In the fourteen previous episodes of Survivor, you'd think that we'd have plumbed the limits of how stupid contestants can be. However, just when we think such a thing, we're proved wrong. There can, it seems, never be too little mental ineptitude on this show. We saw so much this week, in fact, that it almost feels like we lost IQ points watching the episode. How low can things go?
Wait. What are we doing in this handbasket?: Can we just rename Zhan Hu to Ulong and be done with it? (For those with less Survivor-filled memories: Ulong was the tribe from the Palau season which, infamously, never won a single immunity challenge.) It bears repeating what we said last week: just about every problem a Survivor tribe can have, this tribe has.
Ashley's efforts may not have saved her, but it hurt Dave's strategic position enough that he has to be seriously considered as the next likely boot. By far, what Ashley said had a lot of truth in them. In many situations, his actions would have gotten him voted out: he behaved like he was King Dave, he spent too much time and effort on something that wasn't too important (getting fire is important, but there's no need to spend days working on a fire pit), and he got into un-leaderly behavior when he squabbled with Ashley. Dave is ready to join the rather long line of failed Survivor leaders, and Ashley was probably right: he'll be joining her in where eliminated Survivor contestants go soon.
Peih-Gee was smart enough to, in effect, take herself off the chopping block this week. For all the proclamations of "leadership" coming from her, she didn't actually do much of it this week. As far as strategy goes, that wasn't such a bad thing. It could be a problem down the road - she could get called on it if Dave goes home and they keep losing - but for now, it means she's no target.
The most immediate target if Zhan Hu (as expected) loses immunity again is Dave. He'll become a target as all leaders of failed tribes do. The other target will probably be Sherea - she hasn't impressed us so far, and people might argue she's the weakest left. Still, we believe Dave has dug himself a big hole, and it will be difficult to climb out of it.
The only other tribe member that merits any attention is Jamie. If anything, her kidnapping helped her. There was no strategic risk in leaving Zhan Hu temporarily, and she gained a good amount of information on the strategic picture at Fei Long. She's managed to identify the isolated players in Fei Long (Leslie, for sure, and probably Jean-Robert). Just getting a basic read on Fei Long's dynamics, as anyone who gets kidnapped will be able to do, is priceless. Even if Zhan Hu keeps losing, Jamie still has a good chance of making it to the merge. Any added information she gathers now would be immensely useful then.
Survivor professionalism at work!: What can we say about that Reward Challenge? Whoever is in charge of putting in the censorship blurs was definitely working overtime. We didn't really learn anything new, strategically, of course, but as a fan we appreciated it nonetheless. We like seeing contestants doing their all both to provide good TV and advance their own strategic interests. In short, we call it Survivor professionalism! Our appreciation goes out to (almost) everyone in that Reward Challenge, but most especially to Amanda, who didn't let the absence of a top stop her from scoring a point. The Survivor gods will smile upon you, Amanda.
Finally, some strategy: So long as Zhan Hu keeps losing, we'll never get to see the strategic picture at Fei Long as well as we do at Ulong 2. However, we did get quite a good picture this week, and it was interesting in its own right.
As we expected, Todd remains at the center of the strategic picture: he has now formed what could be a long-term alliance with Amanda, and that pair has formed an alliance with Aaron. With Fei Long almost certain of coming into a merge with a numerical edge, it would not be a surprise if this alliance ended up in charge until something like... the final eight or so. They're already the leaders, to some degree, of things at Fei Long. It would carry over into any post-merge alliance in all likelihood. Making any predictions beyond that point wouldn't be such a good idea, since so much can change from now until then. However, if we had to guess who among the three would get the furthest, we'd bet on Amanda. Aaron was explicitly brought into the alliance to act as a shield for Todd and Amanda, and he will be considered a threat anyway. Todd, meanwhile, is likely to be viewed down the road as an untrustworthy schemer/backstabber. So long as Amanda doesn't take the blame for the alliance's dirty work, she is in good shape.
The big loser this week is Leslie. We saw rather little of her last week, but we thought she had a better social game than what she showed this week. No offense to any of our readers who consider themselves religious, but it's not a good sign if you've been in the game for only a week and you're cracking up because you can't read your Bible. Toss in the fact that she's physically weak, and you have an obvious a target as any for the first boot from Fei Long. She also managed to botch the bit of luck she got when she got the hidden idol clue. Just about anything would have been better than sharing it with Todd. Her rationale of building an alliance with him is a bunch of nonsense; trying to do the same thing with Eric or James would have worked better, but not much. What concept of "secret" does she not understand?
Meanwhile, Jean-Robert continues with his deliberate tactic of annoying people. Watch for this, folks: this is essentially a long-term suicide in progress. We can't think of any good this strategy is. Poker and Survivor are very, very different games - it would be ridiculous to import a strategy in one game to the other. You can use skills you've learned in one in the other, but what Jean-Robert is doing is complete and utter rubbish.
Please, please, take me: So Exile Island is gone, replaced with what we'd guess to be this permanent "kidnapping" twist. What do we think of it? From the point of view of the winning tribe, you can make a half-decent argument that being kidnapped is a good thing, so long as you're secure enough in your position within your own tribe. The kidnapped also gets good information on the relationships within the other tribe, which we'd consider to be good enough compensation. The ability to actually influence the other tribe, by choosing who gets the idol clue, is just an added bonus. You can make a good argument, in fact, that it would be a good thing to be kidnapped. Certainly, it doesn't harm it the way a visit to Exile Island usually did.
One, two, three, you're out: It wasn't really a great surprise that Ashley got the boot. She was already in the hole from last week, and she needed to pull off some strategic moves this episode to make it. While she had the right idea, though, her execution was very flawed.
Ashley did realize, correctly, that the best person to target to boot was Dave. For the reasons we listed earlier, Dave would have made a very tempting boot to anyone. However, she went about the completely wrong way of going about it: she confronted him about it at every turn, was willing to mix it up with him, she made it into an open war. That was the wrong way to go. She needed to be subtle about it; there was no need to confront him, given that Dave was perfectly capable of acting like an idiot on his own without her. By fighting with him, Ashley made her presence the issue, not Dave's abysmal leadership skills. It would not be much of an exaggeration that Ashley plucked defeat from the jaws of victory. In short, Ashley lost because she didn't have the one thing Survivor demands: subtlety.
No, Ashley's boobs aren't subtle either. Not in any way, shape, or form. For reader mail, send us a PM here.