As the sun set on the Jesus statue, a new episode began it. With it, old storylines washed away and one major one began. If the episode after Russell's boot was a second premiere, then this episode was a third premiere. The first segment of the season taught us how to play the opening to the game. The second segment of the season taught us how to play the merge. This third and final segment will teach us how to play the endgame. Before we delve into the details though, we need to finally deliver the head shot to Matt.
On the now infamous Stealth R Us reward trip, one comment stuck out majorly as a possible hitch in Rob's edit. As Ometepe sat under the Jesus statue, Rob asked, "Who's that?" The tribe responded with a resounding, "It's Jesus." What we now know is that they might as well have replied, "It's Matt." How do we know that? For seemingly no reason, the Jesus statue was shown at the beginning of the episode as the sun set in front of it. Sorry, Matt, you're nothing like your savior--either one of them. Jesus wasn't put back down when he rose again. Rob, our Survivor god, could actually take his Amber to the end. And that's why Rob asked who Jesus was. It was a subtle editing trick to tell us, Matt and "big G" god have no place in Survivor. Rob is our Survivor god and all you have to do to get to the end game is follow him. The only story left for Matt is if he'll have "forgiveness on his mind" when he casts a jury vote.
To understand the story of how Rob is leading his tribe, we have to return to another scene that seemed like a major hitch in Rob's edit. As he distracted his tribe with the game "The Royal Treament," Rob found the Hidden Immunity Idol. He then returned to the beach, apparently losing the "Royal Treatment" game, tossing a rock and saying, "I was going for the win." This comment, while possible to interpret as foreshadowing Rob's eventual loss in the game wasn't foreshadowing that at all. Rather, it was foreshadowing how Rob would be going for the win in the overall game. "The Royal Treatment" is in full effect. Rob has created a two class system in Murlonio. Ometepe sleeps in the nice part of the shelter. Ometepe has the numbers. Zapatera? Well, they suck--and don't talk to them or you'll end up on the jury because Rob says so.
It's working too. The opening to this episode drove home one point. Rob is Superman. No, really, I'm not just fantarding out here. Russell was mocked for his harem earlier in the season? Well in this episode Rob sat in the shelter with his harem of Andrea and Natalie. Natalie curled his hair in the front, making it resemble Christopher Reeve's turn as Superman, and repeated that hero's name after Rob said it. If you younger readers don't get the reference, don't worry. I'm sure Natalie didn't either. And that's the point. How many viewers do you think picked up it was just a coy joke by Rob? It was edited in to make it look like Rob is Superman in Survivor, especially considering it was juxtaposed right after Mike congratulated him and talked with David about how genius the Matt vote was. Of course their comments were also followed by dissenting comments from Julie and Ralph.
The reason all these perspectives of Zapatera were shown is brought into focus by Ralph's comment to Ashley. He promises her his jury vote if she gets to the Final 3. Yes, folks, this editing for Zapatera is all about jury votes now. Rob even tells us so to end the opening segment. He reinforces the us vs them mentality and says that he wants his tribe to be arrogant so he receives Zapatera's jury votes and rather than them. Well, I'll tell you what. Right now it looks like Rob has Mike and David's votes, but definitely not Julie's, as the purpose of her "poor kid" line became clear to us. She repeated it and putthe issue on the table that everyone will be talking about for the rest of the season. It's the same question that was on the table for All-Stars, Samoa, and Heroes vs Villians. If you get to the end by using your head, how do you win the jury vote when the jurors vote with their hearts?
Our god Rob is going to show us as he reveals his plans for the rest of the season. You see, Ralph's little comment to Ashley had an unintended consequence. It knocked Ashley out of the Final 3. Why? Because Rob's not going to want to sit next to anyone who has sure votes. Why? Because, as he tells us, "It's my game. I'm in charge." This comment is almost unbelievable, but you need to believe it, as this is the story of the season. Ometepe will be the Final 6. Rob's espoused Final 3 will come to fruition.
