Survivor Kaoh Rong

The Survivor Strategic Game: Removing the X Factor

Rarely have the Survivor editors telegraphed a player’s exit more extensively than Peter’s. Once Joe and Debbie joined Neal and Aubry to remove Liz, Peter’s days were numbered. More importantly, we repeatedly saw instances where Peter looked out of touch. This set-up made this week’s 4-2 vote feel predestined. Even when Aubry crossed out Julia’s name and eliminated Peter, it wasn’t that shocking due to the edit. Peter was shown as the villain who needed to go or risk everyone’s games. The big question is who benefited most from this move.

Peter was a wild card who might induce chaos after the merge, but he could be a valuable number. Similar to Alecia, he was one step away from escaping his tight spot. This situation felt a little different than Alecia’s, though. We’ve seen multiple players mention their negative feelings about Scot in extra scenes because of his treatment of Alecia at challenges. That sympathy would have made it easier for Alecia to grab new allies. Peter needed a lifeboat and found one, but he didn’t connect with his new tribemates. Scot and Tai never trusted him, and they controlled the vote. Aubry made the decisive move but did so because she correctly believed the three other votes for Peter were there.

Peter had the chance after the swap to flip on Joe and Aubry. If he’d found a way to pitch this move to Anna last week, he could have turned the tables. Instead, he lived in the gray area where absolutely no one believed in his motives. In his exit interview with Rob, Peter said that Anna wouldn’t even consider working with him. That really limited Peter’s chances to make a change last week. Being a free agent can work out well on Survivor, but you still need others to think you can help them. If both sides are questioning your loyalty, it creates a situation where no one feels comfortable. Four players from three different original tribes all decided removing Peter was the safest road. It wasn’t clear where he would go after the merge, and that made him too dangerous for almost everyone.

Joe and Peter in Survivor 32: Kaoh Rong Joe’s direct interrogation raised even more doubts about Peter’s loyalty.[/caption]

The one exception was Joe, who seemed most upset with Peter’s betrayal in even considering other plans. Joe chose the direct approach with Peter, who didn’t come off so well. Of course, who could respond convincingly to that type of verbal barrage? Joe could be accusing me of being a KU basketball fan (a frightening thought), and I wouldn’t mount a believable defense. Despite not buying Peter’s story, Joe stuck with the plan later and voted for Julia. This lack of flexibility could hurt Joe’s chances following the merge. The best players can adapt to changing circumstances on the fly. Joe was upset with Peter but didn’t waver after they made amends. I can understand the need to remain stable, but Joe had to read the room at Tribal Council.

The good news for Joe is that the merge is coming next week. He can easily claim that he was confused at Tribal Council and not be toast. The target will shift to bigger threats during the individual game, so Joe might skate by for a while. The question is whether his instincts will serve him well down the road. Aubry’s choice showed that they aren’t tight allies. In a secret scene, Aubry was concerned by Joe’s rougher approach to social interactions. Debbie is also making bonds with everyone, so she may not have his back either. Joe must recognize that the game will only get harder. He’ll need to be more subtle or risk losing control of his fate.

She’s All Business

Aubry on Survivor Kaoh Rong

Aubry is definitely one of the players to watch this season.

Aubry is the rising star of this season and showed a new level of intensity this week. She’s a fan of the show but isn’t wasting time playing to the cameras. Aubry’s stone face hides a competitive streak that could take her far. Her eyes seem ready to smash the cameras just by looking at them! Aubry has been surprisingly good in challenges, especially ones involving swimming. She easily bested Michele in the reward challenge and set the stage for Scot’s basketball skills to seal the win. The lack of BS in her approach is endearing because it takes the game seriously. Joe might dislike the way Aubry changes her mind, but it shows the key trait I mentioned earlier. Aubry can adapt to a new situation and won’t get stuck with old alliances.

The night’s big moment was Aubry’s choice to cross out Julia’s name and vote for Peter. There are two ways to look at this moment. The first is that Aubry changed her mind during the vote and switched to Peter. Tribal Council was chaotic, and Scot told her they were voting for Peter. She could have flipped just to avoid a tie vote. Scot was not a fan of Peter, especially after the bad strategy at the challenge. That is probably what happened, but let me propose a different scenario that veers towards fan fiction.

The extremely remote (and more fun) possibility is that Aubry always intended to vote for Peter. She’d heard earlier that day from Julia and Tai that Peter was targeting her. The move to cross out Julia’s name sent a message to Peter that he’d caused his own exit. It also made for great TV. Aubry can sell this vote to Scot as building trust after his point at Tribal Council. If she’d forced a tie and then flipped, it would have looked more self-serving. I highly doubt she planned this move, but it left an impression either way.

