Monday, June 17, 2013

Wishing for the Plagues

I always find it interesting when a climate change alarmist says what she really thinks. 

Zoe Williams is worried that we are not doing enough to combat climate change.  She concludes a column in the Guardian with this tid-bit (emphasis added):
How do we imbue the political cycle with some long-term thinking, some altruism, some care for future generations?

What this situation needs is actual bad weather, actual negative events, that we can all see, that we can agree on the significance of, to spur us into action. In the meantime the answers are sitting there, waiting to happen.
So, if a tornado blows off you roof this weekend, there is someone out there who thinks it's a good thing.  Presumably, the higher the death toll, the better.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Eps. 12 & 13

I've heard from several of you saying that you felt sorry for Brenda after her ouster on Wednesday.  You never want to see someone go out crying, but, Brenda's downfall was her own fault.

1.  There is never any reason to win the challenge involving the loved ones.  They make you pick who else gets the reward - a process that has NEVER made a friend, only enemies.

2.  There is little reason to give the reward to the four others.  It never buys good will.  I've never seen anyone vote for a Survivor at final tribal because they gave them a reward.  If anything, the others will use your boot-licking as an excuse to vote you out (another reason not to win the challenge in the first place).  If you're liked, you'll be liked whether you gave out rewards or not (though not giving a reward will create enemies - see point 1).

3.  Did Brenda really quit the immunity challenge or was it a "Phillip" quit, i.e., after losing the challenge you decide you threw it?  It wasn't like this in the early seasons.  When did this concept develop of "you already won an immunity, let me have this one"?  How does anyone find that argument persuasive?  Whether it was a Phillip quit or not, I can't believe Brenda actually suggested that she gave up on that challenge.  Brenda - you got it backwards.  You should have thrown the reward and won immunity.

4.  Brenda completely misunderstood Dawn's relationship with Cochran.  I understand Brenda was laid back in the early going and didn't form alliances right away.  But, she should have understood that a neurotic like Dawn would have major alliances on day one (which she did).  I don't know what sort of retainer agreement Brenda thought she had with Dawn, but she clearly underestimated Dawn's pledge to Cochran.  I understand that by the end Dawn and Brenda were relying on each other for emotional support.  But, Brenda might have picked up on the fact that Dawn has been such a wreck in part because she was torn between Brenda and Cochran. 

As I said, you hate to see a sweet person like Brenda leave the game crying, but Dawn's betrayal was not that egregious.  It wouldn't make Kim Spradlin's top 10.  However, I do dislike Dawn a little more because of it.  The Andrea blindside didn't bother me as much because Andrea's demands were becoming ridiculous (suggesting to Cochran that Eddie be in the final 3) and she had a hidden idol.  She needed to go more than Brenda.  But, Brenda was becoming dangerous, and Dawn can defend the move.

As for tonight, the preview suggested a player leaves the game under unusual circumstances (injury or quits).  Is is possible Dawn's guilt overwhelms her?  On the other hand, why did they spend 5 minutes last week showing Erik climb half-way up a tree?  It served no purpose whatsoever, yet they had to have shown it for a reason?  It got me thinking that something might happen to Erik later on.

I've enjoyed this season, but I've become concerned that it could end poorly tonight.  Let's face it, not having the likes of Malcolm, Reynold, Andrea or Brenda in the finals does diminish the excitement a bit.  I understand that the best players are going to often be targeted, but I see an awful lot of bottom
-feeders left in this game.  Eddie, Sherri and Erik do not make an All-Star team, and Dawn has been too emotionally inconsistent for me to take seriously the idea that she played a strong game.  At this point, I feel only Cochran deserves to win.  So, I'm worried I might not enjoy tonight if he doesn't.  However, if someone pulls together a strong final episode (Eddie?), my opinion might change.

Going Into the Final Episode:

1.  Cochran (30% chance of winning).  I think Eddie might have a lot of votes on that jury, so the group has to get rid of him before worrying about Cochran.  This, in my mind, makes Cochran the favorite.  He was well liked.  No one can deny he played a good game.  He even won two immunities.  I think the only one who can beat him is Eddie.

2.  Eddie (25% chance of winning).  Eddie has not performed well in the challenges and has had almost no say over any aspect of the game.  He's alive because Malcolm handed him an idol and he is weaker than Reynold, Andrea and Brenda.  These are not compelling arguments for his candidacy.  He never says anything interesting, so I have no reason to pull for him.  However, he has friends on the jury, and he seemed to be well-liked overall.  He might win, though it would be a weak one.  If he pulls it out, I hope he does something special the last episode to earn it a little more.

