Another week, another idol found, and wouldn’t you know it, it was once more found by a man! Well, maybe Donathan will be able to use this one to get him to the end and in a position where he can argue to win the million—but more importantly, get Team Dan the Fantasy win this season! I can dream…
Some People Were Born to Play This Game…
…and I really don’t think Des was one of them. There are a lot of things I do/did really like about this woman, namely, in the context of Survivor, that she knew she need to do something if she was ever going to usurp the top tier players in her dominant alliance: Dom, Wendell, and Kellyn. Not a lot of people always see this as a necessity, and hence, goats are born. Still, the execution was, simply put, not there. Not only do I see no reason for Des to plot against Kellyn over the likes of Dom or Wendell as Kellyn’s been in her corner for weeks at this point, Des’s choice to blow up camp after Laurel outed her did not become her as a contestant. While, yes, Laurel’s maneuver in undermining Des was always going to put her in hot water, I’d like to offer up Chelsea as a model for how Des could have (and should have) acted—staying quiet and doing what she could to regain the footing she had in Kellyn’s shadow.
Desiree, when it came down to it, was little more than a sacrifice for the bigger, better players. While this role might be a good deal more interesting than a similar villager (as Chelsea continues to be), Desiree could’ve made better use of positioning if she’d only waited a touch longer or if she just hadn’t gone a little berserk at camp. After all, nothing says “I’m innocent” like getting into people’s faces about it, right? *sigh*
Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes
From Damn Near Everyone, Too
In this last Survivor off-season, our very own Jeff Pitman wrote a recap about Survivor: China, illustrating James’s idol misplay and how, despite that being the obviously worst blunder, others made smaller, quieter mistakes that ultimately doomed them… or they survived through sheer luck (such as Todd not covering his ass if James had played either of his idols). This episode, I think, will stand similarly for the likes of Kellyn, Chelsea, Michael, Jenna, and Seb—probably Laurel and Donathan, too. In fact, with the exception of Dom and Wendell (and Angela, because she doesn’t seem to be in any sort of position to do anything), I think everyone in this episode could’ve done something that would’ve not only benefitted them in the short term but set them up for farther down the road. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Did Not Like You This Episode, Homie
From the first time I saw Kellyn in pre-game stuff and now through the bulk of this season, my opinion of this woman has shifted dramatically. In pre-game, she honestly annoyed me. By the time she reached Ghost Island and gave some insight to her life, I was sold on her as a person and as a contestant. This episode, however, I thought she came off as pretty whiny and demanding, only to not get her way and sending Des home instead of Michael. This, in my opinion, was her first mistake. Sure, Des was trying to boot her, but it should have been pretty clear that, given how much Des was trying to (poorly) scramble to get back into the Naviti good graces that she’d be scared into submission for at least another vote. On the flip side of this, if Des had been telling the truth (and, frankly, Kellyn had little reason to believe she wasn’t), wouldn’t she want to go for the person who acted as the proverbial whistle-blower, one who is clearly a lot closer to Dom/Wendell than her—a fact which should terrify Kellyn? In short, Kellyn should have targeted Laurel. Perhaps she chose not to do this because she feared causing another rift at camp like Chris v Dom 2018 did, but her only reason to fear this would have been if she thought she’d lose. If she thinks she’d lose this battle with the help of Des, Chelsea, and maybe even Angela (had she been able to vote), how the fuck is she going to pull it off down an ally, shaky or otherwise? I’ll give her, however, that even with her extra vote, this would have been a pretty tall order, and while I think she could’ve done it with some leveraging, I can understand, on some level, Kellyn taking the path of least resistance.
She did have another option, however. Again, noticing Laurel running to Dom/Wendell should have set off all sorts of alarms to Kellyn about how the numbers are stacking up. If she wanted to ensure long-term control, Kellyn should have roped in Michael and Jenna (and probably Seb) and targeted Dom or Wendell. Michael obviously had just written down Wendell’s name, so he would have likely been game, and I can’t see Jenna not just doing what she was told. Add on Chelsea, Des, and her extra vote, and Kellyn could have taken out a massive threat, weakening those around her, and gaining the trust of two new goats in Seb and Jenna to replace those who may or may not have been trying to boot her in Chelsea and Des. This, in my opinion, would have been incredibly feasible, and while I understand working with Michael is a risk should he make a potential late challenge run, Kellyn and Seb together should be more than enough to stop him at least once after Dom, Wendell, and Laurel were comfortably sitting on the Jury.
Purple Kelly Who Isn’t Going to Quit
Okay, fine. That tagline is a little strong. Frankly, I think Chelsea is playing a much better game than we’re getting to see. Obviously, she hasn’t been shown too terribly much this season, but little snippets here and there hint that she has some level of social strategy and awareness someone like Des or Angela didn’t/don’t seem to. For instance, after Libby got votes in Chris’s boot, it was Chelsea who gave her an answer to quiet her while Angela bumbled over words, making Libby all the more paranoid. Just this episode, despite Chelsea apparently being in close cahoots with Des, she seemed to be under shocking little fire. While, yes, I’m sure part of this was due to Des imploding, Chelsea at least seemed to have the good sense to keep her head down. I’m not saying these are the makings of an elite player, by any means, but she’s already won a challenge, and we’ve seen other players with good social connections win the game against opponents with seemingly better résumés (I’m thinking Natalie White and Michele, specifically).
