A (mostly) women's alliance actually worked (maybe)!
Victory! The tireless trope of the lazy, grasping-for-obfuscation editors (there's always some paranoid male contestant who will dutifully trot out "But what if there's a women's alliance?") actually became a real thing! At least for one episode! Let's overlook for a moment that the women's alliance also included Joe and (based on Nick's exit interviews, a partially out-of-the-loop) Tai. The important thing is: Cydney successfully cobbled together an alliance whose core was the other two pairs of women (Julia/Michele, Aubry/Debbie), and voted out Nick, a guy who had seemingly usurped her position within the Brawn alliance. The women voted together, and they voted out a guy. Again: Victory!
But was this actually a good move for Cydney? Maybe, but there's a lot that could go wrong, in part because in voting against Nick, Cydney also voted against Scot and Jason. In doing so, she flipped on her Day 1 alliance (finally!), which puts her in a similar spot to two other recent circa-merge solo flippers: Cochran in South Pacific, and Kass in Cagayan. (We would argue that Tony in Cagayan is not really as strong a comparison, because he brought Woo along with him at each flip.) Both of those events emerged from similar stimuli: Cochran and Kass each felt like they were on the bottom of their original alliance, and wanted a chance at improving their circumstances. The comparisons really fall apart from there, though. Cochran was actively recruited by the Upolus, whereas Cydney put together this alliance herself. Similarly, while Kass's move seemed a little more self-directed, she was also pulled in prior to the vote by Trish.
So the parallels are not exact, but we do worry that Cydney's move could engender the same long-term consequences that befell Cochran and Kass: Cydney may have won this battle, but lost the overall war. Prior to this flip, if Cydney had been in the finals against any two other players, she would have been a shoo-in for Scot and Jason's jury votes. Now? It's possible she could still win them back over, but she now has a massive hole from which she must dig herself out. Worse yet, she gave new game life to Aubry and Debbie, conceivable winners in their own right, who now outnumber her in her own alliance (particularly with Joe's vote added in). Let alone that Julia and Michele could easily flip back to Brawn themselves, because Scot and Jason really need their votes, and they can vouch for each other that Cydney approached them with this move, not vice-versa. On balance, Cydney's move seems to have stirred the pot, but not really given her solid-seeming numbers going forward. Then again, this is the post-Vlachos era of Survivor. Anything could happen.
Where is this taking us?
So is the women's alliance here to stay? Conventional wisdom seems to dictate that it probably is, since in his pre-season interviews, Jeff Probst seemed underenthusiastic about Kaoh Rong, and Probst famously only enjoys seasons with (alpha) male winners. Perhaps the editing backs this theory up, because this whole women's alliance thing did not come to pass without heavy foreshadowing. The original three Beauty women formed one back in the first episode, although they never actually had a chance to vote together. Jennifer and Alecia tried to start one of their own on Brawn back in Ep.2, and Cydney was happy to join in, until Jennifer backed out before that episode's Tribal. Debbie also hinted at a possible women's alliance with Cydney back in Ep.5, right after the swap, then did so again in the next episode with Michele. Basically, the only (female) member of this women's alliance who hadn't already been shown plotting one was Aubry.
On the one hand, as viewers, it's more entertaining when the game is fluid, and alliances like form, strike, and then dissolve quickly, and the numbers shift episode by episode. If, say Julia and Michele re-joined Scot and Jason, and everything was thrown into chaos, that would be less predictable, and more exciting. On the other hand, it would also seem like a big waste of narrative buildup if all this female alliance foreshadowing only served to set up this single vote, the victim of which was some guy the editors hadn't even bothered to show until the previous episode.
So... let's hope it all holds together for at least one more week. After all, Scot and Jason both had their villain edits softened this week with Jason talking about his autistic daughter, and Scot discussing his plans to help out his sizeable family financially. Each of the Brawn men, therefore, has been primed for a possible boot this week. Either way, this women's alliance is already 100% more effective than the illustrious First-Time-In-Survivor-History Cross-Tribal Alliance from Tocantins. And also 100% more effective than the Wonder-Twin-Powers-Activate Superidol has been thus far, a twist that we suspect will continue to be left hanging once Tai's crisis of conscience (which Probst teased in his EW Q&A with Dalton Ross) reaches its logical conclusion in this upcoming episode. No matter what happens, a women's alliance worked, and the journey is the reward, right?
Here we are, two episodes into the post-merge, and we're already completely worn out from the relentless series of standing still challenges. This is the same motionless parade that afflicted the post-merge of San Juan del Sur, and of Cambodia-Second Chance (six ICs in a row!). We understand the thought process: Endurance challenges are great, because if someone really wants it, they can fight it out for as long as humanly possible. Which is true in theory, but in practice, a Joe Del Campo or a Scot Pollard has basically zero chance of ever winning either the balls-on-plate challenge or this week's quasi-crucifixion challenge (sadly, 1-2 weeks off from being Easter-adjacent), because they're either too old or have too much mass.
For all its faults, Worlds Apart at least had a much more balanced mix of immunity challenge types. Endurance, then puzzles, then endurance, then balance and stacking things, and so on. Sure a stationary challenge is much easier to film and a smaller build, but it's also pretty boring to watch, especially if the last IC was pretty much the exact same thing. So come on, Survivor. Throw us a fricking bone here! Or a puzzle! But not that fricking fish bone puzzle from One World. That was awful.
