Fun fact: I don’t have access to real TV, so I have to wait for the latest episode to come on CBS.com. Last night, right as Chris got up to vote, my internet decided to crash. The mild suspense was delayed for a matter of minutes as I reset my internet but worry not. I finally got a boot pick right this season—albeit, the most obvious one thus far.
Bless You for Being on the Jury
Let me start off by offering a disclaimer, dearest reader: this post, not just this section, is going to heavily focus on Chris, his/JT’s idol, and how I personally believe the majority of the cast made a sizable mistake in cutting him this early. If that doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, no worries, and I hope to see you next week. Anyway.
Chris Noble. Wow, where to start? Let me begin by saying I thoroughly enjoyed him playing, and while it was obvious for quite a while he was doomed around this point of the game, it’s incredibly rare we get to see someone so blind to his interactions with people make it to this point and get massive amounts of screen time (just another thing he managed to outdo Bradley in). This, paired with not playing his idol and his utter inability to rap, makes Chris the obvious fool this season. He was there for pure comic relief, and as I’ll touch on in a bit, this was both done masterfully well and tragically cringe-worthy. So sure, was he, that he was the one laughing, that he didn’t play his overall-under-powered idol. If that final statement of obliviousness didn’t sum of his game, I don’t know what could. Rarely does someone play into an archetype as well as he, and in the end, he was the one who became the butt of the joke. That, at least on some level, is kind of a funny story.
The Other Side
And Why There’s Another Way Chris’s Edit Could’ve Gone
Now, as much as I enjoyed seeing someone so utterly detached from how he came off to people get blindsided (and, hell, his confessionals were gold), I do feel bad for the guy. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say Chris looked terrible for the bulk of the season, editing-wise. He was self-absorbed at the best, flat-out narcissistic at his worst. Now, some may say the human moments of him talking about his mother on Ghost Island or his heart-to-heart with Donathan redeem him just enough that the rest of the season being at his expense is permissible. I, personally, think those “human moments” only make Chris edit all the more tragic. While, yes, Chris probably needs to work being more self-aware (and his little Survivor rap video going around social media does not help this fact), I don’t think Chris is a bad person. He does, at the end of the day, seem like a fine human being, all things considered.
It’s because of this that I have a problem with the overwhelming majority of Chris’s content portraying him as a flaming douchebag. Yes, he signed up for the show, and yes, editors just work with what they’re given, but cut the guy a break. Just because he’s going against Dom who’s likely destined for the endgame doesn’t mean he has to be edited this way. For instance, look at Savage in Cambodia. While some may disagree, Chris reminded me of a younger, more hyper Savage. Yes, Savage went out soon after the Merge, but his edit seemed far more… heroic throughout the season despite his first confessional of the season declaring his game would be “epic.” That seems pretty conceited to me. Obviously, his social game was poor enough that Jeremy wanted to keep him around as a shield and others were willing to overlook a more obvious threat in Stephen to cut him loose with Wentworth’s idol.
Similarly, Jenna and Libby’s conversation about Chris versus Dom shows they view Chris, at least on some level, a better ally than Dom because Dom is perceived to be sneaky. Yes, we have seen this side of Dom, but for “sneaky” nominally used as a negative trait, I don’t think we’ve seen Dom being sneaky as much as we have Chris being pompous despite these traits seeming to permeate their personas to at least some of the rest of the cast. Now, what’s done is done, but I just think there was a better way editing could’ve gone about it, giving Chris, for all of his flaws, a little more fairness in the person he was out there. Just my two cents.
And Why I Love Them
Firstly, I audibly groaned when Chris found his idol clue. Yes, while it did appear to be random, on the heels of Pitman’s post about the repulsive gender disparity between idol-finders, and Chris being in obvious trouble, this just seemed too convenient to be true. Anyway.
The idea that JT’s idol had lost power was, in its own right, intriguing, but the Ghost Game wagering one’s vote in order to continuously power it up was down-right smart. How long would you be willing to gamble your vote for the sake of getting an idol with an expiration date at the final nine? This, more than any other game thus far, interested me. Additionally, by making the idol only good through the final nine limits the possibility that anyone could be Cirie’d in the future, and going forward, I would love to see pre-Merge idols follow a similar style (give them an expiration date around the final ten, say). I hope this tiny idea can flourish into something that impacts the game in future seasons, though, hopefully, without Ghost Island (because this many flashbacks to other seasons work so well because it’s never happened before, in my opinion).
