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Welcome to another season of Survivor strategy, where every week I’ll break down tribe dynamics, aspiring alliances, and individual intricacies dealing with the strategy of becoming the sole survivor. As always, these are simply my opinions on a show that is edited heavily for the viewing audience. Will I be wrong? Probably more often than not, but that’s part of the fun of strategic analysis. Anyway, let’s get into the new season of wheeling, dealing, and reeling.

Since there has already been a ton of hoopla associated with this season, you probably already know the teams are initially being divided by ethnicity this time around. Personally, I don’t think the ethnic tribes are going to be a big deal at first, but it will be interesting down the line a little when there are only 2 tribes and then a single tribe. Will the remaining members of the current tribes remain allied along ethnic lines? Or will the survivors realize that they’ll need to form other alliances in order to become the sole survivor? This year’s middle game is what I’m most looking forward to.

Aitu
Here’s the deal. This team--well, at least Billy--thinks they have all the advantages, which can be good. I was always taught to keep a positive mental attitude, so thinking you’re the team to beat could just lead to many wins, and 5 Latinos advancing into the later rounds. However, Billy could very easily turn out to not only be his own worst enemy, but his team’s worst enemy, too. The guy is out of shape—he was really lagging behind the others at the immunity/reward challenge—and he’s trying to take a leadership role when it’s clear that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. He’s a heavy metal rocker not a castaway builder/plumber. From the minute Aitu arrived on their island, Billy was rubbing his tribemates the wrong way by claiming to know how to build a shelter and a toilet, and then quickly proving he had no clue how to cut bamboo to fulfill his promises. Ozzy quickly took the reins without really claiming the leadership role and got a shelter built and snagged coconuts from a nearby palm tree. Ozzy has some good insight on the game, too. He knows that as long as the team stays fed and wins challenges, they’re all going to go far. And as long as he let’s Billy make a fool of himself, the target will be off of his back. This team seems like they are bonding pretty well, and doesn’t look like they have started making intra-tribe alliances quite yet, although Billy is clearly the odd man out.


Puka
Is Cao Boi for real? Or is he the exact caricature that Mark Burnett was looking for when casting this edition of Survivor? He is one of the older castaway’s this season, and the fact that he doesn’t fit the Asian stereotype of clean cut, hard working, brainy, engineer could either work for or against him. The other members in his tribe are all quite a bit younger than Cao, and there is definitely a generational gap between Cao Boi and the others. Cao Boi is also the only member of Puka that isn’t originally from the states (he came to America from Vietnam to escape the war), and might have trouble integrating with his younger brethren. However, his life experience, self reliance, and knowledge of old world remedies will be an asset to his tribe and could endear him to them—if he can refrain from irritating them with his self-deprecating Asian jokes. No worries for the Puka tribe this week, though, as their youthful athleticism and puzzle solving skills carried them to an immunity/reward victory.

Raro
Adam summed up how I feel about the ethnic tribe idea right away—that it doesn’t really matter who is on your tribe—black, white, green—the real issue is the personalities, and how well you can get along with each individual personality. That said, this tribe already seems to work well together within their own tribe. The problem? Jonathan is already alienating other tribes by stealing chickens upon being shipwrecked, and that doesn’t bode well for him or his tribemates should they all merge as a team. On the flipside, Jessica/Flicka has already made herself a liability since she’s not smart enough to remember that the chickens were being kept under the Raro wood box, and picked up said box to release the chickens into the wild. Jonathan’s not to happy with her, and even though the tribe has 3 women and only 2 men, I’m certain it would be easy for Jon to talk the others into voting Flicka out should they lose an immunity challenge and have a date with Jeff at tribal council. Luckily for Flicka, the tribe was able to barely eke out a third place finish at the first immunity/reward challenge.

Hiki
Represent! Represent! Here’s a tribe that came together really well at the outset, but was already dividing before the first challenge. Sekou and Nate, the two males, instantly took to each other, and Sundra and Rebecca, the two younger females also paired up together. Stephannie, the older female, was stuck in the middle, not really in with the men, and not really in with the girls. To her benefit, she recognized the divisions immediately, and started her strategic thinking right away. This is an important factor in my mind. Stephannie realized she was a swing vote should her tribe go to tribal council, so she set herself up to be off of the others’ radar. Seriously, how often does a castaway think they are a swing vote, and end up doing the tribal council walk of shame? Every. Damn. Time. As far as working as a team goes, Hiki left a lot to be desired. From the moment they reached their island, there was polite dissention on how to go about just about every task. Nate saw it as a stereotypical issue within his tribe…that none of them like to be told what to do. They did get a shelter built, though, and found their fresh water source, so at least some things are going their way. The tribe’s inability to work together reared it’s head again at the immunity/reward challenge though, and Hiki wasn’t able to pull their collective head out of their ass long enough to beat one single team. Hiki would be the first team at tribal council.

Well, That Didn’t Work
What the heck was Sekou thinking? Has he watched any previous episodes of Survivor? He immediately made himself a target when he took the leadership role on Hiki Island, and dug his hole deeper by admitting to being the tribe leader to Jeff after losing the immunity challenge. When they were informed that they would get to send one other castaway to Exile Island, Sekou and Nate stepped out as the supposed “superior” males in the tribe to make the decision. The girls immediately pointed out that the two guys had apparently taken control of the tribe, so they didn’t feel necessary to help make the decision. That perceived leadership, coupled with Sekou’s constant breaks when the tribe was trying to make fire, sealed his fate. If only Sekou had been able to reel Stephannie into an alliance with him and Nate before they lost the challenge, he might still be playing the game. However, he didn’t have the foresight to always be playing the game, and he is the first castaway to go home.

Next week: Will Billy’s mouth and lack of athleticism send him packing? Or will it be Cao Boi offending his tribemate’s with Asian jokes that sends the next castaway home?

Who’s got game? mrdobolina@fansofrealitytv.com