Survivor Survival Guide: “Tonight We Make Our Move”

Tomorrow we make our apologies. Tonight we make our move.”


When Survivor first introduced Exile Island and the Hidden Immunity Idol several years ago, I wasn’t really sold on either concept. Exile Island scenes tended to take time away from more important stuff going on in camp or in challenges, while the Hidden Immunity Idol was an oft-discussed but rarely used piece of strategy. As time wore on, although my feelings about Exile Island haven’t changed, I’ve grown to enjoy the extra strategizing that the hidden idol requires.

Last night was the perfect case in point. After the Villains won the first independent Reward Challenge since the first episode (the last two weeks, reward was folded into the immunity challenge), both tribes found a clue to a Hidden Immunity Idol placed on their beach. The problem, however, is that the discoveries in each tribe were made publicly, and therefore nobody could surreptitiously look for the idol. It was interesting that the Villains decided not to waste time searching for it, instead opting to work on their somehow-still-not-built-despite-winning-reward-specifically-designed-for-it shelter.* The Heroes, on the other hand, all went after it at the same time individually. Not surprisingly, Tom was able to find it before anyone else, but he wasn’t able to slip it into his sock before Amanda spotted him. Tom and Colby were already on the outs once Steph was voted off, and the idol placed a larger target on the fireman’s back while giving him a potential way out.

*Russell did get caught “going for a walk” to look for the idol; after I heard how shrewd this guy was in getting to the finals last season, I expected him to be a little quicker than that. Wait till nightfall at least dude! If you’re THAT good at finding hidden idols, darkness ain’t a problem.**

**Best line of the night comes courtesy of Boston Rob on Russell: “He’s like the hobbit on crack.” I was going to criticize him for referring to Smeagol as a hobbit, but he’s right.

The Immunity Challenge involved tying one player into a large, American Gladiators-style sphere and blindfolding everyone else. The person in the sphere then had to guide two blindfolded teammates pushing him toward a table maze, and then guide four other blindfolded tribesmen through the table maze. Boston Rob and Tom were chosen as the guides, and in close but predictable fashion, Rob pulled it out. Seriously, is anyone better at puzzles than that guy? How could you ever vote him out when team immunity is still at stake?

The strategizing began immediately back at the Heroes’ camp, with Tom trying to use the immunity idol as a bargaining chip with Cirie’s main alliance. He talked to JT, James, and Amanda and appeared to have them leaning toward voting Candice out, until Cirie took Amanda aside and explained to her how dumb that would be for her (being that Tom and Colby tried voting Amanda out at the team’s last tribal). JT, however, was still on the fence, debating between Tom’s status as a physical and strategic threat and his inability to trust the other alliance—Candice in particular. Tom tried to sell him on cutting off the head of the other alliance and voting out Cirie, who had clearly exercised her power over Amanda and James.

Here’s where the immunity idol becomes so significant: If Tom didn’t have it, it’s two people against six, and he’d have to sway at least two people to his and Colby’s side to stand a chance. But with the idol in play, the Cirie alliance had to split its votes between Tom and Colby three and three; that way, if Tom played the idol, they could at least send Colby home. But with those votes split, Tom only needed to sway one person to make the votes go 3-3-2, and he could use the idol to ensure that the three votes against him didn’t count.

That’s what made Tribal so intriguing. First, would Tom be wise enough to play the idol? (It seems silly to ask, but enough people have made the mistake in the past.) Second, who would JT vote for? And who was he supposed to vote for? Here’s why that second question is so important: If the main alliance thought JT were voting for Colby and he instead voted for Cirie, the vote would break down Tom 3, Cirie 3, Colby 2, and Cirie would go home. If he were supposed to vote for Tom and opted for Cirie, it would break down Colby 3, Cirie 3, Tom 2, and it would be a tie—with the two people who voted for Tom just switching it to Colby to send him home.

In the end, though, it worked out perfectly for Tom and Colby: JT wrote down Cirie’s name instead of Colby’s, Tom played the idol, and Cirie went home in the season’s first blindside.*

*Blindsides get earlier year after year.

It was the first major move of the game and one that will likely shape it for weeks to come. If JT had stuck with the status quo and voted Tom or Colby out of the game, the Villains would have remained the dominant tribe while the Heroes would have been left with a large somewhat unwieldy alliance spearheaded by Cirie. Instead, an alliance of JT, Tom, and Colby is particularly formidable going forward. They’re all physically gifted—albeit Colby’s lost about 15 mph off his fastball—and Tom and JT are also clever social players who have a Ben Linus-like knack for getting people to do what they want without knowing it. The remainder of the Heroes—James, Rupert, Candice, and Amanda—still have numbers but neither a leader nor cohesion; there’s no longer anyone smart enough to keep them on the same page. Don’t be surprised to see several of them try to flip over to the other side as quickly as possible.

Time for the Heroes’ Aristocracy:

Third Estate: Amanda and James

Second Estate: Rupert and Candice

First Estate: Tom and Colby

The King: JT

JT assumed control of the game with his bold decision (he totally should win the Sprint Bold Move Text Vote) with Tom and Colby right behind him (but indebted to him). James has been the most antagonistic member of the tribe, and that leaves him at the bottom of the totem pole along with Amanda, who is his closest ally. Rupert and Candice, in particular, will likely try to ingratiate themselves to the new balance of power. I’d be shocked to see the bottom four rise up together and regain control.

One response to this post.

  1. […] the person who makes the first move rarely sticks around for many more (see: Joel in Micronesia or Tom on “Heroes vs. Villains”). We’ll see if Marty can do any […]


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