Palau Perspective Episode 8: Time to Get Your Ducks in a Row, Koror
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?
Mark Burnett seems to have foresworn benign intervention, and this week a pitiable Ulong gasped out its last breath as a team. If the definition of “team” = a group of more than one persons who work together for their common good. The team is no more, but will Ulong continue as a force (albeit a diminutive force) in Palau? Will Burnett stand by and watch The Castaway play out in the deserted Camp Ulong? Stay tuned for that. Let’s move on to the current strategies.
The Strong Man Alliance (+ Katie)
Tom continues to reign as uncontested leader of Koror and owner of the title “Biggest Immunity Threat Since Australia Colby.” This places the largest target securely on his back. But Tom has several positives going for him. First of all, he seems completely aware of that bulky target and the forces that will rise up against him. There are some sharp wits hiding behind that finger-lickin’ tasty exterior. Second, he has a good chance of wearing the immunity necklace fairly often. Third, he seems to have a rock solid alliance in Ian and Katie—I’ve yet to see a sign of cracking there. Fourth, should the worst possible scenario (for him) pan out, and Gregg/Jen join with Coby and Janu, he still has Caryn floating around as a vote up for the wooing. Fifth (and HUGE/YUGE), he has a secret alliance with the last surviving member of Ulong. If there is a merge next week, I’m sure Stephenie will be only too thrilled to be offered a spot in the Strong Man Alliance (+ Katie).
We saw an interesting move by the SMA+K in this week’s reward challenge. Why did Tom and Ian, arguably the strongest Koror players, both volunteer for the reward challenge, automatically barring themselves from the much more vital immunity fight? Was this an attempt to throw the immunity challenge without being directly responsible? Were they trying to keep Stephenie and Bobby Jon alive in hopes of a merge? Or just to pick someone off their own tribe pre-merge? Or were they simply trying to direct attention away from themselves as physical threats? Since immunity was still taken by Koror (whether to their chagrin or delight), we don’t know the answer to those questions.
It’s inevitable that Tom’s name will come up in the discussion of the first tribal council for the Kororians, but he has a very good chance of coming through unscathed even without the jewelry. The opposition is much less loyal to their alliance than Tom’s alliance is to him.
Tom’s trusted sidekick Ian seems to be worth the trust placed in him. From everything we’ve been shown, Ian has Tom’s back to the end. Of course, as the slightly weaker member of the unshakeable duo, his target is nearly as large as Tom’s. If Tom takes the Immunity necklace and the opposition organizes itself, Ian will be the obvious boot choice. However, like Tom, he shares the key knowledge of what he is up against, and the strong, solid, articulated alliance of three (or four, in the event of a merge). I was particularly pleased to hear these two discuss Gregg and Jen as a weak link in the larger Koror alliance. Hopefully Superman and Boy Wonder won’t be taken by surprise there.
Katie lucked out. On a weaker team, her lazy behavior and weak people skills might have spelled her doom during team play. As it stands, she hits the individual portion of the game running. She’s part of the tightest alliance now functioning, but the least visible of the group in case the numbers turn against them. She can coast under the radar without any need to win immunity herself until Tom and Ian (and Stephenie?) are gone. In the event that she’s the last of her alliance left, she should be able to turn her lack of physical skill into a plus and place herself as a harmless swing vote. Barring some kind of huge mistake in her personal behavior, Katie’s name won’t be written down at tribal council for a long time.
Will Stephenie join the SMA+K next week? Only Burnett can say. But, if she does, this is how I see her chances. First off, she’s in great condition for the sole surviving member of a rotten team. Tom and Ian seem eager to keep their early agreement with her. With her oft showcased physical prowess, Steph should be the clear choice for the first torch snuff of the individual game. That first immunity challenge would have been win or lose-it-all for her. Instead, she slides into a spot in the golden alliance. It’s mostly luck on both sides, but a better choice couldn’t have been made by Tom and Ian. I think Stephenie will prove a valuable asset to the alliance, as she has the potential to help keep the immunity necklace in SMA+K hands. Also, thrilled to have her alliance welcome her with open arms (something she can’t be counting on after all this time), she will probably prove very loyal.
I for one would love to see things work in the SMA+K’s favor. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a strong player finally beat out the under-the-radar passive-aggressive player to the prize? Maybe I’m the only one who longs to see that… But on to the opposition.
The Bachelor Alliance
The only other alliance that compares in cohesiveness to Tom and the Gang is the lovers, Gregg and Jen.
Jen is in pretty good shape as an under the radar player. She’s a fringe part of the larger Koror alliance with Tom and Co., so should she choose (or should Gregg choose for her, I should say) to stick with that group she’ll make the top seven without breaking a sweat. As an obvious non-threat, no one is going to worry too much about getting rid of Jen, unless there is an anti-Romber II push. Her partner in love and war, Gregg, has a bigger target at this point. But Jen’s biggest enemy is her own lack of strategy. She seems less interested in the million dollars than she is in Gregg’s hammock cuddles. Her fate is thus tied to his, and if he makes a wrong step, she’ll be totally lost.
