Mayan Meanderings is a weekly look at the political intrigue and alliance related trends occurring in the Guatemalan jungle. Who is wheeling? Who is dealing? And of course, who is reeling?
This episode the systematic elimination of the former Yaxha tribe came to a halt. The question is was this just a momentary departure from the plan in order to get rid of a highly annoying member of the majority alliance or was it the beginning of seismic shakeups and ongoing shifts in alliances?
As always, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone. Feel free to disagree and offer your own wrong-headed perspective.
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
As the episode began, Gary and Danni were on their last legs. Gary had saved himself at tribal council by pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat in the form of the hidden immunity idol. Gary’s last second reprieve would have meant little if he ended up getting booted at the next tribal council.
Gary was well aware of his precarious position and showed that having survived enormous linemen trying to knock him silly gave him a certain perspective and sense of calm under pressure. Jamie may have done his best to pick a fight after the final eight returned from tribal council without Bobby Jon, but Gary was having none of it.
Gary used the opportunity presented by the reward to try and work on Judd and Stephenie. As he observed, he had to try because otherwise he was almost certainly going to be the next to go unless he won immunity. Gary’s argument to them was simple. He tried to persuade them that the strongest four (which he was clearly implying was the four reward winners) should be in the final four. He reminded Stephenie that his plan has been the same with her as it was with Danni. Stephenie acknowledged that was true.
Gary stated that his play was that he wanted the best in the finals. He brought up the idea that if either Cindy or Lydia made the final two they would win. He tried to make the two of them seem unworthy.
When asked by Judd and Stephenie who they would like to see go next, neither Gary nor Danni hesitated. They both said Jamie. Gary’s strategy seemed to appeal to Stephenie while it had little effect on Judd who was focused on sticking with the existing plan. Gary didn’t seem to have a very good read on Judd and Stephenie when the four reward winners got back to camp since he seemed to be pinning his hopes on Judd.
After being barely eliminated in the first round of the immunity challenge, Gary was hopeful but resigned saying that he gave it his best, he was going out fighting, and that you never know. He looked like the cat that had swallowed the canary after Jamie was voted out. It’s not clear whether Gary’s maneuvering really contributed to Jamie’s elimination or whether Jamie simply drove his alliance nuts.
Other than piggy backing on Gary’s strategy during the night away and continuing to get along with everyone including her new buddy Stephenie, we saw absolutely no strategic moves by Danni. Perhaps her strategy at this point is to try to stay in the background until she is directly in the line of fire or perhaps we are just not seeing her attempts at swaying the others.
The (Not So) Solid Six
When the episode began, it appeared that the Nakum Six was going to finish off Gary and Danni before turning on each other barring an inconvenient immunity win by Gary or Danni. That plan changed when Jamie’s constant need for reassurance became irritating enough to Rafe, Lydia, Cindy, and Stephenie that the four of them decided Jamie was expendable. Gary may have helped push them to this conclusion with his jockeying to stay at least three more days.
Jamie continued the slide that led to his downfall the instant Xhakum returned from tribal council. He again exhibited a strange need to release his post tribal council stress by picking a fight. His preferred target was clearly Gary who gave him no satisfaction. Jamie also tried to convince Cindy and the others that Gary voted for Cindy at tribal council to try to confuse the Nakum Alliance. Despite Cindy telling him that it was just one vote and no big deal, Jamie was like a dog with a bone and wouldn’t let go.
In confessionals, both Cindy and Judd expressed their annoyance with Jamie. Cindy said that his arguments don’t make sense, and Judd stated that Jamie was starting to lose it. Judd was being kind as Jamie was clearly slipping into paranoia at least six days earlier. Jamie did nothing to alter anyone’s opinion at the end of the reward challenge. He insisted that his team should finish the challenge even after Jeff had pronounced the other team the winners. His teammates quickly and not very gently shut him down.
While the winning team was gone, Jamie, with a distinct lack of finesse, tried to get Rafe to trust him and agree that the final three would be Judd, Jamie and Rafe. When Rafe deftly dodged making any such promise, Jamie insisted that Rafe swear Jamie was still in the final six. Jamie completely missed Rafe’s annoyance (or was simply unable to help himself) when Rafe reminded Jamie that he’d already sworn that Jamie was. Jamie kept obsessing about his need to at least make the final six and his concerns about Rafe changing his mind.
When the winning team returned from their reward, even Judd was worried about telling Jamie what had happened. Judd lied (shocking isn’t it) and said there had been no game talk while the four were away. Gary basically ignored Jamie’s questions about the reward.
Jamie sealed his fate following the immunity challenge by again pestering his alliance members for reassurance. He was like a three year old making sure his parents weren’t going to abandon him. Judd put up with Jamie’s insecurities, but Rafe had finally had enough.
Rafe continued to emerge as the person who is most in control of the majority alliance and proved again what a smart player he is. Rafe gets along with everyone and people seem to talk to him easily. He is a good listener. As a result, he was sought out often by Jamie to “play mancala.” The game always seems to be on Rafe’s mind and he has a definite strategy. Jamie may have thought of Rafe as Stephenie’s lapdog but he is more the puppet master pulling the strings. Jamie’s ouster was brought about by Rafe casually floating the idea by Lydia and getting Lydia and Stephenie to buy into the plan while making it seem like they were the ones calling the shots. Rafe raised the idea in a manner that would have allowed him to back off with minimal damage if the others weren’t game for getting rid of Jamie.
