Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific Episode 12 Thoughts

For all of the expectations coming into this season, the one that was most turned on it's head was Coach failing again. No one expected Coach to turn into an inspirational leader who nobody wanted to turn on. And yet, here we are.

Coach's position can not be overstated here - this episode saw him be in a leadership position and somehow also end up being the swing vote between his current alliance and a new alliance of Albert, Cochran and Edna. The risk that he faced was destroying his end game.

On one hand, Coach could continue with his current alliance. It is the safe play by far. However, it also eliminates two players who are highly desireable to be sitting with you in the end of the game. And it also pisses off two people who have been blatently told they are going to be voted out 6 and 7, and they are not going to have a chance to make a change.

On the other hand, Coach could flip and create a final four alliance with Albert, Cochran and Edna. This sets up an obvious play of voting out Albert at 4, and getting the almost dream final three with Edna and Cochran. (The only better final three would involve Cochran and Brandon.)

Ultimately, Coach stuck with his alliance for one reason: To flip on his alliance could be death to his chances to win. If he flips, he would have pissed off 4 jury members (the members of Upolu that he sent to the jury.) His only chance would be to win over the 5 Savaii members on the jury, and that might have been a difficult sell. So it was better for him to stick with the plan and not risk cutting himself off from 4 potential votes.

Blindsides and alliance switching might be more exciting for us viewers, but it isn't always in the best interests of the players.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific Final 7 (10) Power Rankings

With the home stretch upon us, it's time to set up the remaining players for their chances of winning the game.

Long road ahead

10. Whitney
9. Dawn

It's tough when you are on Redemption Island, and you know that your only chance to win this game is to basically win out, and your first challenge is against one of the greatest challenge competitors in the history of Survivor. If they can get back into the game and somehow work their way into the final three, they will win. But those chances are very long.

Sorry, you still stand no chance

8. Cochran

I've already given my thoughts on Cochran's switch too many times to count. But after another 4 vote outs, it is obvious that Cochran can not win this game. Savaii are still pissed at him, and barring the other two members of the final three literally urinating on them during final tribal, Cochran can not win.

(And that's why his decision to not go to rocks was so infuriating. But it's not worth rehashing that argument.)

The absolute wild card

7. Ozzy

His path is the same as Whitney and Dawn's, with one difference - he's done it before at Cook Islands. This is obviously the scenario that Mark Burnett et al were imagining when they came up with Redemption Island and allowing Rob to return. We'll see if it will play out how they imagined it when they came up with this infernal twist.

Following Brett's path

6. Rick

How exactly does a Texan with a mustache like that get lost in the shuffle? I mean, his only contribution to this season is this:

It makes for a great gif, but not a winning season.


5. Edna

She is only ranked this high because there is a chance she can make the final three, and might not have upset that many people on the jury. Those votes have to land somewhere, and why not land on the inoffensive woman who was carried.

Do not consider this an endorsement

4. Brandon

He ranks this high because he's going to the final three. I doubt he's going to win, but his redemption story could bring in the votes.

(Really, I'm stretching here, but there is a definite divide between the true contenders and the pretenders.)

Overthinking things

3. Albert

The first true contender to win, Albert has done a good job in bringing attention to his attempts to change the game. And even failing at those attempts don't mean anything; heck, it won Sandra the game. But at the same time it has the attention of his tribemates, who might not appreciate somebody rocking the Upolu boat. If Cochran doesn't go this tribal council, there is a good chance it will be Albert. But if he does stay, his efforts to change the game might actually bear out a positive effect, and win him the game.

The silent assassin

2. Sophie

If she is allowed to make the final tribal council, she will win. She hasn't actively pissed anybody off, she has played a pretty strong strategic game, and she has won individual immunity at least twice. So the question is how will she be eliminated?

Don't call me Benjamin, call me champ

1. Coach

Coach has set himself up to be in the final three with many different pairings. And in many of them, he's set up to be the good guy of the final three, the person that everybody else will feel they have to argue against, instead of making their own positive arguments. Realistically, if he makes the final three the only way he loses is if he brings back Coach 1.0 for final tribal.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific Episode 10 Thoughts

I don't have too much to say abou this episode. Standard Pagonging continued, and now things get interesting. In theory, Cochran should be next to go, but this is probably the best opportunity to switch up the game.

What we are likely going to see is a game of chicken between Albert and Coach, with both daring the other to make the first move against the other. Albert is in a worse position since he can't directly strike against Coach, but needs to convince Coach that Coach the actual target to get the hidden immunity idol played.

With that said, there is also the chance that the six stay together and then split at five, setting up a final three alliance. Or the bottom two team up with the returning Redemption Island and force another rock situation and possibly somebody to flip to stay alive. No matter what ends up happening though, this is where Survivor nerds start to get excited.

(BTW, kudos to the producers for summarizing the Pagonging into two episodes. I realize that wasn't the intent with this episode; they were hoping that the last Savaii member would win immunity and force Upolu to scramble and show cracks in their alliance. But this is a satisfactory secondary result.)

* * *

What intrigued me most about this episode was Ozzy's statement that he was in the best position possible for him. And you know what? He's right.

The one thing about Redemption Island is that it is a boon for a strong challenge competitor. If you get sent there, you will be facing a narrower field with the competition getting progressively easier as you go along. When you get back into the game, you only have to win 3 immunity challenges in a row (or find out where everybody else stands and arrange some sort of flip.) And if you make it to final immunity, you have an easy story to sell a jury - that you outlasted and outplayed everybody in challenges. Combine that with a jury that has probably been screwed by the other people at final tribal, and you have an easy march to victory.

There's another reason why this helps Ozzy, though it's one that he will never admit to. By being at Redemption Island, it prevents Ozzy from trying to play a strategic game.

The only thing that Ozzy has gotten right in this game is that Cochran needed to be voted out. Beyond that, Ozzy was wrong to trust Cochran, wrong to trust Keith, wrong to have himself voted out and just wrong about most everything. Keeping him from playing the strategic game means that he can't make any more poor decisions; he can just concentrate on what he does well. Specifically, he can concentrate on feeding himself, and winning competitions. And who knows? Maybe Ozzy can pull a Fabio and win his way to a Survivor victory.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific Episode 9 Thoughts

When this season began, one of the major questions that everybody had was how would Brandon Hantz's play compare to his uncles. After 9 episodes, we now have a similarity between the two. Unfortunately for Brandon, the similarity is one that is fatal to his attempts to win the game.

When Russell first played the game, he was by far the best strategic mind in the game, and easily was the best strategic player. To this day, many people (myself included) believe he should have won Survivor: Samoa.

However, Russell had a horrendous social game. It wasn't enough for him to beat the other players. Instead, he had to remind those who he beat that he had beaten them, and outsmarted them. He also had to treat everybody who was against him as though they were garbage, and make that obvious as well. He made it uncomfortable to live in the camp, and thus difficult for people to want to vote him to win the game. In the end, this ended up biting him in the ass.

Brandon seemed to be playing a different game than his uncle. He wasn't a successful manipulative player, but he chose to eventually play with honesty, instead of deception. He favoured tribal unity than splintering the tribe so he can advance his own agenda. And most importantly, he seemed to favour not insulting others.

But this episode, we saw another side of Brandon. One that decided to laugh and insult Savaii, so that he can protect and stand up for his new friend Cochran. While this could almost be seen as admirable (wanting to defend a friend against the perceived bullies), it is also death to his chances to win a final tribal vote.

One of the things you need to be aware of when playing Survivor is how others perceive you. Most of the time, this is to make sure you know where you stand in the game and whether you need to scramble or make a move to improve your lot. But it is also important to know who you are perceived because these are the people who are going to decide whether you win or lose. You need to know if you need to mend fences, or if you need to possibly change your approach to them.

But even if you know where you stand, it won't matter if you do nothing to change that perception. Much like his uncle prior to him, Brandon seems to be revelling in tormenting the Savaii tribe while he has the advantage. And just like his uncle prior, Brandon will end up losing the game because he can't control himself when he has the advantage. More importantly, Brandon doesn't seem to comprehend how much damage he is doing to his chances to win the game.

So congratulations to Brandon and Cochran on making the final three. You would think both would be aware of how Russell Hantz blew two shots at $1 million, but instead they continue to make the same mistakes.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Survivor: South Pacific Episode 8 Power Rankings

(Quick rankings this week.)

12. Keith (Last rank: 2)
11. Cochran (Last rank: 11)
10. Rick (Last rank: 9)
9. Ozzy (Last rank: 6)
8. Jim (Last rank: 1)
7. Whitney (Last rank: 3)
6. Dawn (Last rank: 7)
5. Brandon (Last rank: 12)
4. Edna (Last rank: 10)
3. Coach (Last rank: 8)
2. Sophie (Last rank: 4)
1. Albert (Last rank: 5)

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Survivor South Pacific Episode 8 Thoughts

My friend Gary and I have disagreed on Cochran's abilities as a player. Gary has felt that he is going to be a great player, while I don't see this at all. After this week, I think I've been proven correct. Cochran joined Survivor Africa's Brandon in the "most unnecessary move that will only piss off your own tribe and possibly end up getting you voted out next" group.

I understand where Cochran was coming from; why should he help a tribe that has continually pissed on him and treated him as an afterthough? He knows he is at the bottom of his tribe as well, so he needs to do something to improve his spot. Flipping on his tribe is so very tempting.

It's also the worst possible move he could make.

Let's look at what Cochran's move did:

  • Removed him from a 1/7 chance of being eliminated. This is the only positive of his move; he made sure that he would not be going to Redemption Island this tribal council. At the same time, it was a 1/7 chance. It wasn't a guarantee that he would get the boot.

  • Alienated his tribe. This is a big one, but it is not insurmountable. Presumably he would be able to jump to Upolu and join with them. With that said...

  • Jumped Cochran from being 6 in an alliance of 6 (and 3 in a sub-alliance of 3), to being 7 in an alliance of 7. You never want to move back in alliances - being 5th in an alliance of 5 is better than 6th in an alliance of 7. So just by numbers, Cochran worsened his position. It wouldn't be too hard for Savaii to approach Upolu and say "Let's just vote Cochran out this week; you still have the edge, it would help harmony around camp, and it would throw us a bone." Upolu can see him as being expendable, then vote him out.

  • Made himself look to be untrustworthy. This one is pretty simple - Cochran has shown that he is willing to turn on his own tribe, and didn't even immediately switch sides to Upolu, so why would somebody trust him?

  • Cochran threw away 5 jury votes. This is the big one. By turning on his tribe, he essentially guaranteed that he will not be getting jury votes from Savaii. They know he did not play the game too much at Savaii, and that he did nothing but save himself after the merge. Combine that with him screwing Savaii over and how do you think they are going to react to him?

In short, Cochran saved himself in the immediate, weakened his short and medium turn position, probably increased his chances of making it to Final Tribal Council and virtually killed his chances of winning the game. Not a bad day's work of destroying your game.

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