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Survivor: China, Episode 1 and 2 MVPs – Not As Smart As You Thinkby Betsy Wasser -- 10/04/2007
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Welcome back to another season of Survivor! I have to say, I’m excited about the fact that this season, there is no gimmick. No tribes divided by race. No “have and have not” twist. It’s just straight-up, old school Survivor, and it is not the least bit boring for lack of gimmick. Just like in the early seasons, what makes the show interesting is the players, the setting, and of course, the game itself.
We’ve now seen the first two episodes of the show, and already, I have an idea of who is playing well and who isn’t. If you’re new to my weekly MVP columns, here’s the premise. Each week, I will choose a player from each tribe who is the Most Valuable Player. Players can win an MVP award by performing well in challenges, contributing a lot at camp, or most importantly, by making smart strategic decisions. Let’s get started.
The Zhan Hu tribe is definitely not off to a good start. They’ve lost every single challenge so far, and some of them haven’t even been close. After fourteen seasons of Survivor so far, it’s become apparent to me that building a shelter is very, very important. If there’s a tribe without an adequate shelter at the beginning, they always seem to suffer. They spend all night shivering in the rain that seems to inevitably pour down on the first night. Then they’re not only too tired to do well in the challenges, but also don’t have the energy the next day to do things around camp like gather food or work on that shelter that they needed. Which, in turn, continues to sap their energy.
In the first tribal council, Jeff suggested that Zhan Hu is suffering from a lack of leadership. Dave and Peih-Gee volunteered to take the reins, but so far I’m not impressed with either of them. Peih-Gee seems to think that her leadership role is just to question whatever Dave says. Dave isn’t doing much better. He seems to be operating a dictatorship, not listening to what anyone else has to say. I liked his idea of building a fire pit, but unfortunately for him, no one else shared his enthusiasm. The rest of the team would have been happier – and more energetic and more likely to win challenges – if they’d had something to eat. Dave claimed at the second tribal council that Ashley was the only player he had a conflict with, but that’s not the case. Sherea and Jaime were equally frustrated at the lack of food, and both of them said so. Unless Dave changes his ways fast, Ashley’s final words will prove true – he will be joining her sooner than he’d like.
Before I move on, a side note to Ashley, Jaime, and Sherea: if you want to build a fire and make some rice, then just woman up and do it. What do you need Dave’s permission for? Does he have sole custody of the flint and the rice? Enough of you want to eat that it’s not exactly risky to make something to eat. Stop your whining and take responsibility for yourself.
Jaime was also given an opportunity to shine. The Fei Long tribe opted to kidnap her because they saw her as a ray of sunshine and were hoping to hurt morale over at the Zhan Hu tribe. Jaime observed some of the bickering in the tribe, though I’m not sure how ultimately useful that information will be. What was more potentially useful to her was the opportunity to give the clue to the hidden immunity idol to a member of the opposing tribe. Jaime gave it to Leslie because she perceived her as a weak member of the tribe. Jaime’s logic was that if Leslie were to find the idol, Fei Long would be stuck with her.
It wasn’t the worst idea in the world, but I think Jaime missed a stronger strategic opportunity. If I were in Jaime’s shoes, I would have offered that clue to a player I wanted to have an alliance with. By helping them out with the clue, I’d obligate them to help me out post-merge. And, unless the rules somehow prohibit it, I’d ask that player to share the clue with me, so I could go to my camp and look for the idol as well. Jaime pretty well squandered the opportunity that she was given, so no MVP award for her.
The only member of Zhan Hu who is remotely impressive at this point is Frosti. He’s performing well enough at camp, and although I haven’t seen him make any smart strategic moves, he hasn’t done anything dumb either, which is more than I can say for most of the people on his tribe. More than anything, he is rocking out the challenges. It was amazing seeing him fly up that wall in the first challenge. And if not for Frosti, the loss at the immunity challenge in Episode 2 would have been even more embarrassing. If Frosti keeps playing the way he has been, the other Zhan Hus will hold tight to him while team performance matters. Well done, Frosti, on the first MVP award.
Before I move on to the Fei Long tribe, I have something to say to all Survivor players. Having to play the game in the clothes on your back is not a new twist. They’ve been doing that since Panama, and that was hundreds of years ago. There is absolutely no excuse for showing up at any Survivor-related event after you’re cast wearing something that you couldn’t play in. That means put on a bra, Jaime, and maybe leave the stripper boots at home, Ashley. Amanda’s dress is totally cute, but not exactly practical. Suit up and be ready to play.
Fei Long is definitely playing better than Zhan Hu, though there are plenty of players there who are not playing well either. Let’s start with Leslie. Leslie managed to draw attention to herself in a negative way by leaving the welcoming ceremony, despite being assured ahead of time that it was not religious in nature. I can completely respect that her personal beliefs made her uncomfortable. What I can’t respect is the fact that she claimed to the others that she is not religious. Funny, but I would have guessed that if you’re a Christian radio talk show host and if you’re openly wishing you had your Bible with you that your faith is an important part of your life. Leslie is coming across as really dishonest to me, more so than the people who are actively plotting and scheming right now.
Leslie also blew the opportunity given to her when Jaime gave her the clue to the hidden immunity idol. I am baffled that she decided to share the clue with Todd. Yes, it’s smart to form an alliance with a strong player, but giving a “witty” (her choice of words) person such valuable information is not exactly smart. If Todd were to have Leslie voted out at tribal council, he would then be the only person with the clue. He’s not motivated to help her; he’s motivated to hurt her.
The one smart thing that Leslie did was to try to befriend James. In James, we have a freakishly strong guy (whose chest is almost as distracting as Ashley’s was) who is also shy and needs a friend. Anybody who can perform in challenges as well as James does isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and if you can help him out in the game, he’s a good person to have on your side. But sorry, Leslie, that’s not enough to get an MVP award out of me.
Aaron has wound up with the leadership role in the Fei Long tribe, and he’s handling it a lot better than Dave is. For one thing, he became a leader a lot more naturally. He didn’t just shoot up his hand when Jeff asked for a volunteer; he just started to take charge, and no one really resented it. When Todd suggested that Aaron formally be their leader, he didn’t let the power go to his head. He hasn’t been bossy, and when he felt that Jean-Robert was letting the rest of the tribe down with his laziness, he was refreshingly direct about it. It’s true that being a leader is a risky position to have in Survivor, but Tom, Yul, and Earl have all shown that you can still win the game.
As for the aforementioned Jean-Robert, he is really not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. Jean-Robert is a professional poker player and claims that this job has given him the skills he needs to win the game. Doesn’t look like it to me. For one, he immediately confronted Todd, called him “crafty,” and accused him of lying about his job. Way to put the guy on the defensive, Jean-Robert. Even worse is his plan to appear lazy and then, I guess, step it up to impress everyone. If he suddenly decides to wake up and build an aqueduct at camp, or whatever it is that he has in mind, I think that the rest of the tribe is less likely to say, “Wow, our hero!” and more likely to say, “Too little, too late.”
I like Todd a lot, and I think he’s playing the game very well. By suggesting that Aaron be the leader of the tribe, he is indeed drawing focus away from himself. At the same time, he’s working hard, doing decently at challenges, and is giving no one any reason to dislike him. He got a big and unexpected score when Leslie shared the clue with him. Todd has been so on top of his game so far that when she read him the clue, I half expected him to immediately spot the idol, shimmy up the pole, and remove it with a cordless screwdriver that he magically had with him.
But Todd isn’t getting the MVP this week because there is one player who I think is performing even better than he is: Amanda. Amanda and Todd have formed an alliance based on the fact that both of them appear to be strategic thinkers. That’s a sound reason to stick together – they can each trust the other to act in his or her own rational self interest, thus making their moves predictable. The two of them decided to add Aaron to the mix, figuring that if they were to come into fire for plotting and scheming, the more visible Aaron would more likely take the heat. That’s absolutely true, but Amanda has an added layer of protection. Not only does Aaron deflect attention from her, but so does Todd. Both Leslie and Jean-Robert think that Todd is a canny player, so if anyone is going to feel nervous around a strategist, they’ll get rid of Todd, not Amanda. She has put herself in a very good position, and I predict she’ll go far.
So, congratulations to Amanda and Frosti for their MVP awards for Episodes 1 and 2. I’ll be watching on Thursday night to see who else is deserving.
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online. She can be reached with MVP nominations and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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