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Winners at War – Episode 5: “The Buddy System on Steroids”

Let’s cut to the chase. Spoiler alert: Rob was voted out and it felt so good. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan, mostly because he’s a bully and I can’t respect bullies. Also, I’m usually not a big fan of swaps, but this time it really created interesting dynamics that I’m looking forward to seeing evolve in each of the three tribes. Finally, no Edge of Extinction this week. I should be happy, right? Well, no. Now that Tyson is there I want to see more of that godforsaken place. I know, I’m a hypocrite (told you last week). Well, now that Rob is there, we can expect lots of it in the following weeks.    

 

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

 

Sele

  • Michele Fitzgerald (one token): Wow. We got a first! Two exes on the same tribe! I think it’s a first, right? This is something I really really love about this season. Production doesn’t pretend and doesn’t edit out the fact that these people already know each other and have past relationships, pregame alliances and such. It always bothered me when they did it on previous returnee seasons, always pretending that these people didn’t have a life outside of Survivor. Acknowledging this life outside of the game makes all interactions feel truer, and just more interesting.
    So Michelle and Wendell… I actually had no idea that they had dated before the preview last week. That was indeed pretty awkward, and I think we can all understand the feeling.
    What does it entail in terms of gameplay? Hard to tell. Their reunion wasn’t a very warm one, and we can be sure that there won’t be any alliance between these two.
    Apparently Wendell has wronged Michele somehow. Could Michele manipulate him into believing that all is forgotten only to get revenge on him? That’s the only way I can see the situation affect them in terms of gameplay, but I also don’t see Michele do that. Of course, I don’t personally know her, but I don’t think that she’s that kind of person. Not mentioning the fact that the three men are tight and I don’t see how they can turn on each other before voting at least Parvati out.
    What are Michele’s options then? Well, she’s obviously in the minority here and in danger to be voted out. Luckily for her, Parvati will be voted out before if they are to go to tribal council before the merge. And because they’re voting two people out next week, it’s probably the only vote that Michele will have to survive in order to make the merge and be on safer grounds, as she’ll be reunited with Jeremy, Denise and possibly more.
    I still see Michele going far, even though her story only revolves around things happening outside of the game right now (her win not getting the respect it deserved, her past relationship with Wendell)
  • Nick Wilson (two tokens): Finally, we’re seeing more of Nick. I liked the tidbit about Tyson – of course I did. Is it a hint that Tyson is returning at the merge and that they will indeed work together? Or is it just wishful thinking from my part?
    Also, it was both interesting and awkward that Nick admitted to Parvati that she was his high school crush. I’m wondering why he told her that? Was it just because he had already made that information public and he’d prefer that she learns about it from himself, rather than through hearsay that could lead to a complicated and unpredictable situation, for example right before a vote? Probably. But I can’t help but think that it’s also a way for Nick to lower his threat level. Nick may have read properly that Parvati doesn’t have much respect (in terms of the game) for the recent winners that she hasn’t met yet (see what she said about Adam, it’s safe to say that she thinks the same about Wendell and Nick) maybe he even heard comments she made during a challenge or something. And by appearing a bit silly and dorky like that, Parvati won’t see him coming at her. Remember that Nick is way sneakier than he looks with this angelic smile (he’d definitely be on the Villains tribe in HvV2, even if he’s a hero in real life).
  • Parvati Shallow (four tokens): With this swap, Parvati went from possible next boot to… possible next boot… Don’t get fooled by her conversation with Michele about how they’re going to seduce these men, fracture their alliance or whatever else she said. Ain’t going to happen. It’s not like she has options. She basically only has one option. Her only way to survive right now is to not go to tribal until the merge and find a few idols or advantages in the process.
