‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’ Episode 11


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 back into this mess…

Whoa! Eliza busts out her Tribal Council face at camp! Is that allowed? Que versitale!

I’ll also give Chris points for not waiting until he was the last to go to start making moves. Too often recently you’ve got people content to last three more days, then their scrambling is easily brushed aside when their time is up.

Gah! Negative points to Twila for confessing to something that’s easily denied.  She’s like a Vanuatuan Brandon Hantz.

Yikes, family visit…these always get to me. Which is weird, cause I’ve spent years at a time away from my parents. (That’s not meant to be negative, Team Holmes just tends to live in far off places.)

I was just about to make fun of Twila for not knowing how to type until she broke down. Now I feel like a monster.

Oh c’mon! There’s a production whiteboard in the background of Chris’s fiance’s video! They might as well have shot them at the Vanuatuan airport.

Really, Julie? You can’t remember one item from the memory challenge? How ironic.

So, picture me on the R2 Septa train from Philadelphia getting all misty-eyed in front of 50 or so commuters. Thanks, Eliza and Mrs. Orlins.

That being said, I would absolutely throw a challenge that resulted in my mom spending a day at my tribe’s camp. Last thing I’d need when I’m trying to lay out some hardcore strategy is her bragging about me being the lead in my high school musical.

Thumbs up to Mrs. Orlins for literally giving the shirt off of her back to her daughter. Adorable.

People should really avoid relying on semantics in this game. If I say, “I thought you said we were good to the end.” And you justify it by saying, “I said final four, not the end.” That’s as damaging as lying. Actually, it might be better just to say, “I lied.”

With seven people yelling during the challenge, I wonder if it’d been good strategy for Chris to use a mock low voice.

Chris telling his wife that he’s going home has to be this season’s signature moment. (And how bad do you feel for her having to fly home with that on her mind?)

OK, here’s my thing with Chris; he should go home this episode, right? But the women, by themselves, decide that they’d rather keep him over Eliza. That probably puts him out sixth. He was content with that until Twila came up with the Eliza/Scout/Twila/Chris alliance. So, I think when I’m done here, I’ll be prepared to say Chris is a smart player with a strong social game, but he also got realllllllly lucky.

If you voted against me, I’d be cool with it as long as you put a frowny face on the ballot.

Discussion Questions…

Would someone swearing “on their son” mean more to you than a standard pinky swear?

Is Chris’s moment with his fiancé the best family visit moment ever?

If you were Chris, how would you play your confidant Julie now that she’s on the outs?

That’s gotta be the best episode of the season so far, right?

Post your answers and questions below, and be sure to swing by True Dork Times for awards, stats, and more…

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6 Responses to “‘Survivor’ Summer Book Club – ‘Survivor: Vanuatu’ Episode 11”

  1. Jeff Pitman (@truedorktimes) Says:

    Heh, I had the same reaction to the production calendar whiteboard, but mainly because seasons of training have conditioned me to stare at those things until my eyes hurt.

    Chris and Laurie’s “I’m going home” bit is definitely one of my favorite family visit bits from the show’s history. I understand it’s hard to design a challenge that random family members/friends can compete in, but they really should do it more often, just to get more moments like that. These days, if family members compete, it’s usually in the RC, which is far less compelling.

    And yes, Chris got incredibly lucky in this episode, but he was also doing things to stir the pot, WHILE having good enough relationships with everyone that they’d still want to keep him around over Eliza. He also was the key conduit in getting Eliza to listen to Scout/Twila’s plan, because she probably would have dismissed them out of hand if they’d approached her directly.

    • Andy Baker Says:

      GREAT point, totally agree that Chris was the conduit — that plan doesn’t work without him. And he put himself in a position to be the one who could bridge the differences between Eliza and Scout (Twila wasn’t the type of person who could do that, to put it mildly).

  2. Andy Baker Says:

    GH: Would someone swearing “on their son” mean more to you than a standard pinky swear?

    ** Doubtful… I have a six year-old son, and I’d no doubt feel bad making that sort of promise, but I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who did so for game reasons. If I had a strong connection with someone, I might be shocked — but Ami and Leann didn’t have a deep connection like that with Twila. If anything, they should be mad at themselves for trusting Twila and Scout to stay true to an alliance in which they’ve been told, point blank, they’re fifth and sixth. (That said, Twila made a grave error here — when you make a promise, you have to take into consideration the audience. I think you could get away with that swear with Leann, but not Ami, for whom family is everything.) Bottom line: Swear on anything you want in Survivor, if you think they’ll believe you and not refuse to vote for you to win when you break the promise — it’s up to the person on the receiving end of that swear to figure out if it’s real or not.

    GH: Is Chris’s moment with his fiancé the best family visit moment ever?

