Huh. I guess Lauren doesn’t win. I’ll give you credit here, Survivor, for as tame as the season’s felt thus far, it looks like we may be headed for a solid endgame. Fingers crossed!
Seeking Balance Through Risk
I’m still super shocked Lauren got the boot. Just looking at her edit versus Ben’s, I thought Ben was going to go out with an idol in his pocket, or his whole declaration about voting for Lauren would turn out to be a red herring. Alas, once more, I was proven wrong and someone I was growing increasingly sure was bound to win went home instead. Lauren was temperance, calm and collected throughout the game, finding risk often rewarded her with a new equilibrium and power. It makes sense, then, that Ben’s game-shaking move to out all advantages and tell everyone everything proved to be Lauren’s undoing, shaking away the tranquility she both exuded and represented and coercing her into making one of the dumbest moves I can remember in recent years. I get what she thought she was doing, proving her loyalty to Mike, but this was an unnecessary risk. Had she just kept her idol, while we would’ve seen the second time two idols were played at once, equilibrium would have returned for Lauren, and chaos could continue to ensue elsewhere. Alas, fate was tempted and subsequently twisted. That all being said, you have to kind of believe Lauren will get a second chance at some point, right? I’d be crushed if she didn’t.
The Two-Part Idol
Dumb Twists Beget Dumb Moves
Disclaimer here, dearest readers: Lauren’s move was idiotic. There’s no way around that. That being said, had the two-part idol just been a normal idol, I don’t think she would’ve have given up the whole thing to Mike. To Lauren, this move seemed like the middle-ground (i.e. the tempered one), give Mike a symbolic gesture to show trust without giving him any real power to alter the game—at least on the surface (I also don’t think it’s fair to assume the destroying of half of the idol was a realistic possibility… also an unnecessary move on Mike’s part). I think Lauren would have perceived giving Mike a full, working idol to have been too much risk, but given as the twist had two parts… a disaster waiting to happen (though I don’t think the almighty Survivor production meant for such a scenario).
Let me also just say, this twist wasn’t my favorite. Requiring a multi-step process in obtaining idols has become the norm these days, but if you’re going to have to find part of the idol at the challenge… why not just have the person find the whole thing there? What’s the point of dividing it up, especially when Lauren was put at the very end of the line where gather that inconspicuous shell was all too easy? Jeff mentioned the obvious that each rack was made especially for the contestants’ specific wingspans, so that means production chose for Lauren to be on the end in the easiest place to get the second half of the idol that looked like a simple shell. I just don’t see the point.
More Likeable than Kass
For as much mayhem as we saw Kass develop in Cagayan, Ben has done one helluvuh job rivaling her this last week. To me, this was a clear ploy to get people to vote for him without just acting like a complete dick (sort of like Joe). From that standpoint, it worked! Brilliantly! A whole six players were afraid of you enough at the final seven that they set aside their differences and even a numbers advantage (in terms of Devon, Lauren, and Ashley) to vote out someone they saw as that big of a threat/didn’t like. Bravo, Ben, that took some work to become that disliked and feared—more of a tyrant than a king to me, though.
That all being said, was this the smartest move going forward? Ostensibly, there are three boots left, and no one now trusts Ben. He’s not really been an immunity threat thus far, so it’d be a huge turn-around if Ben Fabios this thing to the end. This move worked for Ben, but only in the short term, I think. His best play now is to convince people he’s a goat and go from there.
Side note here: while I don’t think Ben or anyone else thinks he’s a goat, he might be more goat-y than many think. The last two Jurors are surely not too big fans of Ben after how he treated their dismissals or their final days in the game, he backstabbed JP, and he lorded his power over Cole and Desi while they were still there. Ben’s resume is good, assuredly, but is it good enough to overcome his arrogance if he’s up against Chrissy, Devon, or Mike? I honestly don’t know.
The Good Doctor
Desperation is Dangerous
Since his first Tribal, Mike has been planted firmly on the bottom. He’s had no power, and at best has been used by those around him in order to advance their games. To many, Mike probably doesn’t seem like he has this astounding list of Survivor accomplishments, and that’s not necessarily unfair. That being said, I’d argue this episode was great for Mike’s game, and it is precisely because he’s playing like he has nothing to lose. Had Mike not told Devon and Ashley that Ben had gone rogue, Ben, Mike, Ryan, and Chrissy could have silently burned Lauren, and Ben’s idol would have still been intact. Mike's play, even if he was unaware of Ben’s idol, almost necessitated Ben playing an idol while also strengthening his ties with Devon, Ashley, and Lauren.