Gregg’s alliance of two is exactly as tight as he wants it to be. Jen is loyal to him, but I don’t believe he sees himself tied to her as strongly. He’ll stab her in her tanned and trim back if it pushes him forward in the game.
Gregg sees himself in control of this game. One the one hand, he has Tom, Ian, Katie and Jenn—unbeatable numbers. On the other hand he has Coby, Janu and Jenn—enough for a majority if they sit back and target Caryn before betraying Tom. He thinks he will decide the direction this game will take from here on out. The only problem with this picture is the things he doesn’t know. Most importantly, he doesn’t know that Tom and Ian are considering him as a threat. Also, he doesn’t know about the alliance with Stephenie. Possibly he’s considering trying to pull Stephenie in to his Anti-Tom plans in the event of a merge, but probably he just sees her as the path-of-least-resistance vote for the first group tribal. Koror has stuck together so long, what’s one more immunity decision, right? Wrong, Gregg. I don’t think Gregg realizes how quickly he could become enemy #1 to the SMA+K. Like many before him who have gloried in the power of choosing sides *coughDollycoughChristycough*, Gregg may soon find himself hearing the tribe speak. On the plus side for Gregg, though, he has a pretty good chance at wearing the all-powerful necklace himself. And won’t Jenn be disappointed when he doesn’t pass the bling along to her!
The Un-Allied Alliance
Anti-Tom-ism abounds at Club Koror, but there is little organization of the resentful.
Coby has shown himself to be a cerebral player with a surprisingly strong physical game. He’s been anxiously awaiting the strategic scrambling from day one. But how is he set up for the onset of the madness? We’ve heard him speak a little of an alliance with Janu, but he’s also wished some Michael Skupin action on her and all the Koror ladies for their indolence. This week he seemed quite negative toward her in his ranting. Is there really an alliance there? He has his deal with Gregg the Double Agent, but he can’t completely count on Gregg sticking to it. For a schemer, Coby doesn’t seem to have too many pots in the fire. However, his name is low on the boot list from any perspective, so he’ll have some time for scheming ahead if he keeps his head down under the radar. As long as he saves his diva rantings for the cameraman, he’ll be okay for now.
If there is no alliance between Janu and Coby, then I don’t know what her strategy is, unless it is “get voted off ASAP so I can sleep in a real bed.” For someone who has been given as free a ride as any survivor before (Home Depot mansion, my eye!), Janu is in miserable shape. She has abundant food, a bathroom, a hammock, and she rarely has to participate in a challenge. What does she have to complain about? Her physical deterioration is her biggest enemy right now (unless getting voted off really is her plan), as she might fall prey to a pity vote-off ala Ulong Jeff.
The No Man is an Island Except for Caryn Non-Alliance
I am very curious as to what Caryn thinks of her own situation in this game. She seems to have no alliances in place. Had Koror ever gone to tribal council before the merge, she was next in line after Willard to take the long walk toward the chocolate. She doesn’t get along with Katie, who, being the K in the SMA+K, is not the safest enemy to have. If no merge occurs, Koror might simple follow the previously agreed upon boot order and send her to loser lodge. Does she not realize her own precarious standing? Or is MB hiding her plotting from us? On the plus side for Caryn, many Survivor winners have been outsiders in her position. As the two big opposing powers eye each other around the counsel fire, smaller players are often overlooked. Like Chris last season, she could ride her outsider swing vote to the end. Perhaps Caryn is counting on a merge, thinking whichever Ulong joins the crew will be the sacrificial lamb. If that’s what she’s hoping, she’s in for a rude awakening.
If there is no merge, it changes Stephenie’s game situation dramatically. If the useless Koror women are forced to face the solo Ulong in challenges, Stephenie could go on alone for quite a streak of wins. Still, the curse of Ulong may be just too strong for her to conquer. In a merge-less situation, Stephenie is in the same position as if she had no alliance waiting at Koror—she must win every immunity challenge to continue. How long can she carry on that way? Living in solitude would be her biggest trial, I think, as she might not be able to provide for herself physically. Lack of companionship might drive her to name the immunity idol Wilson (or Willard?) and bond with him. If Burnett is so deliciously cruel as to leave Steph on her own, I hope the camera man assigned to her is Raoul, a part-time male model with a French accent and years of experience in massage therapy.
Ah, poor, befuddled Bobby Jon! He has gone the way of all Ulongians. Actually, I think he made pretty good choices all things considered. Keeping the strongest players in the game was Ulong’s best bet. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out in any wins. Bobby Jon had the physical ability, but no cunning. Sadly, he is also unable to finish a jigsaw puzzle with more than twenty-five pieces (ages 4 and up). He wouldn’t have lasted long after a merge anyway—there are too many alpha males at Koror that wouldn’t have welcomed him. Bye, bye Bobby Boy. You were pretty. *sigh*
Well, we stand now at the great crossroads of the Survivor season: the beginning of the individual game. Next week will turn the complacent Korors upside down. Are you as giddy as I am?
I’m sure I missed something, but I’m busy with Raoul at the moment…so send me an email if you have anything to add: firstname.lastname@example.org