Survivor Kaoh Rong

The Survivor Strategic Game: Don’t Take Any Chances

It’s been interesting to watch the course correction that’s happened this season ever since Scot’s exit. We’d seen multiple shifts back and forth, but the two players in charge have always driven the action. Aubry and Cydney have voted together and correctly at every Tribal Council since the merge. They’ve had different cohorts and even veered away from Joe and Michele at times. Tai was needed to remove Scot and Julia, but he didn’t control this week’s choice. We haven’t seen a Pagonging because of the different blocs, yet one side is clearly winning. Jason had little power and could be a valuable goat at the end, but why take that chance? The wild card might help you, but that player could also destroy anyone’s game.

Jason was arrogant and difficult to watch at times, but he was an interesting foil. You need someone who plays the game differently to build conflict. Jason often took credit for luck or others’ moves in confessionals, but he was formidable on his own. He made mistakes and was not good at jury management. Even so, Jason did have a path to victory against Tai, Joe, and possibly even Michele. Aubry and Cydney would probably beat him, but it could be a risk. If they betrayed Michele, Tai, and Joe to bring Jason along, that might give him the win. The tricky question is who benefited the most from this move. Cydney enforced her will and helped save Michele, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Aubry’s game was destroyed by this result.

The game is only going to get trickier for Aubry. The game is only going to get trickier for Aubry.[/caption]

Aubry clearly struggled with the conflict between voting against an ally that’s more threatening or taking out the person on the bottom. Michele hasn’t made enemies and rarely leads the charge. Aubry would have the upper hand in a final two, and I don’t believe that drove her dilemma. Instead, she didn’t want to alienate Tai by dismissing his plan. He’ll play the idol next week, and another player will have immunity. If Tai feels hurt and targets Aubry, she may be in trouble. On the other hand, betraying Cydney would be even worse. If Aubry (and Joe) had joined Tai and voted out Michele, Cydney would have certainly aligned with Jason. Their first target would probably be Aubry, though they would need Tai to make it happen. I doubt that Cydney would blame Joe or even Tai for the move.

Aubry’s path to the end goes through Cydney, and I suspect that’s clear in her mind. The question is whether Cydney recognizes the threat from Aubry. We saw how frustrated Cydney became with Joe and Tai for dictating anything to her. She’s playing a direct game, and it’s working. Aubry is moving slower and thinking through each choice. She also isn’t great at selling a lie. When she told Tai “I’m with you”, it wasn’t convincing. Aubry has succeeded with quiet, convincing arguments to her allies. Can she pull Tai into the fold again? The other option is sticking by Cydney and believing she will do a better job at convincing the jury. Of course, that move probably brings Michele into the final three. In that scenario, Aubry would need to win immunity or join the third-place club.

Master of the House

Cydney’s an intriguing player because she combines strength and a gruff exterior with smarts and likability. Even when she complained about Joe, it never felt unnecessarily mean. Cydney talked at Tribal Council about how everyone must play their own game. She’s done a great job at protecting her allies and keeping people on her side. She was never targeted on Brawn and picked the right moment to move away from Jason and Scot. It shouldn’t be hard for Cydney to sell her game to the jury. I don’t believe she’ll make it, though. Cydney only has one immunity win, but she was extremely close earlier against Tai. Others will consider her the biggest physical threat regardless of how she performs.

Cydney will stand out as the toughest physical competitor.

Cydney will stand out as the toughest physical competitor going forward.

Cydney’s fate will come down to whether Aubry and Michele believe they can beat her. It’s challenging because both have good relationships with Cydney. Aubry can talk strategy with her and disagree, yet they still remain strong allies. Tai’s vote may also set up the end game. We have two pairs courting a guy with an idol for the game’s most important vote. If Tai won’t align with Aubry again, would she sacrifice Joe to stay loyal to Cydney? In that scenario, Aubry would need to hope that Tai would become the big threat at the final four.

The different variations for next week should make for a fun penultimate episode. This isn’t a situation where there’s a final three locked into place like on Second Chances or Blood vs. Water. The two players that have stuck together since the merge should be targeting each other. They don’t know the episode schedule and suspect a final two like we do. If this group is planning for a final three, the final five is the place to strike. There’s too much risk of the target winning immunity at the final four. Jeremy did that exact thing last season.

Tribal Council Blunders

Tai may not be the jury threat many assumed he would be for a while.

Tai may not be the jury threat many assumed he would be for a while.

Tai has been a fun character all season and hasn’t been a bad player. However, he needs work at the art of facing Jeff at Tribal Council. Tai gives away too much information and does worse if he’s pressured. I don’t believe the vote changed at Tribal Council, but Tai did himself no favors either way. He also looked weak in front of the jury. Steven pointed out on Survivor Know-It-Alls that Tai could actually be the goat. The edit has made sure we don’t respect his game too much. Talking about a “smaller group within a larger group” at Tribal Council makes little sense. That comment makes everyone question if they’re in the inner circle. Even if Michele was going home, why would Tai risk angering a jury member on her way out?

