Mayan Meanderings: Episode 2
Abracadabra, Morgan we backstabbed ya
Okay fine, I know the title is about as corny as a pun can get, but I am willing to use the lowest common denominator of humor when necessary. Welcome back to this weekís look at Survivor strategy. Each episode weíll 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.
Itís still early in the game, and given the focus on environmental conditions and one seemingly overwhelming story line, we are left with little to nothing to go on regarding some of our Survivors. Traditionally if a Survivor receives very little face time in the early shows that bodes well for his or her future.
However, I am not so sure that is the case any longer. I am starting to think that now that we have double digit survivors in the books, along with dozens of past contestants (so many that only the hard core fans could recall all of them) that in the current Survivor editing world that sometimes people just arenít entertaining, and that could mean they will still get voted out sometime soon despite not having their share of the camera. Many of these current survivors applied to the show several times and have been passed over previously. I donít think that means they are bad people. On the contrary, they might well be trying to play the game effectively, or just plain figure out how that little tiny bug can make such a big bruise on their leg. Regardless, if they donít do something noteworthy, they will swim along in ambiguity, and we are left to wonder if they are going far in the game, or are they just ordinary boring people.
Darn those Survivors! Donít they realize that they are here to entertain me? I donít care if you are tired, hungry, dehydrated, or you miss playing video games at home. You are here to entertain me! Start entertaining! I am talking to you Amy! You too Cindy! I see you back there trying to hide.
The one story line that I think is getting a surprisingly high amount of attention is the Gary as an ex-quarterback in the NFL issue. Now donít get me wrong, it is a story that shouldnít be ignored, but the story itself is taking up much of the camera time we have in the early going, and I think everyone who has ever seen a Survivor before (or a GEICO commercial for that matter) can tell you how this is going to play out. We simply donít need this much build up when we could be getting to know the rest of the tribe members.
First, his decision to lie about his past is debatable. Itís not like he was a star in the league, or overpaid for his, for the most part, back up quarterback role. I think Jesse Palmer proved that just because you are in the NFL doesnít mean that you are all that and a bag of chips. In other words, I am not buying the whole claim that he would get voted out if the secret was out there.
If Gary wants to keep that a secret, then that is fine. His problem though is that Danni knows who he is, and she made little effort to hide that fact, blurting it out in the middle of a challenge for all to hear. Turns out she also talked with Brian during the challenge and filled him in. So the second question for us is this:
Should Danni have said anything at all? Or could she have waited until that piece of information was useful down the road, say post merge?
The answer is really quite basic. She never should have ďspentĒ that information unless she could use it to advance herself in the game. Now, I am not discounting the possibility that she thinks that telling Brian about Gary will help her in the future. However, unless we are missing a lot more conversations (and we might in fact be missing those talks) then Danni should have no idea that Gary claims to be a landscaper. The logical conclusion I draw is that Danni talked to Brian, and Brian said no, Gary is a landscaper, and thus she decides to blurt it out mid-challenge (and donít you love how the editing made it appear that Danniís statement distracted Gary in the middle of his tug-o-war match, leading to his loss).
Round three of this mini drama occurs when Brian asks Gary about his alleged ex-NFL status back in camp. Either by excellent perception, or sheer luck, Danni happened to pick the very best person in the Yaxha tribe to talk with. Brian has shown early on that he understands the game play aspect of Survivor. I suspect his friendly demeanor with Gary when asking the question was merely to set the trap. Gary fell for it when he continued to lie. I mean at this point, the gig is up. He had the option there to say ďyeah, I was a backup QB fifteen years ago but I have been running a landscaping business since then. It seems like a lifetime ago.Ē He could throw in some side talk about how the game didnít pay well in those days, especially with the long term health issues most NFL guys have. I think that would have defused the situation. Instead, he chose the route many politicians (well okay, not just politicians even, but everyone) take when busted. He continued to lie. I think I would have opted to defuse the situation.
So how does this play out?
