“Most of the game revolves around who is best at hide and seek,” Mario Lanza
“I was going for the win,” Rob
The problem with removing the villain from a story is that the audience no longer knows who to root against. This is especially true if the heroes were only defined in relation to the villain—that is, they were only the good guys because they stood in opposition to the bad guy. Without that evil force, the heroes are downgraded to directionless everymen. Their roles are unclear because their goals are unclear. All they wanted was to slay the beast. When it’s slain in Act One, the audience wonders what reason there is to stick around through acts two and three. Redemption Island faced exactly this problem this episode and addressed it in the most logical way—by rebooting the story.
“We Hate Our Tribe” was the second premiere of the season, and it’d be hard to complain about not knowing the characters after the episode, because each of them was given a defining moment that reflected their character or the role they would be playing in the broader story. The players have already picked their god. Now they must play the game. To do so, they must turn back to the theme of the season—perception. How do you perceive your own role in the tribe? How do others perceive your role in the tribe? These were the two main questions that were asked, and the answers that were provided fit nicely into an organizational pattern that their chosen god defined. It’s Rob’s game now, and they’re all playing “The Royal Treatment.”
In a way, RT (not to be confused with “retweet”) is an old school way of playing the game. Well, it’s old school to the new school, but not to the likes of Hatch, Tina, and Lex, who played when alliances were truly formed by equals. Rather, it’s old new school, the second iteration in strategy that began to evolve in Marquesas with the chopping challenge. What that challenge revealed (mostly to Neleh and Paschal) is that it’s impossible in reality for there to be an alliance of equals, especially if the greater the number of people in the alliance.
Hatch, Tina, and Lex were all in alliances of three/four. Game-wise it makes sense why they would be equals. But in Marquesas, there was an alliance of six, something that was very difficult to manage, especially for John Carroll who was trying to play a very old school game. This old new school evolved further over the next two seasons as two all-time greats took different approaches to it. In Thailand, Brian Heidik did what John could not, managing his tribe perfectly, to the point that he ranked his “allies” in the infamous middle finger confessional. In Amazon, Rob Cesternino did the opposite of Brian, counting on the old school style players being poor managers and turning their numbers against them. Brian, of course, perfected his variation himself. Jonny Fairplay, on the other hand, perfected Rob C’s style in Pearl Islands. Then there was All-Stars, the culmination of the first era, and the dominance of Boston Rob.
What All-Stars represented was the collected knowledge of the first seven seasons of the show. The person who worked with and off of that knowledge was Rob, and he did it based mainly off of what he witnessed firsthand in Marquesas. As he said himself, his strategy was very simple. End his deals with people before the expiration date on the deal. Essentially, he cut people before they even thought of cutting him. It’s an anticipatory strategy that puts you in Brian’s position and minimizes the likelihood of a Rob C/Fairplay challenge to your authority. It’s also the basis of RT. Keep them distracted so they don’t realize their roles until after they’re already voted out. It’s why the HII was introduced into the game—instant role reversal. The most important information in RT, however, is what the roles are and who files them. What follows is a list of the roles with explanations and then an analysis of each tribe based on that list.
King/Queen – They are the short term “winners.” Just like Rob’s game only offered fleeting pampering to the winner, so does the throne that these players sit upon. In the short term, there is no way they can lose. They’ve played the early alliance game early, but—as Stephanie and Krista portended—that is barely even half the game. And, like Rob’s game on the beach, while these players are winning in the short term, their focus on it has them distracted from the long term opportunities that exist. They will be dethroned.
Gladiator – Like their majesties they are fighting for, the gladiators are focused on one thing—winning in the short term. They’re less concerned with the politics of it all and more concerned with challenges and the Hidden Immunity Idol. Even more to the point, their long term game is tied up with the success of the king and queen, they just think the king and queen’s success is their success. That is not exactly true. Luckily, it also means that the king and queen’s failure is not necessarily their failure either.
Pauper – They are the disenfranchised and destitute, the have-nots. Some legitimately have no skills and deserved their spot. Others have lots of skills and have just not been recognized by those people in power. In the short term, they seem screwed—and some of them are. However, not all will become victims of the king and queen. In our modern day anti-monarchal and pro-proletariat Capitalist/Marxist narrative, we love to see the weak and poor rise up simply because we assume they are disenfranchised—that they are unjustly ignored by those people in power. And that is definitely the story being told here. In the long term, some/most of the paupers will turn the tables on the monarchy/establishment.
Jester – S/he is kept around for one reason—his personality provides some sort of value to the king, queen, or gladiators. This role can be played intentionally or unintentionally, but is almost always marked by the jester thinking s/he is not the jester. A larger-than-life persona and character is also a must for this role.
Queens Ashley and Natalie: We’ve seen this before. The pretty young girls think they’re prettier and younger than the other girls. Unfortunately for this season’s Jenna and Heidi, Andrea’s not deaf, so she has to pretend to care about their vapid conversations. It’s a good thing they have their “big brothers” Rob and Grant to protect them. Still, as long as the two guys are around, these girls have their golden ticket.
Editing wise, could the royalty designation have been made more obvious? This duo took a major hit this week as they laid on the beach, admittedly harming my Natalie wins prediction. However, she may possibly just be the Jenna to Ashley’s Heidi, as Ashley was made to look worse this episode. I don’t think that comment about not wanting to massage Phillip was as bitchy as it sounds (I wouldn’t massage Phillip for a dozen donuts either), but was surely edited to make her look that way. Yes, Ashley’s Heidi is clearly head for a fall. Natalie may still win though. Jenna was only 21 when she won Amazon (spoiler alert).
