Thoughts on Episode 10:
- The fun thing about this episode is that you can see how the story arcs of the season are adding up to something. This is what makes Kaoh Rong more than just as good season of Survivor, but a great television series. We’ve seen this story arc of Aubry, the anxious, self-doubting lover of the game who never gives up on finding her place at the top of the tribe. She had a lot of airtime the episode Neal got medevaced from the game, and most of it surrounded her struggles trying to get on the good side of the numbers, and just as it seemed like they were about to get rid of her nonchalantly, her best ally in the game inadvertently saved her. After that, she’s had a second lease on life in the game, found a strategic partner in Cydney, and got on top of the game. Then there’s Tai, one of the most unique people the show’s casting department has ever found to play the game. He’s a tiny, gay, Vietnamese immigrant, who loves all living things, and has been forced to adapt to a cutthroat game. Watching him ebb and flow with the game has really made the show special this season, and he’s had to compromise who he is to make things work with his alliance. Last week saw the story come to a head where he had to accept turning to the dark side to make his game work, putting the fire out just like his ally Scot did the day before. It tore Tai up a little to go against his natural instincts in the game, but the beauty of this season’s story is that there was still hope for everything to get back to normal through time. Once his story and Aubry’s story collided this week, it’s as if the narrative of the season jumped into a different stratosphere. Aubry finally bloomed into the beautiful flower she wanted to be and Tai found exactly where he belonged working with her when he decided to listen to her pitches for allegiance. I loved watching these two come together because it was so perfect for the story. Tai finally found someone who made sense to him, someone who he could work with without compromising the way he wanted to interact and coexist, and Aubry found the last piece of her puzzle to making an alliance that could put her in position to actually win the game. Sometimes Survivor is poetic, sometimes the show just works out beautifully, and this week was one of those moments. Everything that happened in the days before this week’s vote added up to the shocking moment we got to witness at Tribal Council., and it was all very fun to watch.
- While I was originally unimpressed by the choice to do a balance based reward challenge, things got very exciting when Jeff revealed that the cast would have to choose one of three categories to compete for; an advantage in the game, food, or letters from home. This was actually a really fun way to make the end game interesting without having to go back to the old, broken Survivor auction. Sure the auction is a staple of the show, but after the debacle that was Worlds Apart, the show was right to put that feature on hiatus for a little bit. It ended up being a pretty even split between the three choices, with Jason, Scot, and Michelle going for food, Julia and Joe choosing to play for letters, and Cydney, Aubry and Tai choosing to go all out, playing for an advantage in the game. The letters challenge ended pretty quickly, with Julia easily outlasting Joe to win her reward, and the food challenge did not last particularly long either, with Michelle outlasting the bigger guys to earn a nice big cheeseburger with fries and a drink. It ended up being the fight for advantage that lasted much longer, between what could be considered the three most strategically invested players in the game. In the end, Tai outlasted everyone and got a mystery advantage that he would be able to keep to himself and use whenever needed. His advantage was revealed to be an extra vote, very much like the one Dan Foley received on Worlds Apart. It should be exciting to see how Tai uses this advantage, but considering how he has flubbed a couple of other high stress situations in this game, I have a feeling he may be doomed to fail when it comes to this advantage. There’s got to be a reason why the Cambodia season got a more powerful version of this advantage, and it’s likely because it didn’t work twice.
- With Jason finally coming through in a physical challenge, taking immunity, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the men’s alliance of Tai, Scot, and Jason would be completely immune from the vote. With Scot in possession of Jason’s idol, and Tai in possession of his own, they were set to be the first players to ever save themselves after the votes were read by combining two idols to form a super idol. Of course, as we saw earlier in the episode, the newly formed “Missed Connection” bond between Aubry and Tai was threatening the closeness of the men’s alliance, as Tai began to listen and consider Aubry more carefully than Scot or Jason. It got to the point where it seemed very up in the air whether or not Tai would throw his support or idol to Scot if he was in trouble with the vote, something I did not expect to see happen this episode. Aubry’s jedi mind tricks on Tai have got to go down as some of the greatest strategic manipulation the show has seen, regardless of how hyperbolic that sounds. I never thought Tai would be foolish enough to turn away from an alliance where he had a great chance to win in the end, but Aubry convinced him to turn on his allies, and it was just such a masterful moment in her game, and another great question mark in the saga that has been Tai on Survivor. It all came to a head at Tribal Council when four votes went against Scot and he was voted out. Scot looked to Tai and asked for the idol to combine with his own to save himself, but after a long, nail-biting stare off, Tai shook him off telling him no. A stunned Scot quickly gathered his belongings and his torch and faced the music, in one of the strangest tribal council scenes of all time. It was a high drama vote, and the results are certain to have a ripple effect on the game, as Tai now has his idol freed to use for himself and an advantage to boot. In other words, he’s ripe for the picking to be blindsided next week! We’ll see if it goes down like that, or if Tai can actually make a great run on the show, but either way his “no” response to Scot at Tribal should go down as one of the more infamous moments the show has seen.
Final Thoughts After The Episode:
- My player of the week honors go to Aubry because she pulled off one of the greatest personal manipulations we’ve seen in a while on the show. Her ability to talk Tai out of an alliance that was good for him was brilliant, and I don’t even think calling it brilliant does it enough justice. It really was a home run for Aubry, a potentially game-winning move that is 100% of her own creation and doing. Job well done Aubry, you have finally come into your own in this game…My favorite moment of the episode has to be the moment at Tribal where Tai told Scot he wasn’t giving him the idol. It was cold, ruthless, and suspenseful for the few moments where everyone was looking to see if he would provide Scot the super idol or not. Also, a special shout-out to Julia is needed for her probing “Play the idol, Tai” line during Tribal. It’s unfortunate that she got played on that vote, but she really did a nice job trying to take the game by the throat attempting to have Tai flush his idol. I’m really enjoying her game this season…I’m thinking the end is going to be near for Mark the chicken next episode, as Julia and Jason are looking a bit pissed and a bit hungry in the episode teaser. I’ll be sad to see Mark go, he’s been a wonderful addition to the show this season, but if it’s his time, then so be it…I really do want to see Jason rebound from Tai’s betrayal. I know that may be a controversial opinion with some fans of the show, but it’s not gonna be fun to watch Jason, Julia, and Michelle get run out in order. There’s still a lot of posturing that needs to happen before everything is settled, and I don’t think I’ll be completely satisfied until Jason gets some revenge on either Tai or Cydney.