For all Michael's outstanding use of history to mask the idol's actual powers, his move fell flat in two ways: 1. He didn't convince any ex-Navitis to flip, and 2. He guessed wrong on who they were targeting. Oh well.
There have been a lot of suggestions that singling out Bradley as the target was a bad move. That's not actually as clear as it seems. First off, it was highly unlikely *any* of the Navitis would flip. That's because this was the first Tribal Council any of them had ever attended. That's likely terrifying just on its own, and it's a journey ("truly into the unknown") that they all shared. For another thing, the other half of their original tribe, who had also been up 5-4, came away from the previous Tribal Council minus Morgan. Not to mention that Kellyn had just sacrificed a chance at individual power in the game (via an advantage) in order to preserve that edge for the good of the other four.
The ex-Navitis all knew they had superior numbers if they just stuck together (just as the ex-Malolos now on Naviti had the previous episode), so they were bound together by this combination of confidence in numbers and fear of the unknown. No matter how great Michael's or Brendan's or Stephanie's salesmanship was, what possible advantage was there for a Sebastian or Chelsea to gain by flipping from the alleged bottom of this group of five, to the bottom of another five (or six) that's full of their enemies?
In reality, Malolo's only plausible shot was guessing right on the idol play. That was a 1-in-4 shot. For all the complaints about too many idols in modern Survivor, this was a low-probability play. Usually, idols are successfully played when the minority group is much smaller, say two or three people. Or as we saw last season, just one. Four is a gigantic number of people to try to protect with one idol.
What made Michael's attempt to double his idol's power so impressive was, in part, those formidable odds, and that this was a credible attempt to lower them. First, his fabricated story seemed plausible, because it was built on the idol's history. James's idol was part of a pair! And it was probably the only pair of idols that anyone playing would remember. Second, his story took part of its script from the actual letter the idol was wrapped in (the part about reversing the curse). Michael just made a few slight tweaks, and sold his double-immunity story spectacularly well. All in all, a tremendous Survivor move.
Except that, well... it didn't work.
That's because there are limits to idols' powers. They can't protect everyone. Unless a player has some sort of intel about where the votes are going (as David did when he played his idol for Jessica in MvGX), it's very difficult to play them correctly in a large, evenly split tribe like this. Russell Hantz only guessed right one out of two times in Samoa, playing as part of an alliance of four. And he whiffed the first time. While Michael's play would have been one of the greatest plays in Survivor history if it had worked, his attempt has moved the strategic game forward*, and is absolutely worthy of all the praise it has received.
(*At least it will have the next time there's a James Clement idol in circulation, which very well could be next season, for all we know. And now that Michael raised the possibility of an idol protecting two people at once, odds are probably 50-50 or better that at least one real idol in the future will actually have that power.)
Kellyn nopes the Ghost Island game
Survivor seems to have found their ideal contestant in Kellyn, someone seemingly thrilled at the opportunity to bask in the "Survivor gods" jibber-jabber, with barely the slightest provocation. On the whole, it's difficult to assess whether her decision to forego the Ghost Island "game"—and keep her vote at the next Tribal safe—was really a good one or a poor one. Yes, of course, it can be two things. And maybe it is.
In the short term, as she pointed out in confessional, she absolutely made the right choice, because the ex-Navitis needed her vote for their 5-4 majority to hold. Sure, they could have gotten fancy and tried something else, like actually talking to the Malolos, or something. But this was their first Tribal ever, and they going to play like Boston Rob and Kim Spradlin at least once, dagnabbit. (Even if sticking with a majority while stonewalling a minority is super boring to watch.)
In the long-term, however, given how infrequently Ghost Island visitors are given the opportunity to even try to win advantages, Kellyn was probably right to fret that she'd angered the "Survivor gods" by not playing their guessing game. The most important Survivor gods are the ones wearing Survivor logo baseball caps and/or shirts, and maybe some of the ones lugging around microphones and cameras. They're probably not terribly excited to be boating someone out to this elaborately relic-decorated set, replete with its own personal camera operator, only to have the visitor decide, "Eh, no thanks. I'm good," when it comes time to make a Big Move™ and wager a future vote.
Even though opting out in this way makes logical sense when someone's holding firm to a razor-thin, single-vote (5-4) majority, sticking with a Day 1 alliance is far from a "big move." So maybe that's why the camera intentionally focused in on the "bad decision" sign hanging behind Kellyn as she made her rice, hinting that there may be consequences to Kellyn's taking the safer option. Because, as you know, it's Episode 4 and there have only been three idols-plus-advantages introduced into the game so far, and more is always better, obviously, and what are they supposed to do, just start hiding them under an orange-painted rock in the middle of camp? (Relax, that'll be at least Episode 8 if the pace doesn't start to pick up.)
If there were consequences to Kellyn's choice, they certainly didn't show up this episode. Although the fact that the editors also chose to include the shot zooming in on the "bad decision" sign argues that Episode 4 may not be the last word in this.
Easily one of the top two Brendan S.'es in Survivor history
Before the season started, we looked at Brendan's tribe draw, and came to the following conclusion:
Probst says Brendan was passed over for MvGX. This is tragic. Brendan would have been so much better off there than here, where (at the ripe old age of 41, which would have placed him in the younger half of the Gen X tribe) he stands out by being more than a decade older than the next-youngest man on his tribe
Four episodes later, we're disappointed that this cruel prophecy proved accurate. Who knows which slot Brendan missed out on there (Ken McNickle's?), but it doesn't really matter. He was here, on this season.
