Goodbye “David vs. Goliath” – we hardly knew ye. I was hesitant to lose that dynamic, but this episode still delivered and set up some more stories to go forward with, so I’m glad that worked out. Another David tribal council could have been wild, but another Goliath one would have been wet from all the tears I’d be crying over Natalie, so the swap was probably a blessing in disguise. Just like Alec’s breakout night! Who knew? The “expansion” was truly that and I’m still as excited as ever to see how this story continues to unfold.
BYE BYE BI
I would have liked to have seen Natalie’s victory dance in the moonlight up and down the Goliath beach after the last tribal council, but alas, that scene was cut for time with so much needing to be squeezed into this 43 minutes and 28 seconds.
Before the main event, Probst called out Bi and asked for an update on her knee. Given the emphasis on the injury last week, we all knew it’d be her undoing in some way, shape, or form. I was leaning toward an easy vote-out, or maybe an evac if conditions worsened, so I was hit with a sucker punch by the quit.
Quits always suck on Survivor, and I’m not saying I have no disappointment over it, but ... I get it. Bi’s career depends on her body being in tip-top shape, and by staying in the game, she only risked further injury to that career and her livelihood. The damage done by staying in the game was probably more than a million dollars could recover, and while many fans may claim they’d be willing to make that sacrifice, I bet few have MMA fighting in their future. Sure, we’d give up a lot to play Survivor, but Bi’s also not a lifelong fan, so I’m confident MMA trumps Survivor in her life. It sucks. I hate seeing a quit, but of the one’s we’ve seen, I’d put this on the lesser offensive end of the spectrum. I was more offended by Jeff trying to shoehorn the theme into yet another depressing departure.
DROP YOUR BUFFS
Ah, the wide range of emotions we see when Jeff lets those famous words fly. I remember when we first saw two tribes become three – it was a moment – but now it’s like, eh, yeah, cool, whatever. Here’s how that all played out:
VUKU – Davie, Elizabeth, Natalia, Alec, Kara
TIVA – Christian, Gabby, John, Dan, Alison
JABENI – Nick, Lyrsa, Natalie, Mike, Angelina
DEATH BY STONING – Carl
Damnit, the Davids did it again! They managed to put themselves at a numbers disadvantage on every.single.new.tribe. IS THAT A DAVID THING? The swap could not have worked out better for the David vs. Goliath story but no worse for the Davids themselves. Though, it was perhaps Dan that drew the shortest of sticks by getting split from his kryptonite Kara. This one-sided love story just keeps getting more and more tragic as the days go by.
Okay, so these names. What the hell? Vuku is just “Nuku” from Game Changers with a V, Tiva is definitely a completely made-up “island-sounding” name, and Jabeni was pronounced so many different ways this episode that I’m glad I only have to type it, not say it. Is it supposed to sound like Jabinny, Jabeeni, or Return of the Jebedi?
Carl was spared from at least the first vote by being sent to Ghost Exile Island where great mystery and fortune awaited him. For everyone else, it was back to their new camps as these new tribes for an afternoon of awkward icebreakers! I hope everyone prepared two truths and a lie to share.
Also – props to Christian for finally getting “gerrymandered” into an episode of the show.
TOO MANY THINGS IN COMMON
The new David tribe, or Vuku, quickly split off after some initial introductions between its new members. The Goliaths on the tribe felt pretty secure with their numbers and felt it was only a matter of determining which David to dump, but that’s too easy of a story to tell.
Davie and Alec became friendly while Elizabeth and Kara bonded over Christianity and horseback riding, leaving Natalia feeling a little left out. She just shuffled behind the other two women quietly like she didn’t belong at all. We’ve all been in Kara and Elizabeth’s shoes (some of us in Natalia’s too ...) where we’re having a conversation with someone and there’s just this totally uncomfortable third wheel standing close by that can’t take the hint to keep walking. They stand there waiting for an opportunity to jump into the conversation, and it never comes up organically, so inevitably they just insert themselves and kill the mood. Natalia did exactly that when she dropped this major news update on the girls:
Elizabeth wished she had a horse right then and there so she could ride away. Her face was like the equivalent of the “haha yeah” text or “well, I should probably go” statement. SO AWKWARD.
Natalia shared her concerns with Kara about getting too close to Elizabeth, but Kara assured her it was nothing to worry about. We knew, though, that that wouldn’t be the last we saw of nervous Natalia.
You know, the show can play that dramatic music all they want during an idol hunt, but we’ve heard it enough to where the thrill is gone. Carl was sent to Exile Island alone for a few days and was immediately presented with an ominous riddle – did anyone honestly believe he wouldn’t find what he was looking for? They may as well have given him the coconut as soon as he got off the boat and spent time on more exciting things happening at the camps. At least the advantage Carl collected was something new…
This is the authentic Debbie Donato-Wanner from Survivor’s thirty-second season, Kaoh Rong – Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty…
I wish. I’m not sure if Carl will be the one savvy enough to use this idol nullifier correctly. It may be difficult for anyone to use, for that matter, unless we have a Ben Bomb situation with idols being flaunted left and right. I guess what this can do is make a split vote unnecessary, but only if Carl is in the majority and tells his allies about it. Still, an interesting concept with points for originality. Just two seasons too late...