    Talking about this, she now has four tokens too, she’s a token billionaire, just like Natalie. When will players who are still in the game be able to use them?
    Also, her interaction with Nick could lead to something like when she’s voted out she decides to give him some tokens (although I assume she’d rather give them to Michele) which could make Nick able to use them to his advantage. Remember, he’s the one during episode one who talked about tokens being the key to winning the game. I still believe that this quote matters. Parvati this season? Unfortunately, not really.
  • Wendell Holland (one token): Not much about Wendell this week except that once again, he’ll be building things (I hadn’t realized how awesome Dakal’s camp was compared to Sele’s). He has the beginning of a story going on (the Michele thing), but not sure that it means anything in terms of the game. On a side note, while I don’t want to take sides in their story (remember, we’re only seeing glimpses of what happened on the island, and nothing of what happened off the island), it seems that he did wrong to Michele and that’s how their relationship ended. I’m quite disappointed that Wendell could be the “bad guy” in a relationship gone wrong. Once again, I don’t want to assume anything about what happened in their real life and it’s none of my business.
    However, in terms of depiction in the game, it does tarnish quite a bit the always very positive image we’ve always had of Wendell, even earlier this season despite his lack of screen time.
  • Yul Kwon (one token): Survivor has heroes and villains, always had. It even named one of its best seasons, if not the best, after this idea. However, Survivor also has a superhero and that’s Yul. We already knew he had it all: beauty, brawn and especially brains to quote another Survivor theme, but he also has a heart of gold.
    I had heard that he planned to give his earnings to ALS research, but I didn’t expect it to be part of the show. However, it’s great that they included it this early in the season and not just at the end. The segment with Jonathan Penner and Stacy was heartbreaking. Penner is such a great guy. I can’t imagine what they’re both going through. Actually, I’m including the link with all the details if you want to help. Here it is Survivor Winners at War against ALS.
    Now, because on this blog, I mostly talk about the edit and the storytelling of the show, I must analyze what it entails to have this segment included in the show and this early in the season, and I’m afraid I have bad news for Yul’s fans (I count myself as one of them). It most likely means that he doesn’t win. If he was making it to the end, he would have probably mentioned it during the final tribal council, or at least in a confessional during the last episode. In terms of story, it would make more sense. Now, with the segment being at this point of the season, even if the topic arises again later, it serves one purpose: raise enough money before the end of the season. This probably means that Yul’s two million dollars won’t probably be donated, which means that they’re most likely not going to Yul in the first place. He still is in a very safe spot, and I don’t see how he wouldn’t make the merge at this point, but after the merge, he’ll probably become one of the biggest targets. Even his alliance will realize very quickly that they have no chance to win if he makes it to the end. It’s pretty cruel, but by mentioning what he intends to do with the money if he wins, he’s pretty much assuring that he won’t win.
    In his pregame interviews, he also mentioned that during his first season, he played a very heroic game in order to be a role model for little Asian kids, as such role models are sorely missing on American TV but that this season he’d have no problem being more devious. Come on Yul! You’re just too good of a person to be more devious. I can’t imagine you being more devious than you’ve already been this season. And that’s why we all love you.
    Oh, and by the way you’re still a role model to little Asian kids. My four-year-old son is rooting for you! (he’s half-Asian).
    One final note/reminder: This episode was also a reunion 14 years in the making! Yul and Parvati played together in their original season, I had almost forgotten that! And they’re back on the same tribe. I don’t think that it will lead to anything in terms of the game, though.

The State of Alliances at Sele:

  • Michele and Parvati are finally working together. As I mentioned before, I was surprised that we hadn’t seen more of them together yet, as they’re good friends outside of the game, and that it’s probably one of the reasons Ethan was voted out before Parvati. They could be a killer duo, although Parvati’s longevity in the game will be very short from now on. 
    In the other tribes, they have connections with Jeremy obviously, and Denise to a certain extent. I don’t see them working with Ben and Adam in the future, even less so after they voted Rob out.
  • I assume that Yul, Wendell, and Nick are pretty tight and they have no reason to not remain tight until at least the merge. As I mentioned, things will probably change at the merge, and I can see Nick and Wendell (along with anyone else, many people will probably be on board with the plan) betraying Yul very soon after the merge.
    Their connections in other tribes are pretty much only Sophie at the moment. She could bring Sarah along, but Sarah will have to decide who she can go further with. The answer is probably not them.

 

Dakal

  • Denise Stapley (two tokens and one idol): We got to see some of Denise this week. Glad she’s staying tight with Jeremy. I really hope she makes the merge, but it’s kinda up in the air right now. It may depend greatly on Kim if they have to go to tribal council. She has a pretty positive edit, which is good, but no “story” at the moment, which is bad. Hmmm… She has her idol, though.
  • Jeremy Collins (one token and one “no tribal for me” advantage): He did a great job finding the “crack” as Jeff called it at tribal. It’s interesting because it shows Jeremy in a more positive way than it may have actually happened. Back to the “poker alliance” one member who hasn’t really been mentioned is Jeremy. In other words, Jeremy and Kim are connected. They’re possibly friends already, and they even possibly have a pregame alliance. Yet, it was shown as Jeremy figuring out what was going on at former Dakal by smartly talking to Kim.
    Jeremy has had a very positive edit all season long now, and I think he has smoothly positioned himself in a position of power. He’s got to be careful, if I compare both his past seasons, being in the middle of things is a better strategy for him than being a dominant player. He has slowly but surely slipped into a dominant position.
  • Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (one token and one idol): One of my favorite dynamics on Survivor is when a player who is at the bottom but doesn’t get voted out ends up in a position of power (as the swing vote) sooner or later. I like it because it makes tribe dynamics change in unpredictable ways without the need for production altering that dynamic with yet another twist, and it the same time, there is no warranty that swing position will benefit the player long term. Kim is right there now. She was kinda isolated at Dakal. Kinda allied herself with Sandra and Tony last week, but I don’t see this being a long term thing, more a voting bloc thing. Jeremy, on the other hand, is a friend and possibly a pregame ally. In other words, she holds the power for the next vote at Dakal and she is in the safest position right now, but right now (and next week, obviously) only. Which way are things going to go is anyone’s guess.
    On a side note, Sophie gave Kim her half-idol back. This splitting-idols-in-two thing was a good idea, but the way it’s implemented makes the splitting pretty much useless in the first place, if players return the other half as soon as possible (things may change as we go further in the game).
  • Sandra Diaz-Twine (one hidden immunity idol with an expiration date, zero fire token): Not much about Sandra this week. Oh yes, she had to take part in the challenge, and she didn’t seem happy about that. I loved her face at the end of the challenge. I don’t know if you noticed, but she didn’t look happy to have won at all. Rather relieved that it was over, or even annoyed that she had to take part in the first place.
  • Tony Vlachos (one token): He had a very positive edit, again. When there is a new swing voter taking shape, very often, the tribe that has the majority “in theory” is depicted as unaware that one of them could possibly flip. Here, Tony is perfectly aware of that fact about Kim, and he’s also shown as being fully aware that in returnee seasons, the “big names” are almost always targeted first, so if they want to go far they have to stick together. I really love this season’s Tony. Not as over-the-top as his two first appearances, but smarter and wiser. His edit is almost showing a “complex personality” (yes, I’m using Edgic terms on purpose here)

The State of Alliances at Dakal:

  • Glad to see Denise and Jeremy working together. I doubt that it’s a long term thing, though.
  • Even more glad to see Sandra and Tony working together. I was very sad and disappointed that they went after each other in Game Changers and I’m glad they’ve learned their lesson.
  • Kim really is a free agent at the moment. I could see her aligning herself with Jeremy without cutting ties with her former Dakal teammates. Which could spell trouble for Denise.

 

Yara

  • Adam Klein (one token): Not so much about Adam. He got screen time but was quiet for most of the time. I was a bit frustrated that he was letting Rob bully him again. I remember almost shouting at my TV asking Adam to tell Rob to f… off. Honestly, I don’t understand how people let him walk all over them all the time. Well, I kinda understand this season. Rob really didn’t have any power, but other players gave him the illusion that he had any and got rid of him when needed. Rob was just a tool this season, and that’s much better than telling him to f… off in the end. More on that in a couple of paragraphs. One interesting thing about Adam is that every episode he has a lot of content, and he’s the most complex character so far, however, his edit is a bit negative, including even unnecessary things like him fumbling around at tribal, not once but several times. I’m afraid that means that he’s in it for the long haul, probably even final three, but that he’s not the winner. Talking about the tribal council, is it just me or was there a note in the voting booth that he looked at, but didn’t pick up?
  • Ben Driebergen (one token): Not much to say about Ben either, except for the fact that I like him more and more (yes, I did say bad things about him previously, well, I like his portrayal this season much better). I also loved how he played Rob the same as Adam.
  • Rob Mariano voted out: Well… Can’t say that he didn’t have it coming. And I can’t say that I’m unhappy about the outcome. I know he has his fans, but I could never stand the guy. It started as early as Marquesas when he took out Hunter and Gina (I was rooting for Gina, I may or may not had a crush on her at the time – and, fun fact, we lived in the same city at the time, and I may have briefly met her before she was on the show – when I say “briefly” I mean a few minutes) and was overall unpleasant. Sure strategically speaking, he “invented” taking out the bigger threats before the merge things, but that led us to many disappointing post-merges afterward. I really hated him on All-Stars, Lex’s betrayal is a big no-no in my book. In Heroes vs Villains the edit tried to depict him in a positive way, but sorry, didn’t work for me. And the last nail in the coffin was Redemption Island when he revealed more than ever the bully that he was. He tried to do that again this season, he just forgot that you can’t treat other returnees and especially winners the same way you treat newbies that are starstruck by you.
    The thing with Rob is that he is the perfect example of the “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
    Why is he such a threat?
    Well, pretty much for one reason only: because people consider him as a threat!
    The only power he has ever had is the power that the other players give him. Sure, it’s true for a lot of people on Survivor. “Perception is reality” and all that. However, contrary to most players, his entire strategy relies on it. This season and his interactions with Ben and Adam are a perfect example of this. At first, they were starstruck and he played them like a fiddle, especially Ben. Then, when they decided that they had enough of him and stopped giving him any power, he just became useless.
    Because he has no other strategy!
    The only way he knows how to play is to have people give him power. He always talks about adaptability, and while he showed some in Marquesas (barely) and All-Stars (a little more), he had none in Heroes vs Villains, Redemption Island or Winners at War. He just pulled his Robfather act. Except that it doesn’t work with returning players, especially not winners. And when his tired-and-tried strategy doesn’t work, well… he simply folds… He can’t scramble, and he can’t even look for idols. It was really sweet justice this week to see him try to do his “buddy system” thing to Ben and Adam. Earlier I said that they should have just told him to f… off, but they actually played it perfectly. They let him think it worked, and then they slew him. And it was awesome to see them doing it, no need for words, as Rob didn’t want any.
  • Sarah Lacina (zero tokens, one “steal a vote” advantage): She’s really impressing me this season. Even more than during Game Changers. They’re even showing a more positive, relaxed and overall fun Sarah compared to the season she won. Her strategical game is as good as usual, but her social game is amazing. She’s making friends with everybody, she knows what to say and when to say it. Did you notice that little moment when Rob was interrogating her about what happened to Amber and instead of telling the truth or lying in a way that could hurt her later, she simply through Tyson under the bus, as he won’t be able to defend himself and tell the truth before Rob reaches the Edge of Extinction.
    Some people are wondering why she didn’t play her advantage at tribal, that it was a very risky move. Actually I believe that there is an important part of tribal that we didn’t see. The part when the four tribe members totally undermined Rob, and said something along the lines of “So, Rob doesn’t want us to speak strategy before tribal? Fine, let’s do it during tribal then”. And then proceeding to decide together to vote out Rob, right in front of him, and him being totally unable to do anything. It’s a shame we didn’t see that part, because I’m pretty sure it happened either during tribal or right before.
  • Sophie Clarke (one token and one idol): She’s playing as well as Sarah if not better. There isn’t much about her that I haven’t said, but she’s being as smart as usual, and her social game has improved quite a bit too. I loved the scene when she found the idol and how it was edited. Once again, Rob tried to flush out idols by “searching” people and Sophie managed to fool him just like Denise managed to fool him. Also, her mastery of what was being said at tribal and how she answered Probst’s questions was amazing. 

The State of Alliances at Yara:

  • Sophie and Sarah are together for now. They should stay together, but alliances may become complicated very soon, as now Sophie is with Yul (who is with Nick and Wendell too) but also with Sarah who is with Tony who is also with Sandra. Etc. Not sure that all these people (basically old Dakal minus Kim) will all stay together for very long at the merge.
  • Adam and Ben kinda have been together without really be together since day one. It will be interesting to see what happens if they have to go to tribal again next week. Will they stick together and force a tie and see what happens or will they vote against each other, each trying to have the women vote with them. I think the latter.

 

The Edge of Extinction

Sorry, I’ve got nothing for you.
I’m just keeping the list of people there to keep track of their tokens.

  • Amber Mariano (one token)
  • Danni Boatwright (one token)
  • Ethan Zohn (one token)
  • Natalie Anderson (four tokens)
  • Tyson Apostol (zero tokens)

 

“Warrior” of the Week

I started this little thing during Blood Vs Water, the “don’t let that fool you” award (credit to Gervase for inspiring the name). Every week, I give an award to the “impact player” of the week, the player who made the biggest difference, the biggest move, who affected the game the most that week. Note that it can be a positive or a negative (orchestrate a blindside or on the other hand royally screw up his game or his alliance’s).

  • A difficult choice this week.  I think that this week, the Warrior of the Week is a group of people and I give it to the four people who voted Rob out. Sure, through the edit, it seems that the women were in charge, but Ben and Adam are as responsible of the outcome as Sarah and Sophie, almost even more so.

 

Winner Pick

First of all, I want to congratulate the editors this season for not having an obvious winner from the beginning. Sure, I can’t shake that clear winner edit that Tyson got during episode one, and he’s still on my list of potential winners, if only because of that.

Apart from him, I think the list of potential winners is finally getting a bit shorter. While it’s very possible that now that Rob is gone, the focus on some players may shift (and the ones not involved in the Rob storyline at all may finally get more screen time), according to what we saw so far, it seems that the winner will be one of these people:

  • Sarah
  • Sophie
  • Tony (yes, Tony is a potential winner, he’s having a positive edit and hasn’t been a target yet which is incredible)
  • Michele
  • Jeremy

Last week I still thought that Adam had a good chance, but now I think that he’ll probably be a losing finalist.

Nick‘s story has been picking up pace after being almost invisible in the beginning, but it may be too little too late. He needs a story or something. Right now he doesn’t, except maybe the “fan” meeting his heroes. He still could have a “coming of age” storyline starting with the Tyson and Parvati things. Is it a little far-fetched? Maybe.

Unfortunately, I think Yul lost his spot as a potential winner for the reasons expressed in his paragraph.

 

Next Person Voted Out

Two tribal councils next week… Hmmm…

Let’s see for each tribe:

  • Sele: I don’t think Parvati can survive a vote there without an idol and she doesn’t have one.
  • Dakal: Kim should be the swing vote. Sandra or Tony seem like obvious boots, but Denise and Jeremy are not the tightest and Kim could convince Jeremy to vote her out. It’d be foolish for Jeremy to accept, but you never know. Otherwise, it could be the end of Sandra. 🙁
  • Yara: Ben and Adam will have to target each other and who knows who will come out victorious (I suspect Adam).

 

Next Time on Survivor

Edge of Extinction action from Tyson (I admit I can’t wait), and two votes.

 

More reading

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