Survivor: Worlds Apart

Individual Games – Individual Truths

I’ve been predicting it’s going to happen for weeks now, so I was bound to be right eventually, but the players have finally realized that Tyler is a big threat and sent him home. This does, of course, fly in the face of what we have all been saying, that Dan is on the bottom and needs to flip to save himself. Thus, with some trepidation, I find myself considering a truly radical theory: What if Dan. Is. Not. Wrong?

Let’s not get carried away here. After all, Dan’s name got brought up. But Tyler’s was the one written down. Meanwhile, Rodney was tearing up the camp over Carolyn while trying to pull a Cirie and blindside the immune Mike… At one point or another in this episode, almost everybody was in contention for bottom of the totem pole.

This blog is called Individual Games, because my philosophy is that there are no masterminds. At any given moment in Survivor, three or four people think they’re running the game because it just so happens that their plans have coincided. Nobody sees themselves as a sheep; they’re “waiting to make their move.” Most finalists don’t get to the end because nobody could vote them off; they got to the end because everybody thought they could beat them.

As we often say, everybody is the hero of their own narrative; even we viewers reach different perceptions of what the ‘truth’ is. However, the purpose of this blog is to understand what the individual players perceive, which means there is more than one truth. Dan is both right and wrong—and his actual position in the tribe is probably changing on an hourly basis.

Flipping for the Win

Last week, when Sierra had a secret scene assuring Shirin that they would split the vote between Mike and Tyler, I wondered where that was coming from, since I didn’t believe Sierra would just make something up. Our only insight was Shirin telling Sierra she would go to the end with her and Carolyn. This episode, we also saw Sierra and Carolyn working together—and indeed, Carolyn was the one who took control of the split vote by setting up a “Guys vote Mike” rule.

I am not entirely sure why Tyler (or Dan) was willing to write Mike’s name down and trust that their name would not be the alternative, but that’s what happened. Tyler acknowledged that he would have revealed Carolyn’s idol at Tribal Council if he had suspected her betrayal. He also acknowledged that he was ready to turn on her, so based on results, she backstabbed him at exactly the right moment.

Holds ropes longer than allies. Holds ropes longer than allies.[/caption]

But unless Carolyn had an inkling of his betrayal, why do it? Why take out her closest ally with so much game left to play? The context for our speculation is that Carolyn has flipped just as much as Will has done. You can always rationalize her moves—betraying the White Collars at the swap let her fly under the radar at the merge; siding with the Blue Collars put her up against players who were easier to beat—but it’s equally possible that Carolyn is simply a restless player.

However, I said last week that it would be a good thing for Carolyn if Tyler went home now, and that remains true this week. They’re at a turning point in the game. The original minority alliance is on the jury so incoming jurors from this point will be lifting back the curtain on the majority’s gameplay.

Regrettably, Ponderosa has failed us when it comes to what Tyler said about the game and who the jury considers to be the frontrunner now. Nevertheless, at the very least, he must have mentioned that Carolyn has the other idol. Tyler has not rated Carolyn’s strategy highly in his interviews, but if the other jurors know that she was his closest ally and found an idol, she has to rise in their estimation to somebody who is actually playing the game on a strategic level. And that means they’re going to be watching her for the next few Tribal Councils, looking for what she’s doing in the game.

We always say that the winner is decided before Final Tribal Council; the players have to start winning over the jury now. Voting off Dan doesn’t get Carolyn that. Neither does voting off Rodney. Tyler was her best bet, and even if he doesn’t give her any respect and credit, he’ll acknowledge her ties to his own game, and he was the jury’s frontrunner (Mike aside.) She stands to inherit some of his gamestock.

When it comes to the beta partner in a tandem, there’s one very common jury question: “What move did you make on your own?” This is frequently an unanswerable question; the juror is only asking it because they are already convinced the player didn’t take the initiative at any point. Carolyn can lay claim to Max’s blindside, but generally speaking, when defending your case, you want to account for the post-merge game. If Carolyn took Tyler out at final four, the jury could still believe she rode his coattails to that point. Take him out at final seven, and she’s controlled her own endgame.

But there’s the rub… can she get to the end? We know she had a tight bond with Rodney, but that foundered this episode too. Aligning with Mike has all the same problems as aligning with Tyler—with the added complication that the jury thinks he’s a hero. Worryingly, Carolyn seems to think she can compete on an even footing with Mike. I don’t disagree with her assessment, but I can guarantee the jury won’t see it that way.

Still, Sierra’s reaction to Carolyn’s immunity win was genuine delight, so there’s a bond there. Carolyn shouldn’t trust her too far either, since Sierra has voted off plenty of people she liked in order to stick with people she can beat, but players are much less likely to view Sierra as a mastermind than Carolyn herself. Rodney’s so volatile, Carolyn may have faith she can win him back over, and Will has always talked about wanting to play with the grown-ups. Even Dan she can relate to on a level that others can’t, due to their age bracket and longstanding love of the game.

The pattern to Carolyn’s fickle gameplay is that she is always among friends. She may lose those friends, but when that happens, it’s the friends who find themselves in the minority—or on the wrong side of Jeff’s torch-snuffer. It’s difficult to assess her chances with the jury because I don’t think the jury cares for her particularly. If she does get to the end, she stands to become the latest woman over forty to be berated by the jury; we got a taste of that with Rodney this week who felt that her failure to give him her reward was disgracefully unmaternal.

Rodney always gets the chair because it's his birthday month, bro.

Rodney always gets the chair because it’s his birthday month, bro.

(An aside: that particular reward is a once in a lifetime experience that a million dollars can’t buy, but in a strict gameplay sense, would it have been smarter to preserve her alliance by giving it up? It’s possible, but the Know-It-Alls made an excellent point that people who give up rewards often become targeted for their saintly behavior. It’s also clear that nobody else was taking Rodney’s side and might have thought less of Carolyn if she had given way to him.)