What is Tai’s dream final three? It sounded like he wanted Joe and Aubry with him, and his revelations about the advantage showed that loyalty. Tai may have lost the game when he didn’t give Scot his idol. The beneficiaries of that move were Aubry, Cydney, and Joe. If two of them are in the final three with him, that means they can’t vote for him to win. Betraying Michele could lose her vote, and Jason and Scot probably wouldn’t do it. Tai should beat Joe in a final two, but that feels like the least likely of all the possible final duos left on the board.

The Final Five

I’ve already discussed some possibilities for the Final Tribal Council for these players. It’s time to dig a little deeper. Based on what we’ve seen so far, who should each player want to join at the end? I’m going to assume there’s a final two for this exercise. The extra challenge in the finale for an advantage should never grace my screen again. Let’s discuss what I believe each person wants to see and how they might try to get there. I’ve organized the names with each successive person having a better chance to win if they make the end.

Joe's chances are extremely slim to win over the jury.

Joe’s chances to win over the jury are slim.

Joe: I hate to just dismiss Joe’s chances outright, but the editors have made sure his spot was clear. Joe seems like a great guy, and his ability to handle the elements has been amazing. On the other hand, I’m not sure he’d get more than a protest vote against the remaining competitors. In his exit interview with Josh, Jason described Joe as the only guy who didn’t deserve to be there. Players have repeatedly talked about how Joe is just following Aubry’s lead. So what can Joe do? He would have to betray Aubry and take charge, and that goes against his personality. Joe seems content to stick with his ally and vote against players like Jason that he doesn’t value. I feel safe to say that Joe is the only player left with a 0% chance to win the game.

Tai: Few players have gone through more ups and downs than Tai. Players have called him a threat at the end, but he’s also betrayed several jury members. He hasn’t built strong relationships and tends to change his mind frequently. Tai has made the moves, but he isn’t great at explaining his game. Those issues could doom him against a more direct speaker like Michele. Tai probably defeats Joe because he’s played, and getting there with him should be his goal. This means that Tai’s best choice is sticking with Aubry and Joe. He’d need to win the final immunity challenge and remove Aubry at that point. I don’t expect this scenario to play out, however. It actually makes sense for Tai to target Michele again next week. Aubry showed a willingness to listen to the idea last time. Will Tai set aside his pride and make the right choices?

Will Michele step up and grab control?

Will Michele step up and grab control?

Michele: There are quite a few situations where Michele could win the game. No one would automatically vote against her, and that isn’t true with the two guys. I don’t believe she’s owned the game like Cydney and Aubry, and that’s the challenge. Will Michele be willing to target Cydney, who protected her this week? She’ll need to play a more cutthroat style to have a shot. Voting out Julia showed that Michele could set aside friendships for the game. The previews for next week show that Michele and Tai were working together, and that’s the right move. That probably means that it won’t happen, though. Michele should align with Tai and target the other women. She needs to be the more likable alternative, and defeating Aubry or Cydney is less likely.

Cydney: This week showed Cydney’s power to make decisions and influence others to join her. That’s a great skill, particularly when people don’t feel like they’re being bullied. Like I mentioned earlier, Cydney is the high-profile target. Aubry has also played well, but she doesn’t stand out in the same way. Will Cydney be able to keep Michele and Aubry as close allies? That feels unlikely, so she may need immunity wins to reach the end. Cydney probably feels she can beat anyone, but she should be wary of Aubry. The jury members respect Aubry’s game, and she hasn’t betrayed allies besides Debbie. If Cydney can take out Aubry, her path to victory is clear.

Aubry: I’d love to see Aubry and Cydney battle it out at the final two, but at least one of them will recognize the danger. Aubry has been strong at Tribal Council and found ways to vote out players without making them feel bad about it. She’s the number one contender, but surviving the next three votes won’t be easy. She may not have the numbers to remove Cydney at the final five if Tai defects. Aubry must sit back and wait for the best opportunity to take charge. With the obvious votes all gone, the attention may shift back to Aubry. She has to be ready for a fight.

Next week feels like the first step of the season finale. There are no obvious votes left, and new blocs will form to set up the end game. I can read the edit and expect a certain result, but little is guaranteed. The editors spent a lot of time propping up Jason this week in challenges and at the reward, but it meant little. The only glimpse at trouble was Jason being attacked by a monkey. Who will move at the right time and grab the title? Could another player get injured? There are so many questions leading into next week, and it feels like almost anything could happen.

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