Survivor

‘Survivor: Second Chance’ Review: ‘A Snake In the Grass’ Highlights the Risk of Early Moves

Recap and review of Survivor: Second Chance – Episode 5 – A Snake In the Grass:

Survivor: Second Chance is getting into complicated territory as we get closer to the merge. In fact, the nearness of the merge is causing otherwise intelligent players to make rookie mistakes. “A Snake In the Grass” highlights the risk of playing a post-merge game when you’re still in the pre-merge portion of the game.

This is never more evident than in the case of Monica, who was voted out tonight after a dramatic tribal council that was far less surprising than Monica’s shocked reaction to the blindside would have us believe, considering the moves that she made. On Bayon, Monica had a pretty good thing going. She was part of a strong alliance with Jeremy, Stephen and Kimmi, and a pair of easy vote-out options between outsiders Spencer and Wiglesworth. And yet, Monica gets ahead of herself by thinking ahead to the merge. The dominoes start to fall early in the episode, when she runs afoul of Kimmi after suggesting that maybe they shouldn’t fish all of the aquatic life in the ocean into extinction, since they might not have any fish left for later in the game. Never mind the absurdity of the notion that they’ll somehow deplete the entire freaking ocean, Monica goes wrong by creating an unnecessary amount of internal discord within her otherwise harmonious alliance. And yet, this isn’t even where her game starts to suffer, not really. Where her game starts going down the tubes is after they lose the immunity challenge. The two names being thrown out for elimination are Spencer and Wiglesworth, with Wiglesworth as the frontrunner to get voted out, since she allegedly has a countless number of connections on the other tribes. It’s an easy call and an easy vote, but Monica is trying to see a bigger picture than the short-term painting her tribemates are trying to construct. She pulls Kimmi aside and suggests that perhaps it’s best to vote Spencer, rationalizing that it’d be smarter to keep the female numbers up.

Survivor Second Chance - Recap and Review - Episode 5 - A Snake In the Grass

Credit: CBS

Basically, the genders are even now, but Monica argues that if they could find a way to dump Spencer, the women would have the majority. The “female alliance” has always been a difficult one for past players to accomplish, and even the ones who have, such as the post-merge tribe in Survivor: Vanuatu, prove incapable of keeping such a tenuous alliance together. And I’m not exactly sure why, honestly. Men can form “bro” alliances without much of a problem, and alliances of singular age groups are also capable of forming and maintaining bonds, whether it’s an all-youth group or an all-mature group. Yet it’s the female alliance that has trouble thriving, and the only reason I can imagine for why that would be is that it’s troublesome putting together that many analytical minds. Women seem more keen to play a subtle game, biding time and letting other alliances implode. But when you take that many people trying to play a similar game, and put them all in the same alliance, it’s inevitably going to cause turmoil, because it’s hard enough to successfully play the Sandra Diaz-Twine “anybody but me” game or the Sophie Clarke “under the radar/secret shot-caller” game without everyone else in your alliance trying to play it too.

'Survivor Second Chance' Review 'A Snake In the Grass' Highlights the Risk of Early Moves

Credit: CBS

And so it is with Monica here. She appeals to Kimmi’s sense of loyalty to imply that a female bond is the way to go. But Kimmi is far more analytical, failing to see the value in looking ahead to the merge when 1) the game is still very much a tribal one right now, and 2) there’s no telling when, exactly, the merge will come. Sometimes it’s at 12. Sometimes at 10. Other times, it’s happened even later than that. So it doesn’t really make sense to rock the boat and potentially weaken their tribe just to keep Wiglesworth, who’s likely to flip the minute she gets to the merge anyway. I was really rooting for Monica, going into this, but I don’t know how she could have thought that proposing an all-girls alliance this early would end any other way than how it did, with her head suddenly on the chopping block. By the time tribal council rolls around, it’s all too obvious that Monica is going home. When the votes finally come in, Monica is blindsided, but it’s hard to argue that Bayon didn’t make the right call. Sure, Wiglesworth could be dangerous if she makes it to the merge, but Monica has already shown a willingness to bail on her allies sooner than was necessary. So I get why they made this decision. I still think Wiglesworth needs to be neutralized sooner rather than later for Jeremy’s alliance, but for now, this call makes sense.

In other happenings, Abi-Maria is still a hot mess of an ally. She’s got her sights set on Woo, since she’s still pretty bitter about him having written her name down twice. But she goes a bit further with her vindictiveness this time, complaining to Tasha about how Woo is using the story of his mother’s heart transplant to gain sympathy from the other Angkor members. And maybe she’s right, although I sincerely doubt Woo is that calculating. But even if she is right, her approach is entirely wrong, in that she lacks any sort of sympathy in her approach to Tasha. Instead of saying, “Hey, I know Woo has been through a lot, but let’s maybe not go all-in with Woo just yet, since we don’t know his motivations,” she instead whines about how her grandmother went through the same thing but didn’t have the same luck. She also talks about losing her aunt and having a tendon transplant. Instead of turning it into an opportunity to discuss strategy, she turns it into a contest to see who has the sadder life story. It’s no surprise that Tasha ends up arguing, in a confessional, about how much easier Woo is to get along with than Abi. This edit seemed to be setting up yet another immunity loss for Angkor, but that ended up not being the case at all, as the tribe wins their first immunity challenge in the Slingshot competition (thanks in part to Stephen accidentally hitting an Angkor target and giving them the boost they needed to take the lead). In short, Woo is more valuable as part of the tribe portion of the game, whereas Abi is at her most valuable as a “goat” to take to the end, provided her erratic attitude doesn’t prompt her to flip too soon.

Survivor Second Chance - Episode 5 - Recap and Review - A Snake In the Grass

Credit: CBS

That’s part of the worry facing the Ta Keo tribe. They win a comfort reward (as if the tribe with a million hammocks somehow needs more hammocks), and in the celebration back at camp, while Terry is away, Ciera makes a final five deal with Kelley, Joe, Keith and Kass. Joe and Keith are thankful to finally be in a position where they have the numbers, but this all feels like a bit of a misdirect, if for no other reason than that a tribe swap has to be forthcoming, if not the merge itself. And it’ll be hard to keep these respective alliances intact when this solid five must once again interact with their old allies on other tribes. This could be a great move for Ciera and the non-Terry members of Ta Keo, or it could spell a lot of heartache and hurt feelings once the game really opens up at the merge. Either way, it’ll make for damn good television.

“A Snake In the Grass” is prime Survivor, illustrating the risks of not playing in the moment and for the moment. Looking ahead too far when you’re still in the tribal portion of the game can be dangerous, and Monica’s ouster exemplifies why. Survivor: Second Chance is really ramping up, and I can’t wait to see how these shifting alliances stand strong or fall apart.

But what did you think of Survivor: Second Chance, “A Snake In the Grass”? Sound off in the comments!

And for more Survivor insight, read our analysis of the big moves in last week’s episode!

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