3.  Erik (20%).  I still haven't warmed up to him and I don't think I ever will.  I thought his existentialist speech about the island being a prison was overwrought.  It seems like the Survivors are suffering a lot more this season than most.  I can't figure out whether they have been given less than usual or they are a bunch pf crybabies.  As for Erik, I can't deny the fact that there are avenues to him winning, especially if he's sitting next to Sherri and Dawn (certainly possible).  I have him lower than Eddie because someone is leaving unexpectedly, and he seems a better candidate to hurt himself than Eddie is.

4.  Dawn (15%).  I've seen people struggle emotionally in this game, but never for this long.  She is a mess.  I don't think she's going to make it, that's why I have her so low.  Even if she makes it in front of the jury, I don't think she'll explain herself well.  She has a case to make.  I honestly don't know if she can make it.  She has talked about showing the jury that she made big/tough decisions, but can she crawl out from under Cochran's shadow?  I might be underestimating her, but she needs to pull it together quick.

5.  Sherri (10%).  She doesn't say anything interesting, doesn't do well in the challenges and made a lot of bad decisions early.  She's around because the good players cannibalized each other.  I don't think she was well liked.  She might win if the Favorites on the jury feel betrayed by Dawn/Cochran and decide to throw a protest vote.  I'm not rooting for her.

It's pretty wide open, I just wish it was populated with a couple of stronger players.  We'll see how this ends. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Ep. 11

I have seen many an episode of Survivor where the producers try to convince the audience that the majority alliance is going to crack, and I say to myself: 'nice try Survivor, but there is no way they are breaking this week', and they almost never do.  However, last night, for the first 30 minutes, I actually thought they might fall apart.

For those of you who read my last review, I thought Malcolm's double-idol blindside last week was great theatrics, but a poor long-term strategy.  He was still down 6-3.  The alliance had more than enough numbers.  However, I was shocked at just how crushed the majority was by his maneuver.  Brenda, who had been strong and sunny all game, was singing a funeral dirge.  Dawn has been weeping for awhile, so she's not the best example, but, Sherri, who despises Eddie and Reynold, was actually talking about joining the boys out of sheer frustration and fear that they couldn't be beat. 
Even Cochran was temporarily gloomy.

You can make fun of Phillip and his "Stealth-R-Us" all you want.  But, he created a feeling that you were part of a team.  And, even though he was not respected, and openly disliked, he provided something that they immediately missed - a feeling of safety and protection that comes from being in a larger group.  Even though they were still up 6-3, the majority had no confidence after the Malcolm maneuver.  The formality of the group was gone.  They were overrun with fear.

I hate to compare Survivor to war, because the stakes are not the same, but you see this type of reaction a lot in military history when an army with a huge advantage in numbers becomes panicked by the superior tactics of the enemy
During the Civil War, Robert E. Lee had so psyched out the Union generals that they would commit blunder after blunder because they completely overestimated Lee's capabilities (and, to be fair, they were also horrified by the casualties).  When Grant finally took over, his subordinates would panic and yell, "Bobby Lee! Bobby Lee! What's he going to do next?!?!!", and Grant would holler back: "Let's stop worrying about what Bobby Lee's going to do and start worrying about what we're going to do to Lee!"  The Union had finally found a general who could defeat Lee.

Anyhow, back to Survivor.  While Brenda and Dawn were hiding in the field tent, two people stopped the panic - Andrea and Cochran.  Andrea brilliantly blocked Malcolm from getting another idol, and Cochran got the clue and won immunity (Dawn was practically standing next to Cochran at the end of the challenge BEGGING him to win it).  All of a sudden, when Cochran got the necklace, the boys no longer seemed invincible - and the reasons for bolting from the majority started to melt away.

Eric is in a much better position with this group than Malcolm & Co.  Bolting would make no sense (though Andrea did point out one possible reason - he was burned by an alliance of females the first time he played).  Aside from that sort of irrationality, he's better off where he is.

Sherri hates Reynold and Eddie, and her body language to Malcolm screamed "I AM NOT WITH YOU."  Once Cochran had immunity, I never thought she was going.  It's also worth remembering she hasn't seen Malcolm's first season.  She didn't see him align with Denise and stick with her until the end.  So, when he promised her the final two, those were probably less convincing words than they otherwise might have been. 

Anyhow, because of the fine work of Andrea and Cochran, the alliance held. 

The coming attractions show Cochran saying that this is the beginning of the end of the six-person alliance.  I believe it.  It's 6-2 and time to start planning one's endgame.  But, I still think if Reynold doesn't win immunity, they'll rally to ditch him.  Eddie, who is less intimidating in the challenges, might be useful to someone when it gets to seven (a classic time to get a swing vote and make a move).  The alliance might start their cannibalizing then.

Andrea and Cochran have been the two best players this season, and it would be nice to see them both in the finals.  If only one makes it because the other took him/her out, that's Survivor.  If they both don't make it, it's because the crybabies started to wise up.  Once Malcolm and Reynold are gone, there will be a lot less moaning and a lot more ruthlessness.  Right now, I think Cochran might be in a better position to handle this than Andrea.  I get the vague feeling there are some people who are relying on him for strategic thinking.  I also think they are more intimidated by Andrea.  But, it should be interesting.  These are two very young players who (partly because they had the experience of competing before), are playing at a very high level.  I'm very curious to see how it plays out. 

Malcolm's Requiem

I have to say a few more things about Malcolm now that he is gone.  I've been accused a couple of times this season of hating Malcolm.  I like Malcolm, I just think the producers oversell him as a player.  He does a lot of questionable things, and I point them out.  I think he's a good tactician but terrible strategist.  The double-idol blindside was great tactics, but where's the long-term strategy?  Why did he bolt the main group for an alliance with people who were not only disliked by many, but also feared (Corinne, Reynold & Eddie)? 

However, he's a nice guy (and to his credit, the double-idol blindside did come closer to breaking the alliance than I thought it would).  His closing comments were also very classy.  He admitted to believing Sherri, and I'm not going to blame him for that.  He had only two choices - believe Sherri or live in panic.  Better to believe Sherri when you don't have any other option.  At some point you have to trust someone when all your other cards have been played. 

Finally, even though I criticized him a lot, I'm going to miss him.  He's more fun to watch than Reynold or Eddie.  He tries.  He spent his money to get a clue, while the other two sat there.  I wish Reynold had gone instead, but the alliance (wisely) went for the more dangerous player. 

A few people have played this game three times.  I'm sure, he's on the producers short list.  He might be overrated, but he's still fun TV.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Eps. 9 & 10

I never wrote a review of Episode 9 (it was sandwiched between two grueling baseball drafts), and Episode 11 is only hours away, so I have to play catch-up.  Because I'm covering two episodes, I'm going to organize my comments around each Survivor, rather than attempting some ill-conceived chronological report.  I'll start with the people driving the action and work my way through.


Here's the positive:  while he is in the minority, he survived the last two votes and is still alive. 

But, there's a lot of negative stuff to discuss. 

First, he's in the minority because he put himself there.  I still don't understand why he went to Dawn with his plans of usurpation right after Corinne got voted out.  True, he might not have realized Corinne did the same exact thing the day before and it blew up in her face, but did he even ask himself why Corinne went home that night?  I'll give him credit for acknowledging in the most recent episode that going to Dawn was a mistake, but I still don't know what he was thinking.

As for his playing both immunity idols at tribal council and blindsiding the Favorites - I'll admit it was great TV!  But, wasn't it too much style and not enough substance?  Yes, he shocked the veteran players.  Yes, they were forced to cannibalize Phillip.  But, how much did he advance his minority alliance in the game?  Malcolm, Eddie and Reynold are still down 6-3.  Is the plan going forward for Reynold to win every individual immunity and Malcolm to find two idols an episode?

So, even though it was great theatrics, I think it was a missed opportunity.  Why not go to two people before the vote - tell them you're playing both idols, and make it clear one of the majority is going home?  Isn't that the way you get a couple to flip and join your alliance?  Instead, both idols were played, but he didn't get any agreements locked down before they were played.

I'm not saying the minority is done.  I just think they could have had more leverage if they got people to flip before tribal council.  [Note: the one important defense in Malcolm's favor is that he found the second idol so close to tribal council that he might not have had time to maneuver - which is certainly plausible.  However, the ones who knew about the idol pre-tribal council (Dawn & Andrea) had time to confer with the alliance and adjust their plans.  So, there had to have been some time left].


When Andrea realized she was being targeted two episodes ago, and (competently) adjusted the tribe's plans to counteract it, Dawn had the biggest problem with it.  I thought Dawn was being unfair, unreasonable and selfish.  Last week, we found out why - she was about to crack (which she did).

Since her implosion, Brenda was able to find her retainer, Dawn got a decent meal at the reward, and she survived the vote.  So, maybe the seas will calm.  I do have sympathy for Dawn's emotional state.  It's grueling out there.  Dawn is playing for her kids, while others think it's a dating service.  I think the damage Dawn did to her game was minimal, and if her catharsis was in any way therapeutic, she will  still be very much alive.

However, why did Dawn suggest finding the idol to the alliance, and all she could do was talk to Andrea and Malcolm while he was finding it?  Good idea, no delivery.


Malcolm is getting owned by Reynold in the challenges.  He got lapped in the reward while digging up all the bags (correct strategy, poor execution as compared to Reynold) and then he got smoked in the immunity by Reynold.  I'm not sure why anyone would align with Reynold all the way to the final three.

