SurvivorSurvivor: Blood vs Water

The Buffington Post: Best Laid Plans -10/08/13

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Well, Loyal Blog Readers, we don’t have Colton to kick around anymore. I imagine many of you would like to hear my interpretation of The Quit Heard Round the World, but I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think it’s worth talking about. Colton Cumbie doesn’t deserve the honor of a Buffington Post analysis. We’ll save that for the people who compete.

People like Brad Culpepper.

I’m more than a little sick of the professional athlete Survivor stock character. With the singular exception of the immortal Jeff Kent, it’s never worked. I don’t see any reason to expect that we’ll get any good gameplay from Brad. At best he’ll make a large crater when he falls.

But oh, what a fall it will be. Take heed, viewers. One day one of you might be on the show. Brad is embodying a loud style of play that harkens back to the glory days of old. He’s rounded up a bro alliance and started bossing everybody around. Is he a new Roger from Survivor: Amazon?

Guys, if you want to win Survivor, play the stealth game. Don’t try to control the tribe. Don’t let yourself be seen scampering around the woods in search of idols. Don’t start arguments around camp and at Redemption Island. Is it possible that Brad thinks any of this is going to help his game?

Here’s how you win Survivor, if you’re Brad:

1) Shut up
2) Show up at challenges
3) Vote how you’re told

e3-arasvytas There are many parts to the game.[/caption]

Voting how you’re told is a great way to play Survivor. You want to do it over and over again, because each time you fall in line, you build more trust. Your alliance relaxes. Nobody is afraid of you, because everybody knows you’re predictable. And you keep right on voting how you’re told—until once, and only once, suddenly you don’t. That’s the vote where you flip the game and take control. That’s the vote where you steal the win. Survivor is about biding your time, and choosing your moment. If you strike fast and hard, you need only strike once.

Brad thinks this game is about control, and that fits his personality. He’s a big Type A alpha male, and he’s used to things going his way in life. He likes to lead, and he’s probably not used to being challenged by others. Emotionally, he expects to run the show. It would never even occur to him to question that role. Unfortunately for him, in this environment, he could not be more wrong. And that’s where we uncover another fundamental human truth in the game of Survivor: In Survivor, as in life, we must constantly self-evaluate.

Survivor is a game about adapting to the complete loss of control. Castaways constantly are forced to make decisions based on imperfect information. They have to submit to the elements. They are forced to work within the confines of arbitrary tribal structures. They must battle against twists imposed upon them by production. At no point in one’s 39 days on Survivor can one ever be in control. It’s folly to believe otherwise. Like a spawning trout, Brad is struggling to swim upstream against the tide; to inflict his will upon his surroundings. Rest assured, he will fail.

One castaway who knows intimately how the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray is Tyson Apostol. Tyson’s shoulder injury is a very significant development in the plot of Season 27. Ripples stemming from it will travel far and wide.

Because here’s the thing: if Tyson isn’t physically competitive, the entire landscape of this season is different. Redemption Island becomes a much more even playing field. The Galang tribe is significantly less competitive at challenges. None of us knew it at the time, but Tyson’s mighty shoulders were actually passively enforcing a status quo upon the island—and now, I believe, there’s a very real power vacuum. How it will manifest is anybody’s guess, but the smart money says chaos will follow.

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Tyson has yet to show all his sides.

And I think that’s a shame. Tyson has never really gotten the opportunity to display his physical dominance on this show. Due to events beyond his control in Tocantins, and events solely within his control on HvV, his games have always torpedoed before he could physically run away with them. We may never get to see what he’s really capable of.

But, as is so often the case in life, this cloud comes with a silver lining. Tyson’s injured shoulder might actually be good for his game. We knew that the testosterone-soaked Tadhana tribe saw him as a serious threat pre-injury—and it stands to reason that the target on his back may have just diminished hugely. We may get to see more dimensions of Tyson’s game, now. His game is far from over.

But where Tyson is reeling to a sudden upheaval, Aras is cruising along. His social game is so subtle, and so powerful, that you have to really look for it to see it. Everyone reports to Aras, but no one feels as if they are taking direction from him. That’s their mistake. I feel tremendously optimistic about this kid—and if I’m right, I think he’ll finally stake a claim on the elite Survivor legacy he’s always deserved. It’s a great time to be an Aras fan, Loyal Blog Readers.

One last thing before I sign off for another week, Loyal Blog Readers. I elected not to discuss Colton’s quit, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Drop me a line in the comments section below. Let me know: how do you think this affects his Survivor legacy? Did we like the way Probst handled the quit? Do we think this will have a major impact on the outcome of this season? Who are the winners and losers of Quit-Gate?

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