The Palau Perspective is a weekly look at the political intrigue and alliance related trends occurring in the tribes. Who is wheeling? Who is dealing? And of course, who is reeling?
Stephenie Ė Ulong, U-gone
It was rough to see good olí Steph get the boot his week, but luck just wasnít on her side. Having barely survived the last Tribal Council, she quickly accepted the fact that her former alliance of four was no longer and that sheíd have to be open to other possibilities. When Katie approached her for an all-girls alliance, Stephenie jumped at the chance and tried to plead her cause to the group most likely to benefit from having her on their side. She made the very valid point that no matter how much of a threat they thought she was, Tom was a bigger one and needed to be voted off at the earliest opportunity. I believe that, with the possible exception of Jenn, it was in all the womenís best interests to band together while they had the numbers to do so and secure a spot in the final four. Unfortunately for Stephenie, one of the women was not bright enough to recognize that four is more than three and ruined it for all the ladies, Steph in particular. What do they teach in law school, anyway?
Several names came up before Tribal Council, but in the end, Koror kept up the happy family faÁade and eliminated the last remaining member of the opposing tribe. Letís look at how the other players performed in this episode and what theyíll need to do to surviveÖ
Tom Ė Winner of the Most Convincing Smooth-Talker Award
Tom puts the alpha in alpha male and everyone knows it. When he gave the tribe his ďdonít-vote-me-off-just-because-Iím-a-threat-and-had-to-show-it-to-keep-winning-and-keep-you-in-the-gameĒ speech, most of the tribemates laughed at him behind his back. Except for one. Caryn bought his story, hook, line, and sinker. Tom must have sensed this, because when he got her alone, he began working on her, offering her sixth place in his six person alliance, and that sounded like a good deal to her, oddly enough. Sixth place, Caryn Ė as in, last place. He promised her that he would look out for her as long as he could. Basically, the same vague, non-committal promise that Stephenie had recently learned meant nothing.
Caryn Ė You Donít Bite the Hand That Has You Wrapped Around itís Finger
This week, Caryn demonstrated that she really does not have a clue when it comes to strategizing in the game of Survivor. When the time comes to faction off and start double-crossing your teammates, you make a decision and go with it. The worst thing you can do is tell the person that you are going to betray that you are thinking about betraying him. Caryn had the perfect opportunity to secure a final four spot with the women rather than be Tomís number six. She might have even been someone that Stephenie would have taken to the final two had they made it that far. After all, she and Steph had no bad blood between them and they had shared several food rewards with each other. But Caryn let Tom butter her up and chose to convince herself that he had somehow kept her in the game thus far and was looking out for her in particular. Even if this was the case (which Iím fairly sure it was not), do you really want to be allied with someone whom everyone else wants voted off? Then what? Wouldnít it be better to be allied with a group of girls who have the majority vote and are more your equal in terms of physical competition? To be fair, I do think that she was giving serious thought to voting with the girls but didnít want to be seen as a backstabber by her beloved Tom. Even he was shocked that she was spilling the beans on an opportunity that was clearly in her best interests.
Katie Ė Itís Now or Never Ė Crap! Itís Never!
While Iím typically not a huge fan of Katie, I agree with most of her choices in this episode. She showed a very clear understanding of her position in the game and also the ability to look a little ways down the road. No one can argue that Tom isnít a powerhouse and threat in the game. Heck, he even spelled it out loud and clear for anyone in the tribe who might not have noticed. Katie looked around and saw that a girlsí alliance would benefit all the women and give them the opportunity to oust the men, their strongest competition. Iím sure it seemed like a no-brainer to her, so she dared to try to make the leap to a new and improved alliance with much better chances for her success. Her downfall was not realizing that Caryn was stupid enough to spill the details to Tom and ruin her plan.
Ian Ė Who Needs Soap When Youíve Got Immunity?
Ian had it good this episode. As long as Tom is in the game, the target will stay on his back instead of Ianís. Playing Robin to Tomís Batman has allowed him to be beneficial to the tribe without appearing as too big a threat. He also kept Katie close to him by confronting her with the news that Caryn had shared the girlsí plan with Tom. He managed to force her to show her hand while reinforcing their prior commitment to each other. He also played it wishy-washy enough to suggest that he could possibly be persuaded to vote against his best bud and father figure. Of course, winning immunity never hurts, and tastes even sweeter after some pasta and a beer.
Gregg Ė Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Gregg wanted Steph gone, and she is gone. Why is that? She was hardly the biggest threat to the team, no matter what anyone said. While she was incredibly driven and determined, she always ran out of luck in the challenges and lost time after time. Greg had been ready to turn on Tom since long before the merge, but this episode he must have managed to convince the rest of the players that it would be very unpopular to vote out an original member of Koror before eliminating the last member of the former Ulong. Was he looking out for his fellow Kororians, or his gal Jenn, or did he just want to prevent the women from gaining the numerical advantage? No matter, he got his way Ė and continues to lead me to believe that he is doing much more manipulating than we are seeing.
Jenn Ė Sitting Pretty, Oh So Pretty
As far as I can tell, Jenn was safe this week, no matter what happened. She had the opportunity to join the girlsí alliance and seemed to go along with it. Yet she let Katie take the risk and do the dirty work Ė always a good choice in Survivor, if you have that option. She and Gregg still appear to be snuggling in the hammock, and at this point, she seems to be sitting back and letting the others draw attention to themselves.
At this point in the game, I think we can divide the remaining members into two groups, those that are definitely on the radar and those that aren't...
Tom can simply not fade into the woodwork. He continues to be a threat in the immunity challenges and the target will remain on his back until he is gone. He must continue to win immunity to ensure his survival. Now that Stephenie is gone, I think the others will realize they have to vote him out at their next opportunity. Aside from winning immunity, there is little he can do except for doing everything to be sure he has both Ian and Caryn voting with him. It would be smart of him to try and convince Caryn he wants her with him in the final two, lest she suddenly were to realize that she is standing near a lightning rod and the storm is coming soon.
Caryn painted a target on her own back this week by choosing the wrong allies and leaking Katieís plan to Tom. She would be much better off aligning herself with the weaker players against whom she stands a chance of beating in a challenge. I think that even Tom himself was amazed at her poor judgement, and may choose to exploit it for his advancement in the game. His acceptance obviously means a lot to her, to the point that she sacrificed a better opportunity out of a sense of loyalty to someone who was just playing with her. The rest of the tribe now sees her as untrustworthy and she could find her torch snuffed quickly unless someone else does something even dumber.
Katie had a great plan, but now that it has backfired, she is no longer under the radar. From the previews for next week, it appears that she had jumped ship from the Tom/Ian alliance to the Gregg/Jenn side. Again, showing yourself as untrustworthy or trying to play both sides is dangerous. The conversation between her and Ian suggested that perhaps they had a final two arrangement within their alliance of four. If she can keep him on her side and vote off Tom, she may be in good shape, but if she has alienated Ian, she will be in trouble as the third wheel to Gregg and Jennís twosome.
Ian is well-positioned in that there are a number of people who are currently more in the spotlight than he is. As I said before, as long as Tom remains in the game, the target will stay on him. An immunity win such as the one this week doesnít necessarily highlight Ian as a threat, since several of his tiles, including the winning one, were knocked out by other people. He seems to get along fairly well with everyone, and has a go-with-the-flow kind of mentality that will allow the others to keep him around. He has always been close to Tom and Katie will still need him as an ally if heíll have her. I think that any number of people will go before him despite his strong performances in prior challenges. If Tom is voted out before him, heíd be smart to point his long bony finger at the strongest two-person alliance of Gregg and Jenn, which in itself poses a threat to everyone else.
Gregg and Jenn seem to be strolling down Romber lane. They have had a suspicious lack of screen time, which leads me to believe that they may be sneaking their way to the final two. Gregg has been sitting back and letting Tom and Ian show off their strengths, leaving him in the third strongest male position. As long as the other two men are eliminated before him and his girlfriend sticks with him, all he has to contend with is Katie and Caryn, who have not performed so well in prior challenges. Gregg would definitely benefit from winning the next two immunities to ensure that Tom and Ian are voted off before him.
Jenn may be in the safest position of all. The three men will most likely be targeted before her, and she is the strongest competitor among the remaining women, who have both made some enemies recently and are unlikely to work together. As long as no one wises up and decides to separate the two lovebirds, I wouldnít be surprised to see them taking home the moolah. Letís just hope they donít show up together on The Amazing Race any time soon.
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