Mayan Meanderings Episode 12: Playing the Playahs
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?
I like Danni and I find Judd to be an obnoxious boor. Therefore, I was happy, to say the least, with the way Days 31 through 33 played out. Judd committed the classic mistake of assuming that his alliance was rock solid without bothering to continually revisit his standing in the game. As is usually the case at this point, who wins the next immunity challenge could have a huge effect on the outcome of the game. Without any more ado, let’s examine what happened and the relative positions of the remaining five going into Day 34.
As always, the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the management. Contrary views will be considered and then promptly dismissed.
And Then There Was One
As the episode opened, Danni clearly recognized she was in serious trouble. After all, she is the last member of Yaxha standing. For the first time since the Nakum and Yaxha tribes merged, we got some real insight into Danni’s plan and strategy. She found it amusing that everyone else avoided talking about what happened at the tribal council where Gary was booted and thinks they are all scared. She also recognized that Lydia was still on the outs with her former alliance and would vote with her. Danni thought that all it would take is turning one more person to get something started. As she said, the perfect little alliance is going to have to start breaking up and attacking each other because they can’t all go to the final spot. Although she was realistic about her chances of surviving beyond the next tribal council, Danni was determined to keep fighting until the tribe spoke.
Going Once, Going Twice . . . Sold
I don’t remember auctions in past seasons giving much insight into tribal politics and where everyone felt they stood. This one did. Allowing the Survivors to pool money to share items showed who was close to whom. Auctioning off a huge advantage at the upcoming immunity challenge gave us a look at who felt secure enough not to care about immunity. The auction was also where Judd made a misstep that eventually led to his ouster.
Rafe and Danni started off bidding individually on the mosquito netting but quickly decided to pool money and try to buy it together. After that, the two of them teamed up on the mystery item that turned out to be a Philly cheese steak and fries. Their main competition for the cheese steak was Judd and Stephenie. Frankly, I was surprised that Rafe didn’t ask Cindy if she wanted to pool their money on any of the items. Caveat: We did not see all of the items which were auctioned off because the amount of money left at the end was less than the amounts that would have been remaining after what we saw spent. So, we may not have seen some of the Survivors working together. At the end when the loved ones were up for bid, Cindy willingly gave Judd her remaining money while Lydia did the same for Stephenie.
When the immunity envelope was being auctioned, Lydia and Cindy didn’t even bother to raise their hands. In Lydia’s case, it may simply have been that she didn’t think there could be a big enough advantage in the envelope to allow her to win a challenge. Cindy clearly didn’t think she needed the immunity. Even though Danni had already bought two items and Stephenie had enough money so that she could have outbid Danni, Stephenie let Danni buy the immunity advantage for $200. That was a decision that Stephenie already came to regret at the immunity challenge. It may turn out to haunt her further.
After Judd won the right to have his wife come back to camp, Jeff sprung a twist on him. Judd got to invite two other survivors’ loved ones to also visit camp while the other three survivors would not get so much as a hug and would spend the night at the former Yaxha camp. In Judd’s defense, he had no time to think through his choices. Nevertheless, he made a really dumb decision. Judd had to invite Cindy’s twin sister, Mindy because Cindy gave him the money which allowed him to purchase the night with his wife. That decision was right on. His other invitee was Steph’s boyfriend, Michael. Not only did that make it obvious to everyone else in case they’d been asleep previously that Judd was most loyal to his “Jersey girl,” but it also gave Danni and Lydia the opportunity to spend time alone with Rafe and work on him. Judd should have chosen to invite either Lydia’s brother or Danni’s brother so that two alliance members would be in each camp.
When Judd was alone at camp with his wife, he demonstrated how confident he was in his alliance with Steph, Cindy, and Rafe telling her that the alliance was tight as it can be. He also told his wife that he hoped Steph would take him to the final two. I’m not sure why he thought it would be Steph’s decision who would make the final two since she has yet to win an individual challenge. Steph acknowledged that she owed Judd big time because it was the second time he had shared a big reward with her. As we learned later, Steph’s gratitude only went so far though.
