Survivor: Worlds Apart

The Survivor Strategic Game: Ring the Bell

Winning Survivor isn’t easy. A player may appear to have all the tools, but it’s those same skills that lead to defeat. A guy like Joe can dominate in challenges and avoid making enemies, but that’s only part of the game. When everyone’s identified you as the biggest threat, there’s no place to hide. The numbers disadvantage was a challenge, but it wouldn’t be insurmountable in many cases. The others were far too afraid of Joe to risk their games by joining him. Even Jenn and Shirin bailed from his cause, for very different reasons. Joe’s only chance was finding the right allies early and securing an edge. The writing was on the wall before the merge, and clever antics wouldn’t distract the others from removing him.

What’s exciting about Joe’s exit is the sense that anything could happen next week. Joe was the prime target until he lost, so his presence limited the chances for surprises. It didn’t take a strategic mastermind to see that Joe was a threat for the endgame. He might be a valuable shield for a guy like Mike, but there was no chance to stop this rising tide. Joe’s exit marks the end of the No Collars alliance and two clearly delineated groups. Shirin formed a bond with Mike and proved his trust, while Jenn’s mind was already at Ponderosa. If anyone from the majority alliance wants to grab control, the time is now to take a shot.

Jeff Probst may continue to sell the season’s theme, but there’s little indication the original tribes really matter anymore. There are four Blue Collars, three White Collars, and two No Collars mixed together in different ways. Joe was the main remnant of the tribal game because he stood in front of the No Collars. Mike occupied a similar spot with the Blue Collars, but he’s worked with members of all three tribes. He faces more immediate danger from Rodney’s coup than Shirin or Jenn. The quest to remove Joe was the glue that held together the majority alliance. Glimpses at next week’s conflicts are enough to confirm that any unity is gone. It’s time to grab the popcorn and watch total chaos take over the game.

Taking a Shot

Joe's fake idol was amazing but came too late for his game. Joe’s idol-making skills were amazing but came too late to salvage his game.[/caption]

Joe’s fake immunity idol was a thing of beauty and better than many we see from production. His clever use of strategy talk with Dan gave Joe the chance to create his masterpiece. The challenge was using it effectively. Sometimes wearing the idol is enough to sway the votes. Could Joe have survived Tribal Council by showing everyone his creation? It’s unlikely because of the numbers disparity. Even without Shirin, the seven-person alliance could split the votes 4-3 and nullify the idol. Joe needed to use the idol as leverage to form a new bond. What killed his chances was picking Mike, who already had one. The allure of future security wasn’t as important, and it raised doubts that Joe could possess another idol.

In a secret scene, Mike outlines the “classic Survivor question” of when to flip on the alliance. It’s a fascinating and surprisingly clear look at how a smart player views strategy. The intriguing part is how Mike outlines a threat as someone that affects his personal game, not the group on the whole. Joe was the obvious target for everyone; a quieter guy like Will might be more trouble for Mike. This scene helps to explain how Mike handled the situation this week. He played hardball with Joe to grab the idol and proved it was invalid. If it was a real idol, playing it randomly on Will would still take it out of the equation. Mike didn’t know if Joe was making the same offer to others, so he forced his hand and made a flashy move.

There’s a downside to Mike’s choice to drop the fake idol at Tribal Council. He can sell that move in front of the jury, but it also shows the danger in keeping Mike in the game. Tyler and Rodney hilariously didn’t know what was happening, but they’ll figure it out eventually. Joe played out in front, and that made him an obvious target. Dan’s praises in his secret scene make it clear why they’re targeting Joe. Will Mike fall victim to a similar fate? Rodney planned to wait until the final seven to blindside his ally, but the next Tribal offers a real opportunity. If Mike wants to avoid the fate of so many threats in the post-merge game, he should play the idol next week to remove any doubts about his position.

Time for a New Alliance

Did Shirin find a new home with Mike?

Did Shirin find a new home with Mike?

This week’s most interesting mover was Shirin, who joined up with the trio of Mike, Dan, and Sierra for a potential final four alliance. She recognized that waiting for Jenn or Joe to depart might be fatal. The choice was a little surprising given Dan’s continued nastiness following Tribal Council. When a guy dismissively calls an intelligent woman a “Little Miss Know-It-All”, the next step for her usually isn’t aligning with them. It wasn’t clear how much Dan was involved in the discussions, however. Shirin’s primary connection seemed to be with Mike, who tested her with the decisive vote to remove Joe.

Shirin’s efforts to get in the passenger seat and backseat drive placed her in a pretty good spot. She still annoys Dan and others, but there’s no sense they’re gunning for her. We’re now hearing from Shirin about numbers and strategy in confessionals, along with the “Survivor Pleasure Dome”. The hate might be too much for a victory in the end, but the path to getting there keeps getting clearer. She needs to be on the right side when the battle happens, and siding with Mike wasn’t a terrible idea. With Jenn begging everyone to vote her out, it lessens the danger for Shirin next week. Even if the alliance of seven sticks together, they’re more likely to grant Jenn her wish than go after someone they don’t respect.

The Pit of Despair

The evolution of Jenn from idol-playing superstar to player with severe melancholy happened in a strangely short time. The editors had shown us little of the morose personality that we saw this week. Even so, her state makes sense when you consider all the factors. Jenn faced little adversity during the pre-merge game. Will could have voted her out when Vince went home, but it wasn’t a traumatic experience. They needed someone to flip after the tribe swap, and Carolyn arrived to save the day. Despite major odds, she played the idol at the right time. How could anything go wrong? She owned this game! Unfortunately, the tires fell off the car quickly after her big save.

There weren't too many moments like this one for Jenn this week.

There weren’t too many moments like this happy one for Jenn this week.

The obvious reason for Jenn’s despair was Hali’s departure. Losing her closest friend since the first day and realizing her game was in trouble was too much. Jenn is a Survivor fan, but she made it clear when Max left that it wasn’t an obsession. The lack of food can take its toll after more than three weeks, and not having Hali was enough to seal the deal. The sharp contrast between Jenn and Joe after the reward challenge showed how each was approaching their adversity. Joe was ready to play, while Jenn had lost her edge. It also revealed another reason why he needed to leave first. The type of guy who hoards random materials to create an intricate fake idol will fight until the bitter end. Tyler talked in a secret scene about being drawn to Jenn and using her to change the game. Would she join that plan? We’ve seen little contact between Jenn and Tyler so far, but others wouldn’t expect it.

Jenn’s near-win at the immunity challenge could have seriously impacted the game. Despite her lack of excitement, Jenn could still play a major role in the others’ games. If she doesn’t quit, Jenn could easily survive the next few votes. A big reward victory might change her spirits, so I’m not ready to write Jenn off the show at this point. It is frustrating to watch an entertaining player give up, however. The numbers are against Jenn, but anything can happen as the end approaches. Her chances to win are now slim, but that doesn’t mean Jenn couldn’t help decide who takes home the million. In his exit interview with Rob, Joe introduced the possibility that Jenn’s put-on attitude might be strategic. It’s an intriguing concept that wasn’t hinted at during the episode, so we’ll see if it comes up again down the road.

Candy Heaven

Product placement! I will admit that seeing the giant piles of M&Ms was enticing, and I haven’t gone without food for nearly a month. Once again, the editors teased us with Jeff’s schoolyard pick announcement and then skipped it. Would showing it reveal too much about strategies? It’s more likely a time-saver, but there were definitely a few minutes to lose after the challenge. Regardless, it’s interesting to note how the teams came together. Rodney joined his top allies Will and Carolyn along with Joe and Jenn. The other team included the Mike/Dan/Sierra trio along with comrades Tyler and Shirin. While challenge strength certainly played a role in the choices, the split was striking. Beyond the fun of watching Dan and Will (with a Wilhelm scream!) fall, the challenge revealed very little.

Is it time for Rodney and WIll to make a move?

Is it time for Rodney and WIll to make a move?

There was also little strategy talk during the reward, though Shirin recognized her luck in getting the time with the Blue Collars and Tyler. Thankfully, we quickly went back to camp while Mike raved about Snickers. I can’t say enough about Rodney’s impressions, which were amazing. Beyond the hilarity, the mocking of Mike and Dan showed the others that Rodney’s opinion of his allies wasn’t so high. Joe pointed out this conclusion to us, though it didn’t help him directly. Rodney talked in a secret scene about still being angry about the Joaquin vote and motivated to “bring the bacon home”. This moment sets the stage for the fight to come with Mike and Rodney. Who will come out on top?

Who’s in the best position?

Shirin: How did this happen? It’s actually not that surprising for Shirin to rebound after the merge. She didn’t have a strong core allies like the No Collars or challenge skills like Joe. A chance to make the end as a goat became likely. Last night, we saw the potential for Shirin to have a stronger impact on the game. If she reaches the end with the right people, Shirin has a chance to win. Securing an alliance with Mike helps her in the short term and still keeps the target off her back. There’s more work ahead for Shirin if she wants to make her case for the jury, but the prospect doesn’t seem that outlandish at this point.

Is this the look we'll see from Tyler when the final votes are read?

Is this the look we’ll see from Tyler when the votes are read at the final Tribal Council?

Tyler: Are people sleeping on Tyler? He won immunity in a tricky balance challenge but was viewed as a hero because he beat Joe. Shirin talked about wanting to remove Carolyn, and Mike and Rodney are set to battle. Where does that leave Tyler? His laid-back game might not give him enough to sell at the end, but he remains in a good spot. Tyler will need to start making tough decisions or risk drifting towards an unsatisfying finish. I like the way he’s played so far; it’s time to step up and take charge.

Who’s in trouble?

Jenn: I’m placing Jenn in this spot because of her interest in leaving the game. She’s actually in an okay position because the others don’t consider her a threat anymore. Sadly, her bad attitude could turn Jenn into a mercy killing if she keeps bringing down the mood at camp. The majority could vote her out as an easy vote and then prepare for battle. It wouldn’t take much for Jenn to sell her vote to the smaller factions next week. The question is whether she cares enough to make a play to stay in the game.

Mike may need his challenge skills to avoid Joe's fate.

Mike will need all his skills to avoid Joe’s fate.

Mike: This choice may seem odd because Mike’s in the driver’s seat. If I were placing odds on winning the million, Mike would have the best chance. Even so, the same skills that make him successful put a target on this back. Rodney is building a coalition to remove him, and Joe’s exit accelerates that process. Mike has several big hurdles to overcome, and he needs to prepare for the votes to come his way soon. Mike seems ready to face the incoming horde, and they’ll probably arrive next week.

Joe seems like a nice guy, and the surprisingly insightful Ponderosa video confirmed that he was trying to be strategic. Even so, I’m thrilled for the next stage of the game without him. The story of the season has focused on Joe’s exit since the merge. Now that it’s happened, we’re set up for a real fight. The bell is ringing, and the last nine players are set for a royal rumble. An odd number is the perfect time to make a move, especially if your allies don’t expect it. Is it time to unleash hell?

Become a patron of RHAP