How is Reynold going to build a majority alliance if he doesn't win the next immunity?  Hope Malcolm can do it?  If Reynold loses the next immunity, I can see all those who are wavering say to themselves: 'now's the time to send this guy home.  We'll listen to Malcolm's offers next time.'


Malcolm's tribal council blindside might have saved here.  If people had gotten wind beforehand, the Favorites might have chosen to ditch her (they were murmuring about it right before the vote). 

At least she figured out the plot against her the episode before.  There could be a lot of knives out for her every week.  We'll see how many she can dodge.


Making all the right moves.  Providing tremendous commentary.  Hard not to root for.


Under the radar, but looking strong.  She'll need to know when to make the crucial move.  I think it's in her to do so (it's not like her game is filled with missed opportunities, thus far!).


He took one for the team, in many ways.  He said at tribal for everyone to 'stick to the plan, and force them to play their idols, and if I go home, I go home.' 

It made it easy for everyone to stick to the plan (only Erik didn't) and it forced Malcolm and Eddie to play the idols (which they had to, as it turns out - Eddie & Phillip both got four votes).  Phillip did sacrifice himself.  I think he did it partially to save Andrea, who he played with before.

As for Phillip not performing in the immunity, he never would have won that.  He was the first out of the immunity the week before (when you had to stay in the water under the grating).  Whether he had a childhood experience or not is moot - he's not comfortable in the water, and never would have won either one.  I can't criticize him for what he did.


Might have had a window to get Andrea on his side, but that seems to have closed (even though he did give her the info to save herself).  He might now be stuck in an observer role as others decide his fate  


He might make it to the final four, but I'm less and less confident he can win.  There are too many good players left, and he's not one of them.  I'm not forgetting that I've seen Fabio fly under the radar and win the last few immunities to win the whole thing, but Erik would lose a game of tic-tac-toe to Fabio, who was no genius.   


Jeff really rode her during the last reward challenge ('Sherri slowing things down for her tribe as she crosses the planks', etc.) when it really was not her fault (it was Malcolm's).  It's not the first time I've found Jeff unfairly picking on a Survivor during group challenges.  My theory is that it's because Sherri hardly says anything during tribal council.  Jeff hates that, and will rag on you when given the opportunity.


Didn't show much the entire game.  I expect a lot of gratuitous snarling and undue facial expressions while he sits in the jury box.

* * *

I enjoyed the last two episodes!  It should be fun going down the home stretch!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Ep. 8

If you have not seen it, last week's episode was by far the best of this season.  I’m tempted to quote every line by Cochran (his commentary was that outstanding!), but I would be merely repeating his fine work.  I'll stick to some general observations.

After watching the episode, I am convinced of two things:

1. Corinne opens her presents Christmas Eve.
2. Malcolm opens his presents Christmas morning.

Both Corinne and Malcolm were on board with the same plan, but Corinne had to blab it to the wrong person way too early.  She was like Dr. Evil explaining to Austin Powers everything that had been plotted and then being shocked when the plan was thwarted.

Corinne, I realize your proud of your plan.  I realize you hate Phillip.  But, show some patience. 
Don't run and tell everything to Dawn.  Tell Dawn 20 minutes before the next vote when there is nothing she can do about it.  Don't tell her your blindside move two votes in advance!  Malcolm was on board and he was able to keep his mouth shut, why couldn’t you!

The conclusion I must arrive to is this: among the remaining Favorites, Corinne was an inferior player compared to the likes of Cochran, Dawn, and even... Philip.  The Favorites beautifully came together and orchestrated a counter-action to destroy Corinne.  It was awesome.

In summary:

Great challenge (I love the food eating challenges)
Great commentary from Cochran
Great last minute maneuvering and blindside.
Great episode!  Thank you Survivor!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Ep. 7

