by Mike Ladue
Back before Showtime's CIA drama Homeland became a colossal mess, Mandy Patinkin's character gave Claire Danes' character some blunt feedback: "You're the smartest and the dumbest f*cking person I've ever met." This is relevant because A: Showtime is part of CBS, which airs Survivor, and B: that's the same reaction I had to Tony's gameplay tonight.
His plot to create paranoia around Jeremiah by giving him the Solana idol clue was just crazy enough to work, as Jeremiah was just stupid enough not to catch on, and everyone else was just smart enough to anticipate more twists in the game. Tony may have won the battle in pinning a target, but with Jeremiah still in the game, he's losing the war of finishing his hits.
Another battle Tony won: the Immunity challenge, where he was integral in solving the final puzzle that spared Solana from another Tribal. Another war lost: Probably the whole game. By chanting "Final Five! Final Five!" he alienated Sarah and gave the disjointed Aparri castaways more reason to unify. And who's their biggest threat? Tony.
SURVIVOR PRO TIP #10: Win with grace. Remember Gervase last season, hooting and hollering at the Tadhana tribe after an Immunity win? It directly lead to his niece, Marissa, getting the axe. Remember when Shii-Ann, the last Mogo Mogo member standing, won the bucket endurance challenge in All-Stars and exploded with joy? Alicia was quick to point out the Shii Devil still had to return back to camp with them, and only earned herself 3 days of safety. Excessive celebration isn't allowed in the NFL, and it shouldn't be allowed in Survivor.
The Solana tribe seems solid enough to stick together come the merge, though LJ and Jefra both expressed unease about Tony's bull-in-a-China-shop strategy. As long as he's taking all the hits making moves against others, the beauties have his back. That fair-weathered loyalty usually isn't the stuff of endgame alliances though. If he wants to survive to Final Five, Tony's gonna need that idol in his pocket -- and maybe a couple more.
Upon losing the IC, Aparri came to a fork in the road: Keep Alexis or keep Jeremiah. Both had strong ties to the Beauties that stayed on Solana. Jeremiah maybe had an idol clue and definitely had a history of breaking his word. Alexis had a mouth bigger than her brain.
They stuck with Jeremiah, which is an interesting choice. Had he played an idol, they would have flushed it out and still sent Alexis home. Should the merge come -- which it will next week-- he's a physical threat that will be targeted long before Alexis. In truth, had Alexis made the merge and Aparri gained an advantage, Alexis would have easily slid to final five and possibly to the FTC.
I worry, though, about the tact shown by Spencer, Tasha, Kass, Morgan and Sarah while picking a side. They clearly wanted to blindside Alexis, but also made it known that Jeremiah is persona non grata within the alliance. His word is garbage, he's shifty with his idol clue… If I were Jeremiah, I'd flip back to LJ and Jefra, who'd gladly take a strong guy for a few weeks to out-play Spencer and Sarah in challenges. Alexis might have remained loyal if the brains kept deluding her of her position within the alliance.
They were damned either way, and though Jeremiah is a serious wild card come the merge, at least he's not as unpredictable as Tony.
Up for Grabs
-Episode MVP: It's gotta be Tony, I guess. Though the moves he made will probably screw up his game in later episodes, the battles he fought tonight worked out. What's the line from Game of Thrones? "Winning three battles does not make you King?" Enjoy it while it lasts.
-Fallen Comrades #1: Nobody has quit the game quite like Lindsey. Osten was physically exhausted, Sue was, infamously, violated/humiliated/dehumanized/emotionally spent, Jenna was missing her ailing mother, Janu was over it, FairPlay was apparently in withdrawals, Kathy, Na'Onka, Purple Kelly and Dana couldn't handle the elements, and Colton, in the two times he played, couldn't handle anything. Lindsey did what very few reality show contestants do in the throes of the game: she realized her actions have real-world consequences, and it's more important to be a role model to her daughter than "that dreads girl who punched Trish right in her horse mouth." She chose brains over brawn, and I've gotta commend her for that. Trish can take her "Shame on You, Lindsie" banner and shove it. (Did it remind anyone else of this classic banner?)
-Fallen Comrades #2: Alexis seems like a sweetheart who just isn't very good at Survivor. For a fan to go out there and get blindsided must be devastating.
-Of course Spencer would enact the right strategy at the Reward Challenge - toss your buddha high up into the air, then attack the opponent's before your's lands. He's a smart kid!
-The fine folks at Vulture did a March Madness bracket of Greatest Reality TV Seasons, and Survivor: Borneo was in contention! Head over there to see how S1 fared, but also check out this list of their proposed 10 Best Strategic Moves in Survivor history. For those interested, here are the top 10 that came to my mind, in chronological order:
-The Tagi alliance votes out Gretchen, Borneo
-Rich steps down during the Final Immunity Challenge, Borneo
-"You Take Care of Her, I'll Take Care of You", All-Stars
-Chris goads Twila into getting angry at FTC, Vanuatu
-Cirie targets the Casaya pawns, Panama: Exile Island
-The Edgardo blindside, Fiji
-The Reichenbach Fall, Micronesia
-Russell muscling his Foa Foa foursome to the endgame, Samoa
-Parvati's HII double-down, Heroes vs. Villains
-Boston Rob's buddy rules, Redemption Island
-Survivor: Cagayan is shaping up to be one of the series' better installments, in large part due to the editors' generosity of screen time. Each of the 11 remaining contestants has some degree of depth and characterization, which is rare in an age where most seasons focus heavily on returning players or godlike Russell/Malcolm figures. With the merge approaching next week, I've decided to go contestant-by-contestant and grade their pre-game strategy thus far. This has no reflection on their chances at winning, just at how they've navigated the pre-merge portion of the game.
Just kidding, Trish gets a C-.
Who would you have voted out, Alexis or Jeremiah? Do you think Tony can carry his Solana crew to the Final Five? Write your comments in the sand below or contact me on Twitter: @MikeTVLadue.