Look, up in the sky (on the couch)! It’s a bird (it’s a guy with a turkey leg in his mouth)! It’s a plane (he’s not THAT big, thank you very much)! It’s… Captain Obvious!
That’s right, as I slowly slip into a Thanksgiving food coma – turkey, it’s trypto-fantastic! – I am donning my over-tight leotards, strapping on my cape (despite Edna Mode’s admonitions – huzzah, a random The Incredibles reference!), and zooming over the Survivor terrain like a frantic Redemption Island establishing shot, pointing out all of the incredibly obvious things I noticed in last night’s episode.
For this week at least, I will be setting aside my usual hyper-obsessive over-analysis and swapping subtlety for celerity. If, as a result, some of all of my observations are half-baked, please blame it on the fact that my mother’s apple pie was not.
(Also, in keeping with traditional excessive Thanksgiving indulgence, the Baker’s Dozen is overstuffed – I couldn’t restrain myself to only 13.)
1) Captain Obvious Observation #1: Ciera chose poorly.
As I wrote last week, Ciera needed to work with Hayden, Caleb, Katie, and her mom to take out the returnees.
For some reason, though, Ciera believes that her game is better served by aligning with Tyson.
Clearly, Ciera is not blessed with Captain Obvious’s enviable edit-reading skills. Can’t she see that she’s doomed to fourth place – not third – by teaming up with the Coconut Bandits? Is stress-related myopia to blame for her inability to recognize Monica as the perfect third place goat?
(It says something that everyone on Redemption – and players like Hayden – are aware that Tyson will win if he gets to the end, but Ciera still wants to work with him.)
2) Captain Obvious Observation #2: Ciera realized her mistake one elimination too late.
[Ed. Note: There are many spoilers in this week's Survivor promos. If you don't want to know the events of next week's Tribal Council, skip ahead to #3. You may also want to avoid #4 and Prediction Time, #18.]
If you’re reading this column, no doubt you’re the kind of Survivor fan who has already seen the CBS promo for next week’s episode – which means that you know that for the second time in the show’s history, the players are going to draw rocks.
The question is, ‘Why?’
If Ciera remained loyal to Tyson, we’d see a 4-2 vote against Hayden. So she must have flipped. Did she finally realize what’s been staring her in the face for multiple episodes (that Tyson doesn’t plan on taking her to the Final 3)?
Here’s what I wonder: Is the remaining field small enough now that Ciera can do the calculus and understand that she’s running the risk of finishing in the worst spot of all (4th place)? Monica, given how often she gets to accessorize with the immunity necklace, stands a really good chance of winning the F4 immunity challenge, and with Tyson and Gervase united by sinister strategy and sustenance skullduggery, Ciera could easily find herself on the outside looking in. If she figures that out – and Tyson reveals that he’s reluctant to part ways with Monica – that would help explain why Ciera’s willing to join forces with the other newbies and run the risk of drawing rocks.
3) Captain Obvious Observation #3: Tyson got really lucky…
… that Ciera was swept up in the veteran player vortex and was willing to settle for third place rather than making moves that would put her in a position to win.
Proof positive that even great games played by smart players involve a fair bit of fortune.
4) Captain Obvious Observation #4: Tyson shouldn’t have played the idol.
I’m sure he’d LOVE to have it next Wednesday, when everyone is drawing rocks…
And yet, I understand why he felt compelled to hand the jade amulet to Probst. F7 is a flip zone, one of the last spots in the game where there’s a strong incentive to betray an alliance (it’s the last time that those outside a Final 3 alliance outnumber those within one). Tyson probably felt that he was safe at F6 because of his strong Final 3 alliance with Gervase and Monica – if that trio refused to budge, the odds were high that one of the newbies would flip (frankly, I’m shocked that they’re going to rocks next week – caving to the pressure would be so incredibly tempting to a first-time player). Once they hit F5 with a three-person alliance, it’s smooth sailing. So why wouldn’t Tyson play the idol at F7 if he felt there was even a slight chance he was going to be blindsided?
Add in the fact that this is the deepest that Tyson has ever made it in the game (his torch was snuffed in 8th place in Tocantins), and I totally get why he “wasted” the idol. In many ways – emotionally, psychologically, strategically – he HAD to do it. And if he ends up winning the game – as he seems destined to do at this point – this will be nothing more than a footnote in the story of this season’s Sole Survivor.
5) Captain Obvious Observation #5: Speaking of luck, Hayden was really fortunate that Tyson bought his story.
Hayden’s gotten a fair bit of praise for his gameplay in this episode – and rightly so, because he’s so deeply game-aware – but it was Tyson who handed Hayden plausible deniability rather than Hayden crafting it for himself. (Tyson was the one who suggested that maybe he had triggered the newbie’s betrayal after believing Ciera’s story). Hayden admittedly ran with this idea, and did so beautifully, but Captain Obvious calls it like he sees it, and Hayden got a little bit lucky here.
