Survivor: He’s Mr. Blindside

It’s a rare thing, this alliance that Boston Rob has created on Survivor. I’ve never seen people not only blindly follow a leader to such an extent on this show, but also truly believe that they’re going to be the one sitting next to Rob in the end.

These people don’t even seem to be thinking about the final three – they all seem to believe they’re second banana, and no matter what happens will be carried along until the end. That means that every vote Rob makes, from voting out Andrea, to voting out Grant last night, to whatever he does in the finale, is a blindside.

Only one person this week actually realized that she could be in danger, and for Ashley it seems to be a case of too little too late. But first, let’s talk about the quaduel.

Odd One Out

I’m not sure what kind of reception Andrea was expecting to be greeted with at Redemption Island, but I hope she packed her tiny violin. No one there was giving her any sympathy, least of all Matt. But here’s the thing – Matt was all kinds of delusional! He whined that she’d gotten scared and didn’t want to make a big move with him, and that he’d tried to get her over with “these guys” (the Zapatera folks) but she wouldn’t go for it. Um, what? Hold. The. Phone. Either Matt was lying to try and make the Zapatera guys think he’d intended on voting with them in order to get their jury votes – which would be the first ounce of strategy we’ve seen from him so far – or he’s completely out of his mind.

Andrea recalled the chain of events correctly. She was willing to stick with him and make a move to vote out Rob, but then MATT went and had a heart-to-heart with Rob and was all “Me and Andrea were going to vote you out, but I changed my mind.” He threw her under the bus, 100%, and he has no reason to be mad at her.

Then the boys made Andrea sleep on the ground (they had room for Steve, an ex-NFL player, but not for an 82 lb girl?) and she looked like she was going to cry. At the duel the next day, as she faced her betrayers, she did cry.

I was worried Andrea’s emotional state would cause her to lose the challenge, but she pulled through thanks to Ralph’s complete inability to solve a puzzle. The quaduel was two-fold – first, players had to move a peg through a maze until it could be freed so they could smash a box containing puzzle pieces. Then they had to solve the puzzle, which didn’t seem particularly hard since it had writing on it.

Ralph blew through the maze portion, but fell pitifully behind with the puzzle. Soon Mike, Matt and Andrea had all surpassed him. In that order, they completed the puzzle, and Ralph was eliminated having squandered his substantive lead. Once again, Mike has beaten Matt in a quadruel – will he be the one to reenter the game? I wish only one person would remain in the game after every “duel”. Coming in second or third just isn’t that impressive.

I’m not sorry to see Ralph go – plain and simple, I don’t want Matt or anyone from Zapatera to reenter the game. If one of them makes it into the finals, I think they’ll have an unfair advantage. Instead of having to blindside and betray jury members, they’ve had the opportunity to bond in misery with them on Redemption Island. Furthermore, I don’t think any of them have played any strategic game whatsoever, so I’d be infuriated to see them beat someone like Rob.

Peas in a Pod

Best Friends Forever?

Back at Murlonio, Ashley and Natalie seemed tighter than ever and Rob knew it was time to break the besties up. At first, I was sure it would be Ashley to go. Natalie has always been Rob’s #1 girl, and the way Ashley grinned and said “I like blindsides” after voting out Andrea seemed like the kind of thing someone who’s about to get blindsided would say. Now, I did not want to see Ashley go. I know she hasn’t performed well, but she’s my pick in the office pool and I’d love to win a little cash. So I was rooting for homegirl to win immunity.

And wouldn’t you know it, it started to look like she just might! Ashley was getting the Elimination Edit far too early. Rob had everyone convinced that she was sneaky, which was really giving her far too much credit. Grant even said “Ashley is a dark individual.” Um, come on. The girl spent the first half of the season plucking out her own armpit hair. But OK. Anyway, everyone was on board with voting her out, which meant something would have to throw a wrench in the plan. The producers don’t want you to know who’s going home five minutes into the episode, because that would be boring.

For her part, Ashley had one stupid thought and one smart thought – which is pretty impressive, considering up until now only Boston Rob has had smart thoughts, and everyone else has had stupid thoughts. Ashley whispered to Boston Rob and Natalie that she thought now was the time to take out Grant, if he didn’t win immunity. This was smart – Grant is a major threat in challenges, and I would want him gone at that stage as well. Ashley’s mistake? Thinking that Boston Rob was not only on board with her plan, but that he was still on board with the idea that he’d go to the finals with her and Natalie.

There was one major chink in Rob’s plan to drive a wedge between Natalie and Ashley, though, and that was Phillip. Once again, he caused a dramatic fight over – what else? – rice. This time, he was trying to tell the girls that Grant should get more rice than them so he could beat whoever returned from Redemption Island. This was an interesting argument, and I don’t fault the girls for getting angry. First of all, yeah, it sounded a lot like “You should eat less because you’re girls.” Second of all, it’s not a team game anymore, it’s an individual game. Giving up rice for the sake of someone else’s strength means jeopardizing your own chances at winning immunity. Of course, being angry at Phillip just brought Natalie and Ashley even closer together – the opposite of what Rob wanted.