Challenge selection aside, we appear to have some pretty good competitors in this cast. Nick left the game with a 90% Mean % finish in individual challenges, which is among the highest of all time (100% means you win every individual challenge, 50% means you're middle-of-the-pack each time). Joe Anglim was 93% in Worlds Apart, 84% career. (We should note that Tai is currently sitting at a nifty 95%... Beastmode, indeed.)
But - and this is what we brought you here for - you know who else left the game with a 90% Mean % finish in individual challenges, and was the first person booted after the merge? Yes! It's Nick Stanbury. (We're sure you got that without reading ahead.)
Speaking of competitors, though: care to guess the second- and third-lowest Mean % finishers so far this season? That's right, it's the Brawn Bros, Scot (37%) and Jason (31%). To be fair, they did drop out for food this time. But since when is Survivor about being fair?
The host wags the series?
A lot has been made about Jeff Probst having undue influence over Survivor via loaded questions and directed badgering at Tribal Council. And ever since he started proselytizing about it at every opportunity, we've seen a lot of players repeating his (inaccurate) mantra that "you have to make Big Moves to win." But it gets worse: as Kass McQuillen pointed out on RHAP this week (and had somehow completely escaped our notice), the last five winners - Tyson in BvsW, Tony in Cagayan, Natalie in SJdS, Mike in Worlds Apart, Jeremy in Cambodia - have *all* found and played hidden immunity idols. Has this become a de facto requirement for winning now? Because we're pretty sure we know how the host would feel about that.
Land of the takes that are at best lukewarm:
Bonus lukewarm takes department: The Ep8 vidcap gallery
Corn? Corn? Snow?
The totally-not-foreshadowing subtitle award
Come on, you couldn't figure out I was going to make a comeback after the last episode?
Nick is always watching. But nowhere near as excitedly as Julia.
Probably a good entry for Survivor shots as Renaissance paintings
Since I'm a generous man, here's one scoop of ice cream for the 10 of you. It's like Three Twins in that it's ice cream. Allegedly.
Nick: Whoa, brain freeze!
The team that had no chance whatsoever, why are we even bothering?
So... this is going well
Let's see if it's just that we need to transport someone from Beauty tribe? No? Dammit.
Gosh, it's a mystery why the yellow team did so well.
The yellow team, felled by Scot's armpits. They will be missed.
I already miss Debbie! Sort of!
Oh, hey. One of them survived, after all. Guess she built up an immunity during that exile at Brawn beach.
Seriously, though, you don't have any Three Twins? Well, toppings it is, then.
Eh, whatever. Ice cream is a diarrhea-fest, anyway.
Mmm, good ol' clams and snails. Nothing beats that!
Ay, el estomago.
Scot's awesome! Well, except for the belching and stuff. But the rest is good!
The Dara crew team, ready to take on Harvard.
Accuracy in labeling, runner up
My eyes are up here, Julia!
Psst, hey Scot and Jason: He totally was
We're cool, right? Shaka brah?
Jason: [Dammit, I really need to catch up on this lingo.]
The ascent of man... and Tai
Always look on the bright side of life... (Someday someone will use this, just you watch.)
Come on, Debbie. You know better than to look at the clock.
Oh, hi, Julia! You'll be forced to sit within smelling distance
Fine, let's compress the opt-outs into one shot. I'm not making two trips back there for food.
Ahhhh, out in the Nick of time
I hope there will be no repercussions from my decision
Wait... who's Buddy?
Tai: Hey, Jeff... a little help with the nails through my feet?
You're safe tonight, Tai! No need to even mention your idol!
Don't worry, chicken. I have the necklace now, so I can pass you the idol if you need it.
The condescent of man
Where *did* you get that hat, Cydney? It's divine!
Never underestimate the power of properly accessorizing
Nothing to see here. Definitely not a women's alliance. Move along.
Cyd wants me to boot Nick, my secret alliance bro. Whatevs, I can probably still win if I do it.
Don't worry, he's a bounty hunter. Boba Fett was only a slightly better shot than a stormtrooper.
Not shown hiking to his only Tribal: Nick. How rude.
Go ahead, part of the ritual, can't snuff it until you light it, yadda yadda.
Please do not pan down to my knee. Please do not pan down to my knee. Please do not... dammit.
Um, why did you set Nick and me off to the side like this? Is that some sort of newbie-to-Tribal hazing ritual?
Look, I know I'm safe. Debbie thinks I'm hot. It's obvious. No more work needed.
Is it ok if I mention Cochran? Past winners are ok to name-drop, and Hantzes, right?
Sure, go nuts. As long as you also mention Boston Rob.
Boston Rob? He's my *super* idol! What? Why is everyone looking at me?
I meant Colby! He's a cowboy! They're dreamy. Sorry for the confusion.
Heh, someone wrote my name down. That's cute.
Wait a second, there aren't FOUR Brains here. Not counting me, you mean.
Maiorano is one letter away from Mariano, you know Jeff. Just planting a Nick seed.
Kaoh Rong Episode 8 recaps and commentary
Exit interviews: Nick Maiorano
Episode 8 Podcasts