Of course, one could argue that Tyson DIDN’T believe Hayden, given that Caleb is the one who was sent to Redemption… but I do think Tyson bought it, at least for a little while.
6) Captain Obvious Observation #6: Despite the “Next week on Survivor” teaser implication, there is ZERO chance that Gervase will go along with Hayden’s plan to take out Tyson.
If Hayden orchestrates Tyson’s ouster, the Big Brother winner would instantly emerge as the prohibitive favorite to win the million. Why would Gervase swap someone he thinks he might beat for someone he can’t? Oh, right, he wouldn’t.
7) Captain Obvious Observation #7: There is mounting evidence that everyone assumes Tyson is hated by the jury.
Gervase wants to go to the end with him. Monica, too, appears to feel that she should ride this alliance to the Final 3. They’re both smart enough – by which I mean experienced, veteran, and returnee enough – to know that they have to make a compelling counter to Tyson’s “I controlled everything” Final Tribal Council argument.
So they MUST think that the jury won’t want to reward Tyson’s approach to the game, right? Otherwise, they’d join forces with a couple of newbies and remove the threat. Add in Ciera choosing Tyson and Hayden trusting him (at least until Caleb was voted out), and you have to think that they collectively believe they can beat Tyson – and the only reason to believe that’s even remotely possible is if the jury is bitter.
And so I wonder: Do they have reason to think so?
8) Captain Obvious Observation #8: The jury members have more in-game influence than they probably suspect.
Did you notice the Aras and Vytas reaction shots – anger written all over their faces – whenever Tyson spoke? The editors are clearly trying to get us to think the jury is filled with vitriol and acrimony. Maybe the Brothers Baskauskas are bitter, maybe they’re not, but certainly, we’re meant to think so.
As I tend to do when I watch Survivor, I asked myself what I would do under the same set of circumstances. And I realized something about being on the jury: You can still play the game while you’re on the sidelines. All you have to do is give the players some non-verbal information…
So here’s what I’d do: Let’s say that I want Tyson to win. But I’m getting the sense that the other players have identified him as a threat and will, sooner or later, vote him out. What if I constantly glared at him, and encouraged other jury members to do the same? Assuming they noticed, the remaining castaways would inevitably assume that the jury hates Tyson – and thus decide to take him to the Final 3. Which is what I wanted in the first place.
That said, I NEVER want to test this theory as a jury member. I plan to be sitting in front of the jury, not on it. That is, if I ever get that call from casting.
9) Captain Obvious Observation #9: Tyson’s getting everyone focused on Katie because she’s a jury threat was brilliant.
Being a Survivor spin doctor and putting the target on other people is one of the greatest skills a player can possess – and it’s harder than it looks. Tyson, as this scene proves, is rather skilled at it. As every good prevaricator knows, the best lies are built upon truth, and everything Tyson said about Katie COULD be true, even if it isn’t.
Are you tempted in this moment to shout, “EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT, BAKER”?
Captain Obvious strikes again!
10) Captain Obvious Observation #10: A lot of really important individual immunity challenges favor a certain body type.
This annoys me more than it probably should. But I’m sure that someone well-versed in anatomy and physiology could tell you that grip strength and body weight aren’t a one-to-one correlation. The bucket-pulley challenge simply wasn’t fair. (The same can be said for rope-holding challenges, pole-gripping challenges, etc.)
If you have your doubts, ask yourself one question: If you were to create the perfect Survivor challenge beast in the lab, who would you use as the base model? For men, Ozzy; for women, Kim Spradlin, probably. Sinewy, strong, and slim.
And who fits that mold this season? Right. Monica.
Which makes me realize two things: one, as soon as I saw the bucket and the table of food, I would tell Jeff that I’m eating (and I’d explain to the other players that they should do the same, and we could all absolve one another of guilt and blame, given the blatant unfairness of the challenge); and two, were I to play the game, my rallying cry for post-merge targets would be, “Take out the wiry ones!”
11) Captain Obvious Observation #11: Redemption Island continues to suck.
Here’s my latest reason why: At this point in the game, jury management is critical, both for individuals (making sure each eliminated player feels that you’re deserving of the million) and the continually constructed collective (elimination order is endlessly important; Ponderosa interactions can be the difference between victory and defeat).
Redemption Island ends up influencing who leaves the game, in what order they exit, and how they’re feeling when they do so.
Great players would be able to control a lot of those dynamics if torch-snuffing was, as Probst so earnestly declares, the end of a player’s life in the game.
But it isn’t.
12) Captain Obvious Observation #12: I love what Laura and Tina did to Vytas (but I hate it, too).
