Survivor San Juan Del Sur

Lessons in Survivor history- When a number quits

As a fan of the game, I hate to see anybody quit, particularly when as far as I could see, there was very little reason for it. The episode built up the conflict between Jeremy and Josh, and just as it reached its climax, Julie quit, leaving us with an extremely unsatisfying ending. However, it does mean that both Josh and Jeremy, both of whom are very entertaining and interesting players, will live to see another week. We’ll get to see the conflict played out over six days instead of three, and so much can change in that amount of time. Josh was in the position of power this week, and would have been able to vote Jeremy out of the game had there been a Tribal (Jeff Probst’s EW interview confirms this), but Jon and Jaclyn, still the power couple in the game, now have another three days to decide where they are going to align themselves. And we have already seen Jon do a complete 180 on his original game plan, and align himself with Josh and the couples’ alliance. There’s no reason the game won’t completely change again.

jeremy2 Jeremy Collins[/caption]

It will be interesting to see how much this quit changes the game. Jeff Probst called the quit a ‘million dollar break’ for somebody, and I think it may be just that for Jeremy. Will the game change entirely in such a small space of time? Could losing one of his strongest numbers actually be a blessing in disguise for Jeremy? Well, this week, with a post-merge quitter, who had no chance of winning the game herself but was a strong number for those in her alliance, there was only one place we could go in Survivor history. This week’s lesson in Survivor history comes from season 21, Survivor: Nicaragua, and the player who eventually came in third, Matthew ‘Sash’ Lenahan.

Sash played in the season that has the most famous quits of Survivor history. On day 28, after a season full of miserable weather, both Naonka Mixon and Kelly Shinn quit the game at the same Tribal Council, leaving Sash without his closest allies. The castaways of Survivor: Nicaragua began the game divided into two tribes, according to their ages. Sash was on the younger La Flor tribe, where he quickly developed a close alliance with Naonka, Brenda Lowe and Kelly. They later accepted Chase Rice into the alliance. When the tribe swap happened, Sash was able to enter into alliances with most of the other people on his tribe, and created bonds with Marty Piombo and Jane Bright, with the alliance growing to include Holly Hoffman when the two tribes merged. Although Sash had many options open to him, he remained committed to his earliest alliance, working strategically with Brenda, and hoping to be able to take Kelly and Naonka, both of whom had no chance to win the game, right to the final three.

However, Brenda turned against Sash, and made a move to get him out. She apologised, but the damage was done, and Sash joined with the rest of the tribe in voting out his closest ally. Immediately after the Brenda vote, Kelly and Naonka began to break down, and decided to quit. Within the space of 24 hours, Sash had lost nearly his entire alliance, and had to rebuild his game completely. He was able to adjust his plans, and by following a number of different alliances, was able to make the final three, but his gameplay was not respected by the jury, and Sash received zero votes, and finished in third place. There is no doubt that the quits of Kelly and Naonka impacted his chances of winning the game. But how do you recover after your alliance member quits? And how can those allied with Julie, particularly Jeremy, move forward in the game successfully?

naonka-kelly-survivor

Naonka and Purple Kelly

Up until day 28, Naonka had been playing an extremely erratic game, managing to keep herself in the majority alliances, and forming close bonds with tribe mates, while at the same time behaving in a way that ensured nobody would give her the million dollars. She famously buried the tribe’s food (and then forgot where she buried it) and was open about her dislike for the tribe members that she was not aligned with. Kelly had been playing a game that was much more like the game that Julie played in season 29. Kelly was in a tight alliance, but she made no key moves of her own, simply voting with Sash and Brenda at every opportunity. Her alliance didn’t consider her a threat, but they did consider her a trustworthy number, and that is exactly the way that Jeremy saw Julie. When counting his alliance members, Jeremy said “I have myself, Nat, Julie, always Julie. Julie’s just a number”. We hadn’t seen Julie make any strategic moves, and what we have seen of Julie in recent episodes is exactly what viewers saw of Kelly– she was struggling with the elements. Jeremy and Natalie are in the same position that Sash found himself in playing Survivor: Nicaragua: a key number in their alliance has quit, and now they have to reshape their games to see if they can replicate Sash’s feat, and make the Final Tribal Council, or even to go one better, and win the game.

After losing Brenda, Kelly and Naonka, Sash’s first priority was to make sure that his alliance with Chase was still solid. Unfortunately for Sash, Chase had made other bonds, which he made clear when he chose to go on reward with Holly and Jane rather than Sash. This meant that Sash was in the position of swing vote, and he made a conscious decision to stay with Chase. The two of them remained aligned throughout the remainder of the game. Although Naonka and Kelly may have been Sash’s preferred option- he said, “I don’t trust Chase, Holly and Jane as much as I do Purple Kelly and Naonka”– he was quickly able to find himself other options by reaffirming other alliances that he had in the game.

Julie was one of Jeremy’s allies, but she was certainly not the most important. She was always going to vote whichever way Jeremy told her to, and was never going to be a threat to his end game. However, none of the alliance saw any use for Julie past the first post-merge vote. Missy was happy for her to quit after she had served her purpose, asking her “Can you wait just one more day?” Jeremy has plenty of allies left in the game, and his first priority needs to be reassuring his alliance that they are still strong, that they didn’t need Julie to have the majority. When they were told that there would be no Tribal Council, Josh knew that it wasn’t good for him. He had gathered his numbers, and was able to vote Jeremy out. The best thing for him, he said was that “It puts Jeremy and that alliance a little more at unease”. The job of Jeremy and Natalie needs to be to quell that uneasy feeling, especially any uneasiness that Jon and Jaclyn might be feeling, and to move forward with a strong group.

With this in mind, the people that need reassuring at the moment are Missy and Baylor, and Jon and Jaclyn. Missy was convinced that Julie was necessary to their success at the crucial post-merge Tribal Council, but more importantly, Baylor has connections to Josh, and she doesn’t want to vote Josh out. At the moment, she has demonstrated that she will do as Missy tells her to, but if she thinks that Jeremy’s alliance is a sinking ship, she may jump before it is too late.

Jon and Jaclyn, as the viewers know, had already jumped ship. They didn’t move to be with Josh because of any weaknesses in Jeremy’s alliance. They believed that Josh’s alliance was a safer place for a couple to be. Ironically, although Jeremy has been robbed of an alliance member, his game may have taken a huge step in the right direction. Jon didn’t like Julie. He was disgusted with her after discovering she had been hoarding trail mix, and said “She’s selfish. And she’s awful. And I just can’t trust someone in my alliance who’s stealing people’s food. It’s ridiculous.” There’s every chance that without Julie there, Jeremy, Natalie and their alliance look a lot more attractive to Jon. He doesn’t have to align himself with somebody that he doesn’t trust, and there is no longer a threatening singles’ alliance- Natalie and Jeremy are less threatening as a duo than they were with Julie’s vote up their sleeve. With 11 people left in the game, they need six to have a majority. We know they have four- themselves, Missy and Baylor. They need Jon and Jaclyn on their side, and I think they will find that it is a much easier task now than it was before Julie quit. Although she quit because she didn’t want them to be able to use her for their own purposes, ironically, I think she may have served their purposes much better this way than she could have done if she had remained in the game. If Jeremy and Natalie can reassure Jon and Jaclyn, they have an excellent chance of seizing control at the next Tribal Council.

When Kelly and Naonka left the game, the biggest impact to Sash was that not only did he lose numbers that would vote with him unquestioningly, but he also lost his ideal final three opponents. There was no doubt that in a final three of Kelly, Naonka and Sash, Sash would win in a landslide. If Sash was able to get them both through the next 11 days, he stood an excellent chance to win the million. Instead, he ended up at the Final Tribal Council with two players who could get more votes than Sash could. When Kelly and Naonka left the game, there weren’t enough ‘goats’ left to take to the end. As the most manipulative and strategic player in the game, Sash was always going to face a battle to get votes from the jury, but he did himself no favours by placing himself against Chase and Fabio. There were still potential goats out there- Dan Lembo was clearly not respected by the jury, with Brenda in particular frustrated that such a weak player was still left in the game- but Sash ultimately was in control of his own fate, and chose to go to the final three with Chase, and if Fabio had not won immunity, he would have chosen Holly as his second opponent.

Sash actually entered the Final Tribal thinking that he had a good chance of winning the game, as Fabio had clearly not been part of the big strategic moves of the season, and Chase was known for being extremely paranoid and flipping on alliances. This seemed a reasonable assumption, but the jury was far more bitter than Sash was anticipating. He was slammed at the Final Tribal Council, with Jane telling him “Somebody sure raised you good to be a New York City river rat. And as far as I’m concerned, you can go back to the New York City gutters and crawl back into the black hole that you came from”, and Dan Lembo saying “I think you’re a liar; I think you’re a phony. You said things to me and then you never lived up to them. I think you’re spineless. And I hate that smile, and I think if I were you, I’d go to the doctor tomorrow and get that eye fixed, so you stop doing the wink.” While there are rumours that Sash’s poor performance in the jury vote was due to his offering to pay off Jane’s mortgage for her, there is no doubt that he played an aggressive game, and the two people sitting with him played far better socially. Sash managed to regain control over his game after Kelly and Naonka quit, but he failed to reach the end of the game sitting with people that he could have beaten.

While I don’t believe most Survivor players can identify goats in the early game and carry them to the end, I do think that the merge is where good players should formulate a plan to get themselves to the end with people that will be disliked by the jury. Both Jeremy and Natalie need to start thinking about this. So far we have seen Jeremy being portrayed as the strategic nucleus of the alliance- and if this is what the players in the game are seeing, then Natalie may not be able to beat him in the end. Certainly, Josh sees Jeremy as the most strategic player in the game and has demonstrated respect for Jeremy’s game without even noticing the game that Natalie has been playing. Is this everyone’s perception? If it is, then Natalie will need to start thinking about her ideal Final Tribal Council scenario. Julie would have been a perfect goat to take to the end- she was seen as lazy and entitled; she lives a privileged life, and she had made no strategic moves. But in this season, there are plenty of beatable opponents left- Jeremy has the respect of Josh and Reed, and could feasibly beat nearly everyone in a jury vote. Natalie will need to separate herself from Jeremy at some point, and perhaps even separate herself from Missy, as Missy’s game has also gained some respect from Josh and Reed, who can see the influence that she wields. There’s also plenty of game left. Last season, Kass chose to flip on her alliance at the merge vote, and that move turned the jury against her, making her an attractive person to take to the end of the game. There’s plenty of time for other people to present themselves as beatable end game options.

After losing his main alliances, Sash saw himself as a free agent, and considered joining Fabio, Dan, and Benry in an all-male alliance, before rejoining with Chase, Holly and Jane. When given the chance to eliminate Dan, who was on the outside of the alliance, Sash instead took the chance to eliminate Jane. He was always in control of the vote, and he did this by keeping his options open with everybody.

Jeremy has burnt his bridges with Keith so badly that I can’t see him or Natalie being able to work with Keith or Wes. He seems to be completely intent on getting Josh out of the game, when the smarter move might be to eliminate another member of Josh’s alliance. Keith has an immunity idol, and if he is being observant, it would be easy to decide how to play that correctly. True, Keith’s lack of understanding of the game might mean that he holds on to that idol until he feels that he needs it himself, but Jeremy’s clear telegraphing of his intentions is dangerous, and he needs to be more flexible. Last season, Trish managed to get Kass to flip on her alliance and turn the game upside down, by asking her who she wanted out, and assuring her that they would vote as Kass wanted. It astounded me that neither side offered this deal to Jon and Jaclyn. Each alliance is insistent upon the immediate elimination of the biggest threat, when the smarter move is to wait just one vote. Make sure your alliance has control of the numbers, make sure Jon and Jaclyn are with you, and then eliminate your biggest competition. One thing that Sash did right was to play a very flexible game, and both Josh and Jeremy need to do the same.

The most ironic thing about Julie’s quit was the actual impact of it. Jeremy assumed that he needed her and she had “really messed up my plan”, when in fact her quit bought Jeremy three extra days to manoeuvre with, and hopefully flip the numbers back in his favour. Jeremy actually never needed Julie to begin with, and now his alliance doesn’t include the most disliked player in the game (I’d suspect that if Jon was asked who he wanted out, Julie would have been his answer if only because she hoarded the food) and is therefore a more attractive option for the swing votes. Sash was immediately devastated when his allies quit the game. He had lost numbers, and also the perfect Final Tribal Council opponents. He was able to turn this into a position of power, where he was able to become the swing vote that decided the course of the game, and got himself to the end with the opponents that he had chosen, Chase and Holly (Sash could not have foreseen Fabio’s immunity run). The biggest problem with Sash’s game was his lack of social ability. He assumed that the jury would respect the way he played, but for the most part, the jury voted for the person that they liked most, and the person that they liked most was not Sash. I don’t think Jeremy will have this problem. As Jeff Probst said, Julie’s quit may have been a million dollar decision for somebody. Josh may think that Jeremy is “living on borrowed time”, but it is entirely feasible that alliances will change in the next three days. Julie may have quit because she was angry that her alliance was only using her, but in quitting she actually saved her alliance. Now it is up to Jeremy and Natalie to take advantage of the time that Julie has bought them.

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