‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’ Episode 5

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 (as Twila would say) kick it…

Buy Survivor Vanuatu – The Complete Season on Amazon

Episode Thoughts:

Quick Note: It looks like Jeff Probst and I will be bringing back the “Survivor” Question of the Week this fall. Good times.

Bubba’s “Build a bridge and get over it” is the kind of moment that drives me nuts. You’ve got to be able to let things go.

I don’t know how the producers arranged for the earthquake, but well done. That’s much more impressive than when they make it rain at challenges.

Not sure I love this method of splitting the tribes. If Scout knew about the male alliance, she could easily try to pack as many of her people on one side and as many of Sarge’s on the other.

I’d have to be starving to get excited over Pringles.

“Rory is yanking on something.” – Jeff Probst

Thumbs up to the camera crew for the great shots of Chris dropping the marker.

Chris’s “That thing is deep…and I got it!” was a little too “American Idol” judge for me. Also, another case of unnecessarily sticking it to possible future jury members (especially knowing that Rory hates that stuff and is now on the other tribe).

Ugh…I hate the word “vittles.” I’m not fond of “nosh” either.

I’m a huge fan of the exchange between Ami and Lisa regarding showing the guys how to crack a coconut. A great illustration of what kind of game both are playing.

Bubba getting caught trying to relay messages to the other tribe? Just dumb.

I love when people have to run through the woods. Reminds me of Gervase in Borneo.

Have both boats ever gone in the right direction?

Scout calling Eliza “little one” is kind of creepy. It’s like what a cult leader would call her.

I feel bad for Bubba even though I didn’t think much of his game play. I hate for someone to go from being safe to being gone due to a twist.

Discussion Questions:

What do you think Scout was thinking when she divided the tribes?

Male vs. female seasons always seem to do a swap at this point, despite the fact that the tribes are usually even. Should they try sticking with that twist until the merge?

Would a “Survivor” that starts every episode with a random swap work? Would it be too tough to follow?

Was there anything big from Chris this week?

What’s your move if you’re John? Stick with the guys because they have a numbers advantage in Lopevi. Or try to get in good with the girls once you realize that the women are running Yasur?

Your turn, I’ll do my best to approve comments as quickly as possible. Also, don’t miss the True Dork Times “Survivor: Vanuatu” awards, scores, and more…

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13 Responses to “‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’ Episode 5”

  1. Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

    So if an earthquake at camp beats rain during a challenge, what we really need for solid gold entertainment is an earthquake during a challenge. Make it happen, Burnett.

    I really liked this episode… just seemed to be a good one for insights into different people’s strategies and approach to the game. Like that conversation you mentioned between Ami and Lisa. Or Bubba and Rory having a moment of prayer together, knowing that one of them will go home. Which was a lovely moment of humanity, but on this end, we were doing a lot of hand-waving and yelling at them for just rolling over and accepting their fate. Really, it should not have been *Eliza* bringing up the men’s value in challenges.

    I appreciated Ami’s take on it though. They could vote off Lisa (presumably) now, in the hopes of winning at least one challenge, but the fact is that they’re clearly the weaker team anyway (it’s a bit of new Salani vs new Manono).

    On the other hand, if they lose every challenge before the merge (it being feasible to assume that’s at ten players), they’ll still only lose one woman after both Bubba and Rory have been voted out. If they vote a woman off and go on to win a challenge, either Twila or Julie (or both) will be gone, and they’ll either merge equal in numbers or in the minority.

    Basically, they want two men to be voted off before the merge, so saving strength for challenges is hardly going to be relevant.

    Regarding Scout’s division of the tribes. I liked the concept of the division. Very creative. The problem was that Sarge was always going to be presented with a ‘choice’ between a tribe equally split in gender and a tribe where the men would be the majority. The question is whether Scout realised that…

    I’m inclined to think she did. She said that Bubba and Rory were two of the three guys she wanted to play with (was the other Sarge?) She also ended up on a tribe with three of her allies, while outcast Julie ended up in the opposing tribe’s minority and Lisa didn’t get chosen at all.

    The possible ‘against’ here is that if she wanted to stick with her allies, shouldn’t she have kept Twila on her tribe and put Eliza with Julie? I wonder if challenges came into play here… The men were going to have a clear physical advantage, especially when Scout’s the weakest player out there. Eliza’s a bit of a puzzle rock star, so perhaps Scout was banking on giving her tribe the brains.

    Or maybe Scout likes Eliza better than Twila, which is probably the interpretation I’d lean towards. If she was thinking of challenges, she’d have put John K on Yasur.

    So my question is, since the ‘choice’ was a no-brainer, should Sarge have had the picking of the tribes? Had he been choosing, he could have put John K and Rory, the two men he had the least connection with, on the opposing tribe, and cherry-picked the two women to be on Lopevi’s minority. The problem is that he’d be taking the risk that Scout would pick logically–or that he might pick Scout’s two closest allies, and she would elect to join them, though he should have had the inside info from John to avoid that.

    Interesting that both Sarge and Scout stuck with their original tribes (Lopevi and Yasur). I don’t think that’s coincidence.

    Should Lisa have picked Lopevi? She’d have been in the minority, but they were more likely to win challenges…. Knowing she was on the bottom of Scout’s totem pole, she might have done better to jump ship, rejoin Julie, tell the men they were on the outs and offer up Twila as a sacrifical lamb. I mean, look how well that worked for Troy and Jay last season. Er, never mind.

    If I were John, I’d be trying to get in with the girls. If I were the rest of the men, I’d give serious thought to throwing the next two challenges. This is China all over again.

    • Andy Baker Says:

      So many great points here… quick shot responses:

      If we want to go the extreme challenge route, how about “run through the raining volcanic debris and grab the immunity necklace”?

      I, too, really liked the Bubba/Rory moment — it felt more real than the Coach prayer groups of recent seasons. As for giving in to the inevitable, I have a feeling that Bubba tried to convince the women that he would be helpful (I got the sense that his speech at tribal council was the last in a series of pleas), but couldn’t gain any traction. That said, there were exploitable rifts — imagine if Bubba could have convinced Lisa to flip (“you were picked last — clearly, the women don’t like you!”) — suddenly, they need only one more. Getting that one would be difficult, though — I’m guessing that Eliza is the only one who would flip, but she can’t stand Lisa. Perhaps she could be convinced that Lisa would certainly go long before her — and that she would be in a final three with Bubba and Rory (both of whom she thinks she could beat). Hmmmmm. Not sure I’m buying it even as I type it — but it would be worth a shot!

      Great point about wanting to preserve the numbers for the women so that they go into the merge with the ability to Pagong. They’ve gotta be worried, though, that someone like Twila will switch sides — how long will they trust that the female alliance will hold (always the post-swap worry)?

      I like your thinking about Scout’s choices. Scout picked Eliza first, so clearly she valued her. Was it for puzzles? Perhaps. But I’m inclined to think Scout simply wanted to play the game with her.

      As for Lisa — I think she chose the wrong tribe. Had she gone to Lopevi, she’d be on a physically dominant tribe… and she’d have a chance to connect with the men, knowing that the women don’t like her much (she who isn’t picked needs to read the tea leaves that have just been tossed in her face). If she had any game awareness, she’d know John is an outsider, too (last young man standing), and she could probably get him to flip and join her, Julie and Twila to take out post-merge threats like Sarge, Chris, and Chad. But there are just those Survivor players who, when given two choices, will always make the wrong one…

      • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

        No final three at this stage of the game, so Eliza would need to split up Bubba and Rory in her end-game planning!

        I’d forgotten that Scout picked Eliza before any of the other women. We haven’t really seen much of those two interacting, that I can think of, but it’s entirely possible Scout had a soft spot for Eliza. I remember Scout’s blogs on the official CBS site, so I know she’s capable of things beyond my understanding. (NB, I love Eliza as a character, but I can’t imagine why Scout would like her particularly).

  2. Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

    This was a weird way to divide the tribes, since it ended up being the same original tribes, with only 2 people swapped per tribe. As far as I can tell, Scout’s only goal was to split up Eliza and Julie. The division of the guys didn’t make much sense.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the male-female twist played out until the merge, since the original gender alliances generally hold post-merge, so you’re not gaining anything by swapping them pre-merge. Then again, here they’re down to 12, which is a frequent current merge point.

  3. Andy Baker Says:

    GH: What do you think Scout was thinking when she divided the tribes?

    ** I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she was stacking one team with castaways she wants to play with, and the other with enough guys that Sarge will definitely join them. In many ways, the new Yasur is perfect for Scout — more women, so if that alliance holds, she’s safe… she’s picked women who can be useful (Eliza for puzzles, Leann and Amy have proven to be strong), and more importantly, are ones she trusts… and if any of the women are looking to switch things up (a flipper like Eliza), Scout can go along and join forces with the men she hand-picked because she likes them. Sure, her tribe is physically weak — but don’t groups often reflect the characteristics of their leaders? If nothing else, Scout’s challenge weakness won’t stand out so much on her tribe, which isn’t a bad thing.

