Wow! What an episode! Of course, this season promised to deliver, but before things get going, there is always a little fear that it won’t deliver. I think that the season is getting its stride now and that it will grant us a lot of amazing upcoming episodes, don’t you think?
Sure, we lost a lot of big names in just a few episodes, but that was expected. It is almost always what happens with returnee seasons.
The big names and big egos don’t work well enough together, even when they say they will, and it’s the “lesser threats” that take control of the game.
Before we go into the detail of each player and tribe, two general comments:
- Finally, the fire tokens are being used by players as bartering tools, and that’s a great addition of the game. I’m pretty sure Jeff Probst will never read these lines, but you see, Jeff, when you say that we don’t like any of the twists, it’s not true at all. We hate the twists that create forced drama and uncertainty. That makes us feel that production is trying to intervene with what happens in the game.
What’s great with the fire tokens is that they’re just there. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen with them is driven by what the players decide to do or not do with those tokens, with little to no intervention from the production. Those twists can deliver and trigger great gameplay. Those are the twists that we like (when they work). And so far, the fire tokens work.
- Am I the only one who was shocked that during the challenge, basically nine rather big bags of rice were just thrown away in the sand and wasted? I don’t know if it’s because I currently live in Japan where rice is basically sacred (traveling hint if you visit Japan: Do not ever waste rice! Eat all of your rice, to the last grain. I mean it.) or if it’s because my parents simply told me to not waste food, but that felt very wrong to me when I watched the challenge.
- Michele Fitzgerald (four tokens): I believe that she made a huge mistake this week. Her first one this season. Her best option this week was to do what Jeremy did basically (as they were both in the same situation); lay low, try to make one or two good friends with the dominant three, and simply vote Parvati out. She didn’t. Instead, she tried to negotiate a strange deal with Wendell. A deal that he had no reason to accept. Wendell had nothing to gain and a lot to lose from that deal (never accept a deal that includes receiving votes against you, never). I don’t know how Michele thought he would accept. Because of their off-game history together? That it would be a way for him to redeem himself from any wrong he may have done to Michele while they were dating? I don’t know.
I like Michele. I already told you that. I think she deserves her win, but I also think that she’s one of the weaker players this season. She still can go far, she still can win, but as Nick said, she needs to grow a backbone in order to be able to play in such a season, where betrayals and blindside will happen left and right pretty soon. While she’s one of the most recent winners, it’s true that her style of playing is almost old school. Mixing personal feelings and strategy could work well in the past, not so much nowadays (well, even back in the days, some of the best players were the ones who could separate feelings from strategy).
- Nick Wilson (two tokens): He’s playing quite a good game overall. It’s a shame we don’t see more of him, but right now he’s not rocking a boat that doesn’t need to be rocked. His possibly aligning himself with Parvati was just a misdirection. I’m sure he’s much tighter with Wendell and Yul than it was implied. Oh, and don’t make fun of him for his crush on Parvati back in the days. Tell me that you’ve never had a crush on anyone on Survivor. The only difference is that we’ve never had to play with them afterward.
One interesting thing that he said at tribal was that his or Wendell’s style of play (when they won) only works if everyone respects that way of playing and plays it too. During their season, everyone (who had a chance to win) played that way, but is it the case now?
- Parvati Shallow voted out: There was no way she was going to make it far this season. And the writing has been on the wall for quite a while already, probably since Danny’s elimination.
However, she really squandered the tiny chance she had to survive when she tried to play Wendell. Whether he was actually willing to work with her or not remains to be seen and will be discussed in the next paragraph, but she really mismanaged the situation at tribal council.
She must have known that she was toast at this point, and Wendell seemed to be offering her a possible way out, and what did she do? Played hard to get? Come on Parv’ I thought you were a better player than that. Yes, she’s a legend, she finished first and second in what are regarded as the best seasons ever, but the game has evolved more than she’s willing to admit. She’s been looking down on the more recent players (Adam a few weeks ago, Wendell this week) when the truth is that they understand the current game much better than she does.
I couldn’t believe that she refused to give a name when Wendell asked for one at tribal. Even though Wendell was very unlikely to flip, if she had given a name then, maybe, just maybe, Wendell would have voted along with her Michele. Or at least she could have created some chaos at tribal council and try to sow division between the three men.
So long Parvati. You were an amazing player ten years ago. This time, while I admit the cards were stacked against you (although they weren’t at the very beginning), you didn’t impress me at all, basically acting like you were still this unstoppable force, but only in words, unfortunately.
- Wendell Holland (one token): Let’s start with the fact that Wendell has been getting a lot of nasty comments and attacks on Twitter at the end of the episode (including a certain number of racist ones). People, people, people. Don’t you know it’s not OK to harass people online? Why do you think you can do that? I just don’t get it.
