Tribal council was great again, but the rest of the episode dragged considerably, due to the constant rain. Rain + Survivor = wet, miserable contestants... this is not a new development; it happens every time. After all, if fire is life, downpours are the opposite. Usually, people sit around the shelter moping, not doing much of anything. They can't eat, because they can't maintain a cooking fire. They can't sleep, because they're drenched. It's not fun to watch.
Yet whenever anyone brings up rain on Survivor, Probst always insists it's the best thing ever. Probst crowed "This is the rainy season!" during the Cambodia pre-season interviews. In the Behind-the-Scenes challenge videos, Probst often cackles about how great it is when it rains during challenges. Perhaps it helps that he has dry, climate-controlled, luxury accommodations to which he can retire with the beverage of his choice after his filming day ends. We understand production doesn't control the weather, but they did choose to film this season during the peak of the Cambodian rainy season.
Probst sold this to Dalton Ross as allowing the contestants to push through adversity, or some such nonsense. Because starvation, sleep deprivation, paranoia, and hilariously forcing them to fill their butts with splinters during challenges isn't adverse enough, apparently. Well, congratulations. Nobody quit after one night of rain, the way Julie McGee did in San Juan del Sur. But hey, there appears to be more rain coming. Yay, further testing.
No longer hidden
Call us nitpickers, but there's nothing "hidden" about a hidden immunity idol that's just hanging in the middle of the jungle, replete with a blazing torch to mark the spot. There's also nothing particularly bold or daring about hiking a substantial distance away from camp in the middle of the night (apart from the obvious tripping hazards). We're thrilled Jeremy has two idols, but there was really no point in making him go through all those extra steps to retrieve it. Why not just have it inside the package he initially found? These people (production) are so dumb!
Production was undoubtedly trying to recapture the magic of the two previous seize-the-moment moves where the idols were hidden at challenges. But this? This was just pointless busywork. There was no suspense, despite Jeremy's complaints about people staying up late. He just waited them out slightly longer than intended, then walked out and picked it up from its perch. (Bonus question: Since this one is yellow/golden, is it the never-found Angkor idol?)
Stephen's advantage was presented as a purely positive development, but unlike Jeremy's second stealthy idol grab, Stephen's advantage gain was made in front of the entire cast. How did everyone else view his aggressive attempt at the upper hand? Is holding it really all that helpful, or does it make him a target? We weren't shown anyone else commenting on it in any way.
Then again, since he opened it in private, he may be able to game the secrecy surrounding it for strategic advantage. His tribemates can't be sure if it's the Dan Foley Advantage from Worlds Apart (in which case they should boot him ASAP, because that extra vote becomes more of a problem as numbers dwindle), a hidden idol clue (which could make them wary of targeting Stephen, or could make him a blindside target) or possibly even a clue to or the dreaded Tyler Perry idol itself. While it seems like the negatives outnumber the positives, if Stephen plays this correctly, he could actually use it to get ahead.
And how useful would the actual advantage itself turn out to be? Potentially very useful. He just set up a 3-plus-3 alliance, which could otherwise become a problem at final six (if they simply Pagong the stragglers). His advantage not only turns that 3-3 tie into a 4-2 advantage, it serves as a buffer against someone like Spencer jumping to the other side to avoid rocks, instead forcing a 3-3 tie, where a betrayed Stephen/Jeremy duo would have been facing a 2-4 disadvantage. Furthermore, if it's a still-immune Joe plus those six at the final 7, and Joe votes with the women, Stephen can reverse that 4-3 majority, and turn it into a 4-3 victory for his own side. That still requires work in keeping Jeremy and Spencer with him, but it gives Stephen a lot of options to work with.
Fine, now that we're actually halfway through, who could still win?
With 10 people left (and the season ending just four weeks from now), guess we should probably get around to a mid-season assessment:
- 1. Jeremy. He has two idols. He also has two confessionals, one on either side of the merge, where he's wept about Val and his family. We are clearly meant to root for him. Furthermore, while he's been part of Big Moves, he hasn't been running around camp badgering people to make them. Instead, he's been calm and quiet, has skillfully avoided standing out as a challenge threat, and everyone seems to listen to his opinion about which moves his alliance should make. Instead of a J.T., Stephen now has a J.C.
