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?
Coby - A Smile on His Face, a Knife Behind His Back
Consider Coby, one of the players I found most intriguing and dynamic. Let's consider the obvious: the producers of Survivor: Palau granted Coby a lot of exposure.
This much face time make me suspect that Coby is either (a) destined to go far in the game, and the producers want you to get to know Coby (and love or hate Coby), or (b) Coby is going to be a big personality (and perhaps a big influence) on this game.
In the first episode, Coby was a major force in targeting Jonathan for ouster. He considers himself an "outsider" compared to the "young, beautiful" people, but his ability to read the mood of the tribe and the big part he played to give Jonathan the heave-ho makes me wonder why he doesn't see himself as more of an "insider."
I think whether he thinks of himself that way, he will emerge as an insider, a player.
Consider, also, his overtures to tattooed Angie.
When the first day was still young and all the players were just getting to know one another, Coby assessed--correctly--that Angie felt ostracized from the group and was in need of a friend.
Coby approached Angie with a little "I'm just like you" speech and won her good graces. (It wasn't hard.)
When Coby chose his next tribe mate, Angie was still waiting on the beach. He (wisely) chose Caryn. You may disagree with his choice because of the "understanding" he had with Angie, but Coby, again, is shrewd.
Now, why Caryn? The answer? "Why not?" It doesn't matter who it was as long as it wasn't Angie. Between the time that he spoke with Angie and his selection of Caryn, Coby had made some moves with Caryn.
Also, more importantly, Coby had started a campaign against Jonathan and determined that his influence was potentially greater than he initially gave himself credit.
With the possibility that he may become an insider and "one of the gang" as opposed to the perennial outcast whose fate could be decided at any single Tribal Council, Coby chose to distance himself from Angie.
It's an old rule, and a proven one: No outcast would ever side with the other outcasts once given a chance to join the "in crowd." It may not be nice, but it's true.
Prediction: Look for Coby to be a major force for a long time to come in this game. If he's not a major force, he will at least emerge as a major personality.
Long Live Tom and Caryn
Survivor tribes are not democracies. Survivor tribes are dictatorships. But the dictator who emerges must be a benevolent dictator. The Survivor battlefield is littered with the carcasses of tribe leaders whose own sense of power went to their heads and were subsequently beheaded in a tribe uprising.
Firefighter Tom can be that benevolent dictator for Koror.
Tom is a natural leader. The others naturally gravitate toward him and look to him for guidance. Witness how even the other alpha-type men automatically defer to him and ask his advice when they built the first shelter.
He's an authority figure they recognize, a firefighter with physical presence. He's easy-going, charismatic and knowledgeable, all good traits for born leaders.
While the details of the immunity/reward challenge were focused more on Ulong blunders, I would not be surprised to learn that Tom was instrumental in getting his tribe to agree to take one item from the supply dump and finish the task as quickly as they did. It was a gambit that paid off, and there are no greater rewards than the rewards awaiting those who take big gambles and make them pay.
Finally, observe how Tom spoke up for Koror when Probst asked them to choose whether to stay at their current beach or to relocate to another. This wasn't a choice with a right or wrong answer, really; this was a choice that needed somebody simply to speak up and give an answer. Tom recognized that and did; the others followed his lead.
Now, consider Caryn. When the contestants first arrived on the beach, Caryn recognized the need for some form of leadership and reluctantly took the reins. However, even while organizing the water-search and shelter-building teams, Caryn looked to Jolanda for approval, making Caryn a good right-hand, but not a leader in her own right.
Caryn is not abrasive, but she is thoughtful and possesses some gravitas (as an older player).
Unless Caryn and Tom butt heads and splinter Koror into two factions, a Tom leadership with Caryn at his side, as his consigliere, would make Koror extremely formidable.
Prediction: With Tom and Caryn at its helm, Koror could emerge as a force to be reckoned with for a long time in this game. If Koror continue to win challenges exhibiting the sort of ability they did in this first episode, Koror tribe members would comprise a majority of a united tribe later in the game. I believe the Koror core would hang tough in a united tribe...if they continue to be winners. Also, look for a bond between Tom and Janu, as unusual as that may seem.
