This episode was expectedly a downer for me but mostly for reasons related to no more Natalie napalms rather than this week being uneventful. A lot of what we saw I felt laid the needed groundwork for the merge with some conflict brewing between Davids on Vuku, a plot to take down SuperDan, and Angelina looking anything but angelic. All of these I expect will come into major play once this calm before the storm passes. Then even more fun begins!
It was a cold, jacketless night for Angelina but when the sun finally rose, so did the Jabeni tribe’s spirit as they woke up to a non-Natalie presence. Angelina said it bittersweet ... calling Natalie bitter and smiling over how sweet it was for the tribe. Sure, let’s bash the poor woman when she’s gone and can no longer defend herself! Cowards, all of them. We all know they wouldn’t dare say those things in front of Natalie, but little did they know, this is still her island, and thus she is never truly gone.
Angelina had a heart-to-cold-heart moment with Lyrsa and explained why she didn’t vote for Natalie. As Natalie suspected, it was all just an act from Angelina in an attempt to score Natalie’s now-infamous jacket (which we’ll see again on the next Ghost Island season). That’s all fine and dandy, but Lyrsa took that vote exactly as I would have – Angelina was more concerned about keeping a jacket in the game than keeping Lyrsa. Yikes.
Calling her performance Emmy-worthy, Mike, Lyrsa, and Nick discussed voting out Angelina at the next tribal council, acknowledging that she’d cut any of them quicker than she’d cut a coconut.
With numbers where they stood, it looked like Angelina would soon be reunited with Natalie’s jacket after all. Nick and Lyrsa had no reason to break at this point, and with the other option being going to rocks, Mike seemed down to axe the actress. Up until this point, I thought Angelina was doing a passable job at pretending not to be the cold, cunning, conniver she is in the game (that I’m a fan of, to be clear), but evidently her tribemates saw through the act.
One thing I thought was not transparent was the show’s setup for the boot – logically it looked to be all sights set on Angelina, but I still had some small hope she’d survive. With Natalia and Natalie out back-to-back, Angelina was my last hope for a post-merge villainess this season.
SPRING-LOADED MURDER MACHINE
I think someone called me that once...
I felt like I was watching a Survivor infomercial as Christian went into fantastic detail of all the fishing gear Tiva had previously acquired. Really this scene had nothing to do with anything relevant, and Christian himself admitted that he wasn’t actually the one responsible for bringing in food (owning that if he was, they’d all starve to death), but I liked the insertion of one of the few laugh-out-loud moments this week. Christian taking to the sea in full garb was quite the riot. Stick to your robots, Christian. This “murder machine” isn’t meant for you.
REWARD – CUT ‘EM SOME SLACK
I’d have liked to have seen Natalie in the role as the person on the “leash” for the Jabeni tribe. She’d have dragged them to victory in the blink of an eye. But, alas, they were a drag in another sense. They weren’t alone in the struggle, however, as even the Mayor of Slamtown had to make a sad admission during this challenge:
He knows they have pills for that sort of thing, right?
Jabeni was the last to the ring toss, but that old orange curse came back and caused Vuku to lose out on the veggie victory. As the tribes left the beach, Mike reflected on the reactions of his former Goliaths when they noticed Natalie missing from the tribe, making Mike second-guess the idea to vote out his other Goliath girl Angelina. Was he really ready to ride the rest of the way with the Davids? That’d be an “amateur” move according to Natalie.
HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY
Continuing as the tribe that never loses (hey, I was right about something!) Tiva was at the top of their game and toasting to their wins. I think we also got the last bit of evidence needed to support John and Christian as the next “it” couple to come off of this show:
First Gabby, then Nick, now John ... Christian isn’t a Cochran – he’s a Parvati! Such a flirt!
In other news of flirting but that’s much less wanted (re: not at all), Dan is still creepily obsessed with Kara. If she asked for both of his idols at this point, I think he’d give them to her. That’s what I’m calling will go down in next week’s merge episode: Dan blindsided after giving his idols away to Kara. Eh. Do I think he’s that stupid? I mean ... I kind of hope so. Maybe he could then go model in some calendar featuring Survivor’s dumbest dudes ever, the month right after the other double-idol-doofus James.
Dan Rengering: Survivor Dingaling.
The shish kabobs were all-vegetable, so the meat of the Tiva scenes this week came from Gabby and Alison. Still feeling vulnerable, Gabby couldn’t sit by and hope for a miracle – she had to play to stay alive. “Hope is not a strategy,” she declared. Apparently you can’t just write the word in the sand to set everything straight. That was Malolo’s mistake last season.
Gabby’s tears touched someone else this week in Alison who finally SHOWED UP to play. Actually, Alison was one of the first Goliaths we met, but became the quietest one after that. This episode we learned she’s just been biding her time to make that Big Move™! I love that she said she was cut from the same cloth as Christian and Gabby and I’d like for that to mean this will be an expansion of the nerd alliance. If Alison is ready to use them demolish Dan, then I am her for it and for her. I think it would be exciting to watch Alison break out of her shell in a big way and accomplish that and take this game by a new storm, so I hope that’s what we get.
BREAK YOUR MOMMA’S BACK
Which one of Elizabeth’s kids stepped on a crack, damnit!?!
Elizabeth’s ride this season has already been wild, but this week she was wildly riled up ... or down, I guess? How this woman was bedridden just a few weeks before flying to Fiji and has played as hard as she has, I don’t know. Must be a David thing. Carl and Davie disagreed, however, and were aggravated by Elizabeth’s assertive attempt to fix the shelter for the betterment of her back. I suppose I’d have been pissed if she started breaking down the bamboo as I was in the middle of napping on it, but she wasn’t really asking for help, so what was the problem? Get off her back and let the madwoman go mad!
