Survivor China: Season 15, Episode 12

Jake Indursky
3 min readAug 17, 2020


So many plotlines to unpack here: an unconfirmed Johnny Fairplay-play, a potential tribal council swing and Sprint being the preferred mobile carrier of Survivor. Where to begin!

Might as well jump right to the reward challenge, which was a Loved Ones challenge, and also an opportunity for Todd to conveniently learn tell of his “sister’s miscarriage.” Do you even have another sister Todd?? Obviously, everybody jumps to the infamous Johnny Fairplay fake-dead-grandma dupe of Season..10? Whatever season Rupert was on. It is interesting that the two most kniving players in their respective reasons have both gotten “horrible news from the homefront.” But also, Johnny Fairplay was a backstabbing, good-for-nothing TROLLOP, and for all of Todd’s proclaimed (and self-proclaimed) mischievousness, he has actually stuck to his original tribal alliances, and the one big move on James was orchestrated by Amanda. I did appreciate Erik jumping the gun on calling Todd a liar, and we also got treated to a pretty impressive riff from Courtney, who has really grown on me as one of the legitimately funny contestants on Survivor (like I would laugh at her jokes in a non-Survivor setting).

I do grow more and more tired of Todd believing he is playing chess while everybody else is playing checkers — he has just benefited from an enormous numbers advantage from the start of the merge, and even with that, he has painted a huge X on his back by basically saying to whoever will listne “psst! I’m really smart, and good at Survivor! Don’t tell ANYBODY.” Maybe that worked in Season 1 for Richard Hatch, but Todd is essentially playing the same role, but with players who are far more well-versed in Survivor than the players in Season 1.

On the other hand, I do gain more and more respect for PG each episode. She has come up clutch in several immunity challenges, and she plays the game hard. Every episode, she works the angles she is supposed to work, and I thought had Denise ready to flip.

And let’s talk about Denise and her decision (or non-decision). This season has definitely emphasized the different number situations players can find themselves in, and how those scenarios create these natural strategic opportunities. In this season, Erik and PG and outnumbers two to four, but in a two to four situation, that fourth player is ripe for the plucking.

It feels like whatever alliance players can cobble together, they start telling each other, “OK baby, with this group, we’re assured Top 7 no problem, and then it’s smooth sailing!” Four is the “guaranteed” number that is thrown around the most and makes the least sense to me — every player should be gunning for top three: at that point, you are one immunity challenge from the final 2, so anybody in the top 3 can at least “control” their own destiny to a far greater extent than any other point in the game.

That’s why the four v. two situation is so interesting, especially when there is a hot-young group of three and a karate-ass-kickin lunch lady, there is a pretty obvious division of who is the fourth person voted out and who is in the top three.

So, should Denise have flopped? I have a hard time making a firm argument there — even if she had flopped, she was still only flopping to a tie. If Erik wins, great and she is likely in the top 3 with PG and Erik, but if Todd wins, then it seems she has all but guaranteed herself an early exit. On the other hand, sticking with her group of four means she’ll have to make a move sometime in the next round or two, and is more at the mercy of needing another player to flip. Denise ultimately is a good person who follows the teachings of her sensei, and she played her game — I don’t think I can fault her for that.