Ulong - Spiraling Down
The ejection of Jolanda was a good start. Now that she's gone, it's not worth spending much time discussing Jolanda, but allow me to bring up a few talking-points because of the legacy left behind by Jolanda.
What puzzled me about Jolanda was her refusal to step up and say at Tribal Council, "Yes, I'm the leader of this tribe."
Perhaps she didn't want to be associated with a devastating loss. (She was, anyway.) Perhaps she was being honest by looking in the mirror and guessing that her personality would be off-putting, making her an ineffective leader.
Ashlee's ability to rally the tribe against Jolanda proved to be much more effective than Stephenie's half-hearted attempt to rally Bobby Jon against Jolanda. When Stephenie met resistance on Bobby Jon's part, she showed frustration and gave up.
Ashlee, on the other hand, gathered as many tribe members as she could away from Jolanda and convinced them as a group to vote against Jolanda.
Will the voting bloc of James, Angie, Kim and Jeff stand together with Ashlee now that their work of booting Jolanda is done? Or was this a temporary arrangement, a work team to be disbanded now that Jolanda's gone? Hard to say, but my guess is "temporary."
Ashlee strikes me as someone who lets her emotions get in the way of making good decisions. A tribe will follow that sort of leadership for a while, but they'll break from her if a more capable team leader arises.
Even more damning, as seen in the preview for next week's episode, Jeff and Kim may develop a romantic attachment, which always complicates the tenor of a reality program. The others will be preoccupied with wondering how to handle a Jeff/Kim relationship and whether they need to be "broken up."
Meanwhile, Jeff and Kim may get little work done establishing the tribe and accomplishing those things necessary early in the game for survival if they're chasing one another around the tent and playing grab-ass.
Prediction: No clear leadership and no clear mandate to regroup and win the next challenge: I think things look dire and will continue to look dire for Ulong for some time to come.
Ibrehem, Bobby Jon and James - The Blind Boys of Alabama
Here's an interesting point: Three members of Ulong hail from Alabama. Speculation of what that would mean in terms of tribe dynamics seems to be flat since Ibrehem, Bobby Jon and James either don't even realize this yet (unlikely) or simply don't care (more likely).
But consider: With Jolanda's departure, Alabama natives comprise nearly 50 percent (3 out of 8) members of Ulong.
Ibrehem and Bobby Jon appear to be close. They sided with Jolanda and were the only two votes against Angie during Tribal Council (aside from Jolanda's vote, of course).
James, on the other hand, seems to have no affinity with Ibrehem and Bobby Jon and voted against Jolanda, along with the other five members of his tribe.
And here's something: Ibrehem and Bobby Jon are both waiters and both 27 years old. James is in his early 30's (33, to be exact) and a steelworker from Mobile, Alabama. Professionally and generationally, Ibrehem and Bobby Jon have more in common than either does with James.
So, believe it or not, Ibrehem, Bobby Jon and James all live within the same state boundaries, but they may as well be worlds apart.
It turns out that "Sweet Home Alabama" can be classified as that oxymoron: a non-issue.
If she doesn't become part of an alliance (and soon), Angie may become a "floater"--siding with different alliances day-to-day as it suits her, her vote at Tribal Council always up for sale, in exchange for weak promises of not being the one voted out. And that's a sad way to live Survivor for the weeks ahead.
Stephenie will emerge as a strong personality, but not a strong player.
Gregg is a complete cypher at this point. Maybe he's flying under the radar. And maybe that's a good idea until he gets a better lay of the land.
Look for Katie to become the abrasive personality of Koror, and perhaps its Achilles' Heel.
If Willard earns Caryn's trust and flies under the radar for a while, he may go farther than anyone initially suspects.
What I would do at this point in the game: Fly under the radar for a while. Look to be approached about an alliance in the next 72 hours. If not approached, be worried. Be very worried. Perhaps try and form a few alliances myself, but keep them very, very quiet. Do the work assigned by the leader, do the work quietly, efficiently, and without complaint. Whether my tribe goes to the next Tribal Council or not, I would wait the duration of one Tribal Council, and then start making some moves of my own.
Tend to overanalyze like I do? Then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ...or, y'know, don't, because I don't want to be pushy--NOT that I'm saying you called me pushy, because I know you don't think I'm pushy, or you may think I'm pushy, but you're sparing my feelings, not that you're touchy-feely, of course, but...