Updated: May 15
In a game like Survivor, first impressions can mean everything. A good one can help establish your place as a valued member of the tribe. A terrible first impression can put you on the outs, making it impossible to navigate the strategic waters necessary to win the game.
Ramona spent the first two days of Borneo sick, unable to bond with her tribemates. She further self-isolated herself after she started feeling better, primarily spending time with Gervase. When she finally started opening up and helping around camp, her poor first impression made her an easy target as Pagong returned to tribal council. Let's dig into "Too Little, Too Late" as we take a look at Ramona's exit.
As a tribe, Pagong is unified, with a few notable exceptions. As the episode opens, they are dealing with some shelter issues that force them to move deeper into the jungle. Joel's arrogance over the situation is beginning to grate Gretchen, who expresses her frustration towards the camera about Joel several times.
Gretchen is also starting to get leery of Greg. He plays a vital part in this unity as he uses his humor to keep the tribe entertained. Gretchen sees right through his strategy, recognizing that Greg is trying to make himself valuable to the tribe while appearing non-threatening at the same time. He is talking to coconuts, after all. There is no feasible way he has any real strategy!
Gretchen reads the situation correctly, understanding the threat his likability poses at the end. Gretchen surprised me in this episode with her ability to read the tribe. She had good instincts about people. There is no telling how well she could have done if she had an inkling of Survivor strategy.
Meanwhile, Ramona continues to struggle to connect with most of her tribe, except Gervase. At one point, Ramona opens up about not having a lot of white friends back home. While only a single sentence during a much larger conversation, Romona's comment struck me deeply. Survivor is a game-forcing individuals from all walks of life to form a new society. As an audience, we sometimes forget that tribal lines often reflect that of that the real world. In other words, how we approach making friends in everyday life will carry over into the social dynamics on the island.
Quite frankly, island politics are often dictated by what we consider our social norms off the island. For Ramona, this moment on camera is a simple reflection of her own life and is an honest comment about how we often interact in society. Individuals gravitate towards those they have commonalities with, in whatever form those take.
Survivor has faced some real issues depicting and discussing racial equity on television. This moment stood out to me as I feel Survivor missed an opportunity to comment on how biases, unconscious or not, impact tribal dynamics. In some ways, Ramona's game was compromised by how society dictates we interact with one another.
For Ramona, though, I wish she would have recognized this sooner. In every aspect, Survivor takes you out of your comfort zone. Once she acknowledges she struggles to relate to others, it seemed to liberate her from the fear of opening up. She made inroads this episode with her tribemates, but it needed to happen much sooner.
Tagi is a fractured tribe. Sean's personality continues to rub his tribemates the wrong way, particularly Richard and Sue. Much like Greg, Sean is actively presenting himself as the fun guy. The only problem for Sean is that his tribe doesn't seem amused by any of his creations. Sean's constant construction of frivolous items only further irritates those around him.
This week is the perfect example of the flaws in his strategy. While on a desperate search for tapioca, Sue and Kelly complain about Sean telling them their hunt is worthless, making this the second consecutive week he felt compelled to dictate to others how they should approach gathering food for the tribe.
Meanwhile, Sean wants to hit the lanes by building a bowling alley on the island. Yep, he thought the best strategy to keep the tribe entertained is building a sand bowling alley that looks to be as useful as his super pole, which has caught no fish with, by the way. Sue didn't take kindly to Sean's rebuke of her food search when he wasted so much time doing something even more worthless.
Don't get me wrong, I see the merit in creating fun activities to keep everyone entertained, but it only works if you don't belittle the rest of your tribe. Oh, and they have to work. Otherwise, it will always appear to be a waste of time.
For the reward challenge this week, each tribe had to construct an SOS sign out of materials around camp. Jeff would fly over to determine which SOS sign is better because nothing says an impartial win like a personal judgment call of who made a more aesthetically pleasing sign. The winning tribe will receive a comfort kit, including pillows, blankets, and a knife.
Surprise, surprise, Tagi cannot get on the same page. Sean's personality and desire to control what the tribe is doing bothers Richard. In response to this, Richard decides he has to be more deceitful if he wants to get further in this game by forming alliances. In the middle of a reward challenge, the idea of the chief Survivor strategy was born.
On Pagong, Ramona bans with her tribe to build their SOS sign after a heart to heart with Gervase. Pagong is happy to see Ramona opening up, but it feels a little too late for some of her tribemates who wish they would have seen this side of her at the beginning of the game.
As the conclusion of the reward competition, Tagi created a slogan with the words Tagi is Groggi and used the tribemates dressed in yellow raincoats doing sand angels to help signal the plan. Pagong made a smiley face. Jeff, the drop master, and the pilot all agreed that Tagi's was better, giving them the win.
An Alliance Forms
Alliances are the foundation most players build their strategy from every season. It makes a lot of sense to form a block of votes to protect each other to get further in the game. While a commonality now, alliances were a foreign idea during the first season. It was a game-changing idea that would impact not on this season but all that came after.
Kelly and Sue started talking about working together. Richard, who already expressed an interest in forming voting blocks, was looped into the conversation as they felt they could work together. They also wanted to bring in Rudy, but he isn't on board initially.
Just like that, the first Survivor alliance is born.
The immunity challenge is a relay race. The first leg is a swim with the swimmers retrieving the map in a bottle that they give off to a runner that ferry it across a floating bridge. Then two castaways paddle back to the beach to open the bottle. Finally, one tribe member uses the map to run in the jungle to retrieve a key while the remaining tribemates dig for buried treasure at the beach.
Tagi jumps out to the early lead with Pagong close behind. The race remains close through the water portion of the challenge. It is in the jungle where Dirk takes a commanding lead for Tagi. Gervase struggles to find his key, physically exhausting himself. Tagi unearths their treasure first and opens it, securing another victory.
After the immunity challenge, the Pagon women have a conversation about feeling insecure about their place in the tribe. Jenna thinks she is going home since she wasn't able to unbury the treasure chest. Colleen doesn't see herself as physically strong, fearing her tribe will want to keep as much muscle as possible. Funny enough, no one mentions Gervase, whose challenge mishaps have factored in Pagong's last few losses. Jeff rightly points this out over narration as they walk to tribal.
As Pagong arrives at tribal, the conch shell is no longer a part of tribal council. Let's all take a moment of silence for the one week experiment that didn't work. But credit to producers for recognizing when a changes was needed.
I won't dig too much into tribal because not a lot is actually happening on Pagong. There is no real strategy talk happing like there is at Tagi. You have to love Gervase, though. He somehow indicated that he feels comfortable before immediately walking that comment back. Nothing is better than a
When Jeff reads the votes, the Pagong feels split for the first time in the game. Ramona received four votes, Colleen two votes, and Jenna one vote. One of the aspects of early Survivor I love is this unpredictability. There aren't entrenched alliances that won't turn on each other. Players had no idea what to do or how to play, so anyone was at risk of going home at any time.
With the vote, Ramona's time on the island came to an end. Despite some positive stride this week, she wasn't able to overcome her slow start. It just goes to show, you cannot take a day off in Survivor. Every moment counts, and players need to make the most of their opportunities. While not her fault for being sick, Ramona got a late start at the game, and it ended up costing her in the end.