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Survivor: “Method To This Madness”

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This second episode made a clear a lot of things that were left decidedly unclear last week. Heck, even the “previously on Survivor” segment was edited with a clarity all of the strategy in the premiere lacked, and what it laid out was exactly what many of you suspected: Baylor flipped to join the male alliance, and Josh voted for Baylor to throw the rest of the tribe off the trail of their side alliance. If it was so easy to explain here, though, why couldn’t the producers have done a better job the first time around?

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Still, knowing these facts makes this episode (and the strategizing within) crystal clear, which is a refreshing change considering sometimes it seems as if Survivor’s only goal is to leave viewers going into Tribal Council with the least amount of information possible in order to maintain the “surprise” of the vote. From the moment Coyopa lost the immunity challenge, Val was the focus of the episode so it was obvious she was in danger. What is interesting about her game is how her lie about having two idols sinks her, even though she seems a bit convinced it is actually saving her. Lying about having an idol isn’t a terrible strategy considering Val—along with Jaclyn, who also didn’t vote with the majority last week—is so obviously on the outs with her tribe. It even almost seems as if it is going to work thanks to an assist from John Rocker, who promised Jeremy he would look out for Val and then holds his end of the bargain, lobbying Josh to do a split vote between Val and Baylor and then letting Val know as long as she plays her idol she is fine. (Meaning if the votes stay split, and she and Jaclyn vote Baylor, Baylor would go home.)

But Josh, who from the edit in these first two episodes seems to be playing an impressive, observant game, sees John go off with Val and immediately gets suspicious. From here it’s pretty clear Val is in some trouble, considering last week Josh appeared to be the final nail in Nadiya’s coffin as well. By the time Tribal rolls around, it’s obviously a battle between Val and Baylor, which is reinforced by them attacking each other (with Jaclyn joining in) before the voting begins. Though the vote goes to a tie between the two and there’s a revote, there’s very little suspense that anyone besides Val will go home. What makes it interesting is John Rocker’s reaction to the whole thing, as he watches Val’s lie blow up in her face and realizes it is going to affect Julie’s game over on Hunahpu, as John previously promised Jeremy he’d look out for Val if Jeremy looked out for Julie. Frustrated John Rocker is kind of amusing, I’m not going to lie. (It’s probably a good thing I find John Rocker’s frustrated, petty antics amusing, because they were in abundance here and show no signs of ending.)

The good thing about Coyopa losing both Immunity challenges and having to go to Tribal twice in a row is that despite how early it is in the game, we now have a pretty good idea of how that tribe works. The bad thing is the exact opposite is happening for Hunahpu. It appears Jeremy is still getting the majority of the focus there, but there was a definite shift toward showcasing Jon’s position in the tribe, even if it was to point out his culpability in losing the tribe’s flint. How dysfunctional does Hunahpu seem for a tribe that is winning all of their challenges, by the way? Maybe they just got the goofball edit this week, but standing around and doing show-off exercise moves and then losing the flint and having to do some (hilarious) bargaining with Jeff in order to get one back does not inspire confidence. Maybe next week they’ll finally lose so we can really see how that tribe ticks.

Stray observations:

  • Natalie’s reaction to Nadiya’s torch snuffing was a bit emotionally affecting. The twinnies actually made me feel things!
  • Natalie’s reaction to Jon showing off by squatting a 50-pound log also made me like her a little bit. What is happening?
  • Probst insisted “nobody would predict” John losing to Julia in the reward challenge, but I’m sure practically every long-time fan could have predicted it. A game that relies on balance and steadiness is much better suited for someone smaller and more patient. At least we got to see what a sore loser John is.
  • That immunity challenge was brutal. I love the setting of water challenges but I prefer the more skill-based ones, rather than the “kill each other” ones. John losing to Jon was pretty great, though.
  • John Rocker: “Remove the friend part: I’m losing to a girl. I just got beat by a girl.”
  • “Was he the guy that got ran out of the friggin league?” I think Dale is my favorite.
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