Comments with spoilers after the jump ...
Cirie-ously, Joel's Gone
In the tribal stage of "Survivor" there is, ideally, one game going on -- your tribe against their tribe. But there is always a secondary game, in which individual players seek to protect themselves more than they worry about winning tribal challenges.
It's the second game that has kept Chet astonishingly safe for two weeks, and the second game that took out Joel this week.
The show included a realignment of tribes so they were no longer fans and faves but blends of both. Joel and Chet, whom he saved a week ago in order to take out Mikey B, ended up in the same reconfigured tribe, and Chet continued to be a non-asset in challenges. Both of which were lost by their tribe.
So it seemed logical to take out Chet at tribal council. Only Cirie, who has a remarkable knack for manipulating the other players even though she has no noticeable skills to bring to tribal competitions, sensed that taking out Chet would start a trend of dumping the weaker members of the new tribe, and she would be up for a vote soon enough. So she maneuevered virtually everyone else into taking Joel out.
And it's a sad replay of a week ago, when Mikey B should have stayed and Chet gone. (And Joel was aware, long before the tribal council, that that maneuver had come back to hurt him -- since he was saddled, almost literally in one challenge, with Chet.
Again, the players decided that having a strong tribe -- and therefore a way to avoid council votes --- was less important than their individual self-protection. It's an illogical move in crucial ways. Again, if you have a strong tribe, then you can win challenges and don't have to worry about getting voted off until the merger -- and may stiill be in a strong position when the merger comes. But the short-term advantage blinds them to the long-term potential.
As I said last week, it was probably good for the fan tribe that the mixing up of teams was coming, since the fans were probably on track to a series of defeats. The mixing only changed which individuals were on track to those defeats; Cirie has still set up a scenario where her tribe will lose again and again. She either has to hope that Penner's injury is severe enough to elminate him -- and therefore prevent a tribal council -- or that she can keep coming up with schemes to protect herself.
But then, protecting herself is her lone priority and focus.