by Ian Walker
Today’s modern era of Survivor is mostly defined by blindsides and big moves, thanks to countless hidden immunity idols and incessant proclamations by Jeff Probst about the need to play to win. But there was a time, back during the early days of the show, when great blindsides would occur without the use of an idol or a barrage of leading Probst questions.
In order to make a “big move”, players in the old days of the game had to rely on instinct and ingenuity to flip the game in their favor. That’s not necessarily a condemnation of the hidden immunity idol; it’s just that there’s something extra special when a player has to utilize their wits and charm to execute a big play.
It was easy for Chris to chat up the girls, considering he’s one of the best schmoozers the game has ever seen. Like his good friend Rory Freeman earlier in the game, Chris was looking for cracks, trying to find an in with the women wherever he could, and he knew the right approach as well.
“You question a woman’s character, you question a woman’s ability, she’ll snap your neck,” he says in the previous episode, with his signature Daugherty dramatics. “You open up your heart, show a woman you’re vulnerable, then they start thinkin’ with their heart. That’s when they open up that back door.”
That’s what happens for Chris, albeit somewhat unintentionally. For this episode’s immunity challenge, the loved ones make a surprise visit and compete with their survivors in a blindfold obstacle course, with the loved ones being the blindfoldee and the castaway being the caller. Frenzied with panic over his imminent departure, Chris screams directions at his fiancé Lorie all throughout the challenge, his voice dripping with desperation. The two of them almost pull out the win but end up losing to alliance leader Ami Cusack. Chris bids Lorie a tearful farewell convinced his game has come to an end that night.
However, after witnessing the intense, emotional moment Chris and his fiancé shared at the challenge, Ami and her right-hand woman Leann Slaby decide to stave off Chris’ execution and instead vote out Eliza Orlins, their most annoying alliance member. Chris is informed of the news by his best friend in the game, Julie Berry. While doing her buddy a solid, it proves to be a costly mistake, as Julie’s heads up gets Chris’ head back in the game and prompts him to look for ways to stay beyond that night’s tribal council.
Luckily, he has an audience eager to listen to him. Twila Tanner and Scout Cloud Lee were both displeased with the way Ami and Leann had been running the alliance for some time, so when Chris goes to Twila to discuss future plans, she is all ears. Twila was ready to change the game but needed Chris’ help to do it. With four being the magic number in a group of seven, Chris, Twila and Scout had the perfect fourth vote in Eliza, except there was one problem: Eliza pretty much hated Twila and Scout by this point in the game and did not trust him. So, Chris had his work cut out for him.
There’s a lot of discussion amongst the fans about who gets the credit for this move between Chris and Twila, but the truth is that neither could have accomplished it without the other. Twila had the timing and the drive to make this move happen, but didn’t have the relationship with Eliza, so Chris had to step in and be the liaison between the two parties. Right before tribal council, Chris pleads with Eliza to vote with himself, Twila and Scout, knowing that the rest of the game hinged upon her vote. Eliza, very stubborn and very skeptical, fires back at him with the doubt she has that this could actually work, and all Chris can do is give her the same response: if you don’t vote with us, you are going home. Eventually, it works.
In the defining tribal council of the season, Ami, Leann, and Julie walk in confident that they’re sending Eliza home, and are feeling great when the first three Eliza votes are shown. Then comes the four Leann votes, toppling the current alliance and establishing this unlikely alliance of four, giving Chris a clear shot to the end of the game.
This blindside ranks among the very best in the series, made even sweeter by the fact that there were no idols or barking about big moves involved, just some savvy play by some desperate and disgruntled players ready to shake the game up.