credit to josenanigans, who does amazing comics on reddit for every episode of HHH
Would you believe it, we actually get a good swap episode!
I said back in one of my very earliest recaps that swap episodes were simply reshuffling the deck. Generally they’re boring episodes because they focus on new numbers and who stands where- they have a proclivity to be gamebot episodes in the new age. Not this one.
For the first time in 35 seasons, we swap from 3 to 3, and two of the tribes have full stories, likely because there are less numbers to crunch. Only new Soko had light fare, five confessionals largely dominated by Chrissy and Ryan buddying up after Ryan revealed he gave her the idol, which was really sweet and the most I liked Ryan, if only because he didn’t give a smug confessional about how Chrissy was easily manipulated or something.
On the two other tribes, a lot of the conversation was aided or controlled by an advantage, which… should be a negative, honestly. However, advantages, while they can be problematic, can also enhance a story if it ties itself into character moments and storylines that on their own they usually do not. It requires a good support, and it did so well.
However, it’s not an either/or good/bad thing. This could have enhanced the story while still being a very troublesome advantage.
I am of two minds of this twist. One mind thinks that this was not nearly as bad as it could have been. The other mind thinks that this was almost very, very, very bad. This is the equivalent of throwing a Holy Hand Grenade in Worms and it bouncing off another one of your worms to hit an enemy. There’s so much that I have to bitch about this that I didn’t see due to it working out well… but that’s not to say it didn’t work out well.
Thus I would like to share with you the bad scenarios we nearly had vs the good scenarios we got. A hit and miss, if you will.
Missed: I am not a fan of the fact that Jessica had access to the advantage because she opened a bag of chips. The advantage-capes would tell me that she earned it because her tribe won reward. Okay, that narrows the field to a third. So why did Jessica deserve it? A big part of my beef with advantages is that the distribution is so random. Yet even with other ones, you have to risk something to get them, or earn them in some way.
The Legacy Advantage meant you had to last until F6 and/or have the social game to earn it. Extra votes have been earned by being grabbed in plain sight of everyone, risked in auctions by a rock draw, or competed for during challenges. At rewards you can randomly get idol clues, but that’s it: clues. A thing to help you gain an advantage, not an advantage. I don’t even necessarily like half the twists introduced but they’ve at least been earned, or are steps to getting something. This is a step below Debbie drawing a buff that gave her a night of luxury, an extra vote, and a Survivor winner.
Sure, she and her tribe won reward. But imagine if she did nothing of note in the challenge. Imagine if she dragged and they succeeded despite her. Or hell, imagine if she was Debbie. Then imagine after that she got an instant advantage because she got the right chip bag. Not remotely having to work for a twist, even scouring the surface of a boat, is the problem with advantages- they want the game to be changed, but they don’t care who it changes for.
Credit also to HeWhoShrugs, another hilarious comic artist on reddit during HHH
Hit: That having been said, man did it blow up incredibly well. We have no one to thank but that adorable little strategic disaster Cole. As we’ve learned last episode, Cole cannot keep a secret. Yet, Jessica decided to risk telling him and Mike about the advantage first, because they were both healers. Cole decides to help Jessica by telling Ben and Lauren, which… I cannot say in good conscience that was malicious, but I do not know what homeboy was hoping to accomplish there.
Lauren decides to scrape her way out of the bottom by asking Mike if he knew Jessica had an advantage. Mike knew that, but he didn’t know she knew that. That’s reported back to Jessica, and Jessica asks Cole if he told anyone. He denies at first which is the most ridiculous thing on Earth, but eventually confesses a half-truth- he told Ben. This upsets Jessica, who reflects on romantic decisions she’s made and how those have backfired on her, and starts to blame herself for thinking her attraction to Cole equated to trust from Cole, which is exactly the human portrayal that I long for.
(By the way, I love that Lauren is getting a strategist portrayal because I did not know she had it in her. In her pre-game info she described herself as a hard worker, stubborn, and hard to work with, with little talk about her strategic goals that weren’t generic. It’s rare that she was even cast, much less that she is such a scrapper and strategist. They don’t often let middle-aged blue collar workhorse loners get the same edit that Ryan would get, and honestly she works it better. I also love Lauren in general, though, so…)
Someone said that Cole was like a four year old trying to help Mommy in the literal worst way. While I doubt Cole wants to be compared to a kid w/r/t Jessica, the comparison is apt. Cole said in episode two that he feared Jessica looked down on him due to her age and the latest few moves have been him trying to impress her, in some ways by helping her in ways that hurt her. Ironically, because of that, Jessica has looked down upon him. Time will tell where this storyline goes, but as I keep saying, this is the most interesting showmance in ages. To add to that, it’s the most real.
Now to get to the execution.
Missed: The nature of the advantage means that if you go to TC you cancel someone’s vote. If you don’t, you cancel the vote of an immunity challenge loser. Because Jessica and Yawa won, they got to block the vote of a Levu, who was only notified literally seconds before the vote. As they just swapped and she wanted to keep the Healers safe, she gave it to Devon, which on its own makes no sense though it worked out for her. Before that, Devon was the clear swing vote with leans towards Alan and Ashley, and reported to them Joe lying about them going after him. He was playing the position well, but got whammied hard because his vote was taken away.
Alan says after Devon got bumped like that he was very close to voting Devon to try and sneak out of an idoling and take the third option. If that actually happened, then that is the least control someone had over their elimination ever. Because someone on the other tribe that he never met decided to fuck with him solely because he was the only one from his original tribe on Levu, his vote was made invalid and he was nearly voted out. I would have been so livid I wouldn’t be able to see straight.
Hit: We all know that didn’t happen and Devon didn’t go home. All the other little maladies that could have happened- a forced 2-2 and rock draw being the main one- were avoided due to Joe playing his idol. I don’t know how we got to a point where it took an idol to stop things from going unfair, but that’s the world we live in.
Furthermore, because Cole spilled the beans to every rock and sand particle around, Jessica decided to get everyone involved in deciding who got it. Eventually they all settled on Devon. That’s a lot of power to give to the others, but I give Jessica slack from it being a bad decision because a) she had no choice, and b) it’s a good way to claim neutrality if word gets to Devon that she took his vote.
Speaking of neutrality, the decision to penalize Devon, while it could have backfired significantly, is the most neutral decision you can make. Take out the swing vote and let the two other old tribes fight amongst themselves. The one saving grace of it potentially backfiring on Devon is that at least Lauren was on a tribe with him at one point. Granted, that’s a sliver of apple in a shit pie, but at least it’s edible.
As far as storytelling goes, it’s also a good decision, which is rare for me to say for advantages. There was already massive tension between Joe and the world, and by proxy Heroes vs Healers. Joe was telling Devon lies about the Heroes which he fact-checked against Joe. He clearly seemed down to side with Ashley and Alan, but all he would have accomplished was adding another useless vote into the Joe idol.
Since we were lucky that the advantage affected little, we got to feel the fire of the showdown between the Healers and Hustlers. Which, by the way, was far more electric than most post-swap divide dynamics. Like Solana vs Luzon eats shit in comparison. That’s because one of the sides had Joe and the other had Alan. Joe spreads shit, and Alan does not take shit. When Joe deliberately started a fight Alan had none of it and in my eyes made him look quite silly. That may have been Alan’s downfall- Joe voted him out for being threatening- but it will be Joe’s too, especially since he immediately went to mock Ashley for accidentally “helping” him with a plan that was guaranteed to work as soon as Devon lost his vote.
Missed: That’s another mini hit-and-miss for me. Once Devon was penalized, all Joe had to do to survive was play his idol. With only two votes coming towards his side, the worst he could do was tie it. With Devon voting, he risks Desi getting the three votes, or playing it on Desi and going home, both of which would have penalized the Healers due to bad play.
Without Devon, if he made those mistakes he would have entered a deadlock. I doubt Desi turns on him either way, she’s smarter than that. With the idol both Joe and Desi would be immune in a tie, leaving the rock draw to between Devon and Ashley. Imagine if Devon went that way because he couldn’t vote.
Hit: Straight up, those decisions didn’t need to be made due to Joe’s accurate idol play. It’s just silly that he and a subsection of fans consider him to be a smart strategist when he tanked his social game to play an idol with a guarantee he earned at tribal regardless. Just to make sure people didn’t get the crazy idea that he was acting up to avoid an idol, Joe acted a fool and taunted Ashley multiple times after the vote. All that needs to happen is Devon, Ashley, or even Desi to make the next phase of the game, describe Joe as a dick in any scenario, then his old tribe to remember the patatas. Then that’s it, he can place anywhere from 14th to 2nd but due to his social game he cannot win.
And speaking of…
I’m not sold on Joe yet. Admittedly that’s because we’re in the phase where he gets away with being an ass. Scot had that much more severely at this phase with his treatment of Alecia, but his arc and David and Goliath downfall made him a much, much better villain than he was at first. (Not Kyle, though, he’s still a shithead.) However, Joe is a self-aggrandizing dick who has serious delusions of grandeur. That can make for a great downfall, but right now it irritates me.
Joe has been compared to Tony (which is obvious) and SAU2’s own Luke Toki. Which, by the way, I love that I get to talk about Luke in US Survivor because he is amazing. What makes him work and Joe not work is that Joe is all about presenting himself as a strategist and legitimately thinking he’s amazing at it. That he’s colder, smarter, more sinister. With Luke, you can tell a lot of his bragging isn’t serious even if it is grand, and he often brags about shaking things up and causing chaos.
Seriously, Luke is like better Tony, and if Joe is lesser Tony, then he’s a far inferior Luke.
In addition, I hate to throw around the word complex like it’s an easy excuse to like someone but Luke really is in his braggadocio. He has moments of straight up goofing with the other competitors (“How do you spell Henry?”) and isn’t all as cocky as he acts (especially as seen in his Know-it-Oz RHAP-up with Nick Iadanza, where he’s self-deprecating a number of times). Acting like King Kong is his way of having fun and boosting himself, not putting others down.
Like I said, Joe can have an amazing downfall, I hope. However, let’s not act like Joe isn’t a villain and a dickhead that Kent would spot in a moment (speaking of SAU2 references!). The guy is way meaner than those he’s compared to and things will not end for him. When he eats dirt, I’ll reassess him, but last I saw of him he was being a dick and winning for it, so I can only theorize on where he ends up. Tony wasn’t nearly a dick but he was a villain and won.
While I’m memorializing people, I’m gonna give love to Alan, who I miss already. Alan is someone I think is smarter than most people let on, and someone who acted as a good foil to Joe on his rampage. Remember, in many respects, Alan did what Joe did if his confessionals afterward aren’t revisionist. He sacrificed his reputation to put a target on JP and Ashley, and he got what he wanted. Even as everyone looked at Alan like he had lost his mind, the others did take in JP and Ashley as a power couple which Ashley took great pains to avoid.
Alan fell to the same trap he tried to set up for Ashley, with Ashley and him calling truce to take out Joe. However, as much as I appreciate him standing up to Joe and not being intimidated by his frantic little rage fit which made me uncomfortable, Alan absolutely ate it for that. He got Joe to play his idol on himself and target him. The irony of Alan falling victim to an idol played by someone who “staged” being offensive is not lost on me. It was a battle of the CPN villains, but sadly, the more likable villain left this episode.
However, as far as the story goes, this is the best possible outcome, and the most fitting end for the episode. I love Alan, but his exit made this into an actual rivalry with consequence and as good as it was. However, just because CBS dodged a bullet doesn’t take away from the fact that it shot the gun.
Next Time on… Survivor
I warn you not to check out the preview if you haven’t yet, because oh my god is it a spoiler. It actually spoils something pretty big that should not be in a preview. Which is a shame because the second half of it teases something interesting- Ben having a reaction to his military days and possibly some PTSD. I’m actually really interested to see where this goes, because while we’ve had a few fawning tributes to military folk, we’ve never taken on the things they carry. If that’s what we get, I really want to talk about it. All respect to Ben.