    ** For emotional potency based on situational urgency, it’s far and away the best. Lori’s reaction, when Probst announced Ami had finished the puzzle, was a palpable mix of frustration, anger, and sadness… in a word, it was real. And that’s why we watch reality television, is it not?

    GH: If you were Chris, how would you play your confidant Julie now that she’s on the outs?

    ** REALLY good question. Hmmmmm. I’d tell her that we need to vote out Ami at F6, then take over the game with Eliza (or whomever Julie agrees is the wisest choice) at F5. Get her feeling safe… then cut her loose at F5/F4, because she would be the prohibitive favorite in any F2 configuration. With so many women on the jury, and with the season so heavily defined by women vs. men, a sympathetic woman would win… gotta get rid of her while you still can.

    GH: That’s gotta be the best episode of the season so far, right?

    ** Yep… got to see the culmination of the arrogance arc for Ami/Leann, got to see the two sides of Twila (finally making a move to switch up the power dynamics — but also making the “family swear” blunder that cost her jury votes), got to see Chris make his desperate plea to Eliza… and it showcased just how tearjerking a family visit can be. Awesome.

    Other thoughts:

    What was Eliza afraid of? Did she think she would vote for Leann (1 vote), Ami and Leann would vote for Chris (2), and Scout, Twila, Chris and Julie (3) would vote for her? I really would have liked to hear more about why she was hesitant to believe Chris and vote with him.

    Totally agree with the praise of Chris for at least trying to shake things up… wish this happened more often. I blame the final three for a lot of the modern Survivor late-game inertia — when there are still a lot of players in the game who don’t know if they’re going to get to the F2, they’re willing to make moves to improve their odds.

    Not sure I agree about Twila denying the story; given the accuracy of the accusation, and the fact that Ami and Leann are convinced of its truth, no one is going to believe a full denial. Better to say, “The reason Chris and Chad approached me with that plan was because, unlike you, I was stuck in their tribe for a while, so they think they can approach me. I ignored what they said, and didn’t bother telling you about it because it was a stupid plan — what, we were going to tie and draw rocks, rather than vote out a strong guy? Please. Would you like to hear some of the other plans they mentioned to me over the past week or so? They’re all equally pointless! Why would I bother you with them when they’re all crap?” Or something like that.

    Two favorite moments from the loved ones visit, other than the Chris exchange with his fiance: Eliza’s reaction to seeing her mother (so pure), and Twila’s tears upon seeing her son (I’m not ashamed to say I cried too). Man, do I love me some genuine emotion.

    My overall Survivor post-merge competition strategy: throw rewards, win immunities (when possible). Rewards breed resentment (hello, Kat Edorsson)… and they often take you physically away from the game as well as mentally out of it.

    One of the Reality Show Ten Commandments: Thou Shalt Tell Them What They Want To Hear. Ami and Leann lost the game during that conversation with Scout — what’s the harm in telling Scout she’s in the final four and then cutting her loose before then? Sure, there are jury votes to think about, but if Leann and Ami are together at the end, both of their hands are covered in the same amount of Scout’s blood…

    And to your biggest point, that Chris was lucky? Absolutely. But I would argue that he created some of that good fortune with his social skills. Why did the women want to get rid of Eliza instead of him? Because he “deserved” to be there more — which is to say, they liked Chris and couldn’t stand Eliza. That has everything to do with Chris and his ability to ingratiate himself with the women. He may not have created the plan, but he did put himself in a position where others thought he would be a great part of that plan. That takes skill — a skill that not a lot of people possess. Call it charisma, call it likability, call it what you will — but that’s what earned Chris the title of Sole Survivor.

  3. Drew M Says:

    Yeah this was my favorite episode of the season so far, in part because I knew what the outcome would be but as has been said, a lot of dramatic moments in this hour.

    -That production whiteboard had to have clued in SOMEONE as to what was going on. Multiple squares of it had “Jeff” written in it! I mean maybe they couldn’t make it out on that laptop screen, but come on, I bet Chris had an inkling.

    -I loved that Eliza’s mom’s fears ran all the way from “she’s not flossing every day” to Ebola Virus hahaha. Yep that about covers everything Mom.

    -We’ve said this before, but again we have evidence this episode that Scout was so willing to down and dirty with the lying. She’s working the older, spiritual woman persona to perfection while she runs more complicated game underneath.

    -So, yes, I do think Chris was presented with some very favourable situations this episode, but he knew exactly how to take advantage of them. One of the most important skills to have in Survivor is deflecting attention away from yourself and on to others. Cirie comes to mind as someone who was a master at this, and I think Chris is excellent as well. The scene of him immediately placing blame on Scout and Twila after Tribal Council was perfect. He didn’t waste any time planting those seeds of discontent within the women’s group, and it seemed to have worked. Despite that, Twila still approaches him with this idea to bring in Eliza and take out Leann, which of course he relishes. He also had Julie feeding him info from the inside, so he could keep a finger on what exactly was happening. His social game, as you said, is really strong, enough so that people just keep coming to him with ideas that he can use to his benefit.

