When a Survivor season really clicks, there’s a consistent ebb and flow as players maneuver between alliances. This is especially true during the post-merge game, which usually holds the risk of a Pagonging if one side dominates. Worlds Apart has promised shakeups in each Tribal Council since the merge, but only Jenn’s idol play has prevented a direct path to the final six. The majority kicked Mike to the curb after his behavior last week, yet he was set for a betrayal either way. They recognized the threat and weren’t ready to keep him around until the final seven. We’ve now reached that point, and Mike is still here alongside the dominant group. He’s won immunities and should force the issue with the idol if he loses next week. The big question is whether he’s sowed enough dissension to blast his way to the end.
Mike’s idol shenanigans at Tribal Council brilliantly created a game of chicken with the others. Would they stick to the plan or panic and reveal who’s at the bottom? The smart move in that situation for the majority was voting for Shirin; Mike was unlikely to risk his game by playing the idol to save her. On the other hand, there was at least a small chance he would do it. Mike knew that Shirin would probably still go home when he made the play, but all it took was one flip to make it worthwhile. The others now know he has the idol, but that isn’t the worst-case scenario since it might create turmoil. The final outcome with Shirin leaving was predictable once Mike won immunity, but the road to get there was intriguing. Mike used the idol like a nuclear deterrent to push someone to blink. Tyler understandably changed his vote, and Will took the bait and confirmed it. The fact that both voted for Dan played right into Mike’s hands. If one of them had picked Rodney or Sierra, it would be tougher to pinpoint who sat in sixth.
The vote for Dan made sense on the surface; it’s clear to us that he’s on the bottom. It’s strange when you consider his advantage, however. Tyler knew that Dan had an extra vote, so angering him would be dangerous. Many have learned that the key is not letting the outsiders know they’re on the outside. It’s possible that Tyler voted for Dan because of that knowledge. He figured that removing a guy with the extra power was the next-best option given the circumstances. Will’s choice seemed short-sighted, but we’ve seen little from him to understand any strategy. He barely spoke during this episode, and his only comments focused on the fight with Shirin. This vote sent a clear message to Dan that he’s not in anyone’s final three plans. The question is whether a headstrong guy like Dan will make a move. He claims to be running the show and playing his own game; now is the time to prove it.The jury loved Mike’s daring play; will it help him usurp the leaders?[/caption]
It’s been evident since the tribe swap that the editors have set up Mike as a possible winner. The other major contenders (Joe, Jenn, and recently Shirin) have all gone to Ponderosa. Mike is now the underdog fighting against a mostly arrogant lead group. Everything points toward a Chris Daugherty-like run to the end. On the other hand, I’ve expected a shake-up during each of the past four weeks. Could Mike create fireworks and then exit at the final six? That scenario is possible but seems unlikely given all the attention on his moves. Mike has tried everything and is throwing hundreds of darts at the board. His success rate has been widely inconsistent, but he’s still battling. It never hurts to win some challenges too. The stage is set for him to strike, but his gains will be short-lived if Dan exits next week. Mike needs to remove a power player from the trio of Rodney, Carolyn, and Tyler to set himself up for more than a brief reprieve.
I was definitely pulling for Shirin to make the end and surprise everyone. We observed so many clips of players saying that she had no chance to win; Shirin even made the same case. But consider this dismaying observation, naysayers: If Mike had been voted out this week, Shirin would probably have four jury votes locked in against anyone left in the game. In a final three with an eight-person jury, that would create a 4-4 tie in the best case for her opponents. There was a great potential for a Sandra-like win; the edit suggested that likelihood. She made enemies with her personality but was still in a prime spot. Of course, the main reason was the fact that possible winners have kept exiting. Tyler, Carolyn, Rodney, and Sierra could make a case, but I would not see them winning against Shirin.
For a brief moment, I was fooled by the scene with Dan trying to comfort Shirin. Unfortunately, he was not a very good actor. He called her “worse than Will” in a confessional, which was hard to believe. I give Dan credit for being nasty to the camera instead of directly to Shirin. However, I don’t get the sense that she’d consider voting for him in the end. Clapping with an arrogant grin after she was voted out didn’t help matters. Shirin had tried to target Dan to flip and made the right case. It was obvious from his body language that Dan wasn’t interested. He spent most of the conversation spitting and doing everything but looking into her eyes. Dan couldn’t look past his personal feelings to seize the opportunity.
Shirin’s Ponderosa video was fascinating and showed just how much this game meant to her. In a strange way, her passion made it harder for Shirin to sit back. If she does return to Survivor, I expect her entire game will be closer to her post-merge efforts. People will know her story and won’t treat her like Dan and Will did (I hope). She also won’t be considered a top threat despite her understanding of the game. The clip also reminded us how even friends like Jenn could get irritated with Shirin. The guys’ behavior towards her was cringe-inducing and unacceptable, but it reminded us of what happened in the pre-merge game. What was refreshing about Shirin is how she put herself out there for the players and the audience. It didn’t make her a great Survivor player, but she was never uninteresting on the screen.
An Easy Vote?
Following her win over Shirin at the immunity challenge, Carolyn made the case for the easy vote. Removing Shirin made sense from her perspective. She’s in a prime position near the top of her alliance and won’t be the target anytime soon. Shirin targeted her in the past, but I don’t get the feeling Carolyn is in trouble. Plus, she still has the idol and knows about Dan’s advantage. Removing Shirin makes sense for Carolyn, who can sell “six strong” because she’s in control. She’s won two immunities and could make a case at the end. The tricky part for Carolyn might be her lack of subtlety. Even in the extra scenes, her focus is still on the final six. I’m guessing that she has a final three plan (probably Will and Rodney), but Carolyn may need to do more to make the jury feel good about handing her the million.