A lot depends on Danni. If she makes it to a merge / tribe switch and ends up with Gary, then this will turn into a he said, she said that benefits neither player. If Danni gets the boot soon than it may indeed die out and not factor at all in the game (but I would be shocked if that were the case given the amount of editing devoted to this story line). The big problem for Gary is that by continuing to lie about it, he is potentially endangering himself down the road, and he could well end up with all the focus of his tribe being on the issue of his truthfulness rather than the actions of other players. He could also be poisoning the jury pool if he were fortunate enough to survive to the end depending upon what information they have access to in Loser Lodge. To me, that danger is worse than taking your chances with the perception that he doesnít ďneedĒ the money. Gary obviously disagrees with me, and feels that trying to keep his secret is more important than the future potential consequences. For his sake in the game, I hope he is right and I am wrong.
For everyone else, we have small glimpses into their game play. Letís summarize it.
Gary, aside from the ticking time bomb of an issue we just covered, this episode confirmed that he is the leader of the Yaxha, not Stephanie. I find that surprising, but clearly the decision on who to boot went through Gary.
We just discussed Brian as part of the Gary issue, but to emphasize the point, I think Brian is the key player in Nakum in terms of playing the outwit side of Survivor. From his confessional comments it is clear that he intends to play an overt game; one that hopefully gets himself into a position of strength. He seems willing to defer to Gary and Stephanie, but it strikes me more as an early game move to stay out of the limelight rather than true allegiance. The question remains open as to if he is any good at this game, but I think there is little doubt he intends to play politics.
Queen Stephanie and her minions: Stephanie got an early wake up call that she was being targeted by some of her tribe and she quickly got into the fray to deflect attention on to others. I think that Brianna, Rafe, Lydia, and likely Amy are all willing to go along with most anything Steph wants to do. She saved herself, and still looks strong in the tribe. The problem is, she rarely shows any desire to take up the mantle of leadership in terms of game play.
Now, I have a lot of respect for Stephanie, but as some of you know, I donít hold her in the same high regard as a player as so many people did last season. Yeah, she is determined, but so are a lot of the folks who play the game, and many of them somehow found ways to win challenges. It has been painted as if Steph was the only hard worker and strong competitor for her tribe in Palau and that simply is not true. They lost because the other tribe turned out to be better (and remember, that didnít seem likely immediately after the random pick was done). Better at working together, better at recognizing their strengths, better at playing the game, and just plain better focused. I have nothing against Stephanie, and I hope she does well at this game, but honestly we are seeing again that she is overrated in terms of the outwit side of Survivor. Very dedicated and hard working? Yes. Great competitor? No question about it. Seems like a great person and good role model? Definitely. If only the game were just about those things. Itís not. She reminds me of Rupert all over again, right down to the amazing popularity.
Stephanie was practically handed the power position in the tribe from minute one, and while she did spend some of that credibility currency to save herself, I didnít see a lot of effort to find out who is targeting her, and working to get that person (Jamie) neutralized. Maybe it happened and we just arenít seeing the results yet, but a true master of the game would not only get the boot target moved from themselves, but on to a rival. Instead, the loss of Morgan means the loss of someone likely to have been a favorable vote for Stephanie.
Lydia found herself under consideration for the boot as well, and as we noted last week, she has been incredibly hard working around the camp. I think that saved her this week. What I did like about her game is that she didnít overreact when she learned that she was in the crosshairs. No. Instead, she worked hard to get herself out of trouble. I find it notable that she went to Gary for this. I think that confirms that for whatever reasons, Gary is the boss. Lydia still has to be concerned. Another Yaxha loss this week and she will be under more pressure. Like Stephanie, Lydia needs to start playing. Hard work is good, but it doesnít win the game. In fact, many times a slacker ends up winning, so Lydia has her work cut out for her.
Jamie currently heads up the Boot Stephanie brigade, membership of one. He tried to go after her but found little to no traction in that approach. Whatís worse, he telegraphed his intentions to anyone and everyone who would listen. Yet, he is in no danger at this point.
Letís say that again.