Coming right before the merge, Aubry’s choice to vote out Peter is perfect timing. She proved to Julia, Scot, and Tai that she’s flexible and isn’t stuck on old tribal lines. Dropping the Brains down to four also makes them seem less threatening. The 4-4-3 split doesn’t put any original tribe far ahead of the others. A 5-3-3 configuration might have doomed the Brains. Instead, it’s a free-for-all that relies on new alliances right along with the old ones. Scot will re-connect with Jason and Cydney, but he also has bonds with Tai and Julia. Aubry needs more allies than Debbie, Joe, and Neal to win. She won’t be the first target at the merge and could go far if she reads the group correctly. Only Joe might have an axe to grind, and he has limited power.

A Risky Game

The central figure on Chan Loh was Nick, who decided it was time to play the game. He’s yet to visit Tribal Council, so Nick’s cautious approach isn’t a bad idea. Why move until you know what pieces are on the board? On the other hand, Nick hasn’t appeared to build relationships that will benefit him when the stakes get higher. He read Michele as a weak player and strongly encouraged her to follow his lead. Her confessional afterwards poked holes in Nick’s assessment. Nick was thrilled that Anna was out and wants to join the Brawn tribe members in the long run, but they may not need him. Scot has built trust with Tai and Julia, which might connect him with Michele. Could Nick be the odd man out? He’s a strong physical competitor, and that could be a liability very soon.

Nick and Debbie on Survivor Kaoh Rong

Nick doesn’t believe aligning with Debbie is a wise move for his game.

I hope Nick isn’t destined for a quick fall; it would be too similar to Peter’s fate in the way the editors telegraphed it. Nick has come off better than Peter, and his game is more subtle. It is surprising that Nick believes that Brawn will stick with him. I wasn’t convinced by last week’s scene that Jason was down to align with Nick. Sticking with the other strong guys might help Nick’s chances following the merge. It’s easier to hide when an NBA basketball player is on your side. It’s still risky for Nick to put all his eggs in one basket. The Brawn guys may not want more competition in the challenges. Jason noted again in an extra scene that he wasn’t sure whether to choose the Brains or Beauty players. Nick’s solid play at the reward challenge was a good reminder to them. There’s also the matter of three idols in play. I’m not ready to count Nick out, but he’s in a risky spot at the merge.

Michele was down after the reward challenge, but I wouldn’t count out my winner pick. Nick discounted the idea that Debbie wanted to work with Michele. His reluctance is understandable; Debbie has been talking to everyone. She might be against them, but I doubt that Michele would be Debbie’s first target. We’ve seen her talk repeatedly about wanting a woman to win, and she made that point to Michele. If Debbie is playing all sides, she’s also walking a tightrope. Everyone wants to work with her, which means they probably think she’s weaker. Is Debbie the mastermind or playing too strong? I think she’s a good player, but I also wonder if she’ll overplay. Can Debbie wait for the right opportunity to strike?

Change Is Coming

The previews for next week hint at another surprise moment with Jeff addressing the tribe. The most likely scenario is another medevac, and eagle-eyed viewers may be able to narrow down the options. I won’t speculate on what’s coming on that front, especially since not everyone studies the previews. It’s fun to have a mystery remaining about the upcoming episodes. The merge is definitely here, so it’s time to look at where everyone stands. There are a lot of questions about where alliances fall, which should make for a great finish. Michele was my winner pick, so I’ll discuss her spot at the end. The rest are loosely organized in reverse order of their current position in the game. It’s quite a fluid situation, so I wouldn’t read too much into the rankings. I hate to pile on our former RHAP blogger, but I’ll start with a guy in a tricky spot.

Nick: I’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing him in this blog, so there isn’t that much more to say about Nick. He’s held back from strategizing too much, and I like that approach. Nick has struggled with the social game, however. We’ve seen little about close bonds, and his confessionals focus on the individual game. Nick certainly realizes there’s a target on his head. The question is what he can to do push it aside. There’s a path to the end for Nick, but he’ll need strong allies to get there. I’m not convinced he has them at this point.

Joe: Conventional wisdom says that no one will target Joe since he’s easily the oldest player. The obvious physical threats usually go at the merge. There’s been a trend away from that approach recently, though. Kass departed at this spot in Second Chances, and the majority targeted Jenn at the merge in Worlds Apart before she played the idol. Joe may not be able to hide so easily. If the Brains fall behind, he could draw the votes because he’s made fewer allies. His stubbornness last week shows his challenge in adapting to new situations. Can he adjust his style and form the right bonds to go far?

Scot: Despite being a former NBA basketball player, Scot hasn’t been in danger so far. Even when Jennifer tried to build a women’s alliance, her target was Jason. Following the swap, Scot took advantage of being the lone Brawn on his new tribe to form new bonds. He’s played well and done better than I expected, despite some unfortunate behavior. That doesn’t mean Scot will coast. He’s a likely early target in the individual game. Another warning sign is the way he viewed Jason’s idol. If Scot expects his allies to play the idol for him, he may be disappointed.

Is Debbie the game's power player or doomed to an impending exit?

