The continued immunity losses for the inhabitants of the
depleted Ravu camp is probably the main headline of the final
two pre-merge episodes of Survivor: Fiji. True, the Ravus
(mostly Dreamz) do manage to finally win one of the four
challenges (the first one). But the performance level and
general teamwork fades as these episodes progress, and they
ultimately lose two more people. Both of whom end up on the
jury, which perhaps is the bigger head-scratcher here.
Cook Islands is the go-to whipping post for Survivor fan antipathy to having the jury phase start before the merge, but these two pre-merge episodes are a reminder that it's a problem in Fiji, too. True, everyone lived together for two days at the start of the game, so technically Rocky did "meet" Cassandra, and Lisi did "meet" Earl. But neither of those two tribe-crossed pairs ever attended a Tribal Council together as players. They never had to decide if they were with or against each other as they approached the voting booth. It's a completely different kind of relationship to those in which a juror at least spent two to three days at a merge camp with a finalist.
Obviously, the Cook Islands situation was a bit more extreme: Yul's victory was by a razor-thin margin, a 5-4 vote, and three of the jurors really never met one (or all three!) of the finalists. Brad and Jenny were on the same original tribe as Yul (and Becky), and never met Ozzy, except when he invaded their camp with Cao Boi and Flica. Brad voted for Yul, so he is technically the deciding vote, and he went with a person he knew well, which doesn't seem entirely fair. (Then again, Jenny voted for Ozzy, so ... balance?) Rebecca never met any of the finalists, which is also not great, but at least there's no intrinsic bias. Here in Fiji, Rocky probably never talked to Cassandra in the first two days, and he was unlikely to ever vote for her anyway, since she's "a broad." Especially not when he had two men he could otherwise choose between. It's unclear if Lisi ever talked to Earl, but she refused to talk to Dreamz or Cassandra when she had the chance. Still, with the remaining Fiji jurors Earl won unanimously, so these two votes were essentially meaningless.
That doesn't mean it was a good idea to start the jury before the merge. It really does violate the concept that the jurors are making informed decisions on the game, especially when Rocky and Lisi are judging people based on murky impressions made 37 days earlier. Also, Earl's hands are entirely clean with respect to Rocky and Lisi. He had nothing to do with them being voted out. He wasn't even at the Tribal Councils where it happened! Fiji really should have had either a 7-person jury (not divisible by three!) starting with Michelle, or just merged at 12 (in Episode 7, maybe pairing that with swapping an episode earlier). These initial stumbles with fitting the new game-mechanical pieces together (final three, larger cast) as the format shifted can be forgiven, since they've now been fixed, suggesting the show learned from its mistakes.
Let's just hope it doesn't forget them again, as it did with Redemption Island.
Wild speculation sidenote: Is it possible the merge was delayed just long enough to allow Ravu to dig up their idol? Merging in Episode 7 was probably too early, since it was just three days after the swap. But there was no real reason not to merge in Episode 8 ... except they needed Ravu to dig up their idol still, since the merge camp was obviously going to be Moto's one, as it had a well.
An on-the-fly delayed merge fits the challenge sequence. Neither challenge in Episode 8 required a massive build: one was the Meke contest, the other was just three big targets. Both could easily have been thrown together quickly. Keep in mind, one of Probst's key opening spiel statements in the premiere was selling the exciting, novel concept of *two* immunity idols this season, so they were under pressure to have them both be discovered.
Alternatively, maybe the Ravu idol find actually sped up the merge. The next two challenges shown (Ep9 IC and Ep10 RC) are both team challenges as well. There are no individual challenges all the way until Day 27! Or maybe it all was just poorly planned, and merely *looks* cobbled together at the last second.
Lisi's frustrating run
The editors make no effort to hide the show's overall disdain for Lisi, but it's hard to argue that her actions didn't justify this backlash. Her mistreatment of Dreamz (and Cassandra) on Moto clearly left some emotional scars. Her almost-quit at the swap inspired the ire of Probst on the spot. Her second almost-quit when she returned to Exile Island in Episode 8 didn't do much to improve the situation. Talking about how she doesn't give a crap about challenges in Episode 8, then calling the rest of her tribe "a bunch of losers" after they keep failing to win also isn't the best look. Her telling Alex and Edgardo that she wants to be voted out, then going back on it, then wavering again — all minutes before Tribal Council — had to be maddening for her alleged allies. Then using her final words to reprise berating her tribemates as a bunch of losers, it's just ... ugh. Pick a lane!