Last week's reward challenge (where they raced around an oval track in knee-deep water trying to catch the other tribe) is one of the more exciting challenges the show has come up with.  But, they completely wasted it here.  First, the challenege is incredibly grueling, so it really ought to be saved for an immunity challenege.  Second, because it's so physical, and the tribes are so mismatched, there was no chance of it ever being competitive (when they ran the challenge in Palau, it was one of the more epic competitions in the show's history).  Instead, in this incarnation, we were treated to one of the more pathetic efforts (I've watched games of Solitaire that were more exciting) and whiny scapegoating the show has ever offered (does anyone really think it was Phillip's faulty strategy that caused them to lose?).  Fischer at Reykjavik could not have drawn a gameplan that would have produced a W for Phillip's team.  Frankly, if I were on the tribe, I would have suggested forfeiting.  Why waste the energy on a hopeless endeavor?
Cochran is a lot easier to like this time out.  The first time he played Survivor he was in a complete panic that he would humiliate himself - and, of course, that is precisely what he wound up doing.  But, being invited back as a favorite seems to have calmed him down.  As a result, you get to hear his insights and observations (which are pretty entertaining).  The other thing calming him down is the fact that he's in a very powerful position.  Next week they merge (thankfully) and there might be 4 or 5 primary targets, but I don't think anyone will be gunning for Cochran soon.  Rather, I think the different factions will be looking to Cochran and Dawn for their votes.  They might be the ones making the decisions.
Speaking of the much-needed merge, now might be a good time to handicap the 12 remaining players' chances of winning.  [I’m going to mention the alpha/athletic-males quite a bit because there are a lot of them left for this stage of the game, and the last episode indicated they were aligning.  How that resolves itself will dictate much of the rest of the game.]
1.  Cochran: I think he's in a great position right now.  His one weak spot is that he betrayed his alliance the first time he played.  It could get people nervous about him later in the game.
2.  Malcolm:  Has the idol.  I am very skeptical about an athletic-male alliance, but we'll see.  An alpha-male alliance of four, where two have an idol, is formidable.  However, my gut tells me that even if it got going, when they got down to nine, the five people outside the inner four would unite to destroy it.  But, with an idol, Malcolm might survive that process.  So, in sum, if he sticks with his Favorite alliance, I think he's in great shape.  If he goes with the athletic-male alliance and it works, he still might be in great shape.  And, if the athletic-male alliance blows up, he might still be OK.  I think he’s going to go with the alpha-males because he didn’t last game, and it partially explains why he lost. 
3.  Dawn:  She is poised to go very deep unless an alpha-male alliance overturns everything and puts her in a minority (which kind of happened to her the first time she played when Cochran's treachery left her in a minority).
4.  Andrea:  Her athleticism and good looks might make her more of a target than Cochran/Dawn.  But, there's no doubt she can play and she's dangerous.  However, I think everyone sort of knows it.  She's not under the radar enough.  She could use an alpha-male war to distract everyone from her.
5.  Phillip.  He's crazy, but why can't he win?  Despite being slightly unhinged, he is reasonably honest and loyal.  I think he could stumble into the final three - and, he has a case to be made if he gets there.
6.  Brenda:  Under the radar.  She's gotten less attention or camera time than anyone left.  Her first time out, she was the center of everything, and it blew up in her face.  She has learned much since then.
7.  Reynold:  Has an idol and might have an alliance with Malcolm.  He's been the best in the challenges so far.  Until we know how the athletic-male alliance shakes out, he's hard to rank.  After the next episode. he could be in the top 3 or going home.
8.  Erik:  He's still pretty dumb.  He's in a good position, but I don't know if he'll be able to close it out. 
9.  Eddie:  Might be in the dominant alliance.  Might be going home next.   Who knows?
10.  Corinne:  I don't think she's liked enough to get her through the mid-rounds. 
11.  Mike:  Corinne's protection does not offer much cover.  It's like carrying a parasol in a monsoon. 
12.  Sherri:  Made too many early mistakes.  Who is her ally now?  Nobody, that's who.  Maybe she could latch on to an anti-alpha-male alliance.  Maybe she can survive on the sidelines during an alpha-male war.  But, even if she made the final 3, who would vote for her?  All the people who liked her are gone.
As noted before, after a strong start, the show went through a 3-4 week dry spell.  Hopefully, the merge shakes things up and provides some decent action.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Ep. 5 & 6

