SurvivorSurvivor Cagayan

Individual Games – Irony is a Conflict of Perception

After the chaos last week, it was something of a relief to have a… quieter week of Survivor, where we had time to see how the merged tribe has shaken out before another upheaval happens—and one surely will. There are plenty of strong and/or aggressive players left in the game, and all we lost this episode was a background character.

For all of Morgan’s contribution to the show, I feel like she was good casting for this season. You’d be hard put to find more of a beauty stereotype than Morgan and her remarks this episode. Still, she’s got youth on her side and a stunning natural beauty that still looked great after so many days on the show—as has Tasha. (Seriously, how are either of them getting more stunning with every episode?) Like Tasha, Morgan’s going to age well, so she’ll still have her beauty after she’s learned the life lessons to go with it.

Of course, with this cast, ‘quieter’ is all relative. This episode wasn’t exactly peaceful, and it certainly wasn’t dull!

Kass Comes to Order.

Kass Kass might have read Sarah correctly.[/caption]

I spent the entirety of last week trying to figure out potential reasons for Kass’ flip, so I was greatly relieved when she declared this episode that she flipped because she was on the bottom. (Tony also said Sarah tried to get her out at one point, though I’m not sure if this was what Sarah had told him or Kass.)

This was theory number three for those of you keeping track, and as I said last week, although Kass might have read Sarah correctly, she was probably wrong about the rest of her alliance. So it was a bad move, but Kass managed to do it without killing a puppy, and thus, even under the harsh Twitter penal code, she should avoid the death sentence.

Aparri’s reaction to Kass’ flip suggested that they had considered her to be in the core of their alliance (though Cochran and Penner possibly got even worse reactions and they were obvious outcasts), which lent an irony to Kass’ number one rule of Survivor: “You don’t cater to the person on the top, you wonder about the person on the bottom.”

Kass must have pegged Sarah as a dangerous player who had taken over their tribe. However, as far as Tasha and Co were concerned, Kass had been the person on top and Sarah was the risk, so they had done precisely the right thing.

This led to an irreconcilable conflict after Tribal Council, in which everybody tried to take the higher ground. There was no talk of vomiting, Spencer and Tasha congratulated their rivals on their play, Kass acknowledged their right to be mad at her, both sides gave each other space, and everybody tried really hard not to devolve into shouting. (Morgan’s spat with Kass was the sequel to this, where neither woman let the fight escalate, but equally, neither was willing to concede the last word.)

We learned quite a bit about Kass’ strategy here, specifically that she’s counting on this all blowing over, and a new betrayal coming along that will transfer people’s anger to somebody else. This actually does make a lot of sense, but I think Aras made an even better point on Know It Alls when he said that the first jurors set the tone of the jury house, and for Cagayan, those first jurors are hopping mad with Kass. Morgan’s Ponderosa clip supports Aras’ theory. When she and Sarah meet up, Sarah’s first question is about Kass and the two girls let off steam with some smacktalk on the lawyer.

The other fundamental flaw in Kass’ plan is that Aparri were never going to be able to realize where they had gone wrong, because they had never seen her as being at the bottom—though honestly, even if they had, precedent suggests that the majority usually does not forgive the flipper who put them in the minority. To quote Morgan at Ponderosa: “I hate her, I do not like her, and she pretty much ruined my chance of getting in the final six.” Players like Tasha, Sarah and Spencer who were plotting a course to victory aren’t going to be any more understanding.

However, the initial anger does pass, and it’s not out of the realms of possibility that Kass can repair her relationships with the others, but she’ll need to do it before they leave the game, and unless they can have a rational discussion where they each explain their point of view without getting defensive (which, frankly, I’m not counting on for either party) Aparri are never going to understand why Kass betrayed them.

Dialing down her profile is at least a step in the right direction, and I applaud Kass’ refusal to pick the boot for Solana. Last week, I suggested that she might want to flip again immediately, to derail everybody’s game and then pick up the pieces. However, opting to let somebody else be the bad guy until all the fuss over her move dies down is not a bad option, and showing herself to be malleable and submissive to her new Solana friends is definitely going to help them get comfortable with her.

Unfortunately for Kass, Tony wanted to vote for Morgan, mostly to duck the idol, in a rather lovely example of players learning game lessons on the fly. Morgan leaped to the conclusion that Kass had nominated her for the boot, because clearly Kass spends all her time hating Morgan. Even in her interview, after seeing the episode, Morgan felt that Tony had probably chosen her to keep Kass happy. This makes me think she’s held Kass responsible for her boot for the ten months or so since it happened, and can’t quite adjust to the fact that Kass had very little to do with it. (If anything, Kass seemed to be angling to vote for Spencer, before he won immunity/reconciled with her.)

