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.
Often, in modern-day Survivor, the first few Tribal Councils can be a giant tribe debate between two reasons to send someone home: being a physical liability vs. being a social threat. This week, Tribal Talk will look at how both of these reasons reared their heads at both camp and Tribal and analyze why it was the physical liability, Keith, that ultimately took the hit.
PROBST: “Chris, if you just look at this objectively, is it fair to say this early on, we need to keep the tribe strong, and Keith did not get it done, so he should go home?”
CHRIS: “Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. But at the same time, you’re balancing staying strong as a tribe, but also staying strong as a voting unit, keeping people you can trust.”
This exchange between Probst and Chris is a perfect snapshot of this debate. Chris’s answer is correct, it’s all about finding that balance between staying strong, yet at the same time knowing when the time is right to take out a social threat. The key word is “balance,” because timing is everything. If you try to orchestrate a blindside and get caught, chances are your head is going to end up on the chopping block at the next Tribal Council.
Ultimately, the Manu tribe decided that it was worth keeping Wentworth around in exchange for removing a challenge liability. Looking at this from a viewer’s perspective, we can see a blindside would have worked had they wanted to take that path badly enough. Wentworth did not have the numbers to save herself and she had no idols – the tribe had a golden opportunity to take her out and didn’t take it, and that chance might not present itself again for a long, long time.
However, I do think they made the right decision. While Wentworth is a threat, the tribe knows that they have the numbers to take her out if they do happen to end up back at Tribal, and if they win the next challenge, they’ll be much happier having her around than being sent back to Tribal for a third time because of Keith. In an era of Survivor loaded with swaps, having more numbers on your original tribe is a good thing.
Perhaps the funniest thing this week was watching how drastically different the opposing tribes’ morales were at camp prior to the challenge.
On Kama, Ron was choreographing a dance routine backed by some very upbeat music. They were portrayed, as Aubry put it, as “the Kumbaya Tribe” to such a degree that you would think they weren’t even aware that they’ll eventually have to vote someone off.
Cut to Manu’s camp, where everyone was glum, sulking, and wondering where to go next. After Manu lost for the second time in a row, the real debate of the episode began to ensue. I would almost describe the strategizing as a “process of elimination” deal. Off the bat, Wardog was pushing for a Keith boot, while Wentworth wanted to get rid of Wendy, who she knew was targeting her. Meanwhile, David and Rick pushed for a Wentworth blindside after being spurred on by Wendy.
After a few confessionals and conversations, it wasn’t directly said to us, but we could tell that Wendy got pushed out of the picture and the focus shifted to Wentworth and Keith, mostly due to the fact Wardog saw Keith as a hindrance to the tribe in challenges. At that point, what it came down to was the group of four – Wardog, David, Rick, and Chris. They could either vote with Keith and blindside Wentworth, or the other way around. With Wendy eliminated as a target, she would vote for whoever those four told her to vote for.
When the camp scene ended, Wentworth’s paranoia made it seem like the plan was set to take her out. However, that obviously wasn’t what ended up happening. To figure out why we need to look at the Tribal itself and look for any clues to as to how and why the plan changed.
The second time a tribe goes to Tribal, lines that were already drawn in the sand become a bit more defined, and that is already happening with Manu. When looking at why the bloc of four ultimately voted with Wentworth, there are a few editorial clues. Firstly, not only was Wentworth given a question by Probst as to why she is an asset to keep around, but we saw some tribe members shown supporting that. As Wentworth explained why it was vital to keep her around, we got an approving nod from Wardog and an additional comment from Lauren, “We can’t lose again.”
Obviously, castaways can lie at Tribal and falsely support things, but based off of the confessionals before Tribal, and the conversations we saw at camp, it was safe to assume that Wardog and Lauren were being honest in this scenario. This in and of itself was a hint that the plan was to send Keith home, but the deal breaker hit when Probst asked his question about Keith, and it’s the same one I used earlier as our highlight.
Probst, who straight up called Keith’s challenge performance a “disaster,” asked a negatively toned question to Chris about Keith. A question presented in this way helps justify the elimination of a castaway. It started to become obvious at this point that Keith was about to have his torch snuffed based on the direction of the questioning. On top of this, the entire tribe, including Wentworth, agreed with Probst that a “blindside” was on the menu that night. Given that everyone but Keith and Wendy voted for Keith, that tells us the majority came to a consensus prior to Tribal and Wentworth knew she wasn’t in danger of going home.
It was the right decision, in this case, to get rid of Keith first, because taking out Wentworth would have no value if Manu continued to lose challenges and have to vote people off. Of course, Survivor is unpredictable and we won’t know for sure if this was the correct decision or not until later down the road. However, it appears that at least for now, the Manu tribe have fixed a short-term problem and should theoretically put this small sacrifice of keeping Wentworth to a greater use by avoiding Tribal Council.
Once again, it’s a bit hard to predict the future of the Manu tribe because we have yet to see a game move that gives us a huge strategic shake-up. Both of the boots so far have been safe – one to remove an annoyance and one to remove a physical liability. Despite all the talke of big moves and blindsides, the Manu castaways are playing it cautious when it comes to Tribal Council.
However, one thing I’ve noticed is that the Manu tribe does seem to have their heads on straight when it comes to strategizing calmly. In Survivor, one of the worst things you can do is get paranoid and start freaking out, because it only makes your situation worse. I do see down the road that Manu will be able to handle stressful situations with grace as opposed to chaos. This will also play into each of their hands well for whoever makes merge because it will allow them to maneuver alliances better and have a higher chance of strategizing successfully.
DOWN THE ROAD
This season isn’t off to a horrible start, but it has yet to gain some real traction. If it wants to be remembered as a strategically compelling season, we’re going to need some more complex and elaborate gameplay to hit our screens in the coming weeks. All four returnees are still in, which means a returnee blindside is definitely not out of the picture, but neither is a returnee monopoly of the game. At this point, both are still possible.
There’s also a possibility of Kama losing their first challenge, which would open up a whole new floodgate of gameplay as we observe how the “Kumbaya” tribe deal with a vote-off. Additionally, there’s the chance of a swap in one of the coming episodes, which would drastically affect gameplay and also possibly shift the numbers enough to see our first long-term alliance created.
However, I better not get too ahead of myself, Survivor is, after all, unpredictable. See you next week for even more Tribal Talk!