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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Chaos Is My Friend”

Illustration for article titled Survivor: “Chaos Is My Friend”
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Here’s the thing about everything that happened in tonight’s episode: In the short term, it doesn’t matter, not really. Tony flipping on an alliance member again and watering down his power majority again is basically meaningless. Why? Because all the idols currently in play essentially give him two free weeks of play with barely any consequences. That’s too many damn idols! Good thing this season is so entertaining, otherwise this would be very, very annoying.

On the surface, this was supposed to be a fairly straightforward episode. Spencer and Tasha are the only two people left in their alliance, so inevitably one of them was getting voted out by Tony and his majority alliance. That was the way it was going, right up until Tasha won immunity and Tony’s pathological need to constantly scheme intersected with some clever social positioning by Spencer, and Tony decided it was time to preemptively get out Jefra, to avoid the possibility of a gender imbalance giving the women too much power, and ultimately the ability to take him out.

None of this plan to vote out Jefra would likely have been possible, however, without the two different idols Tony has burning a hole in his pocket. Two idols! The special idol is security enough, giving him the ability to basically do anything to anyone at any moment and not face any consequences at Tribal Council. The second, regular idol he found after receiving a clue in the auction is an extra security blanket on top of this, giving him the peace of mind of basically two Tribal Councils, free and clear of any consequences for his actions. For Tony’s short-term game, these two idols (and his already fairly solid position in the game) give him an almost invincible feeling. This invincibility, in turn, means him making some interesting decisions that mean nothing in the short term but could have serious consequences for his long game.

The beauty of Tony freaking out and voting out Jefra instead of Spencer is how thoroughly he was played by Spencer in the process. As soon as Tony makes it clear he feels uncomfortable with how close Tasha is with the female members of his alliance, Spencer sees an opening to stoke Tony’s paranoia about Jefra’s allegiance and the possibility of the women banding together and using their numbers advantage to take out the men. It’s never really an actual threat—from what the editing shows of the women, they spend most of their time just shooting the breeze—but once Tony gets an idea in his head it starts to fester and grow, until he eventually turns it into a fact in his head, no matter how ridiculous it may seem. By the end of this episode Tony is fairly convinced if he doesn’t take out Jefra the women are going to rise up and take the men down one by one, despite the fact that this has never been more than a sly stretch of the truth Spencer planted in Tony’s head.

But again, all of this makes no difference, because Tony can just use his fancy idol and get himself out of any jam this puts him in next week, still leaving him an idol to spare. It’s fun television to watch this week and will likely to stay fun, but it’s not as fun to analyze the consequences of Tony’s gameplay when it’s very likely there will not be any, at least until he has to meet the jury. With only six players left, Tony certainly seems like he has  pretty easy, breezy ride at least until the final four. Did Tony make a good decision here, voting out Jefra when Spencer—who appears to be a much bigger target—is still in the game? In the short term, the idols make it an almost moot point. If Tony makes it to the jury, however, then he might have some explaining to do.

Stray observations:

  • Was that auction surprisingly short or was it just me? I wanted multiple food purchases for each person! Maybe the producers realized no one was bidding and shortened it?
  • After giving Trish a lot of credit last week, she seemed rather clueless a few times here: First, when she berated everyone for not bidding on food, and again when she didn’t pick up on any sort of social shift between the women and Tony at camp.
  • Someone please greenlight Woo’s Rib Porn, my new reality show pitch about a barbecue show that consists solely of Woo’s Rib Face and Woo eating ribs, set to porn music.
  • Remember when I asked if Tony was lucky or good? After the rock draw, I’m going with lucky.
  • Hey, did you hear there were balls in the Immunity Challenge? So many balls. Balls flying everywhere. Balls balls balls.
  • It’s easy for Tony to use his idol as an intimidation device at Tribal Council when he has another, more powerful idol secretly in his pocket. Too many idols!