Morgan’s secret scene highlights this again. We see Trish waiting until Morgan leaves the shelter before stealing her central, mosquito net spot for bedtime. Kass joins her, and when Trish remarks that Morgan’s pissed, Kass replies that she doesn’t give a damn, at which point Trish starts cracking jokes about queens not sleeping outside. When Morgan recounts this in confessional, she only talks about Kass making remarks. (Though she remembers to include Trish when commenting on their ages.) Trish was also the one picking on Morgan at Tribal Council, but Morgan’s focus stayed on Kass, because Kass was the one who betrayed them.

We might want to add to Aras’ theory that flipping at the merge doesn’t just set the tone for the jury, but also sets the tone for the merged tribe, and that tone is that Kass is the tribe’s scapegoat. Fair? No, but Survivor isn’t fair. I still think it’s wise to give your jurors some time to get over it, but the lesson to future players here is to wait until final nine or seven, not just to give yourself smaller numbers to manage, but to have earlier jurors who could care less about your betrayal.

(We’ll just say Dawn—backstabbing rather than flipping—is the exception that proves the rule.)

The thing that most perturbed me about Kass’ new plan of action was her continual, cheerful assertions that she is not in an alliance, she’s a free agent.

Tony said that she had told them she was with them, so he feels she is in an alliance, specifically his alliance. Trish also counts Kass in her alliance. And, of course, Kass followed their lead in the vote. So what does she mean by this?

I’m not going to speculate too hard, but Kass stated her lack of alliance at Tribal Council, she told Tony and Trish that she didn’t see herself as a flipper, and she told Spencer that she’s a free agent and will consider anything. We know that Kass likes to play, if not honestly, then candidly. Perhaps, like any good lawyer, she’s laying down her small print. She hasn’t made any promises to anybody, she’s made it clear that she will vote anybody out if it’s in her interests, and they cannot say she didn’t warn them. (NB Small print is not a great way to win friends.)

I don’t know what Trial by Ambush means in a legal setting, but it’s clear that Kass likes to go against the recommended course of action for something a little more exciting. It’s a bonkers game she’s playing, and I still don’t see that it will get her the win, but from my point of view, it’s a lot of fun to watch.

A Merged Tribe Divided

Despite the animosity towards Kass, Solarrion is remarkably civil, with most of the tribe working cordially together rather than the underdogs sulking or the majority cliquing. Nobody’s picking a fight, and nobody’s taking an overt leadership role.

In her description of her alliance, Trish said that she never felt anybody was telling her what to do and that nobody was trying to be the boss. When something needed to be decided, they came together, gave their different opinions and reached an agreement. This seems to fit in with what Jefra was trying to explain to Jeff, though a chain seems a dicey analogy.

Trish

Trish is in the best position.

Trish is in the best position of this alliance. She doesn’t seem to have any particular connection with Woo, but she’s responsible for pulling LJ, Tony and Jefra together, and now she’s added Kass to that. Morgan’s secret scene gives us a little insight as to these two oldest players’ relationship, with Trish lightheartedly promising to be Kass’ mentor in bitchiness.

When it comes to Kass flipping from a young alliance to pair off with a woman close to her own age, I’m getting déjà vu. It makes me wonder if half the problem with Kass’ social game is difficulty relating to young people? I’m not familiar with Kass’ average clientele demographic, but I’m guessing she doesn’t get many twenty-somethings hiring her. While Trish related to Jefra because her daughter was of a similar age, I believe Kass’ daughter is in pre-school. Tasha, on the other hand, as a single, professional woman who could pass for being ten years younger than she is, seems to have had no trouble relating to old or young players in this game, which might have contributed to Kass’ paranoia when their alliance expanded to include so many players in their twenties.

Solana skewed older. Only Trish is older than Kass, but Tony, two years younger, is also married with a daughter, and LJ has always come across as older than his years. Woo and Jefra are easy-going players who have deferred to their elders all game long. If nothing else, their work ethic is probably more in keeping with Kass’ expectations for the game.

Tasha’s group, the former Aparri, don’t seem to have done much in the way of scrambling, yet in Ponderosa, Morgan told Sarah that everybody had told her to be nicer to Kass because the cheerleader was the only thing keeping Kass from flipping back. We have already proven that Morgan is not the most reliable narrator, but I think we can safely assume that there was a joint attempt to reconcile there. When Spencer alerted his alliance to the idol-hunt, Kass, Morgan and Tasha were all in the shelter together.

I’m a little surprised at how much freedom Solana gave Kass. There were at least three occasions where she was alone with members of her old alliance this episode. Perhaps this is their demonstration of trust in her, but it’s a risk in itself.

The variable that most people were focused on was the idol. Tasha hoped that one of her allies would find a clue for it at the reward, Tony started looking for the idol itself before anybody could get back, Morgan said that she looked for the clue at the steakhouse, but it was Spencer who actually found it and embarked upon the rollercoaster of stress that it brought.

As aired in the episode, it seemed that Spencer was brutally obvious in his attempts to go idol hunting on the sly, though a couple of good points have since been brought to light. First Aras explained on Know It Alls that ‘a walk’ is the codeword production tells players to use when they’re off to give a confessional. Secondly, Jeff Pitman observed that Spencer was in his swimsuit to read the clue, but when he actually searched for it, he was wearing pants.

So the actual sequence of events went something like this: Spencer ducked out into the rain, perhaps under the cover of a call of nature, read the clue, returned to the shelter. Later on, when the rain started to pass, he put on his pants and shoes and left the camp, pretending he was going to a confessional. Woo followed him, using ninja skills that allowed him to use a red plaid shirt as jungle camouflage. (If Rob ever returns to the show, he should ask Woo for tips.)

While Spencer’s Studied Nonchalance face is almost as good as his endurance challenge face, his only real mistake was leaving the clue where it could so easily be found—and that might have worked in his favor after all. Woo had doubtless already guessed what he was up to, and would probably have started looking himself once Spencer had left. Most likely, he only picked up the pants to make sure that Spencer wasn’t going to come back for them and interrupt him.

Once the clue fell out, both men realized that their cover had been blown. If they had been slower to react, this might have resulted in a secret pact, but Woo grabbed the clue and bolted. (Conspiracy theory: does Woo have the fastest camera man covering him at all times, or were those chase scenes re-shot later?) At that point, the only thing either of them could do was grab reinforcements and try to use sheer numbers to find the idol.

Tony wasn’t at camp (what are the odds that he was out hunting for the idol himself?) so Woo went to LJ—which speaks well for LJ’s social game. We’ve not known much about Woo’s relationships, but apparently he’s comfortable with either of the older men. Spencer pulled Tasha and Morgan out of the shelter, Kass followed, and by the time everybody assembled at the river bank, Tony and Jeremiah had made it a four-a-side even match.

Of course, Solana had more manpower here: they should have had six searchers to Aparri’s four which would have put the odds in favor of the majority finding it. Yet Trish and Jefra elected to stay by the fire. Female players have a relatively poor track record when it comes to finding idols, and this episode gives some hints as to why.

Ladies of Survivor: step up your idol hunting game. Don’t send your alpha male off to find the idol for your alliance, don’t poke cautiously with a stick in lieu of getting your hands dirty (seriously, Kass, your cover story is farm girl!), and don’t think Malcolm has to share it with you just because you don’t want to stick your hands in nature’s crevices. (Yes, that was Caramoan, but it still bears repeating.)

At any rate, this left Kass to keep an eye on Spencer and since she’s a free agent, she was more interested in finding the idol for herself. I don’t really blame her for missing the few seconds that he took to put it in his pocket, but how was nobody suspicious when he stood up and walked away? In his later confessional, Spencer said Woo was right there too.

So after all that, Spencer got away with it, though it must have been a disappointment to learn that it was ‘only’ a normal idol. The unspecified super powers were doubtless what had everybody on edge during the hunt. However, Spencer has a key piece of information now that nobody else in the game has: there is more than one idol out there. (Technically, the others could deduce that from Jeff’s “Now is the time to play it,” line, but only the holder of the super idol will know the difference, and they might believe Jeff is just maintaining cover.)

Is a second normal idol (i.e. both idols from the previous Tribal Council) also hidden out there with the super idol? Personally, I am all for distracting the players with run of the mill immunity idols so that the super idol does not get found until final six or so, giving its holder only a couple of Tribal Councils to coast through.

For now though, Spencer has to decide his own policy with the idol. As he put it, he’s gone from the simple effort of scrambling to figuring out a way to scramble. His concern is that if they know he has an idol, he’ll just be the last person picked off from his four. (I.e. when they can safely split the vote.) He’s got to decide on whether to play to stay alive or to make a new dynamic in the game.

