Let’s touch on the previously on for a moment. Around Fans vs. Favorites, Jeff Probst started using the previously on segments to strengthen the narrative of the season. Parvati was given credit for moves that Cirie had done to bolster her winner’s story (a narrative so powerful that Ozzy attributed his vote out to Parvati when he met Cirie on the beach of Game Changers). In the big moves era, production thinks the only exciting votes are blindsides, so no matter how straightforward the vote, it’s referred to as a blindside in the previously on by Probst. It’s an aspect of the U.S. version I dislike as it doesn’t truly telling us what happened last week and is instead trying to shape our perception of what happened.
I bring this up because even Survivor New Zealand is not safe from this kind of manipulation. Matt Chisholm falls into the same trap and calls Franky’s vote out a blindside. If you know it’s coming it’s not a blindside. Franky’s demise was compelling to me because she knew it was coming and tried everything she could to stay in the game. It was someone in the majority taking a swing and failing, knowing they messed up and making it worse to the point where even their closest allies had to cut her loose, and all she could do was wait for her fire to be extinguished.
The previously on is then contradicted when the episode opens and Liam (yes Liam of all people) states that “I think she kinda knew towards the end there.” It was not a blindside. I’m hoping this isn’t a bad habit Chisholm/production have picked up from the States.
Renee is nervous about going back to Tribal Council and senses that there’s more going on in her tribe than she once thought. Yeah, where have you been? There’s an alliance of four still controlling the vote which you’re not a part of, Liam is more useful in challenges, not the least bit threatening strategically and deathly loyal so you should be worried that you’re next on the chopping block.
Dave gives a confessional in the darkness about trying to sway the vote, but there was only so much he could do to save Franky. I’m still unsure about Dave. I’ve seen moments of skill from him but still get the impression he doesn’t have much control of the game. I’ve always said a good player will get you to make a move in your best interest and a great player will get you to make a move against your best interest. He did the right thing in not pushing too hard as at times that can make you the target instead but Franky going home is one less number for him which he might need later down the line.
Liam is surprised he’s in Thailand playing Survivor. You did sign up for Survivor New Zealand which was to be filmed in Thailand – it shouldn’t be that much of a shock to you. I know his confessional was more of the “I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming” kind of thing, but I love poking fun at the kid. I have very few pleasures in life, let me have this.
The Chani tribe brush their teeth with charcoal, a trick they might have picked up from Georgia of last season. I know she was loved in the fan community, but that’s the only thing of worth she did on that season.
We get a confessional from Eve that solidifies to me that they’re not going to Tribal this episode. “We definitely need to break this losing streak and start winning just to wipe the smirks off the other tribes face,” says Eve. We’re five minutes in and every second on Chani has been about them being underdogs and that they’re determined not to go back to Tribal. Despite them being down in the numbers they’re still positive. I want to root for these guys… the swelling music is telling me to root for these guys.
If all that didn’t convince me that Chani were safe, we head over to Khangkhaw where Dylan is glad to have been immune the past three episodes as he knows he’s gone once they head to Tribal. Adam and Tess talk behind his back as we see him “sulking” on the river bank. It appears to be the same shot of him sulking they used last week. New Zealand is a clean, green country so recycling clips is admirable. Or maybe he has a specific spot where he ponders the game and his place in life. If you’re going to sulk it’s probably best to do it out of view from the rest of the tribe or do what Debbie Wanner suggested and drown yourself.
Adam educates us on the dimensions of Dylan. Happy Dylan, sneaky Dylan, sulky Dylan and sassy Dylan. Confessionals are a good way to unload your thoughts, having someone to be a sounding board for you. A cathartic way to talk through your game and get the things off your chest that annoy you or clog your mind freeing you to be in game mode and pleasant around camp. It hasn’t really worked for Adam though and Dylan has picked up on the fact that he’s not Adam’s favorite person. Survivor brings different people together from different walks of life. That includes a**holes.
