|by Wanda Shirk
Credit where credit is due department: Hail Stephenie! In the reward challenge, Steph was teamed with Danni, Judd, and Gary, and the foursome won. It appeared to me that the challenge was stacked, with the four best athletes against the four least athletic. BUT THEN … in the immunity challenge, who were the final four? Steph, Rafe, Jamie, and Cindy! Based on that challenge, Rafe, Jamie and Cindy are superior to Gary, Judd, and Danni, with the latter two significantly behind in the competition. Looked at that way, Steph was with the tribemates least likely to succeed in the RC, and Steph was the key to success. True, the challenges were different in nature, but any way you look at it, Steph was the only one in the Top Four both times, and that says something about her competitive abilities. Steph fans can say “Here, Here! Attend to this!” The Steph-deprecators must dole out some respect, however grudgingly.
I’ve refrained from commenting directly on Steph this season until now, because we’re friends, and I have a bias. At this point, some praise was definitely warranted.
Cindy also merits praise and respect for a lot of reasons. Let’s just list some. Gary voted for her in Tribal Council, but Cindy came back with a no-harm-done, “That’s okay; it’s just one vote” spirit of friendship and forgiveness. Great attitude. Remember the “Merge Feast” option: to eat or not to eat, that was the question, and Cindy, though she was nowhere near the chopping block, said, “I can eat when the 39 days are over. I came here to be a Survivor and compete in the challenges!” Awesome! She has consistently been a good competitor athletically, whether it was her Top-Four finish in this week’s IC or the spear-throwing prowess she demonstrated at last week’s RC for a seat near the head of the line. Finally, Cindy’s been a thinker and a person with a conscience throughout this game. Like Rafe, she’s long been questioning the “Alliance of Six” from Nakum 2, and last night she became part of the team that brought the six down to five. Good job, Cindy! We like you! You go, Girl!
Rafe also deserves a lot of praise and credit. As he himself could note with justifiable pride, he’s won two individual immunities and placed second in the other one. I continue to admire his efforts as Camp Guatemala Activities Director as well. Rafe invented the leaf-Uno game, and although we haven’t been told that Rafe devised the trays for the Guatemala Corn-Mancala (Corn-cala? Guatacala?) game, I suspect Rafe deserves the credit for that as well. Did he develop those things on an impromtu basis there or plan the game construction at home before he left for Survivor? I think the latter; good Survivor players take with them ideas to implement for camp entertainment, and Rafe’s a long-time Survivor lover, a thinker, and a planner. Not least on Rafe’s list of credits is the courage and leadership he demonstrated in saying that Gary deserved to stay more than Jamie at this TC, and then taking action to make a change happen.
Gary is also a man you’ve gotta admire. We all know he’s been slated for exile for weeks now, but he plays a tough game and has hung in there longer than he or we expected. He’s saved himself by winning immunity, by finding the immunity idol, and this week by just persevering in being the kind of man even Judd respects, the kind of man that most of the tribe just couldn’t say goodby to yet. Best wishes to you, my man!
Those are the top for on my slate this week. Sure, we still like Danni, but she lagged way behind in the IC this week, and her closest family members only bark! (Does her mom have one of those, “What do you mean, my grandchildren are dogs?” sweatshirts?) Judd and Gary had cute kids for us, and Steph’s livingroom full of family support was heart-warming.
Lydia got some pity from me as she struggled through the muck this week, and I wondered how much she worked out before she went. I got a personal trainer and worked out hard for three months before I left for Palau, but quite frankly, I have no idea how well or poorly I’d fare in the swamp, and I thought Jeff “encouragement” came across more as scolding or taunting. I know Lydia felt bad, and her teammates knew that being assigned with her meant a death-sentence to their family-video dreams. They bore it bravely, and she let them know she took responsibility and was really sorry … but there’s nothing really heroic about “I can’t do it.”
Jamie’s undoubtedly a nice young kid who needed to go back to the “real world” and get off the “reality world” to prove it.
Judd: Just hilarious to watch his face as the TC votes were read! Jamie wasn’t the only one blind-sided! Read Judd’s mind: “If they could do it to him, they can do it to me.” “I’m not in the inner circle! I had no clue!”
A final pondering: When the producers set up the teams for the RC, knowing that four people would not get their tapes, did they consciously think, “Lydia’s team will have no chance. Which three will we put with her to lose?” Did Daddies (good videos) get put with the perceived stronger women (Steph and Danni) because those four were fore-ordained by the Providence of the Producer-Gods to go to Coffee-Heaven? In some shows, everyone got mail and videos from home. More and more often, only a select few get this reward. Letters and visits from home are rewards everybody should get if they make it that far in the game.
I didn’t get my mail and videos till a few weeks after I got home from Palau. I had said (pre-Palau) that I wouldn’t cry when I got them — but when I got that package in my mail box after I was home, I was nothing but a bucket of tears for the rest of the day. The letters from home are always enough to make a grown man cry, and if he doesn’t, maybe the emotional part of him isn’t grown yet. One of the sweetest things about being a Survivor is the family support it brings out — the wonderful things your parents and siblings and spouse and kids say, that they might never express otherwise. That box of letters is still one of my best memories from Survivor 10.
The kind of letters you get in situations like Survivor are to cry for.
Visit Wanda on the World Wide Web at WackyWanda.com.