As a refresher, each week, Tribal Talk will break down what happens at Tribal Council to try and determine what exactly caused the latest eliminee to get booted. Sometimes, that may mean a simple explanation of a simple boot, and sometimes it may mean a Cirie-style exit Tribal explanation with idols and advantages galore. This will usually entail a few different parts:
-A short analysis of one or two of Jeff Probst’s questions to the castaways.
-An analysis of how the plans made at camp compared to the actual result of the Tribal Council.
-A breakdown of any idol plays, advantages, and a review of who voted for who and why.
-An analysis of how the vote will affect everyone’s games moving forward.
PLAYING THE MIDDLE
While the jury braced for action at Tribal, having been bored out of their minds avoiding Reem on Extinction, the edit set up a traditional Tribal Council: A new voting bloc of Julie and Lauren – and Ron by extension – becoming the swing votes between the two alliances. Making it unclear which side these swing votes would pick has been the standard approach since the dawn of Survivor. They could either side with the cocky, power-hungry, misogynistic Probst bros or with the ragtag leftovers of “Kama Strong,” a has-been band on its reunion tour looking for a new hit. Each side had its pros and its cons, and this week’s Tribal Talk will analyze why Lauren and Julie chose to cry havoc and let slip the Dogs of War. Et tu Brute, eh?
As Jaden detailed last week, the Wardog’s threat level grew exponentially due to his insistence on making Big Movez™ – he made a move for the sake of making one, leaving himself open to an attack by stripping his own meat shield in Wentworth. Lauren no longer trusted him and wanted revenge, but since she’s a smart player, didn’t want to have emotional blinders on and make a similarly rash move. This put her and her new allies, Julie and Ron, in a predicament between Wardog and Aurora, ultimately choosing to eliminate the more threatening larger target.
Despite killing it at challenges, which is less important these days, Aurora has not publicly outed herself as being as much of a threat as she actually is. She is an understated player not drawing attention to herself, which erroneously labeled her an easy vote. Perhaps part of that is because her Fijian Fan Club has only two people in it, both on Extinction. Even though she’s awesome, she doesn’t gel with the Kama majority. She saved herself twice over by giving Ron the collateral of her extra vote, much like a cantankerous student at Ron Clark Academy would to ensure their best behavior. It was the perfect strategy to work with Ron. Why would he and Julie vote off someone pledging loyalty, despite disliking them, over a threat like Wentworth or an unpredictable schemer like The Wardog? Both instances defy logic and cost Ron at least three jury votes. And it wouldn’t make sense for Lauren, either, as Aurora is equally an outcast and therefore an ideal ally for the endgame. Aurora is by no means a goat, but she’s easier to get a read on and has a harder fight to get jury votes.
Wardog, on the other hand, was unfortunate in challenges but bellowed like a howler monkey the entire game. He made it clear from the start that he was a strategic force after suggesting Wendy be targeted over Reem and by taking out messenger Chris for suggesting he discard his shield prematurely. He created a reputation that was hard to shake, and the perception of that reputation made him an unstable player dangerous to the games of Lauren and everyone from Kama. This was exacerbated by the fact that he got worked up when talking at Gavin. He should have kept his cool and said, “Sorry to leave you out. I just thought you’d run to her, you know?” and left it at that. Instead, Wardog’s insecurities riled Gavin up, which led to the former’s demise.
This Tribal was loaded with insights as to why Survivor is the greatest game ever created, showing that these newbies have figured the game out. Everyone is a threat in some form. Everyone is always playing the game in their own way. Everyone has their own perceptions, which become their reality, and those perceptions change frequently. You need to make the end with people you think you can beat while convincing them that they could beat you. You need to secure jury votes, but in a way that doesn’t make you too great a threat. And you have to make Big Movez™ to get out the threats to your game, but in a way that doesn’t expose you. Unfortunately for Wardog, he learned that last one the hard way by making his move one vote too soon.
Wardog’s move against Wentworth blew up in his face since he exposed himself; given the immediacy of his demise, there was no time for him to become a shield for someone else. He was merely a potential vote for the other control freaks. While Wardog’s departure leaves Rick exposed, it also means Rick is a free agent. The fluidity of modern Survivor does not necessarily imply Rick is in immediate danger. And while he shouldn’t be an endgame threat due to his initial Day 11 demise, he somehow is. This may or may not pose a problem for him, depending on the others’ need for his vote. Funnily enough, he’s become the “easy vote” himself!
With the success of this vote, it feels the edit is setting up an all-female Final Three, or two girls and a Gavin, with Lauren the most favorable to win. The extent to which the edit showed Rick’s cluelessness and misogyny tanks his winner chances and the result puts him on the outs. If it isn’t Rick out next, who knows who it will be? With the chaotic series of relationships that is the original Kama, they could cannibalize any of their own, utilizing free agent Lauren as a vote. There are reasons to target every single person from the original Kama Strong. Wardog’s departure blows the game wide open for anybody to take, and it’s going to be fun to watch.
DOWN THE ROAD
The strategic narrative took a turn for the better in this episode, with the castaways not being stupid like Wardog had wished them to be. The fact that they picked to make extinct the Brutus to Wentworth’s Caesar – to continue Rick’s Shakespearean metaphor, the one from which Wardog’s nickname is derived – shows an improvement in the strategic game. Of the two presented options, Wardog was by far the more favorable target for all the women plus Gavin, meaning Ron had no choice but to join the majority. If Rick doesn’t choose smarter targets for the others in the game, he will doom himself, much like many of the boots before him have already.
Either way, this season continues to have bursts of excitement, even if the editing has often left information to be desired due to the terrible Extinction twist. In the end, the winner is going to have earned their win by surviving votes one at a time and building critical relationships the viewers are not privy to. Everyone is fighting their way to a million bucks whether Rick likes it or not. It’s not obvious who will triumph over the rest, and that’s what makes it great. Jaden will be back next week for more Tribal Talk!