In many ways, this is no different than what Ben did, blowing up the game and trying to find a new niche in the pandemonium. Mike, however, is much more adept at finding the necessary crevasses needed to cling to survival—he’s been doing it for weeks now. Ben, however, seems like a rock star at his peak, one destined for a magnificent crash. I firmly believe, if Mike makes it to the end, that he could win by only arguing he made enough happen to be overlooked by everyone else, being instrumental in a lot of plays (going along with Desi and Cole’s demises to garner a foothold, helping to take out JP, Ben playing his idol, Lauren not playing hers) without really taking the immediate credit. History is written by the victors, after all (and it helps that almost half the Jury will be old Healers).
A Passing Note Plus Ashley and Chrissy Coverage
In recent years, I’ve grown unamused by the family visit. The reunions always seem to be hammed up for the cameras and a few extra minutes of fame. For Survivor being reality television, such artificial injections of emotion take me out of the game (MvGX was the worst at this, in my opinion, as everyone seemed undeservingly over the top… save for Adam). This one, however, seemed much more genuine. Sure, there were tears, but not everyone was collapsing out of sheer “joy” the moment their loved ones came. It seemed appropriate and honest, especially Lauren’s.
What the family visit did tell me, however, were two simple things. First, it showed me Ashley is not winning this game. It was great to see her father (who is exactly what I might think a Florida father of a surfer girl might look like), but seeing him entirely focused on how much she’s told the other players about him. I haven’t heard a single damn thing about your dad, dude, and that fact means an easy emotional arc for editors to give you was ignored. I said it last week, no emotion, no winner (except for you Michele).
Chrissy, on the other hand, showed she still has some very viable winner-qualities. Both with her husband and multiple other times this episode, we were reminded Chrissy has a family and she’s playing for them. Given as Lauren’s mother edit has come to a close, Chrissy looks to step into that role, one which I think will be very good for her chances and ability to argue when she makes it to the end. Is it possible I picked two winners in a row preseason?! *Knocks on wood*
A Closing Thought, Dearest Readers
Okay, part of this prediction relies on the fact that *SPOILER* Probst said the end of this season is pretty awesome, including the FTC (*End Spoiler…*). Yes, I know that wasn’t much information, but some people like to be utterly and completely in the dark about such matters, so I figured I’d give a little warning.
To me, there are three people who really could win this thing: Chrissy, Mike, and Ben. While, once more, if someone told me Devon or Ryan won, I wouldn’t be dumbfounded, but given last episode, the focus seemed to shift much more onto the aforementioned three. With that in mind, what better end could there be than the three of them making it to the FTC? Yes, yes, I know many of you may be thinking this possibility is similar to the fabled MvGX tribal we all wanted going into the finale (Jay v David v Adam), but unlike then, feasibly everyone left is a threat (no Ken McNickle this season). Why does this matter? Well, simply put, this is a season where I don’t think those who make it to the end have the luxury of picking who they get there with. Obviously, that’s not precisely true, but given how wild the end is setting up to be, I think most people should pick any means to the end they can get and go for it.
This brings me to Chrissy, Mike, and Ben. If the preview is to be believed (and I think it is), Chrissy might attempt to stave off Ben’s execution, gunning for Ashley (or even Devon) instead. Should she be successful, gathering Ben and possibly Mike to take out Ashley, I have a hard time believing Devon doesn’t go soon after that. The reason I think Ashley does get the boot this week comes in two parts. Firstly, the previously on segment focused a shot of Chrissy going for Ashley. Secondly, the next time segment focused on Chrissy targeting Ashley. This is something like full-circle narration, reminding audiences that Chrissy is gunning for the only other lady left.
From there, it’s just a matter of getting rid of Ryan (which should be an easy enough task), and bam. One of the best final threes we could have hoped for this season. I don’t want to be so bold as to pick someone to go on an immunity run or a new idol getting played or anything like that, but if the ending is to be as grand and epic as we can hope, Ashley, Ryan, and Devon have to go. I’m not saying it’s easy, but unlike many seasons, this is a rare one where the best could feasibly make it to the end.
I guess that does it for my prediction as well, so, until next week, my friends.
Dan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.
Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki