Survivor Philippines Episode 7

Ahhh the merge is here and in one of the most unpredictable episodes in a long time, we saw RC go home after Penner saved himself with a Hidden Immunity Idol.

Just How Good Was this Episode?

Where do we even start? There are so many things that could have happened and so much I am sure that we were not shown as far as deal making goes.

People are saying that this might be the episode in the post-Heroes vs. Villains era of Survivor, but I still believe that one goes to the South Pacific merge episode. In that one, we got so much more resolution than in this one. This episode had so much uncertainty that it’s hard to tell if this decision will even affect anything at the next Tribal Council.

This serves well for the rest of the season, as South Pacific turned terribly boring for the next 4 or 5 episodes post-merge, while I think that this one will remain interesting perhaps for the rest of the season. To put it in movie terms, the payoff wasn’t as high here, because we’re not really sure what the aftermath will be.

What we saw on this week’s episode was something nearly unprecedented in Survivor history in which essentially factions of 3 different tribes combined to target 3 other people. There were 8 people that formed a majority alliance in this episode!

It helps that they were targeting returning players, but still that blows my mind!

Did Jeff Kent Strike Out?

Now would be a good point to discuss this week’s big decision. Jeff Kent was faced with 2 main options of how to vote in this week’s episode. His first option was to join Pete, Abi-Maria, Artis, Lisa, and Malcolm with his group of Denise and Carter in order to split the votes against Penner and RC.

Now at first this seems like an alright choice for him, being a strong male leader who’s alliance is down in the numbers. He gets to join a group that has some serious factions in it. Usually he would be a target in this scenario, but instead he has the possibility of getting rid of someone from the other tribe!

But, I think this ended up being the worse choice for him to make, because on the other end he was offered for his main alliance of him, Carter, Denise, and Penner to be joined by Skupin and RC in order to create a majority alliance of 6. Had he taken this, he would have been  in the majority of a majority alliance!

But, for Jeff Kent there was one problem with this. Yes, this alliance would feature 2 returning players.

Jeff Kent hates returning players.

He is scared to death of them and will do anything, yes even screw up his own game, to not lose to a returning player.

So instead of taking what looks like a pretty for sure thing by bringing in RC and Skupin, he joined Pete to split the votes and unsuccessfully got Penner out.

This leaves us at what should be a really interesting episode.

It would seem like Penner would be an obvious choice for the next boot, but in a season where there is a non-unified 8 person alliance, anything could happen.

What Should Each Player Do Going Forward?

Let’s take a look at what every person’s best move should be going forward, now that we are at the final 10.

Penner: It looks like Penner will be pulling a Troyzan, in which he isolates himself from everyone trying to win out with immunities. Let’s hope this isn’t so, while Troyzan’s choices were extremely dumb, at least he was a challenge threat, and was facing all women and Tarzan who he could legitimately have a chance at winning every immunity. Penner is probably not in the top 5 challenge competitors left. He is way to savvy to give up like this, throwing a large fit to further remove himself from everyone. Penner needs to find a couple of factions (Denise and Malcolm and Lisa perhaps?) to form something with. But I think his best move is to try and throw somebody under the bus and just get to the next week.

Pete: Well he came out on top this week and does seem to have the most people on his side. I think next week he should go after Skupin, then perhaps try to blindside Jeff Kent, in order to get a real grip on the tribe. Eventually he should get it down to him, Artis, Abi, and Lisa, making sure to get Lisa nowhere near the final 3.

Artis: See Pete.

Abi-Maria: See Pete.

Jeff Kent: Tough to say. I think he and Penner are pretty much done, so his best move would be to just get rid of him ASAP. From there, maybe try to get Malcolm and Lisa on his side to swing the numbers his way. Maybe even get Skupin, because really, he has no more experience than them this far into the game, he’s not a threat.

Carter: See Jeff Kent. (Speaking of which, could Carter be the Fabio to like a Jeff Kent’s Marty? Obviously Marty and Fabio weren’t as close, but kind of similar huh?)