I think Carolyn will be prepared for her jury and will answer back. What I’d like to see her do is to go to the end against Dan and make her case by shredding his ‘flippers never win’ argument, declaring that her game was never about loyalty and certainly not about following the herd. That’s generally not a winning argument in Survivor, but it’s more entertaining than diplomacy, and against the right combination of goats, the jury might just go for the player who can at least admit her trespasses against them.

If she can get to the end. Now that Carolyn’s immunity record is equal to Mike and Joe’s, the others might start worrying about her, although I think players like Rodney and Dan will remain confident that they can beat ‘Mama C’. Carolyn will be wanted to get out Mike in any event. She can’t beat him at his own strengths, but she’s made a strong showing in three out of the four endurance challenges, and odds are good that there will be another one that she can beat him in before the end. Depending on two more such challenges is stretching it—all the more reason to get out Tyler while immunity favored her.

If nothing else, it was excellent timing for a breakout episode right in front of the Second Chance announcement!

Gameplans for Goats

And what of Will and Rodney? The way things went down this week, it seems that both Tyler and Carolyn had them pegged as their preferred finals opponents. It’s also clear that these two have bonded pretty strongly despite the age difference. They’re always in those chairs together, and Will was the closest to being sympathetic over Rodney’s birthday tantrum. These two are an ideal voting bloc, in much the same way that Lisa and Mike were back in the Philippines, because they can be comfortably beaten at the end.

To be fair, Rodney’s been playing as hard as anybody, but Lisa had a good sense of game too, and that never registered with her jury (her finals argument didn’t help.) Rodney’s outbursts have written him off for the jury. He might get a vote from Will, or Mike or Dan, but to be in a position where all three of those are on the jury, requires Sierra and Carolyn to agree to a final three, and I doubt either woman wants to go against the other (and even then, I wouldn’t put money on Rodney to win.)

But Rodney is playing hard, and that can mess up other people’s games. In his Core Four, I always assumed his desired final three was Carolyn and Will. If his present grudge against Carolyn is more than a flash of temper, Dan or Sierra will be replacing her. Is Rodney perceptive enough to understand that Dan is a goat, even if players like Tyler and Mike have been playing him up as a threat?

You bring the strategy; I'll bring the sandwiches.

You bring the strategy; I’ll bring the sandwiches.

Would Will be amenable to the change? Will and Carolyn have been allied since the Tribe Swap—I believe that makes her his oldest ally in the game. That doesn’t require fondness, but we’ve seen nothing to suggest they have a bad relationship. However, Will tried to save Tyler the previous week only to go along with the plan to vote him off this week. This confessional strongly suggests that Will doesn’t understand the rules of the games going on around him, and is in full “As long as it isn’t me,” mode. Nobody can count on his loyalty… your best bet is probably to be the last person who talks to him ahead of Tribal Council.

Whatever speech Will is planning for the jury (and I truly hope it involves sandwiches), he cannot campaign on strategic or popular merits. Of all the goats on this island, he’s the best one to take to the end… and this is what could potentially cause trouble for Rodney. As attractive as a pair of goats are, at some point, everybody else is going to realize that they’re battling for that one spot in the finals with them, and this hands the power to Will and Rodney themselves. When Lisa and Skupin made it to the final four, Lisa had already decided that she didn’t want to go up against Malcolm at the end.

So ultimately, it’s a better call for the other players to split up this voting bloc in favor of a final three where they are the lynchpin between two goats—there are enough of them to choose from! As Rodney is the more volatile, he seems the best one to take out, though I could see somebody like Dan deciding that he’s going to stay Blue Collar strong if it kills him. Dan, Sierra, and Rodney would be a rare example of a final three where each contestant feels satisfied that the other two can’t possibly win.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Surprisingly, we probably saw the least scrambling and plotting from Mike. He talked up alliances with Sierra and Carolyn, but neither of them were strategizing with him ahead of Tribal Council. Mike told Carolyn that he was voting for Tyler, but there’s no indication Carolyn assured him she was on board. Although this makes sense when they’re trying to flush his idol, it still leaves Mike on the outside looking in. It’s certainly not clear what the new hierarchy is now that one of the Core Four has gone home. The edit has focused more on the feuds between the majority players than their bonds.

What we do learn from the secret scenes is that the tribe wasn’t divided on the Tyler vote. Will knew that was the plan; Dan knew Tyler was targeting him but was confident that everybody else was on board with getting Tyler out.

And so, while I’m hard pressed to understand where the power is inside the majority, I am willing to stake money that this episode hasn’t shifted it. Tyler has been in a position of influence since the merge, but that doesn’t mean the others weren’t aware of the threat he posed. It may well be that nobody ever planned on letting him get to the final four.

It's not clear who the frontrunner is.

It’s not clear who the frontrunner is.

Remember how the editors told us that Mike was on the outs for the first ten days of the game and that Rodney is the mastermind of his alliance? The edit is continuing to obfuscate events, either to create suspense or to shoehorn in their own storyline.

Any speculation on the hierarchy now can only be fanfiction, but my guess is that there’s no single structure. We’re not seeing a lot of paranoia; everybody’s tense, but they all seem to have a goal in sight. I imagine the votes right now hinge on not a long term strategy but who everybody can agree is a big threat and does not have immunity. Mike is an obvious one, Dan and Carolyn could both be played up, and there are probably plenty of people aware that Sierra does not have enemies.

With Tyler gone, we are left with people who feel more comfortable improvising (and Rodney who lacks the patience to “stick to the plan”). On the plus side, the game should be unpredictable from this point on, but this will likely come at the cost of our own comprehension.

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