Personal View

I'm still having trouble keeping the people straight. When I can't see their buffs, I'm not even sure which tribe I'm watching! The pretty-boy models all look about the same to me, and many of their names seem to begin with B.

Meanwhile, I'm having trouble distinguishing one beauty queen from another. The degree of emaciation, and Stephanie's eyebrows, are the only way I can tell them apart.

Tribal View

Since I can't tell one person from another, I began to look at each tribe as a whole. Where might each tribe sit in terms of the game? What do we see happening, and what might it take to win?

At the moment, the two tribes seem to be evenly matched. Each has had the chance to slough off one person. Whom they chose, and why, might tell us something about each tribe. Every competition, both last week and this week, has come to a close finish. All have been physical, and therefore they seem to be fairly evenly matched physically.

Nakum, last week, voted off Jim. At first blush, I'm not sure that was the wisest move. Jim, after all, was their one person able to intelligently navigate through that jungle! However, as Jim Lynch reports in his TV Guide interview, he asked to be voted off, and they drew lots to decide against whom he would vote.

What does this tell us about Nakum?

First, it tells us that they handled Jim's departure in as fair and open a manner as possible. But, more importantly, it tells us that Nakum has not yet "come under the gun." Nobody has had to form an alliance to save himself or herself. Resentments are building, but no polarizations or loyalties have yet been tested. This fact could potentially be turned to Yaxha's advantage, as we'll see below.

Yaxha, this week, voted off Morgan. This vote was for real. That is, somebody was going home, and it wouldn't be voluntary. We got to see some of this tribe's dynamic as they worked out who that would be. I think we saw more of the editing than we did the tribe, unfortunately - as always, the actual Tribal Council vote is supposed to come to us as a surprise. So, I don't think were allowed a real feel for how the discussions and loyalties went.

Stephanie's an obvious target, and that turned up immediately. Sending home the physically strongest woman would be a really dumb move. That was expected, and handled quickly enough.

Next, we have the woman who actually provided them fish to eat. The men came back with one grasshopper and a few hundred ants... she came up with a fish per person! What were they thinking, sending her home before they had won even a single reward challenge?

By the by, I personally have been through U.S. Air Force wilderness survival training, and have taught wilderness survival at the Boy Scout level. Never have I seen that particular type of fish trap. This lady most definitely knows her stuff. They "need protein" badly enough to eat ants and grasshoppers, and they're thinking of sending their fishmonger home?

Yet the fact is that Yaxha seriously considered sending Lydia home. They are, therefore, focused on physical strength in competitions being the only consideration.

It seems strange to me that Rafe wasn't even on the "short list" for elimination. He single-handedly lost their reward competition, by not being able to climb back up the ladder. I'm reminded of Chris in Vanuatu who, early on, could NOT make it across that balance beam. He survived the vote, and went on to become the winner, but his elimination was discussed.

I'm guessing that, at this point, Yaxha wasn't going to send home any uninjured male, no matter how useless. That attitude, I suspect, will net them several more opportunities to test this theory.

Morgan, meanwhile, did make the short list. Perhaps her occupation as magician's assistant played her false. She seemed to think that being there, and being pretty, was all that she needed to do. To be sure, that strategy worked on Palau... the Useless Ones went far. I do recall the bathing beauties in Vanuatu complaining at tribal council that the workingclass women were making them look bad, because they insisted on working around camp while the beautiful ones maintained their skin.

Jeff, at the end of Tribal Council, seemed concerned that Morgan had had no clue she was on the way home. I personally think Yaxha did well. They sent Morgan home because she had no clue. With the tribes so evenly matched, they can't afford Morgan's "I'm here, and I'm pretty" approach.

Momentum Shift

This week, Nakum kicked Yaxha all over the playing field. That surprised me! But Nakum made a clean sweep, and the momentum is clearly on their side. If they manage another clean sweep next week, the momentum shift could become as overwhelming as between Drake and Morgan in Pearl Islands, and between Kuror and Ulong in Palau. If that were to happen, in the Mayan setting, I wouldn't be completely surprised to see Stephanie eliminated "for luck."

However, the tribes do seem to be evenly matched. If that's the case, where is the edge? The edge needs to be mental, either in strategy, or in attitude. Finding that edge, is the whole point of this essay!

Powerhouse Alliance

I'm looking at Gary, Lydia, and Stephanie.

Gary's keeping his professional career a secret. He has his reasons; he thinks it likely that resentment would send him home early. He's had decades of experience with peoples' reactions to his being an NFL quarterback. Right or wrong, he's basing that choice on direct experience.

Gary reminds me of Tom from Palau. Tom did do his "hey everybody, please don't vote me off even though you can" speech, and it worked. Gary retains the option of waiting for people to better know him and appreciate his value, come clean, and plead his case. Should he? I don't know! Either choice could send him home.

One thing that's needed during the competitions, is the ability to quickly make good strategic choices, and the ability to change tactics while the competition is in progress. Isn't that the sort of thing an NFL quarterback practices for a living? It seems to me that if Yaxha were to allow the real thing to quarterback their plays, they just might have that edge.

Richard Hatch, way back when, showed us a winning strategy. You simply vote off the other tribe one by one. Tom last season showed us an improvement on that strategy. Simply don't go to Tribal Council. Ever. Let the other tribe deal with that voting-off thing.

Thus, I do see a possible winning strategy for Yaxha. Allow Stephanie and Gary to form a powerhouse alliance. We have leadership, and a real quarterback to be quarterbacking the plays. Stephanie and Gary, of course, can be dumped any time by an alliance of six. But... what if Stephanie and Gary, as the powerhouse alliance, extend their protection to three of the more useless ones?

The useless ones, at this point, need that protection. They need to survive to the merge, at which point they become powerful. A voting bloc of five is unbreakable so long as it remains intact. Morgan's departure cleared the way for this sort of alliance... throw your loyalty in with the powerhouse lest you be next.

Morgan's departure forced the tribe to seriously consider each other, loyalties, value, and standing. Stephanie and Gary both know the importance of carrying useless ones into the merge. The fewer strong players remain, the better the chances of Stephanie and Gary dominating with individual immunity.

Nobody wants to be the leader, because the leader will be the next to go. Jim knew that threat last week. Last season, Ulong never had a leader, partly for that reason. Sarge, the season before, suffered the same fate.

Tom and Ian, however, did not. They stepped up, became the powerhouse, had their edge. Wouldn't it be interesting if Gary and Stephanie choose to take a similar route, preserving the entire tribe by protecting Lydia and a couple of useless ones?

As I said at the top, I can't tell the pretty boys and the beauty queens apart. But that doesn't really matter. The game is Survivor, and the players are in motion. With ten seasons behind us, we all know what's in the play book. Yet it remains fun to watch and see who wins!

Next Time, On Survivor - VikingBear's essays
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