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.