As can happen in the best of Survivor seasons, this was a slow episode with no major game developments and a predictable boot. I’m not sure I would call it boring, since we had a number of great character moments and camplife scenes. The monkey sex was an obvious highlight, but the surfing was a great touch too—how has it taken twenty-nine seasons since Dr Sean’s fishing pole for somebody to contrive a body board?
That said, there weren’t many shifts in dynamic, so this blog will mostly consist of updating my assessments from last week. I was lucky enough to be able to watch this episode at the live Know-It-Alls event, so after the main blog, I will give a brief recap of that evening from my perspective—if that’s what you’re reading this for, click to jump there.
White Collar – Monkey Sex: Pick a Side
At one point this episode, Shirin suggested to the rest of her tribe that they stop looking for the idol until they had found ‘the next clue.’ It’s an odd choice of wording that suggests somebody has found another clue to the idol. Entirely possible, since clues are typically hidden in rewards and White Collar had just won the fishing gear. However, it doesn’t appear that Joaquin and Tyler found that clue, Carolyn certainly wasn’t bothering with it and if Shirin had found it, would she really be advertising that fact?
Well, maybe she would, but it’s not completely clear if that’s how this idol hunt started. When Tyler described the event he made no reference to a clue being found, just somebody going off by the waterhole—presumably after So and Joaquin’s original hunting efforts, everybody knows that the idol was hidden somewhere around there. I bring this up because if there wasn’t a clue in the fishing gear, perhaps the show has another plan for giving clues out. (Look, it’s a slow week and I’m determined to speculate on something.)
Further to that, should Carolyn have sat in the shelter when the others were so obviously searching? To us, knowing she has the idol, it seems a dead giveaway, but I’m inclined to agree with Stephen’s assessment that older women are not known for hustling to find idols, so Carolyn’s non-participation would not raise the eyebrows that Tyler’s might. In Cagayan’s mad treasure hunt, Trish and Jefra were the only two players to stay at camp, and I understand that Trish often said she didn’t want the pressure of having an idol. (Does anybody have a citation for this? I’ve heard it reported, but I’ve never found the source.)
Certainly, So told us that Carolyn must have found the idol very quickly, because So never saw her looking for it. It’s not like Carolyn spent two days looking for the idol and then suddenly stopped. She has simply never been a contender for the idol game as far as her tribe is concerned—and that’s the ideal façade for an idol holder.
Last time, I wondered if Tyler and Carolyn would bring in Joaquin for a backup alliance of their own. It’s clear from the episode that Tyler has been working under some mandate of Joaquin going home next, though we don’t know if Max or Carolyn is the one laying down that law. But Joaquin is trying to make inroads with Tyler himself, by showing him his idol clue.So what do you want to do?[/caption]
After the first episode of the season, I worried that Tyler had missed his mark when he pitched to his tribe that he wanted to worry about the team not the strategy. If that was an initial mistake, it’s now come around to help him. He’s in everybody’s alliance, and anybody with information on the idol is sharing it with him. Tyler is, quite possibly, the most trusted person in this game, and there’s no better place to be.
Yet as good a position as Tyler is in, the really pivotal player is Carolyn. Will she side against Shirin? In episode, she had a negative confessional that had been chopped up and put together from various sources. (One such source being her deleted scene this week.) Clearly, she’s not sympathetic to Shirin’s antics, but at the same time, there’s nothing here that suggests this is a dealbreaker for Carolyn—in either alliance or friendship. We also don’t know Carolyn’s opinion of Joaquin. She might find him even more tiresome than Shirin.
At the end of the day, Carolyn’s a big enough fan of the show to know that annoying Shirin is safer to take to the end than trustworthy Tyler—those attributes are subjective, and the perception of these players may change come the merge, but for now that’s Carolyn’s reality. There’s also the fact that older women are consistently underrated on the show and Joaquin and Tyler might as well have “Alpha Male” tattooed on them. Other players will be readier to believe that Carolyn was influencing the hipster academic and the monkey voyeur.
On the flipside of that, should Tyler not consult Carolyn, how interested is Max in saving Shirin? These two both speak fondly of each other in confessional (Max here; Shirin here), but we haven’t seen the others worry about them as a pair, and it’s likely they’re taking pains not to seem close. The difference between Max and Shirin is that Max has a backup alliance with the men of his tribe. Tyler expects everybody to want to see Shirin’s back should they lose again. Would Max stick his neck out to correct him?
Essentially, I’m not sure if Shirin is in trouble or not, but Joaquin’s not giving anybody a reason to vote him off. Max, Carolyn, and Tyler are all trying to lay low at this early stage of the game. I would be fascinated to see how those three played it if a visit to Tribal Council forced them to pick a side.
Blue Collar – Mike Time
Blue Collar continues to implode in everything but challenges. Dan has made great strides in his social game, but he slipped back several paces when he decided to cast aspersions on Rodney’s mother in the name of humor. Last week, Rodney revealed that he enjoyed cracking jokes with Dan; this week Dan crossed a line.
