Thursday, March 28, 2013

Survivor: Caramoan Episode 7 Power Rankings

They're back!

12. Sherri

Has an alliance with...Michael? She could coast along for a bit while the various factions sort out their issues, but she isn't going to get into final tribal.

11. Brenda

Brenda is basically in the same position as Sherri, though she is a favorite, so she has a leg up. As well, Brenda has a reputation of being a good player. That is going to cause people to target her as soon as they can.

10. Eddie

Eddie is this low because unless he goes on an immunity run, I can see him being the odd man out of the bros group. And I don't think he beats Reynold in final tribal if it gets to that point.

9. Michael

Could be too low based on what the preview for next week says is going to happen. But he is at the bottom of the purple tribe, and only has Corrine's stated desire to take him deep to carry him. He's smart, but he isn't going to flip the favorites himself.

8. Philip

Philip is running the show, and he's going to pay the price for running the show. Everybody is looking to get rid of him, regardless of favorite or fan designation. They all want to blind side him, and Philip is not doing himself any favours by keeping the pedal to the metal the entire time, and not backing off.

7. Corrine

Corrine's desire to get rid of Philip is getting in the way of her desire to play the game smartly and getting to the end. Her flare ups with Philip only show the cracks in the favorites' alliance, and make her a likely target for whenever somebody decides to make a move in the favorites group.

6. Reynold

On the bright side, Reynold continues to be a challenge beast, he has a solid alliance with Malcolm and he has an immunity idol. On the down side, Malcolm knows he has an idol, and Malcolm can be very manipulative when he wants to be. Reynold is in a decent position to go far, but the question is whether he can make it to the end.

5. Erik

Speaking of challenge beasts, here's Erik. Everybody seems to still forget that Erik would have won the first Fans vs. Favorites season if he doesn't give up immunity. He was that good at challenges, and that well liked. This season he has been kinda invisible, but his instincts have been pretty spot on, and he seems to have stumbled into a good alliance. Nobody is going to want to go with him to the end, but who's to say that they are going to have a choice?

4. Andrea

This feels like a bit of a default positioning, but Andrea is in good with the fans, and she seems to have the hesitant trust of many people. The downside is that she seems to see trouble in anything and everything that happens around her. If she can stay playing slow, she'll be fine and could win the game. But if not, she's in a lot of trouble.

3. Cochran
2. Dawn

The ones who were actually making the decisions on the purple tribe, they are playing a great game so far. As they are making the decisions, they are making sure that Philip wears the consequences fo their decisions. They're going to continue to "float" while doing what they want, until it comes down to whatever faction they are in and either the Corrine or Malcolm faction. If they come out on top, one of these two will win.

1. Malcolm

The clubhouse leader, Malcolm is a challenge threat, has an immunity idol, and seemingly has alliances with everybody in the game. He also has the charisma to pull off having an alliance with everybody, and will be able to play them off of each other for as long as he needs it to. So long as he doesn't choke in the final immunity challenge, he will win the game.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Survivor: Caramoan Episode 7 Thoughts

The Horsemen reborn!

Malcolm struck me as the best player coming into the season, and he has done nothing to dissway me from this. Today he came up with another angle which ended up paying huge immediate dividends.
He was smart to realize that he was on a tribe with 3 other alpha males, and the alpha males would be a target. So why not band them together for the short term (and then obviously cut them loose as soon as you can.) And for his troubles, he found out that Reynold had the immunity idol.

Reynold just can't help himself though. If you give him an inch, he'll give you back a mile. I have to admit that I don't know how I would react if I had sensed that I had been betrayed continuously, and was then approached by somebody else to join them. I like to think that I would be a little wary though, and definitely wouldn't offer up the biggest piece of information I have. But that's me. Reynold might be suffering from some sort of anxiety based on his continued rejection, and it might be causing him to give up this information. Or he could just be a nice guy who lives in the moment, instead of thinking too far ahead.

Julia decides to pack 10 days of playing into one day

We hadn't seen too much from Julia. Heck, you knew it was bad when everybody on the show was referring to Julia as being vanilla and invisible. So when she was offered a lifeline from Philip, she chose to try to use that information to cause the favorites to overthrow Philip. That, of course, found its way back to Philip and he turned on her.

I never cease to be amazed that when people are handed a life line, they try to turn it into a trap for the person offering it. In turn, that life line ends up becoming a noose for them. The name of the game is Survivor. If somebody is giving you an opportunity to survive a little bit longer, take it! Don't try to flip it on them immediately unless you know it will work. It goes back to the basic principle of Survivor: Keep it Simple, Stupid. Why make a fancy play when a simple one will work?

Julia decided to make a complex play all of the sudden, and ended up screwing herself for it.

Corrine and her stupidity

Beginning by announcing "I want to work with Michael long term," and following up with "I don't want to split votes because I want him to trust us" after he was made to look like a fool on the Matt vote? And as an added bonus throwing out in a confessional that you know that the Julia doesn't have the idol because you and Malcolm have it? WTF?

Let's begin with her announcing that she wants to work with Michael long term. I mean, what would possess you to say that? You are basically telling your alliance that "Hey, I want to have something on the side here. Don't worry, we're still good. Just I'll be extra good because I'll have my side alliance and you guys won't." And then to throw in that you want him to feel comfortable to continue to work with you? Why not just take him aside and tell him "The vote is going to be split 2/2/2, but don't worry, it's Julia." That way you can keep him on side, but also keep your alliance in check. As well, he might pick up on the hint and vote Julia himself.

The real stupid part was that if Corrine had just did my idea of giving Michael the information on the down low, she would have been fine. Your worst case scenario? Michael brings it up at tribal, and gets voted out. Corrine is still in the same "I don't trust you" spot with Philip, but also is out of a potentially bad situation with Michael. Given the the upside of the play, that would have been much superior to what she did.

And finally, the theory that there couldn't be an idol because you and Malcolm have one? You don't think there could be an idol on the other beach where the fans came from? God love Corrine (and she is fantastic), but that was some stupid Survivor theory right there. I almost wanted there to be an idol that we knew nothing about, and that Julia had and played to get Corrine voted out.
This isn't to say that Philip deserves to duck some of the blame here. By acting like himself, he made the Corrine situation much worse. And even though they ended up on the same page, it just showed to everybody else that there was going be trouble ahead, and they might want to get their ducks in a line.

Best Play of the Week

Malcolm recruiting Reynold. Not only did he make a solid side alliance with others, but he got key information about where the other immunity idol is. A good side alliance will work out well for him, unless he has to decide immediately whether he needs to stay with the favorites, or if he needs to flip.

Worst Play of the Week

Julia and her attempt to flip Dawn. Ignoring the concerns that I metioned before, Julia chose to try and flip DAWN. It's not in Dawn's nature to turn on someone so quickly. She needs a good reason to do it, which Julia wasn't able to provide.  Why not try to flip Corrine, who has shown that she doesn't care about alliances, so long as she gets further in the game. If Julia had thought for just a minute, she might still be in the game.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Survivor: Caramoan Episode 5 Thoughts

I'd love to break down the strategy in this episode, but frankly, there isn't much to talk about strategy wise. Good on Reynold for finding the hidden immunity idol for a second time, and for his desire to keep it under wraps. I get the feeling that them showing Julia working on the fire as Reynold tells Eddie about the idol will come into play somehow, but that won't play out for at least a week.

And Brandon happened.

The first real big take away from this was that Philip has no idea as to how to handle somebody like Brandon, and that's why he'll never be the Boston Rob figure he tried to be. You have to coddle Brandon; he is far too unstable to push away. In short, if Philip had treated Brandon "better" (as better as blatantly lying to somebody can be), this could have been avoided. Instead, Philip continued to treat Brandon as he envisioned Bostson Rob treating him if he messed up, and the whole tribe paid the price.

The other take away from this is how unentertaining it was to watch Brandon melt down at the immunity challenge. This was uncomfortable at it's best; disturbing at it's worst. There were times that it seemed as though he was ready to assault Philip, and he didn't care if he did. He went off in a way that somebody who understood that he was playing a game could never go off. His tantrum at camp was kind off understandable; he was pissed and was going to take the tribe down with him. At the immunity challenge? Something bad was going to happen if Jeff didn't step in.

The thing that made me uncomfortable about it? The way that Jeff Probst grinned though the entire situation. It was as though he was amused by this situation, even though he was doing everything he could to diffuse it and/or keep it from escalating. He correctly read that Brandon had to leave now, or else something bad was going to happen. I couldn't tell if the grin was his producer side sneaking out saying "this is great TV!"

The other uncomfortable factor was that even though it was unentertaining, it was compelling to watch. You could tell that Brandon truly felt everything he was saying; you didn't know if the situation was going to explode. But you felt compelled to watch.

The only thing you could feel after watching this is that Brandon should never be on Survivor or any other reality TV show again. He clearly has issues to deal with which are much larger in scope than anything that can be dealt with on TV. Bringing him back only serves to exploit him; the hope is that he's going to explode once again.

There is also the real question as to whether he should have been brought back in the first place. He went through a lot publically after finishing his first season, and his experiences during the first season were odd at the best of times. I understand that he was a recognizable face from his season, but maybe it would have been better to bring back a Sash, who could create drama in his own way and not make the viewer wonder about what they were watching.

This episode is bound to get everybody talking. The question is whether the discussion is actually a positive for Survivor.

(Blog note: I will probably be late with next week's report as I'll be on vacation in Vegas. With that said, next week will bring the official return of my patented,  completely incorrect power rankings!)

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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Survivor: Caramoan Episode 4 Thoughts and Best/Worst Plays of the Show

The irony in Shamar's exit

It's always sad when a player has to leave the game due to a medical emergency, regardless of how you view the player prior to the situation. But Shamar's exit had an added bonus to it: an ironic twist.

Shamar had been bitching and complaining the entire time. He had been a distraction for the fans, and had been a nuisance at camp. He did not contribute anything to keeping up the camp, and at the challenges he could be ornery. In short he was destroying any morale the fans had built up, and had set himself up to be a target to be voted out. Ultimately though, he caused his own demise in the game by rubbing his eye which had some sand in it. Not only was the irony sweet, so was the visual. Shamar, who chose to not help around camp and to do virtually nothing, was left lying, unable to help himself.

We've probably seen the last of Shamar, save for the reunion. In a sense it is a shame, as Shamar had the potential to be an interesting character. Instead, he ended up being a stereotype; a lazy, angry person who might be suffering from PTSD, and definitely was not suited to be on the show. It was a big miss by the producers, but they couldn't have known how his game would play out.

So we can't win a challenge, and we just lost one of our strongest players. What's our best move?

With Shamar gone, the fans turned back to the same dilemma that they had prior: to keep Eddie/Reynold to have the strongest tribe possible, or to vote them out in order to have the most tight-knit tribe possible. This being the fans, they made the wrong choice.

Laura smartly picked up on this at Tribal Council, pointing out that there is a likelihood that there is going to be some sort of swap or switch soon. If that were to come soon, you want the closest knit tribe you can have, so that none of the fans split off and teamed with the favourites. That was going to be the only way that they survived the favourite's onslaught. Reynold and Eddie had other ideas, dismissing the possibility of a tribal switch and instead pointing out that they wouldn't have to worry about going to tribal council if they could just win a challenge. In the end, this argument won out and Laura was voted out.

The problem with this is that it came a week too late. If they were going to act concilatory towards Reynold and Eddie, last tribal was the time to do it, when they had only been burned once. It would not have been difficult to bring them back into the tribe at that point, without very many hard feelings. But after they were burnt a second time, Reynold and Eddie were willing to listen and vote Laura out to save themselves, but were not jumping to join into an alliance with anybody else.  So instead of facing a possible tribal swap (which if you follow the pattern of the last Fans vs. Favorites, should be coming soon) with a strong alliance of 5 + Reynold on the outside, they have a group of 4 which is really one pair and 2 individual players, plus another pair who they can't trust to stay loyal.

The only way that this could work out for them is if there was no swap, and they started to win challenges. Neither of those seem likely, so the focus had to be the medium term, which would lead you to vote out Eddie or Reynold. What is the point of keeping them around if they aren't going to lead to any challenge success?

The fans' inexperience is showing a lot, and it is coming back to haunt them.

Best play of the week

Reynold playing the immunity idol. If you are going to look at it from a results perspective, Reynold made a mistake playing the idol. He was told Laura would be going home, and she did. He could have just gone along with the plan and still be in the game with an immunity idol - what a position to be in!

But the reality is that Reynold had to play the idol, and he did. He could not be certain that the vote was going to end up how it did, so he had to protect himself by playing the idol. An ancillary benefit is that it gives Reynold a clean slate with the rest of the tribe. The elephant in the room has been removed, and the tribe can now start the healing process necessary for the fans to stand any chance of winning the game.

One of the guiding principles for anybody playing Survivor has to be the "KISS" philosophy: Keep It Simple, Stupid. The more comlex of a play you make, the more likely it is to backfire. Reynold kept it simple and played his idol when he felt threatened, and is still in the game. That's all he could ask for.

Worst play of the week

Sherri for her backing of the wrong horse again. Sherri identifying Shamar as a goat to be dragged too the end is a great plan. However, her lack of flexibility caused her to keep Shamar when it was much more beneficial for the tribe to get rid of him. While she couldn't forsee what caused Shamar to leave the game, she could easily take the information that she had at hand and realize that Shamar was likely to become a liability at some point, and she was going to have to cut him loose. A more prudent play would be to get rid of him now, and hopefully help to heal the fissure in the fans' tribe.

This week, we saw Sherri flip flop on her motivations. She chose to vote out Laura for the sake of the better of the tribe. The issue with this is what I pointed out earlier - now that you have made your bed, you have to lie in it. Sherri should have fought tooth and nail to keep Laura around, much like she did with Shamar earlier. Tribal physical strength no longer mattered; the bond of the tribe mattered much more. Getting rid of a player on the outside of your alliance is much more important at this point because it is the path that you have already chose to go down.

Final thoughts on the booted player

Laura brought this upon herself, in a sense. She could have teamed with Julia and gone to the cool kids group in order to vote out Shamar. But she stayed loyal, and her loyalty was rewarded with getting the boot next. The danger for a weak player in challenges is always the early part of the game; as Laura said herself it's weakness in challenges that people look to before any bonds are truly made. However there is another danger for a weak player, and that is when your tribe loses challenge after challenge. The fans had lost 5 of 6 challenges thus far, and the one that they won was a come from behind victory. In short, they were getting dominated by the Favorites, and Laura in particular looked especially weak. So when the frustration set in with the tribe over losign so often, she had to know that it would be her that would be targetted. Sadly, she wasn't able to get her alliance to stay unified and not submit to the desire to win a challenge.

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