6:55pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
Sabotage Rocks 'Survivor: Kaoh Rong' in 'It's Psychological Warfare'
[This article contains spoilers for the Wednesday, April 13 episode of Survivor: Kaoh Rong.]
It's always fun when a Survivor tribal council and vote turn the game upside down. When the numbers get reversed by an epic blindside and underdogs become favorites and favorites are taken aback by their fall from grace.
Wednesday's episode, especially its last act, was unquestionably fun.
But "fun" is different than "satisfying" and when the alleged underdogs flipping the game are actually gigantic bullies and their reversal of the game was verging on a total accident, that makes it harder to be happy once the adrenaline rush wears off.
Wednesday's episode hinged on simultaneously a questionable understanding of basic Survivor and, more importantly, a total lack of understanding of the super-idol that constitutes this season's biggest new twist.
Amidst much corny theater, Jason and Scot interrupted tribal council to announce that Jason and Tai both had idols and that Tai was playing his and Jason and Scot would Rochambeau for the other. Now even though the girls knew something about a super-idol, they didn't know what it was, so they couldn't adjust their vote accordingly and they adjusted to a circumstance where, by voting Debbie out, they could at least take out their weakest link and, after flushing the two idols, move back to targeting the men next week. They didn't know that Jason and Scot were going to give the idol to Tai and that Tai wouldn't need to play the super-idol until the vote was read. It was already a lost vote, but not knowing the super-idol rules, the girls didn't know that their only real play was to vote for one of the three guys, force Tai to use the super-idol and surrender whoever they had to surrender. There was no positive move, with Julia holding the immunity challenge idol. So the best thing they could do was lose one person and get the idols out of the game, right? Instead, they lost a strong member of their alliance, a member whose only flaw was still trusting Julia after she'd seemingly sold her soul for Chinese food. And the Scot/Jason/Tai alliance held onto the pair of idols. And the girls still don't understand the power of the super-idol, though Aubry really ought to be smart enough to figure out the "idol+idol=super-idol that can only be played after vote" math of what went down. We've seen several players self-immolate both in general and this season, but Debbie didn't self-immolate, even if she put herself at risk and she left the game without having any awareness of why she'd been targeted. Instead, an entire alliance double-immolated. Better to lose Cydney, awesome Cydney, and get the idols out of the game and still have comfortable numbers next week.
And even if the Jason/Tai/Scot alliance looked to be on the verge of extinction coming into the episode, they're pretty hard to like after an episode in which they hit the tribe's machete and axe and repeatedly doused the fire with water to sabotage the women. I think there's a way for a minority group to stage an insurgence and be sympathetic and, in fact, worth rooting for, but Scot and Jason became cackling jackals this episode and Tai compromised his moral high ground and compassion. I think you can possibly admire Julia's pragmatic moxie if you truly believe that she was going to be at the bottom of the majority alliance and this was a chance for her to shift her own fortune. But do we believe that she was really going to be at the bottom of that alliance after the men were picked off? And does she really believe she's going to be able to make a top two or top three with the men? Dunno. Look, it's almost always better to do something than nothing and Julia did something and it worked and she helped her cause by winning a very interesting and difficult immunity challenge, so points to her.
But, of course, Julia voted Debbie out. She didn't vote Cydney out as she was supposed to if she was going with the guys. But voting Cydney out was a clear choice of sides and instead Julia positioned herself to be in the middle again for another week, right? The guys don't necessarily know if they can trust her, but she also helped them, kinda. And that either helped her position, or else Julia voted out a woman who was prepared to follow her no matter how overwhelming the evidence. Given the mess that was made of things in the end, there's almost no limit of the different lies that can be told when we return to camp.
So this week's episode either makes Julia look brilliant or stupid or somewhere in-between. And I guess we're gonna have to keep watching to see next week and beyond.
Yeah. I don't have a clue. And that's fun.
This week's bottom lines...
Bottom Line, I. The "genius" edit has been bouncing around like mad for the past couple weeks. Cydney was brilliant last week. Aubry, with Cydney as her partner, looked briefly like the smart players this week, going after Debbie for sympathizing with Julia, but also getting Julia to help with that vote. Except for how things played out. Definitely Debbie, who had a couple weeks of "genius" edit and a couple weeks of "fool" edit and kinda went back to "neutral" last week went down the drain this week. And Julia looks smart for playing the game and playing the game aggressively, when young and pretty players have often been satisfied with coasting, but between the decision to side with the men at the reward challenge and the speed with which she told the men the female voting split, did she play her hand too heavily? And then give it up? I'm really not sure if I've ever been this split on whether a castaway's choice will look clever or idiotic.
Bottom Line, II. The immunity challenge was pretty devious, with the intricate lining up of blocks for a domino line, blocks that could be easily overturned if you pushed too hard on a tripping obstacle. One thing that wasn't made clear: Was the tripping obstacle standardized or was it graded based on stride? Because if it was standardized, Scot and probably Jason were at a huge disadvantage. Julia won, editing out Michele and Debbie in a result that may or may not imply and advantage to "slight" players. It was still pretty good.
Bottom Line, III. Does anybody have a read on Joe at all? He's either oblivious or clear-mindedly steady. I think my instinct is "oblivious," but who can really tell?
Bottom Line, IV. Had we know the chicken's name was Mark? It's almost eerie how the chicken sits on Tai's shoulder at the camp.
Bottom Line, V. Already we've had more whisper-filled tribal councils than any other Survivor season I can remember. Everything is in flux. Madness reigns.
Bottom Line, VI. Yeah, I'm gonna need to wait for the dust to settle on this one. The players were confused enough that I'm almost beyond confused.
This was a fun mess.