For the most part, this week’s installment of Survivor felt like old times. Yes, there were still some annoying flashbacks. They seemingly did away with the “Previously On…Survivor” opening recap. Jeff Probst only broke the fourth wall once, which made it awkward. And after all the hoopla surrounding last week’s decision to omit the word “guys” from an iconic Survivor phrase, Probst ended up starting off this week’s Tribal Council by saying, “I just want to commend you GUYS…” Yeesh.
But the game feels the same thus far, which to me is far more important than any of the added attempts at updating the show. Players scrambled and strategized. A player was rooted-on to finish while sucking at a challenge. Another ran down the beach and jumped in a bush to sneak a listen of a water-hole conversation between two others. Poor decisions were made at Tribal, based on irrational thoughts instead of strategic gameplay. Yes, things felt mostly normal.
In the end it was the surgeon David Voce who was surprisingly sent home, the victim of school teacher Tiffany convincing her all-female alliance members to vote him out instead of the clear and present danger to all of their games, Xander. Xander is the kind of player that if allowed to prosper in the game, can become a serious threat to win it all if he’s left in long enough. Five days into the game, the dude already has scored himself an extra vote at Tribal Council and one part of a brand-new Survivor twist: The three-way Immunity Idol as it’s being referred to (get your mind out of the gutters, people…). I’ll explain in a bit why I feel it was a big mistake not to take him out when they were given the chance.
This new Idol is interesting indeed…the way it works is that a piece of it is hidden at each of the three tribes, with Xander being the only one so far to have found it. As it stands right now, the Idol has no power, and can only be activated by each of the three Idol holders saying some ridiculous quote aloud at the Immunity Challenge…if all three phrases are uttered, then all three Immunity Idols become activated. This twist sounds fun and can lead to a hilarious future, as in order to eventually activate his Idol, Xander will need to utter the SAME ridiculous phrase (“Butterflies are just dead relatives saying hi”) over and over again at each upcoming Immunity Challenge. The twist comes with a huge risk however, in that until the Idol becomes active, the holder cannot vote at Tribal. In Xander’s case, that means even his extra vote cannot be cast.
Having this eventual power (an Idol and an extra vote), it would have been great for Evvie, Tiff and Liana if they could have taken out Xander knowing of all of his upcoming advantages. Instead, they played into Tiff’s paranoia and went with the next best thing, Voce. In Tiff’s defense, from her personal game perspective, there may have been a near-zero chance that Xander had an active Idol, but why even take that slim chance when you can vote out the sure thing in Voce? So I don’t fault Tiff for bringing up this strategy…I do fault Liana and Evvie for going along with it. Evvie – who early on in this game has stood out as a potential front-runner to go deep and even win – was giving us a bit of foreshadowing this episode when she mentioned to Liana that Tiff seemed like a firecracker, and perhaps wasn’t someone she wanted to lean on long-term. That is the problem ultimately with early Day One alliances or alliances based on gender…it is so much more solid to create a long-term alliance based on personal trust and chemistry, because otherwise you may learn that the people you aligned with are not as game savvy as you. In voting out Voce, Evvie loses trust in Xander, whom she had grown to be tight with, and this could be bad for Evvie if Xander is still in the game once he possesses his advantages. Then again, Xander is a sitting duck until then, without even a vote to cast and now with no allies whatsoever. I think that her best move would have been to vote out Tiff, who is clearly a challenge liability. At this point in the game, like Xander said at Tribal, you need to be thinking about the next few days and not Day 26.
While most of the episode focused on the yellow tribe dynamics, we were given little bits of what could come to be important developments. Brad running to spy on his fellow tribe mates might have confirmed some of his suspicions, but ultimately as we saw, it will cost him. He tells Sydney about it and she immediately relays the info to Ricard, who was part of the conversation that was being spied on. Brad doesn’t seem to have the game awareness necessary to ever win this game, but we have seen players like him make it far…if he’s not voted-out early he may be a player that others want to take deep if he’s not too volatile.