Now, apart from the obvious of voting with Des at Tribal, what move could Chelsea have made to pad her own resume while helping her overall position? Simply, Chelsea should have pushed to boot Laurel. If you’re seeing a trend here, dearest readers, that’s good, because while Laurel did strengthen her bond with people who will likely take her to the endgame if not the FTC, she took an enormous risk in doing so. No, the spotlight did not fall on her, but I just don’t really see how unless nobody thinks she’s a credible threat come day thirty-nine. Regardless, Chelsea (and Des) should have gone to Kellyn and—calmly—explained Laurel was spreading rumors to cause a divide. Kellyn would’ve likely talked to Dom/Wendell about this, and there likely unwillingness to get rid of her would have, hopefully, set off alarms to Kellyn. From there, rally Michael and Jenna (and Seb) by explaining Laurel is by no means all in with Malolo, and hope for the best. Don’t target Michael because that’s the “logical” thing to do, target someone who you can at least spin a bad story about! Survivor 101.
Michael and Jenna (and Seb… and Laurel and Donathan)
Don’t Squander Opportunities When You’re on the Bottom!
This one really frustrates me. It’s not that I’m really rooting for Jenna, Seb, or Laurel all too much at this point, but when Naviti is divided with what they could presume would be a Kellyn, Dom, and Wendell voting one way, Des and Chelsea another, and Angela as a wildcard… why would these people not band together and take out a common enemy none of them seem to be working with. Even after Laurel went tattling to Dom, Michael, Jenna, Seb, Laurel, and Donathan should have voted out Kellyn. Yes, this appeared to be Des and Chelsea’s plan from the start, but given how much turmoil there was around camp, keeping that tension going would have helped all of these fringe players in the long run. From what we’ve seen from the edit, this move helps all five of these players. For Laurel and Donathan, it makes them all the more necessary to Wendell and Dom while simultaneously dispatching one of the biggest threats to their alliance. Additionally, it gives the pair a move of their own that was not dictated by Wendell and Dom. For Michael, Jenna, and Sebastian, it gives them wiggle room and new potential allies in would-be refugees Des and Chelsea, lost after being targeted by Naviti and now without their fearless leader. Kellyn was a threat, and the fact that these five could have done something about it will haunt at least one (if not two) of these players in this weeks double-boot episode.
Michael, Jenna, Seb, Des, and Chelsea
Once, in a far-off era of Survivor, there was a little, underrated season known as Marquesas. While little did we as viewers know we were witnessing the debut of one of the greatest players the show’s ever seen in one “Boston” Rob Mariano, a little something special happened where, for the first time in Survivor history, those on the bottom banded together and took out the stronger players keeping them down. Folks this season could’ve learned from this.
Look, if I’m Michael and Jenna (and to a lesser extent, Sea Bass) and I hear Des and Chelsea want to get rid of a Naviti, I have to think things are finally looking up! Wait. No. Laurel went and told Dom and now all of that just blew up. Instead of targeting one of the people who was trying to work with you and ditching Des, why the hell would you not just say, “Hey, I still want to play with you. Fuck Laurel. Let’s ditch her.” Furthermore, if I’m Des or Chelsea and I’m witnessing my game collapse around me, should I just go back to the easy, original plan of ditching one of the only people desperate enough to make a move with me? Sure! That makes so much more sense than going for the person who just dismantled all of my big, carefully-laid plans. *sigh* Michael, Jenna, Seb, Des, and Chelsea should have targeted Laurel, likely using Kellyn as their final number.
Because Dom and Wendell Are
For all of the missed opportunities this week by virtually everyone, Dom and Wendell played exactly how they needed to. They cut a Naviti who was not 100% with them, and by doing so, they solidified Laurel and Donathan’s trust in them whilst weakening their biggest Naviti threat (other than each other) in Kellyn. Not only that, both of the personal content these gentlemen are getting seems to indicate one of them takes home the grand prize. At this point, some of the most fun to be had on the season is trying to figure out which one of them wins! To be fair, I do go back and forth on this point quite a bit—but for this week, I’m thinking it’s actually Dom. Huh. Go figure. But, hey, that’ll probably change next week. And then again.
A Closing Thought, Dearest Readers
First, a small disclaimer, what I’m about to say may be a small spoiler for something this season. If you don’t want to read it, I 100% understand, and I wish I hadn’t seen it on Twitter myself. Consider yourself warned…
…here we go. On Twitter, Dom retweeted a picture of Andrea Boehlke and him together. In it, Dom has his/Andrea’s idol with a caption of “who wore it better,” or something cute like that. If Dom still has that idol and is able to take a picture with it, that means either he goes home with it in his pocket, or he never needs to play it at all. Again, this isn’t earth-shattering by any means, but it’s something to note about the trajectory of the season (less of a chance for someone getting Cirie’d at least!).
[Ed. note: Since Andrea was the original owner of the idol, her idol should have been returned to her after the season ended filming, regardless of what happened in-game, so this is probably not a spoiler.]
Okay, my potential spoilers are no more. All that’s left now is some boot predictions, and with a double-boot episode, that leaves a lot of room for error. However, this also means I have a greater chance of getting at least one of them right, as well! Anyway, considering how little we’ve seen of Jenna and Sebastian as of late, I’d have to think neither of them make many waves in the season’s narrative arc. Let’s add in Chelsea, considering she’s on the outs for voting with Des, and Michael, because he’ll be on the bottom until he gets booted (or somehow pulls one of the greatest comebacks of all time out of his ass and wins). Kellyn, too, is a dark horse to go home this week, given how her greatest remaining allies are the people who should probably want her gone the most in Dom and Wendell. All this being said, Chelsea and Kellyn have proven to be competent at challenges, and if one male and one female win immunity (which is likely the route the show will take), Michael and Seb are probably the clear favorites for balance/endurance related things. All this being said, I think Jenna is probably toast, and then some combo of Michael, Seb, Chelsea, and Kellyn… let’s say Sebastian, because when your visibility is getting less than Chelsea’s… homie, you got yourself one big problem.
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