Survivor: Island of the Idols, week seven

Lairo has a cranky morning filled with people arguing about nothing. I took a lot of notes about the back-and-forth that starts out this episode but in the end I deleted all of them and wrote them off as unimportant filler. Sometimes people be cranky, the end.

There was a brief exchange between Noura and Janet about when they should start playing “their own game”. Noura is a bundle of unfocused energy that wants to play! play! play! without really having a strategy or end goal in mind. My chihuahua is like that, too. Sometimes when I’m working she’ll try to get my attention by bringing me a toy, and sometimes when that doesn’t work on the first or fifth try I’ll find myself glancing down at the floor to see her perched on a whole pile of toys. When I pick up all the toys and throw them back across the house she gleefully runs out there only to hit a wall of decision paralysis. She can’t carry all the toys at once, see. She wants to run in a dozen directions at once, if only her curséd chihuahua body had enough legs.

It didn’t surprise me that Noura was hit with some restless, non-specific idea that she should be “playing more” without knowing what that means or what it would look like. It also didn’t surprise me when Janet responded, clearly and concisely: “When we get to the merge.” This has been Janet’s whole game to this point: do the work, don’t piss anyone off, give short answers. It’s not enough to be a big player that makes big moves; you have to know when those moves are necessary. Sometimes when you rock the boat all that happens is you fall out of the boat.

Janet displays that same sense of stoicism upon arriving at the Island of the Idols. Rob and Sandra give her a lesson in calculated risk. They want to award you with something called a “safety without power advantage”. She can use this to leave any Tribal Council before the vote is cast, guaranteeing she’s safe but also denying her the chance to vote. We didn’t get to hear what sort of game the Idols had in mind for Janet to win this advantage, because she decided not to play. And her reasoning her was sound: if she’s in a situation where she might be in danger at Tribal Council, that means her alliance is in danger. If she leaves and someone else in her alliance is voted off instead, it doesn’t advance he position at all.

So Janet leaves the island emptyhanded, having already learned the lesson the Idols were primed to teach. Upon arriving back at the beach, Lairo shouts at her to “show us the idol!” and she shows them her boobs instead. And this is why we love Janet.

Over on Vokai, Tommy and Lauren try to do some damage control in the shape of selling Dan up the river. Tommy was my pick to win the whole game for a few weeks in a row, but he’s in a real terrible position now. He needs to convince the rest of Vokai to vote out Dan before they vote out himself or Lauren, or he risks not even making it to the merge. Starved for openings, he tries to sell Missy on the idea that Dan wants to vote out Aaron, which… doesn’t work. The good news for Tommy and Lauren seems to be that Vokai isn’t in a position where they want to throw an Immunity Challenge, so at least they have that going for them.

Said challenge turns out to be another basketball/jigsaw puzzle affair, which Vokai wins. The whole Tommy/Lauren/Dan ploy gets put on ice, and Kellee has a little think: her immunity idol is only good for one more Tribal Council, and she doesn’t want it to go to waste.

Lairo’s plan is this: Old Vokai still has the numbers advantage, so they’re going to target Dean. They tell Dean it’s Noura, because she’s the most obvious and vocal vote, and because Dean is strong in challenges. So everyone votes for Dean and Dean gets blindsided. What Kellee wants to do, though, is break up the solid core of Jack/Jamal. She thinks it’s safe to do this because pretty much everyone expects a merge after this vote. Her plan: give Dean her idol, tell Dean to vote for Jack or Jamal, then tell Noura she knows Dean has an idol, so Noura thinks she is the one going home. The only way for Noura to save herself, in this story, is to also write down Jack or Jamal.

This isn’t what happens.

A million things shook out at Tribal Council. First up, big stupid Noura opens her big stupid mouth, attacking Dean and revealing that she actually hates Jamal. This is just another example of Noura letting her stream of consciousness take over without actually thinking about what she’s saying. The reactions on her tribemates’ faces let us know that this Noura-hates-Jamal thing is new information, while her own demeanor is that of someone who doesn’t know why what they’re saying is wrong. It’s not worth even asking why Noura thinks this confession advances her game because it’s clear she hasn’t thought that far ahead.

It’s hardest on Jamal, for reasons we’ll get into in a moment. To say he looked hurt and sad is an understatement. Yeah, Noura is goofy and flighty and it’s hard to take her seriously… but she just used the hate word. He tells Probst, “I’m not confident I’ll be here tomorrow.”