Judging from his Tribal Council speech, he’s planning on doing the latter, but nothing seems to have been put into action yet. So far as we know, he hasn’t told anybody of his find—Morgan was convinced that if anybody had it, it was one of the Solana guys. It might be worth Spencer pulling a Yul and showing the idol to Tasha and Jeremiah to keep them secure… showing it to Kass is dicier, because Kass and Spencer lack the mutual respect of Yul and Penner, and Kass will almost certainly going to prefer her own plan to anybody else’s.

This might be moot, since I don’t see how Spencer can get away without playing his idol next week, but if the game flips around again, he’s got a nice secret heading into the endgame. Either that or, since Tasha, Morgan and Jeremiah failed to play the idol despite being at risk, the Solana group comes to the conclusion that Spencer has it.

Should Spencer get some reliable intel, or if he, Tasha and Jeremiah manage to pull off the Three Amigos’ immunity hat-trick… what’s his move? He can’t get a majority by taking out one person, even if they simultaneously swing Kass.

In episode, Spencer suggested voting for Tony on the grounds that he was the most likely player to put his foot in it at Tribal Council, potentially inciting Kass to flip again. That wasn’t bad reasoning—it was a huge longshot, but it wasn’t as if they had a better plan. Tony already lost one ally with his “Top Five!” moment, and we know Kass likes to make a gut decision at Tribal Council.

However, it didn’t happen, and getting rid of Tony now probably wouldn’t change much. He’s the closest thing that alliance has to a leader, but he’s hardly the glue holding it all together.

Spencer and Tasha need to remove the lynchpin and that’s Trish. Trish is the bridge between the Brain, Brawn and Beauties on her tribe. With her gone, the majority falls into two separate dyads: LJ and Jefra; Woo and Tony. Kass might fancy herself as a swing vote between the two pairs, but having lost her closest friend, she might abandon the group altogether. Or perhaps one dyad would fear she would, and that’s all it would take.

Aparri are going to need a huge stroke of luck to be able to take out even one player of course. Fortunately for them, we’re at final nine. The final seven is the traditional power-struggle vote, but the final nine is often used by the players anticipating it—or those who have itchy trigger fingers.

Odds on a Power Struggle

I’m not sure if any of us really expect a pagonging this season. Let’s look at the majority alliance: all three of the men are major threats. LJ looks like he was assembled from prefabricated Survivor Winner parts. Tony could go either way—he seemed like a potential goat early on, but he’s generally very good when talking to people and is an acknowledged player. Woo has no case for the jury, but he’s always going to be considered a threat to win challenges (even if he was off his game this episode), and he’s insanely likeable. Don’t count him out.

LJ

LJ may need to make a move before Tony.

LJ, Tony, Trish and Kass are all savvy enough to be aware of this. I’m not normally an advocate for women’s alliances, but it’s easily something I could see happening here, with Trish marshalling Jefra and Kass to her own victory. She need not backstab anybody—either LJ or Tony is bound to make the first move.

If we do get a pagonging, Trish is in the best position, though making sure one of the men doesn’t win the last immunity could be dicey. Still, just going on her résumé, she has the best case of the game so far: singled out on the first day, pulled off a coup at the tribal swap and then flipped Kass to put her alliance in the majority at the merge. However, it’s tough to say what the in-game perception of her is compared to the men, who are all very charismatic.

But we’re not going to get a pagonging. This is Cagayan and we’ve yet to get through two consecutive episodes without a major power shift. LJ’s a patient guy, of course. He’ll probably wait until final seven to make a move. But Tony? Final nine could easily be the day that Tony gets tired of pagonging, even though they should probably take out at least one of the rival players (i.e. Spencer or Tasha) before turning on their own.

After this episode, I would logically assume that Kass would wait for somebody else to break before she stirred things up again. However, I’m not putting money on Kass’ patience either, not with her fondness for the pre-emptive strike. Remember how pleased she was that her new alliance had burned its idols? I don’t think she can exactly take credit for flushing them, but she did drop the not-so-subtle hint at the previous Tribal Council that any strong guys should be feeling nervous. If Kass has anything resembling a long term plan, it was safe to say she wasn’t expecting to include LJ and Tony in it.

Which isn’t to say that Kass is planning on taking goats to the end either. Honestly, I suspect Morgan was the only person Kass could have beaten, so barring a final two, she was doomed anyway, but Kass isn’t playing a game where she takes the goats to the end.

Partly this is because she can’t bank on winning final immunity, so, as Cirie pointed out in Exile Island, the goats could potentially steal her place in the finals (Cirie was anticipating a final two, so it was vital for her, but anybody who isn’t a challenge beast should be wary of the game’s obvious goats.)

