It’s a battle of the sexes on “Survivor: One World,” but over at the women’s camp, the conflict is no longer divided along gender lines alone.
On this week’s “Survivor,” the women of the Salani tribe lost both the new do-it-yourself reward challenge as well as the crucial immunity challenge, which required navigating a giant balance beam with multiple human obstacles in the way. Was it a complicated challenge, or simply one that wasn’t conducive to the “assets” that Salani brings to the table? The question is open to interpretation, but the result is not: The men of Manono dominated once again, leaving the women to vote out 51-year-old former Los Angeles police officer Nina Acosta, who is technically the first person voted out of the game following last week’s “Survivor” history-making medical evacuation .
Is it too late for the dysfunctional Salani tribe to pull it together? Did the team make the right choice in voting out Nina, a stronger player on the outside of an alliance, over 22-year-old Kat Edorsson, a weaker competitor than Nina but potentially more loyal to the women of Salani? MTV News tackles these questions and more alongside longtime “Survivor” commentator and two-time player Rob Cesternino, regularly described as “the smartest player to never win the game.”
MTV: Man, Salani just does not have it together, Rob. They’ve lost three challenges in a row. They’ve already lost a teammate to a medical evacuation. They just voted another one out. It’s a tribe divided into two alliances, but you can barely even say that, because the people in these alliances don’t even want to be in alliances with each other. It’s a mess of a situation. Is there anything that they are getting right?
Rob Cesternino: There is nothing that the women are getting right at this point. This is not exactly a strong start. [Laughs] Things don’t look good for their tribe. But this is the game of “Survivor,” and things could always turn around on them. Things are always worse than they appear after losing basically two challenges and having one of their players get medically evacuated. They could always come back and win a bunch of challenges. Unlikely, but still very possible.
MTV: Going into Tribal Council, [producers] did their best to make you think that Kat might get voted out, but you really had to figure it was Nina going home. There are arguments for getting rid of each of them. With Nina, she’s on the outside — she’s not part of the numbers of the tribe’s core alliance, where Kat is. But on paper, Nina may be more valuable to this tribe than Kat in both the challenge and life-experience departments. What do you think? Did Salani get it right? Was the right person sent home?
Cesternino: Whether they got it right or they got it wrong, the history of “Survivor” is always that when an alliance is faced with voting out a stronger member of the tribe who is not in their alliance, or the weaker tribe mate who is in their alliance, I think 99 percent of the time they’ll vote out the stronger person who isn’t in the alliance. That’s just the way it goes. You want to keep the numbers on your side. They could have kept Nina and kept their numerical advantage, but Survivors always keep the loyal person. It never goes the other way.
MTV: It’s also hard to judge based on one challenge. Kat did not do well in that challenge, but who knows how she’ll do tomorrow?
Cesternino: And it’s not so much that Kat is weak. It’s more that Kat is dumb. [Laughs] Her intelligence may not be as much of a factor in future challenges. Strength-wise, she’s probably on par with Nina. But on a common-sense level, she’s flatlined. I don’t know what Kat was thinking [during the immunity challenge]. She compared herself to [“Survivor: Nicaragua” winner] Fabio before the game began, and she’s perfectly playing that game. She’s not a threat, she’s well liked, she’s fun around camp. … It’s the kind of thing where nobody will ever suspect her. They’ll keep her around. But who’s to say she won’t win in the end? You reach a point with “Survivor” that you’re so not a threat that you are a threat. She’s exactly that.
MTV: While we’re talking about Kat, it seems like a good time to bring up the immunity challenge she helped to bungle. We had only seen one challenge this season prior to this week’s episode, but that challenge was so hardcore that a contestant broke their arm in multiple places and was forced out of the game early. This week’s challenge wasn’t easy either. The women’s tribe had an impossible time getting started, but even the men had some trouble.
Cesternino: In these men-versus-women seasons, production likes to throw out balance beams as the great equalizer. Though in the case of the challenge this week, it didn’t play out that way. While the men were able to get across the balance beam and take their time, I think that because of the, ah, “surgical enhancements” of several of the female players, there were just some turns that were not physically possible. [Laughs] I don’t know if production really thought that through when they tested the challenge. I don’t think they had any testers wearing size-F sports bras.
MTV: Let’s talk about the do-it-yourself reward challenge. It’s not the first DIY challenge we’ve seen on “Survivor,” but we already know that “One World” is going to feature a whole lot more of these. You know, I really enjoy the “One World” twist, and I like the men-versus-women angle, but the jury’s out for me on these DIY challenges. What did you think?
Cesternino: I have a feeling that (host) Jeff Probst’s agent was recording these do-it-yourself challenges to plan for Jeff’s next contract negotiation. [Laughs] Honestly, I don’t know that the Survivors hosting their very own challenge is really working for me. I understand that Jeff might need a day off, but get a Jeff Probst understudy to host the challenge. I’m not saying Jeff can’t have a day off, but the challenge needs a host. Just some guy. Get Smiley off the street. Even if it’s a disembodied voice narrating the challenges! [Laughs] I was just very confused watching a challenge without someone yelling, “Women! Looking good!” or “Women! Having all sorts of problems!” [Laughs] I can’t image after one DIY challenge that anyone’s feeling too good about this, but let’s give “Survivor” the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they can tweak this going forward.
MTV: The Colton Chronicles continue this week. Colton is a man without a country: He doesn’t feel comfortable with the guys at Manono, he feels comfortable with the women at Salani, but they don’t feel comfortable with him. Colton breaks down a bit in this episode, but by the end, he’s developed an alliance with others on his tribe by showing them his secret immunity idol. You were down on Colton last week , Rob, but how do you feel about him after this week?
Cesternino: I think Colton is still a hot mess. [Laughs] I don’t know what he’s doing. He’s completely spinning out. All the men are pissed at him, all the women are pissed at him. The only thing he has going for him is that hidden immunity idol. I don’t normally agree with players showing the hidden idol to everybody, but it seemed to turn the tides for Colton a little bit. He’s got this misfit alliance that he’s put together. I like that he’s finally associating with some of the men — he’s plotting within his tribe. It’s a step in the right direction. That being said, at the challenge, when he was complaining about Leif… he doesn’t like Leif! That’s a core member of his misfits alliance! I don’t know about Colton. But maybe he’s hit rock bottom, and he’s going in the right direction now. A touch of the crybabyitis, though. Episode two tends to be the breakdown episode for people.
MTV: Once again, like last week, let’s end by looking at who’s playing the game right. Who do you like out there after two episodes?
Cesternino: We didn’t see much of the men this week outside of Colton. But the women’s alliance, even though Sabrina calls herself the winner, it seems like the tandem of Kimberly and Chelsea are calling the shots. I really like that dynamic: They aren’t the people who identify themselves as leaders of the tribe, but a powerful two-person alliance where you can trust the other person … that’s the best possible scenario to be in on “Survivor.” I think Kimberly and Chelsea have that. As long as they don’t get separated by some shuffling of the deck, I think that those two could go very far in this game.
What did you think of “Survivor” this week? Tell us in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!