The record for the most individual Immunity wins in a row is to this day still a tie between Colby Donaldson in Australian Outback and Terry Deitz in Panama, both with five back-to-back wins. This season many people were hoping that Joe would be able to tie, if not beat, this impressive record. Having to rely on Immunity to remain in the game is a terrible position to be in, not only does it require a great deal of skill and effort but also a ton of luck needs to be on your side. Survivor is a game of social manipulation and working with people, with Joe’s dwindling numbers and lack of allies, his only chance of survival was to continue winning challenges until the end of the game. As soon as he lost an Immunity challenge, it was inevitable that he would be voted out.
That said, Joe and the editors did their best to make this inevitable decision as exciting as possible. Firstly, Shirin worked out a “numbers loophole”; I love the grandiose term to describe what was essentially having the ability to count. Instead, Shirin sounded like a lawyer that had just discovered a discrepancy that would get her client out of jail. We’ll have more on Shirin later because she displayed some fine strategy this episode. The editors played up Shirin as the swing vote that would decide whether to keep Joe or Jenn in the game. And on top of that, Joe revealed that he’d been stashing bits and bobs and trinkets, like a magpie, to make a fake idol. It was a last ditch effort that added some much-needed pizazz to what otherwise would have been a dull Tribal Council.
As a jewelry designer, Joe had a perfect skill set to make a decent looking fake idol, here was the finished product:
Now let’s compare that to fake idols of Survivor past. Welcome to Arts & Crafts corner.
I think Joe wins in terms of aesthetics, however, only Bob ever truly convinced someone that it was the real deal. Ozzy’s stick fooled gullible Jason, but Eliza, who ended up playing it, never fully bought into it. Other fakes, like Stephen and Taj’s in Tocantins which was discovered by Joe Dowdle, never played out due to Joe being medically evacuated from the game. The success of a fake idol all depends on how you choose to play it. Joe failed to utilize his fake in a way that would be the most beneficial to him; telling Mike that he would give him the idol if Mike swayed the votes toward Jenn didn’t make a lot of sense. If we’re going on the belief that the idol is real then surely Joe would just play the idol for himself? I don’t think Mike ever bought that the idol was real. Mike has the real idol, he knows what they look like, and he knows that if Joe had the real thing he’d just play it.
Mike handled this beautifully. He listened to Joe, humored his offer, took the fake idol, and put Probst on the spot at Tribal Council to gauge a reaction to the idol’s legitimacy. Mike voted for Joe regardless, then played the fake on Will, which got rid of it but at the same time probably gained some trust from Will. The smarter thing for Joe would have been to have waited and revealed the fake idol at Tribal Council, or even better yet, have Jenn show it at Tribal Council and hand it over to Joe. Jenn has a history of finding idols and keeping it secret. Plus, Jenn loves screwing up the game, and she wanted to go home. In that scenario, it was more likely people would believe it, and the last minute panic might have caused the votes to flip. Or he should have shown it to Rodney, someone who has been itching to usurp Mike. Rodney would have been more willing to believe it and could have joined Joe to blindside Mike.
Alas, Joe was sent home. It is frustrating to see a player go home who actually wanted to be there, especially when Jenn so desperately wanted to leave. Even though I find Jenn much more entertaining to watch than Joe, people with quitter-attitudes on Survivor is frustrating. There are so many people out there who would love to be on the show, so when someone has that opportunity and talks about how they don’t care and how they just want to leave, it’s a slap in the face. I get that it is a tough experience, especially when living with people you don’t get along with. I’m sure at some point every player has had thoughts of quitting. People such as Holly Hoffman in Nicaragua, and more famously Jenna Morasca in The Amazon, had points where they wanted to leave, but both sucked it up and then got their heads back in the game.
I hope that Jenn is just having a momentary sulk and that she’ll find her itch to start playing again because I do think Jenn has the potential to be a ruthless player if she put her mind to it. Asking to be voted out just because you are down on numbers and the people annoy you is a sucky way to leave, and it is quitting, no matter which way you slice it. Osten asked to be voted out in Pearl Islands, and Probst threw his torch on the ground – that was a quit. Jenn complaining about her fellow tribemates is funny, but Jenn whining about wanting to go home is annoying. Plus if Jenn leaves then who is going to fill this season’s f-bomb quota?
In a season where at least four castaways have got butt naked, I don’t think the editors have had to use the blur feature as much as they do for Jenn’s mouth. Seriously, that is Amanda Kimmel level blur, except it’s covering a different set of cheeks. I do enjoy a Survivor player that curses like a sailor; it’s one of the many reasons to love Sandra. There is something intrinsically funny about a young blonde girl that talks like she is shooting the shit with a bunch of construction workers in the pub on a Friday night.
Time for a quick commercial break.
Remember back in Episode 3 when Rodney started his glorious Mike impression? Well, it was back this week and even better than the last time. And now he’s added Dan to his repertoire. “You see Jeff, it goes back to a story about me and my friends in Maine.” Classic. He even nailed the mannerisms and facial expressions. It was a brilliant scene of light-relief that even managed to get a sulking Jenn to crack a smile. It was also the first time where I considered Rodney of having a possible chance to win this game. I’ve always thought Rodney had good ideas and a decent grasp of what Survivor is about; it’s putting these plans into practice where Rodney struggles. He understands that Survivor is a social game that is all about pleasing people, yet he allows himself to become hot-headed and get dragged into arguments.
If Rodney was to make it to the Final Tribal Council, I always assumed he’d be a goat. But his ability to relax and make people laugh this week shows that there is somewhat of a social game present. His impressions are not only hilarious, but they demonstrate an essential ability in this game. To mimic other people’s characters like that requires a keen sense of observation and that is profoundly important in a game about people. If Rodney can strike against Mike soon, then hell, Rodney might be in a strong position to win this game. However, Mike is no slouch, and he knows that Rodney has something brewing, mainly because Shirin drew his attention towards it.
Speaking of Shirin, how refreshing was it to hear her strategy on the TV episode rather than having to search on YouTube for her secret scenes? As much as I enjoy bumbling superfan Shirin who makes weird faces with Jeff Probst, it was great to find out her strategic plans. Shirin played her position in this episode perfectly. After Hali had been out last week, the No Collar alliance was pretty much down and out; Shirin needed to hitch herself to a new group, and she approached the right person – Mike. Taking a leaf from the Sandra playbook of “as long as it ain’t me,” Shirin offered to vote whoever Mike told her to vote. She also informed him that her primary target was Carolyn, who she revealed was forming a close foursome with Tyler, Will, and Rodney.
Shirin didn’t oversell her position, she didn’t try and take control, she couldn’t have done that, it would have been stupid to try. Instead, she made herself a useful tool for the majority alliance, and if we believe Mike, then she also wrangled her way into a Final 4 alliance. Voting out Joe and keeping Jenn was also the right move for Shirin. If she had kept Joe, it would have broken any new deal she’d just solidified with the Blue Collars, and it also would have meant that if Joe won Immunity again, she’d likely be booted. Keeping Jenn, who has all but given up, makes Mike the biggest threat in the game and it gives Shirin leverage, she can be used to make a move against Rodney’s group, or vice versa. Backseat driving, as Shirin put it, is a stable position to be in, all you need is a foot in the door, and you can work your way up from there.
Does this mean I’ve changed my winner pick to Shirin or even Rodney? Nope. I’m still sticking with Mike, followed by Jenn, although that would require Jenn to get over her sulk.
Until next time here is a visual metaphor for Will’s game.