Survivor Kaoh Rong

The Survivor Strategic Game: Who Will Benefit?

You know a Survivor season is clicking when each post-merge Tribal Council feels like an event. Watching Nick and Debbie leave in the past few weeks created huge ripples in the game. Neither was the most obvious choice and each seemed to have the upper hand. Alliances are fluid right now, and survival depends on close relationships with real trust. Debbie thought she had enough pull with Aubry to dictate her votes. Instead, her inflexibility led to a surprise exit. When you combine Debbie’s personality with the danger from the super idol, the choice made sense.

The intriguing part of analyzing this week is the question of whether the women made the right choice. Should they have sacrificed Cydney to remove the super idol? I’ve heard convincing arguments from both sides, and we won’t know for sure until the Final Tribal Council. Back in Cagayan, I couldn’t believe that Tony would leave Spencer in the game at the final seven and vote out Jefra. I even titled the post “Saying Farewell to the Million”. It’s safe to say that I was incorrect to dismiss Tony’s chances. Since that season, we’ve seen quite a few examples where players removed members of their own group and then recovered.

This example doesn’t mean Aubry and Cydney will prevail; there’s only one Tony Vlachos. However, it reminds us that dismissing anyone’s chances this early is risky. Scot and Jason probably think the sabotage and idol shenanigans changed their fate. It might have just delayed the inevitable for a few weeks. These complexities show why this season is clicking with me. We have fun characters, unpredictable moves, and few bystanders. Even a guy like Joe is trying to play in his own way. He isn’t just waiting for others to tell him what to do.

Despite the risk in losing an ally, I believe taking out Debbie was the right choice. They didn’t flush the idol but had limited information before Tribal Council. Now the existence and location of both idols is clear. The four women chose the sure thing and lived to fight another day. Only Joe stuck with Debbie and voted for Scot. If we assume that Tai would have given Scot the super idol, then anyone could have gone home. Aubry, Michele, and Julia didn’t know for sure that Cydney was the target. Given the ramifications of this move, let’s take a look at how each one stands following this crucial vote. I’ve ranked them by who benefited the most from the move.

1. Cydney

Cydney Survivor 32.9 Does Cydney have the skills to chop through Scot and Jason to the end?[/caption]

This is an obvious choice because the super idol would have ended her game. Cydney needed an alternate plan and might have suspected that Scott and Jason would target her. She also didn’t have the history with Debbie that Aubry did. Cydney was only part of this group for one vote, so shifting to a different voting bloc was easy. Her closest allies are Aubry and Michele now, so sticking with them made sense. She’s built trust with two votes, so they shouldn’t doubt Cydney anytime soon.

Despite surviving this vote, Cydney remains in a lot of danger. Jason and Scot will probably keep targeting her, and her strength is another reason the votes may come. Those guys are not good losers, and they’ll still blame Cydney for their current spot. She’ll need to rely on her close allies and look for a way to avoid becoming the super idol’s victim. If Cydney makes the end, she’s building a case to win the million. The challenge will be getting there.

2. Aubry

Looking beyond the short-term impact for Cydney, last night’s winner was Aubry. Since changing her mind and voting out Peter, Aubry has played a cold and precise game. Losing Neal seemed to give her even more confidence. She was ready to eliminate Julia for even flirting with joining the other alliance. Aubry appeared to be the architect of the plan to remove Debbie. Her suspicions about the idol were largely correct, and that made it easier to lose an ally. It’s also a challenge to work with an unyielding player at this stage of the game. Both Debbie and Joe have shown an unwillingness to shift from their original plans. Adapting on the fly is a key skill in modern Survivor; strategic players like Aubry want to consider every option.

When Aubry spoke about targeting Julia, her hope was to also flush the idols. That’s one downside of what happened this week. Because of the super idol twist, Jason and Scot didn’t need to defend themselves with preemptive idol plays. Instead, they could sit back and wait for the result. When you’re facing that kind of power, it helps to work with logical players. Cydney and Michele fit that description, and Julia wisely chose to stick with them.

Aubry does have a potential issue with Joe after voting differently from him again. Could he possibly trust her? Joe looks like a free agent who might change his allegiance following Debbie’s exit. In a secret scene, he spoke about being “loyal to a fault”. It makes me wonder if he’ll stick with Aubry once again. The reason he probably stays is the sabotage from Scot and Jason. Joe does not seem like the kind of guy who would support those unsportsmanlike tactics. Despite voting against Debbie, Aubry may still have a shot to realign with Joe. She’ll need to start working immediately once they reach camp or risk losing Joe for good.

3. Michele

I picked Michele to win the game at the start, and she’s in a strong position. On the other hand, she isn’t really driving the game moves. Cydney and Aubry made their choice and then sold the decision to Michele and Julia. I believe that Michele did the right thing in voting out Debbie. It was really her only option. There’s no connection between her and the guys. She was also visibly upset when Scot dumped the water in the fire. Her best road forward is with the women.

Michele needs to use her solid position to start making her case for the end.

Michele needs to use her solid position to start making her case for the end.

The reason I didn’t list Michele higher is my concern for how she can prove her value. She could defeat Scot or Jason as the kinder alternative, but facing Aubry or Cydney would be different. Cutting them after Scot and Jason are gone will be necessary; who will join her? Flipping to join the Brawn guys would alienate too many jurors. She must stay likable while finding a way to eventually take out the other threats. Joe and Julia are the right companions to have for the end.

The good news for Michele is that she’s unlikely to be a target of the super idol. Not being viewed as the biggest threat could be valuable in the short-term game. Once the idol is gone, she must step up her game to help avoid a third-place finish. I’m pretty confident that Michele is heading for the Final Tribal Council; the question is how she can win it.

4. Julia

Despite placing Julia in this slot, I don’t feel like she’s in a terrible spot. She’s just stuck at the bottom of each alliance. Julia can stand with the women and be their fourth or jump to Scot and Jason and sit behind them. By showing a willingness to flip, she made it difficult for anyone to trust her. I doubt that Aubry will change her mind about Julia because she voted for Debbie. The previews for next week show a similar scene to what we saw this week from Julia.

Julia is playing the middle, and that could be dangerous for her.

Julia is playing the middle, and that could be dangerous for her.

I did not expect Julia to do well this season; it’s hard to imagine an 18-year-old thriving in this environment. Her game doesn’t appear subtle, but she’s maneuvered well through the game so far. Julia has voted with the majority at each of her three Tribal Councils. I don’t expect Julia to make the end, but she’s set up okay at this point. If Tai plays the super idol for Jason or Scot, they’re unlikely to target a potential ally like Julia. However, she may be in trouble in the game changes like it did for Debbie.

Sabotaging Their Games

In his pre-game interviews, Jason spoke about wanting to mimic the game of Russell Hantz. His “psychological warfare” is right out of Russell’s playbook from Samoa. What Jason should remember is that Russell lost that game because people disliked him. Both Scot and Jason are falling into that same trap. The super idol kept them safe, and their antics might distract people. However, they’ve almost guaranteed their ultimate defeat at the Final Tribal Council.

Dumping water in the fire right in front of other players is short-sighted. In an extra scene, Aubry recognized that Scot was strategically trying to mess with them by dousing the fire. He wasn’t fooling anyone at camp with his behavior. Michele also enjoyed watching it because it showed the bad side of his personality. She also confirmed about how it united the others as a group against Scot and Jason. Because it was so obvious, it just made them look ridiculous.

Scot and Jason are making any new friends at camp.

Scot and Jason are not making any new friends at camp with their disruptive antics.

Scot and Jason didn’t create effective chaos at camp through the sabotage. Instead, they just made everyone mad at them. Cydney talked in an extra scene about how they were more driven to do their own work following Scot and Jason’s antics. When you combine this behavior with bullying Alecia during a challenge, it creates a clear narrative about sore losers and poor play. Even a moving family story can’t change that story. Jurors like Debbie are not going to forget about what Scot and Jason did. Once the super idol is gone, it also makes players less likely to align with those guys. Scot and Jason could reach the end as goats, but winning enough votes would be difficult unless it’s just them in a final two.

The Mysteries of Tai

Last week, Tai made several blunders that would seem to place him in jeopardy. He recovered from most of it this week, but his behavior was still baffling. Claiming to vote for Debbie instead of Jason was smart because Nick wasn’t around to dispute it. Now that the super idol’s powers are clear, Tai’s slip won’t be remembered. He’s a fun character; a secret scene depicted his efforts to save the chicken from Debbie’s wrath. What surprised me was Tai joining in on the sabotage and dumping water on the fire during the night. He seemed to dislike what Scot and Jason were doing, but then he joined them. I suspect that Tai felt like he didn’t have options beyond working with the other guys. Even so, it’s unwise to stick with players that irritate everyone.

Watching Tai follow Scot's lead was disappointing.

Watching Tai follow Scot’s lead was disappointing.

The amazing result after Tribal Council was Tai being in possession of two idols. Jason may still believe one idol is his, but Tai can technically keep both of them. He might lose two jury votes, but it would be a daring move to show he was playing the game. I’m not convinced that Tai has a clear strategy and adapts well to quick changes. Even so, he holds a lot of power. How Tai decides to use that control will shape the game in the upcoming weeks.

An Individual Game?

This has been a compelling season, and it could reach the next level if more people start playing as individuals. Would Jason work against Scot to save his game? Viewed together, they represent arrogant guys who believe they deserve to win. It’s easy for the others to work together to ensure that pair doesn’t make it. They also won’t be lauding Scot and Jason’s play at Ponderosa.

Michele also faces a similar battle to stand apart from the four women. Both Cydney and Aubry have faced the potential of going home and flipped on allies. Michele needs to build a story as a singular player, not as part of an alliance. The trick is figuring out how to build that narrative without torpedoing her game. Picking the right moment to strike isn’t easy, particularly when you consider the speed of the modern game.

I have mixed feelings about the super idol twist, but it does create an interesting dilemma for players who have idols. Scot and Jason looked happy to put their fate in Tai’s hands this week. The super idol has great power, but it requires someone to lessen their future safety to protect an ally. In the next few weeks, I suspect that Scot and Jason will learn about the risks of putting too much stock in this power. They’re feeling great about this prize, but it wouldn’t take much to send one of them to Ponderosa.

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