Survivor: Kaoh Rong

Episode 5-Making Your Own Luck

Previously on Survivor:

Since day one, the game has been a fight…

(Once more, we saw Neal and Cydney clashing during the opening scramble).

…and nothing has come easy.

Idols were found by Tai and Jason.

Alliances were made…

In confessional, Anna told us that the three girls were tight.

… and broken.

Debbie reminded us that the narcissistic Peter was still on the periphery of their group.

But nothing compared to the battle with Mother Nature, and Caleb was her first victim.

Tai said in confessional, that he was alone with Nick and that the girls could make their pick.

At the last immunity challenge, the Brawn tribe lost for the third time.

At Tribal Council, Scot, Jason and Cydney didn’t let Alecia escape another vote.

The comment that immediately jumped out at me was “first” victim.  Jeff was implying that there will be more to come and Tai was shown immediately after this. He would mention his scrapes again later on so one has to wonder if he’ll be forced out of the game. 

While Jeff told us that Brawn lost the challenge, he didn’t mention Peter and Nick’s performance during that immunity challenge.   Jeff did mention Scot, Jason and Cydney individually so that’s a good omen.  He could have simply said:  “At Tribal Council, Alecia’s luck ran out” or “The tribe didn’t let Alecia escape another vote.”  Getting individual recognition is a hint that this trio will play a key role down the line.

Now that Neal and Cydney are in an alliance, it was fun to see a replay of their collision during the marooning.  There had to be many wild scenes during that scramble but that one was chosen by the editing team so it may have significance before the season is over especially since both are now tight with Debbie and there could be a place only for one.

As for the unfortunate Anna, it’s never good when a mention of a strong alliance makes it on the recap just before a tribal swap.  One could even say that it wasn’t much better to hear about it in previous recaps because that alliance was never a factor.  Beauty never went to Tribal Council so the constant mention of that alliance was nothing more than a mirage, a way to raise hopes for their fans, and a way to create fear for Tai’s fans. 

Making Your Own Luck

Brains Day 12

I was expecting to see the camera going to the Brains tribe first.  Tribal Council had been so meaningless that there was no reason to go to the Brawn camp while Beauty isn’t the tribe of interest. 

With strings that almost sounded like a harp, the music was quite serene.

Joe was tending to the fire, Peter was sleeping and Neal was behind his back, watching him. 

I got my eyes on you “I got my eyes on you”[/caption]

Right then, the music started growling and the drums set in.  There is a confrontation ahead between these two.

Joe was having problems with a cut on one finger.  It was getting swollen.  Peter asked him about it so Joe said he had been soaking it in salted water.

Peter in confessional: “Since the last vote, where I feel in this pack is at the bottom.  I feel like a neutered dog right now because I have no play.”  Neal was heard simulating a call to the ER for Peter who went to look at Joe’s injury.  Peter’s confessional continued: “So, it’s strategically crucial that I start pandering to these people.  So, I go to doctor mode.  Right now, it’s Doctor Peter’s clinic but it’s actually an attempt just to make them feel as if they need me.  They see me as someone functional, useful; I’m just going to exploit that and try to get out of this mess I’ve gotten myself in.”

We heard Neal say that it was turning into a trauma center while Debbie said: “Thank God we have you, Peter.”  Neal asked for a prognosis and Peter said the patient will live.

There are two ways we can interpret this confessional. Peter could be viewed as the scheming underdog who will find his way back into power for good and not just for this episode.  However, the edit certainly hasn’t fostered any sympathy in the viewers for Peter.   Also, synchronising Neal’s call to the ER with Peter’s intentions of pandering to these people, we clearly see that Peter is using his skills as a doctor to fool them.  Presented this way, it creates apprehension:  Most viewers will hope that Peter doesn’t succeed, so it shouldn’t work out for him.  The two scenes could have been separated. 

Another angle to consider is Debbie’s remark.  Is she being fooled or is she also pandering to Peter’s ego?  

Out of all this, I have to admit that the editors did a good sales pitch.  At this point, I thought that Peter was going to be the player eliminatedTo my great pleasure, this episode would give us many trails to follow.  Only one is the right one so can I make the right decision?  Fortunately, there is still time to decide.

Neal’s confessional: “We have a tribe of five.  We have four people that are aligned and then we have one cancer named Peter.”

I found it troubling that we saw Peter looking at Neal’s hand when ice cream guy mentioned the word cancer.


Is it cancerous, Doc

“Is it cancerous, Doc?”

Was this telling us that Neal’s chances are in Peter’s hands?  This is another of the fun hints that were sprinkled all over this episode.