At least Dan backed off. Mike not only crossed the line but is still heading south at full steam. Dan acknowledges that Rodney is not doing his share around camp, but he is clear that Mike is part of the problem. Nobody else even mentions Rodney’s laziness in their confessionals (though Lindsey explains he’s not feeling well), however Rodney, Sierra, Lindsey, and Kelly all make reference to ‘Mike time.’ Tribal consensus is against Mike, and now that they have avoided Tribal Council three times, it’s a much less risky move to vote him off—arguably, it makes sense to throw the last challenge before a prospective swap to get rid of him!
While the imminence of the tribe swap is dangerous for Mike, if Blue Collar do get there intact (and at this point, with them able to sit out the two weak links for any given challenge, the safe money is on that scenario), his prospects brighten. Remember when the others suspected him and Dan of taking the small bag and the idol clue? Come the swap, they’re almost certain to figure out the truth: either they will be on the Masaya beach seeing the size of Masaya’s bag, or they’ll be with Masaya people who will comment on the size of the larger bag.
Their guilt over doubting him won’t assuage their frustration with his aggressive work ethic, but the no-collars seem to be working hard as well, judging by their secret scenes over the past couple of weeks. It’s not clear how big their woodpile is, but I’m sure Mike would approve of their beansteamer and crab-roaster. Without somebody as aggressive as Rodney pushing back against ‘Mike Time’, will Mike find his niche? Or will his bossiness be too much on any tribe?
The reverse is true for Rodney who is so irritated by Mike that I wonder if he’ll get confrontational with anybody suggesting he do work around camp from now on. Rodney’s sitting pretty right now, but his assertion of his right to be lazy won’t go down well on a new tribe. If we learned one thing from this past episode, it’s that Rodney doesn’t know how to let things slide. The game starts getting dangerous for alpha males from the tribe swap on, and I don’t think Rodney can go under the radar.
The same is true for Lindsey who observed pre-game that she had a tendency to get ‘hangry’. After a week, it appears the lack of food is setting in and she’s not only yelling at Mike but slamming his religion. Her tribe might be behind her when she’s putting Mike in his place, but chances are good that some of them are religious too, and those remarks are less likely to go do down easily.
In Kelly’s online confessional, she lists her tribe and their negative qualities: Dan’s a hot mess, Rodney’s a mouth, Lindsey’s a brat, and Mike’s bossy. Sierra’s not included in that list, and we haven’t seen either her or Kelly making waves around camp. Yet Kelly is the only Blue Collar to talk about a tribe swap, and how their numbers won’t matter, because everybody’s going to build different alliances once they separate because they hate each other.
What Kelly doesn’t mention is that Escameca’s numerical advantage makes them a natural target for the other tribes. The surviving members of Nagarote and Masaya should band together to vote at least one Blue Collar out before the merge reunites them. That said, Kelly and Sierra know how to lie low, and of all the Blue Collars, those two are the only ones I’m confident will make the merge.
Ironically, if Kelly has already lost faith in her allies to stick together, she may be the one most likely to jump ship. We’ll see.
No Collar – Beach of the Damned
Last week, I thought there must be more to Will’s vote, because what we saw just didn’t add up. While this is often true in Survivor, it’s also often the case that it doesn’t add up because the player didn’t realize they had to solve more than the first problem. Will did not tip Jenn or Hali off to his vote against Vince, and Nina told us that Will tried to convince her he had voted for Jenn as planned. Clearly, Will did not think this one through.
Thus Will managed, with one vote, to sever his ties with everybody on his tribe. That’s a different kind of impressive, right there.
The short of it is that now Joe’s finally got rid of Nina, Will’s on the bottom—and despite my early predictions that No Collar would dominate the challenge, it seems likely they’ll lose again—not least because they’ve got Joe calling the shots.
Joe, it seems, is another Ozzy. He’s probably great in the individual challenges, but very hit or miss in the team ones, and yet he’s leading the tribe’s challenge strategy. Last week he didn’t want anybody else to make the shots he was choking on. This week, he was sending Nina away instead of letting her help plug holes. Nina said later that she should have ignored him and stayed with the tribe anyway, but that would have been risky too. No Collar still might have lost, and then Nina would have carried the blame for it. Sometimes, you can’t win.
In confessional, Joe acknowledged that he’s very competitive and can’t help that streak, though he doesn’t seem to realize that he should have more faith in his team-mates. Granted, Joe’s accustomed to playing alongside higher caliber athletes, but as I stated last week, he can’t win these challenges single-handedly. I’ll be very curious to see which role Joe takes in the blindfolded challenge—the physical but following role, or the caller who doesn’t need strength?
Joe is aware that his competitiveness could put a target on his back, but he seems unlikely to sandbag. I would be surprised if he made it past the merge episode without becoming the game’s number one target, and while allies like Hali and Jenn might protect him for a little longer, they’re not going to want to head into the finals with him.
