I’m going to start this week’s special Thanksgiving edition of the Survivor recap by giving myself a shout-out. It’s going to come off as kinda self-serving and gross, but maybe the fact that I recognize it is gross to give myself a shout-out makes it slightly better because it at least shows a modicum of self-awareness due to the fact that I am in full recognition of the grossness in which I am about to engage. Or, come to think of it, maybe it makes it that much worse because only a narcissistic a-hole would continue with the shout-out even while demonstrating a capacity to understand the aforementioned grossness. I can’t decide.
Anyway, there is a (slight, albeit tangential) point to all of this, which we’ll get to in a minute. But first, since Survivor can have its “Previously on…” segment, why can’t I? So here, ladies and gentlemen, to refresh our memories as to what I wrote last week after the Davids got Jon out, is our first ever “Previously on… Dalton’s Survivor recap.”
“If the alliances continue under opening tribal lines, can the Davids do it again even though they are still down 6-5? The answer is yes. In fact, if they want, the Davids are assured of controlling the next vote. How so? Through the following: First off, Nick uses his vote steal. That flips the advantage to the Davids at 6-5 their way. Then all the Davids put their vote on someone — let’s say Dan — and Carl uses his idol nullifier to nullify any idol played on Dan. Then Dan is guaranteed to go home. Episode over. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!”
That’s what I wrote last week. I point this out not to seem like an annoying know it all (or, in the case of Rob Cesternino and Stephen Fishbach, a perfectly pleasant and trademarked Know It All™), but rather to… actually, who am I kidding? I totally want credit for figuring out this exact scenario mere moments after the previous Tribal. But that’s not why I’m bringing this whole order of events at Trial Council up. Nor am I bringing it up to needlessly delay you from gorging on cranberry sauce and stuffing. Rather, I think it is possible that we may be seeing a fundamental change in the game happening before our very eyes. Allow me to explain.
IDIOT! NUMBSKULL! MORON! SON OF A MOTHERLESS GOAT! We’ve all yelled things at our TV before while watching Survivor. Regrettable things. Things of which we are not proud. Four out of five doctors agree that one of the leading causes of Survivoryellitis is when someone on TV finds an idol or advantage and then starts telling people about it. How many times have we seen this backfire over the years? Forget about over the years, how about over the weeks? Look at Dan. (Seriously, he wants you to look at him. He lost a lot of weight and now is just waiting to appear on some sort of “Hot S.W.A.T. Cops” calendar.) Anyway, Dan told the person he considered his strongest ally in the game in Kara about his two idols and then she went and used that information against him by telling the enemy.
The point is, you can’t trust anyone in this game. And even if you think you can trust them on day 3, how do you know you’ll be able to trust them on day 23 — after tribe swaps, and merges, and all number of other factors? Information is power in this game, so keep it to yourself. That is Survivor 101.
But is that changing? The only way the Davids pull off what they did the last two weeks was by sharing information and pooling their resources. While we didn’t see it on the show, we have to assume Davie told others he was using his idol last week, because otherwise, they would not have split the vote between John and Angelina.
Then, this week, every secret was shared. Nick told the Davids he had a steal-a-vote. Christian told the Davids he had an idol. Carl told the Davids he had an idol nullifier. Gabby started to tell the Davids something but then started crying instead. Anyway, everything was laid out on the proverbial table. It was the most brazen display of terrible Survivor strategy I have ever seen. And yet it made all the sense in the world. Only by working together and combining certain powers — and making sure everybody knew about them so they stayed strong as one unified voting bloc — could the Davids pull this off.
And yes, it was glorious to watch. Observing the transformation on Dan’s face from supreme satisfaction and confidence after playing his idol to learning about the Idol Nullifer played against him was akin to Bart Simpson putting Krusty the Clown’s Anniversary Special in slow motion to pinpoint the exact moment at which Lisa broke poor Ralph Wiggum’s heart on national television.
That’s not a diss on Dan. I took no particular satisfaction in watching his game be summarily destroyed due to a brand new twist he had no reason to even know existed. This facial transformation is electric no matter who the subject. However, as amazing as this moment was, I’m almost more focused on what it means for the future. Not the future of this season, but how the game gets played in season 39 or 43.
Not to channel my inner Hubicki, but has the calculus on how to win now changed? Survivor is a never-ending game of cat and mouse between producers and players. As soon as the contestants catch up to the way the game is being run and how to act and play accordingly, the producers add a new wrinkle. And now, by adding in different advantages which can be used in conjunction with each other — kind of like the two-part super idol in Kaoh Rong — the producers are almost encouraging contestants to share information, which goes counter to everything we have thought.
If the opportunity to pool resources is potentially there, do you still stay silent about whatever idol or advantage you may have? It’s an interesting question to consider, and one which future contestants will have to contend with moving forward. Once again, the game evolves.
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