Another important mini-development is that Naseer‘s worth is increasing…once seen as a person that the blue tribe may look to target early on, it seems that he is becoming an essential member at camp and is growing on people. They wouldn’t throw this in the episode if it didn’t have some sort of relevance later on.
Last and certainly not least is that Deshawn from the blue tribe will receive an extra vote, courtesy of Evvie choosing to protect her vote during this week’s “summit.” It appears that this may become a weekly part of the game, which means that there is a good chance that there will be a lot of extra votes floating around at some upcoming Tribal Councils this season. This is a good game adaptation, as instead of making there be a hundred Immunity Idols to complicate Tribal Council, the drama will come from all of the additional votes that may or may not be cast. It’s still too early to tell if the other major twist, the “Shot in the Dark Die,” will be a bust or not, but I do find it interesting that through three Tribals thus far, nobody has decided to use it.
Episode Take-Away. Usually at this stage of each season, I’m rooting for all tribes to reach Tribal Council just so we can start to see the entirety of the tribal dynamics play out. It’s OK that the yellow tribe returned to Tribal this week, but if they make a habit of this next week it will become quite annoying. Because of the yellow team’s shabby performances at challenges thus far, we didn’t get a lot of time with the blue or green tribes this week, so there are still several players that I feel we haven’t gotten a chance to really even know much about yet. With Xander powerless and without any allies at the moment, he is certainly vulnerable, especially if Tiff continues to hold her team back at challenges. But I could definitely see a scenario where if yellow were to lose once again, Evvie and Liana just might decide to cut out Tiff. Maybe Evvie can still work something out to keep Xander convinced that she’s trustworthy despite voting out Voce. If the all-female alliance decides to cut Xander out after another loss, then Tiff is definitely at the bottom of the totem pole at that point. With Evvie making an outside connection tonight with Deshawn, she might be better positioned to stay in the game longer than Liana, but at any rate they just need to focus on not returning to Tribal Council for now.
There aren’t any clear-cut villains yet this season, nor do any of the players already scream “future all-star.” But thus far I am seeing a likable group of characters, from those we’ve been given time with, and I only hope that those that have been in the background thus far are given some more time in the upcoming episodes, so that we can all have a better read on just who exactly are the threats, and who are not.
Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. For those that followed this column the past few seasons, you also know that this page is the EXCLUSIVE home to new artwork from none other than two-time Survivor contestant and legend, Erik Reichenbach. Each week, Erik contributes a brand-new, original piece of artwork relating to the new week’s episode. It will appear here usually in the days after the show’s airing, so if it does not appear here now, check back usually by the weekend following an episode and give this page a refresh. All of Erik’s work as well as past works can be found and purchased on his site, DabuDoodles.com, and I urge you to support this amazingly talented former Survivor player!
Voted Out This Week: David Voce (yellow tribe)
Won Immunity: Blue Tribe (Danny, Naseer, Sydney, Heather, Deshawn, Erika) and Green Tribe (Brad, Shan, JD, Ricard, Genie)
Rewards Won: The Blue Tribe won some fishing gear and the Green Tribe, finishing in second, received a lesser fishing gear package
Vote: No dice rolls, no idols/advantages played. Xander not allowed to vote due to Idol disadvantage. 3 – Voce (Tiff, Evvie, Liana), 1 – Tiff (Voce). Voce voted out.
Current Advantage Tally:
- Xander has 1 extra vote and one-third of the Immunity Idol (cannot vote until other two-thirds are discovered)
- JD has 1 extra vote
- Deshawn has 1 extra vote
Next Week’s Episode: Some more generic talk about how tough and challenging the game is this season, but nothing too specific is teased. I guess we’ll have to wait until next week!
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TELL US – WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE DECISION TO VOTE OUT VOCE? WHO IS PLAYING THE BEST GAME THUS FAR? AND WHICH PLAYERS ARE YOU ROOTING FOR/AGAINST?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]