    And totally agree with Andy that Chris must have done some great work on skeptical Eliza to bring her in to the fold. I’m willing to bet it wasn’t instantaneous either, I bet he worked on her for as long as he had time. I have written down that Chris is a great liar haha, I forget if he actually did lie to someone this episode or if I was just reminding myself how convincing he is when he talks, because he’s always so full of emotion and stares people right in their pupils. This will come in to play again later.

  4. Sarah Freeman (@ChannonSarah) Says:

    Just caught up with this while on vacation. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this episode, wanting to know how the gameshift happened and Chris escaped the vote. The one thing I was hoping for was for Chris to lose immunity–since that would be a far less dramatic way to avoid the vote.

    I actually thought that it was Ami going home this episode, so I was expecting her to lose the face-off in the immunity challenge–glad I was wrong, since it came with the unexpected benefit of seeing Chris’ and Lori’s despair over losing. What an awful end for Lori’s visit, believing she’d ended his game. And I have to admire Chris for not taking his frustration out on her verbally as we so often see in the Amazing Race. He was probably gutted that he didn’t get to run this one himself.

    Sidenote–liked this method of bringing the loved ones in twice. And absolutely loved Eliza’s mother for stripping down to her bra on national television so her daughter could have a shirt. Makes me wonder why more loved ones don’t do this.

    Anyway, as everybody else has observed, it was Twila, not Chris, who set things in motion, and that makes me note another difference between this season and South Pacific. Kim had younger players in her alliance–I think Sabrina might have been the olldest, in her early thirties. Of Ami’s group, it’s the over forties who are making waves. Twila and Scout have both realised where the game is going and they’ve come up with ways to prevent it–they might not be pulling off the execution, but Twila was the one to realise that they had to stop targeting Eliza and ally with her.

    Eliza, even more than Chris, has been running with it. She’s always paranoid, but she hasn’t tried to stir up the game, instead adopting a wait and see attitude. She really didn’t have much choice but to vote with the group this time, so it’s kind of interesting that Twila sent Chris to talk to her rather than herself.

    Twila’s still my favourite player of the season, but in my opinion she’s far too cautious. When confronted, she promptly ratted out Scout rather than pinning the blame on Chad/Chris (as Scout more wiisely did). Rather than talk to Eliza herself, she used Chris as the go-between (presumably to give herself more plausible deniability should Chris rat her out again?). She wouldn’t even tell Chris the plan directly, instead making him guess from her cryptic clues.

    That, a tendency towards gullibility and a poor social game isn’t doing her any favours, but I like her overall strategic approach. Shame she was never asked back.

    I am a little disappointed that it was not Chris taking charge of his own destiny, but I’m becoming fonder of the view that Survivor is a collaborative game. Chris made himself available for collaboration. Chris who, in fact, had already avoided the vote by being ‘deserving’. It was Twila who hit upon the viable strategy, and Chris handled the execution.

    Come to think of it, have any of Chris’ strategic plans worked out? He’s great socially, but seems to make a lot of mis-steps on the strategy side.

    As far as Julie is concerned, I’m not too worried. John was still rooting for Chris after Chris betrayed him. Chris ratted Twila out and she was still willing to work with him. Chris is one of those players who can get away with this sort of thing.

    • Drew M Says:

      I like your point about age being a factor in Scout and Twila’s interpretation of the situation and their willingness to shake things up. The big difference at this stage in the game I see between Vanuatu and One World is that it seems every single player in Vanuatu is playing to get to the end and win. We’ve seen some semblance of that sort of plan from everyone at some point, an indication that each player has thought through it and is trying to position themselves accordingly. Apart from Kim, who just dominated everyone else, who in the final 6 (final 5 girls and Tarzan) can you really say was doing that? It just seemed like so many of them were along for the ride and were totally willing to just go wherever someone told them to. We did see hints of strategy from F6 onward, but that mostly came about when Tarzan, Alica and Christina realized oh jeez, I guess it’s me going next! (And Christina essentially quit at F4!) Maybe there’s more I’m not remembering since One World is mostly out of my mind already haha, but the major theme of Ep 11 of Vanuatu was the constant shifting of everyone’s targets and placements within alliances in order to get to and end point in the game where they could win. And let’s continue the age comparison and point out that Chris, Ami and Leann are all in their 30s too. Eliza and Julie are the only younger people left, and even they seem to be trying adeptly to position themselves well.

      This might raise an even bigger point: Did it just mean more to WIN Survivor back then? The money is still the same, and you could argue $1M is even more valuable now considering the struggling economy. I just think Survivor was perceived as a little grander circa 2004 and people wanted that crown a little more.

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