Survivor Review: Chess Anyone?

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It’s pretty obvious if you want to be smart strategically in this game, you pick somebody who’s a pawn.  And I’m a pawn.

Moments before Alina was sent home this week by a majority of her former La Flor tribe mates, she uttered the above plea to keep her.  The rationale is accurate, but her assessment of her own place in the game was flawed, perhaps intentionally.

Sash Relaxes

Is this man the king of Survivor: Nicaragua

Alina was not a pawn.  Pawns can only move forward one space and can only attack diagonally.  The breadth of her game had more depth than the isolated movements of a pawn.  Alina is a far more dangerous knight who can move two spaces in one direction and then one space perpendicular in a different direction.  All in one move.  As she said herself, she was going to try and scramble as best she can to save herself, just as a knight does at the end of a game of chess.

Her comparison to chess got me thinking.  Who really are the pawns in this game?  Who’s the king?  The rooks?  Let's break it down:

Pawns: Kelly S, Jud, Holly, Chase
Alina’s logic was correct; these are the people you want to take to the final three with you.  What have any of them accomplished this game?  Holly almost got voted off in the first weeks for aligning herself with crazy Wendy and then almost losing her mind.  Despite being physically imposing, Chase hasn’t done much in the challenges and is a push-over when it comes to strategy.  Jud is comedic relief, nothing more.  Kelly S?  I’m not positive she’s actually in the game.

Rooks: Dan, Jane
Furthest away from the king and queen, rooks move simply, but effectively – vertically or horizontally.  That certainly defines Jane’s approach to this game.  She’s not trying to over think anything or zig when others are zagging.  She’s just looking to plow straight ahead. 

His motivation is different, but Dan is a straight shooter because he’s got little to lose: this game isn’t about the money for him.  He’s also showed a willingness to play the game, turning on former tribe mate Tyrone and laying possum with naïve Chase and then running to the knight next to him, Marty, with the plan to blindside him.

Holly Laughs at Benry

A bishop entertains a pawn

Knights: Marty, Alina
Many chess players will argue that the versatility of a knight makes them more dangerous than the bishop, which is closer to the king and queen.  Certainly makes it ironic that the two knights were the two players trying to position themselves as pawns.  As Alina just found out and Marty soon will, the king and queen will not be fooled.

Bishops: Benry, NaOnka
This unlike pair holds such a strong position in the game for completely different reasons.  Bishops are very strong pieces in chess and seem to attack with great speed because of the distance they can cover.  Benry is extremely dangerous because of his ability to win challenges.  We didn’t see it this week, but only a fool does not see his potential in upcoming challenges. 

NaOnka, on the other hand, showed that her game is not entirely emotion and sass.  Her play with Alina was absolutely brilliant.  She knew Alina was going home and somehow was able to tell her this without saying she wasn’t voting for her.  The other players may see NaOnka as a knight, moving predictably.  This week NaOnka proved there is a diagonal aspect to her game that many did not see coming. 

Queen: Brenda
The point of chess is to protect the king, but everyone knows that the queen is the most important piece on the board.  For the purposes of Survivor, Brenda and Sash are running the show as queen and king, but much like in chess, Brenda is obviously the most important player in the game.  To borrow a sports reference, she’s in the zone right now.  Came up with the idea for Marty to give the idol to Sash and even was able to take something useful away from Marty’s spiel about Jane.

Jud and Marty Carry the Chest

The underlings bring the queen her bounty

King: Sash
Fits the bill perfectly.  Compared to the queen, the king seems meek and immobile.  However, do not underestimate the king’s ability to move in all directions.  Early on, kings are not power players in a game of chess.  However, once the number of pieces remaining is reduced, the king’s movement is noticeably more powerful.  Sash is playing second fiddle to Brenda right now, but with the idol he’s dangerous to watch.

Does this mean that Brenda and Sash are the favorites to win the game?  Not necessarily.  Much like in a game of chess, when the queen is still around, the king is happy to sacrifice the bishops, knights and rooks (not to mention pawns) to get in a better position. 

However, if the queen is unexpectedly removed from the game, suddenly those secondary pieces become far more valuable.  What should Dan, Jane, Marty, Benry and NaOnka take away from our fun exercise with chess?  Get rid of the Queen!

More thoughts on this week’s episode:

  • We got a snip of Sash mentioning that he’d give the idol back to Marty for this week’s vote, but did he?  Wouldn’t Marty have played the idol if he got it back?  He did not seem confident at tribal council.
  • Where did Benry’s venom towards Alina come from?  Same for anyone on La Flor?  What did Alina and Kelly S do to ostracize themselves from their peers so much?
  • Did anyone else notice how much hair Alina had in her confessionals?  I just noticed this week and now I won’t get to be shocked every time I see it anymore.  Best comment of the week?  “We’re drinking all of this TO-DAY” from Jud about the rum.  
  • Holly navigated the NaOnka stealing scenario beautifully.  You could tell that she was nervous about confronting NaOnka about taking the flour and with good reason.  Castaways never want to get into shouting matches with another player, especially one as crazy as NaOnka.  It’s a 50/50 bet whether you’ll come out of the argument as the good guy or bad guy.  
  • Anyone else shocked that NaOnka confessed?  This girl is really hard to pin down “what” she is.  Her personality is so fluid.


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (3 Votes)

Marty has been in this game for way too long. Vote his dumb egoistical ass out next week.

Mr probst

@Richy - I couldn't agree more about Jane. I wrote last week that Jane's bitterness will come back to haunt her and I still think that. Vendettas have no place in Survivor. @Goffy - Apologies for the mistake. We fixed it. @Aaron - I disagree, Brenda is definitely running the alliance. Remember, it was her idea to have Sash ask for the idol. I went back and checked the rum comment and it was Jud/Fabio. Benry was drinking from the jug when Jud/Fabio made that comment.


I think Chase should be swapped with Benry. I remember Brenda saying that Benry switched votes in the Shannon episode, so she didn't trust him completely.


you got Kelly B(the one without the leg) mixed up with Kelly S(purple kelly). Sash only had to give it back(though he wasnt going to) if marty was going to go, so he was trying to make it seem unanimous that alina was going. Alina was on the outs with both La Flor, and the new Espada tribe, and she was friends with Kelly B, meaning that Naonka(and her friends) hated Kelly B(and her friends) meaning Alina was up shit creek.


Is this article a joke? Brenda isnt running anything. She is a naive puppet. Also, Jud didnt make the rum comment. Benry did. Did you even watch the episode before typing this dribble?


Very neat idea for a review! I think they're mostly spot on, but I haven't seen much strategy from Benry yet. I'd change him and Marty around, because of Marty's charisma and his desire to 'play the game'. It seemed to be a big reason why Fabio wouldn't change his vote from Alina. Interesting note : What if Shannon didn't have a breakdown, and his alliance had kicked off some of Brenda/Sash's? Am I the only one getting tired of Jane's vendetta vs. Marty? Maybe I just don't get her animosity because Marty/Jill didn't like her, but that happens. But to keep that after 20 days seems a bit unreal.
It looked like he might have put the bug in the ear of Sash/Brenda though, about whether or not to bring her along to the final 3.


I've been taking a lot of tutorials for chess recently and am also a big fan of Survivor - combine those two together and you've got me to love your article. I really enjoyed your analogy because you got it mostly spot on - Brenda and Sash really are the king and queen. However, I definitely would reduce hobblefoot Danny to a mere knight, there is no way that old cripple could move across an entire board like a rook.

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Survivor Season 21 Episode 8 Quotes

Guys...uncle Fabio's got some tree mail!


The vultures are definitely circling. Dead man walking.