“Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This”
February 26th, 2009
Winners find a way to win, losers find a way to lose.
Coach might be one of the most delusional and irrational players in recent memory on Survivor, but of his various cliched idioms this one is actually quite apt for the game. Of course, when he says it, he implies that it means that Timbira are going to prove themselves winners by winning the next challenge, but this wasn’t in the cards so much. I don’t say that this is an apt saying because it is true, but rather because it’s almost always wrong: at this stage in the game, the tribes are groups of individuals who are made up of winners and losers both, and whoever happens to overcome their losers wins the day.
In the end, Timbira is a tribe that is suffering through the fact that the people are delusional, acting as if they have the luxury of following individual vendettas more than they do the logical structure of the game. They’re so caught up in creating hierarchies that they’re failing to realize that at this stage it’s not about who you like, it’s about minimizing the chances of sending someone home at all. People like Coach can start playing their games once they get to the merge: as long as there are two tribes, they need to think with their heads, and at this point the game is coming down to which team has a larger grasp of reality.
That’s Jalapao right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
At episode’s end, Timbira makes the right decision: if Jerry wasn’t capable of handling a week in the jungle because of some beans, despite having served in Afghanistan, then he isn’t made up for what this game is. I don’t think this is a damning statement to his military record: this is a game that offers more intense conditions, likely less shelter, and more bursts of spontaneous energy than he would be used to. It is going to be a shock to a person’s system, and it just seemed as if Jerry just wasn’t made to play this game.
But as the episode wore on, you began to see that Coach wasn’t made to actually play this game either, and that much of Timbira is just along for the ride. Debbie seemed like she was Coach’s follower last week, but this week it is Tyson who Coach actually, honestly, names his assistant coach for the foreseeable future. What fascinated me about this is that we see Tyson laughing it off…but then we also see Tyson decide that he actually likes this, and that if he ever moves over to another tribe he’s going to call himself Coach too. He wasn’t joking at this point: he actually has drawn from his experience with Coach a sense of delusion, the idea that this strategy of letting personal vendettas dictate how you vote people out should even be vocalized. Those are things you keep to yourself: when Coach sees Erinn “smiling weird” after they talk of Jerry’s illness being a reason to vote him out, he has a minor freakout, and Tyson is right there for the ride.
In the end, sanity won out: Tyson threw Jerry a bone suggesting that Erinn could be going home, but even Coach wasn’t willing to let someone who was sick and struggling stay on a team that is…well, struggling. Losing both challenges here was a tough blow for the team, but one that wasn’t just one person’s fault. In both cases, it was about communication: Debbie was downright awful in the reward challenge, yelling to no one in particular and using no one’s names (does she even know them), and then Erinn’s leadership in the puzzle challenge was entirely ignored when they got to the end, her logic either poorly communicated to her team or poorly listened to (I’m voting on the latter – I think Coach’s read of Erinn gives her way too little credit). They just never worked together as a team, and if Coach seriously thinks he is their leader he finally made a good choice tonight. Unfortunately, for the team anyways, I don’t foresee this pattern continuing, as surely an eyebrow raise will have Coach going after Brendan next.
He should, of course, be gunning for Brendan: you don’t send a guy to Exile twice, especially not when they have the ability to choose who goes with them, and expect that they aren’t going to put two and two together. We’re not yet sure if Brendan shared his theory about the Idol’s location with Taj, who may just not have found an opportunity during this episode, but at the very least their plan is coming together. It’s not clear, since Jalapao isn’t in shambles and thus doesn’t get much screentime, just what Taj told her team about Exile, but she got them to send Brendan back and they planned it nearly perfectly. Their plan to include other people is also very intelligent, even in their choices: Sierra proves here both that she’s back in Coach’s good books but not a follower (no weird smiles from her, and thus she’s not at immediate risk) and that she’s in this to win (having no hesitation to vote out Jerry, having been in the same scenario), and Stephen was one of the only people on Jalapao who didn’t recognize Taj’s husband and thus doesn’t want to vote her out nearly as quickly. I’m curious to see where this alliance takes them, and the new Exile Island twist of sorts has given us some unique gameplay elements (although we saw something similar with James taking both Idols in China).
As for Jalapao, their wins in these challenges shows a team that seems to get along, that lacks a real weak link (Sandy being crazy isn’t really a problem in physical challenges), and more importantly has shown that they have the ability to keep their calm even when falling behind. I don’t quite think that they’re a team that can sweep, as Sydney seems like a weak link (although one that apparently become a flirt machine next week), but they were methodical in that first challenge in a way that shows they will at least be tough to beat in anything without a significant luck component. They were smart, clear, focused and while JT really had no idea what do with that net they did catch a fair few fish and the new tarp will give them a definite advantage in terms of morale moving forward.
Challenges here were solid, if unspectacular: I liked the stair puzzle because it seemed like it was going to be really confusing, but both teams figured it out pretty quickly. Anything that uses both mental and physical challenges is a highlight for me, so it works out in the end. The blindfold challenge was devoid of collisions (unlike last season’s, which was a mess with the giant hill and the shield devices), but it really separated the two teams and showed some of their differences in terms of communication. I loved the imagery of Timbira having to be all linked in a line, dependent on one leader or each other, while Jalapao could work together without that physical connection. The show can give yo stuff like that sometimes, and it’s better for it.
- In terms of Survivor sleeping arrangements, there’s always scenarios where women and men sleep and cuddle and flirt a little. When we learn that Brendan was Erinn’s blanket, it makes perfect sense. However, when Sandy was more or less feeling up Spencer, I felt really bad for the poor kid, as no one needs that at his young age. Sex kitten? Really?
- I always wonder how awful I’d be at the blindfold challenge: Ellen Degeneres has been having loads of fun with blindfolded musical chairs on her talk show, and I can only imagine how confusing it would be to know that you’re standing in a clearing, with an obstacle course, with cameras filming your every move, and you can’t see a darn thing. It would just be so tough to deal with, and is definitely something that would keep me from succeeding on Survivor.