Still, it's hard not to feel a little bad for Lisi. Alex and Edgardo did totally screw her over by sharing the idol clue with Mookie in the first place, then helping him dig it up while she slept. (That doesn't make "You're gonna have to wake up really, really early in the morning to fool an old cat like me!" any less funny.) Also, she probably would have given it away anyway when she asked to be voted out the first time, so ... maybe it's not that bad?
To be fair, Dreamz was a bit of a jerk to her at her last Tribal Council, constantly interrupting and talking over her. Again, he had his reasons, but he could have been a bit more chill about it. Exile Island is also a rough experience, especially when there's nothing to do there but wait to be picked up again, because you know the idol's back in camp (or would be, if it hadn't already been dug up). Also, she went through what looked like a rough night weather-wise there, with no real shelter to speak of. (Reinforcing that Exile Island, especially when there are no idols left to be found, is second only to Redemption Island/Island of Extinction in shitty "Island"-named twists. It's just gratuitous punishment.)
Still, Lisi made it to the jury phase, while people who actually were trying to play the game (Rita, Anthony, even Liliana) did not. It's the NaOnka/Purple Kelly thing, just six seasons earlier. That's almost entirely a function of the "haves vs have nots" twist, and some bad luck on Ravu's part in multiple challenges. Even so, it still seems unfair that someone who seemed so ungrateful to be there in the first place received so much screen time.
The rise of Yau-Man
While Dreamz achieved his long-threatened revenge on Lisi in Episode 8, there's really no sweeter justice than the "instant karma" Alex whips up after he laments (on behalf of the new Ravu bros) that it's frustrating, what with their "size, strength and agility" advantage, to lose twice to "a bunch of girls and an old guy." Alex is generally a thoughtful, level-headed guy, but jeez, bro. Not even Boston Rob whining about post-swap Rotu in Marquesas came out with something *that* arrogant and misogynistic.
So how do we right this wrong? Cue Yau-Man single-handedly destroying Ravu by scoring five of six total points in the Ep8 IC. All while Jeff Probst lazily criticizes Yau-Man's spear-throwing and archery techniques. It's just perfection. Total vindication, even as the bro-host mocks.
Best of all, Yau-Man keeps this going long-term, with an 82.4% Mean % Finish and three wins in individual challenges, emerging as the best individual challenge performer this season, well ahead of Boo at 72.4% and Dreamz at 71.5%. Alex finishes up a distant fourth at 58.3%.
That has to be frustrating.
- Dreamz the empath: For all the conflict Dreamz keeps finding himself in, his approach to Rocky in Episode 7 is pretty open-minded and thoughtful. The ex-Motos (mostly Alex and Edgardo, also Lisi by default) want Rocky out, because he's loud, emotional, and unpredictable. He irritated everyone after Ravu's first-ever challenge victory by ragging on people at the reward feast/arcade visit for eating too much. Dreamz pushes back against the Moto plan, arguing that Rocky says crazy stuff, but that's not who he really is, and he wants to get to know the real Rocky. Besides, he's already learned enough about Lisi, who treated him like dirt back at Moto. He briefly considers aligning with Mookie and Rocky to vote out Lisi, but they can never swing the necessary fourth vote, so he falls back in line with the Moto numbers. Remember, Rocky yelled at Dreamz on night 1 (or night 2?) for being too loud, so good for Dreamz for being willing to look deeper. (Even if there wasn't much of a deeper to find there.)
- Where are the women? - Epilogue: In Episode 8, we learn that Michelle is Earl's "little spy," and that she has some fairly advanced thoughts about how the original Motos are likely to align with their ex-tribemates after the merge. We are 8 episodes in, and we're finally getting a strategy-oriented confessional from Michelle. And as it turns out, she's a decent player, and perhaps there's more to her than talking about fashion and makeup, which was really the only other glimpse of her we've had in the previous seven hours of this season. Naturally, she's gone in the next episode.
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes