Recap and review of Survivor: Caramoan – Episode 11 – Come Over to the Dark Side:
Well, that made last week’s big move pointless. Granted, Survivor: Caramoan has been a season that’s thrived on big moves, regardless of whether or not they actually panned out for the people who made them. I’m sure, in retrospect, Malcolm would have planned the use of his idols last week a little better. What had seemed, at the time, like a pretty genius bit of strategic play now seems like the ultimate dud, despite the fact that it made some excellent television. Okay, “ultimate dud” is maybe a bit much, as it did buy the Three Amigos another three days in the game as a three-man unit, but it was a short-term move that did nothing for the long-term implications of their game. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the plan could have been best salvaged: maybe Malcolm would have been better served by not announcing his alliance was planning to vote for Phillip? That way, Stealth R Us would have had to guess which castaway the group was going to vote for, causing that alliance to spread its votes out in a somewhat random pattern, as opposed to staying the course. In this scenario, Malcolm doesn’t even have to play the idols, since the threat of the idols would have been enough. But boldly announcing that they would be voting for Phillip meant that Stealth R Us could account, with certainty, for where The Three Amigos’ votes were going, which encouraged them to stay the course with their original voting plans on the off-chance that Malcolm and Eddie didn’t play their idols. This would have the short-term effect of dooming Phillip’s game, but the much longer-term effect of burning off the hidden immunity idols, as Malcolm and Eddie now had no other choice but to play them. This is all a very roundabout way of saying that, at the very least, Malcolm should have revealed both hidden immunity idols before tribal last week.
But hey, it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback after a trio of tribal councils as hotly-contested as the last three. As the game stands now, Malcolm should be proud of how he played, as he’s a player who truly did everything within reason to stay in the game, where lesser players would have resigned themselves to their fate. And really, I can’t think of much more he could have done, short of winning immunity, buying the immunity challenge clue at the Survivor auction, or continuing to look for the idol anyway, even with Andrea following him everywhere. This latter point is one of the more interesting points of the episode, as Andrea’s paranoia has heightened to the point where she’s actively preventing others from getting a leg up in the game, because she knows it’ll be her head on the chopping block. Nevermind the fact that, if Malcolm played the idol, there would still be enough votes to where they could get out either Eddie or Reynold. The success of The Three Amigos’ plan hinged not on hidden immunity idols, but on one of the six remaining Stealth R Us alliance members flipping.
Erik and Sherri have taken a backseat for much of the season, yet here, they’re riding shotgun. Erik realizes that he sits in a position of immense power, as he recognizes that he’s the swing vote between The Three Amigos and Sherri, and the remaining members of Stealth R Us. Meanwhile, Sherri pledges her vote to Malcolm and the Three Amigos, playing both sides in the same way that Erik has been. So we essentially have Erik and Sherri, both believing themselves to be the swing vote, pledging their commitment to the two disparate alliances. The fact that The Three Amigos only needed one of them to flip is exciting. The fact that, ultimately, neither of them do is disappointing. Of course, it’s only disappointing from a dramatic standpoint, but it was absolutely the right call in terms of strategy. The Three Amigos really didn’t have much of anything to offer a prospective swing voter. In essence, anyone who abandoned Stealth R Us for The Three Amigos would have been joining up with an alliance of three of the biggest challenge threats in the competition. Say what you will about how that’s invalidated by Cochran’s second individual immunity win (which is glorious. Seriously, Team Cochran, all the way), but it’s extremely unlikely he would have won that challenge if he hadn’t bought an advantage at the Survivor auction.
And what an auction it was. Dawn and Sherri spend $500 (their entire allowance) on food, only to crumble into tears when one of the last items up for bid is a letter from home, which costs only $20 to those who want theirs. Since Probst declared that sharing money was prohibited, Dawn, Sherri and Malcolm were out of luck. For Brenda, it was money badly-spent, as she bid on a mystery item that ended up being a plate of pig brains, after spending half the auction remaining tight-fisted with her dollars. Malcolm, meanwhile, spent his money a clue to help him in the game, which turned out to be directions to a hidden immunity idol buried somewhere at camp. Though the clue is relatively specific, Malcolm is only given sixty seconds, in private, to look at it. Ultimately, the clue doesn’t really help him all that much. And even if it had, Andrea makes it a point to follow Malcolm around everywhere he goes, leading to an amusing scene where they have a standoff all-morning, with Malcolm refusing to go searching while Andrea is watching him, and Andrea refusing to let Malcolm out of her sight until he comes back to camp with her. Had I been Malcolm, I probably would have just gone searching anyway, since his plan ultimately involved making Stealth R Us believe that he had an idol anyway. The only downside I could think of is that Andrea confirming that Malcolm had an idol would mean that they wouldn’t split the votes, and one of The Three Amigos would go home on a straight vote. I also suppose a second downside would be that Andrea would get wise to where Malcolm was searching and start looking too. If she found the idol first, that could spell disaster, though I’d argue things couldn’t have gone any worse for him anyway. That said, I do enjoy Malcolm acknowledging the cruel irony of having found so many idols without clues, yet proving incapable of finding the one idol for which he actually has a clue.
After Cochran wins an endurance challenge to claim individual immunity, by holding onto a notched-rope longer than anyone else, thanks to the two-notch advantage he bought at the auction, The Three Amigos get to scrambling. They secure the allegiance of Erik and Sherri. Or, at least, they think they do. But tribal council results in a harsh reality check, as a three-way tie results: three votes for Malcolm, three votes for Andrea and three votes for Reynold. On the re-vote, neither Malcolm, Andrea nor Reynold can vote, meaning that Erik or Sherri flipping on the revote wouldn’t have mattered, since two of The Three Amigos were ineligible to vote. And even if they had been, the voting results during the credits showed that Eddie, of all people, actually voted for Malcolm on the revote! (Granted, a vote for anyone else would have been wasted anyway, but it’s still interesting that Eddie didn’t at least show solidarity in going down with the ship, even while I understand why he didn’t. No sense in fighting against something you can’t stop) Malcolm gets his torch snuffed, and thus ends one of the most entertaining runs on Survivor in a while. I’d be shocked if Malcolm’s performance here hasn’t clinched him a third season somewhere down the line.
“Come Over to the Dark Side” furthers the reputation of this season as one of the most exciting in years. As we get closer to the point where the majority six-person alliance must start cannibalizing itself in earnest, the series gets incrementally more exciting. This has the potential to be one of the most explosive endgames in the history of the show, if the aura of distrust and paranoia takes root, in lieu of clear-headed, strategically-sound gameplay.
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