‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’ Episode 4


Image by @Survivor_BUFF

My Big Question: Back in 2008, Jeff Probst and I did a video segment called the “‘Survivor’ Question of the Week” where we’d debate the merits of a specific topic. One of those topics was, “Who was the least deserving winner in ‘Survivor’ history.” I chose Chris Daugherty because I felt like he was lucky that the female alliance fell apart when it did and I didn’t like how he misled people like Eliza before voting them out. The lying struck me as very unnecessary.

However, that was based on a four-year-old season I had watched before yapping about “Survivor” was my actual job. So for this rewatch, my main goal is to critique Chris’s performance to see if he deserved my worst-ever ranking.

And with that, let’s get this party started…

Buy Survivor Vanuatu – The Complete Season on Amazon

Episode Thoughts:

My environment is a little polluted! I have to start working that into my everyday conversations.

Nobody has ever said, “Yeah, I have a solid alliance…but that guy I don’t trust is really good at fishing…

Ami takes the rainbow as a sign that Yasur is going to win reward. Might’ve been one of the rainbows you can only see from one side of an island.

Attention math majors: when playing a game of memory, does it make sense to intentionally pick something that is known with your second pick if your first pick is a dud? Seems like the women were able to clean up when the guys were revealing important items with their second picks.

I would pay serious money for a translated audio commentary of what Da (sp?) thought of his time with Yasur.

Yasur singing while Da was leaving like they were the Rockford Peaches? Awesome. That’d be me. I’d get voted out due to one too many choruses of “Oklahoma.

Not sure I get Brady’s argument that Rory isn’t a jury threat. (Was I hearing that right?) If anything, he should play up how capable the women are in challenges and how likely they are to take out the men if they get to the merge with numbers. Also, Rory has some loose cannon tendencies he could play up nicely. Or worst case, fake a story that Rory is gunning for Sarge.

As someone who just completed a replay of “7th Guest,” I’m pretty sure I’d own this puzzle.

A hundred “Survivor” points to Eliza for bringing the troops in to whisper her bigger strategies.  This is absolutely the kind of puzzle that has a trick to it and the guys could have easily overheard it.

The last time I spoke with Challenge Guru John Kirhoffer, I asked him if copying off of your opponents should be frowned upon. He channeled Eddie Guerrero in his response saying, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

And how about the guys? One of the saddest challenge performances ever.

Discussion Questions…
Anything Brady could have done differently?
How on Earth did John K think Bubba was the leader?
Not much from Chris again. Every time someone talks about Sarge being the leader, are we still supposed to believe that Chris is pulling his strings?
Should “Survivor” feature more of the survival aspects (ie: Da’s visit) in future episodes?
Seems like we’re switching things up next week. Are tribe swaps fair? Is anything other than straight-up, twist-free, Borneo-esque “Survivor” fair?
Post your answers and questions below, and be sure to swing by True Dork Times for awards, stats, and more…

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14 Responses to “‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’ Episode 4”

  1. Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

    Yes, wasting the second pick on a known position is a good strategy for concentration, especially when a number of unmatched pieces have already been revealed. I didn’t find the IC puzzle all that difficult, but it was indeed a good move by Eliza not to broadcast the (correct) strategy.

    I think Chris actually did pull some strings this episode, we just didn’t see them. Last time he was adamant that Chad not stray from their alliance (“Now is NOT the time!”). Here, Sarge was the one arguing with Rory most of the time, and at least thinking about how much more work Brady does around camp. There was really no downside (pre-merge, anyway) to going from a 5-2 advantage to a 4-2 one by booting Rory. Someone must have made the case for not doing so, right?

    I would argue that production must think swaps are unfair, if they never do them when Russell Hantz or his nephew are playing.

  2. gordonholmes Says:

    I’m not a swap fan. It seems to punish people who are in charge. I still say without the Gabon swaps, Charlie Herschel would be a millionaire.

    • Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

      Or consider the plight of Marty and Jill in Nicaragua. From a carefully planned and executed position of strength to DOA in mere seconds.

      • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

        I think Marty and Jill (and Yve) should take some responsibility for their own demise there, since they should have built more trust among their allies. Jane would have been a tough nut to charm, but they could have done more to make her feel secure–or else voted her off before one or both of the Jimmies.

        For the record, Jill was my favourite player that season, and I do think she played an excellent game aside from that.

      • Andy Baker Says:

        I can’t speak for Marty, but Jill has been refreshingly self-reflective about this, and believes she and Marty should have done more to solidify their relationship with Jane. It might not have saved them, but it would have increased their chances…

        That said, any time there’s a swap where the numbers get skewed, it’s like tossing a cow into a river of piranha: the bovine is doomed, and there’s nothing poor Bessy can do about it.

        A hypothetical: In One World, if Kim had ended up on Manono at the swap (instead of with all of her Salani alliance-mates), might her fate have been the same as Monica’s? Perhaps not, given that she had made some inroads with Colton — but she could just as easily become a footnote rather than a finalist.

      • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

        Oh, Kim was undeniably lucky at the swap (same goes for the other three Salani girls), but she had done the groundwork beforehand, by keeping her alliance tight–plus she seemed to get on well with Monica, not so sure about Christina. In other words, she was already making sure that nobody would flip.

        Compare that to the men. If they had done the radical thing of making Bill feel safe (would not have been hard) instead of giving away immunity to vote him off, the men would have had the majority on New Salani. I still believe that a factor in the men’s game falling apart was because Troy and Jay had to seek refuge with Kim, rather than the other way around. It set the tone for that alliance.

  3. Andy Baker Says:

    My contributions to this ongoing convo have been overlong thus far… so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet.

    GH: Anything Brady could have done differently?

    ** As you point out, GH, he needed to work Sarge harder (his point, to answer your question, wasn’t that Rory can’t win the game — it was the classic, “Because you don’t see him as a jury threat, he IS a jury threat!” argument). More importantly, though, he needed to look beyond the obvious and see who was pulling the strings — an appeal to Chris would have done him far more good than settling for fomenting discord between Sarge and Rory.

    How on Earth did John K think Bubba was the leader?

    ** Perhaps this is editing, but I have a feeling that Bubba’s the one guy who would talk with JK and Brady — Chris didn’t converse with the enemy, Chad kept to himself, Rory was an annoying outcast, and Sarge was always in military mode. That said, I have a feeling JK was only semi-serious — he was ego-stroking Bubba, while also realizing an underlying reality: He doesn’t know who’s in charge. Sure, Sarge is ostensibly the “leader” — but he’s a doer, not a thinker. He’s the enlisted man — and JK hasn’t yet figured out that Chris is the officer giving the orders.

    Not much from Chris again. Every time someone talks about Sarge being the leader, are we still supposed to believe that Chris is pulling his strings?

    ** There are two moments in this episode which deftly (dare I even suggest subtly? it’s been a long time since Survivor was subtle) reveal Chris as the sole “thinker” in the “elder alliance.” First, early on he handles Rory — he talks, strategizes, makes sense — no one else does this (even players who might be capable of it, such as Chad… Brady seems intelligent as well, but he’s been forced to play a defensive game). And second, we are invited to infer that Sarge has been convinced to hold off on targeting Rory — Sarge wants Rory gone, but the tribe holds the line (including JK!). Clearly, someone got everyone on board with the plan… and there’s only one person we’ve seen thus far depicted as capable of convincing everyone: Chris.

    Should “Survivor” feature more of the survival aspects (ie: Da’s visit) in future episodes?

    ** I have to say, I LOVED that sequence… it accomplished so many things I care about and enjoy in Survivor: incorporating local culture, humanizing the members of a tribe (bringing in an outside force helped add dimension to the women, don’t you think), and, yes, emphasizing the survival aspects of the show.

    Seems like we’re switching things up next week. Are tribe swaps fair? Is anything other than straight-up, twist-free, Borneo-esque “Survivor” fair?

    ** Contradictions can be true: Tribe swaps are both fair and unfair. Fair in the sense that the best players can work with the switch, do some immediate social spin control and get back into a power position. Unfair, though, in the randomness of it all. To give just one example, might Monica Culpepper in One World have become a more enduring castaway had she picked an egg with a different color paint in it? Personally, I like tribe swaps with a point/theme/guiding principle: being able to mutiny and leave your tribe… a school-yard pick ’em based on player rankings… anything which incorporates player control/choice and is influenced by how they’ve played the game up to that point.

    Last few quick points:

    ** More celebratory/mocking immunity win dancing… so unwise.

    ** Gotta love the use of the grass harp in the men’s immunity challenge shots.

    ** Great Ami line as Eliza ran back to the mat during the reward challenge: “Nice grapefruits.” I just wish Eliza had replied, “The best money can buy, Ami.” Of course, Ami would know all about that.

    • Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

      That’s a good point: Pick ’em swaps are reasonably fair because of the social dynamics. That forces both the powerful and the powerless to have their connections exposed, and it tells the people on the bottom they need to get busy making alliances.

      • Andy Baker Says:

        Precisely. Exposing alliances and pecking orders is a Survivor staple — and is fascinating along social psych lines. Add in the instability of a swap, and you’ve got potential for some high-stakes drama…

    • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

      Wait… we’re supposed to be short and sweet? 😉

      I like your point about Bubba being the one guy who would talk to John K and Brady. It’s making me think that Bubba (intentionally or not) might be playing the best social game out there.

