ReaPsTA's TLDR Survivor Sum Up: Episode 2
“These ain't all-stars I'm dealing with. It's pitiful.” ~ Russell
I don't know if Russell's alliance is an effective strategy, but at least it's a sexy one. I mean good lord in heaven, did you see that shot of Stephanie bathing? Wow! The show's editors are going to win an Emmy, right? Right?
What I didn't like though was how Ralph got the idol. I hate to ask, but the producers aren't cheating for him are they? In the confessional segments he had this “I can't believe this is really happening to me!” face on him. Such a bummer to watch.
But at least it's drama. Nothing else is happening in Zapatera. Think about it; Julie, Sarita, and David haven't even had scenes yet. The combination of Mike* and Steve forms a fun name for a duo, but I doubt they're players who will make alliances and compete with Russell. They seem too wrapped up in complaining.
Which is why, frankly, I hope Russell works Zapatera over. He's the only reason they aren't completely boring.
"I don't know if he's delusional... I think he's a good hearted guy. I do. Just might not all be there. Let it be a lesson to you. Government jobs... stressful!" ~ Boston Rob on Phillip
As I watched the episode, I really wondered: Does Phillip actually care about winning? Does he even think about it? I turned it over and over in my head until I finally realized why his decisions are so terrible.
When he told the tribe about how he voted off Francesca because she questioned his honesty, I believed him. He thinks he's playing the part of an honest person, and thus lashes out when someone questions his performance.
Relative to that, winning doesn't matter to him. He hasn't done anything remotely strategic because it would break character.
But he also needs his existence externally validated. And for reasons I can't understand he decided Rob was the person he could open his heart to. Telling Rob “You own my vote” is pretty much the most submissive thing he could do. Phillip doesn't understand that controlling your own destiny is key to winning the game.
But Rob does, and that's why we got to watch my new favorite Survivor player teach a master class on manipulation. Sorry Rupert.
A question to the audience: The moment you saw Andrea and Matt flirting, who honestly didn't think Rob would take notice? He knows from personal experience that loyalty drives the alliances. If two people “like” each other, they're going to stay strong together and form a reliable two person voting bloc.
Of course Rob can't have that, so he decided he wanted Andrea out. She's a little less emotionally stable and the alpha of her relationship with Matt. It's a solid choice.
Another question: What kind of professional dancer is Natalie? Ballet? Backup dancer? Stage performer? Don't worry, I'm not at all trying to imply she might be a stripper because of the ambiguous job title. Really!
"You just done that to me? To Russell Hantz? And you know how to play this game?" ~ Russell
Ralph of all people is really the one who saw Russell steal the clue? Maybe Ralph's more observant than we think, but excuse me for being unconvinced.
A lot of people say Russell has a bad social game, but that notion confuses me. Every time I've seen him interact with someone, he made them do exactly what he wanted.
When Mike walked up to the well, Russell told the girls “this game's gonna be very interesting” to jostle them out of the serious strategic conversation, and then asked Mike how badly Sarita did in the challenge. This caught him off guard and implied they had just been talking about her. I thought you could only pretend you were having a different conversation in movies!
Then Ralph showed up. Russell denied having the clue, but really made no attempt sell the lie and openly taunted Ralph for questioning it. Because Ralph couldn't process the dissonance between Russell's words and actions, he flipped out. And then, as he was walking away, he stopped and turned back to remind Russell he knew how to play the game.
A word to the wise. Whenever you want the last word out of frustration, it's almost always because of insecurity. And when you're playing Survivor, the last thing you want to do is reveal your insecurities. Even better for Russell, the girls were obviously freaked out by the rant. In one scene he managed to weaken and mentally disrupt his only real threat. Nice work.
All that said, Russell is in a smidgen of trouble. He holds the only meaningful alliance, but no one else likes him. Unless he can create another target (which I think he was trying to do with Sarita), the other players might group together and mutiny.
Hopefully Zapatera goes to Tribal Council next episode. I want to see these guys make decisions under real pressure.
"It is unbelievable how well he can just talk to people and play this game, and see what they need to fulfill that need." ~ Matt on Rob
And now, ladies and gentlemen: The Boston Rob Show!
He came back from the challenge with two overarching objectives: Voting Matt off without jeopardizing his core alliance and handling Phillip.
If Rob presented the idea of voting off Matt as a strategic blindside, his alliance would remember that and see him as a threat.
So when he went to Natalie, Ashley, and Grant to discuss the vote, he didn't bring up the idea as a foregone conclusion. By letting everyone else collectively decide to vote off Matt, they felt justified in their decision and didn't see the move as a betrayal engineered by Rob.
In the meeting with everyone, he sold the cover story as if nothing had changed, which duped Andrea and Matt. So far so good.
But Phillip had to be handled.
Rob can't just ignore him. When Phillip feels betrayed he goes crazy and reveals things you don't want revealed. Plus, if Rob can get him in line he'll be strategically useful. Never deny yourself opportunities. Since he's invested his sense of self into Rob, there's an emotion available to manipulate.
Let's break down what happened on Rob's walk with Phillip:
Rob "So, the wheels are in motion for everything to happen, and everything's gonna happen the way it should happen. I just don't know who it's gonna be yet. I feel like we haven't decided. But no matter who it is I'm tellin' ya, you're gonna be fine."
Phillip “I'll take you on your word man.”
Rob "Okay, here's the thing. You have to... Like, first of all, don't go off on a tirade at tribal like you did last time. You know?
Rob "I'm not trying to pull one over on you. I have no reason to."
Rob didn't make Kristina's biggest mistake. He made sure everything he wanted Phillip to consciously think was explicitly stated. He also understood why Phillip went off at Tribal Council and assured him he wouldn't be betrayed over and over.
At this point, we cut to Rob's confessional where he noted he can't tell Phillip who to vote for until the last second because he might blab.
Rob "The plan is bigger than just tonight." [Obvious cut to another point in the conversation.] "So here's the deal. When the time comes to vote, I'm gonna take my right hand and put it on the shoulder of the person I want you to vote for. Got that?"
Rob "You need to feel like you're goin' home. Obviously the way things are going, you know, in order for everything to work out. You're a smart guy, you can figure out where we're going' with all this. So kinda like --”
Phillip “Act the part"
Rob "You're an actor bro. I know it may be me tonight, and if it is then I need you."
After this, Phillip made a meek attempt at asking Rob for the answer, but instantly relented when Rob reiterated he wasn't sure. And then Phillip gave him a hug.
How did Rob manage to get to that point?
He realized Phillip's need to play a part, so he gave Phillip a part to play. Sounds simple in theory, but it's easier for us as audience members to deduce Phillip's narcissism. It's another thing to see it when you're interacting with him in real time and then come up with a practical means of exploiting it.
How well Phillip acts doesn't matter. As long as he's doing something at Tribal Council other than mulling over whether or not Rob will betray him.
Also, Rob said he might be the person voted out. This makes Phillip feel like Rob's in trouble, provoking his sense of attachment. It's also completely false. No one thinks this will happen. So if Rob hears rumors he might be voted out, he knows exactly where they came from and knows Phillip is unmanageable. He's covered every angle.
So what I want to know is how Rob hasn't talked his way into being ruler of the world yet.
I lost. I need to suffer the consequences of that loss. ~ Phillip
Phillip played his part at Tribal Council surprisingly perfectly. Rob's responses were the right mix of soothing Phillip's feelings but not changing the tone of the conversation from being about his failures. I also like how he rubbed Kristina's shoulders in a super suspicious way. It gets Kristina to believe she's still a target.
For what it's worth, since I wrote about her last time, let's talk about her again. Here's what I said after the last episode:
“...She needs to be less aggressive. She's seen as a threat, but that's an intellectual and easily forgotten idea. I've seen no evidence she's truly disliked, so she's capable of rebuilding her image. Also, if she's patient Rob's alliance will splinter, and she wants to be in position to take advantage of that.”
Other than being less aggressive, she didn't help herself at all.
Just like I said, she wasn't seen as a threat anymore and Rob's alliance splintered. The opportunity was there for her to talk to people. Cultivate future alliances. Listen to people and feel out what's happening. And the only person we saw her talking to was Phillip!?
She was absolutely convinced she'd be voted out even though it wasn't going to happen. If she just looked around she could have seen she wasn't on the chopping block. Matt's body and eye language clearly gave away that he felt uncomfortable. Something was up.
Kristina could have saved the idol and guaranteed at least another six days on the island. Instead she used it because of self-centered thinking and screwed herself. Terrible performance.
So the votes came in and and Matt was out. Andrea looked like she wanted to cry, which frankly validated Rob's decision.
This does of course create a problem, Andrea will be motivated to take Rob down. An alliance with Kristina is almost guaranteed.
If Rob's smart, he'll make sure his foursome is locked in until the merge, make Andrea look unreasonable, and bounce her at the next tribal council. It's actually almost a good thing if they lose the challenge next week. If the Andrea issue has six days to fester, it has the potential to create more and more turmoil.
What comes up must come down. Rob's performance this episode was masterful, but will he be able to handle the aftermath?
*The idea of saying anything negative about Mike makes me personally uncomfortable. His claim to fame on the Survivor site is that all the Marines in his unit survived their deployment in Iraq. Winning on Survivor is cool, but doesn't quite compare.