Survivor Worlds Apart: Episode 12 – Birthday Blues

I know everybody just wants to talk about the upcoming Second Chance season that was announced by Jeff Probst at the end of this week’s episode (or back in March here and here). It’s exciting to see all these former players in the running to return, and while I understand that the prospect of next season is far more enticing than this current season, we have to remember, it’s Rodney’s birthday. It wouldn’t be fair to focus on a bunch of old timers from seasons gone by when Rodney is trying to celebrate a birthday. Why should we be sending love to Kelly Wiglesworth and Jeff Varner? Is it their birthday? I didn’t think so. It’s your boy Rodney’s birthday.

So grab the vodka, put on your best Ed Hardy t-shirt, and call up Joaquin because we’re about to party like it’s 1999, bro!

toysRod3Jeff  Rod4

I have to give it up to Rodney; he is a great Survivor character. Unlike say Dan or Will who make me want to turn off the TV, or Tyler who at best provokes an apathetic sigh, for better or worse, Rodney entertains me. He makes me laugh. Whether I’m laughing at him (it’s usually this one) or laughing with him (he dropped a decent Mama C impression this week), he has been a constant source of light relief in what has become a dark and dreary post-merge. And this week may have been his finest hour yet. After claiming there was a 0.000% (continuing Survivor’s history with weird percentages) chance that he wouldn’t get taken on the reward, of course, the inevitable happened, and he wasn’t taken on the reward, despite it being his goddamn birthday and all.

What followed was a #SurvivorBreakdown in which Rodney threw a tantrum on the beach, complete with cursing and kicking, like a petulant child who had dropped his ice-cream cone in the sand and told he’s not allowed another one. It was funny to watch, but it also highlighted Rodney’s major flaw as a Survivor player – his emotions, or more precisely his inability to control his emotions. Rodney has a decent grasp on numbers; he understands the power of an alliance, he even recognizes the social elements required of a Survivor winner but, his trouble has always been putting these things into practice. He is far too easily wound up and once he snaps it is hard to reign him back in. He may be able to make people laugh with his impressions, and his wise-cracks at Tribal Council but people always remember the negatives more than the positives.

His plan to use his birthday frustration to convince Mike that he wanted to be voted out and therefore trick Mike into not playing his idol was never a realistic possibility. Mike is far too savvy of a player to fall for that and for as good as his impressions are Rodney’s acting skills in this situation were more DeZero than DeNiro. If Rodney could have kept his emotions in check, I don’t think it’d be too wild to suggest he could have been a threat to win this season. But on the flip side, a Rodney with his emotions in check would have been far less entertaining, it wouldn’t have been the same Rodney, it would have been Tyler.


I said last week that Tyler is a relatively smart Survivor player. I mean, he made it to the Final 7, and unlike Will, he got there with a sense of game awareness and strategy. But Tyler as a captivating television character never really happened. He’s the exact opposite of Rodney, at least within the game, in that he never let his emotions control him. Tyler never lost his cool or got angry, in fact, he never showed strong emotions in either direction, even when positive things happened such as winning challenges or participating in rewards. But for as much as I complain about this particular style not being entertaining television, I do admit that Tyler’s approach to the game is probably one of the more sensible and smart ways to play.

Emotions reveal a lot about a person, and Survivor is a game all about trying to read people and work out where their heads are at so that you can plan your next move. People that let their emotions control them are very easy to read, just look at Dan and Rodney for perfect examples. You can put them in almost any situation and predict how they would act, which is why it’s a huge sigh of relief that they didn’t win that reward and become ambassadors of good will. Tyler was quiet and reserved and allowed people to come to him rather than stomping around camp and pushing his agenda. But that can only get you so far. Tyler may very well have won the game if he got to the end but you have to be able to get there, the game he played only got 7th place, and I think a big reason for this was his lack of emotional connections to the other players.


Carolyn on the other hand, who has played a pretty similar game as Tyler, has that ability to connect on a more personable level. Tyler was quiet, methodical and observant but these are all characteristics that can be perceived as sly, manipulative and ultimately, threatening. Carolyn has managed to avoid that target despite her game’s similarity to Tyler’s. Of course, there could be an argument made about the perception of women versus men in Survivor, but it is also partly due to Carolyn’s natural emotional instincts. Mama C itself is more than just a nickname; it conjures up a maternal image. You only have to observe Sierra’s ecstatic reaction to when Carolyn won Immunity or even Rodney’s disappointment when Carolyn didn’t take him on the reward; both are examples of a child’s relationship with their mother (”Your mother’s a whore!” – Dan).

Last week I said that Carolyn’s best move right now was to vote out Tyler and put him on the jury. She takes out her biggest threat to win besides Mike and puts an ally on the jury that would vote and campaign for her. Carolyn now has options; she voted with Mike and Sierra this week to take out Tyler, that could create a solid three to dismantle what I like to call the Goat Herd, Dan, Rodney and Will. Because even though it is three on three and Dan has his extra vote, nobody in the game (now that Tyler has gone) knows that Carolyn has an idol. If Carolyn directs votes towards herself next week and plays her idol, she could control the next vote. That is a hell of a lot of power at this stage of the game and could set herself up as a major threat to win at a time when the jury will be taking into account significant moves.


As for Mike, our resident Texan oil driller lives to fight another day. With his name on the chopping block and no Immunity necklace on his shoulders, it would have been stupid for him not to have played his idol this week. With Tyler gone, the Axis of Evil lose their most level-headed player, and if they weren’t already fractures, then I expect next week the real crumbling to begin. Mike used his time on the reward to bond with Carolyn and Sierra, and that could set him up nicely for next week, even though the smartest decision for everyone would still be to take Mike out the first chance they get because no way he loses a jury vote to anyone. It is an uphill battle, but I’m still saying that Mike will pull it off and win this season of Survivor.

Now who wants to talk about Survivor: Second Chance? I will hopefully have a blog up within the next week or so looking at the names in the pool and letting you know who I think should be brought back for another shot at this game.

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

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