The men of "Survivor: One World" thought they had everything under control. They were wrong.
After a seemingly inescapable two-week losing streak, the female-populated Salani tribe bounced back big in the latest episode of "Survivor" with two straight challenge wins, sending the boys of Manolo to tribal council for the very first time. Before the vote, straight-shooting attorney Matt Quinlan, 33, tried to convince elder statesman Troy "Troyzan" Robertson, 50, to abandon his ragtag allies and join his cause. Matt represents the "roosters" of Manolo, he arrogantly argued, while Troy was siding with the less-than-equal "chickens." One confusing analogy and nine votes later, it was cocky rooster Matt who found his goose cooked.
With two straight losses under their belts, can Manolo reclaim their dominance in this game? Was there anything Matt could have done differently? Has momentum finally shifted in the women's favor? Once again, MTV News teamed up with longtime "Survivor" commentator and two-time player Rob Cesternino to tackle these questions and more.
MTV: Rob, let's start with the most important question: Are you a rooster or a chicken?
Rob Cesternino: Am I a rooster or a chicken? [Laughs] You know, I had never heard the chicken versus rooster analogy being made on "Survivor." Usually there are roosters and chickens on "Survivor," but you don't want to be either one of them — they get eaten! But which one was which: Was Matt the rooster, and the chickens killed the rooster? Then I would want to be a chicken. Chickens are where you want to be: Let everyone else think they're the rooster!
MTV: This week, it was the men's turn to collapse, and Matt's time to go. I had a feeling this guy wasn't long for "Survivor" pretty much from the first time he opened his mouth -- he was isolating himself very early on, not just towards the women, but even within his own tribe. What do you think Matt's undoing was? What was his fatal flaw?
Cesternino: You never want to come into "Survivor" and play the game too hard, too fast. "Survivor," "Big Brother," any of these reality shows, they're marathons. You can't just come in and say, "This is how it's going, and this is how it's going to be." That's kind of what Matt did from the get-go in this game. He just rubbed too many people the wrong way. In this season, when their tribe is all men, the things that he brought to the table — leadership, physical strength — the men already have that in spades. They don't need any more physical strength. A team of all men can get rid of a strapping guy in their first vote and not miss a beat, whereas in a regular season, you can't lose a guy like that; you need him for challenges.
MTV: Throughout the end of the episode, it seemed like a toss-up between Matt and Bill, who played a big role in losing the challenge for Manolo. Do you think the tribe made the right choice, choosing Matt over Bill?
Cesternino: I do. I think it makes sense to get rid of Matt early on because he's the one organizing counter-alliances, and you should cut off the head of the snake. That being said, I think Bill is the bigger threat to go further in the game. If you can get past the weird surfer dude stuff he's doing, I think he's a likeable guy — unless you're Colton. I think Bill can make friends along the way, even though he's not in the best position right now.
MTV: But Bill was acting pretty weird at tribal council. He seemed way too eager to get himself voted out of the game.
Cesternino: I wonder if maybe Bill was overcompensating. He knew he was a possibility to go, so he overplayed it: "I'm so safe and secure right now, I'm having such a great time." I wonder if maybe some of that was acting. "I'm not nervous, I'm not freaking out like Matt; I'm being calm. I'm not a threat!"
MTV: As it stands, the rooster alliance is pretty thin. They don't have the numbers, not that they ever did. The dominant alliance on the tribe now is Troy and the Average Joes, as they were dubbed by Matt last night. Do you like this group? It's very early still, but what do your instincts tell you: Is this a solid "Survivor" alliance?
Cesternino: I like the game that Troyzan is playing. I think he's emerged as a good leader of the Average Joes. Ideally, every "Survivor" player should want to be the leader of an average joe alliance. These are average people, not spectacular, and they're not looking to overthrow their leaders; they're not power-hungry. They're just a bunch of average joes! I feel like you wouldn't want to be in an alliance of five "Survivor" superstars, because they would all want to vote you out so they can keep being "Survivor" superstars. Take your average joes and get to the end.
The problem with Troyzan is that the other leader of the Average Joe alliance is Colton, who does seem power-hungry, and he could butt heads with Troyzan over who's calling shots for this team. They actually already did a little bit in this episode: Troyzan wanted Matt out, but Colton wanted to vote Bill. Colton did not get his way, of course. But it was really unclear: What did Bill do that was so bad to make Colton hate him so much? He's saying Bill should kill himself, he calls Bill "ghetto trash." That's so unnecessary! It's not just being offensive; what did Bill do? Sure, his voice might be annoying, but that hardly seems grounds for racial epithets and telling him to kill himself!
MTV: Well, aside from being pretty hateful in this episode, it does feel like Colton's turned things around a little bit. I still don't think he's winning material, but he's playing a game now that could take him a lot deeper than I, at least, had initially imagined.
Cesternino: I think Colton is the "Survivor" version of Newt Gingrich. Yes, he has conservative values, and yes, many people have written him off, but somehow he's still in the mix of this thing. But at the end of the day, we all know that he just can't win. For Colton, sure, things are looking OK now. But somebody playing the game like Colton has never won the game. At best, he goes to the end and gets zero votes. It makes very exciting television along the way, but it's a game that's impossible to win.
MTV: The men are the big story this week. There's almost nothing to say about the women other than, good on them! They have two challenges under their belt. Maybe they're getting along a bit better, too. Do you think they're on the rebound, or was this just good luck this week?
Cesternino: They did get their act together! They've won a couple of challenges, and now the momentum has seemingly shifted in the game. But I think the women are being unreasonable regarding their negotiating with the men. They never negotiate in good faith with the men. They want everything and they want to give up nothing. This is why we don't negotiate with terrorists! [Laughs] They take and they take and they take, but you can't hold them to their word. They want fire, they want embers, but they just won't give the men a straight answer on whether they can use their boat! There's just no trust right now between the two tribes. There's no need for that. Ultimately, these tribes are going to merge, the teams are going to be swapped, and you will have to have relationships with these people. Outside of Colton, seemingly nobody has been able to bridge the intertribal gender lines.
MTV: Here's what's interested me most this season: On paper, the concept of "One World" should theoretically bring these pre-merged tribes closer together in a way that we've never seen on this show before. Instead, it feels like the rivalry and competition between two tribes has never been this heated and this heightened this early on. There's so much bitterness between these two tribes.
Cesternino: That's a good point. I think it might have been counterintuitive to the "One World" twist to make it men versus women, because people are so wrapped up in men versus women that they're afraid to cross that tribal divide. If it was just red team versus blue team, the only difference is a different-colored buff, it wouldn't be a big deal. But because there's such a line in the sand here, I wonder if it almost defeated the purpose of having them live on the same beach. If there is a tribe switch in the future, it'll be interesting to see who will be able to work well with people from the other tribe.
MTV: Closing out as we normally do, who did well this week? Who's looking good right now?
Cesternino: Someone who did well this week was Troyzan. I think he's in a very good position in the tribe. He not only emerged as the leader of the Average Joes, he was also the guy that Matt came to as sort of a potential "rooster." It's good that he was approachable; he didn't get in Matt's face and be confrontational, à la Colton. Troy just said, "Sure, that sounds good!" But to us at home, he said, "I don't want to work with Matt! I'd never work with Matt! I want to vote him out!" And that's exactly what he did. You don't want to have confrontations with people on "Survivor." You just want to agree with every proposal that comes your way. "Sure, that sounds like a great idea!" Then you carry out your own business. I thought Troyzan did a very good job at that.
Get more of Rob's thoughts on "Survivor" on his website.
What did you think of "Survivor" this week? Tell us in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!