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?
The second episode of Survivor: Palau was notable for its lack of major new alliances, radical shifts in power or memorable new friendships. Ashlee was ejected from the island, and Ulong dominated Koror in a reward challenge. Koror, though, responded with a strong showing at the second immunity challenge.
The State of Ulong
I'm a big believer in the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. In a nutshell, Abraham Maslow's theory can be represented in the form of a pyramid. On the bottom, the foundation, you'll find physiological (food, water, sleep) and safety (stability and security) needs, which are then followed by love (sense of belonging) and esteem (recognition by others) needs.
Under the Maslow model, physiological and safety needs should be met and/or must be met before one should attempt to fulfill love and esteem needs.
So what does a six-dollar psychology concept have to do with Survivor? Well, everything. Notice how any tribe, past or present, attempts to build a fire, erect a shelter, forage for food and create potable water before the secondary concerns of individual tribe members, like forming alliances and proving their worth to the tribe (to avoid vote-off).
Impressed by their own physical prowess, and kneecapped by a slew of personality conflicts, most of Ulong seems to fail in realizing that the groundwork for a self-sufficient tribe, the physiological and safety needs, has not yet been established.
Yes, Ulong won the second reward challenge and secured fishing equipment, but with the Ulong work ethic, that's like handing a mountain bike to a couch potato. Witness how Ulong members took the fishing equipment, poked around a bit until they brought up a fish the size of a guppy, and considered that dinner...for eight. What was each tribe member supposed to do? Lick the fish and pass it along?
Nevertheless, I think there's one thing that Ulong is doing "right," and that's who the tribe have targeted to vote off the island. Like voting in the game show The Weakest Link, a proper voting cycle in Survivor should consist of voting off the "weakest" first (ie those not contributing to the tribe or game). Then, when approximately half the originals are left, comes voting for strategy. ("Who is my ally? With whom would I look better standing in front of a jury?")
The worst and biggest error that groups like these can commit when following "proper" voting is not to capitalize on those ousters. That is, since Ulong has rid itself of Jolanda and Ashlee because of their negative impact on morale, Ulong should work toward rebuilding and reuniting its members in preparation for future challenges. They should take advantage of that period following an advantageous ouster.
Ulong is not doing that. They need to, lest its members take a third trip to Tribal Council in as many weeks.
Of note: The Jeff/Kim romance will likely continue as a source of consternation for the members of Ulong. At this stage, when Jeff is collecting seashells for Kim and Kim is wondering what plants to harvest for home-brewed makeup, Ulong shouldn't be too concerned about what Jeff/Kim may mean in terms of alliances (After all, the numbers are still very much against them), but they will, anyway. In an atmosphere lacking outside stimulation, people will latch onto anything to worry themselves.
Ibrehem fell so far off the radar in the second episode, I forgot he was still on the island. Stephenie has a fair grasp of Ulong dynamics but is not particularly skilled at influencing them (not for lack of trying). Bobby Jon is Gregg's "mirror" on Ulong. Both have been quiet, and it's generally unclear where either stands. In a tribe with no clear leader and no dominant alliance, that's not a bad strategy (if strategy is what it is). After all, why end up on a weaker alliance destined for nothing more than to be picked apart by a stronger alliance that emerges later in the game?
The State of Koror
The most alarming thing that the members of Koror had to face in the second episode was the loss they faced in the second reward challenge. What the members of Koror need to face is that not only did their opponents on Ulong own the challenge and completely destroy their effort, but also that the challenge was purely physical, and they failed miserably at a purely physical challenge.
It's very likely that they'll have to face more physical challenges in the future, a daunting prospect for them at this point. To their credit, Koror learns quickly--they pinpointed Katie as a major contributor to the reward-challenge loss and sat her out in the (more important) immunity challenge in this second episode.
If the previews for next week's episode represent an accurate accounting of events, then Katie is not only a physically disastrous player, but also an instigator of tribe unrest. In that case, keeping Katie on the Koror tribe is, frankly, untenable.
If Katie continues to be the Koror gadfly, the members of Koror ought to consider a risky maneuver--perhaps the riskiest gambit in Survivor--throw an immunity challenge, and vote out Katie. The best and easiest way to make that work is to (1) try and ensure that most, if not all, of the other tribe members are solidly behind the idea and (2) try to make sure that the target doesn't discover the plan (of course).
Another sign to me that the members of Koror learn from their mistakes and know their weaknesses came in the aftermath of the disagreement between Caryn and Tom. Caryn's dressing-down of Tom over leaving their original camp was badly timed and imprudent, even if it had a hint of truth to it. But rather than letting Caryn's outburst demoralize them, I was pleased when the members of Koror chose to try and salvage their missing flint, which seemed as if it had taken a one-way trip to Davy Jones' locker the week before.
The retrieval of the flint and the subsequent first fire helped re-energize this tribe and put them back on the right track. This sort of perseverance impressed me; if Koror continues on a similar tack, here is a tribe that could continue to do well, despite physical challenges that may continue to confound them.
Tom and Gregg need to be careful as they emerge as the tribe's strong backs that the others don't grow to perceive that as a threat (and infer a Tom/Gregg alliance, even if there is none) and eventually vote them out once they think Tom and Gregg's usefulness has come to an end.
I'm curious to see if any alliances emerge or where some of the players stand as the contestants grow accustomed to island life and start playing more of the game as the third episode comes around.