Friday, March 25, 2016

Survivor Kaoh Rong, Episode 6: Disbanding the Brain Trust

Anyone with a perfunctory understanding of reality TV narratives knew that the cocky, arrogant ER doctor who alternately proclaimed himself the smartest in the game and the best positioned was not going to win.  Peter Baggenstos was given the "Pride Goeth before a Fall" edit from day one. But with his former Brains tribe still in the majority, and numbers being crucial pre-merge, he would have to do something pretty dumb to get booted this early.  And he did.  In fact, showing again that the smarts necessary for success in the real world do not necessarily translate to Survivor, the doctor made not one but two strategic blunders that led to him becoming an undateable pre-merge boot.

But first, we come back from the last tribal council at Gondol beach with hugs all around for Tai Trang.  He managed to be more useful and lovable than Anna Khait and that bought him at least three more days in the tribe.  Tai basked in the compliments, especially hearing everyone tell him what a great guy he is.  How many would share that opinion had they known he had the hidden immunity idol and had led Anna to believe he was using it on her?  Tai doesn't have to worry because the only person left who knows about the idol, Scot Pollard, is keeping mum as he plans to use the info down the line.  Tai plans to continue to provide for the tribe with the tacit understanding that if they have to go to tribal again, it will be Julia Sokolowski and not him sent home.

But wait, before the smoke from Anna's snuffed torch has completely faded, Peter is scheming.  He pulls Tai aside and tells him that he's fed up to here with Joe Del Campo who is not pulling his weight and is more ripped that he is (and 40 years older).  That old guy and his six pack has got to go.  It occurs to Peter now, as opposed to, say, before tribal council, that he is the low man on the Brains totem pole and he needs to get rid of one of them before they target him.  Last vote, when Scot, Tai and Anna were scrambling for what to do and who to target, he could have pulled the three together against Joe and Aubry Bracco and picked them off like overripe mangoes.

It's like looking in a mirror
Over on Chan Loh beach, Nick Maiorano just realized he's on Survivor.  It's Day 13.  But, better late than never.  He does have a keen insight into the wonder that is Debbie Wanner and recognizes that what she admires most in others are their intrinsic and extrinsic similarity to her.  So he does his best to be what Debbie believes herself to be which is, among other things, a finely chiseled Greek god.  I'm a little worried about Debbie as the two quotes from her early in the episode are that her main goal is to make the merge (which we assume is next week) and that she can make fire with one match (which possibly hints towards a fire-making challenge).  Hopefully, though, the overwhelmingly loopy, fun, positive edit she's been getting was so strong that the producers decided to throw a few red herrings in there on the way to her ultimate march to victory.

At the reward challenge we have former professional NBA center Scot Pollard in a basket sinking contest against former amateur point guard (and Adonis, according to Debbie) Nick Maiorano.  Putting aside that centers are not that accustomed to shooting from the perimeter and that the buoys into a basket is not exactly the same as basketballs into a hoop and that Scot was not exactly a scoring beast in his NBA days, it looks like Gondol might have the advantage.  This goes from theoretical to actual when their go-to challenge beast Aubry manages to untie and free their buoys about an hour before the hapless Michelle Fitzgerald.  Nick is waiting patiently for his chance to show his moves which watching Scot go out to an early lead.  Eventually, they get their buoys and he makes it a race, but ends up losing in the end.  It was a feast for the reward which I'm sure Julia enjoyed after her two days alone in exile on To Tang beach.

"As long as it's not my name I'm gonna go with it, because I've gotta save myself."  Julia may be young, but she's not naive and she understands the basic rules of Survivor.  So when Peter comes to her after their feast to tell her he's thinking about voting out one of the Brains, she is all in favor.  She could have not gotten better news that the fact that there is a fracture in the main alliance and she may not necessarily be meeting up with Anna in two days.  Peter is pissed at Joe but he also recognizes that Aubry is a threat so he's gunning for both of them.  Or not.  He's spit-balling here, sharing his strategy with the only person lower on the totem pole than he is, trying to formulate a plan by saying everything he's thinking out loud and to the one person with nothing to lose.

Peter makes the fatal mistake of strategizing right under the watchful eyes of Joe and Aubry.  Scheming is not something that endears yourself to your old alliance and Peter is doing it blatantly.  So Aubry starts thinking that he may be more of a liability to the Brains alliance than he is an asset.