Don't get too enamored with a Rob win, however. It is with that Final 3 that the story gets really interesting. At the start of this season, I noted how Redemption Island was not only about the redemption of Rob and Russell, but Survivor itself. This supposition still holds true. This season is a statement on Survivor and each of the members of Rob's Final 3 have a perfect winner's story that makes a statement on the game and the show. Stealth R Us may have the Mentalist, the Specialist, and the Assassin, but Rob's plan has the Genius, the Girl, and the Goat.
Rob is the genius. There is no need to further elaborate on how this plot has unfolded so far. How it comments on Survivor though is interesting. From Hatch to Hantz, Rob is playing the perfect version of the mastermind strategy. He arguably has Ometepe more enthused to Pagong Zapatera than Richard had Tagi to Pagong Pagong--so much so that we may want to rename the technique a "Zapateraing." It's especially ironic because Rob is doing to Zapatera what they did to Krasta and Stephanie, except he's doing it better. If you thought Tom Westman's edit in Palau was the "here's how a dominant guy" wins edit, think again. Ralph did say, "Who's gonna win the million? Rob." If the editors ever wanted to tell us, this is how to play Survivor, this is how the mastermind wins, this is the story they would tell. Basically think of it as me being the head editor and this being my love letter to Boston Rob.
Not so fast though.
Natalie is the girl. Like Rob, I've recounted her story before in past editions of this column. She is the nu-Amber. And like Amber, she has the same story. Again this week, her tight co-conspirator relationship with Rob was shown. If she won, this is exactly the story that would be edited as well. It's the twice told Sandra story. It's the, well, Natalie story in Samoa. If the editors ever wanted to tell us, this is how to play Survivor, this is how the girl wins, this is the story they would tell. Basically think of it as the head editor being Mario Lanza and this being his love letter to Vecepia.
Not so fast though.
Phillip is the goat. Unlike the other two members of the "proposed" Final 3, he is actually unique in Survivor history. His sliding into the "#1 spot" brought his edit more into focus and revealed his strategy. From the beginning, Phillip has been acting crazy and saying Rob was his only obstacle to win. Both of these elements will hold true until the end. Phillip is intentionally playing the goat, and the goat's only option is to prove that he actually played the mastermind, not the other way around. It's actually a smart strategy that has not quite been attempted before in Survivor history, and the foreshadowing is there. Rob did say Phillip will be rewarded. Phillip did say, "I get the best of them." He could be the dumbass finally winning that Ralph was talking about. If the editors ever wanted to tell us, this is how to play Survivor, this is how the goat wins, this is the story they would tell. Basically think of it as the head editor being Parvati and this being her love letter to herself.
Why did I just name drop Parvati? Because this Final 3 is essentially the same Final 3 as Heroes vs Villains. Russell was the genius. Sandra was the girl. Parvati was the goat. I understand that the roles are slippery here, but please stay with me. At the Final Tribal Council, Parvati presented the argument Phillip will have to present. She kept the dragon as her pet. In other words, because of her, the genius was actually the goat. See? I told you to stick with my illustration. This inversion makes even more sense when you consider the Samoa Final 3. Russell was the genius. Natalie was the girl. Mick was the goat. The only exception this time though was that Mick was a true goat and was unable to create the inversion. It's all irrelevant though. I did say "the only exception" for a reason, and it wasn't just to make a Paramore reference. Both times, despite what the genius and the goat did, the girl won.
Thus, in a move that would make Mario Lanza proud, I am sticking with my Natalie pick. Mario knows the game and the minds of these people better than anyone. I can present no better argument than the fact that Mario's love letter to Survivor would be the story they are editing for a Natalie win. Is this an argument from authority? Most definitely, but it is also the cherry on top of all the other Natalie evidence I have already presented.
Not so fast though.
Phillip and Rob could win this thing too, and I, for the hope of all that is good in the world, will cheer for Rob until the votes are read next month and we've finally learned exactly how to play Survivor.
Still trying to figure it out? Good. That's the point of the season. Remember though, there's only one way to accomplish that:
Think about it.