survivor re-cap: who couldn’t see THAT coming?

Jeff-snuffing-torchAll season long I’ve been saying there is no way Debbie can win this game. No way. After last week’s power-play move to blindside Ozzy, I began to think she might’ve learned a thing or two from her consultation with Cochran. But this week, I found myself saying, “Oh yeah. THERE’S the Debbie we all know!” We saw it when she was dictating strategy to Aubry, ahead of Tribal Council. Aubry studiously listened to everything Debbie told her. And once Debbie turned around, Aubry’s eyeroll reflected the way most viewers felt.

Before getting to this week’s drama, let’s spend a moment on last week’s developments (since I didn’t write a recap last week). Voting out Hali was an easy move. For Hali, it was never a matter of if her torch gets snuffed, but when. The only time she really and truly began to play Survivor was at Tribal Council. That’ll work once, maybe twice; but not three times. I wish she had applied that gift of gab a bit better back at camp. She has the power to influence, but never used it until her back was to the wall. PIty.

And then there’s Ozzy. Sweet, handsome Ozzy: a man who was born half-fish and seems to thrive in this game as a fierce competitor and challenge beast. No other player seems more at home on an island in Survivor than Ozzy. And that ability to acclimate himself and win challenges means he’ll always have one of the biggest targets on his back. For all his athletic prowess in Survivor, Ozzy seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Survivor strategy. There’s no other way to describe it.

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No matter what, Aubry’s hair from last week’s two-hour episode remains my favorite Survivor moment this season.

It was certainly a smart move to take him out now, so props to Debbie for orchestrating that. However, she overplayed her hand—and her extra vote—in taking out Ozzy. By playing the second vote, she all but guaranteed she lost a jury vote. Had she kept the extra parchment in her pocket, Ozzy still would’ve gone home. Even if he didn’t, Debbie was still in a good spot with her alliance and could’ve easily taken him out another time. It was a simultaneously smart and dumb play, if you ask me. But that’s Debbie for you. She goes all-in on everything; doesn’t know how to manage her bankroll. And that caught up to her.

As the game moves into a chaotic plays of shifting alliances and occasional backstabbing, I was a bit surprised at how personally Andrea took it that Zeke pondered targeting her. Well, let me backtrack. I understand her being upset about it, but blowing up at Zeke, post-Tribal Council, is a surefire way to paint a target on your own back. Acting on emotion in Survivor is a fool’s gambit and often leads to torch-snuffing.

It probably should have, were it not for Officer Sarah flipping from her solid alliance to take out Debbie. And I have to be honest, I’m shocked by that. Sarah earned herself a true advantage by sneaking away the “steal a vote” advantage during the reward challenge. I can see that paying major dividends the deeper we go in this game. I’m not sure if Sarah acted on emotion or calculation in flipping the vote to Debbie at Tribal Council. Although, Debbie did bring it on herself by not-so-quietly betraying her own alliance by approaching Aubry to take Sarah’s place. To that end, sure, I can see why Sarah switched her vote. Will her alliance buy it? Therein lies the question.

If anything, this shows just how difficult it is to maintain a strong alliance in Survivor. Zeke correctly stated the deck re-shuffles after every vote. While a player like Brad Culpepper is in control when his alliance isn’t cracking, Zeke’s game opens up when the relationships remain fluid. As a fan of the game, I prefer the latter. It’s way more fun to watch the balance of power shift. Although Culpepper’s put himself in a strong, strategic spot. He’s well-liked, has a loyal core alliance (Sierra, Troyzan and maybe Tai) and seems like a threat in challenges. But it’s his game play at camp that’s earned him a shot at winning. He’s playing a very patient, quiet game. For now.

Yeah, we have to talk about Cirie.
Even Cirie herself would tell you she’s not a threat in physical challenges. That’s never been the strength of her game. And who among us haven’t been where she was, feeling like she failed her tribe in the reward challenge? It was in that moment we saw Cirie turn her weakness into a strength. Rather than being scorned by her tribemates, Cirie was supported, encouraged and pushed to complete the challenge, long after winning was an option.

On a human level, it was great to see her entire tribe rally around her so she could overcome an obstacle. I don’t doubt it was a genuine moment. But somewhere within all that drama, I give Cirie credit for turning that difficult personal moment into a triumph. There was no heat on her at all, afterward. Make no mistake about it: Cirie is a serious threat to win this game. In a season where we’re waiting for a challenge beast to arise, Cirie still has a shot at winning because she knows how to manage the players.

And Then There’s Michaela.
I want to like Michaela. I did like Michaela the last time she played. But that kid simply cannot get out of her own way long enough to become a true threat in this game. She’s a smart, athletic player who could really become a top-tier threat. But her arrogance, selfishness, passive-aggressiveness (eating coconut at Tribal? Gimme a break) and petulance alienates her from the rest of the tribe. We see it, over and over.

Cirie surely would love to see Michaela on the jury, I imagine, because she’s got Michaela wrapped around her little finger. That’s a guaranteed vote for Cirie. But if I’m anyone else in this game, I want to be sitting next to Michaela at the end because no one will vote for her.

I wonder if she’s going to become a target anytime soon because of her inability to blend with the tribe. Either way, I see non path for her to win a million dollars.

The Haves
Right now, the players I see as having the best shot at getting to the Final Tribal are Culpepper, Tai, Troyzan and Sarah. Culpepper’s playing a smart, patient game. Sarah might be playing the best strategic game of all, right now; plus she has her vote advantage. That’ll come in huge for her.

By virtue of holding Immunity Idols, Tai and Troyzan have a great shot at getting deep in the game. And, to Troyzan’s credit, he’s worked his way to a decent alliance. We’ll see how long that lasts.

The Maybes
Cirie, Aubry, Sierra and Zeke are definitely positioned to make a move, but on the wrong side of an alliance, at the moment. That can change in a heartbeat, though. Zeke is a sneaky gamer, so I can see him pulling some serious moves in the chaos that arises out of Debbie’s ouster. That could improve Aubry’s game along the way. Cirie is like a sniper. She’s just waiting for her shot. Sierra? Until she makes a move, she seems to be riding Culpepper’s coattails.

The Have-Nots
Andrea and Michaela. I’ve already said Michaela has zero shot at winning a million dollars. She may make it to the end, but she’ll never convince enough jury members to give her the money. Andrea is simply on the wrong side of everything right now, but she can move into a strong position very quickly. She’s a bit of a free agent and could turn into a useful vote for one of the stronger players. If she can parlay that into an even bigger move down the line, she’s off the chopping block and suddenly holding an executioner’s axe.

9d39464d16ad785ad02ba59a65b3ddbbEmployee of the Week
Officer Sarah. Not only did her awareness earn her an advantage in the game, she has friends on both sides of the alliances. It was a slightly bold move to vote out Debbie because it shakes up the game. But I like it. She was immediately aware of her position in the Alliance of Six and took steps to shift the balance of power. I love players who do that.

Predictions for Next Week
No idea, but I’m sure everyone at the Ponderosa are unhappy that Debbie has joined them with so many more votes left in the game. She is wreaking havoc over there, I’m sure.

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Filed under analysis, pop culture, reality TV, review, survivor

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