Meanwhile, the Chan Loh tribe is trying to forget all about the wonderful feast that they missed out on because Michelle failed to unhook the buoys until the other tribe had an unbeatable lead.  Michelle is worried that if they go to tribal council, she'll be the logical scapegoat/target.  She is consoled by Debbie who manages to be wherever she needs to be at all times and I have no proof that she's not actually a twin.  Debbie tells her (as she previously told Cydney Gillon) that she wants a girl to win and that her target would be Kyle Jason.  Michelle feels pretty good about their talk until Nick wet blankets all over her warning her that Debbie is manipulative and cunning and could be setting Michelle up for failure.

Let the man do all the thinking, little lady.
Michelle is not keen on being told what to think by Nick.  She is a grown woman with her own mind and she does not want to be babysat or handheld by the big strong guy.  Nick tells her not to trust Debbie or Neal and Michelle tells us that she'll do whatever she damn well pleases.  He tells us in his confessional that he has to coach Michelle, that's his job, making sure she's under his wing and says the right things.  And Michelle tells us that she plans to go along, letting him baby her and think he's controlling her, waiting in the wings to pounce at the right time.  I love their close trusting relationship!

Peter is still scheming and scrambling but "retired FBI guy" Joe sees right through it.  In fairness, Stevie Wonder can see right through Peter as he actively chases down everyone who is not Aubry or Joe and tries to pull them into his plan.  Joe wants to get to the bottom of this and he goes all NCIS/CSI on Peter, staring him down and demanding that he tell Joe the truth.  Peter, sadly, does not shout back, You can't handle the truth.  Instead, he stammers, looks like a cornered puppy standing next to an unfortunate puddle, answers questions with questions, hesitates and finally gives a too sincere and ultimately unconvincing denial.  Busted.  Peter knows he's been caught and all he can do now is a few mea culpas as he meekly crawls back into his alliance.  Or help his tribe win the immunity challenge and then he'll never have to worry about this conversation.

But Peter shows he's not only incapable of good game strategy, but also good challenge strategy.  With a twenty foot high tower of blocks to build, he decides not to build from the bottom up, loading the bigger squares first, but from the top down.  (Tai meekly questions, why are we stacking the small ones first, but no one listens).  Not surprisingly, this plan fails and though they were behind for most of the challenge, Chan Loh ends up winning.

Now it's really time to scramble.  Aubry and Joe don't trust Peter and know he's a liability and knows that he tried to turn on them and that he probably will bolt the next chance he has but, like the last vote, they decide to go with the devil they know and stick with him, voting out Julia.  Peter recognizes when he's beat and so he decides to go along with his former tribemates, bury the hatchet, and go with the original plan a - voting out Julia.  Scot comes over to Peter to find out what the plan is and he hears that Peter has abandoned the get rid of Aubry or Joe plan and is back on the voting out Julian bandwagon.

Scot has had enough of Peter's vacillation.  While Aubry and Joe may not be in his alliance, they at least don't tell him one thing one minute and another thing the next.  Peter is untrustworthy and unpredictable and those are not great traits in a tribemate.  So rather than go along with his plan to target Aubry or Joe, Scot talks to Tai and Julia about going after Peter.  Julia, who may be 18 but is pretty smart, recognizes right away that Joe is loyal and not likely to abandon his ally.  So she suggests they target Aubry.  And they have ammunition - Peter did throw her under the bus.  But will she believe them and be willing to take out one of her own.

So I just have one teensy weensy change in our plans.

Scot, Tai and Julia make their pitch to Aubry and she's not thrilled at what she's hearing. It was one thing for Peter to throw Joe's name out there, but a whole different thing when it's her name and her life in the game on the line.  Now she's pissed and now she's rethinking her devil you know strategy.  Why keep someone around only for them to stab you in the back.  Get them out before they can get to you.  So she goes to Joe.  You know how we had that long talk and we decided to let bygones be bygones and welcomed Peter back into the alliance and agreed to vote out Julia.  Yeah, let's forget that.  Let's vote out Peter.  Joe cannot believe what he's hearing and he thinks Aubry has fallen victim to island fever/game paranoia and is no longer in her right mind.  Joe is a loyal guy and he made a deal with Peter and he wants to keep it.  Aubry thinks this might be a huge mistake.  Or not.  It's day 14 or 15, it's volcanically hot, they don't get enough food or sleep and there are all manners of creatures feasting on them.  Give her a break, it's hard to think straight!

