Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Survivor South Africa

With Mzi and Vanessa’s return from exile, all bets are off

The toughest challenges on Survivor turn out, often, to be the most simple. Like standing for as long as you can in the hot sun, on a narrow piece of wood, trying to keep your balance. This was the challenge facing the 4 exiled to Dead Man’s Island, and Lezel was the first to fall out, followed by Sport’s Model, Brigitte. That meant Vanessa and Mzi were back in the game.

The element of surprise was a powerful component of the game at this point. While Zane, Jacinda and Gareth were toasting their top 3 positions with coconut milk, they were unaware that the rules of their game were about to change. Shortly after reintegrating, the five survivors faced up to their next challenge: a hard run again a bungee cord, with the greatest distance assuring immunity. Gareth, handing over the immunity necklace, went first, and put in a dismal performance – the worst in fact. Mzi went next, with the best run of the group, Jacinda coming in second. Mzi narrowly beat Jacinda in a final match up, to win vital immunity for himself.

It was here that the tide turned. Power shifted to Mzi, but, in hindsight, it could be argued that more power shifted than was reasonable. With Gareth, Zane and Jacinda on the one side, even without the immunity necklace, the original tribe members of Rana could still have simply voted off Vanessa, and possibly Mzi once again. If that had been the case, it would have made the whole stint on Dead Man’s Island a bit pointless perhaps. But in terms of strategy, it probably would have made sense to try to restore themselves to the original status quo. Certainly, from the point of view of Gareth and his comrades, this must have been the most logical way to go.

Obviously when it became clear that factors beyond their control (namely the producers of the show) were orchestrating new moves against the surviving three, they suddenly reacted in a panicky put-yourself-first fashion. It was premature, perhaps, to say ‘all bets are off’ with 5 survivors on the island (in a ratio of 3 to 2), but it certainly keeps the audience guessing. It was Zane who was the first to buddy-up with Mzi (someone he professed to feel very guilty about voting off). And he very quickly agreed to vote off Jacinda. Meanwhile, Gareth had also been informed of the ruse, and in typical ‘nice guy’ Gareth fashion, he told Jacinda of the ploy and asked her permission. She cunningly gave her permission, but then went to Mzi and Vanessa and convinced them that Gareth’s head was a far greater prize than hers. Mzi and Vanessa accepted the counteroffer, and cleverly kept this change in arrangements from both Zane and Gareth, and when the vote came, Gareth voted for Zane, Zane voted for Jacinda, and everyone else voted for Gareth. Mzi and Vanessa had successfully gotten all three of their previous opponents to turn on each other, and flummoxed at least two of them into trusting them.

Gareth had played a good game up until this point. But what was he thinking: telling Jacinda he was going to vote her off, and then voting Zane off? Probably he’d asked Jacinda to also vote for Zane, but once Gareth’s name came up, Mzi, Vanessa and Jacinda began to smell the money.

In an aside to all this drama, Zane, who had struggled to pull his weight (and he appears now to have lost some), managed to easily win a reward challenge – a beautiful Hyundai Tucson 4X4. His celebration at winning (with the first throw of a hoop, when everyone else had missed), was infectious and also touching. In other Survivors it is often the winner of a big reward (either a car, or an overnight in some comfortable honeymoon suite) that, this late in the game, unlocks hidden resentments. But not this time.

So now it’s evens Stevens. Two members from each tribe, two males and two females, both sexes represented equally in two tribes. I think it’s between Mzi and Jacinda, but the tide seems to have turned, and who knows, Vanessa or Zane might get lucky, or simply outwit or outlast their companions in the upcoming challenges. The next episode is the two hour finale. At this point in the game, anything can happen.

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