More interesting game play this week. As per usual with this bunch, I don’t know how much of it was good, but alliances were discussed, moves were made, and cogs were literally turned. Too pleased the end of this season has been substantially better than the first two thirds of it.
Okay, dearest readers, who’s read The Odyssey? If not, who at least knows the basic story? If y’all don’t, in a nut shell, Odysseus is a hero of the Trojan War. He sets off from Troy to make it back home and see his wife, Penelope. Of course, things don’t go quite so smoothly, and it takes him ten years to get back. While everyone else in his kingdom believe Odysseus to be long dead, Penelope waits for him, her faithfulness ultimately being rewarded. Ashley played the same role here, the faithful wife archetype (a subset of a “lover”), who, despite all evidence to the contrary, believed her faithfulness would bring her to that which she most coveted: the FTC. Who cares that she herself said she’d been left out of the loop frequently? Why should she take note that Devon took no time in agreeing to take Ryan over her (or Mike, for that matter)? Should it be a cause for alarm that Devon seemed tepid at Tribal to vote out Mike, thereby saving her? Not for Ashley! She has faith! And look where that got her. If it’s any consolation, I think voting her out was stupid for Ryan, Ben, and Devon… and marginally not smart for Mike. So, maybe Ashley can have the last laugh?
Ben’s Idol-Finding Meta
A Modern Tactic for the Modern Player
Y’all remember when Russell Hantz found that first idol in Samoa without a clue? Remember how he did it twice more and it was some of the coolest shit we’d ever seen on Survivor? At least, to me, I look back on that era and smile.
Now, look at where we are today.
There have been a grand total of eight idols this season (potentially a ninth now that Ben played one again), and two other advantages hidden in rewards or at camp. That’s almost one advantage/idol per episode. Pitman asked in his post last week how many idols were too many? I’m not sure there’s a magic number, but when someone can make a whole strategy around finding idols, I think something is amiss.
Don’t get me wrong, finding idols is no easy task. Ben, someone who’s found one before, needed multiple days of searching, only to find a clue at the proverbial zero hour before Tribal. Still, if finding idols is one’s entire strategy, which is essentially what Ben’s relied on for two episodes now, does that make you a good player? As far as flashy moves go… yes, of course, idoling out Lauren looked badass, and getting everyone to vote for you was a feat in itself. Bravo, Ben.
But I’d argue this is exactly what Joe’s strategy was, and he was certainly not a good player. Yes, he had the necessary ideas to be good, but theory never seemed to become practice like it has with Ben. This comparison is why I don’t personally want Ben to win. He hasn't dragged himself up from the bottom through social game or talking strategy with other players (as very much noted by Mike and Ashley utterly ignoring him at camp, or at least seeing through his ploys to rile them up). He’s merely hung on by a few cool, artificial twists in the game. He’s good at this game, but as far as who would succeed in an old-school season without idols or advantages, Chrissy, Ryan, Devon, and even Mike seem a caliber above, at least in my eyes.
The Final Five
Contenders and Champions
As noted throughout the past few posts, we have ourselves something of a treat, my friends: five people who are all solid players (yes, even Mike, but more on that in a bit). All of these people have the chops and ability to win this season, and going into a finale with five contenders is a real rarity. With that being said, contending doesn’t make someone a champion. A such, I’m opting to break down three people who I think could win this thing against the two who will have to try their luck on another season.
You’ve Done My Fantasy Team Proud
Look at Ryan, without ever hearing him talk about his love of Survivor, and tell me you think he could’ve made it this far? I mean, look at him now! He’s so skinny, you can see his heart beat visibly on your TV screen! Still, Ryan’s played a solid game, but one that seems too influenced by Chrissy. If the two of them are sitting at the end, Chrissy will get all the credit for the moves they made, and if he’s there somehow-Chrissy-less, it going to look like Ben or Devon dragged him there. Unfortunately, with Ashley’s exit, I don’t really see a way for Ryan to win. Who could he sit next to? Even if it was a final two, I think he loses outright to everyone except Mike… but even then, I think the good doctor could win with a few deft words. Ryan’s fought hard to make it this far, but I don’t think he has a viable final three.