And so Aubry and the rest of her tribe go to tribal council with the vote up in the air.  And it's not at all clear what is the right move. More than likely, a tribal merge is coming and going into the merge 5 strong would be good.  But is Peter really Brains-strong or will he bolt the moment after Jeff Probst tells them to drop their buffs?  But if you vote out Peter, you guarantee going to the merge with a 4-4 split between Brains and Beauties, with the 3-member Brawn tribe potentially having the deciding votes.  Has Aubry noticed how close Scot and Tai are, who does she think the Brawn tribe will side with?  But on the other hand, Joe is her closest ally right now and he's asking for her to stay the course.  Does she want to break his trust?

At tribal council, at first, it looks like the vote will be the non-controversial, expected vote as Tai and Scot decide it's easier to go along with the plan to vote out Julia.  If Aubry, Peter and Joe are solid, it would be a 3-3 tie and no one wants that.  But it doesn't take much prodding for Jeff to get everyone talking about the elephant in the room.  Peter's bouncing back and forth beween different factions has brought him unfavorable scrutiny and so the logical vote of Julia is no longer a no-brainer.  You can see the growing recognition sweeping across Peter's face as one by one his tribemates point to his scrambling, his uncertainty, his unreliability as concerning traits going forward.  Meanwhile, Julia can only hope this conversation is having some impact.  And it does as we see Tai mouth something to Scot.

As the conversation continues, the two switch their plan on the spot and decide to go after Peter.  Peter has fallen into the trap that he himself created.  When Jeff asks him if he made the case on why the five should stay tight and vote out their newest member Julia, Peter instead mentioned how that is one way to look at it but that the tribe is more complex than that and there might be some fissures in it.  Peter basically admitted that he was not gung ho about the plan to get rid of Julia and had entertained other discussions.  Scot jumps on this to point out that someone - whose name rhymes with Meter - makes a decision then five minutes later changes his - or her, but really it's his because I'm talking about Peter - mind.

Joe picks up on how the discussion has taken a turn and instead of the farewell Julia show it's suddenly become the outing Peter for being deceitful show.  Joe isn't so sure where the vote is going either.  Meanwhile Tai and Scot have changed their plan and are now conveying the change to a surprised Aubry.  For those who think tribal council is an unnecessary waste of time, that the decisions are all make ahead of time, and that Jeff's questions and the Survivors' answers have no effect, this last minute whispering and rethinking is a big surprise.  On the fly, we're watching peple take in new information and make last minute decisions.  It may not be the optimal way to make a decision that could ultimately cost you a million dollars, but it's better than stubbornly sticking to a plan without giving it any additional thought.  Perhaps.  Time will tell.

Well that didn't go as I planned.
"As long as it's not my name that's written down, I'm cool."  And those are the last words of Peter as his former Brains teammate Aubry does what I don't remember seeing before - writes one name down, then crosses it out and changes her vote.  I'm not sure I love Aubry's play.  It's not that I don't think she should have voted against Peter, it's the uncertainty and seat-of-her-pants redirection that does not look good (and is not a great resume builder). She should have hammered this out with Joe better ahead of time and planned for various outcomes.  Instead, with this vote, she has shown herself not to be a strong ally and to make executive (and potentially rash) that potentially undermine her alliance.  At the merge, I'm not sure how strong the Brains will be after this vote and whether she was more at risk of Peter switching post-merge or of going into the merge down in numbers.  And don't think Julia will forget that her name was written down on that parchment first.

With Aubry's last second change of heart, Peter is the sixth person voted out of Survivor Kaoh Rong.  Peter was doomed from the beginning.  He was too cocky, he overplayed his hand and he was too unwilling to play the social game of Survivor, i.e., pretend to get along with people, pretend not to have to be right all the time, practice humility, and don't make yourself the center of attention.

Want more from Peter?
Peter the day after on CBS
RHAP interview
Josh Wigler/Parade interview
EW interview
SheKnows interview

No comments:

Post a Comment