In the middle of last Wednesday’s episode, I had to hit pause on the TiVo remote and curse silently as I stared in disbelief at the screen.
THEY HAD JUST TOLD US HOW THE SEASON WOULD END.
To be fair, the sequence was brief and could be easily dismissed as idle Survivor chatter. It sure didn’t feel like that, though. For me, all of the puzzle pieces suddenly fit together.
BUT I DID NOT WANT THE PUZZLE PIECES TO FIT TOGETHER YET
Before I get into what I now believe will happen, I’ll begin with what SHOULD happen, if the remaining players were game-bots and not people (with emotions and connections and assumptions). You can safely read this first part without finding out who I think is going to win. But if you want to avoid inferring anything about the endgame…
DO NOT READ THIS COLUMN
So, here’s what SHOULD happen:
The women’s alliance should prevail.
It is the rarest of all hastily constructed endgame alliances: A nascent Final 4 that works for all involved. Tasha and Kimmi have worked together before, as have Kelley and Abi, so there’s a foundation to build on, but this is still an incredibly unlikely union; players don’t come together on Day 30 based on gender alone. But this group of women really should coalesce, since their chances are far better with one another then they are with any of the men:
Kelley: Her odds of getting into a Final 3 with players she can beat is far higher with the women’s alliance than with the group that blindsided Stephen (a bloc party that likely ended with Joe’s boot). Even if things got a little dicey around F5 thanks to Jeremy’s idol or a guy winning the immunity necklace, she plays her idol and makes it to the F4 (where the guy would be the primary target). If it was smooth sailing to F4, Kelley would likely need to win immunity against the women at that point, but that’s infinitely easier than trying to beat Jeremy, Spencer, and/or Keith.
Tasha: She can crush Abi, she can argue that Kimmi shouldn’t win based on need alone, and probably thinks she has an endgame résumé comparable to Kelley’s. Meanwhile, she can’t beat Jeremy or Spencer, not with the jury she’d have to face. Going with the women should be a no-brainer, assuming she’s trying to win rather than be guaranteed a spot in the F3.
Kimmi: It’s reasonable for Kimmi to assume that if the women make it to the F4, either Kelley or Tasha will be voted out, which means she’s in the F3. Once there, she’d be able to take credit for the women’s alliance, which might well be a winning argument. Sure, she could be a target at F4 because of her family situation and a potentially empathetic jury, but that’s just as much a reality with the men as it is with the women.
Abi: If she’s in the F4 with the women, she’s definitely in the F3.
Given that this alliance works for everyone, the next three boots should be, in one order or another, Jeremy, Spencer, and Keith.
But they won’t be.
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT THEY DID
AND WHAT IT MIGHT MEAN
READ NO FURTHER
Okay, then. You’re here. You want to know.
Here it goes…
The scene in question: While most of the tribe inhaled barbecue with their loved ones, Jeremy, Spencer and Tasha sat together in the shelter eating rice.
After a confessional in which Spencer talked about needing to do what it takes to win, he apologized to Jeremy and Tasha for the move against Stephen. When Tasha asked Spencer where his game will go from here, that’s when it happened:
THEY MADE A FINAL THREE PACT
I know, I know. This sort of thing happens all the time, right? Players make a lot of deals, and only some of them come to fruition.
EXCEPT THIS SEASON
S2C has been defined, by players and Probst alike, as being all about temporary voting blocs, a message that has been reinforced by the conspicuous absence of Final 3 promises and alliances.
Even when Stephen, Jeremy, and Tasha went on their reward together, they didn’t talk about the Final 3; instead, we got references to moving forward and “if we’re going to get to the end.”
A Final 3 conversation, then – particularly with this triumvirate, this late in the game – has to be considered extremely important.
Now, it COULD be that this conversation is included only to let us know that Tasha has options, and that she’s ultimately going to side with the women. But I don’t think so. The edit doesn’t support that conclusion:
Kelley, the only one of the women getting anything resembling a winner’s edit, had a decidedly bad episode: She was shown celebrating Joe’s collapse, she revealed confessional overconfidence (saying that there’s nothing the guys can do to stop a women’s alliance; we know she’s wrong because Jeremy has an idol), and she wasn’t given “hanging out with loved ones during the reward” airtime (which we would expect from a winner, to point out that she made the right decision about who to include; instead, we got footage of Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha making their Final 3 pact).
Kimmi’s edit would be entirely different if she was going to take down the title: We would have heard a lot more about her family and seen more confessionals about how she’s made the shift from old to new school gameplay. Tasha, too, would have been built up as a viable alternative to Kelley, rather than disappearing for much of the post-merge game. Even Abi might have been given a little more nuance, rather than limiting her to dismissive and hurtful comments.
On the flipside, a F3 of Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha DOES make a lot of sense, edit-wise (even if, on paper, it is utterly PREPOSTEROUS that this alliance makes it to the Final Tribal Council intact):
And yet, there’s one last piece to this: What about Tasha’s “I’ll need forgiveness” narrative arc? As of now, this set-up – which began in the premiere – hasn’t been given any payoff. For Tasha to choose the women over the men doesn’t seem like a deep betrayal, does it (other than turning on Jeremy, who has a little one on the way)? So what might happen to vilify her?
I’m glad you asked. I have a theory. Time for some fan fiction!
What if… Tasha goes along with the women in the F7 vote, giving them reason to believe that they’ve got the game on lockdown, only to turn on them after that? To give players like Kimmi, Kelley, and Abi an opportunity to envision the endgame, to start mentally spending the million, only to rip it away… now THAT would require forgiveness.
But why would Tasha do that? Why turn her back on an alliance that would give her an opportunity to win? Yes, she has to assume she’s fourth in their pecking order (thanks to Kelley’s loved ones visit reward selections; another reminder that you never want to win the “pick who joins you” rewards), but why trade a trio you can beat for a duo you can't?
Maybe it has something to do with idols and opportunities:
What if, over the next couple of Tribals, there’s a cat-and-mouse game with immunity necklaces, vote splitting, and hidden immunity idols which ends with Keith and Kimmi going home? What if Jeremy telling Spencer that he’d be willing to play an idol for him was foreshadowing that he’ll do exactly that? What if we reach the Final 5, and Tasha is the swing vote between Jeremy/Spencer and Kelley/Abi, and she shocks everyone by taking out Abi?
Okay, I’ve overloaded on What Ifs; the house of cards has fallen. There is NO REASON for Jeremy, Spencer, and Tasha to be our Final 3. And yet that’s what I think they’ve told us is going to happen; the only question is what absurd set of circumstances could possibly bring this about? If you ask me, it looks like idols will be played, Tasha will make promises she has no intention of keeping, and she’ll pay dearly for her betrayal. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.
So what will happen if that is, in fact, our Final 3?
Tasha will seek, but not find, forgiveness…
… while Spencer, the Stephen to Jeremy’s J.T., will focus on his emotional journey, pitching himself as the player most deeply connected to the second chance theme…
… while Jeremy will be the living embodiment of this season’s defining dynamic: the bloc party.
Which means Jeremy will be the winner.
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 long-time, but definitely not long-winded, Survivor blogger.
Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius