‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’ Review: ‘Keep It Real’ Explores Why Lousy Players Thrive

Recap and review of Survivor: Worlds Apart – Episode 8 – Keep It Real:

Survivor: Worlds Apart has a pretty strong narrative going, at the moment. It’s Mike’s alliance vs. Joe’s alliance, with Rodney as a wildcard in the middle. “Keep It Real” is an episode that draws on the volatility of this conflict. Sure, the respective alliances are sticking together now, but in Survivor, it’s virtually impossible to keep cracks from forming.

Both major alliances had some major pluses in their favor. For one, Joe won a reward challenge and smartly decided to take along people he might be able to woo to his side. That meant Carolyn and Tyler (and Shirin, just because she’s an adorable super-fan). However, when Joe tries to sneak away the hint to the hidden immunity idol, Tyler spots him, and he’s forced to share the clue back at camp. Unfortunately, Mike sees them sharing the clue, and comes up with a pretty savvy plan: announce to the camp that Joe has found the idol. No one will believe Joe when he says he doesn’t have it, and it’ll keep anyone else from looking as well. It’s a plan that pays off, as Mike finds the hidden immunity idol, while Joe is essentially left in a position where he can’t confess he doesn’t have it without becoming a major target. Of course, this plan would have worked WAY better for Mike if Joe didn’t go on to win Immunity for the second straight week. Suddenly, the Blue Collars become introspective, as they look inward at their own alliance to see if there might not be better options. And this is where business picks up considerably, as everyone from Hali to Dan and even Mike himself are brought up as potential targets for the vote.

Survivor Worlds Apart Joe wins reward

Credit: CBS

Here’s the thing: I can see the wisdom in the proposed girl alliance, especially since Mike is clearly running the show. Hell, even Rodney seems to be on the right track when he pulls Will aside at the start of the episode and says that Mike is someone who needs to go sooner rather than later. Basically, everyone is using their strategic brains when it comes to planning out a potential blindside against Mike. And yet, I can see the wisdom in why they ultimately don’t go through with it. For one, it’s unlikely they’d ever get the necessary votes to make it happen. At the very least, it would take Hali, Jenn, Sierra and Shirin allying with Will and Rodney to make it happen, and those are two separate alliances that likely aren’t going to talk with one another about a move of that magnitude. So, since neither side speaks to the other, neither side ever realizes they’re both on the same page, where Mike is concerned. The second reason the plan doesn’t work is because the girls decide that it might actually be wiser to target Dan. It’s their one chance to neutralize another power couple, as Shirin classifies this game as “The Dan and Mike Show”. And she’s not too far off, considering how much screentime Dan gets here.

'Survivor Worlds Apart' Review 'Keep It Real' Explores Why Lousy Players Thrive

Credit: CBS

Dan insults Shirin by declaring she is “yet another fan who can’t do basic math,” telling her that she’s basically an idiot for siding against the numbers once the merge came. Shirin showed far more poise than I probably would have shown in that situation, considering that the obvious reply is to call Dan “yet another fan who doesn’t realize that being on the right side of the numbers doesn’t mean he’s actually doing well.” I mean, he does realize that if he gets to the end, he isn’t winning this, right? I guess he could try and twist it around and say that he got there because of his amazing gameplay, and that the jury is just jealous of how well he played. But he has to realize that getting zero votes at the end means you played a lousy game of Survivor. Getting there counts for something, sure, but you’re not a great player if you get there and fail to get anyone to vote for you. By definition, this game is getting people to give you a million dollars after you’ve put them out of the game. But Dan hasn’t finessed a single person in this game. He might as well be flipping them off as they go to get their torch snuffed. For a superfan, it really seems like he’s never seen this game before, otherwise he’d know not to be such a massive s**t-muffin to everyone he’s about to put on the jury.

Survivor Worlds Apart Dan vs Shirin

Credit: CBS

It all comes down to tribal council, as Dan gets four votes, but Hali gets the rest. Hali is stunned to be voted out, although if there’s any comfort, it’s that she’s the first member of the jury. It’s unfair to see a misogynist like Dan continue to persevere, but that’s often how this game works. When I said I could see the wisdom in why this blindside didn’t happen, it’s because I can see how some of the people in the game are already setting their sights towards the end. Despite all the talk of the girls alliance, Sierra sticks with the Blue Collars anyway, and it makes sense. How does she not win a million dollars if she’s sitting at the end with Rodney and Dan? I mean, it’d be unanimous. Hell, she’d get votes from people who aren’t even on the jury, and never even played with her. All that would have to happen is a well-timed Mike blindside, and a similarly well-timed immunity win that would allow her to choose whom to take to Final Tribal Council. I mean, really, it doesn’t even have to be Sierra. It could be anyone other than Rodney or Dan. It could be Mike, Carolyn, Tyler, Joe, Jenn, Shirin, maybe even Will (okay, probably not Will). Those guys are toxic, so if they’re being kept around, it’s likely because everyone in their alliance recognizes their value as goats at the end of this game, along with their value as alliance numbers at the moment. I’d love to see Rodney and Dan get blindsided, and I’d break out the cardboard for a breakdance if it happened, but I can see why it hasn’t yet. Lousy players thrive in this game, because they won’t get votes at the end of it. As loathsome as it is to see Rodney and Dan stick around each week, it’s the right move from a strategic standpoint.

That is, unless Rodney goes rogue. He’s being built up as the wildcard of this season, and if he upsets the balance Mike and co. have established, we could end up looking at a very different game in a few weeks’ time. This is a season brimming with potential still: even though Joe’s allies are being picked off one-by-one, there’s no guarantee that the tables might not still turn on the Blue Collars. And that’s an exciting prospect, because the game is very much in flux at the moment. “Keep It Real” may not be the most satisfying episode of the season, but it maintains the “Anything can happen” feel of the season. If this keeps up, Survivor: Worlds Apart could be one for the ages. For better or worse, I’m keeping optimistic.

If you missed the episode, check it out on CBS All-Access!

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