Survivor: Samoa, week ten

This week’s reward split the tribe onto two teams. Luck of the draw put Russell and Laura on the winning side, so they both got the clue to the newly-hidden immunity idol. What happened next, upon return to camp, was critical: Russell immediately shared the clue with the Foas, and they sent out to search for it. Laura, meanwhile, was back at camp for several minutes (or maybe longer, it’s hard to say) before she realized the hunt was on. She even made a comment to the effect of “I didn’t expect Russ to move that fast.”

Russell is here to win. For players like that, the game never stops.

So began the mad hunt for the immunity idol. Galu tried to keep a shadow on Russ at all times, which was a fair enough strategy. When he spotted what looked like an idol hidey-hole, though, he threw Galu off the scent by breaking into a mad dash through the jungle, leaving Dave out of breath. He then circled back around to pick up his third immunity idol. THIRD. IMMUNITY. IDOL.

What happened after that… we don’t really know. The idol didn’t dictate the rest of the episode like I thought it would. I don’t know if anyone knows Russ has it or why people stopped looking, but it kind of took up the back burner. That left the door open for more interesting things to happen, though.

Shambo has been very vocal about her dislike of Laura, and it’s now common knowledge that she’s switched sides, leaving the game evened-out at 5/5. The remaining question is what to do about it. Laura and Dave apparently had too much trouble crunching the numbers, so they ran their plan by Rocket John. Their plan was to vote Russell and flush out the idol, if he has it. I think I must have misunderstood their reasoning, because it sounded like they were saying “if Russ has it we’ll flush it out and lose one of our own, but if he doesn’t he’ll go home”. In other words, they were playing the odds of Russ not finding idol #3, which given past evidence is completely crazy.

Fortunately for them John isn’t a moron. In a confessional he lamented the poor analytical skills of his tribe, criticized their previous two decisions and explained (using very small words) why Natalie was the way to go, not Russell. This was particularly entertaining to watch; yes, John is a rocket scientist, but we’re not discussing astrophysics here. It’s just simple probability and basic arithmetic.

The problem for Galu, now, is that with two of their own gone and Shambo flipped, the best they can do is force a tie. The only thing they really had going for them was that forcing a tie is no worse for them than for Foa Foa. Nobody likes forcing ties on Survivor; it’s too chancy. Forcing a tie is an act of desperation. It’s not something you do, it’s something that just happens. To resolve a tie, the tribe has an immediate re-vote. This gives someone a chance to change their mind and is the perfect spot to make a great power play. If after the second vote the tribe is still deadlocked the players on the chopping block get a free pass (along with whomever is already immune) and everyone draws rocks out of a bag. If you draw the differently-colored rock, you lose.

So, in the best case scenario, if your plan is “let’s force a tie” you are at very least putting your position in the game in the hands of blind chance. All it takes is one person who isn’t willing to spin the barrel in the run-up to their million dollar check to ruin such a plan. Concocting a plan to force a tie is essentially daring everyone in your alliance to make a move.

It was a poor plan to begin with, but Monica really wrecked it. Dave and Laura were both content to roll the dice, but Monica saw the dangers of the upcoming tie and tried to circumvent it. Her plan: tip off Foa Foa that she would flip to their side if they’d agree to vote for John instead of Laura. She would, of course, not flip and Shambo, of course, would never agree. The idea was to trick Foa Foa into voting John, which would leave five Galu votes against Russell, four tricked Foa Foa votes against John, and one stubborn Shambo vote against Laura.

The principle flaw in this plan is that Foa Foa aren’t idiots and never believed anything Monica said, and weren’t likely to let her call the shots even if they were. The second flaw in the plan, which Monica didn’t anticipate, was that nobody thought to tell John. Whoops! Rocket John seemed pretty livid when he found out, and he spelled out in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t comfortable with rolling the dice: “Bottom line, if I write Laura’s name down, I wake up on this beach tomorrow.”

So that’s how tribal council went: a tie between Laura and Natalie, followed by Rocket John sending Laura off home. Erik all but did a victory dance from the jury box, and Shambo’s boner could be seen from space. Just like that, Foa Foa has the numbers; they’ve overcome their numbers disadvantage and have a good game ahead of them.

Who’s gonna win? It’s looking better and better for my boy Russell, but I’m not counting Rocket John out. He’s smart and he has just learned a very valuable lesson about how to play an individual game. A lot is going to depend on how tight Foa Foa really is. If theirs was an alliance based on desperation they might end up getting stupid and losing their hard-fought advantage. I’ll keep my guess centered on John for now. He’s climbed out from under the radar and I think we’ll see him make some good moves in the episodes to come. I’ve been waiting this entire season for someone to uncover Russ for the villain he is; maybe John will be the guy to finally do it.

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