She’s a fraud. A total, absolute, and complete fraud. That can be the only takeaway from tonight’s Survivor. She was billed as a human calculator — able to compute large numbers in a single bound (and on little sleep or food). On her Survivor bio, she listed as one of her Personal Claims to Fame that she “graduated from Penn (as a math major!) and MIT.” She analyzed contestants like data when deciding early on which Hero to align with. But it was all a show — a dance, if you will.
Because here is one math equation that Chrissy — and seemingly every other person still in the game— was unable to solve on the spot at the latest Tribal Council: What is 11 minus 1?
That’s it! No decimal points required. No carrying numbers. No long division. No remainders. No pi. Just 11 minus 1. Hell, anyone who learned the ol’ “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” song should be able to figure that out. You take one down, pass it around, and now what are you left with? (Speaking of which, if there truly are 99 bottles of beer on the wall, I never understood why everyone has to share the same bottle before they take another one down. Doesn’t seem very sanitary. Why not just take five bottles down at once so everybody gets their own? I guess they want to serve these bottles Survivor reward “Family Serving”-style to see how big a sip everyone takes out of the communal beer. Oh, and make sure to check the bottom of the bottle for a secret clue!)
Eleven minus one. That was the apparently unsolvable math riddle placed before contestants this week. A mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a question mark, and not even Chrissy could penetrate its many layers. Or could she? Because frankly, it seems bizarre to me that 11 people could be sitting there at Tribal Council, yet Jeff Probst read only 10 votes before proclaiming it a tie, and not a single person would say “Ummmm, where’s the last vote?” (It’s worth pointing out that Probst doesn’t always read all the votes since he stops reading once it is mathematically impossible for someone else to be eliminated, but in a tie situation, he clearly is reading all of them. So again, how could nobody notice that unaccounted-for vote?)
Of course, Lauren used the advantage she found this week to save her vote for a future Tribal Council (thereby giving her two), but by the way she was being so sneaky and stealthy (especially with tossing her parchment behind the table on her revote), we have to assume not everybody knew about it. And yet nobody said a word. Which means one of three things happened.
Thing No. 1: These people are not paying very close attention to what is going on
While I have no problem whatsoever believing that JP or Cole might not figure out the missing vote — because, well, you know — it seems highly unlikely that folks like Joe, Ryan, and Chrissy would not notice. When you are playing Survivor, you are constantly doing the math and crunching the numbers. Even as the votes are being read, you are counting down how many are left and the magic number you need to get someone out. It seems practically impossible that not a single person would notice a missing vote.
Thing No. 2: Everybody already knew about Lauren’s advantage
This also seems highly unlikely, because if they did, why would she take great pains up at the voting urn to hide what she was doing with that Doug Henning-esque sleight of hand. Now, yes, it is quite conceivable that Ben may have told one other person, like Chrissy, who then blabbed to Ryan, who then blabbed to Devon, who then blabbed to Mike, who then blabbed to Cole…you get the idea…and Lauren didn’t realize everybody knew, but I don’t buy that. It certainly is possible that a few other people found out about it, but not everybody.
Thing No. 3: Someone did say something and it was edited out
Tribal Council can go on for well over an hour, sometimes longer, so a lot of stuff gets cut out for time. But the stuff that gets cut is usually because it’s either super boring, relates to story lines that are not part of the episode being presented, or tips off for the audience who is going home. But the confusion and chaos over why there were only 10 votes for 11 people sounds like TV gold, is directly part of one of the biggest story lines of the week, and does not spoil anything. Let me channel my inner Vizzini from The Princess Bride when I say that it seems inconceivable that such a scene could not make the final cut.
So what the hell happened here? Was it cluelessness? Did everybody already know? Was something said that did not make the show? Or was it something else? I went to the Hostmaster General for answers, and you can read his full response in our weekly Q&A, but suffice it to say that Probst confirms that nobody said a word about it at Tribal Council. So we can take that third option off the board right now.
While we’re on the subject of the advantage, I may as well share my thoughts about it here. You all know my feelings on advantages: I like them. But I also think they are becoming way too frequent. Throwing one advantage into a season is a nice little potential monkey wrench, but this third advantage of the season was actually introduced last week in episode 7 (before being found this week by Lauren). That is at a rate of almost one advantage every two episodes. (Note: I asked Chrissy to calculate that for me.) I’m sorry, but I just think that is way too much. Considering we have also already had four hidden immunity idols found, that makes a combined total of seven idols and advantages introduced in eight episodes — a rate of almost one per week. (Thanks, Chrissy!)
I am a big fan of idols and advantages, and they almost always reap huge dramatic rewards (which is why producers keep going back to them). But when you unleash that many, you are also unleashing too much haphazard randomness and luck into the proceedings, which then, in turn, devalues strong gameplay. Yes, there is often skill to finding some idols, but look at how Lauren found this latest advantage: She wasn’t searching for it, she merely needed another nail and there it was. Does she thereby deserve to have extra help that may end up coming at the expense of a better player? Not really. Again, I have no problem with this happening on a limited basis, but lately it has been far from limited.
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So there’s my oft-repeated spiel on how idols and advantages need to be less of an every-episode occurrence (which has also diminished how special they truly are). But now let’s look at this specific advantage of Lauren being able to basically take a vote at this next Tribal Council and save it to cast at a later one. What do I think of that, independent of my feelings about the overabundance of advantages as a whole? I love it. Flat-out love it. I think it’s a really smart addition. That’s because it’s not just something for free. You have to lose something to gain something. You don’t just get an extra vote; you have to sacrifice your vote at what could be a pivotal Tribal to get it. That also then has the effect of encouraging more strategic thinking. Is it worth it? Do I risk not casting a key vote this time to gain power later? How do I go about making sure I’m covered now? Whom do I tell to make sure we covered on what we want to do here?
While I don’t like so many advantages coming into play, I really do like the direction the advantages have taken this season, forcing players to make difficult decisions instead of just handing them power with no strings attached. The two previous advantages were also contained to specific Tribal Councils, meaning they could not be hoarded, and thereby ensuring nobody else got Ciried. Also smart. So credit to the producers for also still finding inventive new ways to impact the game. Let’s just hope that they have the willpower to limit that impact. Okay, here’s the other important stuff worth breaking down from this episode. (Recap continues on page 2)