Lisa tells us of “Dylan’s narrative” on the Khangkhaw tribe which is the cool kids being in control and the outcasts (Dylan, Kaysha, Tara and Lisa) being in the minority. She doesn’t buy into this despite it being completely obvious to everyone including Chani. Lisa is supposedly a super fan, so I’d expect her to have a bit more game savvy than the average person. I’m sure she’s had interactions one on one with people and feels included. It’s a testament to the invisible five that they are indeed invisible to at least one person. In a game like Survivor, there are times you have to step outside yourself. Look at the game from a meta perspective. How does your archetype usually do? Strength and beauty typically group together. What does my character type offer? These are things Lisa should be considering.
Tara, who is on the show apparently, gives a confessional along the lines of “I’m on the bottom, but Dylan’s going to go first, so it’s not so bad.” The only thing worse than not knowing your position within the tribe is knowing exactly where you are and doing nothing to change it. The invisible five aren’t exactly strategic masterminds; it wouldn’t take much for the four outcasts to run circles around them if they all stuck together and made a move. I’d rather go out swinging than sit back and wait for my turn to be axed. As long as it ain’t me has been a winning strategy; it’s also been a losing strategy time after time.
The reward challenge is sumo at sea and they’re playing for coffee, tea and cookies. The fun thing about Survivor New Zealand is witnessing how the much lower budget affects the show. They’ve got filming camp life down, and it’s almost indistinguishable from an American episode (except for the cringe of the Kiwi accent). But it’s at challenges where the budget really shows. I could be wrong, but it looks like they’re doing the sumu at sea in the same muddy rice paddy they did a few weeks ago. We’re in an exotic location so it would be nice if we could see more of the country.
It starts out pretty even before Khangkhaw predictably extend their lead. Chani fights back but only manage to score 5 points against Khangkhaw’s winning 10 points. There wasn’t much tension in the challenge. All the muscle is on Khangkhaw. Some matchups were fun to see, but it lacked the competitiveness of when they’ve done it on the American version of the show. New Zealanders are too nice a people. The audience was never going to get a battering rams moment.
I’ve barely noticed JT this episode. It’s only when Renee is talking about how much she trusts him (why?) that I realize we haven’t checked in with JT about strategy. That’s even more evidence that Chani aren’t going to Tribal.
It’s Outpost time once again. Dylan is desperate to go, not only to experience everything on the show but to hopefully gain some advantage that could improve his position. The rest of the tribe have no intention of letting him go. There’s no upward mobility in this tribe. You were dealt a bad hand on day one now live with it for the rest of your time here! They draw straws again with the shortest stick being the person chosen to go. I thought this was a stupid way of deciding things as it’s unpredictable. There’s no risk if you know the outcome, however. Kaysha was trying to rig it for Dylan, Lisa or Tara to go to hopefully strengthen her side. It would have been a good move if it had worked but Josh gets to represent the invisible five at the Outpost.
JT has the same idea over on Chani and rigs the stick draw for his buddy Arun. If I was cast on Season 3, I’d walk around with the tiniest stick in my pants (I did that on purpose). I wouldn’t leave opportunities up to chance and I’d make sure “luck” was on my side.
The Outpost is my favorite part of the episode. It shows who’s in this game to win and there are so many great opportunities for gameplay. JT used it perfectly to gain information. Chani have a great game plan going into a swap from the knowledge he brought back. Last week neither participant got the most out of the Outpost. There was no information gained and no cross-tribal alliances or bonds formed. It’s a great way to push your game forward as it’s a rare opportunity to talk with someone from the opposing tribe.
Arun and Josh face a moral dilemma. Each person must choose someone from their tribe to sit out the immunity challenge. This person is safe from elimination if the tribe loses, so it is an interesting predicament. You could sit your weakest person out and then have to go to Tribal and be unable to vote them out. Sit one of your stronger players out, so you protect an ally and the weak are vulnerable, but then you have a higher probability of losing. Chisholm lets the pair discuss it which is kind of odd. There’s no benefit in giving information away. The only information you should be sharing with the other tribe is misinformation.
