A long time ago, when I was a wee lad, my sister had this tiny little death trap known as an Easy-Bake Oven. It invited children to mix up quick-drying cement in a small, circular pan, shove it into a Lilliputian oven, and then wait for it to be cooked by a light bulb. The end product of this perversion of the baking process was, even after it had been cocooned in an entire container of frosting, nearly inedible.
Yeah, this column is gonna be like that. Thrown together in minutes, undercooked, and hard to digest. Apologies (the day job got in the way).
To be blunt: I don’t buy this whole, “Kelly might have won if she had gotten to the end” business. During the game, it was an excuse to boot her; after the game, the other players are being nice. Her attitude before the season started put her squarely in the “doesn’t stand a chance” category, and she did very little over the first few weeks to alter viewer, or producer, perception of that (her awful edit is retributive proof that she wasn’t playing the game; Probst is nothing if not passive-aggressive about punishing players for not giving him what he wants).
Any Final 3 permutation that one could concoct that might have given Kelly an edge – Keith, Kimmi, and Kelly? – was improbable to the point of being ludicrous. With two idols and an advantage in play, the path was treacherous for even the most nimble of players; who, in a Final 3 like that one, would have masterminded the moves needed to get there? And with this season being defined as a Bloc Party, the jury is ultimately going to reward a player who has been successful in shifting allegiances, and that doesn’t really sound like Kelly, does it?
Side note: Did the editors have to be quite so blatant that she was the boot? The ominous “Dead Player Walking” music was ridiculous. I think there was even a harpsichord at one point.
Kelly will be an interesting addition to the jury, though, I’ll give her that. So far, I see it like this:
• Kass: Will reward strategy and game moves, and encourage others to do so.
• Savage: Will vote for the player he can admit, however reluctantly, beat him.
• Kelly: Will write down the name of the nicest player in the Final 3.
2) The Idol Scramble
What we saw: Players assuming that the idol would be replanted and searching in the absence of a clue (smart).
What we also saw: Everyone asking Kelley where she found her idol, and her deflecting their questions (savvy).
What we didn’t see, but likely happened: Everyone had to realize that with Kelley playing an idol, there were probably three to be found before the merge. There was already a lack of trust even within alliances (thus, the lack of a vote split when Savage went home); the fact that players are likely in possession of idols – and have kept them hidden for weeks, even from those closest to them – is going to destroy any trust remaining (I fear for the sanity of the strategic players).
3) The Merge Idol
Know what would have been cool? If there were multiple idol clues to be found. Imagine three players, all trying to sneak out of camp late at night without being noticed, each unaware that the others are doing the same thing… you’d have a race for the illuminated idol under the cover of darkness… and in the end, one player would have the idols, and others might know… so many possibilities.
On a related note, no one should have wanted to go on the reward when there was an idol to be found. I know, I know, easy to say when I’m not out in the rain and starving. But still, with only a handful of players back at camp and a lot of hours to kill, there’s no better time to look.
4) The Vote Stealer
If Fishbach can’t believe how powerful an advantage is, that advantage is RIDICULOUS. Being able to single-handedly turn a 4-3 disadvantage into a 4-3 blindside? CRAZY (and utterly unfair, but that’s a Survivor twist for you).
In the abstract, I understand why Stephen would go for it; you don’t want an undefined power in the game belonging to someone outside of your Voting Bloc. But this season is informed, heavily, by what happened in Worlds Apart, and the other players will probably assume that the advantage is a second vote or something of that ilk. At the very least, they’ll characterize it that way, which is very, very dangerous for Stephen: the group will collectively realize, and openly discuss, that anything involving votes at Tribal Council gets increasingly powerful as the numbers dwindle. Stephen’s going to get targeted for having this thing, and it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. But more on that below.
Two other quick thoughts on Stephen:
• He used the “D” word. Shame on you, Stephen! You know as well as I do that “Deserve” has no place in the Survivor lexicon.
• He’s also overselling this “the game is faster and harder this season and strategy has evolved and we’re heading into uncharted territory” business. Yes, Survivor is a more challenging game when you’re up against people who know how to play it. But the rhetoric that Stephen is employing is largely an admirable, if transparent, exercise in mythmaking: It looks better for Stephen and the other players that they played in an epic, groundbreaking game. He wants this to be a season for the ages, and why wouldn’t he? So he’s going to tell us this over and over again until myth becomes truth.
5) The moment Joe loses an immunity challenge…
… the other players are going to put the game on hold, vote him out, and then pick up where they left off.
6) The Bloc Party
We’ve seen individuals do this before – most notably, Tony Vlachos (Cagayan) and Rob Cesternino (Amazon) – but the constant reconfiguring of voting majorities is a seemingly novel approach to the post-merge game. Why, one wonders, haven’t we seen it before? Surely, it must have been considered at various points over the past thirty seasons…
I’ll need to look at this in more depth later, but my quick reaction is that playing this way is just too damn exhausting. Paranoia would be through the roof. There would be so little trust that good players would be forced into bad decisions (such as not splitting the vote, which cost Jeremy a meat-shield in Savage). It requires every member of a Bloc to be willing to put their games in extreme jeopardy (and rip them away from the insulating layers of a traditional alliance onion). Frankly, I think only returnee players would have the stomach (and strategists) for it.
There is one considerable upside: You’re constantly testing and retesting your Voting Bloc, and that group would be small enough that you’d have faith that you’re going to the end together (unless you have some REALLY bold souls who will betray their Bloc around F7 or F5 and go rogue; I’d love to see that happen, not only for the ice-blooded ruthlessness of it, but also for the Final Tribal Council fireworks). In a standard alliance, you might suddenly discover that your assumptions about where you stood were utterly wrong and get blindsided just before Final Tribal. That’s far less likely to happen within a Bloc.
Henceforth, what Probst refers to as “The Sit Out Bench,” I will call the “Abi.”
8) Keith spat!
9) The Immunity Challenge Rock Draw
*** WARNING: PROMO-BASED REVEAL DISCUSSED HERE ***
If you’ve seen the latest Survivor commercial, you know that Probst offered the players a reconstructed shelter if at least half of them opted out of the immunity challenge.
First, I think this is a GREAT twist.
Second, that shelter is definitely getting rebuilt.
Third, I think someone who doesn’t sacrifice for the tribe is going home.
Remember, these are people, and they’re suffering. Only the most desperate players will be selfish in the face of what they’re enduring. Joe will compete, because he has to, and at least one of the Coven will make the mistake of showing the wrong rock (and pay the price).
Normally, I’d say that anyone who swam for the advantage but didn’t get it would have taken all of the risk with none of the reward… but I think that Spencer will benefit greatly from having lost out to Stephen. He has revealed to the Tribe that he thinks he needs help to stay in the game (which makes him less of a threat)… everyone already assumes that he’s looking for any edge he can find (so going for the advantage isn’t revealing any new information)… and if Stephen wasn’t already above Spencer in the “he’s gotta go” boot order that every player has in his or her mind, he is now.
How awesome would it be if that had been Spencer’s plan all along?
11) Fortunes Rising: Jeremy.
Ten players left, two idols, and at least one bigger target still in the game; it doesn’t get much better than that for a player of Jeremy’s stature.
He is being spoken about openly as a threat to win the game. He just flipped on four players, at least one of whom – Tasha – will be bitter about the betrayal. And with the narrative so heavily focused on the Bloc Party dynamic, more shifts are coming.
Jeremy is going to need those idols.
Side note: Are Jeremy’s confessionals about Val part of his winner’s edit, as so many people are saying? Or might they be a set-up for the family visit, when Jeremy could find out from his loved one (perhaps his twin brother, who was supposed to be his San Juan del Sur playing partner) how Val is doing? He could possibly learn the gender of his unborn child, something he told us he didn’t know when he left…
There are seven Tribals left before the Final 3… one will involve Joe going home, so we’re down to six… assuming Jeremy uses both idols well, there are still four Tribals unaccounted for, during which he’d be the primary target. Which is a long-winded way of saying that I’m going to stick with the latter interpretation, that Jeremy will get to the family visit but not Final Tribal. It’s not going to be easy to get him out, but I suspect that the early-season foreshadowing is still in play, and that a group of the women, led by Tasha, will keep him in their crosshairs until his torch is snuffed.
12) Fortunes Falling: Stephen.
How’s this for a scenario: With nine players left, the Coven and Team Tasha unite to vote out Jeremy. Stephen assumes that they’ll split the vote, so he plays his advantage, expecting to turn a 3-3-3 tie into a 4-3-2 blindside. What they didn’t count on, though was a Spencer flip… and when Jeremy plays one of his idols, Stephen goes home.
Don’t you just love fan fiction?
Anyway, the main reason why I think Stephen’s fortunes are falling – after a genuinely great episode for him – is that when he talked about the advantage, he invoked the name of Dan Foley. That can’t possibly end well, can it? (Dan, you may remember, used his advantage, only to see it fail when Carolyn played her idol.)
13) Prediction Time:
Given that the season narrative is making such a big deal out of the Bloc Party, it’s safe to assume that we’re going to see some steady shifting over the remainder of the season. I’m guessing that begins in our first episode this week, when Jeremy mends some fences with the players he just betrayed, reforms the Bayon alliance, and – assuming Joe wins immunity against less than half of the tribe – takes out a member of the Coven. As I mentioned before, I think it’ll be someone who chose to compete in the immunity challenge rather than helping the tribe reconstruct their shelter… and to me, Ciera fits that profile better than Kelley (who will struggle with her decision, I suspect, but ultimately realize that it will be hard to win the game if she made most of the jury suffer, and then there’s the added benefit of being able to parlay the selfish decisions of others into a strategic advantage).
As for the second episode, if Joe loses, he goes… otherwise, I’m going with my fan fiction: Stephen plays the advantage, but exits the game after Jeremy plays his idol.
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