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Friday, December 09, 2005
Survivor Update: The Alliance Eats Its Own

Coming back from tribal council, Cindy notes what I commented on last week, that whoever gets caught by surprise is the next one off--happened to Jamie, happened to Judd, is Cindy next?

Reward is for an SUV--a Pontiac Torrent. Weird name for a car. The challenge involves parts of earlier challenges. First up is to balance on a beam while untying knots. Second is to throw paddles through a tile. Third is to assemble a puzzle, then hop in a cart, cut the rope holding it back with a machete, and roll down the hill.

Cindy and Steph make it to the final task, but Cindy does the jigsaw puzzle routine of finishing the outside before working on the inside and gets the victory ride.

Then comes the twist. Cindy can take her SUV, or she can give it up, and everybody else will get an SUV. Jeff points out that nobody who's gotten a car has ever won Survivor. She could take the whammy off herself and put it on everybody else. They play it for drama, and I couldn't help thinking that the greatest good for the greatest number, but Cindy is a capitalist at heart and she took the car.

This is why Survivor is so compelling compared to most of the other reality shows--they always push the chips in and force the person to make a tough decision. The next one is obvious--she can take one person along with her for a ride. Of course it is only one. Like everybody, she invites Steph along, which is a huge, glaring mistake. Cindy needed to go for the home run at that point, which means she had to get Lydia or Danni off to the side.

Cindy and Steph drive off to a barbecue at an archaeological site. They enjoy quite a bit of food, and get the benefit of a lecture and discussion of the history of the Mayans from the archaeologist. That night they sleep under mosquito netting.

Meanwhile Rafe and Danni are back at the campsite talking about how noble they would have been, giving up the SUV for their friends. Lydia manages to be non-committal while saying that Cindy made the right choice for her. When you combine that with the fact that everybody else was thinking "SUV for me" while Lydia was thinking "SUV for my son", I couldn't help noticing that Lydia's in a fine position. With all the paranoia around the tribe, she's the person who nobody sees as a threat. And yet she's scary in the final against anybody but (arguably) Danni.

The immunity challenge is something similar to what we've seen before. The survivors are hooked into a rope and they must navigate a course, complete with handcuffs and leg-cuffs. Buncha keys, so by luck Steph gets ahead. And pretty much stays ahead, despite Jeff's enthusiastic calling. She does have to go back to untie a few knots, that finally get her to the end, which seems, shall we say, just a tad extra-dramatic?

One thing is for sure, she and Cindy are not resting on their laurels and assuming they're in the alliance.

Steph wins immunity and does a little sobbing at her individual win. We go back to camp and the plotting begins in earnest. But it's basically Rafe or Cindy who's in trouble here. Rafe has spent the time cultivating Danni, and so Cindy seems hosed, and so she is when the votes are finally counted.

Finale prediction. It all depends on the immunity, as usual. Rafe and Steph are now suddenly the vulnerable ones. If Danni and Lydia hold, then whoever gets immunity will go along with them. Which sets up a final three of Danni, Lydia and Rafe/Steph. The last immunity is always a contest of endurance, and I suspect that here we will finally see Lydia shine. Steph and Danni are athletes, but they are sprinters; Lydia looks like a marathoner. Rafe? He's hard to judge, but I don't see him as an endurance guy.

I'd see Steph as the most likely to be voted off first next week, unless she wins immunity, in which case Rafe loses. I think Lydia's going to take the endurance contest somehow--perhaps even by doing the early jump-off ala Richard Hatch. It might be a weird finale with Steph holding on for dear life and knowing she'll probably lose to whomever she picks to join her in the final tribal council.

Surprises? I suspect that they are going to spring a few at least on us at the finale. I still don't believe that Judd is just a doorman at a building in New York City. Not only did he get "Ancient ruins" but he was smart enough to give it to Rafe. Is Lydia somehow a Guatemalan/Mayan?
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