Skupin: Lay low. Start building solid relationships with everyone not close with Pete. Eventually he could turn into an important number to flip the game around. If he sees any opportunity for an alliance, he needs to take it.

Malcolm: He is probably in the best spot, well second best anyways. He didn’t get any blood on his hands in this vote (having no relationship with Penner and didn’t really betray RC). He is right in the middle of the alliance being either #4 or 5 in Pete’s alliance and having a connection with Denise that could get him to jump. Not to mention he is probably still in good with Skupin. Malcolm’s decision should be based on which way the cards fall. At some point he will have to make a move, but it cannot be too early or too late or he will be screwed.

Denise: She is in the best position in my opinion (unless Pete can lead some sort of Tandang 5 charge) having allies on every corner, while not being the obvious threat that Malcolm is. At some point, people are going to turn against Malcolm’s likability and athleticism to try to get him out. Denise, while very athletic, will not get this strong push against her (I don’t think). My advice for Malcolm is the same for her. And my advice for both of them is to stick together. They are each other’s best bet in the game.

Lisa: She continues to rise in my mind every week and I don’t think her winning is inconceivable. In fact, I think that she will make the final 3 as Penner not-so-subtly predicted this week. To do this, Lisa must decide who she wants to play like: Lill or Sandra? If she plays like Lill, then she will constantly be convinced by others (Pete is kinda like Fairplay in this scenario) to do what they want. This will cause others to see her as a pushover and not win. Not to mention, Lill, at the last minute, chose to stand up for herself and voted out the person she had the best chance of beating!

On the other hand, Sandra is the type of player who really understands the game, remains in the middle, and jumps wherever she needs to jump. Lisa is also right in the middle and will go wherever the numbers go, but she needs to make clear that others see her as playing intentionally. If they don’t, all the niceness in the world won’t give her that million dollars. I think that Lisa knows the game. She speaks the Survivor language, and I think that that gives her a solid shot at winning this game.

Random Thoughts

Is there going to be a final 2!?!? RC became the first jury member, which would make a final 2 more practical (with 9 jury members). Otherwise, they risk the chance of a tie (with 8 jury members and a final 3). I’m excited at this possibility, because I do think final 2 is better than 3.

We still have 2 Hidden Immunity Idols left and unless Pete and Malcolm decide to team up, we will definitely see them come into play.

Was Penner tipped off to play his idol? What if someone told Penner to play his idol in order to get RC out and next week’s tirade is just an elaborate ruse, in which Penner is actually a part of a majority alliance?! Probably not.

It will be interesting to see what Skupin’s plan is, because he did ditch voting for Pete and instead voted for Penner. Too many possibilities to get into this.

Player of the week: Malcolm. He dealt with Lisa in a great way and this vote establishes him and someone who will be important in the future.

Next week: Who really knows right?

Survivor Phillipines Episode 4

Last week I was so busy, I didn’t have time to write about Survivor. Angie got voted out.

This week, we saw Matsing continue its losing streak and Russell finally meet his end, despite, well, despite nothing, he was terrible.

Russell, the Worst Returning Player Ever

Russell is now the 2nd returning player (in non-All Stars seasons) to be eliminated before the merge. Joining another Survivor: Samoa alumni also named Russell (Hantz).

Russell was a trainwreck from the start and was lucky the tribes were so small, making physical strength such a factor in being a successful. At least Russell Hantz in Redemption Island was tying to make moves (of course that might have actually been his problem). Russell actually got blindsided and convinced that he wasn’t going home in a tribe of 3!

I think that a lot of credit has got to go to Malcolm and Denise for making Russell feel so safe. I’m not convinced that if Russell actually had the idol that he would have played it!

It was really interesting to see who Russell ended up voting for, because that meant the other person did a better job of convincing him that they were on his side. In this case Denise won, with Russell voting for Malcolm. This is particularly impressive, because Russell seems like the kind of guy that would choose strength and bros over an older female. Apparently, Denise is that good. 

Who is the Worst Tribe of All Time?

Let’s talk about Matsing real quick, before hopefully moving on from them forever. My question is, is Matsing the worst tribe of all time? Since the last 2 blogs featured Survivor history lists, why not this one too?

Maraamu: The first real bad tribe we see is in Marquesas with the Maraamu tribe going 0 for 5 in challenge wins before the swap came. They lost 3 immunities and 2 rewards. This was likely due to Boston Rob simply not caring about strength and only about how willing they were to follow him.

Morgan (Pearl Islands): The Morgan tribe lost 6 challenges in a row (3 reward, 3 immunity) and had really lost heart before they A) stole Rupert away from Drake and B)benefited from Drake throwing a challenge in order to get rid of Burton (though it was never clear what exactly their intention was). They were sparked by this and ended up winning 3 of the next 4 (2 immunities), before the Outcasts twist came and switched everything up.

Saboga (All-Stars)-Saboga came in last place in 2 out of 3 immunities they participated in, before they got dissolved into the 2 other tribes. The main reason they were so terrible, is they did not get along at all, and had the worst shelter, probably in Survivor history.

Ulong (Palau): Notorious for being the only tribe (until now?) to basically eliminate itself, Ulong went .210 winning percentage in 14 challenges. Other tribes may have been worse if production hadn’t switched things up at certain points, but what happened to Ulong was absolutely brutal.

Ravu (Fiji): Ravu is a bit of an interesting one, because the twist in Fiji was haves vs. have nots. Ravu were the have nots and thus at a tremendous disadvantage. This showed, as the original Ravu tribe that participated in 8 challenges lost every time. They switched, maintaining the twist, but had all guys on Ravu, what looked to be their turn around, but these guys (and Lisi) lost 4 out of 5, including 3 immunities. Overall, it’s not really fair to include them, but they did lose 12 out of 13 challenges.

Fang (Gabon): Had to include Fang because they lost 9 out of 13 challenges, but they existed in 3 different formats, due to 3 tribe swaps, so the name was more cursed than the people.

Foa Foa (Samoa): Foa Foa lost 8 out of 10 challenges, probably because of Russell Hantz tormenting each player, burning socks, and emptying water bottles. Like Boston Rob, he wanted people to turn to him rather than win challenges, it sure worked out well for Natalie! (This is also funny, because helped Galu win 6 out of 8 challenges before being evacuated)

Matsing (Phillipines)Ah, Matsing. Technically, you are only 0 for 4 in challenge wins, not completely terrible. But in each challenge, all you have to do is come in 2nd place in order to not go to tribal. Basically they have lost 8 times rather than 4 times, making them 0 for 8 in challenges.

Top 3 Worst Tribes of all time:

3. Ravu from Fiji (any iteration)

2. Matsing

1. Ulong from Palau

Be careful Ulong, Matsing is coming for you!

The rest of the episode did feature a little bit of plot development from the other tribes.

Kalabaw

Over at Kalabaw, Jeff Kent cemented his alliance with Penner and brought in Carter to make a 3 person all male alliance (all male alliances have never been successful). The girls figured this out and decided to make an all female alliance in retaliation.

I think Jeff’s move wasn’t bad, but he certainly should have been less obvious about it. He seemed to have the whole tribe in the palm of his hand and he let it slip this week.

Good job by Penner for getting himself back in the middle of things. At the least this week he will likely be safe with an idol in his pocket and two other guys watching out for him.

And how about Dana taking control of the women? Interested to see where she goes from here.

The Chaos at Tandang

Tandang continues to get crazier and crazier. Abi-Maria still hates RC. RC just wants to be friends with Abi and doesn’t understand why she doesn’t like her. Skupin is a walking time bomb in regards to getting injured. Pete is pulling a Russell Hantz. Lisa is sitting quietly letting it all go down. And Artis, well we’re not sure what he’s up to.

Pete, if anything is making this season entertaining. By planting the clue to cause a further divide between RC and Abi-Maria, he is throwing into a chaotic confusion she wasn’t expecting. It’s a risky move and certainly not necessary, but if RC is someone he personally sees as a threat, then getting her on the outs is not bad at all.

I get the feeling that this will all blow up in Pete’s face. I mean, his number 1 ally is Abi-Maria.

Skupin’s outlook has gone downhill, let’s hope he can fight his way wherever he needs to.

Could Lisa pull a Cirie, forming alliances and sitting back as the rest of the tribe implodes? I don’t think she has quite the strategic brain, but I really like what I am seeing at this point. Watch out for her.

RC has got to pull herself together and try to figure out a way to get out of this mess. I think Lisa could be swayed in different directions, RC needs to abandon the Pete/Abi ship immediately.

Do Malcolm and Denise Have a Chance?

Next week I think that they will split Malcolm and Denise. Each will be randomly picked to go to one of the other tribes. Let’s look how this could turn out:

Malcolm goes to Kalabaw: He likely gets offers from both sides and ends up being the swing vote. Don’t see them bonding against him at that point. Penner could show him the idol to sway him or he could go with the girls to get rid of the returning player. We do know that Malcolm loves Penner from pregame interviews.

Denise goes to Kalabaw: She might be in trouble here as the guys would be paranoid about her joining the women. I could see her joining either side, but upside doesn’t look real good.

Malcolm goes to Tandang: This would be extremely interesting. I could see Pete and RC fighting over his allegiance. Feel like he would lean toward the RC/Skupin alliance.

Denise goes to Tandang: Definitely could see her going with Skupin in this scenario. The tribe is so chaotic that this one would fit her way better than Kalabaw.

Overall, the show has been really interesting, I just can’t wait to see another tribe to go tribal council! No more Matsing please!!!

Player of the week: Hmm, Penner, Denise, and Pete all made good/interesting moves this week, I’ll have to go with Penner for saving himself from a terrible situation.

Gotta stick with Skupin as the winner, but Lisa really rose for me this week. RC dropped big time and Penner also went up.

See ya next week.

Survivor Phillipines: Episode 1

Well I can’t get myself to write about much else other than Survivor, so here goes, my thoughts on Episode 1 of Survivor: Phillipines

My friend and I did a podcast previewing the season as well as ranking our top 5 Survivors of all time, check it out here.

I really liked the premiere episode, it showed us a majority of the players, some important storylines that will hopefully develop and wasn’t too returning player heavy.

Are the Returnees in Trouble?

In fact, the returnees faced a lot of danger in this episode. Russell Swan nearly screwed himself over after trying to lead his tribe (while claiming to not want to lead him). He got lucky that Zane a) had no idea what he was doing and b) was terrible in the challenges.

Even Jonathan Penner faced a lot of heat early on, with Jeff Kent leading a charge against him. Penner also was caught searching for the idol which put a huge target on his back. I feel like there is actual little good that can come from attempting to find an idol this early in the game. Although everyone wants to find it, it is perceived negatively by the whole tribe, so that if you actually do find it, you may have to use it within 1 episode (like Kristina nearly had to do in Redemption Island).

Is searching for the Hidden Immunity Idol worth it?

The best thing that can come out of finding an idol is possibly uniting a group of people around it, which again is hard once you have already isolated yourself from them. The idol really hasn’t done much good since Heroes vs. Villains, let’s look at some idol history in the post-(Russell) Hantz era:

Nicaragua: Marty finds it, uses it to assert dominance. Eventually gives it to Sash to form a trust bond, ends up going a week after Sash promised him safety. Sash keeps the idol until the last day and plays it to no danger of himself.

NaOnka finds the other idol. Bonds with Brenda over it, ends up getting rid of Brenda, ends up quitting and giving it to Chase. Chase isn’t threatened and uses it the same day as Sash for safety purposes.

Redemption Island: Kristina finds the idol tries to form a plan with Francesca and Phillip, it gets blown apart. She uses it the next week to save herself (but she doesn’t need to) and ends up going the next available vote.

Ralph finds an idol, doesn’t tell anyone for a while, ends up using it to try to save Mike, but the vote was for Matt, so it was wasted.

Rob finds an idol (in what might be one of the best ruses against his tribe ever) doesn’t tell anyone (that we see) uses it the last day possible just for fun.

South Pacific: Ozzy finds an idol, uses it as leverage with Cochran when he goes to Redemption Island intentionally. Gets it back and uses it to save Whitney, but it doesn’t work.

Coach finds other idol with help from Albert and Sophie. He later goes on an idol hunt with the rest of the tribe (praying to find an idol he already has) and uses it to unite the tribe. This I suppose is the most productive use of the idol over the last few seasons, but it could have hurt him when Sophie threw him under the bus about it at final 3.

One World: Sabrina finds the idol, is forced to give it to a guy, gives it to Colton who may or may not have used it for good (it wasn’t really clear). Colton gets hurt and is forced to leave, but keeps the idol for himself.

Troyzan finds one, uses it, but the votes had already been split by Kim, so it only saved Troyzan for one week.

Kim finds the other idol, tells Chelsea about it. Is never forced to use it and keeps it until the very end.

The return rate on finding an idol over the last few seasons has not blindsided anyone (as was so common in the early days) and often has not done much to help the owner of it. I know that it a security blanket, leverage, and a unifier at times, but at this point in Survivor, I don’t know if it is worth the risk.

The best thing the idol has done over the last few years (for players not viewers) has made the “pretend-like-I-have-an-idol” strategy a viable one.

In One World, Kim was forced to split votes all over the place in fear of idols. If someone is about to go, I honestly think a good strategy would be pretending like you have an idol, force them to consider splitting votes so that you have far fewer people to force to flip alliances in order to not be eliminated.

Anyways, Penner is not looking good after one week.

Week 1 Surprises

You know who is looking good is Jeff Kent. I thought he would not do well at all, but his tribe seems to like him thus far and has really rallied around him. I wouldn’t throw all my chips in on him yet though, because Dawson already recognized him, he has an injured knee, and a bad track record for his interpersonal skills. Good showing for him on episode 1 though.

Angie was also really surprising to me. I thought she would be a typical forgettable model type (Purple Kelly, Ashley Underwood, Whitney Duncan). Thus far though, she seems like a solid person, capable of getting along with most of her tribe, pretty Survivor fluent, and someone who looks like she can compete. For her name not to even be considered at the vote was pretty remarkable.

Before the season I predicted (in my head unfortunately) that RC would be this year’s strategist who goes at it too hard at the start. It looks like I was right (so far at least). She seemed to be on top of things, forming alliances and plotting with several people, but seemed very abrasive while doing it (“Hey you! You’re in an alliance with me!”). I like the ones who play hard but can’t help think that this will work against her in the future. She is this season’s Marty/Jim/Matt Q. who plays really hard to start, but doesn’t end up going hard. She is the first female iteration of this character, so that ought to be interesting.

The Frontrunners

A couple of people who I think are playing hard without being obvious are Malcolm, Denise, and Mike Skupin.

Malcolm did a good job of not wanting to be the center of attention, but still being at the core that makes all the decisions. He is easily my favorite of the season so far.

Denise seems to be really solid too. She is the older woman, but again seemed to be in no danger of going. She is a therapist and thus an expert at getting people to tell her information. Her alliance with Malcolm looks to be one of the most solid strategy pairings in Survivor history. It reminds me a lot of Rob Cesternino and Deena getting together in the Amazon as a young guy and older woman who were both extremely smart (though it was short lived). I am very interested to see how they interact.

Mike Skupin got a little lucky that he was nearly forced to be in the main alliance, but also had the foresight to lay back and go with the flow. I think he will truly be a leader to the young people and will be able to connect with Lisa and Artis giving him quite a few options. On the podcast I predicted him to be the winner and I will stick by that for now.

Lot’s of good stuff this week and I look forward to going into more of each character as the season progresses. I think 3 tribes will make it very interesting for a while, so I expect good things ahead.

Player of the week: I’ll give it to Malcolm, I really like everything he was doing. He just seems like an all around solid player.

Next week: I predict bad things for Penner or Jeff Kent. Lisa is in a bad spot. Russell Swan could be too. Look for one of them to go.

Mike Skupin is my winner pick still, but if I had to pick a 2nd favorite after episode 1 it would go to Denise.