Pretty, Personable, Probably Next
Again, let me apologize to Devon for the disrespect early this season. He’s a gamer, and his confessionals are hilarious. That being said, I think voting out Ashley this week hurt nobody more than the good Mister Pinto. Unless you can ditch both Chrissy and Ben in the next two votes (which is made much harder by the fact you weren’t able to hang on to Ashley), both are going to have better stories to tell the Jury, plus Chrissy is going to be able to pull the card that she flipped you against Ashley. So, to put it in perspective, he betrayed JP, Joe, and Ashley, has backed-stabbed Ryan and Mike’s trust, and didn’t work with Desi or Cole when they would’ve done anything to stay in the game. At least Lauren likes you, bud, but even against Ryan and Doctor Mike in the finals, I don’t know if you’re charming enough to remove that many knives from backs.
I Know, I Know, Just Stay with Me
Of the final five, Mike is probably the worst player out there in the modern era, and as such, I’d be somewhat disappointed if he did end up winning. On the other hand, to be so constantly down and come back and win without the aid of any advantages? That’s a pretty awesome story.
Mike is in a precarious spot. He needed to vote out Ashley to save his own skin last time, but in doing so, he removed someone he could’ve easily beaten in the end. Still, now that she’s gone, who’s really going to be looking to oust Mike immediately? Ben? Neat, what social currency does he have? Mike should have a clear enough run to the end, clearer than any of the other four, but the question remains, what does he do if he’s up in front of the Jury? Does he have a resume that could beat Chrissy and Ben and even Devon? Honestly, I think yes.
Remove all of Mike’s “flashy” plays from your memory (burning his idol when he didn’t need to, actually burning Lauren’s idol, calling Ben King Arthur, etc.). Okay? Done? Sweet. Now think about everything Mike has done behind the scenes and in the little moments between Tribals: he knew when to keep his head down and do what he’s told (going along with the splitting votes for Desi), he can say he influenced Tribals to get him the best possible outcome if the odds were never going to land in his favor perfectly (keeping Joe and ditching Cole), seizing opportunities when they were there (getting rid of JP), causing insanity at camp to further push attention off of himself (and ultimately result in Ben’s game exploding and Lauren’s imploding), and he obviously has enough social standing that everyone, even Ben, voted Ashley out instead of him. No, when Mike is flashy, he’s pretty bad at Survivor, but ask Sandra, games aren’t always won with big moves. I think if Mike can orchestra Devon’s or Chrissy’s or Ben’s blindsides, he’s a major threat to win. Even without, he could find a way.
A Fallen King
Ben’s arc has been fascinating this season. He started off as noble as one could be, the American paragon and Marine, but in the past few episodes, his power has evaporated, and he’s been reduced to idol plays as a means of survival. I mentioned my gripes about his idol playing earlier, so no need to restate that, but I want to take a closer look at why I think Ben’s not quite the threat to win everyone assumes. I mentioned this last week, but going into the finale, I feel it’s best to readdress them.
One of Ben’s greatest strengths is to be able to say he played from both the top and bottom of the pecking order this season and done so with marked success. Unfortunately, during such times, one personality trait seemed to pervade all of his actions: arrogance. Yes, Chrissy is guilty of this at times, but more on that later. When he was in charge, he ordered Chrissy and Ashley around in the original seven alliance, talking down to Cole and Joe and even Mike at times. Once he flipped on Ryan and Chrissy, he seemingly rubbed it in their faces that they were idiots to have believed his ruse that he was on the bottom with them. Now, firmly at the bottom, he’s laughed while he watched Lauren’s game go to hell, and called out Mike in front of everyone while asking people “do you want to come back to camp with me tonight,” as though he were a god who can magically dictate such things since he played an idol early. Coincidentally, Ben wasn’t able to dictate anything at all, and despite his overzealous confidence that he was going to be able to turn the Survivor tides however he saw fit, Mike was spared in a landslide.