Neal’s confessional went on: “There’s likely an idol out here somewhere and I need to keep it out of Peter’s hands.  I’m going to spend as much time as it takes to find the idol.”  We followed him on his search.  “I’m looking for any tree that might look unique, something that sticks out.  All of a sudden I see this tree…”  He found the clue and then the box: “…The box has a padlock on it.”  The music started sounding adventurous when Neal set out to find the key: “I know I’m going to get it.  I’m confident. I’ve gotten here and I know where it is and I’m going to find it but will I get caught in that process?  So, I have to move very, very fast.  I scamper across the island, looking up at every coconut tree and sure enough, right behind one, is a cylinder with a little hole at the bottom to push that tool through.”

The musicians let hear a Ta-dam-Ta-dam when we saw him opening the box and it sounded joyous when he put the idol around his neck.  Despite a rather quiet story, it does seem that the producers want us to like Neal, at least to prefer him over Peter!

Neal then told us about the twist: “The last rule is a twist in the game that, if you happen to have two idols, they can be combined into one super-idol.  Now the goal is to find another idol or somebody that has an idol.  One of my philosophies in life is that you make your own luck and that’s exactly what I’m doing.  If somebody is betting in Vegas, I’m the frontrunner.”

Since this was the third time telling us about the twist, should we conclude that it will come into effect?  I’m starting to think it will but will Peter be the holder of the super-idol?  Letting us hear about his philosophy and how it will turn out later for him is a great sign.  It’s also quite humorous that Neal was heard talking about betting in Vegas on the night when the poker player was going to be voted out! I’d really like to know if this idol search really happened on day 12 or if Neal had been carrying the idol for a little while.  The editors could have decided to delay his story by a few episodes to make his find and confessional appear more important.  I tried comparing his beard growth and there couldn’t have been much of a delay though.  I’d say that it could have been a few days at most.

Another angle to consider is that, unbeknownst to Neal, someone else would soon find that second person with an idol.  Should we conclude that Scot is the betting favorite?  Since Jason is the one with the idol and Scot should be telling him about Tai’s secret, maybe the bounty hunter is the real favorite.     

The Swap

It had a nice twist but when Jeff said they had planned to swap at 14, I was reminded of my comments from last weekThey really made a bad decision when they decided to delay the swap. 

No one was surprised to see that Alecia was voted out.  We heard Neal say: “Bye, Bye Blondie” and saw that Debbie agreed.

That was not exactly a nice comment considering that “Blondie” was used by Jason and it was very demeaning. 

The first commercial came just after Jeff told everyone to drop their buffs.

Laughing for now

“Laughing… for now!”

For a long time, the first commercial break used to come right after the previously on Survivor segment, then around the time of Cook Islands, we started having the night scene before the first break.  Now, we are getting it only after the first surprise of the evening.  It’s a fun way to present the show.

When we came back from commercial, we saw Cydney’s shock, Neal’s smile, and Tai’s worries.

It was Neal, Julia and Cydney who were shown when Jeff said that there were 6 blue, 6 yellow and one red.  The shock of the three Beauty women was shown when it was revealed that someone would be left alone on Brawn beach.

I wonder what the fans were thinking.  Would you have liked to have immunity in exchange of being cut off from everyone for 2 or 3 days? 

What was that smile hiding

“What was that smile hiding?”

Bruce wasn’t hurt by it but others like Misty and Sylvia were eliminated soon after an early trip to Exile Island.  It’s a tough situation and it will be interesting to see if Julia can reintegrate the group.  Luckily, she is a nice person and not a major threat so maybe her chances are better than most.  I think I would have preferred to stay with one group at the risk of getting voted out.

When it came his turn, Neal asked Jeff for his recommendation.  Jeff answered by telling him to follow his gut.

Once more, Neal is shown as the guy making his own luckThat little exchange reminded me of Tyson and the way he asked Jeff to be the last to draw.  It served him nicely so maybe this method will serve Neal as well.

The new line-ups:

Julia, who said she had a gut feeling, was left alone on To Tang.  She looked anxious when everyone started shaking hands.

The Blue tribe, Chan Lo, was composed of two Brains (Neal and Debbie), two Beauty (Michele and Nick) and two Brawn (Cydney and Jason)

Asked about his tribe, Neal said: “It looks like we’ve got some strength, it looks like we’ve got some smarts,  and it looks like we have some beauty so I’ll take it.  I’m talking about myself mostly!”

The Yellow tribe, Gondol, had three Brains (Aubry, Joe and Peter), two Beauty (Anna and Tai) and one Scot.

When Jeff turned to Julia, was saw Anna looking over at her friend.  Julia said she was going to be okay.  She added: “The one downside is not getting to know everyone.  I’m going to come in as the odd one out especially if a Beauty gets voted off at this next immunity.”

I would have kept that last part to myself.  The others didn’t need a reminder of the dangers of letting old friends reunite.  In Pearl Islands, Sean was voted out instead of Fairplay because Drake was worried about a reunion with Burton.  Julia and her friends would have been better served if she had used the angle that she needed immunity, pretending that she was as an outsider.

Michele in confessional: “What the heck!  The girls’ alliance got clean divided.  To have the people I can trust the most out here go three different ways– it’s crushing.”

Gondol Day 12

After hearing that the Beauty tribe still had one chicken and mangoes, Joe commented that they had done well.

Peter in confessional: “The swap is exactly what I needed because if that didn’t happen, I was dead.  My alliance member was voted out before me and I was the next lowest hanging fruit but now it’s in our best interest to go forward together.  On this tribe, there’s three Brains, two Beauties, one Brawn.  We’re the majority.  I’m set up right now to easily make it to the merge without having any concern or even a bead of sweat down my eyebrow.”

Peter hasn’t lost his arrogance.  This confessional made it sound like he’d be ripe for a snuffing, but it was all misdirection.  That’s twice now that Peter was a decoy boot so will he always escape the vote?

Scot’s interview:  “I’m the sole Brawn and I’m thinking: All right, I’m on the bottom of the totem pole.  It is a familiar feeling for me:  I’ve played for five different teams in the NBA and each time you’re joining a group of people you used to play against and you used to fight against.  I can handle it.  I just have to figure out if I can trust anybody who it is and if it’s going to do me any good.”

Finally we heard a player saying what I’ve been saying all along!  Ever since Africa, viewers have commented that tribe swaps in Survivor are unfair but I’ve always compared them to trades in sports.  Some players can go from a contender to a team that is completely out of the playoffs while others take the opposite road.  In Survivor, there are no playoffs so each player has to make their own luck and a good social game is always the key.  Scot adopted the perfect attitude:  Instead of showing paranoia, he had a calm determination and an open attitude.

In the shelter, Peter was quick to bring up the possibility of losing the next challenge to Aubry.  He added that the person eliminated would be replaced by a Beauty so the logical thing was to take out a Beauty.

Aubry’s confessional: “I might have three Brains in numbers but with Peter, that might only be two.  I don’t trust Peter as far as I can throw him.  Logically in numbers, does it make sense to go with Peter? Yeah it does, especially if there’s the potential a Beauty could come back to this tribe.  If Julia comes back from the Brawn tribe, she’s going to be another Beauty and we’re going to lose the numbers.  It’s going to be three and three.”

Scot came to join Peter and Aubry in the shelter and he agreed to eliminate a Beauty.

Scot’s confessional: “I’m absolutely alone but the Brain tribe seemingly have already made the decision:  Everybody is on board to take out a Beauty.  But people say one thing and then they turn around five minutes later and say something else.  Who knows?  It might switch all over again.”

Chan Lo Day 12

We heard quite a merry tune when Debbie welcomed everyone to their new shelter.

Michele’s interview: “I don’t think anybody expected a switch today.  I was stunned.  You know, on the Beauty tribe, the women’s alliance was really, really tight but we’re all divided right now, the three girls.  It’s nerve-wracking.”

There’s a nice underdog story starting to take form for Michele now that she isn’t in power.  She is the one giving us her point of view and we heard from her twice now before hearing from any of her allies.   She has potential as a long-term player.  I did find it surprising to hear her say that no one expected a switch.  The three-tribe format always had a switch around this time.  

Debbie told Cydney that they had a pull-up bar and she quickly gave her a demonstration.

Neal made an interesting comment:  “They only count if you go down all the way, Debbie.”

Going All The Way

“Going All The Way”

The same could be said of Survivor:  It only counts if you go all the way and it does seem that Debbie will be going all the way.

Michele’s confessional resumed: “On my tribe, I find myself with two Beauty, two Brains and two Brawn so there’s a lot to think about and it’s going to be a rough adjustment, but you know, you got to keep your head up and read people until it comes time when I got to make an alliance.”

Debbie’s confessional: “The new Chan Lo tribe is a good tribe.  It was a warm welcome to our humble abode but immediately, I’m just looking for an opening because my gameplay is… I’m on the offense, not the defense.  From the get-go, I wanted to work with Brawn because the Brawn tribe is definitely the powerhouse.”

The difference between these two juxtaposed confessionals is critical:  Michele will wait until the time comes to make an alliance while Debbie looked for an immediate opening.  It almost always pays to move quickly in this game.

Debbie expressed her admiration for Cydney’s fitness.

Cydney’s interview: “We were on a walk looking for coconuts and Debbie… she has a motherly vibe and it definitely could be good for me to have a motherly figure around too so it could be a good duo.  I’ve been playing the dumb jock role but I haven’t told anybody that I went to Penn which is like one of the top schools in the nation.  That’s not the vibe you get from me, like she’s so smart.  No, that is just not what I give out but I did go to an Ivy League school.  It took a lot to get there, especially growing up in the Atlanta public school system.  I was extremely ready for a change.”