SHE SITS ON HER THRONE
“It feels weird to have the Davids in my camp ... I want them gone.” Classic Queen Natalie! Angelina put it so perfectly: Natalie sitting on her thrown, looking down on her peasants. I mean, if the crown fits ....
She’s not bossy ... she’s just the boss!
For the first time, I’m actually nervous for Natalie. We know Nick’s going to work aggressively to make that crack bigger and flip Mike and Angelina. However, events at Vuku may now make the two less likely to flip, so I could still see Lyrsa being in trouble here on the Javelin tribe. The only thing we know for certain is that Natalie is GOLIATH STRONG. I did catch her say, “Nick,” otherwise I would have wondered if she even bothered to learn his and Lyrsa’s names. She reminded me of Christine Markoski from South Pacific, essentially calling the Davids “temporary players.” So boss.
Like Natalie, Nick was also up to his same old routine, meeting people and giving a name to their alliance before telling them his own. I feel like I’m the only person in Survivor fandom who would not have recognized Mike as Ned Schneebly from School of Rock and am always fascinated when someone goes, “oh yeah!” after Mike tells them that’s his most well-known work. Was the movie that iconic and I’m just some uncultured swine? I know I’ve seen it, but I literally remember nothing about it. I can recite every line of Billy Madison from start to finish, though, if that counts for anything ....
After a clever “Mason-Dixon” alliance, Nick lost some of his creative spark in dubbing he and Mike “The Rockstars” just two minutes into conversation. Mike may not be wrong about this new tribe facing tribal council soon, so I’m sure this alliance will play an important role in the coming weeks. That, and whatever other alliances Nick names.
DUDE BROS AND GABBY’S WOES
This TiVo tribe is never going to lose a challenge. They’ve got the two strongest men, the strongest woman according to Day 1, and the puzzle-primed nerdmance. Unless the next challenges involve a combination of writing screenplays, driving a truck, and dropping napalms, I think Tiva is set against Voodoo and JellyBelly. That said, not everyone here felt that same confidence.
Christian weaponized his charm and got the “dude bro” Goliaths taking a liking to him fast. It was sort of precious watching John and Christian exchange nerd banter over Slamtown as Dan taught Christian how to properly not slice his face open with a machete. Gabby observed it all and worried she’d lose her nerd to the jocks, having flashbacks to high school and being excluded from the cool kids table. While Christian was fluent in the language of the Goliaths, Gabby was anything but ... gabby.
Gabby managed to stay strong around her new tribe members but let the waterworks flow when she was able to talk (sob) to Christian in private. Luckily, he was there to literally dry her tears as seen above (aww). I felt a lot for Gabby this episode because while I consider myself a pretty “cool” kid by my own definition, I never felt like one of the cool kids, and that flipped back “dude bro” hat is one that’s never fit me whenever I pretended it did either. That’s just normal social anxiety but to deal with it as an obstacle in an already anxiety-heavy game wouldn’t be easy for anyone.
I think Gabby just needed to have a good cry this week and will bounce back. She crushed it in the challenge, so she didn’t let this social pressure squish her, and like I said, I’d bet on Tiva never facing tribal council. If they do, I’m not sure I see a way out for her unless Dan’s idol becomes a target. I also shouldn’t doubt Christian’s charm keeping Gabby from harm.
IMMUNITY – WHAT’S UNDER MY FOOT?
Blindfolded challenges are the best, especially when the boys’ “manhood” isn’t in any obvious danger (there’s always some danger). This was also a challenge that I wish I could run myself, bossing two pairs of blindfoldees around. “Push me left! Turn me around! Jerk that table to the right!” Ja-Ben & Jerry’s made a bold decision to not let Natalie do what she does best on that one-wheeled throne, but it didn’t end up costing them a win. Although maybe she could have beaten Gabby and Tiva ....
Good to see Gabby in higher spirits with the big win! I just hope that’s not the same faces they all made after all those desserts ran right through their tribe later that day.
They can take the name “David” away from the tribe, but they can’t take the tribe away from being a David. Or is this the still-looming Malolo curse upon the orange buff? Whatever it was, Vuku would be visiting Jeff at tribal council. Kara said the decision was just a matter of deciding between Davie and Elizabeth, but that was before Natalia dropped a napalm of her own.
GET YOUR BUTT IN GEAR
Elizabeth isn’t one to go down easy, and she knew the Goliaths were gunning for her, so she set off with Davie to find the hidden immunity idol. Clearly not trusting Elizabeth again after their last tribal council together, Davie let Elizabeth live out her wild fantasies and get to digging. This was pretty sad to watch Elizabeth try to find something that could save both her and Davie while Davie knew full well that the only thing she was digging up was her own grave. Davie’s plan instead was to help bury her in it.
Davie let Natalia know that Elizabeth was coming for her, which solidified Natalia’s target as Elizabeth. Davie and Elizabeth continued working against each other here as Elizabeth tried to flip Alec to vote out one of the Goliath girls. Without much of a bite from him, she finally realized that her only option may be to ditch Davie.
However, Elizabeth didn’t completely miss the mark with Alec and at least got him to turn toward Davie as the boot instead of her which ended up causing some friction between Alec and Natalia. They later reconvened in the shelter along with Kara and Davie to confirm the vote for Elizabeth which was a conversation that ended in Natalia telling Kara and Alec to just “shut up.”
That was the moment. That’s all it took to set the wheels in motion for a Plan C for Alec: voting out Natalia. It seemed completely illogical for Alec, yet the story seemed to be pointing toward a Natalia boot over an Elizabeth one, so I sat dumbfounded, staring at my TV screen thinking, “... holy shit, he’s gonna do it.” The fate of the Vuku tribe rested on the surfer dude’s shoulders…
HAVE SOME BALLS
Curse you JT for starting this whole whispering trend at tribal, but I suppose it did stoke the fire as was needed to avoid everyone just piling on the talk of Elizabeth being the biggest threat that needed to go. I don’t even know why Alec needed to say anything more to Elizabeth here, but I’m glad he did only to get the reaction we did from Natalia.
She was now frantic and ready to FIGHT! The whispers continued whirling around to everyone except Davie, after which, I couldn’t believe he didn’t play his idol. Alec must have prepped him ahead of time to “stick to the plan” no matter what went down, and seriously a lot went down…
What a brilliant exit for a brilliant character. This is pretty much exactly how I pictured Natalia going out, in a blaze, and it sure was bright! Losing some big personalities early in this game is worrisome, but I think I’ve written this before that I shouldn’t worry too much because all of this cast has potential to deliver like Natalia. She was never going to win, but she wasn’t play so horribly, so it’s kind of perfect that someone like Alec made a boneheaded Big Move™ that got her booted. Her downfall was delicious, but I’m a little sad Natalie wasn’t involved in some way. Natalia ended up napalming herself.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
“I’m ready to have Survivor without Natalie” – SHUT UP, MIKE! Where would be the fun in that? I mentioned earlier, but for once the Nat Stan Nation is nervous. Natalie’s not making any friends with David 1 and David 2 while Angelina and Mike have never loved her much either. However, seeing Natalia voted out to give the Vuku tribe a majority of Davids may give the Goliaths in the game pause about turning on their own so soon. Alec is truly the hero I didn’t know I needed.
Alec – Out of nowhere, this guy brought it. I can’t believe I’m saying that. Let’s be clear – this move was bad. SO BAD. Even if he thinks he has Davie or Elizabeth with him now, how could he be so sure Carl wouldn’t have them more? This could be exactly how Alec and Kara wind up spending so much time together post-game ... in Losers Lodge (with Natalia, lol). Making a move when there are 16 people in the game is great and all, but does he think that will carry him to Day 39? I hope he doesn’t because I need to keep seeing him make moves that benefit everyone but himself and his unfortunate victim.
Christian – Damn. I think this guy’s actually won me over. The gerrymandering reference is what finally did it. Christian’s got game whether he knows it or not. His “Charmpocalypse” worked wonders, and it charming me of all people should prove that. I’d say he’s the biggest threat to win the game right now but that probably means he won’t. No way does anyone let this guy get to the end, but I’m still confident he’ll get close. At least I’ll be able to stomach that now.
Gabby – Great episode for Gabby even through all the tears. Christian is a huge help to her in this game and maybe that’s somehow the way their story ends, him going out of his way to protect her so that he ends up hurting himself while she goes on to finish the game and win. Too cheesy? Hey, it’s at least a way better love story than Dan and Kara. We know Gabby’s emotional, but I don’t think it’s necessarily damning to her winner chances yet. It’s okay for winners to cry.
Elizabeth – Escaped the vote and had some zingers this week like “have some balls” and “I was about ready to poop my pants!” Elizabeth seems underrated in her ability to shake a vote. It’s hard to put a finger on who had the most impact on Alec’s decision – Elizabeth, Davie, or Natalia just being herself – but Elizabeth sure as hell fought to stay in it. She feels to me like the voice of the Davids in that regard. She’s got me roped in for sure.
Natalia – Another great character arc of an early boot. I love it and I love her for what she was. Natalia was way too aggressive, but I respect that she came to play. We definitely need to see Natalia vs. Natalie on a “rivals” season or something. ‘Til then, Natalie will sit on her throne smiling.
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser