idea is, so we can’t confirm.

Still, Brenda stands an excellent chance now of surviving until a tribal swap (I’m working on an assumption that they’ll have one in episode five, as sixteen seems the most logical number for it), and if she does make a swap, that will instantly increase her options. My guess is actually that in this scenario, she’ll stick with the Favorites against the Fans, using the opportunity to wriggle into the split Stealth R Us, looking to set up a power shift for the post-merge game. After the problems she had in her last season, going into the merge as a subordinate might be the best thing for her.

If she pulls this off, more power to her. Either way, for the first time in the game, I actually have hope for Brenda… now watch her get voted off next episode.

I’m going to mention Erik just to say that there’s nothing on him this week. Not even a webclip! However, we do know from last week that he wants to get Andrea out, so we’ll assume that should Brandon decide that Andrea is public enemy number one, Erik will be an obvious confidante—and he might spill the beans to Corinne and/or Malcolm if Brandon doesn’t.

Gota’s Dominatrix

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Sherri’s fitness level helps too, and clearly she’s got the social skills to handle young people.

Surprisingly, the most dominant player on Gota isn’t getting targeted either—all the more unusual because it’s a woman. I can’t recall a prior time when a woman came out as a leader of her alliance this early without getting voted off, excepting seasons with tribes split by gender. Part of this is luck in the make-up of the tribe: Michael and Matt aren’t jostling for Alpha Male position, and Shamar is in self-imposed isolation. Reynold, the guy most likely to emerge as a Boston Rob, Yul or JT, lacks in-depth knowledge of the game, enabling her to turn the tribe against him, instead of the other way around.

Sherri’s fitness level helps too, and clearly she’s got the social skills to handle young people—turns out fast food franchising is one of the best Survivor training fields around. (Though I have to wonder how her present day staff reacted to being called snotty teenagers!) She was able to get rid of the one person on the tribe who mistrusted her in Allie, which also robbed Reynold of his key to success.

One of the things that I’ve noticed about Reynold is that while he’s playing an utterly unsuccessful game, most of us at RHAW like him. Even Josh, an early doubter, has been won over. Most likely it’s because all the ingredients of a great Survivor player are there, charming, smart, athletic, plus he seems like a genuinely nice guy to boot… He’s just lacking any long-term familiarity with Survivor and seems to be operating under a misguided sense of fair play and wishful thinking.

On the Know-it-alls podcast, Rob speculated that he’d be a much better player if Shamar wasn’t around, but I disagree. I think Sherri’s the fly in his ointment. If it wasn’t for her, the majority of the tribe would probably have rallied against Shamar and could even have been the stronger for it. Perhaps Michael might have felt it was short-sighted, but I don’t think he’d have been anxious to rock the boat. Laura might have disliked Reynold from the outset, but without Sherri’s support and motivation, there’s a good chance she’d have stuck with Allie and looked forward to backstabbing Reynold in the future.

It’s all a big what if, but Reynold’s naïve enough, in Survivor terms, to give everybody the confidence that they can overthrow him post-merge, while benefiting from his skills in the tribal stage. Add in a Survivor-savvy partner in Allie, and we could have had a really dominant pair running the game at least through the merge. Their social mistakes earned them their defeat, but looking at the dynamics on previous tribes (South Pacific’s Savaii for example, last season’s Tandang or Redemption Island’s Ometepe), that could easily not have mattered. This season, they just ran up against an older, smarter player who wanted to neuter the Alpha Male straight off.

It’s odd, really, how little we know about Sherri’s game beyond wanting Shamar to be her Phillip. Clearly, she wants to rule from the front. She’s not really putting herself out there as the tribe leader, but she’s not letting somebody else be her figurehead either. She stamped out the Cool Kids alliance before it could get off the ground, so I’m guessing that she doesn’t want the buff, young guys getting a foothold. Malcolm should watch out if he ends up on the same tribe as her.

Unlike Reynold’s group, she seems to understand the value of making interpersonal relationships with several members of the tribe. Besides Shamar, she has obviously earned Laura’s trust, since she was the one Laura went to with her concerns about her challenge performance. She’s confident in talking strategy with Michael and Matt as well. It’s not clear if she’s bothering to make nice with the outsiders, but she says in her webclip that she doesn’t want to see anybody in the tribe go home.

Bomb Disposal

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Reynold admitted that he didn’t pay attention to what Shamar was yelling in the challenge.

I do agree with Rob and Stephen though that she needs to let Shamar go at this point. This week, Shamar nearly became the first person to quit Survivor because people were lying to him. The bleeding obvious aside, this contributes to the theory that social insecurities are at the root of Shamar’s problems. He’s on the defensive, certain that people are attacking him, and as a consequence, he’s blowing their words and actions out of all proportion.

Take for example the goggles incident. At the start of the challenge (when Shamar rejects Michael’s high-five) Shamar and Reynold each have a mask. Reynold explains that there were two masks available and he grabbed the first. He assumes that Shamar took the second—it might well be that Shamar never realized that Reynold had an entirely separate mask. By the time we get to the cage, Shamar no longer has his mask, and I don’t think we see anybody else with it, so my guess would be that he lost it in the water. Seeing Reynold wearing a pair of goggles, he jumped to the conclusion that they were his.

Reynold admitted that he didn’t pay attention to what Shamar was yelling in the challenge, because Shamar usually is yelling about something (which falls into the “It’s funny because it’s true” category). After the challenge, he attempted to mend some bridges by complimenting Shamar on hooking one of the rings, but Shamar didn’t let him finish before laying into him about stealing his goggles.

And this is why Shamar felt persecuted, probably still believes it was everybody else’s fault to this day, and, I suspect, frequently finds himself in situations where everybody else is being unfair to him.

Despite my belief that the tribe would be better off without Shamar, I was immensely frustrated to find Reynold still harping on about voting him off this past episode. I understand that he’s the most obvious person to rally the tribe against, but at some point he needs to realize that that plan isn’t working and to figure out who is responsible for keeping Shamar here and why.

I’ll extend that frustration to Michael as well. It seemed so obvious to me that the smart call for Michael, now that the Cool Kids were effectively nullified, was to look for a way to diminish the next biggest threat—my suggestion being to target Laura, taking out one of Sherri’s key allies and the tribe’s physically weakest link.

Laura’s been trying to hide that weakness, but there was no denying that she slowed them up in the challenge today. Although they recovered from that initial delay to take a lead, the extra minute or so she spent in the water was one less minute to try and catch the ring at the end. For the first time this week, the Fans weren’t brought down by their poor planning; they were finally working well as a team. This week, they were brought down by some bad luck in catching a ring, and because they could only go as fast as their slowest member: Laura.

Hope redeemed her alliance somewhat in her podcast (8:00) when she revealed that the Cool Kids had brought Laura’s name up to Matt and Michael, after the challenge owing to her poor performance. They followed that up by talking to Laura, playing on her paranoia to try and swing her over to their side in order to save herself.

In retrospect, Hope thought Laura had been lying to them when she said she’d vote with them, which seems to corroborate Stephen Fishbach’s theory that she was creating a diversion, to prevent them from messing around with the split vote. I’m not so sure this proves that Laura’s chain of thought was: “Oh, no, Shamar told them our plan! Let me think up a scheme to fool them again.” While I do think she was deliberately misleading them to cover up for Shamar’s indiscretion, it sounds like Reynold approached her, rather than the other way around—it’s not even certain if that conversation happened before or after Hope told Julia what Shamar had said.

Also we know that Laura was genuinely paranoid about her challenge performance, and I expect that she needed the reassurance from Sherri that she was going to be fine. If she was lying to Reynold, it was as much to stop him from voting for her with Michael and Matt as it was to stop the Cool Kids from messing around with the tie-breaker.

No Win Situation

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The Cool Kids swam alone?

I found the tie breaker very interesting, and not just because nobody lost their nerve and everybody voted as they were supposed to. They also managed to get their desired target out and keep their challenge strengths—but they did not succeed in flushing the idol.

Hope admitted that it was hard for her to watch the scene where Shamar revealed their plan, because had she kept quiet and done as he’d told her, she would have saved herself. While hindsight proved that to be the case, I won’t fault her for trying a different tack. It’s OK to backstab your ally to save yourself, but it’s even better to save both of you. She took the gamble of saving them both and it didn’t pay off. Three extra days could have made all the difference for Hope, but equally, it might just have been three extra days, and then Hope would have been left wondering “What if I told everybody Shamar had betrayed their trust?”

Of course, once Julia and Laura found out that Shamar had revealed the plan, they needn’t have taken any action at all. After all, the worst case scenario was that Hope wrote down Eddie’s name and they lost one of their strong guys. The Cool Kids could not affect the tie-breaker in a way that would backfire on the main alliance. The only disadvantage incurred by the revelation of the plan was that Reynold had no reason to play his idol. Fooling Reynold into thinking that they would vote for Shamar after all also kept the idol from being played.

Really, if they wanted to get that idol out, they should have used Matt. In Hope’s secret scene (1:20), Matt was swimming with the Cool Kids before the challenge. Hope pitched a plan where he would tell them whether the majority was voting for Eddie or herself. The idea was that Reynold would then give the target the idol. It’s pretty telling that none of the Cool Kids anticipated a split vote at that point (I bet Allie would have); could Matt have simply muttered “It’s Eddie,” to Reynold to achieve a perfect idol-flush?

Well, maybe, maybe not. Both Matt and Reynold were fairly non-committal to Hope’s plan, so Reynold might have guessed at a vote-split anyway. While I’m delighted to see that Matt’s keeping his connection to the Cool Kids open (it could serve him well in a tribal swap), there’s a good chance that he’s not telling Sherri’s group just how much the outsiders trust him. There’s a lot of suspicion that goes with being a double agent. Besides, if he misled them that badly, he would lose their trust. At this point, it does him absolutely no harm to have a backup plan that holds an idol.

It’s a moot point now anyway. If the Fans go back to tribal council again, they can easily split the vote between Reynold and Eddie, and this time Reynold will have to play his idol—unless he wants to push the boundaries of how indispensable he is to his tribe, and honestly, I think in the event of another split vote with no idol played, Gota should vote out Reynold with the idol in his pocket. Odds are high that they’ll be shuffled before Reynold can win their tribe immunity again.

Changing the Plan

All that said, if Gota do go back to Tribal Council next episode, they’re going to have to face some inconvenient truths. Reynold and Eddie aren’t losing challenges for them. Eddie might have been out-thrown by Brandon this week, but he kept steady as a rock under the pressure and continued throwing calmly, even as Bikal ran that final leg to victory. Reynold, obviously, has shown himself to be their star performer. If they want to improve their challenge performance, they need to look at Shamar who loses his temper at the wrong moment or at Laura who can’t keep up.

The other point of view is “Who will create fractures in the event of a tribal swap?” It’s easy to say that Reynold and Eddie will flip to the Favorites at the first opportunity, but I think there’s a good chance they won’t. For all Reynold’s outbursts against Shamar, his vision from the start seems to have been a united Fans tribe (with him at the helm, no doubt). While not all of the finer points of the game have sunk in for Reynold yet, I think he’s well aware of the importance of unity—we know he’s seen Tocantins.

If Reynold and Eddie are shuffled into a tribe without Shamar, I think they’ll stick by the Fans (especially if Matt’s on their tribe). If one or both are with Shamar, it becomes a little more complicated. I’m not sure if either of them (or Shamar) would deliberately flip to the Favorites, but I do think it’s likely that the Favorites could provoke them into turning on each other.

And, honestly, it’s Shamar I’d be the most wary of in that scenario. Sherri can control him, but what if he and Sherri are separated? Does anybody else have that level of confidence that their loose cannon would not flip to the Favorites on the pettiest of whims? Or rage quit…

Maybe Reynold and Eddie are right to stick to Shamar as their alternative target, since the wildcard is always going to provide the most reasons to be cut loose. On the other hand, it should be noted that in Hope’s pitch to Matt, she was not suggesting Shamar as a target, but Michael or Sherri. It looks like the Cool Kids have pegged those two as the most strategic threats after all.

