Thursday, February 28, 2013

Survivor Caramoan: Episode 3 Thoughts and Best/Worst Plays of the Show


Sherri made the comparison herself the week prior, so now everybody will be looking at the Sherri/Shamar relationship in the same way. On the surface, it's an incredibly fair comparison. The strategic player brings along a player that they know has no chance of winning, but is very loyal to the strategic player. The strategic player gets to use the other player as cover and laughs to the victory. When you look closely though, this falls apart.

The obvious difference is that nobody would ever confuse Philip for a challenge threat. While Shamar isn't in as good of shape as some of the others in the game, he is incredibly strong, and that could end up being an asset in the individual immunity challenges. But also, Rob could trust that Philip would stick to the plan. He knew how to play Philip to ensure that he wouldn't go rouge on Rob. As we've already seen, Shamar is willing to play his own game to ensure that he gets what he wants.

Rob was able to manage Philip and put Philip in a position to not mess up Rob's game. Sherri has ended up in a position where she is cleaning up Shamar's messes. If you want to win this game, you need to be Marsellus Wallace. Right now Sherri is Winston Wolf, who is a useful member of any organization, but not going to be getting the benefits of being a leader.

Andrea is playing too fast

This was a common theme from week one, that Andrea was playing too fast and that almost cost her in week one. I didn't see it as much as others, but it is coming through clear now. She doesn't trust Corrine and all of her talking with Malcolm, so she wants to get rid  of her.  To accomplish this, she confided in Philip and then Brandon, while telling them to keep it on the down low. Read that again. She's trustsing Brandon to keep his mouth shut. Brandon. BRANDON!

Even without the hidden immunity idol in play, this is more likely to lead to Andrea getting blindsided by her alliance. Why would her alliance want to stick with someone who is willing to sell out anybody and everybody who isn't conforming to what she feels should happen?

Laura stumbles into a good play

Laura was way too paranoid this week. Yes, her inability to swim probably hurt her tribe. But it wasn't not the only reason they lost. So her thought that the cool kids might target her instead of Shamar was at best an attack of paranoia. If she thought about it for a minute or so, she would have realized that it made no sense to vote her out from her alliances side.

That being said, her initial plan to set up a split vote to get rid of one of the cool kids was smart (and it worked!) Her decision to go after Shamar was the right one, since it would strengthen her tribe, cut out a troublemaker from her alliance, and weaken Sherri enough to ensure that she will draw closer to her alliance. Alas, the  play wasn't meant to be, as somebody got cold feet. But it was a good play, which makes me even more disappointed that it did not happen.

If Laura keeps her wits about her, she could play into a great position.

Best Play of the Week

Sherri, for talking Shamar off of the quitting ledge. She understood how to push the right buttons and get him to rally back and get his head as far into the game as it was going to get. Whether that was because Shamar just wanted attention, or because Shamar was truly considering leaving the game because of how it was affecting his mental wellbeing is left to the reader to decide.

Worst Play of the Week

To Julia or Laura, whoever it was who backed off the idea to vote out Shamar. It's not that it's that bad of an idea to stay with your alliance. It's that you know that Sherri is carrying along Shamar, he's a negative force in your alliance and your tribe and really, you lose nothing by getting rid of him this week.  The only reason to not vote out Shamar is if you think there's a real possibility that  Sherri/Michael/Matt will flip over to the Eddie/Hope/Reynold alliance and screw you over. That's a paranoid way to look at things though; it's not worth your energy to worry about what would cause Eddie/Hope/Reynold to flip on you as well as two of Sherri/Michael/Matt.

(I will allow the possibility that Laura was just bluffing to make sure that Hope did not vote for Eddie and end up getting him voted out. But even that only makes sense if Eddie was not on the block in the next vote.)

Final thoughts on the booted player

Hope got screwed. She was voted out simply because Reynold and Eddie were stronger (even though Eddie blew the challenge for them.) And then there's Shamar, who is one person's goat and who blew up your alliance's plans by telling Hope and tried to manipulate the game to let Hope stay. So why did Hope go? For some misguided thought of keeping strength for challenges that you are likely not going to win.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Survivor: Caramoan Episode 2 Thoughts and Best/Worst Plays of the Show

Some thoughts about this week's episode...

Brandon's unpredictableness and how not to handle it

We all know that Brandon Hantz isn't exactly the most reliable person if you aren't aligned with him. Even if he is aligned with you, there's a chance for something to go horribly awry. So you have to treat him with kids gloves, but also be blunt with him, which is an incredibly delicate balancing act.

This is why Philip's decision to give this "CEO and middle management" speech to Brandon was pretty bad. I'm not going to use Brandon's declaration from the previous night that he would channel his Uncle Russell against Philip. Quite frankly, Philip wouldn't have know this. But with that said, he had to know that Brandon was capable of that rage - on Brandon's season we saw it manifest itself often, and most often due to the most bizarre of reasons. So to give the speech that Philip did with all of the condescending that Philip had within the speech was just a bad idea. You have to be blunt with Brandon, sure. But you don't have to belittle him as well. That Brandon went back to camp and only complained about Philip being a bully was shocking in and of itself. That others were able to talk him off of the ledge was less surprising.

Shamar's predictableness and how not to handle it

Shamar has been lazy around camp. Heck he hasn't just been lazy, he has perfected laziness as an art form. But he is also loud and confrontational. So if you don't like what Shamar is doing in camp, you should not do what Reynold did and confront Shamar. Shamar is more than capable and willing to defend himself verbally. So giving him an opening to fight back can only lead to a giant fight, and another reminder to your tribe mates (who are superfans that know what goats are) that it might be a good idea to keep the volatile lazy guy around so that you can go to the end with him. That ends up being a problem for your ultimate goal to vote out the volatile lazy guy. Just go about your attempts to get Shamar voted out, but keep it quiet.

Sherri and her alligience to Shamar

Sherri actually handled Shamar well, though that's pretty easy when he's on your side. Telling him to continue to do what he does is a pretty smart strategy. In fact, I think that Boston Rob rode that strategy to a million dollars on Redemption Island.

Philip's Philipness and how to handle it.

Malcolm has this right - let Philip do what he wants, and let him think he is running the show. But be prepared to cut him loose once his targets do not align with yours.

Reynold's bulge and how to handle it

Reynold was hitting a couple of homeruns this week - he seemingly was the only one to search for an immunity idol, and found it. He then told us that he wasn't going to tell anybody about it, and was goign to hide it because he didn't want anybody to notice the bulge in his pants and think that he had an immunity idol. It was going oh so well...

Until Laura saw that Reynold had a bulge in his pants right before tribal council. A great bit of observation by Laura, even if she couldn't do anything about it before they went to tribal council. But having that in your pocket is as good as anything.

Your first tribal council and how to handle it

I want to give the fans a bit of a pass for what happened at this tribal council. It's the first tribal council that they have ever participated in, and they are uber fans. They all probably went in thinking that they were going to be Jeff Probst go to person, giving the quips that would appear on the show, but while not revealing any information. Instead, they basically were giving up their games.

It's never a good idea to let your opposition know that you see them as a threat, but that's what happened with the misfits. They pointed out the existance fo the foursome, which tipped them off to be a bit concerned. And then the foursome attacked Shamar, which could have been a problem if they weren't so transparent with their attempts to get everybody to vote them out. And Shamar defended himself by simply saying that others were trying to tear him down, which is a non-answer to the legitimate criticisms being levelled against him.

An awkward bulge and how not to handle it

More on this later, but there's a couple of options that Laura had. She could have kept the information to herself, and then shared it with her alliance in secret after tribal council. That's not a bad option really. It wouldn't have been that difficult to imagine going into tribal council that Reynold would have kept the idol for himself, and then you could have split the votes and dealt with the idol next. Or, Laura could have used the information to work out a deal with Reynold.

Of course, there is a risk involved. If Reynold plays the idol for Allie, then you lose a goat in Shamar . Plus, not coming forward immediately would cause people to wonder about your trustworthiness. And there is always the worst case scenario - that others decide to just give the foursome a boost and vote out Shamar, and you find yourself in the minority with the majority holding an immunity idol.

No matter what, though. You can't reveal that you have an immunity idol. But more on that in a minute.

The foursome and how to handle it

Vote somebody out who was a member of that group. Pretty simple really.

Best play of the week

I have to give it to Laura, who I think came up with the best way to out Reynold having the hidden immunity idol, even if she didn't get him to play it. By mentioning that much fabled bulge and staring Reynold down, she essentially shamed him into showing his hand, so to speak. With him being in the minority alliance, they have him in a spot where he has to use the idol at the next immunity, or risk getting voted out, probably by a split vote 3-3-3 vote. It ended up being a nicely conceived solution to a potentially sticky problem.

Worst play of the week

On the opposite end of that play was Reynold who blew the chance to deny having an idol, and followed it up by trying a weak "I'm going to play the idol, I swear" passive aggressive move. Nobody believed that you would use the idol Reynold. Laura even admitted that she saw the idol too late to change anything going into tribal council. So instead of taking out your bulge and waving it around, make a horribly sexist joke about Laura checking out your bulge ("I want to know why Laura is checking out my bulge before tribal council.") and keep the idol to yourself. At a minimum, you leave them guessing as to whether you have it or not. At best, you sow discontent in that alliance.

Final thoughts on the booted player:

Honestly, I feel bad for Allie. She seems like a true fan, and I couldn't imagine getting to live a dream of playing Survivor only to get booted first from your tribe and only play for 6 days. But as a fan, she has to know that getting involved in a showmance is a terrible idea and only courting disaster (heck, South Pacific wasn't that long ago, and we saw what happened to Ozzy's island girlfriend when others thought they were getting too cozy.) She'd also have to realize that cuddling is the first tell as to who is aligned with who. Even with all of that history, she still decided to align with Reynold, Eddie and Hope in the foursome alliance. And that bit her in the butt.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Survivor: Caramoan Episode 1 Thoughts and Best/Worst Plays of the Show

Some thoughts after a pretty good first episode of Survivor: Caramoan (Fans vs. Favorites 2)...

General thoughts on the twist

The Fans vs. Favorites twist produced one of the best season ever (#3 in my most recent rankings), so going back to it was a no-brainer. With that said, without Erik's giving up of the immunity necklace, we'd have a much different thought about it. Erik likely would have won thanks to an immunity run, and superfans would have been frustrated that strategy didn't win out. It's also forgotten how much the fans deferred to the favorites. This season we could be headed down the same road.

A lot of smart people (see the Rob Has a Podcast podcast) think that the fans need to be intermingled with the favorites as soon as possible, in order to produce the best TV. I think that the better game would occur if the favorites and fans do not get intermixed until much later.

One of the reasons that the fans end up deferring to the favorites is because they haven't had that much experience playing the game and actually surviving on the island. The longer they play, the more confident they get in their survival and Survivor skills. This gives them more confidence to stand up against the favorites. As well, it lets the fans build more stable alliances, which they would be more likely to keep than after 6 days.

The one major danger with my proposal is that we would probably end up with another Pagonging situation if we go into a merge with equal fans and favorites. Of course, if there are more favorites and fans, you still get to see the favorites manipulate the fans in the same way that you would if they were integrated early in the game. The only difference is that the fans would actually hold some power, presumably being swing votes in a favorites power struggle.

The problem with being a fan

The fan complex was best exemplified by Matt after the reward challenge. The fans had just been beaten very handily by the favorites, with the favorites showing that they are actually more dominant physically than the fans. What does Matt do? Laugh in amazement that he is playing with these favorites. As I said above, the fans haven't had much of a chance to adjust to actully playing Survivor. If they continue with the "I can't believe I'm playing" attitude, they are going to get destroyed. It's also something that will end up favoring the immunity threats - I can see Reynold doing well because of this very reason - he's strong enough to continue on until a merge, then he can start winning individual immunity.

One thing that will hurt Reynold is his lack of awareness of his cuddling situation. He was smart to target Allie as an alliance partner; his read on her being not as noticable was pretty strong. But then he decided to start a showmance with her and get a little more frisky at night, and everybody notices this. You have to be extra aware of what you are doing on both sides. The favorites have seen most everything before, so they know what to look for. But the fans also know what to look for; they are fans for crying out loud! They pay attention to everything on the show and know all of the key things to look for as well!

There's also something to be said for not arguing strongly in the early going, unless you know that everybody else is on your side. In the case of Matt, he chose to fight with Shamar over whether fire or shelter was more important. Shamar came across like he was in the right because it wouldn't be that hard to last one night while sleeping on the beach. Not getting water would be much worse for them. And as an added bonus, Shamar gets to be the hero when he creates fire. Matt is lucky that Michael threw him a lifesaver and offered a floater alliance to him.

The problem with being a favorite

The favorites are in a better situation than the fans. They are more experienced, so it is easier for them to adjust and get going quickly. They know how to handle victory and defeat. And they know what did and did not work the last time they played and can adjust accordingly. This last advantage is a double-edged sword though.

You can know what your weaknesses are, but you don't necessarily know how much you have to do to correct it. So there's a chance that you will overcorrect and end up blowing your game. Take Francesca, for example. She knew that her problem last time was being in a minority alliance and getting picked off. This time, her approach was to create an alliance with everybody and then she woudl be good. However, she seemed to think that as soon as she got the alliance agreement from everybody, she was done. That left Dawn and Andrea questioning their alliance, as Francesca wasn't talking game enough, and ended up leading to her eventual torch snuffing.

Phillip also fell into the same problem. He looked good initially, realizing that you want to run the alliance but not appear to be running it. And he started out fine, but lost his way when he talked to Erik. It was a mismash of passive/aggressive positioning and awkward attempts to pretend like he wasn't running an alliance, which Erik saw through immediately, going so far as to call it a Boston Rob strategy. Phillip might have won the day, but the war is very much in doubt.

There's also your previous experiences working against you. Even though there has been no indications about a hidden immunity idol, Francesca came up with a scheme to split votes to guard against a hidden immunity idol that didnt' exist, and would have ended with her getting voted out. Brandon starts to get paranoid about Mikayla Andrea, and so he and Erik come up with a plan to instead vote out Andrea without telling Cochran (who would be a member of their alliance.) The best way of acting woudl be to keep things simple and to vote out whoever they wanted to go (Phillip, Corrine, Andrea, Jeff Probst, whoever.) But instead they over complicated the plan and could have screwed themselves over.

They weren't screwing around with the challenges

A reward challenge minutes after arriving on the island which is basically tackle football? Check. An immunity challenge that involves going up and down a 4 story structure? Check. If this is an indication what to expect for the challenges this year, I'm looking forward to it.

If anyone has a hidden immunity idol...

Did anybody see any hidden immunity idol clue or other reference to it prior to Francesca bring up the possible existance. Maybe this year isn't going to be that big of a year for hidden immunity idols?

It isn't just important to have impressions of others, it is important to know what impression others have of you.

 - Laura on Michael (paraphrased) "He's looking around and you can tell that his is very observant. He's a strategist like me and maybe we can work together."
 - Michael on Laura (paraphrased) "She looks like she's 18. What is she doing here?"

Making opinions of other players is important. But even more important is knowing what others think of you. It's a poker skill of sorts, being aware of the personality and habits that you are projecting to others, but an essential one. Without it, you end up in trouble. That Laura example is one. A bigger one was Corrine and Francesca. Corrine I'm sure thought that everything was fine between her and Francesca, but Francesca took her silence on talking game to be out of character, and caused Francesca to distrust Corrine and lobby for her ouster. That could have been disasterous.  It also works for Francesca not knowing that her lack of discussion of game with Andrea and Dawn would make her a possible target.

Best play of the week:

Michael's decision to talk to Matt and tell him that he was willing to work with him to determine what the best path was for the both of them was great. You pull in somebody who will now be loyal to you, and you give yourself options. Do you want to work with the Showmance 4? No problem. Think they might be a threat? Vote one of them out. And you can still manuever after that, as your 2 plus the minority 3 would then become a majority. Giving yourself many options in the early going is an incredibly strong position to be in.

Worst play of the week:

Erik and Brandon's plan to switch the vote at the last possible second to Andrea. If you wanted to create confusion from your alliance and risk a blown vote which ends up costing your alliance, this was a brilliant move. In all other cases, not so much. The worst part is that it was an unnecessary move unless you really thought that keeping Andrea around would mean that she would be able to destroy your alliance. Once you vote out Phillip or Corrine, you have a 6-3 advantage (including Andrea in the 6). You can vote out Andrea on the next vote and still keep a 5-3 majority. And on he next vote, Andrea won't be expecting getting voted out. She'll think that he actions cemented her loyalty. Keep It Simple, Stupid is good advice for most Survivor plays, but it is unbelievably excellent advice in the early going. People are still getting used to each other. There's no point to messing things up and drawing attention to yourself being a paranoid person.

Final thoughts on the booted player:

Francesca was essentially the 11th fan: she wasn't in the game long enough to have any sort of real experience to fall back on, and it showed. She chose the wrong speed for all of her plays: she was fast in the early going, then came to a stop in the middle, before speeding up her game again at the end, trying to plan for something that she didn't really need to. If she ever comes back, she might get a better feel for how the dynamics of the game are.

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