‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’ Review: Bad Blood Is Exploited In the Intense ‘Odd Woman Out’
Recap and results of Survivor: Worlds Apart – Episode 6 – Odd Woman Out:
Far too many players on Survivor are felled by the decision to play with their heart instead of their heads. Hell, Woo Hwang essentially gave away a million dollars to Tony Vlachos on Survivor: Cagayan by taking him to the end on the principle of his moral code. But the triumph of this week’s Survivor: Worlds Apart is in how “Odd Woman Out” depicts a tribe of people willing to set bad blood aside in the name of good gameplay.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Sierra doesn’t still hate Dan, or that she sees herself going to the end with Mike and Joe. Rather, Sierra’s choice is one of lesser evils, as she essentially chose the devil she knows over the devil she can’t control. Because, realistically, she could neutralize Dan’s attitude by ignoring him and simply nodding her head to whatever it is he’s trying to sell her, but Rodney is downright volatile. He’s the sort of man who demands commitments, and feels a deep sense of betrayal when things don’t go his way. That’s a level of instability that can be dangerous for you, if a guy like Rodney is your ally. So I get Sierra’s decision to go with Mike, Joe and Dan in voting out Joaquin, in order to not only break up his partnership with Rodney, but also to eliminate a smooth, socially savvy player from the equation in favor of keeping around a divisive guy who can’t help but blow every alliance he’s made so far. In essence, “Odd Woman Out” paints Sierra as a remarkably sound strategist for recognizing the relative simplicity of her situation. Yes, the episode suggests that the choice between allying with Dan/Mike/Joe vs. aligning with Rodney/Joaquin/Tyler is a potentially million dollar decision, but I’m struggling to see how her choice wasn’t an obvious one from the get-go. On the one hand, maybe she would have had an easy time wrangling Rodney and keeping him in control. On the other hand, that would still put her in an alliance with Tyler and Joaquin, two guys with an established ability to make people like them. In fact, Tyler’s status as a social chameleon arguably makes him far more dangerous in the long run. I don’t see how Sierra had any other choice but to align with Mike’s alliance.
And yet, the circumstances of that decision were significant for a different reason. For one of the few times in Survivor history, throwing a challenge wasn’t a terrible idea. Truthfully, this was one of the only times where throwing a challenge actually proved to be a good idea. And it was RODNEY’S, of all people. Of course, Rodney’s motivations for throwing the challenge were centered on getting Joe out of the game, rationalizing that doing so would remove a potential threat from the equation. But Mike took Rodney’s idea and found a way to make it work to his advantage, realizing that by throwing the challenge, he keeps his ally Kelly safe over on the Nagarote tribe for another vote. Mike is savvy enough to understand that, as the only Blue Collar on that tribe, Kelly is likely an odd woman out, and could be on the chopping block if Nagarote finds itself back at tribal council. So the plan to throw the challenge allows Mike to get Kelly to the merge, at which point they can reunite with one another, while hopefully retaining the numbers by eliminating one of the No Collars (Joe) or White Collars (Tyler, Joaquin). It’s a genius move, since we could now see a whopping FIVE Blue Collars make it to the merge, which immediately puts them in a potential power position if Rodney can get over himself long enough to see the wisdom in what Mike was doing.
That said, for as smart as the challenge-throwing plan was, Mike’s attempts to throw the challenge were downright clumsy. It was a memory puzzle in which two people had to memorize a series of items and then run back to their station and arrange those items in the correct order before the other person. The problem here is that Mike is pitted against Kelly in the deciding match-up, and both are equally terrible. So terrible, in fact, that they have to go through three iterations of the challenge, with Mike discreetly helping Kelly to memorize each item. How none of the other castaways picked up on what Mike was doing is beyond me, but thankfully, Probst kept quiet about Mike’s attempts to help Kelly. If this had been a physical challenge (like a race or an obstacle course) and he noticed someone delivering such awful, purposely incompetent gameplay, he’d have been all over that in his challenge commentary. But he essentially protected the ruse that allowed for the best television, as Kelly finishes thanks to Mike’s help, and Mike is a good enough actor to seem genuinely crestfallen to have let his tribe down.
As a result, Mike has now been able to mitigate the damage Dan has caused in the relationship with Sierra (damage which he continues to cause tonight by telling her to “shut your mouth and open your ears” during the pre-tribal council pitch) by getting her to vote with them. He also prevented Joe from going over to the rival alliance by revealing that Rodney was planning to vote him out. Naturally, had Joe gone to Rodney with this information, I imagine Rodney would have exposed that Mike threw the challenge. But because Rodney and his group made no attempt to align with Joe, assuming that they had the numbers with Mike and Sierra on their side, he never gave Rodney the chance for a rebuttal. In this way, Mike essentially exploits the bad blood that’s existing all over the place, not only keeping Joe from wandering, but also keeping Sierra from flipping by rationalizing that, for as bad as Dan is, Rodney is demonstrably worse.
Ultimately, this made for a really exciting episode of Survivor: Worlds Apart, as “Odd Woman Out” resulted in the blindside of Joaquin, and the beginnings of a Rodney rampage. And even ignoring all of that, there were plenty of other fascinating tidbits that made this a fun episode, from the awesome reward challenge (in which the castaways launched sandbags at targets) to the reward itself (enjoying a feast and then watching the migration of mother turtles, in a heavy-handed allegory for the game of Survivor, since only one of her eggs is going to survive). The episode even managed to develop Shirin, explaining that she’s outlandish and talkative as a coping mechanism for having been an outcast all her life. It’s fairly poignant stuff, and sheds new light on why Shirin acts the way she does, suggesting that Sierra and Kelly are far from the only odd women out. This was top of the line Survivor, and this game is really heating up with the merge on the horizon. To say I’m excited would be an understatement. After several episodes of questionable gameplay, this was downright refreshing.