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?
As always, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the management.
It's The Final Countdown
As another installment of Survivor winds to an end, I have to wonder what some of these people are thinking. Every single player that made it to the jury is a competitor; someone that has shown that they are willing to do what it takes to play the game. All were well aware that this is a game. All recognized, at least on the surface, that everyone else is here to win as well and that the competition is fierce. In the past, we've seen people make strategic mistakes based on misplaced loyalties or obligations, or in the case of Palau's Ian, please don't take me to the final two, just be my friend and talk to me again! This season, there seemed to be no short of stupid mistakes made, primarily by Rafe and Stephenie, who seemed to be in the driver's seat for most of the game. Rather than take the easy boot, hey continued to keep Danni around and burn their bridges, thereby signing both their death warrants as well as a big fat cheque for Danni. How did that happen? Is Danni really that good? Or are Rafe and Stephenie, along with their assorted minions, just that stupid? Let's find out together.
On the last episode of Survivor, while on Cindy's reward, Stephenie mused that she has a better shot against Cindy in the final two than Danni. After all, Steph said, wouldn't it suck to lose to Danni? Yes. Yes it would. In fact, let's ask Stephenie how she feels about it now. It's not that voting out Cindy was fatal, it was just a fatal blow for Stephenie. When Rafe first approached Stephenie about his plan to boot Cindy instead of Danni, Stephenie pointed out that she already had alienated both Jamie and Judd and didn't want to add Cindy to the list. She didn't seem to buy that Cindy would be tougher to win against than Danni, and yet she voted along with Rafe. Rafe, obviously, had a reason; he had made a Final 2 deal with Danni. That decision is bewildering enough, but Rafe was keeping his options open. Stephenie had absolutely nothing to gain but Rafe's loyalty by voting out Cindy, which I have to believe is the reason she didn't rallied both Cindy and Lydia to oust Danni.
After Rafe won the second to last immunity challenge, securing a position in the Final 3, it didn't look good for Danni. Once again, Stephenie expresses concern that it would be hard to beat Danni in the final. Despite those concerns, Rafe, apparently feeling obligated to honour his agreement with Danni, engineers Lydia's boot. Despite how she has been portrayed, at this point it's hard to ignore that Rafe, not Steph, is the one calling the shots. Stephenie can insist that Lydia, ha, would be a huge threat in the final immunity, but I don't think anyone, including Lydia, was buying that.
If Stephenie is going along with her best friend forever, then why is Rafe so determined to keep Danni around?
a) He actually believes the hype and thinks he's more likeable than Danni?
b) Figures that no one will believe that little Opie was calling the shots, strategically?
c) Thinks that Lydia's might be able to sway the jury if she was given the chance to bust out the pancake dance?
d) Assumes that he can't beat Stephenie in the Final 2, despite the fact that she's on her second go round, half the jury hates her and holds her responsible for their boot?
e) He's been in the sun for about 35 days too long?
I realize Rafe is an altruistic sort, but he should have recognized that as likeable as Danni is, she was doing her best to save her hide. She was an easy boot and Rafe continued to believe that it made more sense to backstab and betray solid alliance members and let someone infinitely more likeable sneak their way into the Final 2.
At Least Ian MEANT What He Said
With the fierce competition that is Lydia booted, Rafe and Steph have the easy task of going against Danni. Who, as it turns out, ends up winning the challenge. Now, if you're Rafe, who has made a deal with both women, does it make sense to run up to Danni and declare her free from any obligation she might have to you? Rafe, obviously thinks this is a wise move, as he'd like to give Stephenie a fair chance. I'm sorry, wouldn't her second chance on Survivor be enough for him? Unlike Ian, Rafe didn't expect Danni to actually NOT take him. I guess that's the risk you take when you want to be altruistic, but you aren't so much. I guess it's kind of like belittling another competitor for not giving away 4 cars, especially when you would have been the recipient of one of said cars. Rafe had Final 2 locked up and he blew it. Danni was completely right to take Stephenie with her to the Final 2, as she knew it would be easier in the long run.
I Respect Good Gameplay, Provided I Don't Lose
Despite being a touch on the bitter side, the jury this season seemed to ask some well thought out questions. They all seemed to understand that this is a game where the object is to eliminate your fellow competitors. But the head doesn't always rule the heart and there were more than a few hurt feelings.
So why did they vote the way they did?
Bobby Jon - The last members of Yaxha were a tight bunch. Loyalty is big to Bobby Jon and not only was he aligned with Danni, he watched Steph backstab her own alliance. Voted Danni.
Jamie - While Jamie seemed to recognize that he had been played and understood that in the end, it's only a game, Jamie was the dynamic duo's Victim #1. Jamie was one of the most displeased to see Stephenie when the game started, and her second chance at his expense could have weighed heavy on his mind. Voted Danni.
Gary - Like Bobby Jon, he was closely aligned with Danni. While Stephenie was very honest in her answers, Gary likely respected Danni more for managing to stick around without a solid alliance. Well, that and not entirely blowing the cover off his Hogeboom identity. Voted Danni.
Judd - Victim #2. Hypocrite extrordinaire. Took Stephenie along on every reward he won. Believed Stephenie lied to his wife. Voted Danni. Quelle suprise.
Cindy - Despite Stephenie's best efforts, Cindy became Victim #3 after she also shared a reward challenge with Steph. Like Danni and Stephenie, Cindy was another athletic, competitive woman. However, Danni was not responsible for Cindy's boot. Voted Danni.
Lydia - Lydia seemed to handle her boot with grace and dignity. However, it wasn't that long ago that her alliance had seemed to turn on her and her loyalty to Steph was not valued. Lydia may not have been backstabbed like some of the others, but she was left out in the cold. Danni always seemed to have a genuine friendship with Lydia and that can go a long way. Voted Danni.
Rafe - In the end, Steph's best friend forever didn't let her down. It helped that Rafe was bitter that Danni didn't take him to the end, despite freeing her from any obligations. Voted Stephenie.
Why Stephenie Lost
Stephenie entered the game with a target on her back and made it to the Final 2. The jury had chances to assimilate and turn on her, but they didn't. They had been warned and almost everyone, at some point or another, acknowledged she had power, and still, she continued to barrel through. The powers that be had gifted her a second chance; the jury wasn't as generous as to give her a win. Stephenie played the All Star version of Rob Mariano, while she took the heat for decisions she and Rafe made as a pair. She made promises she couldn't keep and joined people on rewards only to promptly turn around and vote them off. It's hard to award someone a million dollars when you believe someone wronged you, which is how a large part of the jury felt.
Why Danni Won
Danni can't be considered under the radar, as her name often came up before Tribal Council. She was very much ON the radar since the merge. Danni only won two immunity challenges, but she was always a physical threat. While Rafe protected her, at times, she was never assured of her safety. Danni's biggest strength was knowing when to befriend people and when to keep her mouth shut. She wasn't alienating, unjlike Judd. She wasn't paranoid, unlike Jamie. She wasn't visibly caught trying to shake things up, unlike Gary. She was perceived as a strong player, unlike Lydia. Danni quietly saw her opportunities and took them every chance she got. In extreme conditions, you become irritable and tend to gravitate towards people that are easy to be around. Danni was well liked. When someone is well liked, you want to give yourself a reason to keep them around. So much of the game is about social skills and situations, and no one was better out there than Danni. Sometimes nice girls do finish first.