After episode 7, I took a look at each player's progress so far, and offered bullet points on their strategic planning and execution. Since then, Matt B., Brandon, Kane and Frannie have been voted out. So this week at final 7, I thought it would be a good time to go a little more in depth on the remaining players, since this is often the make or break moment in many seasons. Of course the final 4 fire challenge hovers like a guillotine, and can change anything, but its fun to speculate just the same.
Carolyn - She's still holding an Idol nobody knows about, but hasn't been shown planning on how to use it to her best benefit. Nobody's targeting her, so she's unlikely to impress a jury by sniffing out a move and saving herself. At times, an eventual winner saves an ally with an Idol, but it didn't look like Carolyn ever realized how much trouble Frannie was actually in. She also couldn't convince Heidi to use her Control A Vote Advantage to save Yam Yam. She failed in an attempt to manipulate the votes towards Danny and Heidi, which means the others still aren't taking her seriously. Even her two original tribemates Carson and Yam Yam left her out of the loop at the Frannie vote. And she hasn't performed well in any Immunity Challenges, so she's unlikely to win her way into the finals. On the positive side, it's unlikely anyone will throw Carolyn into the fire challenge. And unless she angers or annoys the others big time, it's doubtful anyone will prioritize voting her out. She's pretty much a lock to be in the finals, but will need help to get a win. Carolyn needs the other players to make a mistake that costs them votes.
Carson - He has played the middle very well, and seems to be trusted by everyone in the game. Whenever voting plans are discussed, Carson seems to be in on the plan. He's supplying Yam Yam and Carolyn with information they don't seem to be able to get on their own. He has absolutely owned every puzzle he has touched so far, and nobody seems to have noticed yet. His Cochran-esque self-effacing persona seems to be deflecting any suspicion. Carson is in a similar position as Erika and Gabler in that he's got the best information, but nobody knows if he's doing anything with it. Carson hasn't angered anyone except Brandon, who was upset when Carson leaked some info to Kane, and of course, Carolyn at this last vote. Carson will have to talk his way into votes, but I think he's capable of doing it. The only danger sign I see is that he has been VERY confident in his confessionals. If he shows that side to the jury, they may resent him.
Danny - He found an Idol and kept it secret for a while. But in a foolish attempt to set up Matt B. to find a phony Idol, Danny set himself up for several obstacles. It was inevitable that Matt B. would discover his Idol was a phony, and he of course made the logical conclusion that Danny led him to that fake. This also exposed Danny's real Idol. The others can now plan around Danny's Idol without his knowledge. But worse than that, Danny risked angering Matt B., and anybody who likes Matt B. - which is everybody. On top of that, Danny has been condescending and/or insulting to Heidi and Frannie. He also led Brandon to believe he wanted an alpha male alliance, only to push hard to get Brandon voted out. Danny has set himself up to face several angry or resentful jurors, armed with "What the fuck, Danny?" questions. On the plus side, with Frannie gone, Danny can ride an Immunity streak into the finals. We haven't seen Danny making a fire yet, but come on, he's a Firefighter. It shouldn't be surprising that he's got some skills here. I'm not sure if anybody sees Danny as someone they can easily beat, so who knows if anyone will take him to the finals if they've got that choice. But there may be a huge difference between who Danny thinks he can beat, and who he actually can beat. He doesn't seem to be aware of how he's being perceived either, so he could fall into that trap too.
Heidi - She has played the most confusing game of anyone left. Every time she's brought in on a voting plan, she tells several people about it, putting that plan at risk. Perhaps that's why she's seen Probst holding up her name five times in the last two votes. Maybe the others are starting to realize how unreliable Heidi can be with information. Lauren targeted her at this last vote. Whether she seriously wanted Heidi out, or merely used Heidi's name as a decoy vote to distract Frannie remains to be seen. But either way, it doesn't look like Lauren wants to include Heidi in any long term plans. On the plus side, Heidi has managed to keep her Idol a secret. But I think it's a 50/50 shot she'll know if she needs to use it, or that she'll keep it a secret. I don't know that anybody needs her in the game, which might mean she'll be discarded soon, or thrown into the fire challenge. She hasn't done well in challenges either.
Jaime - Jaime has seen herself in a much better position than she was actually in for most of the game. She hasn't angered anyone, which is good, but like Heidi, I don't see that anybody needs her on their side either. Much like Fabio in Nicaragua, Jaime thinks she's in a better position than the other players do. She declared "the age of alliances is over" as there were two solid alliances battling each other in the last few votes. She thought coming clean about not having an Idol was very positive, but never noticed nobody believed her. The other players perceive her to be out of touch with how things are actually playing out. Since Carolyn appears to be everyone's ideal goat, that's bad news for Jaime. Jaime once bragged in confessional that she had the most information. She's in for a surprise if she takes that approach into Final Tribal Council. If Carolyn goes out, Jaime most likely takes her place in the finals.
Lauren - It's hard for me to tell if Lauren is playing well or not because we've seen so little of her discussing strategy - in confessional, or around other players. Are her actions matching her intentions, or is she just good at masking her disappointment when things don't go the way she thought they would? She took a risk and got an Extra Vote, but immediately weakened it by telling everyone about it. That Advantage was all but neutralized because others could strategize around it. Ultimately, Lauren's Extra Vote didn't make any difference, and is unlikely to impress a jury. She pulled out an Immunity win, but that win can partly be attributed to being partnered with Danny. Lauren hasn't stood out in any other challenges, but other players respect her. Lauren was the first one we saw suggesting booting Matt B. and Heidi and other players actively tried to make those plans happen. But outside of staying loyal to Ratu, Lauren doesn't seem to have made a solid connection with any other players. It's possible she's doing like Guatemala winner Danni, and purposefully not discussing her strategy in confessionals. I could see Lauren booted next, or reaching the finals, but I have no idea how well she has connected with any jurors besides Brandon.
Yam Yam - Everyone left in the game likes Yam Yam. He makes them laugh, and keeps them entertained around camp. But at the same time, everyone has seen him as expendable except Carolyn. He's also been called a "leader" on multiple occasions. If he makes it to the finals, Yam Yam could easily charm the jury into a win. But can he get there? I think we've seen Yam Yam making a fire with little trouble, so he's probably a favorite there against anyone but Danny. At the same time, if everyone wants Danny out, and Yam Yam doesn't have Immunity, guess who's going into the fire challenge against Danny? After leaving Carolyn out of the loop at the Frannie vote, I could easily see Carolyn seeking revenge by forcing Yam Yam to make fire against anyone. Yam Yam will have to think about that fire challenge, because he's been pretty bad at all the challenges. He has a lot of obstacles to clear to get to the end.
Any way you look at it, I think we're in for a fourth straight underwhelming winner. I don't think we've seen the reason someone will win this season yet, which is similar to Gabler, Maryanne and Erika's wins. I think this is a product of a shortened and rushed 26-day season, muddied up by Producer-forced player decisions that inhibit their ability to decide their own fate.
That being said, I hope I'm totally wrong about this. I hope one of these players will unveil a long-range master plan that shows they've adapted the best to the new era Survivor, and has set a new template for future players. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
And away we go ....
Carson and Yam Yam' s decision to leave Carolyn out blows up immediately, but trying to do damage control in front of everyone is a bigger mistake on Yam Yam's part. Carson was smart to stay away and let Yam Yam take the public flak.
Jaime feels bad for Yam Yam and Carson??? They just crapped on Carolyn, why feel bad for the guys?
Yam Yam is right for pointing out Carolyn did the same thing to him, but his timing is terrible. Its like telling someone to calm down right after you ran into the back of their car.
Lauren: "She needs some time." Danny: "She needs a lot of things." Danny, that's not gonna help you get any jury votes from women who feel bad for Carolyn. Have I mentioned how much his social game sucks yet?
Tribes are on communication lockdown until they're brought back to camp. That must have been a tension-filled ride back to camp.
Danny: "Who voted for me? I don't take it personally, though." Yeah right. Inside his head, I'm seeing Rupert rampaging through camp in Pearl Islands the first time he got a vote.
Heidi to Danny: "Frannie voted for you, Danny" Smart move on her part.
I'm surprised Danny didn't express gratitude for the ability to do somersaults all the time.
Oh, whoa, whoa, Jaime's crying. That's a great song by Van Halen. In fact, Tone Loc sampled the late Eddie Van Halen's guitar riff for his song "Wild Thing."
Ahh, there's a shot of Heidi practicing making fire at home. There's a reason we're seeing that.
Carolyn to Yam Yam: "I don't have the Idol." Smart move on her part. Bad move on his part for asking so soon after burning her. That could easily backfire on him.
Carson is smart for trying to out Heidi's vote for Danny. He's smarter for letting Yam Yam drop that bug into Danny's ear.
Danny to Heidi: "Yam Yam told me it was you." That's why Carson was smart. If Danny targets Yam Yam, that's even better for Carson because if Yam Yam gets voted out, he could still give his jury vote for Carson.
Danny believes Heidi. She's a better liar than I thought she was. But he doesn't realize he lost Heidi a few days ago - probably when he said "We don't need your vote anyway."
Last season, Ryan wasn't allow to take his sea shells home. Will Carolyn be allowed to take her Lobster skeleton home?
Are these overhead helicopter/drone shots of Carolyn in the water her "winner's shot? Maybe maybe not. Aras got one of these shots in Blood vs Water, and he was the first one clipped at the merge.
The non-Tikas have finally decided to target the Tikas. Didn't Frannie suggest that just a few days ago? Danny will try to own this move, and Frannie will be on the jury to shoot him down if he does. And to nobody's surprise, "leader" Yam Yam is at the top of his list.
Danny: "There is no winning this game without being aggressive." Probst has to be loving everything that comes out of Danny's mouth.
Danny: "Everybody's been hit, everybody's got votes on them." Doesn't he know nobody has voted for Carolyn, Carson or Lauren yet? That's almost half the remaining players.
Danny: "I didn't come here to take part, I came to take over." Probst had to love that quote. I'm gonna love seeing Danny repeat it while on the Jury.
15 minutes gone by, and no Producer-forced twists yet. So far so good.
Hmmm ... no "Choose your champion" twist with this challenge? That makes me happy.
I remember last season, Karla was able to wrap her leg around a support pole on the side. That helped her win it (in a tie with Owen). Cassidy wrapped her legs around the grate like Heidi is doing too.
Lauren: "Shut up, Jeff!" I love it! She reminded me of a story Malcolm told about his time in Philippines. Probst mocked him as he was digging in the sand, so Malcolm threw sand at Probst. Malcolm was mad that didn't make it into the broadcast.
And right on cue, Lauren mocks Probst. "Keep diggin', don't you quit!" This was my favorite moment of this season.
I'm impressed Carolyn lasted as long as she did.
Yam Yam pulls out a surprise win. And that's very bad news for Carson. If anyone else had won, I think Yam Yam was a goner for sure. He's the best-liked player left in the game.
Everyone is so happy for Yam Yam ... except Danny.
Danny: "We're voting Carson." Even if that's the smart plan, Danny still just issued another order to Heid, and this time with Jaime present. Once again, Danny gives the plan to Heidi way too early. He doesn't learn, does he?
Carolyn: "I think they're gonna vote for Carson." I was wrong when I thought she might play her Idol for Frannie, but now I'm thinking she might play it for Carson.
Right about now, Carson is regretting not fighting harder to keep Kane around. I think Kane would have Carson's back against Danny.
Jaime: "Lauren and I have all the power." Really? Which one of you chose Danny or Carson as the target? The power lies with the person who can convince others how to vote, not with those who pick from someone else's list.
Carolyn tells Carson she found the Idol. If you're worried about Danny playing his Idol, that's why you DON'T tell Carson you've got one too. Just wait for Tribal Council, and reveal your Idol after you've seen Danny vote. If Carson suddenly starts looking confident around the others, Danny could pick up on that, and either change the target, or start thinking about playing his own Idol.