Cydney’s admission of going to the Ivy League came right after Debbie said she was smart.   As for the change that Cydney mentioned, was she still talking about going from Atlanta to the Ivy League or was she talking about switching from the Brawn tribe to get to play with some members of the Brain tribe?  She certainly fit in nicely.

Debbie told Cydney that she was close with Neal even if they didn’t appear to be close but she added that she wanted to see a woman win this.  Cydney agreed with Debbie on that one.

Hearing a comment like this really piques my interest.  It strongly suggests that either a woman will win or it will be Neal!  And, after this, if we do have a woman winner, could it be anyone other than Debbie or Cydney?

Debbie’s confessional: “I spoke to Cydney about my plan of the two Brawn hooking up with the two Brain.  Now I need to speak to Jason and make it a foursome.”

The camera quickly took us to hear the talk that Debbie had with Jason.  She told him that they wanted to take out a Beauty to let them know what it’s like.

Debbie’s next interview: “I already went to Cydney. I already went to Jason:  We have a foursome.  Ding! Kaching!  We got a Cyanide triple bond carbon=nitrogen.  You’re not breaking it between us because, in this game, you have to have flexibility and you have to have strength.  Once again, I’m the mastermind behind the scene and they just don’t see me coming.”

Mastermind or

“Mastermind or Low-Hanging Fruit?”

Not only did Debbie give us another example of her abilities in making deals and hanging from a tree but the camera showed us Nick looking down and Michele turning her back to the action. 


Neither Nick nor Michele would see Debbie coming.  That image looks like a definite hint that both Michele and Nick will be blindsided by Debbie.  The image of Debbie hanging from the branch is also a reference to Peter’s low-hanging fruit comment.  How do we interpret that?  Will Debbie be the next to fall?  No, I think the images were shown to put salt in Peter’s wound, diabolically reminding him of his arrogant comment in episode one.

 Gondol Day 13

Tai’s confessional: “With Caleb gone, I say goodbye to a dear friend but the switch happen and we come together as a new tribe so there’s a lot of opportunities to make new friends.”

Tai was shown working while Anna was just standing there.

Who would you keep

“Who Would You Keep?”

Scot’s interview: “Tai is great.  You can tell he’s a hard worker.  It’s always great to have a guy in your tribe that keeps things jovial and he knows how to do everything.  That’s cool!  I like people like that.”

Tai asked Scot if he’d give him a boost to pick mangoes.

Tai’s comments: “Scot is gigantic!  He’s 6 foot eleven inches.  He’s so tall!  I think three of me would make one of him and he wears size 18 shoes.  That’s amazing.”

Scot: “Tai is light as a feather.  I tossed him up a tree and that little dude just ran around that tree picking mangoes like crazy.  I got a man crush on Tai right now already.  In my opinion, he’s the number one most valuable member of the tribe right now.”

It seems we have a new bromance in the works!  If everyone loves Tai, when will they decide to vote him out?  I wouldn’t wait for the last immunity challenge because with his weight and his resolve, there are many types of challenges that Tai would win.  Tai’s story certainly has most of the ingredients needed for a “winner’s edit”, maybe even more than everybody else but it doesn’t make sense from a game perspective.  It doesn’t take much to change a “winner’s edit” to a Hero’s story and that’s what I feel will happen with Tai.    

Anna was telling Aubry that Tai had constantly been looking for an idol.

In confessional, she told us about her predicament and how Julia’s return made it worse. 

Throwing Tai under the bus is the Alexis Maxwell type of gameplay.  It didn’t work for the former Beauty tribe member; it wouldn’t work for this one either.

Chan Lo Day 13

Nick’s confessional: “The tribe swap is a rebirth for me.  This mix of Beauty, Brain and Brawn, it kind of makes things more simple since there are two, two and two.  It’s going to be the battle of the pairs.  I’m with Michele right now and I’m trying to make some bonds to get two more with us.” At the water well, Nick told Jason that he liked everybody on the tribe.  Nick’s confessional went on: “When it comes to being manipulative, I think I’m the most intelligent person out here so, coming into this tribe, I get to start fresh and come up with new lies or new stories and I’m happy about it.”

Jason agreed to Nick’s proposal and then he closed the lid on the water well.

That's the End of That

“That’s the End of That”

True to form, Nick is setting the stage for a big blindside, but it could be his own!  It must be said that this exchange puts doubts on Debbie and Neal’s chances.  Despite Debbie’s assurances, the foursome isn’t locked in, Jason and Cydney could still be free agents.  However, Debbie and Neal have received much more character development so they are more likely long-term players compared to Nick and Michele.  When he put the lid back on the well, Jason could have been symbolically putting a lid on Nick’s game. 

Jason’s confessional: “Coming to the new Chan Lo tribe, I was put in a good spot. The Beauties are going to stick together, the Brains are going to stick together and they’re both reaching for Cydney and I.  Both sides look at us as the tie-breaker so it’s a great spot to be in.  Beauty on the right, Brains on the left; who do you side with?  We kind of hold all the power so I am feeling really good.”

I have no doubt that Jason taking care of Cydney just before the swap helped him tremendously in gaining trust from everyone.  However, right when Jason said he was feeling very good about having all the power, we saw him sitting in camp with smoke from the fire enveloping him. 

Fogs of war

“Fogs of War”

That symbolizes the “fogs of war” and it tells us that Jason will not know how to use that power properly.  The choices he makes will probably benefit someone else’s game more than his own.

While this was going on, we saw that Julia, left all alone in To Tang, was having a hard time.  The drums were heavy; they sounded like rumbling thunder in the distance.

Julia’s comments: “I woke up very dehydrated and I felt my body shutting down…There’s no chance of me reconnecting with my entire alliance so it’s going to be hard… People don’t know that I’m actually 18 and I think it’s easier for stronger people, bigger people than me, and people with more life experience than me, to get through this… The longer I’m out here, the more paranoid I’m going to get.”

I don’t know if production was trying to recreate the favorable impression we had of Stephenie when she was a tribe of one but instead we got a replay of many of those visits to Exile Island where someone has nothing to say but has to give an interview anyway. 

The Immunity Challenge

Jason had to remind Michele to step on the Blue mat!  Jeff remarked that it was old habits.

Scot and Aubry swam for Gondol while Nick and Jason went out for Chan Lo.

Jeff told us that Scot was doing it all himself.

“Scot has been a workhorse in this challenge,” said Jeff.

Neal yelled out to Jason and Nick to get closer to have less resistance.

Neal would regret it if the two guys actually do get closer!  I liked the irony of the comment, but it didn’t seem like Jason and Nick were ready to get close enough.  There was still plenty of resistance between them.

Tai and Joe started untying the fish first but Cydney and Michele caught up and took the lead.  The load proved a little much for Michele, though, but the two tribes were still practically tied at the start of the last leg.

Peter and Anna did the puzzle for Gondol while Debbie and Neal worked together for Chan Lo.

Jeff mentioned that Peter and Anna had a lot of success on puzzles but it was Neal and Debbie who were making quick progress.  In fact, they finished both layers before Gondol even had one.

Anna told us that her heart sank as soon as they lost the challenge.  She thought the vote would be a battle between herself and Tai.

Gondol’s Scramble

Hearing Anna’s comments about Neal and Debbie’s fast work seemed like foreshadowing what will happen in the game.  Like Anna and Peter, the others will have their strategy all prepared but they won’t see the Brains pair coming.  Debbie’s offensive tactics already put Michele in trouble and her puzzle skills finally came into evidence, causing Anna’s downfall.

Tai’s confessional: “It will definitely come down to me or Anna tonight. I have an idol.  If I play the idol, I know for sure I will last another day but I don’t want to play the idol.  If I don’t play it, they may all be voting for me.  More than once, many survivor went home with the idol in their pocket.”

Aubry told Peter and Joe that they should vote for Tai.  Peter preferred taking out Anna who was more divisive.  Joe liked the idea and told Peter they’d let him know.

Peter’s confessional: “I think the argument to take Anna out now is that she is too good of a player.  She’s a schemer, she’s intelligent and she’s a very attractive woman.  She can win the people over not only with her brain but with her looks.”

Peter should realize that the exact same argument could be said of him so maybe he should have considered aligning with Anna!  If Joe had told me that he’d let me know their decision, I would have taken that as a slap in the face.  My thoughts would have been:  “You do that Joe but in the meantime, I’ll make other arrangements.” 

Joe told Aubry that it would be better to blindside Anna over Tai who was good in camp but he didn’t know if they should protect the Brains.  Aubry said that it’s what she wanted.

When Anna asked Peter about the vote, he flat out told her and Tai that “they” wanted to take a Beauty out.  That caught Tai’s attention.

Tai’s confessional: “I do not like Peter.  There’s something arrogant about Peter.  We can take Peter out.  We can do it because I have the idol.”

To Anna and Scot, Tai revealed that he had an idol and wanted to see Peter out.  After he showed it to them, the three agreed on blindsiding Peter.

Anna gave the perfect “close to the edge” confessional: “I love Survivor, I love blindsides and I love immunity idols especially hidden ones.”

She even gave us a little kiss goodbye!!

Bye Bye Anna

“Bye Bye, Anna!”

Scot in confessional: “Aubry came up to me and said “Tai is safe”.  So, with Jason, I’ve got two guys that have idols and if you put them together, it becomes super-idol.  I thought, wow! We could blindside Anna and keep the idol hidden.  That would make me the only person in the game of Survivor that knows where two idols are.  That puts me in a pretty good spot provided I can get to the merge.”

The appearance of a snake right then was interesting.  Was the snake looking to put its teeth in Scot or was it symbolizing Scot himself.   Since the snake was also seen greeting the tribe back from the challenge and that Scot, along with Peter, was the big winner of that Tribal Council, I think Scot was the snake and he’ll make a few more victims before the season is over.

Scot told Tai that the vote would be against Anna and that it would be best for him to save the idol.

Tai’s interview: “Scot say that maybe they are not going to vote for me and I can use the idol as a tool but I’m so worried that, if I don’t play the idol, I might go home with the idol in my pocket, in my shoes and that would be a terrible thing.  Right now, I have an idol: I can keep it for myself, share it with Anna… I don’t know.  I guess I’ll bring my idol tonight and I’m going to see how it plays out.  I think a lot of stuff probably come out at Tribal and, from there, I’ll decide whether to play it or not.”

Tribal Council

Aubry immediately told that she was sticking with the people that she knew.  “They’re the devils we know but when we go into a tribe swap, you want to stick with the numbers.”

In case we weren’t sure yet, the camera went to Peter to identify Aubry’s devil.

Jeff turned to Scot who was in an interesting spot.  Scot agreed that he was alone on an island but he felt that people had made him part of the group for now.

Anna told Jeff that her heart dropped because she didn’t have the numbers.  She felt it would be between Tai or her.

Tai agreed adding: “Obviously, they are going to keep Scot.  He’s a massive asset to the team in challenges so it’s going to be one of us.”

Anna tried to sell herself as a valuable competitor.

Tai’s sale pitch was much more convincing:  “I have a lot of resources, a lot of skills and I never, ever complain about work.” Even Aubry agreed.  Tai then showed Jeff the wound on his leg.

Aubry said she appreciated both Tai and Anna but they would have to make a tough decision.

Joe then told Jeff that he thought there were no idols.

(Like in your good old days, hey Joe!)

Tai played it cool by saying he looked and couldn’t find one.

Scot agreed with Jeff that he had options but it depended on the unity of the Brains tribe.

Peter told Jeff that he didn’t see anyone looking for cracks and that he wasn’t worried because he was in a position of power.  “We can do what we want right now.”

Even confronted by Jeff’s reasoning, Peter still said the likelihood of Scot, Anna, and Tai taking on the Brain tribe was low, very low.

At least Aubry conceded that some people would go for it.

It was time to vote.

When Jeff asked for an idol, you could read Anna’s surprise when she realized that Tai wasn’t going to play his idol.

No Fun Tonight

“No Fun Tonight”

In comparison, Scot’s happiness was evident.

Everyone voted against Anna who left after wishing them all luck.

Jeff sent them back to camp with these words: “Survivor is a game about decisions.  Tonight, you decided to keep Tai over Anna and the question you’re going to be wrestling with until the next immunity challenge: Did we make the right decision.”

The Story

Did Gondol make the right decision?  While Jeff said the tribe’s decision was between Anna and Tai, we saw that it really was between Anna and Peter.  It depends on the timing of the merger and if they go to Tribal Council again.  If they don’t, then Peter may very well find himself in a position of power and that would definitely hurt Aubry and Joe.   By having Julia replacing Anna, we could be in for a very boring Tribal Council if Aubry and Joe decide that a repeat is in order.  Most shows go into reruns but the promos mention a new episode.  The timing would be good for a merger but it seems that will have to wait.

For Anna, it was a convergence of bad luck.  First she lost Caleb, then she was separated from her two closest allies, she was put in the minority with one of the most charismatic and hard workers we’ve ever seen on the show, there was the threat of Julia’s return and, if that wasn’t enough, Scot found out he could use Tai’s idol to form a super-idol.  With that being said, I still think Anna played it horribly.  Throwing your former tribe mate under the bus was following Alexis Maxwell’s way of playing the game.  Anna should have used Julia’s return as a positive, gone to Aubry and suggested she joins in her female alliance.   The women are being decimated right now so Aubry could have been receptive.  After two days, Peter’s arrogance was noticed by Tai so surely Anna must have seen it also and she should have guessed that Aubry felt the same way.  You make your own luck in this game as Neal said and Anna could also have won the immunity challenge, saving her all this trouble.

Survivor is a game of decisions and luck so which players are making their own luck and coming up with the right decisions? When Debbie told Cydney that she was close to Neal and that she wants a woman to win this season, I felt that we were left with three main contenders: Cydney, Neal and Debbie.

The Characters

Out of Luck

Julia:  The mystery buff twist should have been paired with a merger in the following episode.  In fact, the mystery buff should have been the merger buff and Julia should have been told to get the shelter ready for the new arrivals in a similar fashion to Tocantins premiere.  Forgive me for even suggesting such an abomination but, once there, they could have enticed her with a clue to a new idol!  With this set up, she will be walking straight into an ambush and we are heading for a rerun type of episode if Gondol loses again.  They could even do like in Soap Operas and have an announcer say: “Now playing the role of Anna Khait is Julia Sokolowski”.  Besides the tribe winning immunity, her only chance is that she won’t be perceived as a schemer so maybe Aubry and Joe will side with her and finally rid us of Peter.  Gratification has been delayed long enough…

Nick:  After being put on hold for 4 episodes, it seems that Nick’s story is starting to unfold.  The next preview is mostly devoted to him!  His manipulative skills will be on display and that should make for an interesting episode if he gets to pay Jeff a visit at Tribal Council.  While they are as loaded as the new Salani, Chan Lo looks like a powerhouse but what if Nick decides to throw the challenge to protect Julia and Tai, thinking he has Jason and Cydney in his pocket?  His machinations could earn him a quick exit!

Michele:  Of the three members of the female alliance, Michele had the nicest edit.  It had more substance than Julia’s and, while she didn’t receive as much attention as Anna in the premiere, she didn’t have a bad episode like the poker player had in episode 4.   Despite her anxious confessionals, she continued to display an easy-going attitude in camp and that will certainly mean that she is perceived as less threatening than Nick if Chan Lo goes to Tribal Council.  In fact, if I am reading the story wrong, if Debbie is indeed the low-hanging fruit and she gets voted out before the Beauty, then we’ll have to look at the two confessionals they gave one after the other from the opposite angle.  It would mean that the editors were telling us that Michele’s “defensive” method was the better choice.  Another possibility of course is that Debbie recruits her to make sure a woman wins the season.  It seems unlikely that it could be Michele but she can still emerge as our winner if she gets a strong second half.  Everyone’s story has flaws right now, so why not Michele’s?

Dumb Luck:   The Survivor gods smiled on these players

Peter:  This season’s swap couldn’t have come at a better time and in a better way for Peter.   While he should have used the word plurality instead of majority, the numbers meant that the former Brain tribe members needed him to stay in control.  No one in the Brain tribe liked Peter, but it must be noted that Aubry and Joe were not as dangerous to him as Debbie and Neal.  It can be said that the two new members of Gondol played defensively, protecting their position, rather than offensively by recruiting new alliance members.  As such, they opened the door for Peter, giving him a second reprieve.  Someone could pay dearly for that mistake. Can Peter carry his villain edit all the way to the end?  I don’t think so because there hasn’t been any attempt to show him as a likable underdog.  At the very least, the recap would have noted that Peter saved himself during the previous immunity challenge by completing the snake puzzle for his tribe.

Scot:  His dumb luck could be multiplied by ten if his new man crush is forced to leave the game.  Tai wouldn’t leave with the idol in his pocket so what would he do if he’s forced out of the game?  Give it to his new best friend of course.  Finding himself alone in a tribe of six may seem like bad luck but it’s been shown more than once that it’s a good position.  The two opposing factions needed Scot so, by staying calm and open, he had it made.  The mountain man is an asset in challenges but that will soon change and he has nowhere to hide.   Getting all the way to the end will be hard for Scot unless he’s given an idol or two.

Jason:  It’s seems certain that the attention he gave to Cydney when she was in distress contributed to his successful integration into the new Chan Lo but he still received plenty of luck when the Beauty tribe was clean divided and Julia became the designated returning player.  Instead of picking new buffs, we could have seen the Brawn tribe getting dissolved into the other two and that could have meant a quick end to Jason’s game.  Let’s not forget that production’s last minute decision to change the format meant he could get rid of Alecia before the swap.  Either Jason or Scot would not have slept as comfortably if their favorite punching bag had made it to a new tribe.

Now that he has become a vital ally to both sides and that they seem to trust him, how far can Jason go?  Like many others, Jason could win this game despite some terrible episodes.  We’ve certainly seen some bullying on his part but all of his voting decisions were perfectly explained.  From an editing perspective, Darnell, Jennifer and Alecia made mistakes that earned them their ticket to Loser Lodge so we can’t say they were helpless in front of their tormentor.  It’s not the same as when Judd turned on Margaret with all his fury.    With an idol, new found allies and Scot’s knowledge of Tai’s idol, Jason could soon become the most powerful player in the game.  We’d have to say he told us so when he talked about collecting his paycheck.

Cydney:  Personal development was the main drawback in Cydney’s story but she took care of that in this episode.  She has a wonderful personal story that could earn her a lot of sympathy when she shares it.  She made the critical connection with Debbie first so she wasn’t depending on Jason at that point. However, she traded one position of dependency for another when she became Debbie’s follower instead.  Hearing her say that having a motherly figure could be good for her is certainly not a sign of independence.  A follower can win one of two ways:  Getting to the end with a leader that everyone dislikes or overthrowing that leader at the right moment.    It seems that only Peter would qualify as the hated leader but Cydney has no connection to him.  So it seems that she will have to make a big move and vote either her “savior” or her island “mother” out of the game.  It seems unlikely.

Bad Decisions

Joe:  His aversion for Peter was evident in his comment about letting him know what he and Aubry decide.  He only thought of keeping the numbers but it was time to act but Debbie wasn’t there to get him to move so he missed a good opportunity.

Aubry:  Even if we never saw it, Debbie must have talked to Aubry about her desire of seeing a woman win and maybe even about her desire to team up with Cydney at some point.  That should have opened two doors for Aubry:  She could have teamed up with Anna to form a bigger women’s alliance or she could have gone with Scot to build a second front in the battle against Beauty.   With Peter and Anna voting against each other, Aubry and Joe could have eliminated the player of their choosing and easily rallied the others to their cause.

Making Their Own Luck and Decisions

Tai:  Since Anna never gave him the reassurances he needed, it wouldn’t have been wise for Tai to play his idol in her favor.  Yes, he would now have the numbers on the new Chan Lo but he would have placed his game in the poker player’s hands.  After showing his value around camp and his joyous attitude, Tai isn’t in any danger now that the tribe has another easy prey and Tai can certainly forge his way in the game without any of his former Beauty tribe mates.  He has the best documented story and it seems that we know more about him personally than just about any other player in the history of the show including all of its winners.  If we want to quibble, we could say that we haven’t heard any long-range plan on his part but his idol and his charisma form a good enough game plan.  Can he find a way to the end?  We’ve seen many players make that mistake before so Tai has a chance.  In my opinion though, his story is more likely to be that of the tragic hero where his misfortune will come by accident.

Neal: The previews had shown us a scene where Debbie told Neal that she totally trusted him while he simply answered OK.  We didn’t see that talk during the episode.  There have been a lot of manipulations around scenes that involve Debbie, Neal and Aubry (the lost mask and the medical intervention in the Brain camp during episode 1 for example) and there must be a reason for that.  Hearing Debbie say that she totally trusts Neal could have created a sense of tension between the two when none exists so maybe the editors chose to cut it to avoid confusion.

What we did see was Neal finding an idol and calling himself the frontrunner for those betting in Vegas but do we take that at face value or not?  It must be said that right after he said he’d be looking for the possessor of that second idol, we saw that Scot discovered it first.  Debbie told Cydney that she was close to Neal but wanted to see a woman win this season so it could come down to “Debbie’s Choice”.  Will she be able to vote out Neal to make sure a woman wins?  Maybe not!   Neal wasn’t shown making any deals after the swap so many will say it isn’t his game but that would be an oversimplification.  Neal was part of the foursome between Brain and Brawn but he was also put in danger when Nick brokered the Brawn-Beauty alliance so there wasn’t a need to include him for now.   The episode showed him playing a much more individual game and that could be what gets him to the end.

Debbie:  Hearing Debbie talk about playing offense is just another layer added to an already very substantial edit.  We’ve definitely followed the game’s strategy from her point of view.  Even when she aligned with a big character like Jason, it was her confessional that was used to inform us of the new situation.  In comparison, Jason’s confessional only came after making a deal with Nick so we can say he was being used to cast doubt on Debbie’s chances.

The main drawback in Debbie’s story is certainly the craziness we saw in the first two episodes and the negative comments made by Peter, Liz and even Neal but she got to explain that as part of her strategy to fly under the radar.  By the merger in Worlds Apart, many viewers were pulling for Shirin and she had shown much more craziness and less gameplay than Debbie.  The chemist / waitress / electronic expert’s crazy scenes cannot be used to eliminate her from winning the game.   They are simply question marks but they would also make for a wonderful topic during her victory talk with Jeff at the reunion.

Debbie could still be the low-hanging fruit that gets picked off by Peter after the merger if the doctor is allowed to survive another cycle but the image of her hanging from the branch was accompanied with the caption of going all the way so I still think Debbie will be in the Final Three.  It should come down to her and Neal while another as of yet unidentified woman finishes third.  Aubry, Michele, and Cydney are all candidates for that third place.

Will the Sole Survivor be Debbie or Neal?  I can’t make the call just yet.

P.S. But it won’t be Anna!


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