It's been a while since I posted something.  I think it's because: (a) I though the last few episodes have been below average, and (b) I don't have too much to say about them.
Brandon is a deeply disturbed person, but his histrionics seemed a tad staged to me.  I'm not saying he isn't a tortured individual.  I'm not saying he doesn't lack self-control.  But, the whole thing seemed a little forced.  Brandon didn't lose control.  Brandon decided to act like he had lost control.
Brandon's first time on Survivor was a mess.  He played a very confused game.  Was he playing to win?  For honor?  For Jesus?  Or, as Coach's pawn?  It was hard to tell.  When he got back home, he was criticized from all angles for blowing it.  When he came out the second time, I don't think he knew what he wanted to do.  He didn't have a game plan or father-figure to lean on.  He was outside the main alliance.  He felt vulnerable.  He crumbled.  He went looking for a reason to be the center of attention for an episode and get the heck out.  Frankly, it's a pathetic way to quit.  Brandon might be the author of his own fate but only a lunatic would write such a script.
After the Brandon meltdown, Corinne made a crucial observation.  She realized that no one defended or comforted her or Phillip after they had borne the brunt of Brandon's diatribes.  I'm not saying the tribe defended Brandon, I'm just saying Corinne and Phillip didn't get much personal sympathy and that should be a major red flag that they are not particularly liked.  We'll see if Corinne will use this realization to her advantage and sniff out a blind-side in the nick of time.  My hunch is she won't and will have a meltdown.  For those looking to eliminate Corinne, my advice is to do it before she gets on the jury.
I have a gripe with how they reshuffled the tribes.  I had no problem with making sure both tribes were going to be 4-3 majority-Favorites.  I think it would be unfair to shuffle and have some Favorites in a minority.  The Favorites had rightly earned to be in a dominant position.  My problem, though, was that the rest of the allocation was random and the next challenge was incredibly physical.  Whenever you have a random allocation, you risk creating significantly mismatched tribes (which happened here).  I think it's fairer to have a more strategic or knowledge-based challenge.  Instead, they ran one of the most physical challenges in the show's history, and next week's challenge looks just as tough.  I have no idea why they are doing it like this, but I don't like it.  I want competitive challenges not blowouts.
Next week's preview showed Malcolm possibly aligning with Reynold.  Alliances like that make sense early on (strong men do better when aligned to strong men), but I think it's too late for that now.  How does Malcolm expect to win a jury vote if he betrays the Favorites?  Has he been keeping track?  The whole jury is going to be made up of Favorites - they already outnumber the Fans 8-5!  Hopefully, the preview was misleading.
One last point - since I criticized the producers I should say they were right to give both tribes a bag of rice after Brandon dumped his.  Rule #1 of Survivor is that you can't hit another contestant, so how exactly are you supposed to restrain someone from dumping your food supply?  Giving both tribes a bag seemed like a fair solution.
Here's to tomorrow's episode being more fun than the last two!  (Then again, even a bad episode of Survivor is still better than almost anything else on TV!) 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Ep. 4

I'm going to squeeze in a short review of last week's debacle.

It's now clear that Sherri's plan to drag Shamar to the Final 3 was pure fantasy.  He was never going to make it.  I'm not denying he was legitimately hurt, but he's the first Survivor to hurt himself while laying in the tent.  I think this guy was going to get medically evacuated at some point no matter what.  I've seen abrasive people make it to the end, but it is very rare for people who won't get out of the tent to make it to the end.  I thought the love his alliance showed him last week would pick him up, instead he used the leverage to get Sherri to bring him his meals.  Atrocious.

Shamar single-handedly blew the reward by lying on the platform and telling people to stand on his back.  That is incredibly inefficient.  If they had won the reward, the protein from the chicken dinner might have pushed them over the top in the immunity challenge.  Instead, they lost both challenges and two people.  T
he decision to keep Shamar over Hope steamrolled into a disaster.

Seeing as Sherri engineered this debacle, it's fitting that she now appears to be on the bottom of her alliance, if not her tribe.  Her defense of Laura ("we haven't been winning any challenges anyway") was rightly rejected - even Julia wanted to side with the guys.  Sherri voted with them because she had no choice.

The Fans are down 9-6, have no idol and there's no sign of a re-mix of tribes.  They need the Favorites to implode, and luckily for them, Mount Brandon is close to erupting.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Ep. 3

I've been the commissioner of a fantasy baseball league since 1999.  There is one owner who has quit the league at least four times. 

It's the same formula: he has a heated argument (often with multiple owners), he loses, and then he quits.  I wait a while, and then I get an owner who wasn't really in the argument to e-mailhim and tell him everyone in the league wants him to come back.

It has always worked.  Four times he has quit, four times he has returned.  Every couple of years, he needs the league to show him a little love.  He's our Shamar.

After the Fans lost immunity, there was no talk of giving Shamar what he wanted and voting him out.  Shamar didn't ask for it either.  All that had been said the day before had been forgotten.  Once Shamar heard from the ladies in his alliance that they wanted him to stay, the quit-talk was over.  I say "the ladies", because I don't think Shamar
cares what Matt or Mike thinks.  Matt had his run-in with Shamar on Day 1 and right before the last challenge Mike offered to slap hands with Shamar as a good luck gesture and got totally dissed.

Obviously, I think things aren't right with the alliance and Shamar has major problems in his immediate future.  He had a decent idea hinting to Hope to vote for Eddie, but the execution was awful.  It was too cryptic for Hope to figure out what he meant, and it got back to his alliance and caused a panic in Laura, who was already sick of him ("the part of Shamar that was fun is completely gone").  With Mike and Matt not having much of a relationship with Shamar, how long can Sherri protect her "Phillip"?  Boston Rob protected Phillip to the Final 3 because he reasonably controlled him.  I don't think Sherri can control Shamar.  Phillip would never go against a BR order and plant ideas in the head of the next person going home.  Phillip would never disrespect a member of the alliance.  Sherri might be forced by her alliance to let Shamar go or lose her alliance altogether.

Other Thoughts:

- Brandon has been handed a gift, and he can't see it.  Because he (deservedly) earned a reputation for loyalty in his first season, the main alliance might replace Corinne with him.  But, Brandon is suspicious of the messenger (Andrea) and the fact that they might be trying to placate him because he threatened to pee in the rice.  He has a reasonable suspicion on that last point, which is why you shouldn't go around threatening to pee in the rice.  His wild talk has created the situation that he finds himself in - one where the alliance's offers might be reasonably tainted.  Great gameplay, Brandon!  You've given everyone a reason to mislead you and a reason to distrust everything said to you!  Genius!

- Malcolm has been removed from the closer role (he did little of the tossing in the challenge) and found the idol.  He also has an alliance with an older woman who knows he has the idol.  It's identical to last season (except for the fact that his initial tribe is winning).  If there is going to be a war between Corinne and Andrea, and Corinne loses (which is probable), Malcolm can probably escape unscathed (I doubt he would give the idol to save Corinne).  I was very skeptical of his chances this time out, but he looks set to go deep into the game again.

-  I would like to know more about how close Laura was to bolting her alliance.

-  If Hope had understood Shamar's cryptic message and voted for Eddie, she'd still be in the game.

Good episode.  I'm liking this season.  I can't wait for the Andrea/Corinne collision and to see whether Brandon melts down and does something incredibly stupid.  Where's Coach when you need him?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Ep. 2

This episode's immunity challenge presented an example of another advantage the Favorites have over the Fans - personnel management. 

The Favorites have seen each other play before (except for Malcolm), and know everyone's strengths and weaknesses (which might explain why Malcolm is still closing - his tribemates haven't seen his season yet, so they are just learning that he can't close).  Anyhow, it didn't matter.  In addition to the inherent disadvantage of not yet knowing their tribemates' strengths and weaknesses, the Fans do not know how to communicate, Shamar threw a tantrum during the discussion regarding assignments, so they wound up with the wrong people on the wrong tasks.  They had three men pulling the raft (
Shamar could have pulled the raft single-handedly), which was the least important leg of the challenge (something the Favorites knew, which is why they hid Cochrane there).  Instead, they should have included at least one of their top male athletes on the diving team (the Favorites wisely chose Erik).  Men have up to 50% more lung capacity than women and can hold their breath much longer, which is why men have dominated diving throughout the history of Survivor.  (Has any of these so-called Fans seen the show before?).  Of the three women they did send diving - only Sherri showed any effort.  I'm not sure the other two could swim.  It was a complete disaster.

As for the vote, the cool kids seemed overly nonchalant about the strength of their alliance outside of their core four.  They knew they were alienating themselves with their cliquish behavior, so you'd think they would try to work more angles then they did.  Eddie looked generally surprised by the vote - did he really think their strategy was a slam dunk because Shamar misbehaved in camp?  Why would someone agree to be the 5th or 6th wheel to an ultra-tight four-person alliance?

Allie might have spoken fewer words on air than anyone ever to play Survivor.  She had some spirited closing remarks after getting booted, but before that we hardly saw her say anything.  Reynold told her Matt's voting with them, and I guess she thought it was enough.  Passive.
Laura called the four-person alliance the "pretty people".  There was real contempt in her voice, as if they were making her feel like she was in the loser clique in high school.  Laura is attractive and bright, therefore, if the core four was making her feel that alienated, they must have been sending out horrible vibes.  Of course, Laura might also have a chip on her shoulder, but I'm guessing this was more of the alliance's fault seeing as Laura wasn't the only one complaining.

All tolled, outside of the core four, this tribe is not communicating well.  Shamar is not a leader and can't be lead.  They are making horrible assignments at challenges.  There is a distinct mistrust and anger within the tribe, and a lot of this can be attributed to the main alliance.  And, I'm not sure the problem can be fixed.

The bottom line is this: Survivor is a social game, and every member of that four-person alliance is guilty of atrocious game play.  They are also guilty of atrocious arithmetic.  When you have ten people in your tribe, you need SIX people in your alliance.  Four people and two afterthoughts do not equal six.  The afterthoughts (if they know they are afterthoughts, which this group made clear) will not be loyal.  A four-person alliance with two afterthoughts is still a four-person alliance.

Allie, we hardly knew you, but you deserved to go.  

Other thoughts:

-  Laura calling out Reynold's idol helps Reynold - no?  Isn't Reynold better off now that everyone knows he has it without announcing it himself, which could sound like bragging?