Also, while it’s OK to dislike a player (and I dislike quite a few, as you may be aware), you always need to keep in mind that what we see is just a tiny tiny part of the story. A story that is created through editing. Of course, all the things we see actually happened, but the way it happened may not always exactly be the way it is shown. In other words, while we have hints, we don’t really know who are these people in real life. And in any case, even if some players really are bad people, it’s still not OK to harass or attack them online, ever.
And before you call me a hypocrite because I do talk trash about some players sometimes, first I invite you to read this disclaimer, and second, I talk trash about them here, but I never talk trash to them, I never harass them. So, even if you hate what Wendell did or said, you only know what the show showed us, and no matter what, it’s not OK to attack Wendell for it.
First, he’s clearly edited as the villain here, because the show likes to have its heroes and its villains, and they’re kinda short on villains this season.
Also, what did he do wrong against Parvati exactly? She’s the one who refused to play with him when given the chance. Whether it was true or an act, he seemed to be open to the idea of working with her.
Yes, because, strangely, he’s been mostly attacked for voting Parvati out (I guess Yul and Nick didn’t take any part in that), not for being a bit sketchy/unpleasant with Michele.
And talking about his past relationship with her, seriously, we have no business having an opinion about what happened between them. And whatever we see on the show will only be what the producers decide to show us.
Wendell is not acting very cool with Michele at the moment? Sure. However, we have no idea what happened between them before the season starts, and also, we have no idea of most of what happened between them on the island (maybe he extended an olive branch first, and she refused, and now he’s pissed at her, except we’re only seeing that he’s pissed at her – just a random example of what could be, the keyword here is that we have no idea).
One last word about his quite aggressive behavior, and basically openly inviting Parvati to make him betray his alliance. We’ll see Yul’s and Nick’s reaction to that next week, but seeing their lack of reaction at tribal, there is a chance that it was all an act. They were probably trying to see if Parv had an idol or something, and Wendell pretended to be ready to betray his friends just to lower Parvati’s defenses or something.
No idea, but it felt a little bit like this for some reason.
- Yul Kwon (two tokens): We didn’t see much of him this week.
One thing: he didn’t feel comfortable with Wendell’s style at tribal. It could mean nothing, but it also could be put in parallel with Nick saying that “new school gameplay” only works if everyone agrees to play this way.
The State of Alliances at Sele:
- It’s hard to tell how tight are Yul, Wendell, and Nick. They’ve seemed pretty tight since the beginning, but Nick and Wendell made it clear that they’re from a generation of players who are more into voting blocks and shifting alliances rather than tight longterm alliances. Also, they’re kinda lying, at least Wendell, as Domenick and he never turned on each other even when maybe they should have. I guess we’ll see next week if Wendell’s outburst at tribal was all for show or not.
- Poor Michele is quite alone now. She has friends on the other tribes, but she’d better hope Sele doesn’t return to tribal before the merge, or I don’t see how she can survive. However as a big deal is being made of her past relationship with Wendell, as well as her edit overall this season, I suspect that she’ll go far. So she may be safer than it looks.
- Denise Stapley (one token): Wow Denise! I was complaining that she was a bit too invisible this season, but there we go. She’s not exactly invisible anymore. She played this like the Survivor master that she is. People who don’t consider her to be one of the best winners ever have clearly not been paying attention.
Now, she’s definitely not under the radar anymore, but it will also make the rest of the game a little harder for her. Her lack of story until now concerned me, but it also could be because her story is only starting now. When we have big names that don’t make the merge, they do tend to hog most of the screen time pre-merge, only to have the ones who were almost invisible then really shine post-merge. It could be what is happening now with Denise.
I want to give a shout out to her general strategy and social game that worked wonders the first time around, as well as this time.
First, notice how she’s very often included in conversations, and she always plays humble and never leads them. She always listens first to what people are saying, she’s not talking first.
And then, when someone asks her a question (unless it’s a one on one conversation with someone she trusts), she never actually tells what she thinks. Instead, she answers in some sort of general statement that fits the question and seems like a satisfying answer to the person asking. And this is her therapist training at work, and it works wonder for this game.
- Jeremy Collins (one token and one “no tribal for me” advantage): He’s been particularly low key this episode, but it makes sense, his role in the story that unfolded this week was not much more than a background character. Some people are surprised that he voted against Denise (and she still played an idol for him), but it makes sense. It was pointless for him to try to vote with Denise against someone else. Quite the opposite, it could have made Denise’s plan to fall apart. This way, Denise totally controlled who went home, and that move was hers and hers only.
And yet, by saving Jeremy (even if he didn’t need saving), Denise is sending a strong signal to him that she trusts him and wants to work with him. I believe that Jeremy has no reason not to become tight with Denise at this point in the game (even if they don’t remain tight until the end).
- Kim Spradlin-Wolfe (one token and one idol): Last week Kim was presented as the swing vote, but she didn’t flip, she stayed “Dakal-strong”. It makes sense. Even if she wasn’t tight with Tony and Sandra, flipping now when she wasn’t in any sort of trouble, could make her a target, and also would probably alienate most – if not all – of the remaining original Dakal, and for what? A lot of uncertainty about what she was getting herself into if she tried to join former-Sele.
- Sandra Diaz-Twine voted out: Oh Sandra! You got overconfident, and it cost you dearly. What can I say? That it was a big mistake. I understand why Sandra’s proposal raised a lot of red flags in Denise’s head. Sandra had not reason to save Denise (except getting rid of Tony or Kim without getting her hands dirty), and Denise is just good at reading people and she did the right thing; Sandra was untrustworthy and dangerous to Denise.
Just like everyone else, I’m sad to see Sandra go, but shame on her for being cocky and overconfident. I know that’s part of her personality, but that’s what did her in Game Changers too. Sandra is extremely dangerous post-merge, but pre-merge she needs to be more under the radar. I just hope she’s not actually retiring from Survivor as she mentioned a few episodes ago, but I understand if she does.
- Tony Vlachos (one token): What went through Tony’s mind exactly? He was doing great, he wasn’t a threat, but he had to go to his spy shack again, and raise suspicion. It’s easy to “disappear” when you’re in a tribe of ten people or so, and everyone is off somewhere scrambling but in a tribe of five? Your absence gets noticed immediately. Sure, he pretended to freak out and that he needed to isolate himself a little bit to explain his sudden disappearance. It fits his strategy of lowering his threat level, but I’m not sure many people bought it.
Add to that losing Sandra, and he could be in trouble next week.
The State of Alliances at Dakal:
- Denise and Jeremy will be tight for at least a little while.
- Tony and Kim are in a tenuous alliance at best, and if they return to tribal council, they will have almost no other chance but to go after each other and hope Denise and Jeremy vote with them. However, if this happens, Kim will have no choice but play her idol, and it could spell trouble for Tony (as Kim seems more eager to work with Denise and Jeremy than with Tony).
- Adam Klein (one token): He’s kinda isolated now, and with Ben getting closer to the women, he’s in trouble indeed.
- Ben Driebergen (one token): Interesting to see him getting closer to the women, and having a pretty decent social game. Honestly, after all the bad things I’ve said about him, he’s growing on me a little. I just hope he doesn’t get cocky again.
- Sarah Lacina (zero tokens, one “steal a vote” advantage): not much about Sarah this week.
- Sophie Clarke (one token and one idol): not much about Sophie either.
The State of Alliances at Yara:
- Sophie and Sarah are together for now. I still don’t see them being in a long term alliance. They’re on each other’s path to the end. This duo could be over sooner than we think. However, until a merge or another swap, they control Yara. Ben may or may become closer to one or the other, and they could form a post-merge duo, though.
- Adam is quite alone right now. If he makes it to the merge, he could fall back on his feet – and reunite with Denise, Jeremy, and Michele? Not sure how much they trust him now, maybe he’ll have to go with other people such as the other recent winners? Not sure what his path is from here at the moment.
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)
- Rob Mariano (zero tokens)
- Tyson Apostol (zero tokens and a jar of peanut butter): I don’t really have anything to say about the other ones, but Tyson’s edit was interesting and telling. Keep in mind that I’m a huge Tyson fan and that I am still rooting for him, so that may be clouding my judgment.
However, what we saw about Tyson this week is that even on the Edge of Extinction, he’s still playing the game, and playing hard.
Everyone else just seems to be hanging out and looking for advantages not too intensely (maybe they are, but this is not what we’re shown).
Tyson, on the other hand, is acting as if he was still in the game. Because he still is! Even Natalie in recent weeks was impressive with finding advantages and collecting fire tokens, but every time she talks about those tokens, it’s always about them being useful later. In her mind, she’s not playing the game right now, she’s just getting ready to play it again later. Tyson hasn’t stopped playing. And getting this jar of peanut butter and hiding it from everyone else was genius. At first, I thought it was a mistake, maybe because seeing the size of the jar, you’d assume that it’s meant to be shared. But this way, while he’s not “well-fed”, he’s much better fed than the other people on the Edge of Extinction, and that more than anything else will help possibly get more tokens, and more importantly, have more energy for the upcoming challenge to reenter the game.
At this point, there is little to no doubt that Tyson will be the one to reenter the game very soon. I may be reading too much into it, but his edit this week was the edit that looked the closest to a winner’s edit. He’s definitely not out of the game yet. He definitely outwitted everyone this week in his “sneaky and hilarious” way.
I loved this quote by the way, and this is one of the reasons I love Tyson. He’s a great player and he’s hilarious at the same time. That allows him to be a great and entertaining character but at the same time, he’s very smart and his apparent goofiness allows him to have people underestimate him very often (not a few weeks ago, unfortunately).
“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).
- There is no way to not give it to Denise this week! Her move to not only keep herself in the game, but consolidate her position and getting rid of one of the bigger legends has become instantly iconic and will be remembered for years to come as one of the greatest moves ever. I don’t think anyone can disagree with that. Oh, and on top of the “warrior” award, I think we can also give her (at least for now) the crown of “New Queen of Survivor”. Let’s see how long she can keep it (until the end? we’ll see)
In terms of edit, we have a few front runners, and there is still no obvious winner. That’s a good thing. We also have to keep in mind that we’re reaching this point of the season when the winner often takes a backseat in terms of screen time. It’s even more obvious this season as a lot of screen time was “needed” for all the big names being voted out pre-merge.
With that being said, I think the frontrunners to win the game at the moment are:
- Sarah: sure she didn’t have a lot of content this week, but she didn’t need to have any. So, she’s not moving from the contenders’ section.
- Sophie: same as Sarah.
- Michele: her edit and screen time remain positive every week. Her story has yet to unfold, but the bases are here (Nick almost telling her to grow a backbone could be foreshadowing of a much more proactive Michele in the second part of the game, and that would allow her to win if she makes it to the end).
- Tyson: even on the Edge of Extinction he’s shown under a very positive light and as still playing the game. Add to that the winner edit he had for the first two or three episodes, and that makes him a contender still.
- Jeremy: His edit is simply not too different from the one he had in Cambodia.
Still a chance:
Those players are not on my “winner radar” for a reason or another, but things could change.
- Denise: Of course she made this amazing move this week, and has had a positive (although subdued) edit. However, her lack of “story” prevents her to be among the contenders. Now, seeing how the season is unfolding (the big names being voted out early), it’s very possible that the “winner’s story” only starts around the merge. A bit like Sarah’s in Game Changers if I remember correctly.
- Ben: I never thought Ben would be in that position, but he’s had a positive edit, hasn’t made any enemy apart from Rob, and he even has a story (changing his gameplay, basing it on the social aspect and not idols).
- Nick: He doesn’t have a lot of content or story, but he’s been more and more prominent recently, had a very important quote on episode one (“the winner will be the one who uses fire tokens the best” or something like that). He could become a contender soon.
- Tony: He was a contender until last week, but this week’s made it look like he’s slowly going where he said he wouldn’t go, that is back to his old ways. Him trying to change how he plays could go both ways in terms of story: he succeeds and goes to the end and wins or – he fails and that is his downfall. The return of the spy shack, and the whole thing being useless/unsuccessful, hints to the latter.
- Kim: She just doesn’t have enough content and has been shown passive, weak and powerless a few times. Not the Kim we’re used to, and not looking good for her.
- Wendell: Despite a good first episode, all of his content later has depicted him under a quite negative light, unfortunately. He’s becoming this season villain.
- Yul: He’s in a good position now, and could look like a contender. The one thing that makes me believe he’s not winning was the segment last week about ALS. If he won, I believe that his motivation to win wouldn’t be introduced before later in the game, even possibly the finale.
- Adam: He has a lot of content, and possibly the most confessionals, and yet, I don’t see him winning at all. Mostly because he has too much negative content. He’s not depicted as a villain, but rather as someone who’s trying to bite on more than he can chew and prone to blunders (he was more or less in charge of the first votes at Sele, and yet, it was edited as if he wasn’t). I could see him making it to the end, but losing final tribal council, especially because he made quite a few enemies pre-merge (and let’s not forget those pre-merge eliminations will also become jury members this season).
- Natalie: is regularly depicted as a strong contestant on the Edge of Extinction, and I could see her return, but it’s just more than unlikely that she can win (especially if you compare her edit to Tyson’s, who is in a similar position)
Slim to none:
- Everyone else on the Edge of Extinction. I don’t think they’ll return. Their story is over.
Next Person Voted Out
We may expect the merge to be next week, and yet, nothing in the preview seemed to be hinting at it (could the merge happen in a new and unexpected way?)
So if there is no merge, here are the people who will most likely voted out depending on which tribe goes to tribal council:
- Sele: Michele seems that she can’t escape that vote. However, her edit seems to indicate that she’ll make it far. Which tells me Sele won’t go to tribal.
- Dakal: Tony is in trouble.
- Yara: Adam is in trouble, but will also last longer.
Which means that Tony is probably the one being sent to the Edge of Extinction next. Unless the merge happens, in that case, all bets are off.
Next Time on Survivor
The preview didn’t give us much to chew on. This is why I expect a merge in an unexpected way.
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