What happens when two Survivors play and the others coast

Often at this point in Survivor, there has been a kind of slump as a dominant alliance picks off the smaller alliance. The producers and editors work their magic to keep us interested, but the result is still the same. That very nearly could have happened this season, but it hasn’t, thanks to two players who keep playing hard.

Everything you needed to know about all the tribe members’ game play was on display at the auction. Auctions are always fun, and this was no exception, such as the saxophone/porn music that played while Woo devoured ribs with the assistance of sound effects.

However, the auction was very different this time: Spencer, Tasha, and Tony stayed out, waiting to buy the predictable advantage. That created a buyers’ market where all of the other members of Tony’s alliance could buy food for basically nothing. Trish, her mouth full, asked, “What are you guys waitin’ for?” Then she spent $60 on rice and water.

Spencer and Tasha’s rationale for waiting was clear, but Tony’s was not as obvious. But that’s why I like Tony: he’s playing, and hard. He’s in a dominant alliance, holds an insanely powerful immunity idol, and doesn’t seem to be immediately threatened. Yet while his alliance gorged themselves, he waited for an advantage, ostensibly to prevent Spencer or Tasha from getting it, but also to get it for himself.

When Executive Producer and Showrunner Jeff Probst realized this, he called them out on it, and then invented a new auction rule that $500 bids for an advantage simply bought a chance to win it. (Executive Producer and Showrunner Jeff Probst is no dummy, and he and his team obviously knew what was happening and decided to make it more interesting.) Tony’s streak of good luck continued as Spencer drew the losing rock, giving Tony yet another immunity idol.

Back at camp, Tony’s alliance lounged in the water while he took advantage of his advantage, which was actually an immunity idol clue. (Actually, we should really stop calling them “clues” because really, they’re actually just directions to locate the idol.) He found it, of course, his third of the game, meaning he now has two idols, one of which no one knows about.

Kass, who I really liked early in the game, is playing the opposite of Tony. She’s gotten complacent. “I think I’ve done enough,” she said about just buying food at the auction. Really? That’s doing enough in a game that can shift at any second? Also, that complacency and/or bitterness at her former alliance mate has led to uglier comments–this week, she said something incredibly sexist about how all college-aged guys are the most selfish people. That’s an unfair stereotype; besides, everyone knows that they’re just the most horny people.

Meanwhile, Spencer accurately identified Tony’s Achilles’ heel, the thing that the editors have been teasing us with all season: “Tony’s willing to play hard but not always well. And that’s great in this game, because if I can get someone in power to make mistake and go ballistic, then I’m still here and anyone could be going home.”

He used the image of the women sitting in the water together, lounging and giving directions to the men, to make Tony paranoid about a women’s alliance. Jefra was an easy target, having targeted Tony earlier and being relatively useless around camp. Woo’s game appears to be to do whatever Tony says, so he was on board, as were Spencer and Tasha, and once again, we had a blindside.

Note, however, that while Spencer’s game is good, he is also impulsive. His search for the all-powerful-WTF idol also got Tony paranoid (“Spencer is lethal out here”), and Spencer was too quick to take the Probst producer-bait at Tribal Council, talking about chaos and how that would help him.

I don’t want to dismiss Tasha, who’s now an immunity challenge bad-ass, winning easily this week, though apparently because she had the assistance of Jesus. But her unwillingness to jump in to the chance for the advantage at the auction shows that she’s being overly cautious.

Although Tony is nearly single-handedly powering the season right now, the preview suggests his erratic game play may finally have consequences–except probably not really at all because Tony holds a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of that freakin’ damn stupid idol.

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Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.