The Eyes: Treacherous Travels

If anyone found themselves bored during the one-hour premiere of Guatemala last week should seriously go find themselves a different show to occupy their time with.

The premiere was a tantalizing piece of evidence that Survivor does indeed still “have it.” I am consistently impressed, no matter how much I love the show, that it does so well after so long. Most other reality shows have long since fizzled out, but here we are on season 11 with a premiere that was shocking, entertaining, and everything that encompasses Survivor.

We had the toughest challenge for the castaways in Survivor history, and by a very wide margin. While they can only show so much of the 11-hour trek in an hour-long show (what happened to hour and a half premieres?), those of us sitting on our couches at home were able to get a small glimpse of what the aftereffects were.

Personally, I found the scene of Bobby Jon laying on the ground with his eyes rolling back into his head very creepy and chilling. Then you have Blake, one of the strongest males on the Nakum tribe, keeling over in agony over the shoulder injury he got in the jungle.

The thing that was the most shocking was how almost all of the strong guys on Nakum suffered so much, but the four women of Nakum were mostly fine. Just another example of female strength and capability in this game, a la Amazon.

So, anyway, I thought I’d break down the premiere for you into the major elements it brought forward.

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THE TWIST

Okay, why not? Let’s start with one of the most hot-button issues: was it fair to bring Stephenie and Bobby Jon back into the game for Guatemala? And if any of you know my position on Survivor strategy, then you know my answer.

The concept of “fair” has no business in this game. Jeff Probst says every season in his opening montra: “They must learn to adapt, or they will be voted out of the tribe.” Twists are the monkey-wrenches in the whole idea of adaptation, meaning that they are obstacles that the castaways must adapt themselves to, like it or not. And, naturally, a twist can make it harder to adapt.

Personally, I love the concept of this twist. Jeff made it quite clear what the position was. He said that each tribe would be given an addition “tool” to aid them, and they were free to use it anyway they wanted to. Once again, it establishes the issue of CHOICE, which is something that Mark Burnett always loves to throw in there, and something I find particularly intriguing when looking at the grand scheme of how this very social game plays out. What choices are the players presented with, how do they handle it, and how do their decisions affect their future? As I said, Jeff made the stance on this very clear from the beginning. Stephenie and Bobby Jon were tools, as their experience might very well come in handy with the rigors of this game. However, they are also contenders for the million bucks just like you, and they could easily be used as an easy first boot.

We don’t know yet exactly how Yahxa may approach their choice right away because they won Immunity. However, it became clear at this season’s inaugural Tribal Council that Bobby Jon was a full member of the tribe, because Jim was ousted in his place.

So, in summary, I am very intrigued with the concept of this twist, because I am looking forward to seeing how the choices made by each tribe will affect them politically in the future. Also, Stephenie is my second-favorite Survivor of all time, after Kathy, naturally, and I am thrilled to see her back in the game again!

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THE HIKE

Again, an awesome start to this season. Extremely difficult and hell for the Survivors, but as a viewer and analyst of Survivor and the strategies it holds and employs, I was very pleased with the start of this season. First, tell the tribes they have these two additional “tools” of experience to do with as they please, and then say “Now you’re going to compete for the better camp and flint.” Raise the stakes right away, and make them realize this is no joke. As I alluded to earlier, it also helps bring about the truth as to who is ready for this challenge. In that regard, I believe Nakum should have voted out Bobby Jon or Blake ahead of Jim, but that is a moot point, really. I mentioned earlier the performance of the Nakum women. Impressive.

What this hike ultimately ended up doing is dooming players who could have gone farther without it (Blake and Bobby Jon as the primary examples) and elevating the status of players who may otherwise have been underestimated and undervalued and voted off earlier than they probably should be (Margaret).

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THE BOOT

One issue I have seen spark up in various places is whether or not Jim deserved to be dubbed the first person voted out of Guatemala, and I thought I’d take a minute out to address that here.

My position is always that if you get voted out, you deserve to get voted out because for whatever reasons, you failed to see it coming, you did not try to change your fate, or a combination of things.

However, there is an interesting point to debate that the opposition to my belief brings up, and I think it is a valid enough point to bring to the table. The question of the opposition is as follows: “Was Jim voted out unfairly just because of his age?” The argument here is that you had Blake and Bobby Jon, who were supposed to be two of the strongest on the tribe, and they are worse off than Jim is, and while he can offer more to the tribe than they probably can, he was voted off anyway.

It’s an interesting debate, and I do not agree with the opposition’s argument. I already stated that there is no question of fairness in this game. I also believe that even with his arm in a sling, there are some things that Jim did wrong and/or could have done differently.

History has shown that sometimes younger tribes toss out the older ones. From a strategic standpoint, Jim should have realized that at 63, he was far older than anyone else, and that, despite his credentials and leadership abilities, he had a target on his back. And yes, at Tribal Council he was injured, but I am curious as to the answers for two things: 1) Why didn’t Jim try to save himself by pointing out Bobby Jon’s problems? Bobby Jon had a very poor performance this week. To me, it seems as if it would be far too easy to try and manipulate that, along with pointing out that he already had a shot at the game. I wonder why that question was never raised. 2) Jim cast a seemingly throwaway vote for Margaret. What strategic value to himself could this have possibly held, especially seeing the value to the tribe she demonstrated during their first three days in Guatemala?

So, I do believe Jim deserved to be voted out first. While I always hope the older ones do well, and I felt really bad for him that he was cut adrift so soon, he still did deserve to have his torch snuffed because he simply failed to play the strategic game. The arm really had nothing to do with it, because even with the arm, Bobby Jon and Blake are still worse off. The sad fact is that in a tribe full of younger people, he had a huge target on his back, and rather than try to manipulate Bobby Jon’s standing or form any kind of alliance, he just seemed to rely on his leadership abilities through the hike.

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Well, because of the hike, the challenge, Tribal Council, and the return of Stephenie and Bobby Jon all being crammed into an hour, it left very little room for us to really get to know a lot of the new players. I did, however, gather just a few facets of information from watching that might be important.

On Nakum, Margaret seems to be the best contender for a leadership position. As Jim’s ouster showed, this seems to be a tribe that will indeed value youth more than anything, as I predicted last week. However, I believe I can see Margaret filling Deena’s shoes; you will remember that in the Amazon, the female tribe was split down between the younger girls and the older girls, and even though Deena was one of the older girls, she served as the leader and a sort of bridge. I definitely see Margaret filling those shoes here in Nakum. The two on Nakum that are in the most trouble this week are Bobby Jon and Blake. Since we saw Blake suffering in the previews, I think it is reasonable to deduce that he will not be eliminated this week because Mark Burnett always likes to play tricks with editing. So, I think that if Nakum goes to Tribal Council, Bobby Jon will be voted off.

In Yaxha, I see Lydia and Amy as the first two potential targets, just as I did last week. They were lagging behind in the hike, and that may be foreshadowing of future performances. She seems like such a nice lady, but Jim was an awful nice guy, and I see Lydia as the first boot from Yaxha. Gary “Hawkins” has filled the leadership position, watch him to see how he is perceived by the rest of the tribe. Rafe did not fail to point out that Gary could be in a vulnerable position, but whether he is or not remains to be seen. What I am mostly interested in right now is how accepting they will be of Stephenie when it comes time for their first Tribal Council. The girls were thrilled to see her, especially, but I look forward to seeing whether or not that joy maintains itself when it comes time to cast ballots.

I do not see this test coming this week, though. To me, even though they got the better camp, Nakum seems to be paying the price for it. They definitely are starting to show the signs of a weaker tribe, eliminating the older Jim over the ailing Bobby Jon or Blake is a clear sign to me that they value youth, which is always a bad sign for a tribe (Sook-Jai, Pagong, Ulong, etc.)

So, with all that being said, here are my current predictions:

EPISODE 2 BOOT: Bobby Jon
WINNER: Morgan

“See” you next week!

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