It can’t just be me. I can’t be the only one who had one thought and one thought only racing through my head as Probst announced that teams would be using slingshots to launch sandbags at five targets in the reward challenge. It wasn’t a thought so much as a vision. Ugh, I wish I could somehow transport that vision from my brain to the page so you could enjoy it with me. Oh, wait, I can!
Ah, Fishbach. The gift that just keeps on giving. Unfortunately, nobody hit the wrong target this time, but it was interesting watching the two different strategies. The red team (consisting of Ashley, Ben, Lauren, Sex Doctor, and Desi) went with a standard approach: Everyone who went through the obstacle course then fired on the slingshot until they hit something. The blue team (with JP, Chrissy, Ryan, Devon, and Cole) had another strategy entirely.
The rules stipulated that everyone had to run the course and shoot at (but not hit) the targets at least once. Also, after you hit one, you had to sub out for someone else. So the blue team had their first two players — Ryan and Chrissy — each only take one shot and then they were done. Cole also only shot a few times and he left. So that meant it was all JP and Devon — who ended up going tag-team back-and-forth style. When Ashley took forever to hit her target for red, blue took the lead and eventually won. A smart strategic play on their part, and a smart rule by the producers to allow for strategic thinking to enter what was otherwise a simple physical skills competition. And the interesting choices were only beginning.
Food for Thought
The winners of the reward got to enjoy a spaghetti dinner with bread, salad, and wine on a private island. (Yo, where’s the Olive Garden sponsorship? Are they not quite up to Outback Steakhouse™ standards? I was so looking forward to Sex Doctor waxing poetic on the succulent Meatball Stuffed Pizza Fritta®.) Ah, but it was not that simple. The food would be served family style, but everyone would eat individually in private in a specific order. And that order would be set by Joe “The Mena Event” Mena, because he had pulled the white rock giving him a FastPass (without competing) to the reward.
So you have two interesting things at play here. First off, how would Joe set the order that people would eat? Would he put himself and Cole at the start so they could down all the food (or just bury what they didn’t want and say they ate it) to keep themselves strong and their opponents weak? Or would Joe play more political and put himself last? Essentially, he had to choose whether to play a physical or social game — and Joe chose the latter.
While I tend to think that is generally the right move, there was another factor to consider. With an idol having just been played, that meant that a new idol was out there somewhere, and a clue to that idol was likely hidden somewhere at the feast. So while clearly the right social move was for Joe to put himself last (especially because he didn’t even compete), there is definitely an argument to be made that Joe may have been better off putting himself first to locate the clue.
After all, the opposition don’t appear to be Joe fans anyway, so why not just keep going strong, get the idol, turn the tables later, and hope they respect you for your all-out gameplay if you end up in the final three? There is certainly a case to be made that the idol approach may have served Joe better than trying to win friends (in vain).
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Speaking of that idol clue, it was indeed at the spaghetti feast, on the plate itself under all the pasta. Birthday boy Devon went first and didn’t really eat enough to see it. JP did eat enough to see, but he’s JP so it wasn’t like he was going to figure it out. Then it was Cole’s turn. After telling us how he was going to “eat as much as I want,” Cole found the clue on the plate. I’ll give Cole some points for putting the apron over the plate to cover the clue, but DUDE! GET RID OF THE PLATE!!!
This seemed so obvious to me. Suffice it to say it was not obvious to Cole. And then, surprisingly, Chrissy found the clue and also left the plate, even saying she did so because she wanted Ryan to find it. Why not just ditch the plate and tell Ryan about the clue, ensuring that Joe doesn’t also get a peek? I don’t understand her logic here, unless she was just trying to justify after the fact why she left the plate, which, now that I think about it, is probably a lot more likely.
This happens a lot on Survivor. Think about it: Contestants in those interviews are usually describing after the fact what they did and why they did it, but they can tweak and shift that narrative depending on what else happened in between the action that took place and the interview. Did Chrissy really leave the plate there so Ryan could see it — which makes no sense for the reasons outlined above — or did she realize after the fact that was not the smart play so just threw in that line in an attempt to explain her lapse in judgment?
Fortunately, Ryan restored sanity to the proceedings, burying the plate so The Mena Event would not learn the whereabouts of the new idol. But not unlike Frank Stallone, the idol drama was far from over. I’ve also chosen to do the right thing and gloss over the fact that the show edited together a montage that implied Devon was basically having super orgasmic sex with his pasta. (Maybe he thought it was Olive Garden and he was contractually obligated to do so?)
(Recap continues on page 3)