In its second episode, Survivor NZ: Thailand debuted the Outpost, an all-new twist in which one person from each tribe visits a neutral location (conveniently also called the Outpost), to... do stuff. According to Matt Chisholm's introductory remarks, "what awaits could be a challenge, it could be a dilemma, it could be both." The key takeaway, again from Matt: "The only certainty is whatever plays out here will have consequences on the wider game."
And it did.
Survivor NZ couldn't have asked for two more ideal participants to randomly end up there if they tried. For Chani: Scheming superfan JT, already subtly manipulating his tribe just to get himself there in the first place, in hopes of getting his hands on a sweet, sweet hidden immunity idol clue. For Khang Khaw, alleged Survivor never-viewer and "fresh head"-ed player Tess, who... had no idea what she was getting herself into, but who (rightly) worried, "Anything to do with JT scares me. I don't trust him."
What played out was glorious. The task at hand was fire-making (with flint and abundant dry materials, as in the stupid new US Final 4 twist that hopefully NZ hasn't adopted), at which JT failed miserably, unless you count setting his eyebrows aflame. Tess, however, succeeded, and she received her prize: JT's desperately hoped-for idol clue. Checkmate, JT, right?
Not so fast. Before sending the two back to camp, Matt pointedly instructs them: "1. Whatever you choose to tell your tribe about what went down here... entirely over to you." (*cough* Please, please lie, I'm begging you! *cough*) and 2. please feel free to talk to "the losing opposition, right here." Poor Tess, that last bit was clearly a deliberate attempt to throw her to the wolves. Er, wolf.
The show had already laid the groundwork for what happened next in the previous episode, when (fellow superfan) Lisa warned Tess that it's dangerous to be caught looking for idols. Somehow, JT sensed his opportunity here, and convinced Tess to share the clue with him, because neither of them should be telling their tribemates about the clue, and sharing would guarantee JT's silence. Which worked perfectly. JT came away with knowledge of exactly where the idol should be at the next immunity challenge.
Were that the end of it, this would have been a successful detour, like, say... a Ghost Island visit where the game was played and won. But the twist kept paying off....
Post-Outpost outing: Tess tested again
Tess heads back to camp, and has to come up with some kind of cover story to tell her tribe as a whole (she will apparently later fill her alliance in on the truth), and settles on: she turned down the opportunity for both tribes to get... mattresses.
Yes, you know. Mattresses. Right? Those big, soft, pillow-topped things the contestants always sleep on during Survivor, after they win one of those prize contests thingies, or whatever. Mattresses! Well, okay, also tarps and blankets. But don't forget: She also turned down mattresses.
The reaction to this story was: supportive (?!). Kaysha reassured Tess she made the right choice in kicking Chani while they're down, and depriving them of... mattresses. Were her tribemates just being overly polite? Were they rendered speechless? This is difficult to assess, but somehow, none of the many Khang Khaw superfans were shown challenging the veracity of Tess's story. Even in confessional! But just look at those faces above. They had to be thinking about it.
Regardless of the (perhaps artificially) muted reaction, this showed the tremendous potential of the Outpost twist. This is what Ghost Island was supposed to be: Put people in a situation that should benefit them, then put them back in camp, where they have to scramble to create a believable lie. Tess flailed at this, but did so highly entertainingly. Maybe it won't work out this well every time, but at least we have... mattresses.
For his part, JT also succeeded, using the opposite tactics: He told his tribe "99.5% the truth" (his only fib being that only Khang Khaw's idol would be present... which was maybe true?), and that also paid off, because Chani closely monitored Khang Khaw during the IC, and between Arun and Dave, were able to sniff out the core Khang Khaw alliance surrounding Tess. Although as far as we were told, nobody caught Brad actually grabbing the idol, even though they knew he was the person standing in the spot that would allow him to do so.
All in all, the Outpost seems like a great addition to the Survivor game element arsenal. Even in the worst-case scenario, it introduces a bit of action and intrigue in between the reward and immunity challenges. So, if you were hoping for more hermit crab races, you're probably stuck with Outpost instead.
Unless, and we'll be wanting royalties for this genius suggestion when it's used in Survivor NZ 3: Hermit crab races as an Outpost duel. Great idea, yes? Yes?
Sidenote: Minor idol regrets - So the already-powerful alpha bros + Tess (& Adam) alliance at Khang Khaw ended up with even more power. That's a little disappointing, mainly because it limits the possibility that the idol will be played any time soon, which means it's effectively out of circulation. Even so, nice work by Brad in retrieving it, showing solid foresight and stealth tactics in using an intentionally untied shoe as cover.
Older women out?
While it was great that Survivor NZ cast three women over 35 in the first place (this is extremely rare in the US version, at least in non-All-Star seasons), it predictably seems to have turned out that they had approximately zero chance to succeed, since the entire rest of the cast ranges all the way from 23 to... 28. (Except for old men Arun and JT, who are 30 and 32, respectively.)
Chani ousted Karla mainly because she was the easy vote, the one who didn't fit in. She was the last woman picked in Ep.1, was the decoy target on that first vote, and as the only mother on her tribe, had little in common with the young kids on her tribe (although Arun is a dad). Even though Karla seemed a lot more capable than her tribe gave her credit for being. Franky blew the first immunity challenge, not Karla. Karla performed well in a physical task in this episode's reward challenge (contributing to Chani taking a one-key lead over Kaysha), then Arun blew the lead (Franky was the ball returner). Also, you know, Franky was nearly medevaced. Yet still received zero votes at Tribal. Oh well.
Based on the editing, we worry that it's exactly the same situation at Khang Khaw. When Khang Khaw was going through their various divisions, the core "Invisible" (a.k.a. "Tight") five are Brad, Josh, and Matt, with Tess and Adam as a tight sub-pair. Dylan and Kaysha are outcasts (mainly Dylan), while the two "older" mothers, Lisa and Tara, are off on their own, not even mentioned. While Lisa had a lot of great content in the first episode, she was barely seen this episode, and Tara has had one confessional in the first two episodes. That doesn't seem like great news for Tara's long-term prospects.
While the Outpost visit this episode reinforced the central theme of the first one (Superfans vs. naiveté), at what long-term cost did JT's Outpost quasi-victory come? These violent delights have violent ends.
Over at Khang Khaw, their sneaky superfan, Dylan, was already clearly on the outs. Josh called him an obvious first vote, except that maybe he's also a bit of a goat (which amused Tess). Adam bemoaned Kaysha's hanging around with Dylan, because "(Dylan's) such a dick." Luckily, Khang Khaw avoided Tribal this episode, because it would have been brutal to lose Dylan this early.
Still, it's all a bit worrisome, because while JT is nominally running things at Chani, his alliance-mates' confessionals seem to have him on thinner ice than he seems to realize. When JT gives his post-Outpost report to Chani, Arun immediately suspects JT knows more than he's letting on, "He's not gonna say everything to everyone." Eve seems happy only to the extent that JT is part of her alliance and his work benefits her, but is otherwise wary of him. Dave thinks JT going to Outpost is good because it'll test his veracity, and he'll know if JT comes back with some "bullshit story."
That doesn't even include the people not in his alliance. Tess is outright afraid of simply interacting with him, because she can't trust him (the same grounds for her wanting Kaysha out). Franky seems convinced JT will self-deal during his Outpost trip, and make it seem like he's helping the tribe.
To survive much longer, JT and Dylan are definitely going to need idols. Luckily, JT somehow has one in the previews for next week. And Dylan... well, at least they'll still have Lisa.
Last season, Survivor NZ lost its biggest superfan (Dee) in the very first episode. This season there are more superfans, but it'll be a minor miracle if they all reach the merge.
The other silent idol grab: Lisa's bemused, overcome-with-emotions joy at being the Khang Khaw who picked up Old Mate Idol after their IC win was such a great moment. Hooray for also showcasing someone actually enjoying playing Survivor, amid all the puking, medical visits, and rain-sodden nighttime hells. The light helps balance the dark.
Jeff Pitman is a New Zealand expat, 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
If you're like us, you're probably wondering: Why do only some letters in the contestant names have notches taken out of them?
Seems simple enough rules, right? Vertical left side = notches. Got it.
Well, okay, vertical and over-vertical letters, like V. Seems like A-discrimination, but whatever.
Y is also over-vertical, like a smaller V. Guess that fits.
Even nested-vertical letters like T? But not S. Well, it's your rules, guys.
Wait... only sometimes T, but also J? Make up your mind, NZ notch font. Maybe it's always notches in the first letter?
Ha ha, nope.
Well, at least this tells us at least one letter has to be notch-free, right?
Ha ha, nope.
Oh dear. Z gets notches, but not A? And WTF is going on with that second V? Or the first R? Sigh.
Fine. You do you, font. We're more interested in Adam being a "Spouting specialist," anyway.
The font rules may be arbitrary, but the job chyron does not lie.
Other NZ: Thailand Episode 2 recaps and analysis
Exit interviews - Karla Karaitiana