- 2. Kelley. Now that she's played her idol, she's actively being targeted, but she still stands out as someone to whom the editors have paid a lot of attention (a welcome change from San Juan del Sur). People around her are aware she's building a résumé for the jury, which works against her in the near term, but in her favor long-term. If she can navigate her way to the end, she has a good shot at the money. But her current circumstances are not ideal.
Possible, but probably not:
- 3. Stephen. He's finally found his strategic footing and built a solid base of moves he can point to, and has the advantage to further embellish that story. It's difficult to imagine him winning after the lambasting the editors gave him pre-merge, but he has an advantage that could still pay off, as long as everyone doesn't just decide to vote him off next week.
- 4. Spencer. Spencer had a ton of screentime and character development pre-merge. Even so, his list of strategic successes this season is pretty much "I wasn't voted out," which is about the same as Keith's. He has the lowest scores of anyone still playing. Still, he's a rational player, which jurors generally respect, and he gives outstanding Final Tribal speeches. The editing suggests he's an important character this season, which we haven't really seen yet. Presumably there's something more to come?
- 5. Tasha. She peaked in Angkor. Since then, it's all been downhill, and since Kass left, the editors seem to have forgotten Tasha is still there. In theory, Stephen and Jeremy (and/or possibly Spencer) could now re-join her to target someone, but that seems unlikely, since she's the biggest threat who wasn't part of this week's six-person voting majority.
- 6. Ciera. She's had a lot of screentime recently, even if it's been fairly one-note. Can she win? Will the jury enjoy having been yelled at to make big moves? Who knows?
No chance, sorry:
- 7. Joe. For all of Joe's challenge prowess, we've been given very little insight into his thoughts on the game (beyond "I need to win this immunity challenge" or "I hope I find that idol"). If he's still playing in the episode that airs two weeks from now, it will truly be a Thanksgiving miracle.
- 8. Keith. Unless every subsequent immunity challenge involves tuk-tuk driving, which would be a wonderful thing... nope.
- 9. Kimmi. She was there for an episode, then Monica was gone, and she disappeared. She showed up again, wanting one of the "witches koh-ven" booted. That didn't happen, and Kimmi disappeared again. Oh well.
- 10. Abi-Maria. Nope.
- How did Tasha earn "redemption" in the Reward Challenge? She sat that one out in Cagayan, so it wasn't her fault they lost the first time. And since she didn't perform any individual tasks here, she more or less sat this one out, too. Although her team did win. Redemption!
- We were extremely disappointed Spencer didn't bellow "Final five, baby!" when he completed the puzzle.
- Now that people have made big moves "with" her for the past two Tribal Councils, we have no idea what Ciera will talk about next episode. Voting out her mom, maybe?
- If Probst likes being soaked at challenges/Tribal Council so much, how about the cast gets an awning over them at Tribal, while Probst just gets to announce/interrogate from under a pop-up shower like the one Joe used? Not only is this more fair, it should delight all of Probst's biggest fans: midwestern housewives, and people named Jeff Probst who host Survivor.
- Probst didn't get to talk about balls or poles this week. But he did get to talk about his next-favorite subject: Buoys. (This will only be funny to people who pronounce that the British way, sorry.)
- Oh, Spencer. When you fretted that joining Stephen and the Three Amigas in voting out Wiglesworth might "screw up my game," we'll admit we wondered what that game was, exactly. We're assuming Chess With Friends.
- Our pre-vote desire to see Terry facing off against Wiglesworth and Joe in an individual challenge really didn't work out as intended. Sigh.
- Pre-emptive scheduling whining: Once upon a time, when people still watched Survivor in large numbers, CBS would schedule a clip-show/recap episode over Thanksgiving, knowing that viewership will be down because people have other things they need to do. Now, however, they not only air a first-run Survivor episode the day before Thanksgiving, they gleefully cram in two. Solely because they started the season a week later than usual, because they let Big Brother run long. Thanks a ton, CBS. Hopefully we'll have recaps up before the following Wednesday.