Gladiators Rob and Grant: It may be controversial to call Rob a gladiator and not a king, but I do so because of a flaw in his game. At this point his new-Amber Natalie is more likely to win than he is. He, unintentionally in this season and Marquesas and intentionally in All-Stars, becomes the white knight for the girl he is carrying through the game. Does he actually realize this error and will he fix it? We’ll see, but it still means he isn’t as safe as Natalie.
And though Rob is planning long term, he and Grant are mainly concerned with one thing: winning challenges. Rob is the brain and Grant is the brawn. Without them, the tribe would be sunk. Unfortunately, however, unless Rob is incredibly self aware, things like won’t go in his favor. As for Grant, poor Grant, he is not really looking like anything more than Rob’s stooge. Still though, he is likable, so it’s tough to tell if a jury would see him as Mick or JT—which makes me wonder, are Rob and Grant the most potent pair in Survivor history? Are they Stephen and JT on steroids?
Pauper (Cinderelly) Andrea – She is the definition of a have-not. Part Christy and part Alina, she goes along with her evil step sisters, but she also goes along with Phillip. Why? Because she has no other choice since her tribe took her closest ally away. Really, all she’s waiting for is her Prince Charming Matt to ride back into the game on his white horse. The only question is if she’ll make it that far or not. She will be avenged though, and at least the worst of her evil step sisters (Ashley) will not win.
Jester Phillip – Remember, we’re talking about editing, and in it this guy is as big of a jester as they come. His pink underwear is a joke. He’s constantly shown throwing spears at crabs. First he didn’t realize that Rob was leading him on. Now he doesn’t realize that Andrea is just nodding her head at him. Look, I think he’s actually a smart decent guy, but in this show he’s at everyone else’s mercy and will only get to the end if someone drags him there.
King and Queen Mike and Sarita – From Russell’s comments at Redemption Island last week and Mike’s comments at Tribal Council this week, it’s clear who is the safest here according to the editing Sarita is pulling the strings, as much was made of the fact that she made the decisions during the challenge. Mike, on the other hand, is the man who is playing the game without anyone—or at least Krista and Stephanie—realizing it. He is completely confident, almost smug, in his sub-alliances. Mainly though their position is determined by the fact that they’re both being set up for a fall, especially Sarita, and by process of elimination.
Gladiators Julie and Steve – This pair is concerned with one thing—challenges. They are both strong athletic competitors. One is a former NFL player. The other is a ripped firefighter. More important is the perspective they’ve been shown as having. Steve is all about the good of the team, not any individual. He’s definitely not taking a leadership role—to the point that he didn’t speak up at the challenge in favor of David when he wanted somebody too. What happened to leading by example? Julie, in contrast, has been consistently shown as worried about challenge momentum. (Considering after Julie said that, Zapatera lost again, she may have been predicting something.) In her other major scene in the episode, Julie was shown talking one on one to Sarita, lobbying in favor of Stephanie. It did show that Julie has some sway, but it still came across as her lobbying to Sarita. It’s unclear what will happen to Julie and Steve, but for now it’s clear they’re working for Sarita and Mike.
Paupers David and Stephanie- Do I even need to explain Stephanie? The main important thing in her edit this week was her comments to Rob about two more. The two was emphasized by the editors by showing her repeating it. Clearly that’s going to come into play. David, on the other hand, was shown being disenfranchised by the queen Sarita. Though he is clearly talented and respected by the rest of his tribe, Sarita decided to go with Stephanie. No one was happy about it either and in their big group discussion David expressed himself freely. It’s also important to note that David was not at all mentioned in Krista’s exit rant. The editors were even sure to include a reaction shot from him at the news. It’s clear that at some point he will turn the tables on Sarita and get the upper hand. The only question is whether it will be part of Stephanie’s two with Rob or not.
Jester Ralph – If there is anyone who wasn’t in this episode, it was Ralph. I suspect it’s because he’s a nonentity. Sure, he found the HII and has had some colorful antics, but does that make him anything more than a clown. This label is especially true if you consider his treatment of Russell and his spelling, which I still suspect might be a gimmick. The edit definitely hasn’t shown any of his relationships with his tribemates. Even if he does have strong alliances, we aren’t supposed to be thinking about it.
There are two possible outcomes I see to this season. In the first, Stephanie and David join forces with Rob and his alliances and they run the table to the end. In the other, we have a repeat of Marquesas (as several people have already noted the parallels, most notably George Nicolaidis). Rob goes at the merge, the Zapatera four of Sarita, Mike, Steve, and Julie fills in for the Rotu four, and there is a cross tribal alliance of the paupers with Phillip serving as the Kathy crazy-turned-epic-player prototype. Who do I think wins in each scenario? In the first, I still think Natalie is favored. In the second, it is possible Natalie could squeak in somehow, but a more likely Final Five is Phillip, Stephanie, David, Andrea, and Matt. In that I could see Matt overthrowing kings Rob and Grant who looked down on him from their thrown at RI as he knelt before. The winner would be Andrea or David.
Story wise, it’s tough to figure out how far Rob will go, but he will have a major impact on the endgame, just like he did in Marquesas. I’m still leaning towards scenario one, however, because even though he is starting to be treated like just another player (which should make many people happy), he still has the HII. Plus, if there was one major theme of this episode (and season) it's how to play--and as I established in the beginning--this is Rob's game. Sure, there's an apparent big debate about whether to play true old school style (as the Zapatera tribe is doing) or new school (as Krista and Stephanie argued), but Rob knows it's all about finding that sweet spot right between the two--the new old school. And that's what he's being trying to do this whole time. It's why he's been hiding and everyone else has been seeking.
This was a long one and probably not my best writing, but I really wanted to get all this information out. As always, I only ask that you do one thing with what you read here:
Think about it.