Survivor castaways will often do “whatever it takes” in order to progress further in the game. This was incredibly apparent in the most recent episode of Survivor, where Caleb Reynolds induced a life-threatening situation while participating in a reward challenge. Efforts like Caleb’s, along with many other incredible challenge performances from Survivor’s history, paint a picture of how working hard can produce both smaller rewards, like coffee, fishing gear, and luxury items, but also propel someone to winning the million dollar prize. While massive efforts are often commended, this article will do no such thing. Instead, I look to an instance in Survivor history where not exuding maximum effort was smarter and more effective than trying.
In Survivor: China, following a questionable tribe “swap”, James and Aaron found themselves joining Zhan Hu after being deemed the strongest two players at Fei Long. In theory, Zhan Hu could now try their hardest and stand a chance at immunity challenges. At the time of the swap, the original Fei Long’s outnumbered Zhan Hu by two players, seven to five. The tribe swap kept this the same but provided Zhan Hu with a 3-2 in-house advantage over Fei Long. With the merge taking place at a predicted 12 remaining players, Zhan Hu hatched a plan. In a move that would likely be praised by “The Art of War”, original Zhan Hu members Jaime and Peih-Gee decided to throw the next two immunity challenges in order to even the merge odds back to 5-5. This brilliant play was responsible for eliminating Aaron, but Denise’s inability to eat a balut ultimately prevented the second throw. All to be said, this act of not playing and intentionally losing, if executed correctly, would actually be the best course of action.
While Alecia viewed herself as a mental giant, her tribe viewed her as a giant annoyance. The only glimmer of hope for Alecia was Cydney, who at least seemed receptive to her as a person. After three episodes, it became incredibly apparent that Alecia was not intending to work with the others and would undoubtedly flip if presented the chance. So why give her the chance to do so?
It’s probably ingrained in Brawn-tribe nature to always compete and try your hardest, but in this case, intentionally losing could have been the best strategy. Despite participating, Totang lost and booked a trip to tribal for the third time in four episodes. Honestly, Totang is lucky that they did not win the immunity challenge. In doing so, they lost an original Brawn member, but they gained far more in the process. By voting out Alecia, the three remaining Totang members effectively re-solidified their alliance, while preventing a person to join their opposing side.
With players like Peter referencing their desire to flip on their original tribe, I’m sure that Totang will be glad that Alecia isn’t running around in the majority throwing them under the bus.
With a swap heavily foreshadowed during the “Scenes from the Next Episode” segment, it seems only prudent to tailor this week’s State of the Survivor Union towards their chances once Brains, Brawn, and Beauty are no more. No fancy awards or symbolism here, just a bare bones interpretation of where the remaining castaways stand.
While I was impressed with the move to blindside Liz and isolate Peter, I think the 2+2 alliance will only remain loyal under the context of a Brains tribe. The real question becomes – is the one vote enough to cement loyalty to where 2+2 now equals 4 strong?
Peter is an entirely different story. After losing his closest ally, the doctor has been quick to pledge his loyalty to anyone but the Brains tribe. Peter’s best chances actually lie on a tribe that retains Brains members. Turning on your former tribe bears a lot more weight when those you are betraying are directly in the crossfire.
After the Alecia incident, Scot and Jason will inevitably be grouped together. Luckily for them, they are aligned and stand for each other’s best interest. A split that separates these two is likely game ending for the pair. Not only do they represent a troubled previous four episodes, they are strong, physical males – an archetype that often does well in Survivor. Any logically thinking person seeing Scot or Jason by themselves will move the crosshairs in their direction.
Cydney, on the other hand, has the luxury of choosing how she wants to be perceived. She can retain her loyalty to Totang if it serves her best, but also has the ability to shed the past and join a new alliance. Either way, Cydney’s best strategy should be to remain low-key and wait to make a move until it is entirely necessary.
Fresh off of a gruesome medevac, Gondol is tight, but in shambles. With only a few days to figure out how to be a Caleb-less Beauty tribe, their strength lies in their not having to turn on each other and truly begin playing the game yet. While it is entirely possible for a player like Nick or Tai, after noting that the writing is on the wall with the girls aligned, to jump ship, I do believe that the Beauty members will remain close.