November 7, 2004
Lex van den Berghe: The Skinny
‘Survivor’ is a battle of the sexes
"Survivor: Vanuatu" started as a battle of the sexes, and it looks like it may very well end up that way.
The two tribes merged into one this week, and tribal council left no doubt in anyone’s minds that old alliances still ran deep. Votes were split straight down the gender line and since the girls outnumbered the guys six to four, the ranks of men-folk shrank yet again. And then there were three.
Wow ... unless the boys manage to make a serious Hail Mary pass, we may actually get to see the first season of "Survivor" ever to end with a single-gender Final Four.
This week’s episode opened with scenes of obvious and deliberate maneuvering by Julie, who felt no shame in using her natural-born gifts to buy herself more time in the game. She was, after all, a girl in a guy’s tribe, and at the time, she had no idea that her current predicament would soon flip 180 degrees.
I have to say, the women of this game so far have shown resourcefulness and resolve that none of the boys could muster in a pinch. When faced with a crisis, the girls consistently dodge, jockey and regroup with impressive dexterity, while the guys just stick to their guns in bulldog fashion.
And in this game you’ve got to adapt to survive.
Julie worked it ... and hard. She brazenly cozied up to Sarge by the fire and then upped the ante by sunbathing next to him buck-naked. I had to laugh out loud when she talked Sarge into following suit.
Sarge showed us how cosmopolitan he can be by pulling his shorts down halfway past his butt and proclaiming, "I’m comfortable with this ... I’ve been in Europe."
The big news this week was delivered at the immunity challenge. Jeff Probst officially announced the merge, signaling the formation of one tribe and the switch in the game from team play to everyone for him(her)self.
Following the first individual immunity challenge, which Sarge won decisively, it was interesting to see everyone’s reactions to the merge.
The boys immediately started scrambling and strategizing, while the girls just chilled out. It said so much about where the game was going, and where everybody’s head was. Reunited and still united, the women knew they had it made.
Chad, Chris and Sarge had all but surrendered like puppy dogs to the two girls who’d worked their magic and spun their webs during those few short days with Lopevi.
In Twila they saw a kindred spirit, more a brother than a sister, and in Julie they saw ... well, a hot chick. But in both of them they entrusted their very survival in the game. At only four-strong, the guys had no choice.
When Rory was jettisoned from the island in a unanimous female decision, none of the men saw it coming.
The look on Chad’s face when Probst snuffed out Rory’s torch was an easy read. It said, "Oh god ... I’ve been played." And he must’ve had a sick feeling in his stomach as he remembered the words he’d uttered only hours earlier to Twila, "Survivor is a numbers game. It’s simple math."
Chad must’ve realized at this point that simple math meant certain doom for the boys.
But let’s not forget that historically on "Survivor," women sometimes turn on each other and seem to have the toughest time trusting one other.
The man in this game who can spot this opportunity when it presents itself and exploit it properly, may find himself reborn and on solid ground again.
The other guys will just have to win immunity EVERY time if they want to stick around.
That said, I have to take a moment to give props to Ami for playing an unapologetically hard-core, and frankly smart, game of "Survivor."
Obviously I know from experience that we can’t possible see or know everything that’s going on out there from the one hour a week we’re privy to. But, from a viewer’s perspective, you can’t deny that Ami has played a brilliant game so far.
She’s obviously comfortable in the driver’s seat, and all of her girls seem to have her back (not one of them has ever voted for Ami in tribal council). She’s made most of the big decisions and ballsy moves in this game, and she’s a player you could never accuse of flying under the radar.
Having worked so hard to go far in the game and with what seem to be good friends, or at least allies, in her girls, she’s set herself up as the perfect final two candidate. It’ll be interesting to see if she makes it that far. Odds are she’ll make final four, maybe three, but it often seems that power players are ousted just short of reaching the final two.
Well, with the merge behind us, "Survivor Vanuatu" is now well past the halfway point, and the action should really start kicking in. Only half a dozen episodes before we find out who comes out Vanuatu’s top dog.
By the way, I have to ask ‘cuz it’s killing me. Were any of you wondering how in the hell these folks got the coffee maker to brew coffee? Where’d they find the power outlet? Do you think they had to unplug their coconut phone first?
Contact Lex van den Berghe at email@example.com