When you write a blog about Survivor strategy, it’s challenging to tackle an episode with a medevac. This is especially true when there are only five players left in the game. We had an interesting set-up for several potential voting blocs at Tribal Council. Instead, the failure of Joe’s insides gave him an unfortunate exit. Aubry and Joe had the option of either joining Tai or aligning with Cydney to grab control. Instead, it’s hard to say where everyone stands. This confusion may deliver a thrilling finale, but discussing this episode is trickier.
Let’s start with a requiem for Joe. It’s now clear why he wasn’t featured more prominently in the edit. Regardless, I saw enough to have a basic understanding of his game. Joe made an early pact with Aubry and didn’t waver even when she voted against Debbie. Many players would have gotten emotional and switched sides. In his exit interview with Rob, Joe admitted that Debbie was being erratic before that vote. He took a surprisingly practical approach to the game. Aubry had also voted differently when Peter left, but he stuck with her. I suspect that Joe would have been the first person to congratulate Aubry when she beat him for the million.
It’s easy to criticize Joe for not turning against Aubry and accepting her victory. However, I don’t believe he wasn’t playing at all. His approach probably wouldn’t lead to a win, but it helped him go quite far. He also wasn’t considered a huge threat due to his age and challenge performances. It’s also a testament to the bonds he secured with Debbie and Aubry at the start. Players derided Joe for following his ally, but he outlasted many of them. I’m not trying to oversell his contributions. Joe wasn’t amazing TV and didn’t make a huge impact, but I respect what he accomplished. He’s a trooper and dealt with tough conditions for 34 days. His exit felt more like a sad twist of fate than the result of the difficult environment.
Last week, Aubry faced a tricky decision between joining Tai’s quest to remove Michele or sticking with the Jason vote. She chose the safer route and removed the wild card. Joe followed suit, and there were concerns that both would be in the minority now. Tai was clearly shaken after being left out, and he blamed Aubry for the deception. Tai bonded with Michele while the others were on a reward, but it wasn’t enough. We saw another example of Aubry’s masterful play when she reassured Tai after the reward. She does such a good job of making others feel comfortable and emotionally connected. That’s a skill that separates the champions from the pack. She’s dancing and having fun at camp, but there’s no messing around with her game.Aubry did an excellent job reassuring Tai after he was left out of last week’s vote.[/caption]
There was a strange moment in the edit this week where Aubry seemed to just realize that Cydney was a threat. I suspect this was an oversimplification. We saw Joe really pushing the idea that Aubry was the star and didn’t need to worry about him or Cydney. While that was an odd scene, I don’t believe that directly led to her new feelings. To the viewers at home, Cydney is an obvious threat to Aubry. She could win the final challenges and has a case to make in the end. If Joe had remained in the game, Aubry should have joined him and Tai to vote out Cydney. Both Tai and Joe seem content to join her in the final three, and Michele is a dangerous underdog. Tai still had the idol for that Tribal Council, so sticking with him would be smart.
It isn’t clear where Aubry stands now that she’s lost her top ally. Not having an obvious partner might help Aubry seem less threatening. Cydney and Michele don’t have all the information the audience has based on confessionals and other conversations. If they’re a dedicated pair, they may focus on Tai because he’s made “big moves”. Michele and Tai should both want to avoid Aubry in the finals; she’s very good at explaining her choices. We saw them bonding this week over the “Tai massage”, but they don’t seem ready to work together. I can paint a picture where any of these players is voted out at the final four, and that’s great. In fact, it’s time to take one final look at the players in this excellent season. Who will bring home the top prize?
The Final Four
Tai: He’s a fun character, and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He spontaneously burst into tears while talking to Aubry, and there was no clear driving force for it. The deceptive side of the game wears Tai down. While his turmoil is admirable, it comes off as indecisive to the jury. Several have been directly betrayed by Tai, and others may not respect his play. If you’re the sweet guy who loves sleeping in the hammock with Mark the chicken, you can’t also backstab in some eyes. Tai also struggles to explain his moves at Tribal Council. If he makes the end, I don’t believe he could defeat any of the remaining players.
At the final four, Tai will probably stick with Aubry and target Cydney. I could also seem him focusing on Michele, who just doesn’t click with him. Aubry is his closest remaining ally, but Tai also has the least chance to beat her. Will Tai realize that his best chance will come from removing Aubry? Cydney has also betrayed people, and Michele has been under the radar. His odds aren’t great either way, but it’s a landslide against Aubry. Tai will play a key role in determining who wins the game; it just won’t be him.
Cydney: If we do take Aubry’s revelation at face value, that means that Cydney has played an even better game than I suspected. She seems front and center to me but hasn’t been targeted since Scot’s departure. Cydney is a physical force and made one of the game’s biggest moves by switching away from the Brawn guys. If she can win immunity challenges and control her fate, Cydney could make the case that she’s more deserving than Aubry.
The danger for Cydney will come at the final four. She really needs to win immunity or risk becoming the prime target. Michele has worked well with Cydney, but I doubt she’d never vote for her. Cydney also has a good bond with Aubry, but it could be wavering. If she makes the Final Tribal Council, Cydney must sell her thought process. She’s spent most of the game downplaying her smarts. In fact, waiting until then may be too long. The jury usually has an idea of who they’re voting for before the sales pitch. I don’t believe Cydney will win, but she’s played a strong game. It won’t be an easy decision if she’s sitting there at the end.
Michele: Can I disagree with the “Michele Truthers”? I picked her to win before the season, and I may be clairvoyant. I chose Matt and Dana to win The Amazing Race, and it worked out for them. Weirder things have happened. With all that said, I still think that Michele won’t beat Aubry. If it’s a final two, she should focus on sitting next to Tai. Of course, Michele may find herself in a final three with Cydney and Aubry. In that situation, targeting Aubry is the move. Will she realize that’s the right choice?
It wouldn’t shock me if Michele won the season. She’s never been a target and has built strong relationships with nearly everyone. I still wonder if she has the resume to defeat Aubry or Cydney. Would immunity challenge wins make the difference? The edit is giving us clues that Michele could win, but you could find the same (and more) with Aubry. It would solidify my status as the supreme blogger if Michele won, but it doesn’t completely sit right at this point.
Aubry: She wasn’t on my radar at all when the season started. I liked Aubry but was setting myself up for a disappointing early departure. She was shaky at times, but Aubry has owned the game and the edit since Neal’s exit. Losing Joe could be a serious blow. It’s too early to call it the end of her game, however. We’ve also heard multiple other players speak respectfully about her play, even Jason. This may be wishful thinking, but I believe Aubry is going to win this season. She could make the case against the other three and has the persuasive abilities to convince the jury. Will the others realize this fact and vote her out? Anything could happen.
This was a slow-moving episode, but it still hinted at conflicts that should deliver a memorable finale. There are no duds in the final four, and I’m really hoping we get a final two. Cagayan was more interesting because Woo had to make the wrong choice by picking Tony. There would have been less drama if Tony had won easily against Kass and Woo. I’ve really enjoyed this season and have few doubts that we’re in store for a great finish.