One castaway’s foiled power play shifts the game dynamics once again on another solid episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.
Even though Survivor managed to create a compelling decoy story last week, nobody expected the result to be anything other than the predictable Julia Sokolowski elimination. The alternative was a mostly fictional tale carefully put together to create suspense. This episode also ended in the obvious – the long-time-coming boot of Bounty Hunter Kyle Jason – however, the decoy story, this time, was a lot more real.
Tai Trang is Survivor: Kaôh Rōng’s biggest breakout character. Or at least a close second to Mark the Chicken, his grub-eating sidekick that has shadowed Tai throughout his Survivor journey. The interesting thing about Tai, and what makes him such an intriguing character, is that his portrayal has never been one-dimensional. Even though introduced as the nature-loving, war surviving gardener that “loves all living creatures”, we have also seen him as the sneaky idol finder, the fire extinguisher, and the conflicted soul. He is heroic. He is villainous. He is human.
The humanization of the characters has been one of Kaôh Rōng’s best selling points. The people we are watching this season feel like well-rounded personalities. Take Jason for example, the camp kleptomaniac that flicked his dead skin in the cooking pot. It would have been easy to present him as a one-note villain, but he has had moments of softness and vulnerability, opening up about his family and autistic daughter. It’s allowed us to view Jason as more than just the man that belittled Alecia and stole the machete. The same applies for the majority of this cast. Sorry, Joe. At least we know he was never a Spelling Bee champion.
What makes Tai even more fascinating is that he makes hasty decisions. He says too much and gets himself into tricky situations that often lead to chaos. That has been his way from the start when he got caught looking for the idol on the Gondol beach. His moves have been part of some of the season’s greatest moments. The highlight, of course, being his refusal to hand over his idol to Scot Pollard in the infamous Super Idol disaster. His actions have shifted the dynamics of the game on multiple occasions and that was no different this week. With a new found alliance and a pocket full of advantages, Tai felt comfortable enough to make another bold play – it’s just that nobody else was willing to go along with it.
Aubry Bracco and Cydney Gillon have controlled the post-merge game as a tandem. After coming together for the Nick Maiorano blindside, the Brains and Beauty duo have talked through every decision since then, alternating between which of them loads the gun and which one fires it. This partnership has been so successful because Aubry and Cydney talk to each other as equals. There is mutual respect within their relationship. Cydney rightfully doesn’t take to being dictated to or bossed around. It is one of the main reasons she flipped on her former alliance, and it was the sticking point in this episode that ruined Tai’s plan to vote out Michele Fitzgerald.
Tai with power is like handing a toddler a box of crayons (or handing Aubry a box of crayons?). He goes wild and creates a big old mess. The easy target was Jason. Nobody was willing to strategize with him, and he’d resigned himself to his fate. Tai thought he’d take the opportunity to target Michele who had just voted out her closest ally to prove her loyalty to the majority. He was even willing to use Jason and his extra vote to make it happen; this led to Tai pushing himself away from his alliance and causing a scene at tribal council when Michele was forced to defend herself.
Even though the majority stuck together and voted out the obvious target Jason, Tai’s bold move and tribal council “malarkey,” as Michele put it, undoubtedly caused a rift in the alliance. It has shifted the dynamics of the game yet again and now with no clear outsider left it is going to make for a very compelling finish.