Survivor Autopsy #5: Swap Card

survivor_kaoh-_rong_--_brains_vs._brawn_vs._beauty_s32e03_still“The door is that way, Anna”

My Final First Thoughts

“Anna and Peter are so ridiculously even matched in saying things that should signify their doom. And they just keep talking.

“Anna: something arrogant and stupid. Also I love blindsides!

“Peter: something even more arrogant and stupid. Love Tribal Council!” -Kodi Ross

Swap episodes are always gonna be throwaway episodes. There’s too much change to jam pack into forty-two minutes, and the boot is usually someone you can expect to be a nothing character we’re not supposed to miss due to the inherent unfairness of many a swap’s rushed dynamic change. I will say that with this rather insipid thirteen person swap, Gondol got reamed hard.

Either Gondol or Chan Loh, being five person tribes, stood a big chance at being absolutely bumpuzzled when it came to a swap. One of them would have, mathematically, at least one guaranteed 50% majority when it came to new tribes, while the other would still be a pair. By reawakening the Bruce twist during the first tribe swap with Exile Island a factor, there was a ten out of thirteen chance that one of them were gonna risk a 2-2-1 split, and that’s exactly what happened. The wall of brain, even as close to cracking as it is, doesn’t have to budge. Everyone else just has to run from the giant grinding machine.

Not only that, but the twist is potentially going to feed Julia to the grinder next if NuGondol goes back. NuGondol gets three tribe members, but only two at a time. Maybe Michele will fare better on NuChanLoh, but I’m not super optimistic. I’d love to see Debbie’s crush on Nick make Nick juuuuust useful enough to go against the Brawn twosome, but things aren’t faring well for the original Gondol family.

However, I can’t say I argue against a good swap every now and again. I think right now, we needed a dynamic change. With To Tang wasting away with their Geneva convention violating boot order, they vacuumed up way too much airtime. Not only that, but on every tribe the boot seemed very obvious. Cydney would go next on To Tang, making Kyle and Scot the nega-Malcolm and Denise, Peter would go next on Chan Loh, and Nick would likely go on Gondol. I think you can make a Nick boot work on the sheer weight of his own douchiness, but as I’ve said before, this season lacks forward momentum. Everything is too sedentary. The good thing about a swap is that it means whatever you’ve built gets tested out. Swaps are sometimes truly unfair. At this rate, though, they’re also expected, since they happen every season. You’re less likely to have an eighteen person cast than you are to have an episode five swap in this era. It’s getting harder and harder to justify every swap boot being outright screwed. Even with this crap numbers game on NuGondol, there are reasons Anna went, and I’m going to comb through them.

The Autopsy

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Going into the swap, Gondol had never attended Tribal and only lost one of its members, Caleb, to a freak medevac. They were ruled by an alliance of women and because of that, and Caleb’s ouster, Tai and Nick could only jockey for number four until a swap happened. Once that swap arrived, the three girls were all scattered to the winds. The youngest, Julia, would have to deal with being abandoned in the desolate To Tang camp, questioning in an exhausted, isolated fervor whether or not she was strong enough to do this alone, and fearing that age was more than just a number. Michele was placed on Chan Loh with outsider Nick, leading to three pairs entangled within each other trying to make four out of six.

Our latest victim, Anna, was dealt a challenging hand. One pair for her, three of a kind for the others. However, the three of a kind holder, Aubry, had a terrible poker face. It was easy to see they were shaky, unconfident, and rife with internal conflict. Anna could hold onto her pair and see if the other would fold, or she could try and draw a brand new hand altogether. All the while, she maintained a scarily perfect poker face, hoping the other would back down first. That’s how poker works, right?

Regardless, by selling Tai down the river, she attempted to draw a new hand, and it was all garbage. Because Tai was socially so easy to get along with and a camp workhorse, he got in with Scot, the other outsider. Scot had also drawn a new hand, and he ended up going from a trash hand to a pair, like the one that Anna had thrown away. Tai was everyone’s wild card. Lovable enough to enjoy associating with, an easily impressionable ally you could use for your own gain. This round, Aubry stuck to her gut and played her three of a kind. Scot folded, and Anna lost out with a hand that was beyond salvaging.

