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Survivor: South Pacific, The Big Picture, Episode 1 – Theory vs. Practiceby Sarah Freeman -- 09/19/2011
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Survivor is back, and so am I after a nine month hiatus, owing to the birth of my daughter a week before Redemption Island began. [Editor’s Note: Congratulations!!] This meant I watched the season through the kind of sleep deprivation that made me think Ralph was a secret mastermind... Now that my daughter's sleeping through the night, I'd like to say that I won't come up with any theory nearly as crazy this season, but perhaps it's best not to make such guarantees.
The purpose of this column is to look past the editing, skip predictions, and guess what angle the individual players are taking in their own personal game of Survivor. I base my evaluation on the episode, the Insider clips on the CBS website, and the players' RNO interviews upon leaving the game. As such, it involves a lot of speculation and assumptions, many of which will be proven wrong. It's more about explaining outcomes than predicting them, so spoilers are not relevant and can be misleading. Please don't send them to me! It's the best way of ensuring that your email will not get a reply.
Most unhelpfully, for the first episode, the Insider clips are almost all pre-game interviews, where each player is clearly answering the same list of questions from "How will your job help your game?" to "Are you single?" Much of this isn't even insightful, let alone relevant to how the game is panning out so far. Like last season, we no longer get to hear the words as the tribal votes are cast. And with Redemption Island still in full force, we won't have any interviews until episode three.
So we've got more questions than answers this episode. But the good news is this seems like a really likeable cast. I've got a few people I'm not overly keen on, but I've also got a number of people I'm rooting for right now. Hopefully, I won't be hating them all in three episodes' time.
The immediate first twist was the reveal of the returning players: Coach and Ozzy. Ozzy getting a better reception than Coach was hardly surprising, nor was the fact that Ozzy won that first challenge (even if it did largely come down to which tribe was more coherent in their advice). Ozzy's victory vs. Coach's loss only exacerbated matters, with Ozzy brought to sit in the middle of his tribe, while Coach sat to one side of his. Then Upolu left without Coach as he picked up his stuff.
The lone exception was Edna, who stopped to offer Coach a hand. I don't know if this was a strategic move or if she was just being nice. It could be both, but I like her the better for either reason. If it was a strategic move, it might have backfired, since Edna was very obviously offering an olive branch to Coach when nobody else was. She singled herself out, which could have made the others wary of her. But being nice to others is one of the best ways to gain allies in the game.
Even if Edna wasn't thinking of anything but common courtesy, her action suggests she isn't afraid to go against the tide. That's the kind of behavior that can win Survivor or get you voted off. It all depends on how good you are at reading the situation.
Although Edna was in place to be Coach's first friend on the tribe, she did not make it into his five person alliance. This alliance, if I got everybody correct in the dark, consists of Coach, Brandon, Sophie, Rick, and Albert: all the men of the tribe, plus Sophie.
This is typical Coach. He's always fared better with the male players, and he actually admits in his Insider clip that his inability to play with the 'young girls' is a major problem. His clip is a fairly interesting example of self-awareness since Coach has put some thought into what his problems were in his previous outings and how he's going to fix them. It's a great theory, but I don't believe for one moment Coach can really change how he plays.
And that might just work to his advantage. I would never place good money on Coach to win Survivor, but I do think this outing will give him his best chance yet. Everybody knows Coach as this ridiculous character; nobody takes him seriously, but they want to hear the stories, see the dragon slayer chi, and everything else he's known for. Best of all, everybody knows Coach's game and they know how to play him. He's no threat as a puppet master, but he is a perfect ally.
What people forget is that many of Coach's tribemates have ended up very fond of him, and if he can withhold his judgmental attitude to any extent, he could be more popular than ever this go around. So it's entirely possible that Coach’s allies might never get around to voting him off, only to realize, too late, that the jury likes him more than the rest of the finalists. It's kind of a Fabio method of winning, although Coach can't count on a string of immunities to get himself to the end.
I don't honestly think Coach will win, and I have to say I hope it doesn't, but it's a possibility. It's certainly more probable than Coach getting to the end through his own strategic ability. Coach is savvier about this game than people realize (honestly, getting together a five-strong alliance was the most solid game move we saw this episode), but he's better at theory than practice.
Still, Coach is off to a good start. Even in the immunity challenge, he proved his value as a coach, by discussing the best way to get over the wall. Upolu's two strong men pulling everybody up was a far better strategy than Savaii's haphazard pushing, and bought them a big lead that even Ozzy couldn't quite overcome. However, he'd best start telling some far-fetched stories soon, after all that's why we’re watching him!1 2 3 4 Next-->
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