There was some talk about whether or not Lairo has a women’s alliance. Kellee fires back against the idea by saying what I always say: the fear of a women’s alliance on Survivor far outpaces the number of times ther ehas actually been a women’s alliance on Survivor. She’s right about this, of course, and it’s smart for her to say this here, because there isn’t actually a women’s alliance to protect. And I think we see a smidge of “actual Kellee” here when she says it’s a little insulting that so many male players seem to assume all the women are going to band together. The other women on the tribe nod in quiet agreement as Kellee explains her position, including Noura. And that’s where Jamal sees his opening: he tells Probst to ask Noura if she has ever considered a women’s alliance this season.

And of course she has. We have video evidence of it in previous episodes, and every woman on her tribe has been approached. And two seconds after agreeing with Kellee’s point about how assuming a women’s alliance is a little insulting, Noura immediately about-faces and gives the same old tired rah-rah-girl-power speech about strong independent yadda yadda every women’s alliance on this show has ever been built on. And thus do we get a smidge of “actual Noura”: someone so flighty that she can support two diametrically opposed points within one minute of each other and not even realize she’s doing it.

If Karishma had done this, instead of Noura, I might be ranting here about how she’s a fair-weather friend, how she’ll say whatever she thinks so-and-so wants to hear to get into someone’s good graces. Players like that always get caught in lies. But this was Noura, not Karishma, and I don’t think that’s what happened. I think Noura’s head is so far in the clouds she legitimately believes she can support Position X one moment and then Position Not-X the next, without even having to rationalize it to herself. She wasn’t lying when she said she wanted a women’s alliance, and she wasn’t lying when she agreed it could be considered insulting. The concept of “lying” probably doesn’t have any meaning in her little world. New Age-y something something personal truth.

I feel bad for her, in a way. On some level she offended everyone at this council — Jamal and Kellee especially, two fairly good players who will likely decide when Noura’s time in the game ends — and she has no idea she did it. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds psychoanalyzing Noura in this post, but she didn’t do her game any favors in this episode. I won’t say she’s burned any bridges yet, but she sure doesn’t seem to mind that she’s sloshing gasoline everywhere.

When asked directly, Janet sticks to her guns on the women’s alliance issue: she says it’s very negative to assume women will bond based on gender. This is a roundabout way of saying “it’s very negative for women to try to bond based on gender” (which is how every would-be women’s alliance forms on this show). I think Janet very carefully chose this distinction.

After a very woke and almost exhaustingly emotional Tribal Council, Lairo still has to vote someone out. All the Real Talk flying back and forth, all the harsh words coming out, all the talk about changing American values and the capabilities of women and so on… and Karishma takes a real nasty jab at Dean with her vote. I realize none of the other players can hear what she says while writing her vote down, but for me-the-viewer it was tonal whiplash. It makes me feel like she spent the entire Tribal Council thinking about how awesome and clever her little jab was going to be as she delivered it. Instead it made me not like her even more than I already didn’t like her.

After the vote Dean plays his (read: Kellee’s) idol, and Karishma’s face melts off her head, and now she is a woman with a skeleton head. And here’s where we get to why Jamal is having such a bad night. Jamal also has an idol, and it’s one he came by honestly, without winning some silly Island of the Idols game. He came to Council expecting to see a whole lot of Dean, but Dean is now immune. He has to run through his mind what the rest of the votes must say, and if Dean orchestrated this blindside (which, from Jamal’s perspective, is likely what happened) the rest of the votes must target the weakest person from Old Vokai: namely Noura.

To save Noura, and therefore his numbers, Jamal has to play his idol to save her. He has to do this even though she just admitted she hates him. Even though she has been trying to build a women’s alliance against him. This is a bad move, but Jamal can’t know that with his imperfect information. He can’t know Dean’s idol was originally Kellee’s, and he can’t know that Kellee and Dean secretly went against everyone.

At the end of the day, Kellee must have decided having a loose-cannon Jamal around was better for her game than a likable Jack. All of the Dean votes got flushed, and Jack becomes the first juror. And absolutely nobody in the Lairo tribe looked happy with how it played out.

Who’s gonna win?
I’m confident in saying Kellee has the chops to take this game all the way, if she’s careful. She’s Old-Vokai-strong if the merge happens soon, and she seems very good at taking advantage chaotic social situations that arise when players like Noura or Karishma misstep. The one kink in her plan seems to be Dean’s idol: as long as nobody finds out where he got it, she can just be one bewildered face in the crowd. Two possible problem areas: 1) will Dean keep the secret? If he doesn’t, will people believe him? And 2) Janet has been to the Island of the Idols and knows what’s up over there, now. If she puts two and two together and figures out Kellee must have screwed up the Dean vote, what’s her reaction?

I like this season of Survivor so far and I hope you like my blog posts about it!

1 comment to Survivor: Island of the Idols, week seven

Leave a Reply to Drathnoxis Cancel reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>