Ultimately, what made Anna so expendable was that she was ultimately useless to anyone else. Socially, she didn’t bond with anyone. Tai made himself useful to Scot and desirable to keep over Anna, both for his idol and his friendship. The Brain tribe also seemed to enjoy him and what he can contribute. Tai’s strategic game is questionable, but he reminds me of Keith Nale in that despite whatever strategic flaws he may have, socially he is so likable and so flexible that everyone wants to keep them along, for an easy extra vote, and for quality of life. All Anna showed everyone else, including us, was strategy strategy idols blindsides. With Tai being positive, and Scot being neutral, Anna became the most negative force in camp. If she’d played her hand with more subtlety, then maybe she’d have been saved, but she failed to make the bonds others made. It wasn’t a bad play, it was a lack of good plays.

My friend Dabu compared this to a meta-commentary. Anna and Tai are the boot options. You’re the audience. Do you pick someone who’s overall incredibly lovable, unique, and who builds incredible bonds, or are you going to pick the strathead who gives Big Brother screaming confessionals that travel over water so hard she can be heard from Thailand but has nothing else to offer? Seeing as Tai’s the type of fan favorite that hasn’t been this much of a phenomenon since Malcolm or even Russell, most people pick Tai. I mean, how could you say no to a face like this?

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Funnily enough, I actually can buy it much the same way from a strategy viewpoint. Chan Loh and Scot are shopping out who to keep and who to dismiss, like a job application. The impression they give us as characters isn’t far off from what they’re selling to their new brainiac overlords. Tai gave them the impression that he’s the cute old guy who’s too innocent to tell a lie and just wants to have fun, and Anna gave them the impression that she’s a cutthroat gamer who sells her allies out the absolute millisecond it becomes a viable option. It makes sense that, because they don’t feel attached to Anna and they don’t feel like they can trust her, that her ass was shown the door.

Sometimes it’s as simple as you think.

Pity the Living

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Neal- He found an idol, so that’s good for him. It was possibly the least ceremonial idol find in the history of Survivor, with all three steps being done in two minutes. It leads me to believe that the idol will either be of little consequence, or lol there’s a swap what do you want from us. I’m pretty glad Neal has it, nailing it before a swap or Peter hit the beach so it stays out of the hands of the relentlessly awful. I have a feeling he’ll play it with absolute panache. After all, he’s the one who dropped “It looks like we’ve got some strength, it looks like we have some smarts, and it looks like we have some beauty, so I’ll take it. …I’m talking about myself mostly.” I should find him annoying, but I choose to find him charming instead. And sexy. He’s probably our LJ/Tyler of the season, a complete decoy, but if all LJs were this low-key interesting I wouldn’t mind LJs.

Debbie- Debbie is an anomaly in that she manages to both have no social grace (“You’re ripped! I mean when I got here I was ripped too, but…”) and impeccable social grace. The way she talks to different people differently, helping others reach their own conclusions, and the way she reads people, honestly she could add poker player to her ever-changing careers. She read people better than Anna, for sure. I don’t know how she could convince others to give her a million dollars. Getting there, however, I can easily see.

Joe- Again, pretty low key. I liked that he showed shades of a condition usually attributed to Rudy or Tyson-Not giving a shit. The idol twist he proposes would make for a wonderful season. Too bad it’s not this one.

Peter- Said it before, and I’ll say it again. The continued survival of Peter in the face of a million downfall quotes is amazing. He’s so bad even Tai, scrappy heap rescuer of Scot and Caleb, won’t even mess with him. It’s great. Good old fashioned dumb, harmless douche.

Aubry- This isn’t exactly surprising to anyone who has a TV, but Aubry is probably the sanest original Chan Loh of the five of them. I didn’t expect to see her basically controlling the votes and holding back her near-vomit bile of Peter until a different time, but it’s nice to see. I don’t think a Chan Loh wins, but I can see her being the last of them. She has a habit of being right when everyone else is wrong.

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Julia- I have to say I’m shocked that she ended up alone on the wretched To Tang beach, probably drinking Kyle’s skin out of the water, poor thing. She did seem to indicate that she was too young to be out there alone, like it’s a curfew and not Survivor. I can see her being under a lot of duress and anxiety being out there alone in Cambodia (genius, producers, it’s not like you just had a mega-disaster on your hands three days ago), but I think she should give herself more credit. I didn’t see her as anything but strong and capable. I think she’ll be fine.

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This guy’s had intro shots I think literally all five weeks of this season on my blog and he’s freaking earned it like the Weeknd. Somehow, this modern day Survivor, rife with strategy and idols and clinical move making like we saw in the waste of time known as Survivor: Cambodia, all comes to a halt when Tai is involved. Tai makes connections, true, deep connections with people. His quandaries aren’t who to vote out, it’s why to vote out. His conflicts aren’t other people, they’re compromising his personal beliefs to aid those he considers his friends.

This has been sorely, sorely missed in Survivor, and that, combined with his lovable personality, is what I think makes him a fan favorite. It’s like an oasis in the desert. You went through a lot of empty nothingness to get here, and you’ll probably get a lot more after you leave, but for now, enjoy the shock of life to your system again.

That having been said, I do not like the gut feeling I have that he is going to end up aiding Jason Kyle Kyle Jason in the future. Yin and yang, indeed.

Nick- “LOL DEBBIE BEING THE ONLY FUCKING GIRL NICK CAN GET”– Dabu

Michele- She’s gotten more content as a player, which makes sense considering her position. I think with Nick around she probably lasts another vote, but I do see stormy times ahead for her. Sadly, she’s probably the most boring person now that the thoroughly boring Anna and Liz are gone. Hopefully they spruce her up soon.

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Scot- If you’re asking if this week shows that Scot’s not a bad guy, I have to say the fact of the matter is just because he’s okay around other people doesn’t mean he wasn’t a jackass to others, an entirely unrepentant one at that. And with the defense and immediate forgiveness the fans have given him, I wouldn’t either. Why waste the breath? It was cute to see him go full schoolgirl for Tai. I just can’t forget how he was before, and how little he seems to care about how he was.

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I still struggle with her views on what makes a woman worthwhile, as I believe that hasn’t changed worth a lick. Still, she’s shown both social capability and intelligence even outside the experiment on inverse evolution known as To Tang. She seems to wow everyone with her skills as a bodybuilder, evidenced by the applause she got on Day One and Debbie going gaga over her. Still, as she said, she’s wicked smart and wicked educated. I actually really dig her on TV- she was a clear show of respect and a happy medium in the Alecia situation, and she’s shown herself to be more than what we see on a surface level. I’m glad to be seeing it.

Jason- “We kind of hold all the power! *smirk*”

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My Final First Thoughts

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Since Anna loves idols so much, here’s one she can find some use for.

I don’t know if I made this clear but it became clear to me that Anna was a pretty nothing character. I mean, I’ll take that over her bleating anti-vac stances and joining Caleb in a giant arab-hating Broadway routine which was my fear for them both before the game, but all I saw with her was a very half-baked Wentworth wannabe. Like the original Wentworth, she was booted after a swap. Unlike Wentworth she doesn’t seem to have any potential or charisma that warranted a reboot. Probst says he wants her back, I say don’t, it’s a waste of time. Just because a hot girl says idols and strategy doesn’t make her a good character. Or player. This was a housecleaning cut and I look forward to when they stop wiping out the bores and start wiping out the actual waste.

Otherwise, there’s not much to say. It was your average swap episode. I usually prefer the second swap episode, as it allows the dynamics to play out much more loosely than what’s essentially an exposition hour. Hopefully something good comes of it.

-Cameron

 

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