-  Brandon, calm down.  You're acting like a friggin' lunatic.  You're only 21.  You have your whole working life ahead of you, and you're making yourself unemployable.  Who the heck would ever hire you after the way you've been acting?  Shamar has been a loudmouth, but it's partly for show.  You're serious.  You're not acting.  That's what's scary about it.

-  Two people this episode (Brandon and Michael) made the argument that it was somehow cruel to vote Francesca out first.  I don't buy it for one second.  I'm not saying there aren't any ethics in Survivor, I just don't think they include giving Francesca a free pass the first vote.  No one owed her anything.  The people who suggest they did owe her something are asserting a false moral superiority.  I was not impressed by it.

This was a pretty good episode when you consider there was only one challenge.  I'm enjoying the season thus far.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites II, Ep. 1

In the original Fans vs. Favorites, the returning players completely dominated.  There were three key elements: the returnees were a strong group; they had existing relationships; and the quality of the Fans was atrocious (so atrocious that this season marks the first time any of that group of ten Fans has returned, and Erik's claim to fame is pulling one of the dumbest moves in the history of the game).  So, the first Fans vs. Favorites turned into the Globetrotters vs. the Generals.

This incarnation feels more like Fans vs. Misfits.  There are a lot of low quality players returning.  When Probst was introducing them as they came off the chopper, I got the feeling the Fans didn't know who some of them were (I heard crickets when Corinne was introduced).  Therefore, having won the first immunity challenge, should we give the Fans more of a chance?

I'm reminded of a scene from the classic sitcom, Taxi.  Tony's brakes fail and he almost gets into an accident.  He storms into the garage furious with management over their cavalier regard to driver safety.  The other drivers vote Tony shop steward - he meets with Louie, and totally blows it (Louie manipulates him into doing nothing).  The drivers recall him as shop steward and open the floor to new nominees. 

Jim:  I nominate Tony!
Alex: Jim?!?!? Why would you nominate Tony?
Jim:  Alex, there is no substitute for experience!

And, that kind of sums up how I feel about the returning players.  Yes, some of them were terrible, but I've seen many people improve significantly in their second appearance.  Yes, they lost immunity, but they dominated both challenges (it's just that Malcolm couldn't close the immunity challenge - something he was prone to doing last season).  I still believe the Favorites/Misfits will be stronger long-term.

But, there are warning signs.  I thought Brandon could improve his second time out, but he looks shaky.  He's repeating his same antics from his first season, i.e., targeting strong women he is attracted to (Mikayla last time, Andrea last week).  He has no father figure to lead him this time the way Coach did last (unless you count Phillip, who needed his own shepard in Boston Rob when he played).  Brandon is talking about pulling a "Hantz" and seeding chaos.  I'm not sure what that gets him.  Why doesn't he emulate his uncle and find a hidden immunity?  Just a thought.

Francesca deserved to go.  If you're aim is to get revenge in your first vote, it will blow up in your face (see the Chinese proverb: before seeking revenge, dig two graves).  There was no subtlety to what she was doing.  They came back from the challenge and she immediately told 5 people to vote Philip.  Awkward.

I'd still bet on the Favorites in the long-term, but it was a bad start for them:

Other thoughts:

-  Was it in Philip's contract that he can only return if he wears the pink/purple undies?  The producers must have insisted on that?

-  Why is Chochran sunburned?  I'm pretty sure they get lotion.

-  Erik, I'm sorry Phillip intimidated you about having the numbers.  Get over it.  It's part of the game.  He made you an offer you couldn't refuse, and you refused it.  Fine.  You're allowed to.  Stop whining about it ("he didn't eve give me a choice...").  Did you want his offer to include an option where you could vote him out?  Exactly what choices did you want Phillip to offer? 

-  I think Cochran might be a lot stronger this time around.  He's still doing the Woody Allen schtick, but he doesn't seem as scared as he was before.

-  When I close my eyes while Eddie is speaking, I hear the voice of Dan Ennis' old roommate, Jeff (if you don't know who Jeff is, kindly disregard).

-  Shamar is a showboat.  He manipulated that whole water/shelter thing to look like the hero.  It won't work.  I don't have confidence in him to go deep.

-  The 4-person alliance of the cool kids among the Fans is likely doomed.  That strategy has rarely worked.  These people want to play some deserted island dating game - have it on TV - and then go home and enjoy the 15 minutes.  This is one of the reasons I'm skeptical about the Fans - between those 4 and Shamar, they have a lot of questionable players.

Overall it was a good episode.  They jumped right into a challenge and it never dragged from there.  Malcolm's failures in clutch spots is something to watch.  We'll see what happens in week 2.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


President Obama said the following in his Second Inaugural Address on Monday:
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

Betraying future generations on the climate = BAD.  Leaving them a $20 trillion debt = OK.