Taking out Shirin made sense for Carolyn, but it didn’t look so good for Sierra. We did see her pushing Rodney to go after Tyler, which is wise. They may need to follow that plan next week because of Mike’s idol. What was interesting about this moment was the solid relationship that we saw between Rodney and Sierra. Her past anger seemed gone, and that may create a blind spot for her about his true intentions. Rodney has talked about a final four that doesn’t include Sierra; does she have another plan? Her best choice next week may be to join Dan and Mike to take out a threat. The downside in working with Mike is the challenge in beating him in front of the jury. Sierra needs to sit next to people like Dan and Will to grab the win. The other players like her, and Sierra’s lack of immunity wins makes her seem less imposing. She hasn’t received much of an edit, but that doesn’t mean she’s in a bad spot. She talked with Shirin in a secret scene about going after Tyler, but the votes weren’t there from the others.
Rodney pushed for Shirin to leave because he doesn’t trust her. Rodney’s logic makes sense, and he talks about playing “one day at a time”. The question is whether Rodney is truly leading the group. The lack of rewards was making him grumpy and a little crazy, but he hasn’t stood out as a threat by winning them. He may need some “Rodney time”, but staying close to camp might favor him. Max learned that being alone is hardly the route to victory. Despite the histrionics at times, Rodney is more self-aware than I expected at the start. I’m unsure if he’ll be able to scramble in the tough days ahead. Rodney’s faced serious adversity in his life, but it’s easy to get complacent on Survivor.
Selling the Lie
Dan looked very foolish at Tribal Council when comparing his status as an adopted child to the abuse faced by Shirin. Jeff Probst rightfully called him out on the hypocrisy and the way it diminished Shirin’s difficulties. This lack of understanding spread into Dan’s strategic game. He still believed that Mike’s behavior surrounding the auction caused the others to remove him from the alliance. Carolyn talked about wanting Dan to feel comfortable, and eating giant hamburgers with him cemented the bond. I shouldn’t be surprised to see Dan not recognizing his spot. He supported Rodney like a boxing coach during the challenge and even used the “angel over your shoulder” line. Dan failed to realize how important Mike’s fate interlocks with his. He didn’t buy what Mike and Shirin were selling; will the votes that he received this week change his mind? I still have my doubts that he’ll see the light.
Dan believes that Mike and Shirin are selling him a bill of goods, and his primary goal is making the end. In an extra scene, he recognizes that he could reach that point and have no chance. What’s surprising is Dan’s feeling that he isn’t sliding through the game. Thus far, he hasn’t made any moves that should help his case with the jury. Dan indicates that his move is coming, so I’ll try to keep an open mind. Even so, Dan isn’t self-aware about how much people don’t like him. His personality is what makes Dan less of a threat even more than his strategy. Dan could make the right moves and still lose in the end.
Slow and Steady
An intriguing part of this week’s episode was the contrast between the ways that Tyler and Mike approach the game. The reward challenge offered a perfect example. Mike tried to be the hero and put the team on his back, while Tyler employed a more deliberate method. In a secret scene, Dan described how Mike wants to be Captain America. That’s a good metaphor for his style, and I’m not sure it’s a great strategy on Survivor. Mike hopes to win all the immunities, and it’s always possible. Even so, I have a feeling he’s bound to run into a few difficulties. Once the idol is gone, Mike will face a major hurdle.
Will points out the benefit of keeping Tyler in the game; he could beat Mike in a challenge. Even so, his under-the-radar style has been exposed. At Tribal Council, Tyler calmly laid his strategy on the table. It’s served him well so far, but the tables could turn if Mike leaves. It’s similar to the situation with Joe where taking out the threat hurt Mike’s position. So what is the best move for Tyler? His chances at the end aren’t great against Mike, but losing him now is also problematic. He has a strong bond with Carolyn, but I expect she would betray him to further her game. It’s a tricky situation for the big man.
Who’s in the best position?
Carolyn: If we believe that Dan will switch sides next week, I could put Mike in this spot. The next moves aren’t clear, however. What I do know is that Carolyn is firmly in the middle of the dominant group. She has solid allies and won’t be the next target. She also has an immunity idol that could save her skin even if the tide turns in Mike’s favor. If Tyler leaves the game, the knowledge about her idol leaves with him. I can see multiple scenarios where Carolyn makes the end. What I’m not clear about are her chances to win over the jury. She hasn’t made social gaffes like Dan and Will, so sitting next the right people will be the key to her ultimate plans.
Who’s in trouble?
Tyler: I like Tyler and believe he could make a convincing case to the jury. If Mike is voted out, the most likely winner is Tyler. On the other hand, that fact puts him in a dangerous position. Mike has the idol, so there should be a vote split if he loses the challenge. Rodney discussed taking out Tyler with Sierra this week, and Tyler is the perfect candidate to receive the other votes. He’s made solid alliances and stuck with them, but Tyler needs to win immunity next week more than any other. If he doesn’t the information about Dan’s advantage will be the trump card that he’ll need to pin votes on a different player.
It’s easy to read into Mike’s strong edit and believe he’ll certainly win the game. Many fans also consider Jeff Probst’s comments praising the season as a giveaway about this fact. I have mixed feelings about giving too much weight to these suspicions. They may totally be spot on, but it makes for a boring discussion. Given the adversity he’s faced, a Mike victory would probably be satisfying. Even so, I’m not ready to give him a rubber stamp. There are six players that want him gone, and that’s a tough challenge for anyone. There is a precedent for him to turn the tables, but he’ll need some lucky breaks. Regardless of who comes out on top, I’m hoping for more unpredictable results in the upcoming weeks.