Still, this tight-knit threesome should be set up very well through the tribe swap. They’re on the minority tribe, they’re beautiful, affable people, they’re hard workers, (Jenn being a possible exception here, but nobody on Nagarote seems to be lying around napping) and they’re assets in challenges. They should throw the challenge just to get rid of Will and make themselves even less threatening. I have full confidence in these three going their separate ways at the swap and then coming back together at the merge to quietly agree on their plan going forward.
One extra bonus for them is the season’s theme. As meaningless as the tribal divisions are, the cast have taken them on board to the point that it’s influencing their perception. Lindsey has a confessional where she accounts for the other tribe’s challenge losses, based on stereotype: the White Collars lost because they’re better at talking about work than doing it; the No Collars are so clueless they might not know they have lost yet.
Lindsey is, of course, playing for soundbites and camera time when she says this, but her perception is still very skewed from what we actually saw. Perception might be reality on Survivor, but it can also get you underestimating your opponents. If others are making Lindsey’s mistake, that means excellent things for the surviving No Collars. I don’t know if this can save Joe, but I expect Hali and Jenn to go deep into this game.
Conversely, the stereotypes are likely to work out badly for the White Collars. While I don’t think that Blue Collar and No Collar will deliberately align against them for no better reason than class warfare, it’s a lot harder to see which of Masaya can slip into a safe position after a tribe swap and beyond.
Far more exciting than the actual episode was watching it in a room with over two hundred other Survivor fans. Being the person responsible for the school run in our household, logistics have never allowed me to get to a Survivor event before (and it may never happen again), but my husband insisted I go and figured out a way to make it work. Thus, I was determined to have a good time if it killed me. Luckily, no such effort was needed!
One of the great things about the evening was the ratio of Survivors to fans. While all past players were in demand—at one point, I was asked if I was in line for Stephen Fishbach (I wasn’t)—nobody was so mobbed that you couldn’t exchange a few words and grab a picture with them, and the players were more than willing to have full-fledged conversations when possible.
Added to this was the sense of community. My main goal for the evening was to meet up with the people I already interacted with online—I went to the event with Lisa (infamous for her LEGO recaps and Hold Up Bro) and Amy (@spooloflies on Twitter), and I was looking forward to meeting people like RHAP contributors, Josh Wigler and Jessica Liese, and Reality TV Socialite, Laura Holzwasser.
But there was such a buzz in introducing myself to other fans and recognizing their names—or them recognizing mine. Shout out to Liz at our table who assured me she read the blog (If you are still reading at this point, you deserve a shout out), and was a conscientious photographer for anybody who needed it. Rob Has a Planet may be a tiny sliver of the total Survivor fandom, but it lends itself perfectly to small world encounters.
Edited highlights of the after-party:
- Shirin is still talking about monkey sex. CBS were unable to show the full encounter (the entire scene almost didn’t make it), but she gave us the inside scoop on all the monkey moves, and it was a delight. While her tribemates weren’t too enthusiastic about the event, it was a bonding moment for Shirin and the camera dudes. (N.B. She might not have actually used the phrase ‘camera dudes’ but it feels like she did.)
Josh Wigler gives the most fantastic hugs. His lovely wife, Emily, may not be a superfan, but she had the line of the night when she described herself as “the whore in church.” Josh and I spent an illogical amount of time discussing how we would fare on Survivor. (Spoiler alert: the two times out of ten we make it past the pre-merge stage, I cut his throat at the eleventh hour because he would slay everybody in Final Tribal Council.)
- Lisa had brought a bag of minifigs with her (including one of me!) and took the opportunity to introduce various Survivors to their minifigs. As soon as the Twinnies got hold of theirs, they started playing, making them yell “Twinnie!” at each other. Because LEGO doesn’t make enough brown heads and certainly not enough female brown heads, Lisa had drawn faces on the back of some werewolf heads. The Twinnies thought this was hysterical and said she could turn their heads to the werewolf side when they were angry. (To be fair, minifigs only have race for movie tie-ins, so this is more of a reflection on Hollywood than LEGO.)
- I had rashly promised my husband (a huge Spencer fan, as is my son) that if Spencer was there, I would get my picture taken with him. So I cornered Spencer, apologized for his treatment at the hands of my blog and congratulated him on Mr. Survivor. In retrospect, I’m not at all sure he knew who I was or what I was talking about, but he posed for the picture anyway.
- The lovely Mike Bloom is getting married this summer, so at one point in the evening, I decided to extol the clichés of marital bliss at him. Sorry, Mike.
- Towards the end of the evening, Rob and I watched Spencer dance with Natalie (after trying on her Miss Survivor crown) and speculated whether or not Rob would need a replacement guest for the podcast the next day. While Spencer didn’t quite make the recording as planned, he sounded pretty good on the podcast. Ladies and gentlemen, rest assured, the young lad has the stamina for whatever demands Mr Survivor may bring.
So cheers to Rob for creating this community. (I was one of the “Look what you did!” people over the course of the evening.) Cheers to Jessica Liese who organized the after-party, even if she did bail on it early—we exchanged greetings a few times, but one of my biggest regrets was not getting a proper conversation with her. And cheers to Josh Wigler, whose birthday meant we all got a free cupcake.
What more could you ask for from a solid night out?