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Matt was assuring them that he had Michael in his back pocket last episode

Considering, it seems odd that they would propose voting out his ally. Is Matt growing more distant from Michael, or is he just trying to play down their relationship now? Either way, Michael’s subtle gameplay isn’t fooling everybody—and without meaning to be unkind to the Cool Kids, if they’ve figured him out, Survivor experts like Sherri and Laura must have as well.

On the other hand, Michael’s playing along with his alliance now so I think, at worst, his name’s been filed away for an early blindside post-merge. Sherri’s target is more obvious, and it speaks well of her that nobody is trying to weaken her position yet. However, Matt (and maybe Michael too) needs to consider at some point whether the naïve Reynold and Eddie make more useful allies than Sherri.

Of course, the downside of voting off Sherri would be Shamar’s reaction afterwards. It’s not clear if the rest of the tribe are aware of how close he is to Sherri, but they must have realized that she has a better working relationship with him than most other people. In Shamar’s online confessional (1:55) this week, he says that only two people are looking out for him, and Sherri must be one of them.

Obviously, that begs the question: Who’s the other? None of the cool kids, he yelled at Matt and Julia (which rules out the faint possibility that the marine and the race car driver might be in a shelter-bound alliance), and snubbed Michael’s high-five. By process of elimination, it must be Laura who also said this episode that Shamar’s not fun anymore, introducing us to the wild concept that Shamar was fun at some point.

For managing to ingratiate herself with Shamar, Laura’s earned some pretty serious Survivor stripes. After Michael and Sherri, I think it’s safe to say that Laura’s the biggest strategist out there (I consider Matt to be more of a social player), and I thought she’d revealed herself last week when she was so outspoken about Reynold’s idol. However, this week, Hope described her (0:50) simply as “the nicest human being I’ve ever met” (Coming soon, Laura vs Dawn: the Nice-Off), and certainly the Cool Kids were more in favor of working with her than targeting her.

We also learned this week that Julia and Laura trust each other enough to discuss strategies outside of their alliance. So it seems that Laura has one-on-one connections with Sherri, Shamar and Julia, and is keeping the lines of communication open with her former allies, the Cool Kids. Not a bad start, especially since we haven’t seen anything to suggest she doesn’t also have a good relationship with Matt and Michael. Why isn’t this girl higher up on people’s radars?

Even if players don’t realize that she’s a strategic threat, she’s still a weak link in the challenges and an easy cut if anybody wants to weaken Sherri. However, at this point, players might prefer to weaken Sherri by taking out Shamar. If they have figured out Laura’s strategic game, voting off Shamar would be weakening both of them.

Laura herself might want to consider changing the target soon, rather than sitting complacently in Sherri’s shadow. We don’t know where she stands with Michael, but if he’s figured out how smart she is and she hasn’t got any particular bond with him, he’s a better boot for her than Reynold or Eddie. The same goes for Matt.

When all is said and done, I don’t think Michael, Sherri or Laura will be ready to take each other on before the merge. Right now, all three of them are likely anticipating a tribal swap, and it’s easier to sit tight and see how that pans out rather than rocking the boat now. Once the tribal swap happens, those three should be well aware that they need to keep the Fans united against the Favorites.

It would be interesting to see how long this inertia could hold if TPTB don’t do a tribal swap (“Psych!”).

That’s all from me, because I can’t take these people any more. I’m quitting the blog! No wait… Don’t try and talk me out of it… really…

OK, since you guys need me and my copious words of wisdom so much, I’ll heroically un-quit by episode five. However, there will be no Individual Games blog next week, since I’ll be on a family vacation. (Undertaking a nine hour drive each way with two small children definitely entitles me to Immunity from blogging for one episode). I’m confident the guys will keep up the speculation for me, and I’ll see you in two weeks!

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