Is Debbie the game’s power player or doomed to an impending exit?

Debbie: In a certain sense, Debbie occupies a similar spot to Scot. She isn’t considered a physical threat, but Debbie is a threat. Her efforts to make bonds with everyone could work or quickly backfire. We saw with Nick’s comments to Michele that she hasn’t fooled all of them. If Debbie tries to have it both ways, there’s a risk her allies with talk and realize she needs to go. I’m rooting for Debbie and think she’s a great character, but I’m not convinced she will win. Debbie’s prophecy of a female winner seems likely; she just may not be in the game to see it.

Aubry: If I was making winner picks today, there’s a good chance I’d pick Aubry. She’s a gamer and takes a serious approach to each vote. Aubry also is a physical competitor but not an obvious threat. The reason Aubry isn’t listed higher is her current position after last week’s vote. She made the right choice in taking out Peter, but that doesn’t mean Tai, Scot, and Julia are certain allies. Aubry needs to do more than reconnect with Debbie and Neal to gain control.

Jason: We’ve seen little of Jason since the swap beyond a few conversations last week. He did well at Brawn in controlling the vote, but that could mean little very soon. Jason has an idol that only Cydney and Scot know about, and Nick wants to align with him. You could see a cross-tribe alliance of the Brawn trio with Julia, Tai, and Nick grabbing an edge. Even so, the target on Jason won’t go away. He’s already stood out as a threat, and that status won’t change. It’s going to be very tricky for Jason to avoid the target down the road.

Julia: I expected Julia to follow Anna out of the game, but she didn’t overplay and survived. The question is where Julia stands at the merge. She should reconnect with Michele and possibly Nick and did just vote with Tai and Scot. I don’t expect anyone to target Julia for a while. There are bigger threats on the board. If Julia can stay on the right side of the numbers, she’ll be around for a while. Her cautious strategy could work in the short term; can she make a move when it’s needed?

Tai: I’m really hoping that Tai isn’t involved in a medevac; he’s such a good character! Tai’s comments about his legs made me nervous, but I’ll wait and see what happens. Tai has an idol and a strong ally in Scot, so he should be good next week. The danger for Tai will come when others decide they don’t want to face him in the end. I don’t expect Tai to reach the finals, but he’s probably good for 2-3 weeks if not longer barring something unforeseen.

Neal on Survivor Kaoh Rong

We should not underestimate Neal’s chances to win the entire game.

Neal: So much of Neal’s game depends on what happens with alliances next week. If his group woos another tribe and grabs a majority, he could run the game with Aubry. Having an idol that no one knows about gives him another edge. Peter and Liz targeted Neal as a threat, so he won’t completely fly under the radar. We haven’t seen Neal making bonds with other players; Debbie is forming the relationships. He seems like an outsider, and that could make him an easier target.

Cydney: If any player could survive her original tribe losing the numbers, it’s Cydney. Despite her obvious strength, the others would probably target Scot or Kyle first. Cydney’s bright outlook should also serve her well. She’s a smart player, but I don’t get the sense others realize it. Cydney must keep building connections beyond the Brawn guys. We saw her bonding with Debbie last week, and that’s a great sign. Cydney’s another contender to win the game.

I was relieved to see Michele step up after struggling at the challenge.

I was relieved to see Michele step up after struggling at the challenge.

Michele: We haven’t seen much from Michele to indicate she could win, but a brief confessional this week showed one potential road. Players like Nick consider her a number they can manipulate, and she understands that fact. Michele winning isn’t the most likely scenario, but I’m not ready to discount her. I picked Michele at the start of the game, and I’m sticking to it!

A Quick Predictions Update!

Since we’ve now reached the merge, it’s time to look at how the RHAP bloggers fared. We chose 12 players to make the merge, so this is slightly different from the 11 that remain. The results weren’t great, though. Michel and I are still holding our winner picks (Nick and Michele). Let’s take one last look at how many players remain from each of our merge predictions. Scot was the champ in this realm and still has 8 of the 11 remaining players.

Scott: 8 (Aubry, Debbie, Jason, Joe, Michele, Neal, Scot, Tai)

Catherine: 7 (Cydney, Debbie, Jason, Neal, Nick, Scot, Tai)

Dan: 7 (Aubry, Jason, Julia, Michele, Neal, Nick, Tai)

Sarah: 7 (Aubry, Debbie, Joe, Julia, Michele, Neal, Nick)

Michel: 6 (Jason, Julia, Michele, Neal, Nick, Scot)

I’m intrigued to find out what’s coming after the merge this season. It was really difficult to rank the players, and that challenge shows that few are just floating. Most are trying to move forward and aren’t just clinging to strong players. There are scenarios where a lot of them could win the season or leave next week. Will we see the super idol in play? Will the tribes stick together and work as a group against the other factions? How will injuries affect the final outcome? I can’t wait to learn the answers to these questions and a lot more in the upcoming weeks.

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