I’m just saying, despite the fact he’s a Marine, has a family, and is adept at finding and using idols, just consider the following. If I see someone like Mike next to him at the FTC, why wouldn’t I consider voting for someone who wasn’t a complete asshole about their game? The real irony of Ben and Joe’s feud, was Ben’s kind of just a better, smarter Joe. Think on that, dearest readers.
(The) Champion: Chrissy
A Rising Queen
I didn’t think I’d be saying this, but for the first time ever in my Survivor fandom, I think I might go back-to-back on preseason winner picks! This assertion doesn’t come merely from the position Chrissy finds herself in, but more convincingly, the edit she’s gotten on the way to the end. Let’s recap, shall we?
For players who haven’t spent all season in control (Rob and Kim and even Sarah, for instance), a common way for Survivor to provide a likable, narratively satisfying winner is to show the trials and tribulations that player went through during their journey. Chrissy is one such player. From someone who, as Jeff reminded us this last episode, vomited during the first challenge, Chrissy turned all perception of herself around, going on to win on the same stage she lost her lunch on. She’s been deemed a challenge threat (which is remarkable for a woman her age on the show) so much so that she is poised for a late-game immunity run that could ensure her safety until the bitter end, has maintained her closest allies without betrayal (Ryan and JP and even Ben who she was loyal to until he backstabbed her), and she played successfully enough from the bottom for several straight Tribals toward the endgame until she found another opening to regain power. On top of all of that, she’s been shown (both for better and for worse) to be a motherly figure, but one who seems to have surpassed the unfair glass ceiling Dawn came up against in Caramoan (I say this because people see Chrissy as a threat instead of a Dawn-like goat). How could she possibly lose, right?
Like everyone this season, no one is perfect, and Chrissy definitely has fallen into some negative content along the way. From her utter complacency with the JP boot to her hypocritical coverage of Ben’s betrayal (which I don’t think is entirely fair), and, of course, her holier than thou attitude (I really don’t think Ashley’s reaction to not being chosen at the reward was at all poor sportsmanship, Chrissy), Chrissy has wracked up a fair amount of questionable social stock. Do I, personally, think her negative perception is worse than, say, Ben’s? No, but it’s close enough that it might be enough to swing votes away from her. I still think her best bet is to go to the end with Ryan and Devon, but I think she’s could (and even should) win against any combination.
Furthermore, I think Ashley going home benefits Chrissy far more than anyone else. She still has Ryan, and now she also has Devon who, without Ashley, is fairly isolated from the rest of the group (another move she can take credit for, Ben’s idol aside). Ben is still public enemy number one, and Mike’s swing vote power no longer holds much weight. Ashley also seemed like the least likely person to work with Chrissy, and someone who’s plotted against her. Chrissy, much like her queenly, ruling archetype, holds all the power. Like Sarah last season, this is hers to lose. Much like Sarah last season, I don’t think Chrissy screws this one up. The vote may be close, but here’s our winner folks.
(And Pitman said over forty is too old to win Survivor. Psh.)
A Closing Thought, Dearest Readers
The Narrative Arc No One is Talking About
Much like the tagline to this section, there’s a whole storyline this season that seems to have fallen by the wayside… TDT’s Fantasy Draft! This, my friends, is the very reason why this finale is so crucial to all of us, because we at TDT clearly know you’re only watching the finale to see if Jeff, Pat, or I win (sorry, Ben).
For the remaining players, Jeff still has Ben, Pat has Devon and Mike, and I have Chrissy and Ryan. If we’re doing this like a winner-take-all, then all three of us have very feasible chances to become TDT’s first Fantasy Champ (and I believe that is how we agreed on it preseason). Maybe in the future, we could do something like you add up the boot placement of your given team and the person with the lowest score wins? That’s a discussion for another time, however.
Right now, the stakes are high, the players as competitive, and unlike my fantasy football team, I’m still in the running to win this league. Wish all of us luck, dearest readers, and enjoy another whole reason to watch the finale.
Alrighty, prediction time. In short, I think Chrissy makes it to the end and wins, though I’m not sure she’ll do it like I predicted last time (taking out Devon and Ryan along the way). Regardless, I’m sticking with my lady to take home the gold.
See you for post-game coverage!
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