Survivor Survival Guide: “What Goes Around, Comes Around”

“I want the cake, I want to eat it, too, and I want those two to go home.”

—Jane

There are often early, subtle clues in a Survivor episode that hint at its basic structure: “What Goes Around, Comes Around” had an especially long “Previously on…” and the full intro sequence, which accurately portended a rather light episode. The Reward and Immunity Challenges both ran a bit longer than usual, and there wasn’t much time at all dedicated to strategy and camp plotlines.

After a brief shot of Espada, with Dan thankful to be back yet again and Chase saying Alina should be the next to go, the action went back to La Flor, where Marty was upset Jane (bless her soul) had turned on him last Tribal. Marty told Jane that he never lied to her, never misrepresented himself, and never wrote her name down, and he confronted her about voting for him last time. Jane responded to this about as non-confrontationally as possible, by laughing off the idea while simultaneously making it very clear that she had indeed voted for Marty. This is what passed for early tension.

The Reward Challenge involved castaways leaping off a platform and trying to throw a ball into a net past a “defender,” standing on a pole halfway between the platform and the goal.* It looked fun. JudFabio and Chase served as their tribes’ respective defenders, and Espada was able to win despite the fact that Dan’s attempt — weak as it was — didn’t count because he was unable to jump off the platform. At this point, I think it’s reasonable to call him the worst participant in Survivor history.

*Calling the position “the defender” is a more subtle than usual way for Survivor to market another CBS show: The Defenders.

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The reward was for a “Nicaraguan farm experience” that included horseback riding — which brought Chase to tears about his dad’s passing again since he used to ride horses with him — along with a complete breakfast, and milking cows (or as Purple Kelly called it in her first and only confessional of the season, “You get to milk your own…milk?”). Holly, Espada’s official team mom, inexplicably became emotional during the meal, talking about family and home and food. Then Alina started crying, too. Then NaOnka thought Alina was fake-crying. It was weird.

Back at La Flor, Jane woke up early to clean up camp, gather wood for the fire, and go fishing — all while the rest of the tribe slept. She caught a few catfish and decided to sneak off into the woods to eat one all by herself as her own “food reward.”* Sash, meanwhile, went on a long and condescending monologue about how great it is that the older members of the tribe do everything for him, but how that’s not going to win them any favors because it all comes down to who is most loyal to him. It’s in moments like this that I like to hold Sash, a real estate broker, personally responsible for the recession.

*The highlight of this sequence was Jane using the word “yonder.”

The Immunity Challenge looked every bit as fun as the Reward one, with castaways lining a chute up by pulling ropes to shoot cannonballs at tiles. There is no doubt in my mind that Bob Crowley would have obliterated the competition in this challenge. Sash interestingly decided to sit out this one for La Flor (Jane had sat out earlier, but you would have expected Purple Kelly or Jill to sit out before Sash), and that drew some odd glances from Espada and even his own tribe (as if they hadn’t talked it over). It was weird. Benry and Alina were responsible for directing the rest of Espada in aligning the chute, and they totally outworked Brenda and Purple Kelly, who were terrible communicators for La Flor. Espada won easily.

That left La Flor having to figure out how to handle Marty’s Hidden Immunity Idol for the second straight episode, all because they decided it wasn’t as dangerous as Kelly B.’s artificial leg. By now, they’re so used to splitting votes that even JudFabio could explain: three for Marty, two for Jill, with two coming at one of them. In the event of a tie, they’d all vote for Jill. Sash, though, came up with a wrinkle: What if he promised Marty he’d be safe tonight in exchange for his idol? Sash presents the plan to Marty, adding the caveat that, if La Flor were to lose the next Immunity Challenge, he’d give it back.

Now, let’s think about this for a second from Marty’s perspective. If he keeps the idol, he almost certainly has to use it at Tribal that night. If he does, there’s no more idol, but he buys himself what he accurately describes as “one more cycle” in the game, which may be enough to get him to the merge. If he gives the idol to Sash, he opens up the distinct possibility he would be voted out that night. Or, he’ll be saved for one more cycle, except that now the idol is in Sash’s hands. And let’s be honest: You can’t buy the idea that Sash will give the idol back if La Flor loses the next Immunity; that’s just not going to happen. So there are three potential outcomes: Marty survives and there’s no idol, Marty survives and Sash has the idol, Marty is voted out. Clearly, these are in preferential order: It’s better for Marty that there isn’t any idol than that Sash has one. He’s not with Sash now, and he won’t be if and when he gets to the merge. Furthermore, let’s say he uses the idol to save himself at this Tribal; isn’t there then a chance — perhaps not a big one, but a chance nonetheless — that there would be a clue to a new idol? Since this is the way Survivor has been operating for the last few seasons?

Marty, though, decided to desperately cede his idol to Sash hoping it buys him that “one more cycle.” (Again, he could have guaranteed this by keeping the idol, but whatever.) He apparently trusts Sash enough to either give the idol back as promised or carry him in a post-merge alliance — which seems especially unlikely.*

*I know I said earlier in the season that, after the merge, pre-merge alliances are dropped and tribes stick together. That dynamic, though, is altered by the early tribal swap. Sash, Brenda, and Co. are more apt to team up again with Chase and Na (who also has an idol, if you remember) than to stick with Marty.

At Tribal Council, Sash reveals to Probst that the Hidden Immunity Idol is in his pocket, which surprises some other La Florians, most notably Jane. When JudFabio says, “We have the idol,” Probst pushes him on it, questioning how much the rest of the tribe trusts Sash. Sash starts his answer with, “If there’s a time when I lose trust in them,” only to cut it off and correct himself to “sorry, if they lose trust in me, then I’ll have to turn it over.” Even JudFabio knew that was a major Freudian slip. The first six votes were split evenly among Marty, Jane, and Jill, but the final ballot was cast for Jill, sending her home.

I was upset that Marty and Jill couldn’t conjure up a better last-ditch plan, instead resigning themselves to their fate. Why all the focus on Jane? Surely, Marty could have talked someone from the fringe of the main alliance to swing to his side, right? Didn’t he lay the groundwork for this last time with JudFabio? I expected more, and it was disappointing to see Marty sell out Jill even after she was the one who gave him the clue for the idol so many weeks ago.

It seems pointless to do a La Floristocracy, since all signs point to a merge in the next episode. That would mean that, although Marty has made it to the merge and can try to regroup with some of his old mates — who I suppose has whittled down to Dan and maybe Holly — there’s no chance for him to get his idol back. If Brenda and Sash want to reconnect with Chase and Na, they’d have two idols for the four of them and be the dominant group at the game’s midway point.

Here’s a breakdown of everyone then:

THIRD ESTATE: Marty and Alina

SECOND ESTATE: Dan, Holly, Benry, Purple Kelly, JudFabio, and Jane

FIRST ESTATE: Sash, Chase, and NaOnka

THE STATE: Brenda

This is all, of course, contingent on there being a merge. Aside from the top four there — and I list Brenda at the top because she has, to this point, gotten Sash to do some of her dirty work and now has some ammo on him from the Freudian slip — I’d put, unbelievably, Dan in the No. 5 spot. Why? Because there’s no reason to vote him off! He has no threatening allies. The best he can do is team up with Marty, and that gives them two. He poses no threat in any individual Immunity Challenge. Once Dan survived the first few Tribals — when the focus is highest on “keeping the team strong” — there no longer existed a sensible reason to get rid of him. If I were in an alliance, I’d want to bring Dan along. He can provide an extra number, seems to listen to whatever, can’t win immunity, and probably wouldn’t get any jury votes if he made it to the end. I’d want Dan with me in the finals.

The rest of the Second Estate are people who aren’t on the chopping block yet but are on the fringes of their alliances. Marty, obviously, is in trouble still, and Alina could be the first target if Na and Chase get their way next week.

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on October 28, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Now, granted I don’t know as much about Survivor strategizing and history as you do, but here’s why I think Marty made the right move by giving his Idol to Sash: It’s not really fair for you to only list the three outcomes in order of most desirable to least for Marty, because it’s really more like a decision tree.

    First, let’s say he decides to keep the Idol, as you advocate. If he keeps it and doesn’t play (Idk why he would do this, but you have to explore all your options), then he would almost certainly have been sent home last night. If he keeps it and plays it, then he loses the Idol, and his only ally, and he’s the target the next time his tribe faces elimination. In other words, he can buy himself one more cycle and, most probably, ONLY one more cycle.

    But let’s say he gives the Idol to Sash. If he does that and then gets blindsided (as it seemed like La Flor was planning) then he goes home in that episode. But if he gives away the Idol and the tribe votes for Jill, as they told him they would and did, then he buys himself one more cycle, and possibly, some allegiance from his tribe. No matter how small the odds of Sash actually giving him the Idol back are, it at least provides him SOME hope of surviving more than one more cycle. Even if Sash doesn’t give him the Idol, though, there’s the possibility, as this very Tribal Council showed, that Sash having the Idol might sow discord among the dominant alliance and allow the target to move from Marty’s back.

    So even though the move drastically increased the odds of Marty going home last night, they also increased the odds of him staying long-term. And even if that increase is only slight, it’s crucial, because it’s not like you get points for staying around longer (do you? I still don’t really know the rules). Surviving one more cycle just to survive one more cycle is relatively pointless if you don’t increase your long-term prospects.

    Of course, the proximity of the ever-important, much-discussed merge complicates things, since Sash’s Alliance having an Idol post-merge is a bigger deal, but Marty couldn’t really know the merge was coming, so he couldn’t really count on it. There’s the possibility that La Flor would have gone to Tribal one or two more times (again, this is kind of a guess), at which Marty would have certainly been a goner had he not handed the Idol over.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Josh on October 28, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    I’m just excited that Purple Kelly got an opportunity to speak this episode.

    Reply

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