In modern Survivor, “cheating” is not only acceptable, but encouraged; some of what players do these days would have made Probst absolutely apoplectic in earlier seasons, but now he simply shrugs and says, “Their world, their rules.”
Given that this is the reality – and I’m not a big believer in shouting at the heavens, because the gods never respond – I fully support the two moms conspiring to eliminate a threat.
That said, were I Vytas, I would be equally frustrated and angry. Indeed, I probably would have forced CBS to blur my mouth for ten minutes straight as I unleashed an endless stream of profanity during and after the challenge. While what Laura and Tina did was “fair,” so far as the rules go, I can’t say I like that definition of fairness.
13) Captain Obvious Observation #13: There was NO REASON to target Caleb over Hayden.
I don’t care if they were worried that Caleb is a likable guy – he was never going to win the game. Remember, that money would have been shared by COLTON. What jury willingly puts a million dollars – even obliquely – into the hands of a two-time quitter?
But forget about Caleb – your other option is smart, strategic, strong – and he WON BIG BROTHER.
What on earth was Tyson thinking? Given what we’ve seen in the promos, Tyson had every reason to immediately regret his choice – Hayden calls him out when they get back to camp, and he gets the newbies to draw rocks – but all of this is predictable, isn’t it? Hayden is a threat; Caleb is a goat.
I’m so incensed that I’ll say it again: There was NO REASON to pick Caleb over Hayden. NONE.
And now for our speed round:
14) Captain Obvious Observation #14: I love that so many savvy players remain in the game.
Everyone is noticing EVERYTHING. Awkward body language. Lack of eye contact. Bad vibes.
THAT, my friends, is how you play Survivor.
15) Captain Obvious Observation #15: Tyson is intentionally creating TV moments.
Thanks to the confidence of playing three times (and probably believing that he’ll be invited back again, win or lose), Tyson is willing to do ostensibly unwise things – like rub in the fact that he’s eating steak while other players are having their palms ripped to shreds – because he knows that Probst and the producers will love it. Yes, this is Tyson’s personality, but part of it comes from this not being his first ride at the rodeo.
If you doubt Captain Obvious on this one, ask yourself this: Who, other than a returning player, would ever dump out his bag at Tribal Council to locate his hidden immunity idol?
16) Captain Obvious Observation #16: Monica thinks that she can earn the title of Sole Survivor with individual immunity wins.
Maybe in a season without solid strategists around – but this is not that season.
17) Captain Obvious Observation #17: I want more Jocular Jeff.
Probst was legitimately funny during the immunity challenge: “Perform for me! Show me blood! Bring me more meat!”
18) Prediction Time:
I’m going to ignore the Redemption Island elimination, because CBS spoiled it in the latest promo – BOOOOOOOO! Poor form, CBS!
So here’s what I think will happen at Tribal Council:
The teaser makes it pretty clear that Tyson and Katie have to draw rocks. Hayden, too, seems like he’s one of the unlucky few.
(Side note: Remember when the tribe swap took place, and Tyson, when the other players were picking their new buffs, told Probst, “Jeff, can I pick last and let fate decide?” And now Tyson, after controlling so much of the game, is once again going to entrust his life to the fickle fingers of fate. Impressive bit of foreshadowing, don’t you think?)
That means that Gervase, Monica, and Ciera won immunity or were targeted in the original voting (I’m assuming that the old rules hold true, and immunity is granted to those who were voted for in the original two rounds).
Probst has said that something happens at Tribal Council that induces jaded camera men to gasp – and the promos include a laugh-track worthy “shocked intake of breath” – so it’s pretty clear that this is that moment.
There are only two gasp-worthy eliminations from that trio – Tyson and Hayden – so I think Katie is safe.
Tyson is being edited as a winner, so I have a hard time believing that he’s the one who suffers Paschal’s fate. Sure, he could win his way back from Redemption and still get to the Final Tribal Council, but that doesn’t feel like his story, does it? Oddly enough, Tyson’s narrative feels a lot like someone else whose journey was shaped by Redemption Island, even though he never had to go there.
Seems to me that Tyson is quickly becoming Boston Rob Redux – everyone on the jury is baffled that the remaining players are unable to see the threat, never mind eliminate it – which means that, barring some unforeseen circumstances, finale night is going to be a coronation, not a competition. And that’s what happens with kingslayers, right? Eventually, they get to sit on the throne and wear the crown.
And so, I think Hayden – who, if the rocks had fallen in his favor, would have been in a great spot to win the game (and thus been edited far differently) – will, after doing some brilliant work to give himself a shot, be taken out in the cruelest way possible: by chance, by fate, by luck.
That’s it for this edition of The Baker’s Dozen – if you’d like to keep the conversation going, leave a comment below!
Andy Baker is a Survivor blogger who wants nothing more than to get a back rub from Jeff Probst the next time he's thinking about quitting his column. Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius