When people think of Survivor: Cook Islands, the first thing that comes to mind is the controversial “race twist.” In this season, four tribes divided by race were pitted against each other before an early tribe swap put everyone together. Before this, however, we had Billy Garcia.
One of the more bizarre castaways in the history of Survivor, Billy Garcia, was the clear outcast on the Aitu tribe due to his affiliation with the metal community and lack of a strong work ethic. Most importantly, Billy Garcia etched his name into Survivor history when he famously misunderstood Candice’s kindness as a profession of love. After revealing the inner workings of his heart (which led to potentially the best Jeff Probst reaction in tribal council history), Billy was voted out in 19th place.
I’m not here to discuss the merits, or lack thereof, of Billy’s love life on Survivor, but instead breakdown his elimination as a way to look at Survivor: Second Chance.
In episode two of Cook Islands, after watching Hiki struggle to make fire for what seemed like hours, we are quickly whisked over to Aitu beach. Aitu, the Hispanic tribe, was clearly thriving: Ozzy and JP were catching food with spears, while Cecilia and Cristina were on the rocks catching crab. While everything seemed hunky-dory in the food department, Billy decided to approach camp life with a bit more of a laissez-faire attitude. The rest of Aitu wasn’t a fan of this and were quick to catastrophize Billy’s antics as manipulative and scheming. Aitu eventually decided to throw the next immunity challenge to get rid of Billy; a physical weakness, lack of work ethic, and for being perceived as someone who could play a bigger role later.
Aitu decides to do something that few tribes in the history of Survivor have done – cut their losses early and go to tribal council in the very early stages of the game. While risky, this is a way to get rid of a bigger threat when you’re absolutely sure of the numbers. A successful attempt at throwing a challenge has only paid off in a few seasons – Survivor: China most notably.
Looking at the current tribal breakdowns and momentum of Survivor: Second Chance, I would imagine that members of each tribe are starting to wonder about throwing a challenge. While risky, throwing a challenge can solidify alliances and relationships; while eliminating some of the most dangerous targets.
For Bayon, I don’t think it’s in their best interest to throw a challenge right now. Just about everyone feels comfortable with their alliances, and pulling the initial thread might begin to unravel everything and lead them on a crash course to failure.
Ta Keo is a different story. With Terry apparently on the outs, throwing a challenge would be a surefire way to get him voted out before he could go on an immunity run. If Ta Keo throws a challenge and votes out Terry, however, they lose their confidence and strength in pre-merge challenges. I think Ta Keo losing one challenge would spiral into more; which is the exact thing they want to avoid.
Just like Aitu, Bayon or Ta Keo throwing a challenge could mean trouble, as the obvious target leaving now forces fissures and cracks in a seemingly tight group. If they had waited to vote out Billy, the tribe swap would have happened, and Aitu would have been at 5 members, while Hiki would likely be at three.
So, right now I have Bayon and Ta Keo holding out for wins, but what about Angkor? Based on where things stand, I think that Angkor (namely Tasha and Savage) are in the perfect position to throw a challenge or two. If I were Tasha and Savage, I would be viewing their situation like this:
They’re obviously down on numbers, morale, and strength. Saving Woo and voting out Varner has effectively turned both Abi and Woo looking to Savage and Tasha for loyalty and numbers. If they lose one challenge, they can pick whoever they want to go home – knowing that they would easily have a 3-1 vote. Lather, rinse and repeat until they are just left with two members of Angkor and 14 castaways total. At that stage of the game in prior seasons (namely Philippines), the two-person tribe was absorbed by the bigger ones.
So, how does this “intentional Matsing” differ from the original situation, and how does it serve Tasha and Savage?
Tasha and Savage have existing relationships with the majority of the remaining castaways from their time at Bayon. This is a good thing, but only for a limited time. We must remember that the original tribes were only together for six days. The new tribes have now been together for just as long, and relationships on the newer, smaller tribes could be more impactful than the original ones.
If things get dragged out for longer, people will start to forget about Tasha and Savage as allies and view them as easy boots. If Tasha and Savage choose to expedite the end of Angkor, the members of Bayon and Ta Keo will view them as an asset, rather than someone on the outs. This mindset begins the second that Angkor went down in numbers and only gets stronger whenever they are viewed as weak and failing.
Normally I’m not a fan of the “intentional Matsing”, but it serves Tasha and Savage very well because they can potentially go back to old alliances and relationships before new ones take root and gain legitimacy.
What Should They Do?
I’ve already profiled what I think they should do in the section above, but I think that losing the next two immunity challenges is in the best interest of these two. Stay close with Abi and Woo, but don’t make it too obvious.
Woo needs to do everything in his power to find an idol. He might win over Tasha/Savage, but he definitely can’t win Abi over. He has a chance to get to the final three on Angkor, but only if he proves himself in challenges and keeps professing his loyalty. Winning a challenge is an obvious goal here too.
Abi is in an interesting situation. She just lost the person that has “been in her corner since the beginning of the game”, while keeping Woo – who has voted for her on multiple occasions. She needs to have a clear talk with Tasha and Savage about their intentions to make sure that she is the #3 and not the odd one out. Abi more than anyone needs to make sure that Angkor wins an immunity challenge.
Terry might not know it, but he’s on the outs of Ta Keo. Everyone values his strength, but he’s on the outs on a social and strategic level. Terry needs to ensure that Ta Keo does not see tribal council so that any alliances that are built are not actually battle tested.
Kelley has done a good job so far of alienating Terry from a strategic standpoint. She needs to continue this but make sure there is more than just a few conversations. As we see in the scenes from the next episode, there is an apparent 5 person alliance being built against Terry, which bodes well for Wentworth.
Kass has done a great job so far this season. She needs to continue to ride the social game and play slow, but be there for the bigger strategic talks. I think she’s in a really good position, but only if she doesn’t initiate anything to remind the other Ta Keo members that she can strategize with the best of them.
Ciera is in just about the same boat as Kass but doesn’t carry the negative reputation from her previous season. Ciera will do well to remain in the majority at all costs and bide her time before making a bigger move at the next swap/merge.
Joe is in it, but only because of his strength right now. He needs to keep befriending people with strategic prowess and subtly insert himself into their plans. Like Terry, Joe would do well to ensure that Ta Keo doesn’t see tribal council anytime soon.
Keith just needs to sit around and keep doing what he’s doing. We haven’t seen much of Keith, but that seems to be a good thing for him.
For some reason, I think Monica is getting anxious to play the game. In Samoa, she just rode the numbers until the minority took over. I think she’s scared to do the same in Cambodia. She needs to avoid this at all cost and just lie low until the merge. Once you have everyone together, then make your move.
Kimmi has done a really good job at just laying low and befriending everyone. She needs to get closer to the people near the top, but not directly at the top. I think the person at the very top of the alliance (Jeremy) is going to be voted out first at the merge, so she needs to make sure that everything is set up so that the pieces can be picked up after this happens.
Kelly hasn’t been received entirely well by her tribemates and doesn’t seem to involve herself in the strategic aspect of the game. She needs to remember that this is not Borneo and that alliances can be built in the middle of the game too.
Spencer needs to stay close to Stephen and Jeremy. They seem to like him and what he brings to the table. Also, he shouldn’t be afraid to remind them that there is an even gender split and that the guys need to stay together.
Stephen needs to stay close to members of the old Bayon, but especially Jeremy. Jeremy seems to be keeping everyone together on the surface, but the real question here is who is doing the work behind the scenes. I think Stephen is in a really good position, but also needs to find himself a positive person to align with subtly.
Jeremy has done a good job so far of rallying the troops at Bayon, despite his loss in the Hero Challenge. He just needs to take a few days off from heavy strategy and let things simmer. Nobody needs to play hard and fast at this point, but his desire to take control could prove dangerous.
WEEK 4 NOMINEES
Tasha Fox – Tasha has done a really great job of turning a bad situation into one that favors her. She has all of Angkor depending on her as the one that makes the final decision as to who gets voted off. Tasha’s choosing to vote off Jeff Varner did not serve Abi well but served the best interest of her own game. Woo and Abi don’t see eye to eye, while Tasha has a strategic and social foothold with Woo. She’s playing hard and fast with her eyes on the million-dollar prize.
Kass McQuillen – Normally my nominees are the people that get the most screentime for their bold moves. Kass has flown under the radar so far in Survivor: Second Chance in a way that none thought possible due to her reputation as “Chaos Kass.” Her willingness to change her gameplay has served her incredibly well, while her bonds with tribemates will serve her well in the long run. Kass is playing a different kind of sneaky this season, and I’m buying into it.
Spencer Bledsoe – Spencer is another person that is benefitting from a radical shift in gameplay compared to his first season. While he was on the outs at Ta Keo, a fresh start at Bayon has put Spencer in a far better situation. He has subtly inserted himself into social groups, which will serve both his short and long game well.
And the winner of the Swan Award is…
Kass has done everything right so far this season. While she has never gone to a tribal council, I don’t think that she’s in danger any time soon. Her ability to change her stripes will take her far in the game. Friendship bracelets for everyone!