Mayan Meanderings: Episode 1
Looks like we are going old-school
Welcome back to this week’s look at Survivor strategy. Each week we take a look at who is doing what to whom, and how it is helping them win, lose, or develop their not so secret dream of becoming a reality TV star.
One last time for the season, and for those who missed the pre-game show article, here are the ground rules for discussion in this article, and your comments in the thread. This report is written completely based on my opinion. No, I don’t have any deep cover operatives in Guatemala, nor do I have secret inside information, and I don’t even admit to having voices in my head. This report is for entertainment only, and that would be my entertainment. I hope you like it too, but please, if you value your house, significant other, or any small children in your circle of loved ones, please don’t go out and bet on the game based on anything I say here.
This is just what I think, based on what we all see going on, and what info is released by CBS through their web site. I am not going to discuss spoilers and this area should be a spoiler-free zone. Posts referring to spoilers will be deleted immediately.
Outside of that, I speculate and offer my opinion throughout, and that is the point of the article. If you disagree, that is fine; I am not claiming to be right. In fact, what makes Survivor popular on the boards is how well it lends itself to discussion about strategy, and Burnett’s ability to highlight (some would say overly edit) the characters in the show to tell a story. I hope this report spurs additional discussions in the Survivor forum.
While we will discuss the show here, this is not meant to be a recap. For that you will want to read the tremendous FORT writer’s recaps each week. Lucy’s outstanding recap of week one is already posted.
So let’s get started. Week one is always a difficult show to evaluate in terms of hints for the future and this show took that issue to an entirely new level. The real star of the first episode was the Mayan ruins themselves and the incredibly grueling first challenge that MB planned for these Survivors. No one seemed to have any time to strategize as instead, survival itself was the order of the day, and in the case of Bobby Jon, I honestly was starting to get a little worried.
There has been some discussion in the forums about preferences for the element of survival itself in the game. It has indeed run the range from relatively simple to life threatening (Africa). The problem I had with Africa was that it was so difficult for the Survivors just to live that they really were not entertaining and the game play was secondary and not very enthusiastic. I couldn’t blame them. Unbearable heat, risky treks to get water, and Tom eating beans just made for an environment that didn’t promote high energy or game play.
I do wonder though if MB intentionally inserts games along the lines of Africa (and Guatemala, which is shaping up to be equally challenging) to remind the applicants that the game is not just about frolicking in the surf with a bikini on (though I rarely complain when that happens) while some manly man kills a shark for your dinner and thousands of fan boys and girls make worship web sites like iluvuambur.com or some such thing. Nor is it intended to be about creating your notorious persona by virtually offing your grandma in the obscure hope that someday you will be a “wraslin” star (and not just some loser who got booted off of a D list reality show for unspeakable acts). Instead, in this version, you could almost hear the jungle mutter a collective “mmmmm… fresh meat” whisper as the Survivors began their challenge. Anyone who is here for fame related reasons may be in for quite a wake up call.
I am not saying the element of survival itself should be minimized, but I also would prefer not to see the pendulum swing too far the opposite way either, though as noted above, I can see why MB might do just that.
So, though there was not a lot of game play for our viewing pleasure in episode one, there are a few trends beginning to take hold in the tribes and we will break them down.
Stephanie, of Palau fame, joined this tribe and was greeted as if she were the Pope rolling in on the pope-mobile. I always wanted my own pope-mobile as a kid. I mean, if I could trick out my Big Wheel with the elevated carriage, and the big 360 windows, then I could ride in to the elementary school playground and rule! I outgrew my pope-mobile desires, which is ironic given that now everyone can own a pope-mobile. Have you seen a Honda Element? I am thinking pope-mobile every time I see one.
Back on topic, I was impressed with a couple of things that occurred involving Steph. First, Jeff gave her a glowing introduction, calling her arguably the best woman ever to play the game (and I think some of the women who actually won the game might have issue with that), but then in Jeff zinger fashion, he pointed out that she (and Bobby Jon) would make a easy first boot as well. Steph looked mortified at that prospect, so I suspect her head is in the game, which is good. She also took a leadership role (which was thrust upon her by the group, along with Gary, and led the way through the jungle). One of the survivors pointed out on the show that you don’t want to be the early leader, as that gets you targeted, and that is common wisdom for the early game. In this case though, I don’t think it is bad for Steph given that no matter where you rank her on the Survivor player performance chart, I think it is safe to say that most everyone respects her effort. Further, she was shown sharing experience from her first time around regarding the challenges, and rowing the boat. Steph hasn’t been utilizing that respect to forge any alliances yet, but she does have the opportunity to use it to her advantage, and I don’t doubt that she will.
