Survivor: Nicaragua – 21.01: “Young At Heart”

“I’m kinda used to having guys do what I say.” – Brenda

Today’s discussion on Survivor comes courtesy of my roommate, who watched the first few minutes of the premiere episode with me.  Having won the “Medallion of Power” (what an awful, cheesy name) by finding it in the wild, the younger tribe, La Flor, was given the opportunity to choose to keep the medallion, or turn it over to the older tribe, Espada, in exchange for a package contaning a fire-making kit and fishing gear.  They were forced to make this decision without knowing what the medallion could later be used for.  My roommate, being an avid poker player and seeing most of the world in terms of expected value/outcome, laughed and stated that everyone basically just wasted their time searching for the medallion.  Without knowing the full extent to which the medallion would provide an advantage, he claimed that the decision (sure thing now or unknown thing in the future) basically amounted to a coin flip, and that it didn’t matter who made the decision or even what the decision was, as there was no way of knowing at the time what would be the better choice.

While my roommate has a point, I’m not entirely convinced that the situation is that simple.  Survivor is a game of many variables and ever-changing rules, but the almost-always constant has been that the first few days always suck, due to a lack of fire.  No fire means no warmth at night and no safe drinking water (typically, the fresh water provided for the contestants needs to be boiled before it can be drank).  While the fishing gear is a nice extra, fire is an absolute necessity and the tribe that obtains it sooner can enjoy a more comfortable and healthier environment for longer, giving an advantage in the first few challenges.  Now, that doesn’t mean I’m advocating automatically taking the fire kit, but it does mean that you have a little bit of information to base your decision on.  If someone on your tribe is confident in their ability to make fire without any help, the value of the package diminishes somewhat, perhaps to the point of being able to justify not taking it in favor of keeping the medallion.  It’s true that ultimately, there is no way to know what the “right” decision to make is until the value of both options are known (the true power of the medallion was revealed at the first challenge: it can be exchanged for an advantage in the challenge, but it would then be given to the other tribe to be used at a future challenge), but in this case, you at least have some amount of knowledge to base your decision on.  If you decide a fire building kit isn’t that necessary to your tribe, play the odds and hope that the advantage the medallion will grant your tribe is a good one.  If you decide you really need help starting a fire, go for it, because ultimately, having fire early on will also give your tribe a huge advantage, both in morale and in general well-being.

In the end, La Flor went with the fire-building kit (and fishing gear), and I think it was the right decision.  Interestingly enough, Espada has almost no trouble getting a fire going themselves, as someone on their tribe actually had the forethought to learn how to consistently build a fire using a pair of glasses before going on the show.

Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to say about the first episode of this new season of Survivor.  Most of the time is spent with the bigger characters, and sometimes we don’t even get to meet everyone.  We have our first bona-fide celebrity contestant in Jimmy Johnson, and he was certainly full of vigor and spunk and managed to fit in pretty well with his tribe.  We’re already filling in some Survivor archetypes (the flirt, the dumb guy, the annoying older lady, the slightly misogynistic jerk, the guy who takes things way too seriously, the out-to-prove-something person, etc.), but we won’t really get to know these people until a few episodes in.  It seems like an interesting cast and there’s certainly potential for a lot of fun.

Oh yeah, and La Flor?  That opening war-chant or whatever was some weak-ass shit.  It’s very telling that not everyone on the tribe was doing it.

Who I’m rooting for: Like I said, it’s hard to say this early on who I’m rooting for because not everyone has made much of an impression at all, but in watching some of the pre-show videos and interviews, I’m somewhat fond of Alina on La Flor (even though she said next to nothing this episode), and I kinda enjoyed the fast and reasoned talking-style of Marty on Espada.  Of course, now I’m sure Marty will turn out to be kind of a douche and Alina will be voted out way early.

Who will win: Again, way way too early to tell, but my initial gut reaction tells me that we’ll see good things from Yve. She didn’t have a lot to say this episode, but when she did, it seemed calm and collected, and that could go a long way in terms of formulating strategy.  If she can survive the first few rounds, she might make it pretty far.

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