This season's game is wide open. There's no frontrunner, and no clear zero-vote goat. Last week, Jeff Pitman did a great job of handicapping each player's chances of winning (based on what little info we have on some of them), so for this week's intro, I decided to look at the good moves and bad moves made by each player so far, based on some fairly basic Survivor principles:
1. Don't anger your jurors.
2. Establish communication with as many people as possible. You may need their vote.
3. Don't create a reason for someone to want you voted out.
I'll go in alphabetical order.
This of course isn't a complete list at all, and I don't think anyone's bad moves are too much to overcome. But one of the ways I evaluate players is their ability to make adjustments along the way. Who will recognize what's hurting their game, and what will they do to minimize or eliminate those mistakes? Who won't stop getting in their own way? And who will set themselves up best with their future jurors? Its something to keep an eye on.
And away we go...
Yam Yam showed he was good at doing damage control. He'll be tested again. So far so good. He's got them laughing.
Yam Yam: "Matt's not here." So much for Matt B. and Frannie's plan of not staying too close to each other.
Just as I thought: It was a bad move for Danny to lead a potential ally to a phony Idol. Danny created a reason for Matt B. to want him gone, and now several know how shifty Danny is.
Carson is telling people Lauren has an Extra Vote. Reason #1 why you don't tell people when you've got something.
And now Matt B. is asking people to boot Danny.
Holy crap! A new challenge. I don't know what to do with myself!
Aww crap. Half the players will have Immunity and won't vote? Screw that! If my dog wasn't already woken up by my cheers at seeing a new challenge, she'd have been jolted by my booing at this new twist. Who knows? When I think about it more, this might turn out to be a good twist. But right now, I want to see everybody voting. After tonight, we might not know where half the players stand.
The smart player won't cheer for or against anyone. Why show your loyalties?
If I'm Carson, I'm searching that sit out bench as soon as the challenge begins. That's the only time I know nobody will be looking at me.
This is an evenly matched challenge. It requires strength, balance and concentration. It doesn't matter if you're tall, short, male, female, young or old. My money is on Frannie.
I think Yam Yam is holding his bar too high.
Normally, I'd say you don't want to win the first Individual Immunity Challenge because it establishes you can beat everyone for Immunity, but I don't think that's gonna happen to Frannie in part because this was a split squad challenge. And I swear I wrote that my money was on Frannie before the challenge began. But I'm still not gonna make predictions. This one was just a gut instinct.
So Yam Yam, Jaime, Matt B., Brandon and Lauren are the only ones voting, and they all know Lauren has an Extra vote. Because she didn't keep it a secret, she can be voted out 4-2 now. A clever player might try to fool her into thinking she'll need to use it, and she could waste it while everyone else votes for Yam Yam. However, its also possible everyone will want her on their side. Her position would be better if nobody knew she had two votes.
I bet that note is about the Inheritance Advantage returning. Again, gut instinct, not a prediction.
Watching the winning team complaining about having no influence on this vote is NOT good TV.
If I'm one of the winning team, I'm not searching for a key at all, but I'm watching that cage so I know who has it.
Hmm ... I guess you have to dump the key in that bowl if it doesn't work. A savvy player would re-hide the bad keys.
Heidi finds the Advantage. "Control A Vote?" I'm on the fence with this one. Its basically a Steal A Vote. Indecisive Heidi has to make a decision now. But at least she won't stay under suspicion from people wondering what she's got. That killed Stephen Fishbach in Cambodia. Everyone will know she's unarmed after Tribal Council.
Matt. B tells everyone he doesn't have his bag or his Shot in the Dark. He's creating reasons to vote for him.
Hmmm ... If Heidi decides to control Lauren's vote, does Lauren still get one vote because of her Extra Vote? Or does she have to cast both votes the way Heidi tells her to?
Heidi is talking to everybody because she's indecisive. She's creating a reason not to give her a Jury vote.
The first thing Matt B. says at Tribal Council is that he doesn't have his bag? Bad move after bad move with this one. He's reminding me of how Matt Bischoff convinced everyone he didn't have an Idol in Caramoan.
Matt B.: "I've worked with every Ratu here." Dude, that's also a good reason to remove you.
Hmm ... Heidi having to announce to everyone that Lauren has to vote for Yam Yam kills part of the Advantage, doesn't it? Wouldn't it be better if Heidi had to whisper it to Lauren, who then couldn't tell anyone what Heidi said?
I'm not sure how this is gonna play out.
We only saw 5 votes -- both at Tribal Council, and during the credits. Does this mean Lauren didn't play her Extra Vote? Or did Probst just not show the last vote for Matt?
That really sucked for Matt B. He got a lousy draw at the challenge that was left up to random chance. But he contributed a lot to his exit too. Too many people knew how close he was to Frannie. Too many people knew he had an Idol. And if leaving his bag at camp was bad enough, constantly reminding people about it was probably a fatal, self-inflicted wound. Matt B. wore his heart on his sleeve, and you just can't do that and play a good game of Survivor.
At least Frannie can concentrate on the game now. It will be very interesting to see how she adjusts without her #1 ally. Will she realize how Matt B.'s departure probably dropped her threat level down to almost nothing? Who is making Frannie their #1 target now?
This was probably good for Yam Yam too ... at least in the short term. Everyone knows he's powerless, and that will keep him safe (barring more stupid split squad twists). But at some point, he'll have to improve his image, and show he's got some agency. Otherwise, if he ends up in the finals, he could be written off like Owen was last season. The last thing Yam Yam should do is keep advertising what little power he has.
Apparently, the Ratu tribe (I caught myself writing "Rotu" again), got past their first chaotic vote and have become closer. Brandon, Jaime and Lauren seem united. None of them seem upset at Kane either.
Ok, I've had a half hour to think about it, and I still don't like this Control A Vote twist. The way they executed it was sloppy - from making it almost impossible to find it in secret, to making its reveal at Tribal Council so public. I would rather have seen more pre-challenge vote speculation to find more about each player's long-term strategy. I have no idea how Lauren, Heidi, Frannie, Brandon, Kane, Jaime or Carolyn plan to get through the next couple of votes, let alone to the finals.
What did you think of this twist? Could it have been handled better? Should the players have been allowed to pick the teams instead of leaving it up to random chance? That might have forced people to reveal some loyalties. Has Danny lost any shot at getting Matt B.'s Jury vote? Has Heidi's indecision moved her closer to goat status? Let me know what you think in the comments.