Partly this is because Kass isn’t playing to be a goat and isn’t thinking that she’s going to be one of the least popular players come the end. Her intent is to build up a case for herself. She wants to sit at the end and tell the jurors that she got herself here. I wouldn’t be surprised if she puts together one hell of an argument for them… but it won’t matter.

Kass is used to juries who do not have preconceived notions and emotional investments. She might know, rationally, that the Survivor jury won’t be like that, but I don’t think she’s accepted that they won’t be swayed by logic—particularly when half of them know what she doesn’t: that she wasn’t on the bottom when she flipped.

If it’s anybody’s game at this point, then things have to look good for Tasha and LJ. I kind of wish we could see more of Tasha because I suspect she’s playing a bloody amazing social game—but as is often said, a good Survivor game is boring television. On our screens, Tasha is always serene (team challenges aside), smiling her congratulations to a rival even as she’s disappointed, and keeping her game on—she just doesn’t stand a chance against the shenanigans of this cast.

While I don’t think she’s been memorable enough to return, I hope casting will bring her back anyway. (Admittedly, I hope this about half the cast.) The African American female demographic is woefully under-represented when it comes to players rather than characters. Tasha’s a breath of fresh air in that regard, and for all her quietness, she’s easy to root for.

Tasha and LJ both seem to be trying for a Kim Spradlin game-style. Does everybody want to be best friends with these two? And if so, are either of them going to be allowed to the end?

Tony is as much of a loose cannon as Kass is, and Morgan described him as a little misogynistic in her interview. He’s very engaging, and his determination to play can’t be denied—he could triumph over a more subtle player just because of that. On the other hand, how seriously does this cast take him?

Remember Spencer’s tactic of voting for him in the hopes that he’d say something stupid? Aparri know full well that his ‘top five’ comment drove Sarah away from him. They know he made a play to target Jeremiah pre-merge and that failed. They know they foiled his idol play. Tony’s played hard, but he hasn’t actually scored any points off this jury. Yet if they’re rewarding effort, he beats anybody left in the game.

Spencer is a question mark, because he wants to do something and is never quite able to. Part of this is simply bad luck, but equally, his speech to Kass was a little lackluster. It worked far better as laying down a foundation for working together later on than to get her to flip there and then.

That in itself is great gameplay, particularly since he had the necklace so didn’t need immediate results. Survivor is won by such little moves, not the big splashy ones that Tony and Kass have been making. However, Spencer, superfan that he is, wants to make the big move. He said it in confessional, and he talked up that side of his game in a Tribal Council speech so stirring that it didn’t matter if it was a non-sequitur.

Tribal Council performance is vital at this stage, and Spencer, Tony and Kass are probably the best at it. (Or at least Kass’ comments would be if taken in a vacuum and not with the jurors silently disagreeing. Same might apply to Tony.) Trish might be in there too, since although she piled on jury-bound Morgan she was saying what everybody else was thinking. (Even Woo can’t say nice things about her.) Sandra has proven that the jury loves it when one player will step outside of the social game to put an unpopular player in their place.

Spencer

Strong Tribal Council speeches.

If Spencer simply endures his way to the end, depending on his opponents, he could win the game on the strength of his Tribal Council speeches—unless he lays it on too thick. (Statements like “I would rather risk going out now for a shot at winning than extend my stay in the game,” are a little disingenuous when you’re wearing the immunity necklace.) He could be accused of being all talk and no action… or his desire to put his money where his mouth is might cause him to do something rash.

That said, Spencer is probably in the same sweet spot as Trish, where he’s considered a player but not one of the most pressing threats. If he lasts to the point where the majority turn on each other, he can slide through the cracks for a few more votes, and there are plenty of players left in the game who he should beat easily.

Like Jefra or Jeremiah… These two aren’t playing to be the goat like Morgan was, but neither are they building a case for themselves at the end. They’re hanging in there, will no doubt be delighted if they get to the end, and probably believe that they have a shot at winning over the jury through whatever speech they dream up at that point.

Still, they’re not ruffling feathers, and Jefra seems to be regarded fondly by most players… if she ends up being the last player of her alliance, I could see her scoring votes, and even winning if her opponents are unpopular. Jeremiah does not seem to have the same bonds, but I could be wrong. That said, I’m willing to write off these two along with Kass as having a shot to win.

As for everybody else, if Cagayan continues true to form, Wednesday will probably throw the field wide open…

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