Mayan Meanderings: Episode 4
Mix and Match
Welcome back to this week’s look at Survivor strategy. Each episode we’ll 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.
We have been waiting for some true strategizing this season and by gosh, we got some, thanks to a massive tribe shift. I enjoyed this episode very much. It might go down as one of my favorites of all time. I liked the way the producers pulled it off this time around. I think Mark Burnett learned from All-stars that leaving important twists like this to chance can, and will, lead to Murphy’s Law kicking in, allowing the worst outcome (which in that case was no actual tribe shift outside of Amber) possible.
With this method, you know going in that there will be shift with dynamic impact on the tribes, and you still allow the tribe members to mostly decide the outcome. It was sneaky. First they showed that being picked via the questions would lead to a reward (food and shower). This was then quickly followed by the “picnic” question. It seems most everyone went on guard. Many of them probably suspected (as Amy did, when she asked Jeff if the picnic involved eat tarantulas) that the second food question was a trick. It wasn’t a trick though, and reinforced again that if you win a vote, you get a reward. It was brilliant in that it sent two people, who some folks might have seen as setup candidates, out of the camp for a while so that Jeff could get down to the real business at hand. That being the shift.
The question about tribe pride would normally have been a major red flag. I know if that question had been first out of the chute, I probably would have assumed it was intended to pick team captains for a merge meeting, or even picking new teams one at a time. By the time it came up though, it followed three questions leading to three good rewards and so I think everyone answered it honestly (and I was surprised Stephanie lost). Thus, the twist that being seen as having the most spirit would actually end up being a potential detriment seems just so diabolical that I have to tip my hat to the producer. I was laughing out loud in my living room (which is always a bit concerning to my cat) when it happened.
To summarize the tribe shift:
Gary and Amy from Yaxha, along with Judd and Margaret from Nakum, received the picnic reward, and stayed with their tribes.
Brian of Yaxha and Cindy of Nakum were deemed to have the most tribe spirit, and they stayed with their respective tribes. Brooke pulled the random buff allowing her to stay with Nakum.
That left Stephanie, Jamie, and Lydia changing to Nakum, while Bobby Jon, Blake, Brandon, and Danni shifted to Yaxha.
We’ll look at the impact of these moves through the rest of the article.
The other aspect of this week that I really enjoyed seeing was Stephanie playing the full game of Survivor. I have criticized her in the past for not being a strong player of the outwit aspect of the competition. Well Stephanie, you proved me wrong this week at least, and I was happy to see it.
Stephanie worked with Jamie (who had made noise about booting Stephanie in the past, so kudos to both of them for burying any animosity that may have existed and recognizing that they need each other) to quickly assess the situation. Indeed, it was important for them to find an original member of Nakum who would be willing to “flip”. Their logic, while obvious, was critical in that they needed to move fast. Whichever faction emerged victorious in the next tribal council was pretty much going to have a free pass to the merge, no matter how many challenges Steph’s tribe loses (and the number is getting staggering, I mean even the Kansas City Royals win games now and again).
I say obvious logic, but you should note that the original Nakum members didn’t make much of an effort to do the same thing Stephanie did. They were all hoping, and counting on, a tie. Margaret saw Judd getting chummy with Jamie and Stephanie. That should have been an alert. Brooke heard Stephanie say her name to Judd, which should have been a massive alert that something was wrong.
Margaret did suspect that something was up, but her conversation with Judd was contradictory. How you ask? Well look back at what she was saying. Part of the time she correctly points out that the next tribal council was going to be pivotal in the original Nakum’s members collective future. She also points out, correctly I think, that Judd should be leery of trusting Stephanie and Jamie, especially if they promised to vote off one of their own next, because obviously they don’t have to do that at all if they gain the advantage, and in fact, they likely would not do that. All of that is perfectly valid and good logic.
However, the floor falls out when you follow it up by reinforcing the idea that Judd himself would never get voted out pre-merge if he jumped ship because they would need him for the challenges. Again, that statement is very true. However, by saying that, Margaret inadvertently sealed the argument from Judd’s perspective. If I was in that position, and inclined to be loyal to my original tribe, I would actually be swayed to switch sides after that discussion because even my supposed ally is telling me that jumping sides will get me to the merge.
Put yourself in Judd’s shoes. You have new tribe mates who likely are better at challenges than your original remaining team (remember, Nakum’s physical strength was gutted due to the swap), and they offer you a spot that is potentially clear all the way to the merge (and that logic is agreed with by someone who stands to be hurt if you do it). I think you have to seriously consider the switch in loyalties, and that is before we remember that Judd had no feelings of loyalty to his original tribe to begin with. At this point in the game Judd has to decide what is his best chance to advance far. I think the switch was indeed his best chance (and I say that while not considering him a favorite to win. I think his attitude is going to rub people the wrong way before all is said and done).
The question remains though; will Judd get burned by it? Recall that at the end of tribal council Jeff pointed out that sometimes when you switch sides in this game, it comes back to haunt you. Many times it doesn’t by they way, and if your timing is good, you have little risk. The comment itself was left in by the editors though, so it could well apply here, or it may refer to something else that happens down the road in the game. It will probably be obvious after the season who the comment was intended for.
Let’s briefly discuss Rafe and Lydia. On the surface, it may appear that they are now in the catbird seat. They are loyal members of the new majority faction in Nakum. However, I found it really intriguing that they are in effect blind members of the alliance. Lydia was completely in the dark as to her status, and Rafe only knew that Stephanie hoped that Judd would switch over. When it was time to actually talk shop, it was always Stephanie, Judd and Jamie. It was as if Rafe and Lydia were relegated to the kids table at Thanksgiving dinner (and yeah, I am still bitter about that).
That could well mean that Rafe and Lydia are sacrificial lambs, just waiting for their turn to go home. Yet, it is equally clear that they have a strong bond between each other. These are the types of people Margaret will need to target if she wants to save herself.
It will be interesting to see what Cindy does in the next episode. Her position in tribe was not good to begin with (if Judd is still mad about the howler monkey discussion) but she is relatively efficient in camp, and seems like she could connect with others. One thing is certain; staying under the radar now is not a winning strategy.
Over in Yaxha, Gary returned from the picnic to find his world turned upside down. He goes from being boss dog to hoping to stay out of the limelight long enough to make new friends. His closest alliance mates left with the switch, and now he is being questioned by Danni about his football status. Her skeptical look when he claimed yet again to not be Gary Hogeboom tells you everything. This subject is not being dropped.
Now, that isn’t to say that continuing to lie is not in his best interests. Amy confessed that if she found out he was an ex-NFL player (and note how she assumed he would have to have been a multi-millionaire), she would certainly see to his demise. So while I maintain that Survivor is a game of merit, it is clear that there are a lot of people who see it as some kind of charity contest. At this point though, you have to worry if Gary can keep up the lie. I really think he intentionally stayed out of the club throwing part of the immunity challenge just to avoid being seen throwing something that might bring the issue up yet again.
It amazed me that Danni knows so much about Gary. She knew which obscure college he attended (sorry Central Michigan University Chippewa’s fans). I know from family experience that people who work in radio move around a lot, so even though Danni is in Kansas City now, I wonder if she has interviewed him in the past, or done research as an intern.
Brian immediately figured out that the tribe switch spelled bad news for the original Yaxha’s. He did the best he could to make them all feel at home in their new tribe, while trying to make inroads. At this point, the best thing Brian can do is to continue to work hard, and hope that the crosshairs center on Gary and Amy. As opposed to Cindy, who is being forced to come out from under the radar, I think Brian’s best move is to stay out of the way if he can. Sure, if an obvious opportunity presents itself, then make a new alliance, but if he plays UTR, he might just make it to the merge, where anything is possible.
Amy continues to mask her injured ankle, and I loved how she flashed Gary a dirty look for bringing it up in front of the new tribe mates (though if intentional, I think it was very smart by Gary to do so). I admire the courage she is showing. If you saw the ankle in the one scene by the river, you saw the bruising on the bottom of her foot and side. Having been through that exact same injury before, I can speculate that the bruising is damaged ligaments, and that can hurt worse than an actual break. The sad news for Amy is that such an injury isn’t going to get better as long as she is walking on it, especially if she is not willing to limp.
It’s too bad, but I suspect Amy is in real trouble if Yaxha loses a challenge. She makes an easy target. That said, I would be surprised if Yaxha loses many immunity challenges, as long as those challenges remain physical tests. Yaxha really came out ahead, post shuffle, in terms of strength. Nakum needs to hope for more puzzles.
I guess that didn’t work
Brooke went home this week and she was inadvertently backstabbed when Judd switched allegiance.
I suspect she might have been going home soon anyway no matter the switch. Her original tribe mates didn’t seem to mind that she was the target, and did little to nothing to save her. Yes, this is a very physical game, but I am becoming shocked at how many less than physical players are simply accepting their fate and going away quietly. Come on folks, being good at lifting things is not the only key aspect to playing Survivor!
More fun around the camps as everyone gets used to the new pecking order. I’ll go way out on a limb and predict that the Gary as an ex-QB story gets brought up again. Remember, you read this article to get just that kind of keen insight! See you then.
Do you miss the relatively entertaining discussion by the howler monkeys? I do. firstname.lastname@example.org