I loved Elizabeth’s descent into complete madness there. I also loved how much Kara loved it too.
There are definitely a lot of cracks in this game in addition to the ones in Elizabeth’s back, so this merge should be very popcorn-filled indeed.
IMMUNITY – JABENI JA BLEW IT
This was just pitiful for the new Natalieless tribe. About the only thing to come out of this challenge was the season’s first nominee for the Debbie Donato-Wanner Award for Best Performance on a Balance Beam. The last two seasons, the coveted title went to Ryan and Donathan, but in a Survivor twist, I may end up just giving it to this entire Jabeni tribe. Gabby would have been in tears over the pathetic performance, but they had already been used up elsewhere in the challenge:
I thought that “water” looked a little salty!
Natalie would have been there calling out, “cut it short” for Jabeni, and the challenge eventually did end, but not soon enough. I can’t remember the last time a tribe simply was not physically capable of finishing a challenge. Mike felt the guiltiest for the tribe’s loss but even guiltier over now having to cut short the dream of Angelina, Nick, or Lyrsa. With Mike getting all Gabby on us, I worried he was about to fall on his sword for one of them. Gross.
MIKE IN THE MIDDLE
Mike mustered up the courage to continue, but he still found it a little hard to breathe being stuck between two sides. Lyrsa shot down any notion of her voting for Nick, letting Angelina know that the votes would likely result in a tie, and Nick seemingly had no reason to turn on Lyrsa here, so Mike was looking at either forcing a tie and voting for Lyrsa or voting out another Goliath which he worried would lose any trust he had from the rest of them come the merge.
Going to rocks would have been suicidal for Mike, giving himself a 50/50 chance of drawing the one that would send him packing, and with Nick and Lyrsa “David strong” I didn’t see a way out for Angelina. To pull it off, she and Mike would have to flip Nick. Maybe they threatened him with the same chance at rocks, who knows. Basically, it was a battle between Mike and Nick over who would be the first to budge, and I was totally beside myself with who ended up winning that. It sure would have been fun for the rock stars to go to rocks though…
WHO TO KEEP TOGETHER
The focus at tribal council was on the merge which, with a 20-person season, was likely happening next with 13 remaining in the game, so the Jabeni tribe was right to plan for it. Not surprisingly, this vote wasn’t as fierce and fiery without a little Natalie napalm action, but the two Latinas brought some of their own spice to the set as they fought for their lives in the game.
Angelina showed off some more of those acting chops with a blatant move to butter up Nick right before the vote, complimenting his big blue eyes and vouching for him as a good choice to bring to the merge. Lyrsa immediately called bullshit on all of that, but sadly it was all for nothing as Nick nixed the David duo in favor of going with the Goliaths.
This was not a boot I saw coming given the makeup of this tribe and the last vote, but voting out Lyrsa here may have been a better strategic move for everyone than what it looked like. Lyrsa was earlier labeled “weak” in challenges which likely would have kept the target off her back for several votes, making her someone who could have snuck by long enough to have the same success as another particular Puerto Rican from the Survivor past. Lyrsa exceeded my expectations of being the first boot from her tribe and watching her purple hair press on was fun to watch, but sadly she was sent on a trip with the rest of the pre-mergers which, by the way, is a Survivor spinoff series we need. I’d be equally invested in watching Natalie, Natalia, and Jeremy vacation together along with the rest of this solid pre-merge party.
*clap clap clap clap*
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR...
Merge! I’m still not a big fan of these bloated merge tribes, but this one should be a delightful clusterfuck. David vs. Goliath meeting Vuku vs. Tiva vs. Jabeni with all sorts of in-fighting going in – I eagerly await what chaos is in store for us. A Dan departure would be a great way to kick things off, but no matter what, this could be one of the craziest merges ever from start to finish. The thought is seriously sending shivers down my spine!
Angelina – A little too aggressive with her gameplay? Probably an understatement, but Angelina “masterminded” her way out of a vote that should have been her last. Her acting isn’t always believable, but it speaks to her social game that she managed to keep Mike with her and win Nick over as well, having heard him speak nothing else but wanting to get rid of her. I think after her pre-merge presence, Angelina will have a tough time making it to the end, but she’ll be a big force at the merge. No Natalie napalms, but maybe we’ll get some Angelina atomic bombs?
Elizabeth – This woman is tough as nails – no, actually, tougher! She may have played this week a little too tough, but I love that she just does whatever the hell she sets her mind to. I still have several favorites left in the game, but going with my “heart” I think I’d most like to see Elizabeth win. She’s got a great story and has been great fun, so hopefully she can calm down a bit and find a way to take this home.
Christian – I think this week damned Christian’s chances of winning for good. His edit SCREAMS the traditional “growth” story that typically wraps up around 4th place. I didn’t think he’d be called out as such a threat until a few more weeks in, but with his name in the mix already at the first merge vote, he’s definitely got an uphill battle to get to Day 39. Hopefully he’s still finale-bound to provide us with more comedic relief, but I think “America’s Vote” would be the only one that could win him a million bucks now. Everyone loves Christian ... which is why they’ll hate letting him stick around.
Alison – Better late than never, right? Alison has had the least amount of content over this pre-merge, and maybe it’s just because she’s on my fantasy team that makes me cling to this, but I think she could still be a dark horse to win? She’s far from a top contender, but with this week’s foreshadowing, if she’s instrumental in the first big vote of the merge, maybe she can keep it up and become a real Goliath in the second half of this game. The doctor is IN, ladies and gentlemen!
Natalie – I only mentioned her name a limited 18 times! Go me!
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