The theme of this episode appeared to be "We have to take Matt (or Dave) out now." Or at least it was for everyone not named Matt or Dave, whose collective theme continued to be "We're friends and we have to keep this secret." It was an episode full of big attempted moves that ended up either not working or just not happening. Some due to game events, some due to unexplained resistance: A series of unfortunate missed opportunities.
So long, blindside plan! (Lisa needs oases)
Lisa had a simple plan: Blindside Matt at seven, just by cobbling together a women's alliance. She brought in Tara, who was willing, and would keep it a secret. Eve would obviously be game, since being booted herself was the alternative. No word from Tess, but things were looking up! Until, well... until Matt looked up and saw the idol at exactly the same time that Lisa did. Given that Matt has the agility of a spider monkey, he promptly scampered up the tree and grabbed it. Within a matter of seconds, Lisa's plan, her (most likely final) chance at finding an idol on Survivor, and seemingly any shot to blindside Matt and sell that big move to the jury? All gone, in an instant. From a lush oasis to a parched, barren desert of future opportunity.
But that wasn't quite the end of it: after having a day to think about it, Lisa came up with a back-up plan. Through some combination of guilt and feigned paranoia, Lisa (almost) convinced Matt to give her the idol for safe-keeping, to assuage her concerns that... he might vote her out to keep the idol secret? (Or something, it wasn't really clear how Matt not having possession of his idol was somehow more fair.) Whatever the reasoning behind this convoluted scheme, though, it all ended up being moot, because Matt won immunity. Which, as we noted last week, he's the most likely person to do, of those remaining. So: Plan B, also up in flames.
So where does this leave Lisa? If she wants to take out Matt, she now has three Tribals left to do so. He has an idol that can be used at either of the first two Tribals. With Eve now on the jury, Matt's an even bigger favorite to win every remaining immunity challenge, so chances are, he'll have at least one regular immunity necklace in those next two Tribals, and may not even need to play his idol. His idol does expire after the Final Five vote, though. So it's certainly possible that the stars could align, the final four immunity challenge will be some kind of puzzle, Lisa would then herself be favored to win, and Matt might just end up vulnerable in that very last vote. That's a lot of ifs, though, and overall, Lisa's chances of removing Matt before the finals are looking pretty bleak.
Might Lisa still win against Matt if they end up in the finals together? At this point, Lisa's read of that situation seems accurate: Probably not. Matt's been winning challenges, he'll probably be able to make a flashy idol play at some point, and the jurors already perceive him as the person pulling all the strings. Lisa's had great plans all along, but has thus far been unable to execute them, at least in a way that separates her actions from those of Matt. Unless the jury is universally bitter against Matt (who has also been playing a solid game), it's hard to imagine anyone beating him.
There is one thing that could significantly trip Matt up, though: if his and Dave's secret pre-game friendship becomes known. But since Dave and Matt just agreed (this episode) not to reveal that key piece of information, the chances of that happening seem slim. Rather, the more probable outcome is that, despite Lisa's logical, well-planned strategy of waiting until the merge to make big moves that the jury can observe, she'll probably end up repeating the other major mistake of her hero, Stephen Fishbach: Not booting a close ally (Matt would be Tocantins JT in this scenario) until it's too late, and they have immunity.
Tara's almost-move against Dave
Out of nowhere, Tara made her debut as a player this episode, attempting to make a big move in the closing minutes, and shift the vote away from Eve and on to Dave. Tara trusted Eve, and when the blindside Matt plan fell apart, she still wanted to keep Eve around. She obtained verbal buy-in from Adam on the plan... maybe. He just needed to loop Tess in, and it would have been a massive blindside (especially since Dave once again kept his idol in his pocket).
Except that, well... it didn't happen. Everyone ended up voting for Eve instead. Where did it all go wrong?
The most likely culprit here seems to be Adam. Adam seemed suspicious of Tara's motives: while he agreed wholeheartedly with the concept of voting out Dave, he (not illogically) wondered why, after 31 days of silence, Tara was suddenly coming to him with just that plan, minutes before Tribal. Maybe it was partially that Tara talking strategy from the comfort of the hammock brought, which brought back memories of Barb, which for some reason New Zealanders find unsettling.
There's also some question as to why Tara didn't trust Lisa enough to bring her in on the plan. As the episode explained it, Lisa and Tara were talking to Matt, and Lisa acknowledged that Eve was a strong challenge competitor, so she made sense as the target, over Dave. Tara sensed that this meant Lisa would be against targeting Dave. This was, of course, the same Lisa who had filled Tara in on her hopes to blindside Matt. Of course she's going to tell Matt what he wants to hear.
From Eve's exit interviews, Tara told Eve shortly before Tribal that Eve was getting voted out (hence the tears). So it's not that Tara didn't have time to get the numbers, it's that she didn't have the numbers. Why not?
The only thing that makes sense is if someone suspected Dave had an idol, and we just weren't shown that. So many people wanting to target Dave and none of them doing so—despite his receiving three votes at the three consecutive previous Tribals—just doesn't compute.
The importance of keeping Eve
Perhaps the most curious missed opportunity here was everyone citing Eve's challenge prowess as the most important reason to boot her. That's certainly a great reason for Matt to want her out, since she's his most formidable competition in individual challenges. For everyone else whose plans involve Matt not winning immunity, however, Eve was their best chance to keep that option open.
(Side note: Survivor NZ: Thailand has now had three individual reward challenges, counting the one Jose won at the start. In every case, the winner of an individual reward challenge has been booted that same episode.)
In taking out Eve, Matt has now become super-powerful. He already has an idol (two, counting Dave's), and he's now far and away the most likely immunity winner. This seems like Lisa's biggest miscalculation this episode.
For an Eve alternative, the obvious target was Dave, which, as we just discussed, fell apart for unknown reasons. The next best move probably would have been Adam. If Tara was on board, she could easily grab both Eve and Dave, especially if she filled Dave in on all the stuff Adam has said about him while he's been away on reward. Tess would be unlikely to participate, but Lisa has no reason to keep Adam around (that we know about). Another perfectly viable option, completely overlooked.
The preview gives hope that fractures will finally begin to form next episode, but we're still apparently left with the numbers precariously balanced at three pairs: Matt-Dave, Adam-Tess, and Lisa-Tara (apparently the least-connected duo, after this week). It will be interesting to see if anything changes, or if the coronation is already virtually complete.
Jeff Pitman is a New Zealand expat, is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, you can do so on twitter: @truedorktimes
Other NZ: Thailand Episode 11 recaps and analysis
Exit interviews - Eve Clarke