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Survivor: Thailand, Week 3: Did Anybody Really Win?by Kevin Nauta -- 10/10/2002
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As much as some people like to blame reality TV show producers for trying to manipulate the results of the shows they stage, there are always going to be things that happen that no one could expect. Last week's episode was one of those nights. Sook Jai's simmering problems boiled over at last and Chuay Gahn's team unity vanished forever in an evening. I'm still trying to make sense of what I saw. I'm not a happy man.
Let's begin with Sook Jai. Jake's team of youthful players went into a physical challenge and completely lost their heads. Let's give at least some credit where credit is due. Despite Robb's whining, Chuay Gahn played a clean and physical game. When they saw Sook Jai becoming impatient, they goaded them into making even more mistakes. Sook Jai is young and spirited, but as we've seen throughout this season, they don't play the game smart. Dumb teams make dumb mistakes.
Losing the fish net they won in last week's challenge - stupid! Failing to cooperate in important tasks - stupid! Sleeping in the rain - stupid! Their behavior during the challenge match - childish AND stupid!
Despite all conventional wisdom, Chuay Gahn never lost any challenge between the two teams by very much. Some of Sook Jai's members thought they were going to win every face-off between the teams and could coast. They were proven wrong. At least some of Sook Jai's members threw the immunity challenge just to get a chance to vote a troublemaker off. This they did. Jed is gone, and only two other slackers will miss him. Their attempt to vote Shii Ann off was self-serving and cowardly. She has stood up to them in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Robb, Shii Ann is coming for you. Pack your wheels, for you may be next!
Meanwhile, on the Chuay Gahn side of the ledger, there is the increasingly deteriorating team spirit thanks to whatever transpired between Ted and Ghandia. Who to believe? I believe something happened. I suspect it was accidental, but I can't prove it. What I can prove is that the two of them had an amicable understanding and apology. It is at this point, in watching the behaviors of the players, I think Ghandia had a chance to think about things and made a strategic decision to further herself by redefining her role in the game as one of victim. Ghandia's two previous votes in Tribal Council both went against other potential leaders in the tribe: John and Helen. Ted has the potential to go a long way in this game. Ghandia anticipated being dumped in the first Tribal Council for losing the immunity challenge single-handedly. Ghandia wants to take control of this team herself. (Ditto Helen, but she's got a huge blind spot where Ghandia is concerned. That may come back to bite her, as it did Marcellas from Big Brother 3.) Did something happen? Yes. Do I believe Ghandia's increasingly lurid descriptions of the event? No, I don't. Might I be wrong? Very possibly. That's the difficulty in "He said, she said" situations.
Where do the teams go from here? Unfortunately, the short run looks painful. Sook Jai has a real food problem. Losing the fishnet made it worse. Losing the two Thai Red Beret survival experts to Chuay Gahn was a dagger to the heart. The entire advantage Sook Jai had from the beginning was its strength and youth. Their strength is fast disappearing, and their youth has been the undoing of them. Robb will continue to make matters worse until he's voted out. He's a loose cannon and a blithering idiot. He gives stress in bushel baskets. Stress chews up valuable energy, and these poor souls are starved for that as is.
Chuay Gahn would appear to be splitting down the middle, male versus female. None of the females appears to have given any wisp of thought to the possibility Ted might not be the horrible ogre he's been made out to be. Helen has actively poured gasoline on the fire. Jan continues to behave in the same sanctimonious way she did in ousting Pastor John. To be fair, I don't think Clay has thought too much about this, either. To him, as to the other members of the anti-John clique (and those who complained about Helen in the second episode), you vote out anybody who attempts to usurp leadership and disturb the tribe's peace. He listens to Ghandia screaming and carrying on, and he has no sympathy. Brian has talked to both sides, and he 's the swing vote Ghandia has to turn to get rid of Ted. Whomever gets voted off leaves allies who will be bitter. There is no way Chuay Gahn leaves this situation a winner.
Sook Jai's contentions may have been going on for much longer, but they aren't that difficult to cure. The slackers are few and, after this episode, even fewer. Chuay Gahn's unity is gone and potentially may never return. This is the difference between a person (or in this case, a team) having a wart and a severed limb: one is much easier recovered from than the other.
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