Want an example of how great a player Rob is? Watch the scene where he’s convincing Natalie to betray Ashley, and then seamlessly switches over to talking about food as soon as Ashley walks up. One minute he’s all “I can’t stand what she’s doing to you. She’s trying to tell you what’s in your best interest,” and the next minute he’s asking Natalie where to buy caramel sauce. Is it in the ice cream aisle? With the marshmallows? It was hilarious.

Ashley Steps Up

Winning challenges beats winning pageants

Just as I’d hoped, my girl Ashley won immunity. Now, don’t get me wrong – I know the girl has no hope of winning. Even if she makes the finals, it’ll be like the time I had Mick in Survivor: Samoa. But it’s just fun to still be in the pool on finale night.

For the challenge, players had to use fish hooks to retrieve bags of puzzle pieces, and then build a puzzle of a fish – all with one hand tied behind their backs. Natalie was so bad at the challenge that I think she still would have lost had she had both hands and everyone else was just using their teeth. Poor Natalie, though – I did think Probst was kind of hard on her. “Natalie, still inexplicably working on her first section!” and “Natalie, out of this challenge! You might as well sit down and watch!” I thought the poor kid actually might just sit down and cry.

Ashley seemed to blow her competition out of the water, and she won quite the reward – a meal brought directly to her and a friend (inevitably Natalie) back at camp. There was everything the heart could desire, and it looked a hell of a lot better than getting one minute to shove chocolate cake into your mouth. As Ashley and Natalie enjoyed the feast to the point of making themselves sick, Rob fretted about having to vote out his own BFF, Grant. At least he got a few great soundbites out of his unfortunate situation: “It seems like no matter what the situation on Survivor I have to do the dirty work. Because everybody else is too stupid to do it,” and “It’s a lot of work, it’s exhausting,” and “One man should not have this much power in this game. Luckily, I’m no ordinary man.”

No Ordinary Man

Rob contemplated turning on Natalie in order to break up the girls, but I think he made the right decision in betraying Grant instead. I mean, he’d have to get rid of Grant at some point, right? I wouldn’t want to sit next to Grant in the finals, since the guy was a physical player and seems likable enough. I think he’d be a bigger threat for votes than Natalie.

I honestly wasn’t sure who he’d go for at Tribal Council, but Grant was blindsided. He seemed pretty easygoing about the whole thing when he got to Redemption Island, so we’ll see what happens there. Grant has been fantastic in challenges, so there’s a decent chance he could make his way back into the game.

On Redemption Island

Now, heading into Sunday night’s finale, there are eight people who could potentially win this thing. Personally, I think that’s too many. Four people remain on Redemption Island – Matt, Mike, Andrea and Grant. Will there only be one final winner-takes-all quadruel? Will there be a series of challenges, sending one person at a time to the jury until one person remains and gets to reenter the game? Unless there’s an endurance challenge, I don’t think poor little Andrea really has a prayer against three guys who’ve all dominated in challenges at some point in the season. I’d like to see either Andrea or Grant to get back in the game, because I think they deserve it more than the strategy-lacking Matt or Mike, and I’d like to see them confront the alliance that betrayed them.

In the “real” game

As for the four remaining in the game, I’d obviously like Boston Rob to win. He’s played an impeccable game and it deserves to be rewarded. But will it? This jury is putting a bitter taste in my mouth already, and I’m not sure they’ll have the self-awareness required to vote for someone who outwitted, outplayed and outlasted them.

As for Natalie and Ashley, neither girl deserves to win. I do think Ashley deserves it a little over Natalie, for at least trying to think about strategy, and I’d also like to win the office pool. If I can’t see Boston Rob rewarded for a strong game, I’d at least like a new pair of shoes.

Phillip is the wild card here. Has this whole crazy man thing been an act? A persona adopted in order to get to the end? And if it is, could he convince the jury of that and get their votes? I’m not sure, but I can’t wait to find out.

What did you think of the penultimate episode? Are you rooting for Boston Rob to win on Sunday night, or do you think someone else deserves the million bucks more? And make sure to check the blog on Monday for lots of fun posts on the finale, the reunion show, where this season ranks among all the others (that’ll heavily depend on who wins it) and more!

Best player to never win the game, or just best player?

Now in the meantime, there’s a question I’d like to pose to all you readers: Do you think any returning player placed on the Ometepe tribe would have had just as easy a time maintaining such strict control? Or do you think Boston Rob’s dominance is thanks to his own Survivor skills? For example, some people argue that had Russell drawn an Ometepe buff, he would have had an easier time. That may be true, but I think that argument is missing an important part – that Rob is more a cult of personality. He leads with an iron fist, but also with a lot of charm. People like Rob, and historically you can’t say the same thing about Russell. Even people who were part of Russell’s own alliances, like Natalie and Parvati, didn’t really like him. Rob is arguably playing the best game of Survivor that anyone has ever seen, and I think that success is the result of a combination of a complacent, strategically inept tribe, and Rob’s own prowess as a Survivor player – but which side does the pendulum swing closer to?




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