Survivor Review: Predictable Surprises

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The theme of this week’s episode of Survivor titled “Turf Wars” was the surprises the castaways somehow did not see coming. 

Marty and Jud (among others) were shocked that the tribes were being mixed up.  Tyrone was stunned that his aggressive attitude and petulance over the chicken got him voted off.  Despite both of these occurrences being Survivor staples, none of the contestants saw them coming.

Kelly B Spits Water

Leading up to tonight’s episode, privately I bemoaned the fact that CBS was airing advertisements for Survivor announcing the tribe switch-up. I’m the type of fan who does not like to watch the previews if I can avoid them because it makes even the smallest of twists more interesting to me (yes, this makes watching football on Sunday’s challenging).  The fact is, in my 21st season of watching, not every twist is surprising anymore. 

After the fact, however, I have to give the producers credit.  By essentially telling us a switch was coming, it made the comments by Marty and NaOnka before the announcement hilarious.  They were extremely arrogant and ultimately very foolish.  Had CBS tried to air the comments before the switch it would have simply given the surprise away without the humor of watching the pair eat their words. 

What amazes me, however, is that the castaways do not see these twists coming.  Sure, this is easy for me to say after the fact, but a mix up of the tribes seemed inevitable to me very early on in the game.  If nothing else, the competitive imbalance between the two tribes required a switch to keep the challenges relevant. 

I’m not certain what the legalities are of a game show-like production such as Survivor.  However, I recall interviews with Jeff Probst and executive producer Mark Burnett from the past where the duo claims that Survivor is run like a game show and subject to fairness checks as Jeopardy or the Price Is Right would be.  The order and flow of challenges, events and changes has to be arranged ahead of time rather than being at the whim of producers to influence the outcome of the game that Survivor truly is.

The point is, the Medallion of Power, the tribe switch and any other change to come in the show was set ahead of time.  Thus, if after watching Survivor for so long I could predict the change from my couch, the castaways should have been thinking of such a possibility as well.

Because these changes are always a possibility is why castaways who try to play the tribe portion of the game as if it were the individual portion is a mistake.  Voting off physical threats and making alliances that alienate other team members back fires when the tribes are mixed up and the survivors find themselves behind in the numbers game on a new tribe with a former enemy. 

With all of this in mind, the game never ceases to surprise us.  This is the beauty of random people playing the game.  On the outside with her old La Flor tribe, Alina had a chance to go to the new Espada tribe, combine with the original Espada members and vote out NaOnka.  What happens?  Instead she stays with her former tribemates and Holly and Dan flip and vote out Tyrone.
Espada Alina

Holly changing sides fits with what we expected, but why would Dan switch?  Hopefully he saw the writing on the wall with Holly joining the former La Flor’s and jumped on board (castaways do not do this enough), but it was surprising to see.  He voted against his once dominant alliance. 

Tyrone’s ignorance to reality was not as egregious as Marty, NaOnka, et al, though his actions were much worse.  I’m sure anyone can understand the point that Tyrone was trying to make about sparing the chickens so as to have more food over the long term.  But, going with the flow of the tribe and not rocking the boat is far more important than any physical benefit sticking to the plan might have.

The idea of “as long as it ain’t me” is one I’ve harped on over the past two seasons and I will use Tyrone as an example of an extension of that philosophy.  The situation Tyrone was arguing had nothing to do with who was going home, at least at the time.  However, historically castaways have always reacted negatively to anyone who bucks the wishes of the group. 

Sure, Tyrone was probably right that saving the chicken for eggs made more sense in the long haul.  But, once the majority has made the decision to eat the chicken, he has to swallow (no pun intended) and just enjoy the chicken.  This may seem obvious, but mistakes like this happen frequently on Survivor.  If eating the chicken means it ain’t you, eat the chicken. 

More thoughts from this episode:

  • Marty’s arrogance is astounding.  Has an alliance formed in the first week ever gone on to run the table?  Alliances are for the end of the game.  Being a chameleon early and rolling with the punches is vital.
  • Not to be outdone is Marty’s hair.  Absolutely tremendous with his buff off.  
  • Good bye to the Medallion of Power.  Despite early positive reviews, I think the end result was mixed.  I do not think we’ll ever see this twist again.
  • Privately Brenda chewed Marty out for showing the idol, but I think his rationale was solid.  He’s right; Jane will tell them about the idol if the time comes.  Nevertheless, he’s still likely to be in the minority if La Flor loses immunity.  Knowing that Jane told La Flor while they do not know that he knows this works to his advantage.  Follow that?
  • Did anyone else notice the irony of the two guys who three bean bags in an earlier challenge, Tyrone and Benry, were taken down by Jane and Jud?  Jimmy T might have had the sentiment of taking Tyrone out of the challenge correct, but he got the replacement wrong.  It should have been Jane.

Did you like the Medallion of Power?

Turf Wars Review

Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.5 / 5.0 (2 Votes)
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Survivor Season 21 Episode 5 Quotes

If I look good, I feel good, I'm a gonna do good.


I'm in control finally. I'm in control of this tribe.