On the plus side, Brendan actually had a much firmer footing in this game than we were expecting, or at least he did right up until the swap screwed everything up. He didn't really do anything wrong... except be on this particular swapped tribe. That's a tough pill to swallow when you tried for 16 years to get on the show. The whims of Survivor casting entice with one hand, and punish with the other. Brendan played a lot stronger game than his placement indicates.
Let's hope in the not too distant future there's a Millennials vs. Gen X 2, but with returning players. Brendan could team up with the likes of David Wright, Jessica Lewis, Mike Zahalsky, Chrissy Hofbeck, or maybe even the newly jobless David Samson, and really do some damage. At the very least, Brendan could stand out for something other than being seen as the token dad. Hopefully it'll take fewer than 16 more years to get that second shot.
Eh, that's enough of all that. It's time for a vidcap gallery (below).
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, you can do so on twitter: @truedorktimes
I mean, that really didn't work out for Adam and Zeke, did it?
Come on, Domenick, it's Episode 4. Who doesn't at this point?
Don't mind me, I'm just fondling something in my, uh... bag
The Legacy Advantage! I just saw this on TV three weeks ago!
Wait a minute, how were trying to spell my name originally, Morgan?
Probst: Stop squinting! You're supposed to be getting your first looks at the new Naviti tribe!
Um, Mr. Probst? Can I be in this episode? I'll trade you our flint, or something.
Probst: Not now, whatsyername, I have to watch my boys grapple with each other. After 35 seasons of this, it's all I have left to look forward to.
Probst: No! No! You're doing it all wrong! It's not a race! You're supposed to wrestle! Grab each other! Roll around!
Probst: There! See? The ladies have the right idea. You can stop or whatever. Give the guys another shot.
Probst: Okay, boys. Now get back out there and try again.
Probst: Oh my! That's more like it!
Probst: Oh... oh, my!
Um... so can we just say we won, or what?
Probst: Uh... sure. Okay, you people grab some rocks or whatever.
Ooh, tough break, whatsyername. Looks like Kellyn gets to be the star for the next 10 minutes.
Wait, I have a white rock. Does that mean all these other losers are out of the game now?
I mean, there is a precedent...
Ha ha, no. Since when has precedent meant anything?
Oh, right. The whole theme this season is precedents. Still, whatever.
Kellyn's tiki impersonation game is pretty solid
Meanwhile... hooray, bread*! (*May contain traces of peanut butter and/or jelly)
Settle down there, Captain Dramatic. While there is something on your throat, it's merely a subtitle.
Chris: Listen guys, then we can recombine them as Wennick and/or Domdell! This will be fun!
I dunno, we generally don't chop people in half then sew them back together in Eastern Kentucky. I'm learning so many new things!
Is there a way we could... you know... not be chopping people up?
Domenick: I do *not* trust Chris's sewing skills
He kept singing "Troy and Abed sewn together!"... does that mean anything to you?
Damn, and I thought Rick & Morty fans were the worst.
Probst: Welcome back, everyone. Please resume squinting into the sun
Probst: Okay, time for me to watch you all in a cage match
Probst: Wait, you're not supposed to escape! Who put that gate there?
Probst: Thank you, purple team. Just ignore the gate. Okay, get on with the wrestling!
Probst: Now what? You're supposed to wrestle with each other, not with random sandy boxes!
I thought Pull was on the other team?
Probst: I'm really starting to think you guys don't understand what "wrestling" means.
Probst: *Groan* What now? Can you people please keep the seasons straight?
Probst: Finally! Hurrah! That's more like it. Although... I kind of wanted it in the cage?
Sebastian: Like this? Brendan: Psst, let's escape while the purple team is distracting him. Also, that's a pole.
Probst wants wrestling? Fine, I'll be the heel. I have to say "brother" a lot and uh, what else?
I'm a heel now. Just act like I'm threatening your honor, or family, or whatever.
Probst: Wait, how did whatsyername sneak back in here? Cut!
So long dental plan! (Lisa needs braces) Dental plan!...
I think you'll find that flint to be in working order, Mr. Probst. Enjoy your firemaking.
Wait, if I trade you our tarp, can I be in this epiode, too?
I have a short poem about Malololows. I'll trade it to you for a hashtag.
Why do they get all the deals? I'd happily trade the shelter to be in the next episode
Michael is modeling a new line of barely noticeable holsters for giant idols. Look for them at the CBS online store.
Wow, this Tribal Council thing tastes kind of... hairy
Who wore it better? Stephanie responding to Bradley's "babysitting," or...
...Desiree responding to Brendan's attempted flipping of Sebastian?
*Yawn* All you people do is talk. When do we get back to the body slams and choking?
Choking? Well, I do have James Clement's idol here in my left hand...
Oh look, now I have one in my right hand... twins!
Dude, I saw you transfer it to your other hand
You haven't talked to me this whole time. Can I have our flint back?
Well, if there are no takers, I guess I'll just burn the James Clement idol on this torch. Oh well.
Fine, I'll take it. As long as you promise future tussling, rolling around, that sort of thing.
Probst: So long, Brendan. If only you'd wrestled more. Brendan: I did, you cut it out of the RC. Probst: Whatever.
Other Ghost Island Episode 4 recaps and analysis
Exit interviews - Brendan Shapiro