Rafe also showed that he is capable of adapting and thinking ahead. After he won the immunity challenge, Rafe realized that his showing of two wins and one second in the three individual immunity challenges he has participated in makes him a huge threat and may mean he needs to change the way he is playing the game. It made me wonder if he was holding back in some of the team immunity challenges.
Stephenie felt secure in the Yakum alliance but the idea of allying with Danni, Gary, and Judd was appealing to her. That is partly because Gary played it well by flattering her with talk of wanting the strongest players to make the final four. Stephenie clearly still considers herself to be one of the strongest female players ever. It didn’t take much for Rafe and Lydia to convince her to vote out Jamie despite her worries that Gary is a smooth operator.
If Stephenie thinks she is in charge, she is in for a rude awakening. I’m not sure she is under any illusion that she is calling the shots at this point though. Stephenie only agreed to vote for Jamie after telling Rafe and Lydia that she would if they wanted to. Stephenie did not initiate the talk of eliminating one of their allies but instead went along with it.
Cindy is still a bit of a puzzle. It is clear that at least some of the others see her as a weak player. This is despite the fact that she has performed well in all of the physical challenges.
Cindy kept her dislike for Jamie out of camp and on the confessional camera even reassuring him after the immunity challenge that her plan was still to stick with the six. Presumably, someone talked to her about the plan to vote out Jamie. I suspect it was Danni. The two of them were on the original Nakum together and Cindy gave Danni a big hug when she returned from the reward. In the unlikely event that no one talked to Cindy about the plan and she decided to vote for Jamie on her own, she has already abandoned the alliance at least temporarily.
Lydia once again showed she is not a threat to win immunity so long as the challenge is physical by being the anchor that dragged her team down during the reward challenge. She was also at the back of the pack during the immunity challenge. Lydia was the first person Rafe brought up the idea of voting out Jamie to despite the fact that Lydia and Jamie had been close. She was smart enough not to risk the wrath of the majority of her alliance members by resisting the plan. Other than that, we saw nothing to give us insight into whether Lydia has a plan beyond being the corn grinder and cook to get her farther in the game.
Judd was the only one other than Jamie to vote to eliminate Gary. No one told him ahead of time that the other four members of his alliance were going to turn on Jamie. It sure looked like an unpleasant and startling moment for Judd when Jeff told Jamie that the tribe had spoken. It may simply be that the others were afraid of his loud mouth giving away their plan to Jamie or it may be that this was an indication of where Judd really stands in the alliance. Judd has been riding high since the tribal switch. He can’t be feeling nearly as good anymore.
Jockeying for Position
With only seven players left, let’s take a look at where each appears to stand and what they should do to increase their odds of winning a million dollars. From best positioned to most likely to be taking the walk of shame in three days:
Rafe-For the most part, Rafe should simply keep playing the game the way he has up until this point. He is well-liked and seems to be in good position to make the final four. He would have an excellent chance against pretty much any of the remaining players when it comes time to face the jury. He may want to avoid winning the next couple immunity challenges. Otherwise, the remaining players may finally clue into what a threat he really poses.
Cindy-Yeah, yeah, I know. I am crazy. The thing is that Cindy is in a great position to go to the end of the game. The others seem to see her as a weak player despite the fact that she has come close to winning more than one challenge. Cindy has done nothing that we’ve seen to piss anyone off. Her best bet is to stick with her low flying strategy and hope she makes it to the end with someone who has earned the ire of the majority of the jury members.
Stephenie-Stephenie is in an odd position. It’s highly unlikely she’d get the jury votes to win the million dollars simply because this is her second chance at the game. Her best shot of winning would probably be against Judd or perhaps Gary or Danni because the majority of the jury members will be from Nakum. Stephenie should be safe for a tribal council or two unless she lets her temper get the better of her or she gets bossy. She seems most allied with Rafe and Lydia at this point and may have burned her bridges with Judd by not telling him about the plan to oust Jamie.
Lydia-Not only is Lydia viewed by the other players as weak, she has proven to be weak in any physical challenge. Her role at this point seems to be that of pawn to be used by the stronger players including Rafe and Stephenie. She is vulnerable to being sacrificed just like any other pawn. It is highly unlikely that Lydia will win. If she makes the mistake of becoming an irritant to the others, Lydia could be gone sooner rather than later.
Judd-Judd is suddenly in a position which has been unfamiliar since before the tribal switch. If he is smart, he’ll act like Jamie’s ouster was no big deal and calmly tell the members of his alliance that he wishes they’d told him ahead of time. Fat chance of that happening. Judd’s temper and cockiness have always been his Achilles’ heel in this game. They are likely to come back to bite him soon unless someone drags him to the final two to try to assure their own victory. I’m not sure Judd could beat anyone who is left in front of the jury.
Danni-Danni performed well in the reward challenge but continues to have trouble with immunity challenges. Danni is one of only two remaining members of Yaxha. That is still a huge disadvantage. She is liked by all and doesn’t appear to be viewed as a threat of any kind. Even if the remaining Nakum revert to their plan to boot her and Gary, Danni will be safe for one more tribal council barring an immunity win by Gary. At some point, she is going to have to step up her game. Otherwise, Danni needs to hope that the Nakum players get so focused on each other that they forget about her.
Gary-Gary lived to fight another three days despite not winning immunity. He only has so many lives left and he knows it. Gary needs to hope that Judd does not react well to Jamie’s boot and puts the target squarely on his back. Otherwise, Gary really needs immunity to have any assurance of surviving another trip to tribal council. Gary can’t worry about the end game at this point. His focus truly has to be on day to day survival. Presumably, Gary will keep trying to work on Stephenie. He may even turn to a disaffected Judd.
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