      • gordonholmes Says:

        That seems like a fine line you have to watch these days. Be nice to the people on the outs in case the winds change, but don’t be too nice or your alliance mates will think you’re up to something.

      • Andy Baker Says:

        The tricky part with social interactions is that it’s difficult to shape people’s perceptions about your motivations. Bubba comes across as an “aw shucks” kind of guy, so the other men might think he’s just being friendly. If Chris is overly chatty, though, guys like Sarge might wonder what he’s doing/planning.

        Not to keep bringing up Kim, but one of the things she did best was convincing her core alliance that she was talking to the other players just to string them along — when she was really keeping her options open (if Alicia had stuck to her guns and insisted Chelsea go out at F6, Kim was prepared to flip). She created an umbrella excuse for why Sabrina and Chelsea shouldn’t panic if they saw her socializing/strategizing with people outside of their alliance — and they totally bought it.

      • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

        I think they all conspired together on it, although that’s part of what Kim was good at. She got people discussing strategy with her, so they never felt she was in control. I remember one of the big things I noticed was an Insider clip (I’m guessing you saw it!) where Michael talked about how Kim, Chelsea, Troy and Jay slept in one shelter and he, Kat and Sabrina in another. Both Sabrina and Chelsea referred to messing with sleeping arrangements on separate occasions too…

        Since every castaway should have seen Redemption Island, where Boston Rob talked about sleeping arrangements, anybody could have come up with that idea, not just Kim the Fan, but it’s just great that she was able to be the lynchpin of all those alliances without the others getting worried–though evidently Sabrina was playing her own very good social game, going by her popularity.

  4. Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

    Catching up after vacation…

    Best thing about this episode was Da, hands down! Just watching him reveal how you really survive out there. I loved that, and I really wish we’d see some more native interaction in current seasons.

    It was also interesting from the psychological perspective how the women warmed to Da, as Eliza pointed out. My husband and I talked a little about that as we watched it… how the women effectively got a break from the game as they were busy learning as much as they could–I bet nobody stopped to talk strategy!

    Also, Da himself represented the same thing a family visit does: a chance to interact with somebody who you’re not playing with. Somebody who isn’t trying to outwit, outplay, outlast you. Somebody you can, ergo, trust. Loved, loved, loved this.

    Other stuff: I’m a little more skeptical of Chris the Puppetmaster. This is twice now that before the vote we’ve seen suggestions that Sarge (the alliance leader) is wavering and Chris is staying the course–which of course is a useful implication that the eventual winner was in control of the game all along.

    These days, I tend to distrust any line of thinking that one person is in complete control of the game. Unlike the previous episode, we never saw Chris discussing the vote with Sarge, which makes me think there was nothing to discuss.

    Was Sarge wavering or is he simply re-evaluating the situation at each step? Is Chris staying strong or is he blindly sticking to the plan he made on day 1–we know that this alliance is not the one that gets him to the end, after all, so it’s not even like he’s on the right course at this point (though he’s not exactly on the wrong one either!)

    Honestly, I think Chris is playing well enough, and I’m pretty sure he’s got the measure of Sarge… but I think both men are playing the game they want to play at the moment, with neither particularly influencing the other.

    Or maybe Bubba’s the secret puppetmaster. He seems well-liked and it looks like he talks to everybody, which might explain John K’s accusations of leading. I have absolutely no idea how Bubba finishes (other than Chris, Chad and Sarge are the only two names I recognise from the men’s tribe), but on the strength of this episode, I’d say he’s playing how he needs to play… earning people’s respect and goodwill without coming off as a major threat.

    Granted, I suspect that Sarge and Chris would never have let Bubba get to the end. Considering that Chad has also been outed as having an underdog story, this makes me wonder if Sarge and Chris are each eyeing each other up as the final two. Or is Chris hoping to be there against Rory, since Sarge would have a much better case to win?

    Swaps: I like them. I think that element of randomness is an important part of Survivor. Nobody wins Survivor without luck, but the best players know how to make the most of good luck and minimise bad. Players can anticipate a swap, and work to make sure they’ve got trust and a tight group–much the same as they would for a merge.

    Besides, a swap can sometimes prevent a pagonging and make the endgame a little more interesting. In Heroes vs. Villains, I doubt Cirie would have convinced Parvati to turn on Ozzy if Parvati hadn’t been able to secure loyal allies in Alexis and Natalie.

    Please note that my beliefs are not going to stop me sulking when luck works against the players I’m rooting for.

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