If not he’s dominating his respective tribes, Ryan Ulrich has certainly dominated the screen time of Survivor: Heroes vs Healers vs Hustlers. Ryan has been all over and in control for much of the game so far and has very little reason to sweat or be worried. In the two most recent episodes however, Ryan made two big moves. They were so big, in fact, that they threaten to destroy his game entirely.

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Backstab Backlash

Ryan’s first major mistake caused his next. Ryan’s first screw-up was siding with Chrissy over Ali, who was much more loyal, to get rid of Roark. Yet Ryan still could’ve recovered from that blunder by winning Ali back over to his side, but Ryan didn’t do that. In fact, he did the exact opposite. Ryan pushed Ali away entirely and in the process exposed himself to be a complete weasel. Ryan’s confrontation with Ali after the Roark vote was a disastrous moment for his game. As much Ryan tried to claim Ali was losing her cool and being emotional, Ryan was far more emotional and came off far worse than Ali.

Ali reasonably brought up several solid points that underlined Ryan’s untrustworthiness in the game and he did nothing but make faces and imply she was the crazy one. The worst thing is how the argument happened right in front of JP and Chrissy, but mainly the latter. JP is clueless but Chrissy is shrewd enough to know that Ryan exposed himself as a trust liability in the Ali argument. Even in her private confessional, Chrissy didn’t say she trusted Ryan more after he voted with her. Chrissy just believes Ryan will work with her longer than Ali. Trust and working with someone are two very different sentiments. 

To make the Roark vote a smart move for his game, Ryan needed to get Ali back under control or have her pledge some semblance of loyalty to him, but he didn’t. Instead Ryan voted Ali out of the game, right before the big merge. While this might seem like a stroke of good fortune for Ryan, it’s really not. Ryan may have just sealed his failure in the game by axing Ali. 

A Snake Exposed

Ali won’t be there at the merge to sow the seeds of discontent with Ryan herself, but the rest of the Hustler tribe will be there. All of them will likely be far less likely to trust Ryan now. Ali being voted out should send a clear message to Devon and Lauren that Ryan is only looking out for himself. Lauren turning against Ryan could be even worse than if Ali had stuck around because Lauren’s been one of the most outspoken (and oddly persuasive) castaways in season 35.

This is all incredibly damaging to Ryan’s game because he needs allies to go far. Ryan is way too scrawny and weak to win any serious competitions in the post-merge Survivor game. Ryan is a social player and by getting rid of someone everyone knew he was aligned with, he just painted a huge target on his back.

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Ryan might have JP’s loyalty after voting to keep him in the game, but JP’s one asset is his physical strength. JP’s going to win competitions and do almost nothing else. He’s not exactly someone Ryan can use to further himself in the game. Chrissy might seem like a good option and while she’ll string Ryan along if it suits her, she won’t want to stick by him. Chrissy’s been clued into Ryan’s game and she’s already way too ambitious to play second fiddle to a schemer like Ryan. 

This isn’t even to mention Joe, incredibly paranoid and aggressive Joe, who is going to take one look at Ryan in the merged tribe and realize they’re playing very similar games. Joe is almost certainly going to want to take a shot at Ryan. Since Joe now holds another Hidden Immunity Idol, he might have a chance to do it. 

Ryan began the season in a good spot. Ryan is an archetype that (inexplicably) does very well on Survivor, a little nerd who gains people’s trust and flies under the radar to the end. Yet Ryan emerged from under that radar way too early and began getting far too aggressive in his moves for him to keep slithering along to the end. Ryan might not be cut in the first post-merge vote but unless something changes (or the merge tribe is incredibly stupid) he won’t be in the game for much longer. 

What do you think of Ryan’s game? Is he in trouble or is he just going to keep skating by this season? Will Devon or Lauren trust Ryan again? Should they trust him?

Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Survivor Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Derek Stauffer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Derek is a Philadelphia based writer and unabashed TV and comic book junkie. The time he doesn’t spend over analyzing all things nerdy he is working on his resume to be the liaison to the Justice League.