Swaney Strategy Blog – Kaôh Rōng Episode 2

We live in a world where the show Survivor has become synonymous with strategy, alliances, and cutthroat behavior. Don’t get me wrong; I love a #blindside as much as the next guy, but the Survivor of today, in many ways, is nothing like the show that originally captivated millions of viewers sixteen years ago. Further, the Survivor of today, especially regarding true character development and storytelling, cannot hold a candle to its former self.

Before you ready your pitchfork and torch, let’s take a look back. In the summer of 2000, 16 castaways were marooned in the South China Sea and set off on a journey that would change television history. Throughout the first season, we grew to love the show not for the strategy or the challenges, but for the dynamic characters that quickly captured our attention. Within a few episodes, we had already established major characters, such as the crotchety Rudy, cerebral Richard, adorable Colleen, and quirky Greg, just to name a few. In many ways, the first season of Survivor put strategy in the backseat to fully develop the cast. This move paid off, as Survivor evolved into a major franchise.

Unfortunately, 40 or so minutes of action cannot properly portray the events of 72 hours and character development gets caught in the crossfire. In recent history, this has become the trend, with episodes focusing on how “big moves” are born, instead of the people behind them. Rather than perpetuating this trend, “Kindergarten Camp” followed the mold of the character-driven Survivor seasons of old and became the long-deserved episode that focused on the characters over strategy.

Beauty tribe members Anna, Julia, Michele and Nick.

Beauty tribe members Anna, Julia, Michele, and Nick.

I’m sure you’re thinking by now – wait, isn’t this a strategy blog? Undoubtedly yes, but the change of pace provided by this last episode reminds me of something that I often forget as a viewer. While these castaways are a tad dramatized for TV, they are still, at their core, human beings that think and react as such.

In basketball, his teammates needed to work together to achieve a common goal. In Survivor, Scot is doing the same thing – he’s valuing people that are strong, contribute to the common goal, and are fighting to win. His decision to abstain from voting for Jennifer shows me that he values his word, and he is far more team oriented than self-serving. If he makes it to a swap, I don’t see Scot flipping on his alliance, and he will likely try to bring together the stronger people.

Alecia, on the other hand, is trying to embody the boxer mentality instilled in her by her father. If you get knocked down, get back up. Sometimes, you have to struggle to the final round in order to accomplish your goal. Alecia proved this in building the fire. Nobody was going to help her, so she set out to achieve her goal and wouldn’t stop until she won. If Alecia makes it to a swap, I imagine that she will enact the same maneuvering – doing whatever it takes to get back up and fight another day.


Totang (Brawn)

Totang, my initial favorite to sweep the early stages of the game, is quickly imploding. After losing the first two immunity challenges, Totang is left with a strong alliance of three (Scot, Cydney, and Jason) with Alecia presumably on the outs. While losing challenges isn’t regarded as a good thing, Totang’s majority alliance does have the luxury of building trust after sticking together for the first two votes.

Scot proved this week that he values loyalty and trust. With the tides turning against Jennifer, Scot kept his word (I will not vote for Jennifer) and cast a vote for Alecia, despite knowing full well that it was Jennifer that was going.

Cydney has been playing a brilliant, yet under the radar game so far. Two of her closer allies have been voted out, yet she votes with the majority in order to preserve loyalty. This move will pay huge dividends for her, as she remains aligned with the loyalty-minded Scot and Jason.

Jason wasn’t portrayed in the greatest of lights last week and the second episode only seemed to exacerbate this. While Alecia was making fire, Jason was napping. The last thing that Jason wants to do is alienate Alecia. If he makes it to a tribe swap, he needs to keep his options open, and Alecia could very easily be the swing vote.

If Totang makes it to a tribe swap, Alecia’s stock gets much, much better. She can play the loyalty card with Totang or throw them aside and build new alliances and friendships on the “I was on the bottom with the brawn tribe” notion.

Chanloh (Brains)

We didn’t get to see a ton of strategic development over at Brains Beach, so we are left to assume that there haven’t been significant changes since the premiere episode. This means that it’s a 4 versus 2 situation pitting the older (Debbie and Joe) against the younger (Peter, Liz, Aubry, and Neal).

With Joe and Liz butting heads, it’s likely that the situation will remain as old vs. young. The issue with an age divide, especially if the loyalties aren’t tested at tribal council, is that the single thing that brings you together is your age and not a legitimate strategic reasoning. For the younger majority, victimizing the two on the outs gives them a reason to bond together and is actually a viable way to build trust.

Gondol (Beauty)

Like Chanloh, Gondol didn’t see much strategic development, but we did see the continuation of Tai searching for the idol. This should further exacerbate the skepticism between him and the rest of the Beauty tribe members.

The Beauty tribe seems to be the one that is lacking in true strategic maneuvering. The girls seem to be playing a very low-key, but a smart game, while the guys seem more oblivious to strategy (except for Tai looking for an idol).

With characters like Anna and Nearly-Purple Nick (okay, I just really wanted to make a Harry Potter reference here) off the map in the last episode, the status quo is likely to remain the same. Nobody wants to rock the boat.

In honor of Super Tuesday and the impending political decisions, I’ll be handing out awards to each castaway based on their chances six days in.

The Gary Johnson Award:

“Could be good, but they really don’t stand a chance.”

Winner: Alecia Holden

The Rocky De La Fuente Award:

“Bet you didn’t know this guy is even in the race.”

Winners: Nearly-Purple Nick, Anna Khait, Aubry Bracco

The Jimmy McMillan Award:

“So crazy that they will never stand a chance of winning.”

Winner: Debbie

The Donald Drumph Award:

“Too big to fail?” #makedonalddrumphagain

Winner: Scot Pollard

The Barack Obama Award:

“Do you really expect me to explain this one?”

Winner: Peter Baggenstos

The Jill Stein Award:

“They love the environment, and you know nothing else about them.”

Winner: Tai Trang

The Michael Bloomberg Award:

“Everyone knows I’m here, but I’m waiting for the right moment to step out into the spotlight.”

Winner: Caleb Reynolds

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The Dr. Ben Carson Award:

“I guess sleeping through the important parts gets me further?”

Winner: Kyle Jason

The Bernie Sanders Award:

“I’m older and more experienced than everyone here.”

Winner: Joe Del Campo

The Hillary Clinton Award:

“I’m viewed as a strong female, but is that enough to get me to the end?”

Winner: Cydney Gillon

The John Kasich Award:

“Did you know they went Greek?”

Winner: Julia Sokolowski

The Jeb Bush Award:

“Someone very close to me got me here; now I just have to prove myself.”

Winner: Fishbach’s recruit – Liz Markham

The Marco Rubio Award:

“I’m young, hip, and pretty, but I’m in it just like everyone else.”

Winner: Michele Fitzgerald

The Ted Cruz Award:

“People think I look like a serial killer.”

Winner: Neal Gottlieb


Shawn is 24 years old and lives in Virginia. After catching the first season by accident, Survivor has become his passion. A graduate of Washington and Lee University, Shawn has worked in many different jobs, including college volleyball coach, bakery assistant, organic farmer, bartender, and non-profit assistant. Above all, he is eagerly waiting for the day he can play the game he has loved since he was 8 years old.

  • Cole

    I think the Donald Drumpf award should have gone to Caleb because both have gone on twitter rants calling Obama a Muslim.