Arun does a good job of prodding for details while not giving much away himself. There’s no need for mind games as Josh blurts out that Dylan is on the bottom. Everyone dislikes him on Khangkhaw and Josh is doing all he can to poison the well for Dylan on Chani as well. Arun understands the power of the Outpost and does something I’m surprised has taken four episodes. He tries to solidify an understanding with Josh. They shake on it agreeing to an alliance of strength which is mutually beneficial. Arun is saying what he needs to increase his safety. Chani are outnumbered, so Arun is looking for a plan B. If Arun is swapped badly, his time at the Outpost might be the thing that keeps him safe three more days. If he’s vulnerable at the merge, this meeting could be just as valuable as immunity.
Josh says knowledge is power yet tells Arun that Dylan, Tara and Lisa are expendable to him. Josh is terrible at this game. That’s more than enough information to dismantle his tribe. All Chani have to do is scoop up those on the bottom and they can knock out who they want.
Oh yeah, the point of the Outpost was to assign someone immunity. With 30 seconds to go, Josh says he might give it to Brad cos they’re close (wtf are you doing?!) before giving it to himself. Arun considers doing the same, but it’s not really an option for him. He’s the strength of Chani and their only hope at immunity. Arun picks the weakest person in his alliance, Eve. Also not a bad idea currying favor with the idol holder. Man, Arun is shaping up to be one of the better players this season. Glad I arbitrarily made him my winner pick. Makes me look smart.
I didn’t mind this outing at the Outpost. Some tweaks could have spiced it up a bit. Have them discuss anything they wanted, letting information slip much like Josh did then have each person choose someone from the opposing tribe to be immune. It gives them the opportunity to shape the other tribe. It would have been hilarious to watch the fall out at Khangkhaw if Arun had saved Dylan. Josh could make Arun sit out the immunity challenge basically ensuring a Chani loss.
The other change I’d make is a big one. Like my previous tweak, it works best with a bit of Chisholm slyness. He explains it exactly the same; they can choose anyone they like from their own tribe to be immune. Once they’ve chosen, Chisholm lets them know that person is unable to participate in the challenge, is immune from the vote and also that they are unable to cast a vote at Tribal. Let’s say Josh picks himself, he is safe from the vote, but now his alliance only has four votes. This gives the outcast minority a chance to flip things around. Isn’t that a better twist? Call me up Survivor New Zealand I’m bursting with ideas.
Arun shares his Outpost experience with the rest of the tribe. Eve is slightly offended at first that she has to sit out for being weak. That feeling quickly vanishes knowing that she’ll be immune if they lose. Arun comes off good in this scene. He explains that he could have saved himself but he wanted Chani to win and it was all about the tribe. He couldn’t have played the Outpost better. He’s gained info (which he shared with the tribe), possibly gained an ally and also increased trust with the allies he already had.
Khangkhaw takes the news that Josh assigned himself immunity far too well. I would have been pissed. It’s a selfish move on his part. The invisible five being pleased with his choice is one thing, but there’s no reaction from the likes of Lisa or Tara.
Going into the immunity challenge, Dylan says “I feel like my life in this game depends on this challenge.” He then proceeds to sit out. Sit outs are determined in various ways, and I don’t think Dylan would actively want to sit out knowing he’s on the chopping block. It was an amusing part of the episode nonetheless. You always want to have some control over your game.
Chani gets off to a good start untying their wrists quickly and communicating well. A scuffle between the two tribes doesn’t slow down Chani and Arun is able to take his time throwing the bolos. He lands enough to finally give his tribe immunity. The Chani losing streak has come to an end. Chisholm is just as excited as the victorious tribe, presumably glad a Pagonging was postponed.
Kaysha is livid at Khangkhaw’s performance in the challenge. There’s speculation that they threw it. I can understand why some would feel that way. Khangkhaw didn’t have the same gusto that they’ve had in other challenges. Tess set the tribe on the back foot from the start and Brad didn’t pull through at the end either. There weren’t any confessionals directly stating that they threw the challenge, so I’m inclined not to believe it. The invisible five are in such a good position I think they didn’t really care if they won or not. They have targets lined up, so it’s no big deal if they lose one… or two…. or three.
