Entertainment, Survivor

Survivor: San Juan Del Sur – Thoughts After Episodes 11 & 12

This week on Survivor we had two jam-packed hours of action, gritty game-play, and crazy strategy! Well, not exactly, it was more like two hours of couples fighting, passive aggressiveness, and whining. But, it was still a fun double vote, and gave us all enough interesting twists and turns to hold everyone over for another week. Here are my thoughts on the double episode that was.

  • I would love to hear what Jeff Probst has to say behind the scenes when shooting these shows, because you can tell he has plenty of opinions on the game play as it goes on. On this episode, he showed a little bit of frustration at the pecking order reward challenge as the fivesome of Missy, Baylor, Natalie, Jon, and Jaclyn quickly dispatched Alec, Keith, and Reed, only to strategize among themselves as to who would get the reward. Jeff was having none of this, and asked them to stop and just pick someone. I applaud Jeff for acting on the fly in these situations, it really makes the show that much more fantastic that the host is interactive and influential to the game play, and this was a nice way for him to force some real action. The group kind of hurriedly nominated Missy for reward, since Baylor insisted that she get one, and Missy immediately sent Jon to Exile Island on his request, and picked her daughter Baylor and Natalie to go on the “Horses and Brownies” reward. It was somewhat perplexing that missy wouldn’t take Jaclyn on the reward, as her position in the alliance of five has really been kind of tentative, and Reed, Alec, and Keith were chomping at the bit to sway Jaclyn. The reward challenge was strange in many ways, it didn’t really go through to fruition because Probst got pissed, a player in a good spot tipped her hand about who she wanted to go to top three with, and the only fun action we got was extracurricular bickering between Reed and Missy and Baylor. It wasn’t the best challenge in Survivor history, to say the least.
  • Let’s get to the Jon and Jaclyn fight, wasn’t that just so ridiculous? In all honesty, it was a pretty typical couple’s squabble, but to see that get in the middle of what could be some really serious Survivor strategy is just another example of why Blood vs. Water should never be done again. Instead of Reed being able to charm his way into the good graces of Jon and Jaclyn to see if he couldn’t manage a miracle, we were instead treated to the sight of Jon and Jaclyn not talking to each other, not respecting each other, and blah blah blah. It’s not what I watch Survivor for, and while I completely understand that spending that much time joined at the hip will put you at your significant other’s throat, it got in the way of something that could have been interesting. Nonetheless, as much as I loved Reed on this show and the way he played, I understand the unanimous vote against him. He was sneaky and he was playing to win and had the moves down in his head to do it. With this cast of players who really aren’t playing too hard, seeing someone playing as aggressively as he was must have been kind of a scary concept. So yeah, while it would’ve made me happy to see the game flip on Missy, I can’t begrudge this vote for the rest of them.
  • For the second straight week, Natalie was on fire with her game play. My personal biases towards players aside, I’ll always admit when somebody has played the game well, and Natalie is setting herself up really well for a run at the title of Sole Survivor. She won the reward challenge and selected Jon and Jaclyn to enjoy a pasta dinner on a large king-sized bed. She wined and dined Jon, making him feel comfortable and respected, setting him up for what would be an epic blindside when she turns the tables on him with her new partner in crime Baylor. It was amazing to watch her fake all of this love and camaraderie towards Jon, all the while she plotted his demise, because that is how you play Survivor! You make people feel comfortable, and then you strategically vote them out before they think to scramble. Even though it appeared that Jon may have sniffed out some of the feelings, Natalie was extremely coy about her wine and dine event, and I have to give her props. It would have worked well I think, if Jon didn’t win immunity. Again, I find myself saying this every episode, but what a shame that was, just when something interesting could have happened at any crossroads in the game this season, it’s always interrupted or blown to kingdom come somehow. It’s becoming a tired act, but I guess that’s the narrative of the season, and given the previews for next episode it’s not about to change either. Natalie was steamed that she couldn’t get Jon out, and had to fall back on a plan to split the vote 3-2 for Keith, ignoring the votes of Keith and Alec. Natalie couldn’t leave it alone though, and decided she was going to get her say one way or another, flipping her vote to get rid of Alec instead, keeping Keith who she felt she could rely on going forward. This clearly wasn’t her best move, because if she wanted to make a big move taking out Jaclyn would have been far more effective both in getting back at Jon for his earlier betrayal of Jeremy and solidifying the case to vote Jon out next time he doesn’t win immunity. Still, this move may have been subtle enough to explain away as a misunderstanding, but effective enough to get her the final 3 she needs, with Keith and Baylor, should Missy keep any lingering devotion to Jon and target Natalie at 6. I may never warm up to Natalie as a viewer, but I give props where they’re due, and she deserves props for working her alliance masterfully up until this point. I do sort of hope someone opens their eyes to the strength of her game, and gets rid of her before it’s too late and she’s accepting that check for a million dollars two weeks from now.
  • While he didn’t play the best game ever, Alec had some really nice moments the last couple of episodes, and he’s a player I’ll actually miss on the show. The way he convinced Jon that he and Reed were game to blindside the Nale’s was a solid play by a guy who was, to borrow a phrase from Keith, behind the eight ball. This episode we saw that Alec really wasn’t that bad at the social game of survivor. Sure, maybe he’s not a refined gentleman like the great and all-knowing Jeremy Collins is, but Alec did his best to try to get in the good graces of Jaclyn and Baylor, and did so in an honest way that I can appreciate. Alec fell victim to circumstance in a lot of situations, and while he was never a threat to win the game, he was a decent player and I wish we could have seen if his last minute social scrambling could have any long-term effect, should he have last past this vote.

So the double episode sort of went predictably, with 2 of the 3 remaining Survivors from the post-merge Josh alliance being eliminated, but at least we’re finally starting to see the beginning of the end game for the alliance of 5, and it’s still very fluid and unpredictable. I guess I’m rooting for Keith to pull a Bob Crowley and win his way through long enough that he can survive the fractures of the majority alliance and sneak through to the end. For next week, I’m really curious about the medical issue with Missy. Will she have to be pulled from the game while she’s just a few days from the end? If so, will they still vote someone out and go to a final four for the two hour finale? If I have to sit through another final two I may have to write an angry letter to Mark Burnett, because final two selections are just not as fun at the jury as final three selections are, in my opinion. Only two episodes remain this season, so the real drama is about to begin, and I’m pumped to see how this will shake out. Until next week, I’ll finish up with my usual rapid-fire final thoughts:

  • Reed once again had the comment of the night, calling Baylor a brat. It was true exasperation on his part understandably, but it was also pretty hysterical at the same time. I’m kind of on the fence about Baylor, I don’t hate her as a player, but as Reed said, she does seem like she can be a brat sometimes, and she’s done a lot of hiding behind her mom’s plans so far. Her recent attempts to work with Natalie do give me some hope for her though…I wonder what would happen if Jon and Natalie were at final five, and got all the votes towards them but played their idols? Would there be a re-vote with them being excluded? If that was the case, the vote would only come down to 2 players, and that would make for a pretty chaotic Tribal Council. I sort of hope something crazy like that happens…I thought it was bad enough hiding another idol after the merge with one being in play, but the producers really an idol after John and Keith played theirs at Tribal? They’re really getting desperate for some action here I guess, but it is beyond overkill at this point. And if they’re going to hide so many idols, make them challenging to find at least. I want to see them running around like chickens with their heads cut off like Spencer and Woo were in Cagayan.
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