    GH: Male vs. female seasons always seem to do a swap at this point, despite the fact that the tribes are usually even. Should they try sticking with that twist until the merge?

    ** I definitely wish they’d commit to the twist, rather than look upon what they wrought and then undo it. How long did the swap last in One World? Yes, the outcome was decidedly unbalanced, but rather than making it clear we’re witnessing producer panic, why not be a bit less heavy-handed, utilize adaptive gameplay (shuffle the planned challenges so that strength/athleticism doesn’t play as influential a role), and see how the pre-merge social game plays out?

    GH: Would a “Survivor” that starts every episode with a random swap work? Would it be too tough to follow?

    ** That’s the biggest argument against it — as Probst has said when addressing this question, the problem is “branding.” The buffs, the tribes, the characters — Survivor uses all of them to create visual shorthand for the viewers. That said, I think it would be an intriguing (and perhaps inevitable) experiment — it would force the producers and editors to work hard to establish individuals in the early going, something they’ve drifted away from over the years. For fans of strategy and the social game, a chaotic pre-merge dynamic of ever-shifting allegiances and alliances would be fascinating (if an alarmingly difficult minefield for even the best of players to navigate).

    GH: Was there anything big from Chris this week?

    ** Two things: 1) In the “Previously On” recap, we saw Chris talk about Sarge possibly turning on his alliance — once again, Chris is showcased elaborating on strategy (who else is being cast in this light? Ami?). 2) The fact that Bubba is reaching out to Chris before the immunity challenge reveals that Chris, and not Sarge, is the brains of the operation (and Chris, smartly, gives Bubba the cold shoulder — no matter how safe he might feel on a male-dominated tribe, Chris is not going to build a Bubba bridge and be vilified for fraternizing with the enemy). Interesting side-note: Did you notice that when Chris was put on his new tribe, he hugged Chad and completely ignored Eliza? On one level, that makes sense — stay strong with the men — but on another, he’s giving the cold shoulder to someone he may need at some point down the line.

    GH: What’s your move if you’re John? Stick with the guys because they have a numbers advantage in Lopevi? Or try to get in good with the girls once you realize that the women are running Yasur?

    ** This is a job for Captain Obvious (my Survivor Superhero Identity)! I think it’s always wise to mentally partition the game when evaluating what to do next. There’s what’s already happened — this informs your decision, sure, but is the least important piece of the puzzle, since what’s done is done. Then there’s what might happen down the line — important, certainly, but you gotta get there for it to matter. What should be the primary obsession, then, is the here and now: What pieces are in play, and how can I maneuver them so that my name isn’t written down at the next tribal council? This is particularly important for a guy in a weak position like John — he doesn’t have the luxury of thinking about post-merge strategy. He has lucked into a stay of execution — and the best thing he can do with his new lease on life is cementing his relationship with Chris, Sarge, and Chad. If he flips to the women in the short term, the best he can hope for is a 3-3 tie (and then some hard work to turn someone like Chad); John needs to go with the sure thing, while hedging his bet and trying to connect with Julie (it’s clear from the earliest moments post-swap that Twila is bonding with Chris and Sarge — it’s doubtful that John would be able to make much headway with her). The swap has provided John with options, but he could squander them if he’s looking too far ahead; indeed, one trait that many a great Survivor possesses is the ability to mend fences and join forces with former enemies (see Rob C. in the Amazon).

    Other quick thoughts:

    Loved the two Vanuatu-specific moments: the earthquake (dramatic and visual), and the “choose a chief” sequence. The latter may seem inconsequential in the overall scheme of things, but it just reminds us where we are, and there’s season-specific value in that, methinks.

    Episodes like this remind me how much I miss good water challenges. Here’s hoping they return in the Philippines.

    A great Ami moment: when she points out post-swap that the bond the women share is weakening with the arrival of the men. I had forgotten why I was so impressed with her the first time I saw this season, and this was a reminder why: she gets it. Some people are simply better at feeling/understanding the psychology of a group, and as a result are better able to shape the tribe dynamics. Ami is intuitive, empathetic, and sensitive — a natural at the game of Survivor.

    Man oh man did Probst call out Rory and Bubba after the immunity challenge. One sucks at knots, the other can’t row. Brutal.

    Hey, Bubba — if a key player like Ami won’t make eye contact, and she’s walking away from you while you try to talk to her, then you’re the one who’s going.

    Eliza is right, the challenges are likely to get physical post-swap, but why even suggest that the women might want to take out one of their own? Incredibly unwise — first, because the women might see this as Eliza not being loyal, and second, because as much as Eliza might think Lisa (and her massive breast implants) would be the target, Eliza, who is hardly beloved, could be blindsided. Sometimes, you should just stick with the numbers and keep your mouth shut (not Eliza’s strong suit).

    If I’m one of the Yasur women, and I know that the Bubba and Rory are going to be the next two targets no matter what, I’m taking out Rory first — Bubba’s right, he’s going to bust his ass to win challenges (which everyone suspects will be physically tough), and Rory is useless (not to mention annoying). So what if Bubba was trying to communicate with Chris? If anything, that’s helpful — he won’t be able to flip any of the women (they don’t trust him), and is an easy elimination at the next tribal. Rory, on the other hand, could conceivably be a swing vote if players like Scout, Leann and/or Eliza decided to turn on Lisa/Ami.

    • Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

      Yeah, I’m really impressed with Ami as well. She didn’t make much impact on me in Micronesia, but it’s clear from this that she really knows what she’s doing, and I can see why they brought her back.

      I will disagree with you about Bubba, since I think it would have been idiotic to keep him. You know Bubba’s got connections with the other tribe and wants to go back to that alliance post-merge. That means that they *have* to get rid of him before the merge; saying, “We can get rid of him next tribal, so let’s keep him for challenges” is a logical fallacy. If the women are sure of their alliance (Eliza and Lisa would be the only concerns, and eliminating Twila from camp has probably aided that… maybe that’s why Scout removed her).

      Also, I disagree that Rory is useless. He’s not good at coordinating a team in challenges, but he’s strong (dragged that bit of boat back almost single-handed) and acquitted himself well in that water challenge (I second your comment about missing good water challenges). Bubba, of course, can barely swim, so they had to sit one of their strongest players out, and his arm muscles should have come in handy getting down that rope: compare Chris going down to it to Ami’s more tentative approach.

      Besides, I can imagine Rory made his social failings obvious enough in his three days at Yasur, and that the women pegged him accurately as a non-threat. He could be a swing vote maybe, but he’s never going to ingratiate himself with the outlying women.

      • Andy Baker Says:

        As soon as I posted my reply, I second-guessed my support for Bubba. You’re definitely right — Travis had to go given his clear allegiance to the men on the other tribe, and the gap between what he could bring to a challenge physically and what Rory could give isn’t wide enough to justify keeping the bigger threat. (And really, if the challenge is really physical, do they stand a chance anyway?)

        I freely acknowledge my idiocy and concede to your wisdom. 😉

  4. gordonholmes Says:

    I think if I’m the Yasur women I don’t care about Bubba helping win the challenge. They can always boot Rory, then Eliza and that would be enough to get them to the merge.

    • Andy Baker Says:

      Eliza was the first woman Scout picked for the swap — made me wonder who Scout would willingly eliminate first, Eliza, Leann or Ami.

      That’s assuming Rory and Lisa would be the next two boots (and that should be enough to get to the merge anyway).

  5. melilly Says:

    The interactions are always interesting, especially because we see so little. Coach was always a puzzle to me because he’s so delusional and even the people who seem to like him talk about him as an adolescent boy or a poser and yet seem to be able to see beyond that. The ‘secret scenes’ on CBS.com show him being unkind and unnecessarily mean to people. Eliza seems to be very similar in this season – there must be things we’re not seeing that make her flipping and then criticizing Lisa for the same behavior seem logical to someone other than herself.

    Ami manages to find a ‘reason’ to get rid of Bubba, but never intended to be part of any new tribe. She said she was with the women all the way. Of course, it’s always easier to get rid of someone when you make them seem evil or stupid somehow. The constant chattering alone would drive me crazy, so maybe the personality conflicts are ultimately what makes people look to find some justification for doing what they want to do.

  6. Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

    For the record, my husband has no idea how Vanuatu plays out, so I asked him who he thought would win. His reply was either Ami or Sarge…. maybe Eliza, except he’s pretty familiar with Eliza and doesn’t recall her ever being described as a winner.

  7. Sherri Says:

    What if they swapped tribes every week? That would be new and fresh, and so weird! Actually could be fun. For us. Once we figured out the players. Not so much for them.

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