There was one notable exception to the Steph-love parade, and that was Jamie, the water ski instructor from California. He noted that his quest to win the game would be much more difficult with Stephanie around, and I applaud him. He was thinking about the game and how the twists impact his position. If he keeps it up, he could do well, unless of course he tries to go after Steph early. I just don’t think that is going to work.
Gary took an early leadership role, and lacking the clout of Stephanie, he had some snippy comments made about him in confessional. That happens and it is normal. I am more concerned about Gary’s own comments in private. He seemed a little confident to me, and felt as if his leadership was inevitable given his age. That approach can lead to trouble. On the other hand, I can understand why he wants to keep his former NFL status under wraps. There are always Survivors who feel that anyone with money shouldn’t win because they don’t “need” it. That attitude disregards the fact that Survivor is not charity, and need has nothing to do with it, let alone the concept that need is a relative term, and as a career back-up QB, I am guessing Gary is comfortable, but hardly rich.
There are only fleeting glimpses into the motives of the rest of Yaxha. Did you notice how hard Lydia seemed to be working all the time? She is quiet, but she seems to be quite a dynamo. Rafe, Morgan, Brianna, and others seem all too eager to drink whatever kool-aid Stephanie wants to serve. We’ll see if that continues in the coming weeks.
The folks of Nakum had a very eventful opening to the season. First, they won what might have been the most difficult Survivor challenge ever, and they earned their right to a much better camp in the process.
At what price though?
After the challenge Blake, Bobby Jon, and Jim were down for the count with dehydration while Brandon and Judd weren’t exactly robust. Speaking of Blake, did you see the number of missing thorns on that branch that hit him? Margaret got as many out as she could but I don’t think she got all of them, and that may spell bad news for Blake. I sincerely hope he comes out okay because he actually seemed like a strong guy with a good attitude. On survivor, those are few and far between.
The real interesting thing about Nakum’s plight is that for the most part their women came out of the challenge unscathed. Over at Yaxha the guys seemed to be okay, so I have to wonder what happened to the guys in Nakum. We know that Bobby Jon will push himself to exhaustion. Did the other guys get caught up in a macho (I can carry three bags and go six hours in 100 degree heat without water) game? Something happened there, and unfortunately we didn’t really get enough information to deduce what it was.
The upshot of the whole affair is that it is the women of Nakum who hold all the cards. At tribal council it became clear that the ladies were united in their thinking that the sick men were potential liabilities. Some of the men picked up on that vibe and wanted to separate themselves from being lumped into that group. Judd was ready to do “back flips” in order to prove he was healthy. He may have overreacted, but he was right to see the trap in front of him, and try to get out of the way.
It takes more than a couple days for voting blocs to emerge, but it appears that Bobby Jon is not going to get to skate along as much as Steph undoubtedly could if she needed it. He needs to get healthy, and fast.
The clear leader of Nakum is none other than Margaret. She was calm and helpful as her tribe mates began dropping like flies all around her. Obviously her experience as a trauma nurse helped because about the time I saw Bobby Jon’s feet, and his eyes rolled up into his head, I would have been calling for the evacuation helicopter. I don’t think she wants to be the leader per se, but her actions and natural leadership are shining though early on. I think she might be a contender.
I guess that didn’t work
Jim was the first boot of the season and you could almost see it coming from the beginning. He took on a leadership role by reading the compass and guiding the tribe through the jungle. His method of doing so was very effective by the way, and is a survival technique. What surprises me though is how many folks these days have never been taught to use a compass. I guess in the age of GPS devices and such it is a lost art, but it surely was critical in this case.
Jim was voted off unanimously (his vote going to Margaret, which was surprising, but I think he was so far out of the loop, it didn’t really matter if he voted for Margaret or Barney the Dinosaur) so either he did something to anger the group (and I didn’t see it) or perhaps they all just decided that given the physical nature of the game, his age, and his arm being in a homemade sling, that he was the logical choice. I suspect it was more of the later and less of the former. In another Survivor locale, Jim might have made it past the first boot. No chance of that here, especially with the injury.
I think he was clearly the best boot choice, and it actually bodes well for Nakum that they so easily came to that conclusion.
It looks from the previews as if the injury problem continues into next week and the tribes patience with it will begin to grow short. Also, ants are on the menu. Mmm. Mmm. Good! See you then.
Ever had a branch of poisonous thorns fall and hit you at random? Yeah, I bet that hurt! Send photos to email@example.com