Kaysha has a suspicion that Tess has an idol from her excursion to the Outpost. Not a bad assumption. Tess’s explanation of what happened at the Outpost was outlandish, and in actuality, she did get an idol clue (just as good as an idol if you know what you’re doing). Kaysha is intent on stirring up drama to flush Tess’s idol (well, Brad has the idol… not a bad plan though) and hopefully pull the numbers together to create an upset.
Kaysha talks to tribemates throwing Tess’s name out there knowing it will get back to her. Which it does. Hearing her name stresses Tess out causing her to forget logic and basic maths. Tess is worried about getting voted out when she has an alliance of five (in a tribe of nine) with control of the idol. She’s so paranoid that she’s even worried about Kaysha/Dylan having an idol which is crazy because she knows exactly where it is, in Brad’s hands (her alliance partner!!).
Dylan does his best to chat with Josh, looking for any glimmer of hope. Josh offers nothing, displaying his impeccable social game by telling him he doesn’t trust him. “I came in to play hard, I wanted to go far in this game and so to kinda be told I’m on my way out sucks,” says Dylan. I really feel for Dylan. He’s a fan of this game. He’s not making a fuss of it like Lisa, crying over holding old mate idol or anything. You can tell its deeply important to him. We all have our Survivor goals. Make the merge, make the jury, win immunity, find an idol, make the family visit, win. To go home pre-merge is not something us super duper fans think is a possibility.
Dylan has a number of qualities you’d want in a Survivor player. In most seasons he would have a decent shot. I love Survivor because a person’s unique qualities can shine. If you’re weak, you can outthink someone, if you’re outnumbered you can scrounge for an idol, if all you have is your personality you have all you need to make things happen. There is one factor that’s ruined countless games, and it will do that every season, and that is luck. It doesn’t matter how strong, smart, crafty or social you are; you can’t escape it. Dylan was unlucky on day 1 and it continues to hamper his game. It’s interesting to note the difference in reaction between JT and Dylan, both similar archetypes on different tribes. JT is trusted by everyone and a key strategic cog of his tribe whereas Dylan is disliked and distrusted by his tribe for the very same attributes appreciated in JT.
Kaysha sees the good in Dylan and doesn’t want him to go home. She plans to get the invisible five to split the vote so the outcasts can blindside Adam. To implement the plan she chips away at the confidence of the invisible five by raising the possibility of Dylan having an idol. I have no idea why any of the invisible five would be worried. They know he doesn’t have the idol. It just shows how inept that alliance is. I’m starting to see why the editors left in all those quotes about the winner coming from Chani.
Khangkhaw finally have their first tribal council. Lisa ticks off another item from her Survivor bucket list (I’m already irritated by that damn bucket list.) Dylan expresses how nervous he is, how he’s a huge fan of the game (eye roll and sarcasm from Adam), and how he doesn’t think Adam wants to be there as much as he does. Adam calls Dylan a snake (the worst thing to be called on Australasian TV) and Kaysha sticks up a bit for Dylan saying she empathizes with his position. The whole time Tess’s eyes dart around the room as she tries to comprehend this side of the game.
Dylan is resigned to his fate as the votes are read. His Survivor dream over before it started. Two votes Dylan, one vote Tess, one vote Kaysha (hang on a min) with each subsequent Kaysha vote Dylan is ecstatic to have more time in the game yet he knows his number one support system is gone. Kaysha spent the afternoon fighting for Dylan to stay and it worked… not in the way she had hoped. I opened this blog talking about how I questioned Dave’s skill as a player and how he could have fought harder to save Franky. This episode shows Dave made the right call. Fight for your ally but first fight for yourself. Numbers are great; they don’t mean anything if you’re on a plane back home.
I ended my last blog talking about how any Survivor player could be great if they were given three more days. Dylan has been given an opportunity not many Survivors get. A second chance. Every player that gets sent home says they could have turned the game around if they were there for one more round. Let’s see if the kid can do it. Make them regret keeping you there, you bad egg.