He went after what might just be the most popular player ever in this game, and someone who is openly idolized by more than one fellow tribe member. He failed miserably in his attempt to boot her. Yet somehow he is getting off free? In most seasons, he would have been the boot last episode. I am still shaking my head at this turn of events. I really am looking forward to seeing what Jamie does next. Does he keep chasing Stephanie? Or does he try to make amends? It should be entertaining.
Overall, I was surprised that the women of Yaxha so easily fell for the idea that the boot had to be a woman. Their women performed just fine in the challenges, and not every one of them will be tug-o-war. I agree with the survivor who pointed out that Morgan would have been good for a balance challenge, and you just know one is on the way. Foreshadowing perhaps?
Over on the Nakum side of the river there are some rivalries heating up due to the hospital ward like atmosphere of the camp.
Blake appears to be on his death bed at all times, except during challenges, whereupon he becomes Mr. Stud and vanquishes all comers. It is quite the dichotomy. Is this a case of someone rising up to a challenge and fighting through the pain to help their tribe? Or is it Blake figuring out that he has a ready made excuse for slacking off in camp, and as long as he performs in challenges, he is likely safe? I donít know the answer, but so far it is working.
Judd is getting fed up with the situation, thatís for sure. He sees through Blakeís situation and knows that in the long run it cannot mean good things for his own chances. He is trying to turn some suspicion on to Blake, and Margaret for that matter. It is a bold play, and one that could backfire. If it works though, then suddenly Judd is in a very strong position in the game, and two rivals will be out of the way. At a minimum, Brandon seems quite interested in the story.
Speaking of Brandon, I am not sure yet what to make of him. I think he is smarter than his mannerisms indicate. I definitely think he is willing to backstab, lie, steal, or otherwise do what it takes to win the game. Is he listening to Judd because he wants in on that action? Or because he wants to use it to save his own hide down the road by turning on the big guy? Hard to say, but as always, time will tell.
Margaret continues to be camp nurse, and has resisted most any opportunity to take on a leadership role. I think she came to Guatemala hoping to play under the radar, and she is trying to get back to that now, despite the fact that game events have overtaken her and she is out in the forefront, like it or not. I think a little flexibility on her part would go a long way. Specifically, donít shy away from the respect she has earned, but instead use it in the tribe to advance her own position, as in booting Judd.
Did you notice how Bobby Jon slipped back into the background last episode? I found it interesting that in the physical immunity challenge, it was Blake who carried the load, not the legendary Bobby Jon. Maybe he is still down from the dehydration problems that plagued him in the beginning of the game, or perhaps this just means he is getting the long term edit. I caution that in the past, getting a lot of camera time one week, followed by little time the next week sometimes adds up to eviction in the third week. If Nakum loses the next IC, who are they going to boot? If Blake continues his Lazarus act but the focus stays on sick guys, then Bobby Jon may be in more danger than he realizes.
Danni was quite talkative during the challenges, at least as related to Gary. Within the tribe though, she seems to be flying under the radar, along with Cindy and Brooke. It is getting crowded in the ďdonít look at me, I am just wallpaperĒ tent. Their strategies work fine as long as there are sick guys to pick off. If that changes though then normally only one person can go far under the radar, and that leaves two too many in this camp alone.
Interestingly, the Nakum have the opposite issue from the Yaxha. This tribe seems to consider only men for their boot pick, while Yaxha only the women. I doubt that trend will keep up, but for now I find it fascinating.
I guess that didnít work
Morgan had her torch snuffed this week and I think the reasons for it were simple. She simply didnít learn in time that she was a target.
After the IC loss this tribe returned to camp and the elimination process began in earnest. There were no obvious boot choices so first Stephanieís name was floated, and she quickly saved herself. Then Lydia was on the block, but she was warned and was able to rally support. That left Morgan next on the chopping block, and either due to time constraints, or perhaps someone figured out that warning the target that they are in trouble is bad, the end result was that she had no way to save herself.
In a repeat of Jimís ouster, the rest of the tribe reached agreement unanimously. Morgan didnít necessarily deserve to lose, but someone had to go, and she was a little too sure she was safe.
It looks like the ants werenít enough protein and now termites are on the menu, plus some local monkeys and crocs try to introduce themselves to the Survivors. See you then.
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