Why can't anybody keep their mouths shut about having an Idol? Now Carson can gauge everyone's reaction in the moment if Carolyn saves him. If he thinks its too impressive, that'll be a huge reason for Carson to want Carolyn gone.
The jurors LOVE that Yam Yam won Immunity.
Wow, Carolyn finally got to sit in the back row! She can finally read everyone else's reactions.
These jurors smile when Yam Yam speaks just like they smiled when Gabler spoke at Final Tribal Council.
Danny really doesn't realize how his perception doesn't match anyone else's in the game.
Probst: "Nobody in the Survivor Hall Of Fame, ever said 'Woulda, couda, shoulda.' I KNOW that's not true. Off the top of my head, I know Colby said "I woulda won if I took Keith to the end instead of Tina." And every other sentence Russell says is "I shoulda won."
Probst knows he's getting "good TV" by encouraging Danny to keep bothering Carolyn.
Probst to Carolyn: "Are you annoyed?" Carolyn: "Yes." I wonder how many people - both in the game, and watching on TV - silently agreed they're annoyed with Danny ... and Probst?
Carolyn earned some jury credibility at this Tribal Council, no matter who leaves.
Is Carolyn gonna break Hannah's record (set in MvGX) for taking a half hour to cast her vote? Did she just lose any jury credibility she just earned?
Nope, Carolyn keeps her newfound credibility. These players are clearly impressed with this move. And Heidi is showing how she's on the wrong side of things again.
Wow, another crossed out vote! I don't think we've seen that since Aubry did it in Kaoh Rong. Did Carolyn seriously consider voting for Lauren, or is she setting up the next vote?
Danny's Robert DeNiro impression wasn't bad, but it just showed me Danny thought this was more about him than about Survivor. I think that was his problem all game. But at least he went out smiling. And Carolyn publicly owned this vote 100%.
Last week I wrote that nobody who has been saved by an Idol played for them by someone else has ever gone on to win Survivor. But in this case, Carson only got 2 votes to Danny's 3, so technically, Carolyn didn't save Carson. So if historical precedent holds, both Carolyn and Carson are still very much alive for a win.
However, Carolyn just stuck her head out big time with this move. This move was as flashy as Jesse's blindside on Cody last season, Omar's blindside on Drea, and Ricard's blindside on Shantel. Nobody was worried about Carolyn before this vote, but now everyone has to be looking at her, including Carson and Yam Yam.
Props to Carolyn on not letting her anger at Carson and Yam Yam control her into abandoning them as allies. She absolutely needed to stick with them, at least through this vote. But she also should have started plotting against one or both of them after this vote, and that meant getting close to Heidi, Lauren and/or Jaime. And I can't entirely rule out her decision to target Danny as non-emotional either.
Props to Yam Yam on the Immunity win, but I don't know if he realized how much trouble he was in if he didn't win. He's grown used to being targeted. I think he wanted to win Immunity, and wasn't certain he was the consensus target if he'd lost.
Danny got himself voted out. He was setting this up all game long. First, he performed too well in all the challenges. Then he foolishly targeted anyone who could beat him in challenges, which of course left him as the only challenge beast left. But his worst move was his poor social game. Danny prefered to give orders on how to vote instead of asking for others to give their opinions, then cleverly massaging them towards his target. Even in this episode, I think Jaime and Lauren resented the way Danny simply dictated how they were gonna vote. Danny was the typical overconfident alpha male Probst drools over. There's a reason these guys usually don't win.
And speaking of Jaime and Lauren, their votes for Heidi just don't make sense to me. If they feared Danny would play his Idol, why not vote for Carson? They didn't know about Carolyn's Idol. Did they think booting Heidi would weaken Danny? I suppose that's possible, but if they wanted to weaken anyone, it should have been the Tika 3.
What do you think? Why did Lauren and Jaime vote for Heidi? If the Tika turn against each other, who's most likely to win that battle? If they stick together, who's got the best chance of winning? Danny didn't appear to be bitter, but who is he likely to vote for, especially if he gets confirmation Heidi voted for him? Let me know in the comments.