The Tribe Has Spoken
And Largely, They Did So Incorrectly
Look, unless you’re Dom or Wendell, or Laurel and Donathan to lesser degrees, I have to believe cutting Chris here was a huge mistake—I’d be saying the same thing if they’d opted to boot Dom and he’d foolishly gone home with that many advantages in his pocket. Why? I simply believe that conflict in Survivor is a great thing, so long as you’re not in the middle of it. If the rest of the tribe is largely focused on Person X versus Person Y, they’re probably not thinking about you, hypothetical Person-Not-X-or-Y. Don’t believe me? Ask Jeremy Collins how well it works when you micromanage conflict around you, ensuring you’re not ever directly in the middle of it. As such, keeping both of them in the game for as long as possible had to have been in the interest of other threats out there who don’t call Dom/Wendell alliance members, trust-cluster friends, or voting blocks. Namely, in this, I’m looking at Michael and Kellyn.
If anyone should have wanted to ditch someone else, I have to think Michael should’ve been the one to do it. Think about it, with Chris gone, Michael is by far the biggest male left, and he’s proven to play a decent social game, paired with a mind for strategy. All attention not on him would be a blessing, and while I understand he might have relished the idea of not being in the immediate cross-hairs for once, a little push here might have gone a long way in the game. Who knows, maybe he did try and target someone else, but Dom and Chris’s egos got in the way of showing it.
Kellyn, on the other hand, potentially could’ve made some waves here, and for a moment, I thought she and Des were going to do just that. Again, Libby seems very competent socially, and losing her whilst keeping the bickering brothers together would’ve only solidified Kellyn’s status. She seems tight with Des, Chelsea, and Angela, and if she could’ve bided her time for a little while as Chris and Dom blindly focused on one another, she could’ve emerged as the Kim Spradlin of the season before Dom and Wendell knew what was happening. I think this may be a point that, if Kellyn doesn’t win, she’ll look back on and think she could’ve and should’ve done more.
Who Should’ve Gone
Piggy-Backing of the Last Point…
For as much as I’ve grown to like Wendell in the past few episodes, if there was a not-so-obvious person who should have obviously gone, it was him. Similarly to the point above, I think every major player in the season should’ve been trying to stoke the flames between Dom and Chris, and with Wendell gone, not only does Dom become more desperate, but Chris probably becomes more relaxed. As both of these people seemed to be playing on the opposite ends of the spectrum in that regard (Chris too confident and going home with an idol in his pocket; Dom too nervous and needlessly playing his advantage), exacerbating this disparity likely would’ve had hilarious results. As far as we saw, no one seemed more in Dom’s corner than Wendell. You take out one of the right-hand-individuals of a major player, and that player, at least in the immediate aftermath, becomes substantially less threatening. No, while I’m glad Wendell stayed, if the likes of Kellyn, Michael, and Libby (and even Laurel, to a lesser extent as it would make her all the more necessary to Dom), had really thought it through, I think it would’ve been the perfect opportunity to blindside the man who probably takes home the gold this season. Oh well.
Those Falling by the Wayside Already
While it could be argued that the fact everyone didn’t get a confessional this episode could be attributed to the massive number Chris and Dom got, but still, getting no confessionals in a Merge episode typically does not bode well for one’s chances at winning the game. Hence, while I don’t think all of them are 100% of the running, three of the four voiceless, I believe are. So, with that in mind, let’s welcome Sebastian, joining Chelsea and Angela, as the three players I believe cannot win at this point, with Donathan’s chance’s falling dramatically in the process. None of them have really gotten much in the way of confessionals in the first place, and while we’ve heard a little bit about Angela from a personal standpoint, it doesn’t make up for the lack of overall content she’s received. Sure, maybe she’ll develop more as she’s dragged along, but even if that’s the case, I have to imagine that it would be far too little far too late. With that little intro, let’s look at my power rankings for the final twelve players…
Yeah, Pat Beat Me to It, I Know
12 – Chelsea. While I now am a firm believer that there is a woman named Chelsea on this season and she is not some apparition dwelling on Ghost Island, she’s not winning. I mean, who could she beat at this point?
11 – Sea Bass. I cry for my second draft pick being this low already, but I think it was fairly obvious fairly early on that Sebastian was only going to win in Fabio-esque style. Thankfully it doesn’t look like a Fabio 2.0 will be born, largely because Fabio at least got screen time in Nicaragua. Seb has not.
10 – Angela. Again, there’s some small snips of personal content in there, but too little too late. Yada, yada, yada. (Though, I will say, she’s doing better than most, if not all of us, thought she would going into the season. So sincere props there).
The Very Unlikely…
9 – Libby. Ugh, after the Morgan boot I really thought you were going to come into your own. Alas, little content despite people seeing you as a threat is not good, my dear. It probably doesn’t help that you almost beasted that II win, either. Oh well. Maybe you can use that soothing voice to convince people you keep you? Seriously, listen to her confessionals, my friends. That voice is just so tranquil.
8 – Jenna. The only reason Jenna is above Libby is because she’s received more personal content. Now, did the content come in the Steph boot episode where editing was doing whatever they could to make red-herrings? Well, yes… but still.
7 – Donathan. This week’s lack of presence hurt you, buddy. I know I’ve been resistant to the idea that Donathan was the journey/tragic hero character this season, but I’ve finally accepted it. He’s not out of the running, of course, and maybe he’ll turn into a vicious, conniving strategist in the second half, taking out Dom, Wendell, Kellyn, Michael, and even Laurel on his warpath. While I’d love to see that transformation, I don’t think it’s that likely.
6 – Desiree. If there’s someone I’m confused about this season, it’s Des. She seemed super pleasant, and the type of person I’d love to get a beer with, which helps immensely if she’s sitting in front of a Jury. In fact, I’d wager she could beat any of the six people below her on this list with relative ease, at this point. Even with the spotty strategic content and average-ish number of confessionals, however, I don’t see how she could possibly get to the FTC with more than one of them. That is a massive problem, but I am rooting for her.
5 – Laurel. It’s been said on this site, and many others, that Laurel seems like a FTC player who loses. I have to agree. While next episode’s preview implies she might have second thoughts on playing with Dom and Wendell, unless she can orchestrate those blindsides, I don’t think she has a strong enough game to point to at this time. Sure, she’s got plenty of time to change that as well as some slow-burning content to imply she’s around for a bit yet, but even if she went against Des, what would her story be to a bunch of Naviti who like Des? I was a Malolo who found her way to the end? Eh. That being said, I think it’s far more likely she shakes things up than Des, and I hope she can. I’d love to see her run the tables and win. Speaking of…
4 – Michael. In the draft this season, I picked Sebastian because I thought he’d be Jay/Devon sort of player Michael has turned out to be. I love the development of this genre of player who everyone strategically underestimates initially, but who evolve into a genuine threat. Unfortunately, however, Michael had to show his hand too early, and everyone already knows he needs to go. Short of pulling a couple more advantages out of his ass, how the shit does he make it to the end?
3 – Kellyn. To me, at this point, Kellyn and Dom are interchangeable on this list. Both have flaws and both have strengths. I like Kellyn a lot more than I thought I would coming into the season, but her inability to keep the Chris-Dom feud alive I think will hurt her. Pair that with editing at Ghost Island about one mistake haunting you and the fact that the Dom-Wendell-Laurel-Donathan alliance looks poised to make it to the end, not her, Des, Angela, and Chelsea, and Kellyn slips to number three. I’d love for her to get aggressive sooner rather than later, though, and either fly screaming to the end and victory, or burn out and lose terrificially.
2 – Dom. While I do think Dom is still kind of a prick, he is making it hard not to root for him. At this point, he’s got a good baseline for a story in the game as to why he should win, he’s got an alliance who are, at least for the moment, loyal, and he he’s got an idol! At this point, if he makes it to the end, how could he not win? Oh right…
The Very Likely…
1 – Wendell. Time dedicated to watching the tribe help him celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday, positive content in general, an idol, good positioning in his alliance, and a hilarious voting confessional now? Folks, if Wendell is damn near the top of your power rankings, what’re you doing?
A Closing Thought, Dearest Readers
The Let Down with a Big Merge
To me, a thirteen-person Merge will always be too big. Call me old school in that, but even if it means getting to the typically-more-exciting individual portion of the game a little quicker, I think Merging at twelve (or later) and having a Jury of nine (or smaller) seemed like a perfect number to me. *sigh*
I’ve always been open to the idea, however, if it allowed for numerous small factions voting for several people. Think about it, with so many people, there are bound to be so many conflicting thoughts on who should be booted. This, potentially could lead to some very interesting voting splits (5 – 4 – 4, for instance). When Kellyn brought up bringing together a small contingency to blindside Libby this week, I kind of thought that was were we could be headed! Think about how much more exciting that Tribal would’ve been if the splits had been something like 4 – 3 – 3 – 2 for Libby and then some combination of Chris, Dom, and Wendell. Instead, thirteen-person Merges seem to almost revert to first-boot logic in that there’s a landslide majority against one player. Ask Kass, Michelle, and Hali, there’s wasted opportunity here to do something cool rather than just play it safe. I also totally understand this isn’t a production problem, but a phenomenon developed by players time and time again. So, I guess, if you ever play and are the one on the bottom of the thirteen-person Merge… sucks to be you.
Alrighty, folks. Sorry for taking up far more of your time than I normally do—makes up for last week, I guess. Anyway. Boot prediction time. With Chris gone and Kellyn and Dom seemingly willing to work with OG Naviti, I think there might be some initial heat on the Malolo’s unprotected by an alliance. So, who’s the most likely between Jenna, Libby, and Michael? Well, Jenna seems largely a non-entity, Michael’s got an idol, and Libby… I think she joins Chris.
Dan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.
Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki