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Okay, one other thing I want to hit here at the top before we get into the other odds and ends of the episode. Something seismic may have just happened on Survivor, ladies and gentlemen. No, I am not referring to the fact that we actually heard the name “Roark” uttered, but rather what was introduced with the advantage — or disadvantage, if you will.
We know Survivor has gone a little advantage crazy lately. We had three different advantages last season, and now two this season already in the first four episodes. I’m of two minds about this. I like having one advantage a season, but I think doing any more than that is overkill. I don’t want every Tribal Council to be a flurry of idols and advantages because as great and dramatic as those are, they lose their power and impact if you do it every single week. Plus, it adds too much chance and randomness — “Hey, I just happened to be assigned the right bag of chips!” — into the proceedings, which often comes at the expense of skill and solid gameplay. As a viewer, I still want to feel like the best players are being rewarded for their effort rather than being knocked out by a spate of random luck…although luck obviously plays a huge part in this game already with tribe swaps and what have you.
So I do think the show needs to tone it down a bit with the Advantagepalooza. Sometimes less can be more. However, producers did something extremely interesting here by making Devon think he was on the receiving end of a mystery advantage — only to reveal when he played it at Tribal Council that it was actually a disadvantage, and that he was blocked from voting. (Jessica chose to block him once the new Levu tribe lost the immunity challenge. Interesting how she did not choose to protect her fellow Healers Desi and Joe by blocking one of the Heroes since the most obvious scenario involved the two Heroes and Healers facing off with Devon as the swing vote. What if Devon had sided with the Healers instead and then Jessica nullified his vote? Whoops!)
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Anyway, the twist is what it is, with someone from one tribe once again impacting what happens at a Tribal Council for another. But let’s look deeper into how this could potentially play out moving forward with a sight tweak. I asked Jeff Probst about this, and you can see his full answer in our weekly Q&A, but the big point is this: Devon had to use the “advantage.” Even if he felt for some odd reason that there was something negative about it and so therefore did not stop Probst before voting to use it, he would have been informed that he had to. So there was no choice involved on his part. But what if there was?
Let’s say you are on season 37 of Survivor. We’ll call it Survivor: Liberals v. Moderates v. Conservatives. No, wait! Shoot, that’s season 38. Damn! Spoiler alert. I forgot, season 37 is actually Survivor: Jocks v. Jerks v. Jesuits. So your tribe loses the immunity challenge when Peyton — who is originally from the Jerks tribe, but he’s actually not so bad. Plus, he was All-State in basketball, so what’s that all about??? — freezes on the word puzzle that was supposed to spell out “A Date With Me at Tribal Council.” Bummer.
So you all lose, but on your way to Tribal, you find a note in your bag that says you have an advantage that can only be read and played once you get there. So here is my question to you: If you have the choice, and after seeing what happened to Devon, do you play it? With that, we could possibly be entering into a new era of Survivor. In the past, whenever you found or played something, it was to your benefit. But what the producers have done here — whether they even meant to or not — is opened up the possibility that there could now be disadvantages floating around. It’s like that covered mystery item at the Survivor food auction, only with much bigger stakes…as opposed to, you know, steaks.
Other shows have dabbled in this chicanery. Big Brother has had things like Pandora’s Box or that goofy Tree of Temptation where you had the opportunity to pick an apple that would have either an advantage or disadvantage in the game. Might we see that start to extend into Survivor as well? Is it Let’s Make a Deal time where the players will have to decide if they want to risk it and find out what’s behind door No. 2?
It certainly offers a potentially interesting twist. You have a power that could help you or hurt you. Do you go bold and take a chance by playing it, or do you play it safe and keep the wild card out of the game? The producers have an opportunity to try something out here in the future. And if it takes hold and becomes another Survivor standby, then you can pinpoint this moment with Devon as the time where it all changed.
Of course, Devon had no reason whatsoever to think there was the possibility that something bad would happen, so he went ahead and stopped Probst to use it. But now that this has happened, what does the next person do? That’s what interests me, and I’m curious to see if producers give someone else that choice, and what that someone does with it. A new era in Survivor twistery may have just dawned.
Okay, let’s get into the other notable things that went on this episode, starting on the next page.
(Recap continues on page 3)