A confession: over the last several weeks, I’ve enjoyed writing “The Little Things” section of the blog more than the rest of it put together. Probably because Pagonging strategy isn’t all that complicated. And really, why not take a close look at the little things? They’re often significant signs of monumentally big things, right? So how about an entire blog post of little things? Let’s do this.
1) Always pay attention to the “Previous On” recap...
… because this time it explicitly identified the Naviti women as a potential alliance. Which means it’s a thing. And they’re the only ones that stand between The Navolo Four (Dom, Wendell, Laurel, and Donathan) and a clean run to the endgame.
2) It also heavily hinted that we’re supposed to be impressed with Dom...
… because we were reminded that he played the Legacy Advantage, but in a neutral, ultimately protective way. He could have been shredded for playing it incorrectly (he didn’t get any votes)—and you’d expect that in a season that’s all about mistakes that come back to haunt you—and the fact that we didn’t get a withering Probst voiceover probably means that, in hindsight, this wasn’t a mistake. (Which means that Dom probably makes it to the finale in a position to win.)
3) We are also constantly reminded about Dom’s fake idol…
… and they’ve done it enough times now that I can’t shake the feeling that it’s going to factor into a vote somewhere down the line. Chris thought it was real; do other people? Does Dom do a fake-out at Tribal, where not everyone can agree if it’s fake or real? Does he give it to someone to pull them closer (someone like Angela, who, given that she was working with Chris, might think it’s real)? I mean, they don’t keep bringing it up unless it means SOMETHING, right?
4) Wendell got another winner’s montage shot...
… when he spoke about his social game, and talked about reading the body language of the other castaways. We don’t get this sort of confessional if Wendell gets booted in the next week or two; this is a moment we look back at and say, “That’s why he didn’t play his idol when most people would have… and that’s why he made it to the end.” This is, when you get right down to it, the foundation of Wendell’s Final Tribal Council argument against someone who played a flashier game.
5) Laurel and Donathan aren’t going to turn on Dom and Wendell
The whole episode was shaped around Laurel saying that she had to make a big move… and then, wouldn’t you know it, there was a big move to make… but instead of taking out Wendell, Laurel and Donathan joined the majority.
They’re going to stick with Dom and Wendell in the Naviti war to come, and then, by the time they’re ready to make a move to flip the game, it will be too late.
6) Probst clearly hates Chelsea
In the middle of the Reward Challenge, he bellowed, “Chelsea -- fulfilling her role of participating!”
At the end of the Reward Challenge, with Wendell and Dom both at the slingshots, Probst called out, “Dom and Wendell, side by side again!”
And then Wendell unleashes the winning shot.
Did we just get a glimpse of the Final Tribal Council?
8) As the boat arrived at Ghost Island with Jenna aboard…
… I annoyed my wife and son by shouting, “NO GAME FOR YOU!”
When Jenna smashed the urn and pulled out the note, I smirked.
Of COURSE Jenna didn’t get a game.
9) Angela could wear the immunity necklace at every Tribal Council from now until the finale…
… and she still wouldn’t win.
As Michael pointed out, Angela was the only player who didn’t know Chris was going home (other than Chris, of course).
When every potential member of the jury isn’t interested in keeping you in the loop, your game is effectively over.
10) And yet, Angela has a significant role to play moving forward…
… which is why she had a confessional in which she insisted that she’s going to play her own game now.
She’s going to flip on Kellyn and the other Naviti women (there’s a reason we’ve been shown what Angela thinks about people who have betrayed her). There aren’t too many other options out there, but how about this: She joins up with Laurel and Donathan, who helped her survive on Naviti 2.0. That would give them the 3-2 advantage they need over Dom and Wendell during the endgame...
11) The Invisible Alliance
The best and worst thing about Laurel’s connection with Dom and Wendell is how effectively hidden it is. On the one hand, no one seems to suspect that there is a potentially dominant four-person alliance in their midst. On the other hand, however, it feels like the other players are dismissing just how big a threat Dom and Wendell are because they appear vulnerable. Everyone knows they’re dangerous, of course, but no one -- other than Laurel -- knows just how powerful they are, with two allies and two idols in their pockets.
Kellyn, specifically, is in a lot of danger because her perception of Dom and Wendell doesn’t match the reality. She has to look at those two and think, “After we vote out Michael, everyone will agree that Dom and Wendell have to go.” If Laurel and Donathan stick with Dom and Wendell, though, they’ll need only one or two more players (Angela? Sebastian? Jenna? All of them?) to control the rest of the game.
Indeed, the Navolo Four alliance is so invisible, that there’s a good chance that Kellyn will assume that she can recruit Laurel and Donathan (and she’d be wrong, which is why we got that shot last week of Kellyn saying that she can’t read Laurel and Donathan). Laurel, for her part, might be tempted to flip on Dom and Wendell...
... but she won’t. Instead, Laurel will say all the usual things: Kellyn would get all of the credit for the move (and Laurel would have backstabbed enemies on the jury)... she can still flip on the guys at Final 7 or Final 5, where it would be seen as more forgivable… and even if she can never get them gone, she still has a better story for the jury, doesn’t she, since she’s a Malolo and wouldn’t winning reverse that particular curse?
In a season that will be defined by missed opportunities to take out the eventual winner, Laurel, it appears, will have the most regrets.
(Unless she wins, that is.)
12) More Little Things!
** Clearly, someone designated Libby as the “in case Michael has an idol” back-up vote. Who was it? Dom? Wendell? Kellyn? Who is at the heart of these group discussions? Oh, to have a chance to watch the footage that ended up on the cutting room floor. There’s so much happening out there on the beach, so much truth that we’ll never get to see.
** Situational awareness is the biggest difference between superfans and recruits, and it played a significant role in the departures of Chris and Libby. They just didn’t know enough about the game to understand what was happening or what they could do about it. There’s a reason that the game is being controlled by Dom, Wendell, Kellyn, and Laurel right now.
** The more I think about it, the more I like the idea that the theme of this season is “Missed Opportunities”: After the first swap, Naviti 2.0 could have taken out Wendell instead of Morgan… after the merge, everyone could have taken out Wendell instead of Chris… and then they could have taken out Wendell instead of Libby. In the not-too-distant future, we’re likely to see Kellyn make a mistake with her extra vote that, had it been used correctly, would have taken out Wendell. And when Survivor players really want to take someone out, but can’t, that player almost always wins the game.
** Angela’s work in the gross food challenge was… impressive. As someone who prefers to use his head when writing about Survivor, though, I will refrain from any salacious commentary. I mean, my blog posts suck enough as it is.
** And now for a curmudgeonly complaint that I make at least twice a year: Is it too much to ask for the producers to show us the schoolyard picks? Who selects whom… how players react… and how all of that plays out in the challenge… the social politics would be fascinating to watch play out on screen. It would be worth every second of airtime (heck, it wouldn’t have been roughly 87,000x more interesting than Jenna’s visit to Ghost Island; I double-checked that math with Pitman, so I’m certain it’s accurate).
** More foreshadowing: Keeping Probst’s mention of the new Final Tribal Council format in the edit can’t be an accident. My best guess: there’s going to be an extensive debate at Tribal where someone comes into the FTC as an underdog but talks their way to victory. (I doubt very much that the winner actually changes anyone’s vote—most jury members have admitted after the fact that they’re locked in when they get to FTC, even when production has encouraged them to say that their votes are “live”—but production is going to want us to think that the conversation changes the outcome.)
** If Michael and Libby really wanted to pull in Donathan and Laurel, they needed to have Jenna go to them and say, “Michael and Libby think I’m with them, but I’d rather go to the end with you two, because maybe we all have a shot against each other?” That way, Donathan and Laurel don’t think they’re fourth and fifth in that alliance.
** Surely, Jenna tried to convince Sebastian to join the Malolos, right? (They needed a sixth person to remain in the majority after the Wendell blindside.) If so, why didn’t it work? If Sebastian flips on the Navitis and joins the Malolo Five, he could easily be in the Final 6 with a reasonable path to the Final 3 (both of the other tandems would be trying to recruit Jenna and him). Perhaps he feels that he has just as easy a path to the end—without all of the mayhem, discord, and anger that his betrayal would create—in his current situation. It’s odd, though, that he’s choosing Wendell over Jenna.
It should be Michael, and he’ll be targeted, but everyone should rightfully be scared that he’ll find another idol.
(PITMAN! How many times—say, since Season 20—has a player found only one idol? And how often does he—because it’s almost always a he—find more than one? I’m curious if the perception that certain players become idol magnets is myth or reality.)
Anyway, the remaining ten castaways are going to need to split the votes… and that’s when things get interesting. All of the other Malolos have Navitis who will want to protect them:
Laurel: Wendell and Dom
Donathan: Wendell and Dom
Given that Sebastian, as far as we’ve seen, doesn’t have a lot of social capital, Jenna seems like the easiest split vote second target—and in an effort to maintain temporary harmony, the seven remaining Naviti will initially talk about splitting the vote between Michael and Jenna—but if you’re Wendell, don’t you reach out to Sebastian, offer to protect Jenna, and then pull the two of them into to your alliance to make it six strong?
And what if Michael wins immunity? Now you suddenly need two names from that list of three, which is guaranteed to trigger a response. Suddenly, Dom and Wendell might start bringing up the names of Naviti women, and that won’t sit well with Kellyn.
All of which would force the two competing Nativi factions to put their cards on the table this week.
Wouldn’t that be fun?
Let’s say that that all of this happens: Michael wins immunity, and the Navolo Four decide that now’s the time to weaken Kellyn. They pull in Seabass and Jenna… and target who, exactly?
Kellyn: They’ll be afraid that she won something during her two visits to Ghost Island
Angela: She’s a self-proclaimed free agent now and might work with them.
Chelsea: A possibility
Des: Another possibility
Hmmmmm. Chelsea or Des. Who would you take out? Do we really know either one of them enough to make an educated guess? (Answer: Nope.)
Eh. As much as I enjoy creating hypotheticals, I prefer to dance along the edge of Occam’s Razor.
So let’s go with the obvious: Michael and Jenna are targeted.
Michael plays another idol (because production).
And Jenna goes home.
Andy Baker is a long-time, but definitely not long-winded, Survivor blogger.
Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius