A Survivor First: Let’s Scold Denise!

Well, loyal blog readers, I have some harsh words tonight for my favorite castaway. Cover your ears. Unfortunately, this blog post is also going to be shorter than what you’ve been accustomed to. That’s because this past episode unfolded exactly the way we all knew it would. The Kalabaw/Matsing Six turned on the Tandang Two. They split their votes, Abi played her idol, and poor Pete had to go home. Yawn.

Speaking of which! This is probably my last opportunity to talk about Pete Yurkowski, so let me take a moment to say some kind words to him. Pete is good at Survivor. He really is. I’ve been relentlessly calling him a douchebag, but in fairness to me, that’s only because he is one. So am I, Pete. It’s okay. Here, I’ll give you an example. Pete has a drinking buddy named Ham Bone. I have a drinking buddy named T-Bone. If you think I’m joking, I am not. Granted, his drinking buddy is a Pillow Pet and mine is a human, but it’s the same thing. The only difference, Pete, is that I’ve never spooned mine. Also, that’s a lie. I was the big spoon, Pete, and it was magical. How do you like that.

Pete, watching you play Survivor has been kind of like looking in the mirror. Except I’m taller. But, in fairness, my facial hair is not as good as yours. The point is, we’re both young guys with a similar worldview. We think we’ll be studs forever. That’s just how it is. I get you. I don’t hold it against you. The only reason I’ve been so hard on you is this: it’s just a lot of fun to call you a douchebag. If you’re anything like me, (which you are) you’ll understand. You’re much better at this game than I gave you credit for. I just wanted you to know that I recognize that fact.

But Pete really does have a grasp of this game. He knows how it works. In another life, in a parallel dimension, I think Pete could do very well at this game. Despite being a douchebag, it didn’t seem like anybody on any of his tribes was ever mad at him. He was able to avoid detection, and that’s the best Survivor quality of them all. He has a strong strategic mind, and a powerful physical game. His social game’s not stellar, but it’s not bad either. Really, his only major flaw was that he made the same mistake that RC made. He aligned himself with a crazy person.

Speaking of which, I’d be reneging on my duties if I didn’t stop here and say: Abi, you really do suck. You suck in so many ways. God, if I ever play Survivor, I hope you’re out there with me. You are a walking million-dollar check for anybody who can figure out how to use you. I could write lines and lines of eloquent prose about how terrible you are at Survivor, but everybody who’s going to read this already knows. I won’t waste their time. Let’s move on.

Next order of business!

I usually make a conscious effort to curtail my outrage when it comes to watching Survivor. I’m a flawed analyst in many ways. I never know what the editors are not showing me. And what they do decide to show me, I still have to filter through my own biases. But even given all of that, it sure seems to me like everybody left in this game dropped the ball this week in one crucial way. You guys are giving way too much information to our crazy friend Abi-Marie Gomes.

Information is powerful. When your opponent has it, he knows how you think. He knows how you react. He can predict your moves. I’ve never criticized Denise Stapley’s game before, but I think she screwed up big this week. And even though I’ve had a Survivor crush on Denise up until now, I’m not going to spare her from the criticism she deserves.

Here’s the thing. You can never let your target know your game, Denise. Yes, Abi is insufferable. Yes, she’s begging for a tongue-lashing. But this is a game for a million dollars! Bite your tongue, if you have to.

Now, I understand where Denise is coming from, emotionally. But strategically? I think she’s being short-sighted. I know that Abi lost her idol this week, and it doesn’t seem like she has any allies left in this game. But that’s precisely what makes her dangerous. Who’s going to worry about voting Abi out now? She’s a sitting duck. There are plenty of other threats left in this game. Chief among them? Denise’s closest ally: Malcolm. Denise, if you lose Malcolm at this phase of the game, you are toast. Get your game face on.

I can’t help but look at the game from the perspective of how I’d play the game. And that’s half the fun of watching the show. For example, if I were playing this game this season, the move to split the votes between Pete and Abi would be obvious to me. I’d see it coming a mile away. And Pete knew it was coming as well. I really thought he made a solid argument to Skupin, to try to flip his vote. That impressed me. And personally, if I were Skupin listening to that argument, I would have been swayed. I would have made that move. That move made sense. But he didn’t, because he had a Final Four alliance already locked in, and that’s okay too. It’s a wash for him. I don’t have a problem with Skupin’s move, at least not yet. My problem this week is with Denise.

Denise, you actually may not end up being punished for speaking so candidly at Tribal Council, but you deserve to be. Right now, it sure seems likely that the tribe’s hatred of Abi will overpower Abi’s ability to turn votes against Denise. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a bad move. That just means Abi’s game is so terrible that Denise’s blunder might go unnoticed. But Denise, in our heart of hearts? You and I both know: it was still a blunder.

It can be argued that Denise knew that Abi would never have the political capital to vote her out; and that she wouldn’t have spoken out otherwise. Fine. But you don’t tear someone apart like that at Tribal Council unless you know for a fact they’re going home immediately. Why would you leave a wild card in the game?

And Denise should know better. She’s gotten this far by keeping her mouth shut and being cordial. But now, not only is there still a free agent vote left in the game, but Denise has moved herself to the top of Abi’s hit list. And Denise can scratch Abi and Pete off of her list of potential jury votes should she make it to the end. I’m not mad, Denise. I’m just disappointed.

So that begs the question: how does one win Survivor? That’s a tricky question. There are many ways to do it. But the best way? The way that stands the best chance of working, statistically? And, incidentally, the only way that could possibly work a second time? You keep your mouth shut as much as you possibly can. Guard information with your life. Never give the enemy a single hint.

And that’s what I thought Denise’s game plan was, up until now. She has ingratiated herself with every castaway out there. She has been getting a steady stream of solid information. She’s built a rock-solid alliance. She’s been clued in to what everybody else was thinking. If you can manage to do that, your battle is almost won. All you have to do from there, Denise, is to shut the fuck up.

And I get it. I get that Abi is intolerable. And I get that the risk of Abi flipping any numbers around is pretty minimal. But here’s the thing: it’s still a possibility. And Denise knew that the odds were very strong that Abi was not going home tonight. She should have known better. For a player that I ranked as my #1 overall pick in my power rankings, this was a really rookie mistake. Come on, girl. Shake yourself.

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