We hardly saw any of what happened at the Old Yaxha camp between Rafe, Danni, and Lydia. We did get to witness an interesting conversation between Rafe and Danni and confessionals from the two of them. During the conversation, Rafe told Danni that he trusted her a lot and that Judd was the only member of his alliance that he thought was ready to break from the alliance. Danni informed Rafe that Gary had told her she could trust Rafe a lot. Danni mentioned that numbers wise Judd or Cindy was going to have to approach her. She also promised to let Rafe know if Judd talked to her or Lydia about voting Rafe out. Rafe made it clear to Danni that he is way closer to her than to Judd. He also told her that they needed to catch Judd in some sort of a lie to turn Steph against him because Steph really trusted Judd.
During the confessionals, Danni was hopeful that Rafe realized how important she was to keep around because the alliance had to start turning on itself and the other members of the alliance had to see Rafe as a threat at this point. Rafe acknowledged that Judd might try to get him out sooner rather than later. Rafe also let us know how he viewed Judd saying the only thing you can trust about Judd is that you can’t trust him.
While we didn’t see anything else that happened, based on later developments, Danni and Lydia must have had a conversation about how to isolate Judd and try to make sure his torch was the next to get snuffed.
At Xhakum, Judd and Cindy were feeling confident that their alliance would be the final four even if Danni were to win immunity because of the envelope. In fact, Cindy was dismissive of Danni saying that she wasn’t much of a mental or physical threat unless she was shooting baskets. Mindy tried to nudge her sister by saying that Danni must have done something to still be in the game. Cindy may regret underestimating Danni before the game is over.
Going for the Juddular
After returning to Xhakum, Lydia took an opportunity to talk to Judd who was per usual sitting up on the ruins. She got him to talk about the game by asking him if he thought he had a good shot at the million and how badly he wanted to get to the final two. Judd made it clear he wanted the final two badly. Lydia prodded him by telling him he needed a game plan then. Danni, presumably not by accident, joined the two of them using a pitcher of water as an excuse to show up.
During the ensuing conversation, Judd admitted to still being upset about Jamie’s ousting. He told Lydia that he knew who the mastermind was but that if he were to say something he’d be screwed. He also said that he knew who the threats were among the remaining survivors and that he had no trouble getting rid of them.
Danni was delighted by the conversation because of what she had learned from Rafe the previous day and Rafe’s statement that he thought they could get Steph’s vote if they could catch Judd plotting against the alliance. Danni started to have hope of improving her position and admitted that she and Lydia were desperate and would stick with Rafe.
She recognized that she had a little bit of a crack in the alliance and that the longer she could stick around the more potential problems she could cause.
At the immunity challenge, Cindy’s strategy was odd unless she was purposely sacrificing herself to try to pin in Danni and Lydia. Cindy went straight to the top and then spun herself so that she was between Lydia and Danni. This meant that she took several potential tiles out of play for the two of them. Danni won immunity solely because she chose to use the card she had purchased at the auction to switch places with Stephenie. In fact, she seemed to get a little nudge from Jeff who commented that Steph had carved herself out a nice piece of real estate right before Danni exercised her right to switch. After Steph turned over her last tile and was eliminated, an emotional Danni couldn’t suppress tears of relief over her win.
Back at camp, Danni tried to downplay her victory to the others saying that she was surprised by her win and asking the others if they were surprised. In confessional, Danni admitted that she thought she’d be going for sure and that her win was about the biggest immunity she could ever win. She was also excited at the possibility that something could work out even more so in her favor at tribal council.
Danni capitalized on her suddenly safe position and Steph’s vanity when she was preparing corn with Stephenie. When Steph asked Danni what Judd had said to her, Danni nonchalantly said that he said he was still upset about the Jamie situation and that he felt betrayed. At that point, Steph’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head. Danni then continued to fuel Steph’s sudden doubts about Judd telling her that he said the key is to eliminate the strongest players (which Steph automatically assumed meant her). Danni also reminded Steph that Judd constantly talked about them all being squirrels after the same nut. Danni mentioned to Steph that Judd acted like he didn’t know what he was doing but he did.
In confessional, Stephenie said that she’d like to believe Judd. However, she knows he’s playing the game to win and that he’s lied quite a few times. Danni, on the other hand, really hadn’t lied at all.
When Steph and Rafe got an opportunity to discuss things, Steph told him that Judd was pulling a Jamie and relayed what Danni had told him about Judd’s conversation with Lydia. Stephenie’s first inclination was to get rid of Judd as a result. Rafe, demonstrating what a smart player he is, told her that they needed to think about it because it was a big thing to do.
Eventually, they must have decided that eliminating Judd was their best option since we saw them tell Danni that they would do whatever it takes. They felt like they had tried to be honest with each other while Judd had lied. The two of them told Danni that if Judd went at tribal council, Lydia would go next and the final four would be Steph, Rafe, Danni, and Cindy. Danni obviously was pleased by this turn of events. For some reason that I can’t fathom, Steph seemed to think there was some doubt that Lydia would vote to eliminate Judd. What Steph? She’d rather guarantee her own ouster? The three of them debated whether to tell Cindy about the switch in plans. Based on the vote at tribal council, it is clear that they decided against letting her in on the new plan. By the time they headed to tribal council Steph had managed to justify turning on Judd to herself. As a result, she lost her strongest ally and a potential jury vote. Smooth move there Steph.
Judd meanwhile appeared oblivious to his coming dismissal. He told Steph and Rafe that he had to tell Lydia something so he said that none of them are safe. He jokingly told Lydia not to vote for him that night after he overheard her offering her vote to Rafe. He went to tribal council expecting his alliance to hold and Lydia to go. When the others were asked about how they were deciding who to vote out at this point, they were all diplomatic. Judd, on the other hand, said that everyone wants someone to go at this point and appeared annoyed. His exit made it blatantly obvious that he didn’t expect to be the one going. Apparently, no one but Judd was supposed to be playing the game.
Handicapping the Horses
With only five players and two episodes left, someone is closing in on winning the cash. From favorite (in the sense of in the best position to win) to long shot:
Rafe-The two biggest strikes against Rafe are that he has shown himself to be an immunity threat and that he is liked by everyone. In other words, if he makes the final four, he has a good chance of winning the last two immunities and if anyone else wins the final immunity challenge, they would be crazy to take Rafe with them to face the jury. Rafe needs to keep his game face on and step it up in the challenges.
Stephenie-In some ways, Steph is the biggest long shot. That appears to be true when it comes to winning first prize. When it comes to being in the final two though, she is in great shape. She still appears to have the others hypnotized into not even considering voting her off. She’d also be a great person to face in the final two. Steph needs to keep her eye on the others though or there may be a palace coup.
Cindy-Cindy can’t be happy that she was left out of the decision to oust Judd. She needs to soft pedal her feelings back at camp and make sure she solidifies her alliance with Rafe and Steph. Cindy is one of the stronger players left physically and a definite threat to win immunity.
Danni-Danni seized every opportunity that presented itself in the three days prior to Judd’s ouster. Now she needs to keep in mind that she and Lydia are still a minority and that she is in every bit as much danger of going home next tribal council as Lydia because she is more of a threat than Lydia both physically and as a final two opponent. Being liked can save your behind early in the game but puts a target squarely on your back the longer you last.
Lydia-For weeks all we saw was Lydia the willing pawn who was happy to go along with the majority. The last two episodes, we’ve seen a very different Lydia. First we saw a woman who resented Steph’s dominion over the tribe and then we saw a player willing to do what was necessary to save herself. Lydia can’t count on winning immunity unless the challenge involves the pancake dance. She’s also upset the queen. She really needs to hope someone else draws the focus away from her before the next tribal council.
What’s your favorite nut? I’m partial to almonds. firstname.lastname@example.org