Jeff Probst took great pains to point out how unfair "Get A Grip" is to people who are heavy, or tall, or overly muscular. So why does this "classic" keep getting trotted out, then? And why here? It was pretty obviously there to allow Joe to save himself, but even so, do the ends really justify the means?
In a perfect world, the merge IC would always be a simple endurance challenge like The Australian Outback's "Perch," in which anyone who wants it badly enough can just stand on a log until the end. Or Africa's "When It Rains." Or Marquesas's balance challenge. Or even Nicaragua's holding a metal rod over a ceramic plate.
But this is Jeff Probst's Survivor, and it's far from a perfect world. If popular players such as Ozzy and Tyson (and Ozzy again) have won a challenge, that challenge must therefore be good. It's apparently now acceptable for production to decide "Eh, maybe four people can win this one. Sucks to be the rest of you guys." Oh well. Maybe they should just have the merge treemail say: "Welcome to the merge. You now have a 1-in-12 chance of winning a million dollars. No fatties."
Ha ha! [/Nelson]
As frequently as we whine about dull vote splits, it's pretty funny that the larger Blue Collar + Carolyn/Tyler + Will alliance accidentally did one, yet then failed to pile enough votes on Hali for it to actually function that way. So for all the pre-season talk about how this cast was loaded with game-savvy players, the drama at Tribal Council played out as entertainingly as it did precisely because both sides were playing with minimal strategic forethought.
The smart move for the Blues would have been to split their votes evenly between Jenn and Hali, then pick one or the other on the inevitable 4-4-4 (or 4-4, if an idol was played) revote. It's boring, but it's basic strategy if you have a supermajority, particularly when you don't really care which half of the pair gets booted. Considering that Carolyn and Tyler are both smart and alleged longtime fans, and that both knew their camp's idol was easily findable without a clue (in the first three days, even), they ought to have mentioned a vote split as a possibility. Especially since Tyler was openly trying to capitalize on his free-agent swing-vote status, and had no good reason to believe he wasn't going to be Christy Smithed, or that Shirin wasn't gunning for him. But no, all eight of them threw caution to the wind, voted their gut, and paid the price. To be fair, it probably doesn't matter much to Carolyn or Tyler (or Will) that Kelly got the boot. But it could have just as easily been one of them.
In contrast, the No Collars + Shirin alliance played relatively well, although idoling someone is rarely a sign of long-term strength. Malcolm, Reynold, and Eddie provided a conclusive demonstration of that in Caramoan. Joe might be able to win a few more immunities, and with two idols now in circulation at camp (the original, never-found Escameca one, plus the one that will probably be re-hidden after Jenn's play), Jenn and Friends might be able to slip through a few more Tribals unscathed, but sooner or later they'll need to actually recruit some more numbers. And the sooner the better. Idol plays are flashy, but they're a sign of social game weakness. No winner has ever saved themself (or been saved by someone else) by playing an idol, but four of the eight times a person's boot has been trumped by an idol, that person ended up as a non-winning finalist (Amanda, Micronesia; Russell, Samoa; Parvati, HvV; Jaclyn, San Juan del Sur). The other four times they were later voted out before the finals (Yau-Man, Fiji; Penner, Philippines; Jon & Keith, San Juan del Sur). Maybe Jenn can buck that trend, but she'll have to extend the circle of people she'll tolerate beyond Joe and Hali to do so.
In praise of fluidity
Even though the Big Move and absent counter-move of this episode were somewhat underwhelming strategically, and even though Carolyn's title quote implied that the loose coalitions voting together in the merge Tribal Council would now be set in stone, Worlds Apart's gameplay really does appear highly fluid, and primed to produce some surprising and potentially exciting results. Which is exactly what you would hope for in a three-tribe/swap format season.
As Stephen Fishbach pointed out in his People column, the post-merge paranoia about power couples is a new and interesting development, but it should be one that serves the game well. As we saw in San Juan del Sur, even a pair of aligned power couples can wreak havoc on strategic possibilities, creating an all-but immobile bloc that's resistant to any and all outside negotiations. Here, we have a reasonably solid three-person alliance (Mike/Dan/Sierra) with a loosely associated fourth (Rodney), an opposing, air-tight three-person alliance (Jenn/Hali/Joe) with a loosely associated fourth (Shirin), a more-or-less couple (Tyler/Carolyn), and a repeat free agent (Will). Rodney clearly wants to vote against his own original tribemates. Will already has. And there's no real reason any of the original White Collars wouldn't vote against each other, if necessary. With that many moving parts, there are a lot of ways the perceived power structure could break down and be reassembled.
Worlds Apart hasn't yet lived up to its preseason "one of the best seasons ever" hype, but it seems like it's starting to hit its stride, and there must be more to come, right? There must be a pony in here somewhere.
On dumb merge tribe names
As aesthetically cringe-inducing as "Merica" is as a merge tribe name, let's face it: Merge tribe names are, with very few exceptions, stupid. As you would expect from a group of non-artistic people who've been starved for three weeks.
What were you hoping for, another abortive portmanteau of the original tribe names, such as Escarotesaya? (We would have accepted Collarcollarcollar, but nobody asked us.) A word spelled backwards? A bogus attempt at using a native word that none of the contestants actually understands? Is Merica demonstrably worse in any way than Murlonio or Te Tuna? Just be happy they didn't pick #Dirty30.
Eh. Nobody remembers merge tribe names, anyway. Wake us when someone finally has some taste and picks "Merge" or "Tribe" as the merge tribe name. Or "Ponderosa," to make the Ponderosa videos extra confusing. Or "JeffProbstIsaDick."
Stats corner: Pointless projections
For those of you keeping score at home, every member of the merge tribe, including Kelly, entered the episode having voted someone out, save one. (Hint: He's the one who insists he's running the game.) After the episode, that streak remained intact. That's right, everyone's favorite strategic mastermind and Tom Brady lookalike, Rodney, is now 0-for-3 in voting for the person booted. Even Reynold and Eddie managed to get it right on their third try. Should Rodney get booted on the next vote, he'll set the record for most Tribal Councils attended without ever voting someone out. (With an asterisk, since he was technically in on the Lindsey-Sierra split vote, he just happily chose the decoy in the first-round vote.)
Furthermore, in the spirit of the opening of the baseball season, Joe is now on a pace to win all nine individual immunity challenges. Which seems silly, except that Ozzy came close to winning all the ICs in Cook Islands, and Joe has now won the same merge immunity challenge that Ozzy did that season. Also, his nine individual challenge wins would just barely put him ahead of Panama-Exile Island's Terry Deitz (who won eight). We're sure this has a high probability of actually happening, almost entirely because that's what we predicted pre-season.
Worlds Apart Episode 7 recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Kelly Remington
Podcasts - Episode 7