This episode was all about idols and targeting returning players, so nothing at all new or exciting. Way to stay strong in Week 2! But before it became dull and dry, we were introduced to the Edge of Extinction, which was honestly the highlight of the week for me even though watching Reem suffer there was rather grim. I’m still too old school to be a fan of this twist, but I like what @ATribeOfOne1 pointed out on Twitter — this twist takes us so far away from the core of Survivor (leaving the game after being voted out) that maybe if we instead step back and see this season as more of spinoff, it could actually be okay? But still, that was only, what, 2-½ minutes out of 43? That’s not enough to carry a season, I’m sad to say.
ON THE EDGE WITH REEM
Watching someone survive in exile on an island for a chance at redemption is not a GAME CHANGER for Survivor, but what was new about this season’s twist was that no one in the game knew it existed which, for me, intensified Reem’s isolation at the Edge of Extinction. No one in the game knew she was still suffering.
Reem could end up the only person to ever live alone on the Edge, so imagine the torture of being told you have no one to face but yourself and your failures for an indefinite amount of time — days, and for all Reem could know, weeks. We know that likely won’t be the case, but Reem didn’t, making her outpouring of emotions all the more powerful. I hope to never experience the pain of being the first person voted out of Survivor, but imagining both that and having to sit in shameful solitude made me feel just awful for Reem.
Continuing the high praise I had for the edit of Reem’s dark journey to the Edge, I thought the cinematography and music score knocked it out of the park with the first full visit. I felt completely removed from the rest of the game and 100% focused on Reem’s struggle to find redemption. As much as I hated seeing her voted out, I’m not sure a better person could have introduced this twist to us than Reem, talking about how disappointed she was in herself and how she was terrified of embarrassing her family, but that that was what kept her from raising the white sail and surrendering. I said I’d never support someone coming back into the game and winning, but I don’t know man…Reem will deserve something if she goes from first out to last remaining in this Survivor purgatory. I believe in Reem!
WENDY VS. WENTWORTH
Though being on the wrong side of the vote, and getting votes herself, Wendy didn’t come back from tribal council sore from a #SurvivorBlindside. Rick (I’m not calling him Devens) checked in the morning after, where Wendy admitted she knew Reem was dead in the water but felt strongly that Kelley should have been the one to go. Wendy was adamant about getting rid of the returnee, but uh, did she forget David was also a returnee when she warned Rick right in front of David that “they” were going to control the game?
Surprisingly, David didn’t take this too negatively and actually agreed with Wendy that Wentworth needed to go sooner than later, but later was when that conversation would need to be continued. Kelley, of course, sensed what Wendy was whispering, or trying to whisper, about and saw the war coming, so she suggested an open idol hunt to prevent Wendy from getting any sort of weapon.
I’ll go more into this later, but a big gripe I had about Manu this week was playing for the endgame as early as Day 4, even sooner when it came to Wendy. Yes, Kelley is a big threat to win, but I wouldn’t have gone after her this early, especially if I was going at her alone. Survivor has evolved in such a way that I think too many people play for the end when it’s only the beginning, but voting out strong players makes your tribe weak, and even though we’re 38 seasons deep into the show, that’s still a very bad thing. It’d be one thing if Kelley took a page out of one of her Cambodia castmates and was terrorizing the camp under the guise of #ChaosKelley, but the only criticisms we heard of here were that she’s played before and that she was trying to befriend everyone. Does that mean she’s going to kill us all … ?
WEE WOO WEE WOO!
No one was quite fearing for their lives at Kama like they were at Manu, but the cringeworthiness was the big worry for me at camp “Kumbaya Survivor.” I’ve been to enough weddings to know that most middle-aged men can’t dance, but they all think they’ve got the mad moves, and Ron was no exception to that. I can’t properly put into words what the fuck it was that we witnessed, but it made me so uncomfortable that I think I would have rather the editors gone with a scene of Joe washing his hair or Julie peeing in another bush than what we saw described as the tribe’s new “thing.”
“What hell is going on?” is right.
Aubry took a big beating this week and added to my frustration over mixed returnee and newbie seasons. In a similar situation as Kelley, Aubry was trying to make friends and form connections with her tribe, but because she’s Aubry that’s a no-no. I will say that her giving the same spiel about “starting a dialogue” and “seeing myself in you” to multiple people probably wasn’t the smartest, but was it that sinister? That’s just a standard way of trying to get a conversation going with someone, especially in Survivor.
Before the game, I said I thought Aubry had the best chance of the returnees to go deep, but I’m struggling to see how she survives Kama. Ron, Julia, Victoria, Eric, and Gavin have all spoken against her and that’s a majority of the votes. Aubry’s game is just so magnified like she said that she has absolutely no room to game, or do anything really. Ugh. All she wanted to do was play…
For the first time in forever, I’m honestly just rooting for Joe to keep winning challenges for as long as it keeps Aubry alive.
THE BIG GUY
Rick and David not only seemed to have found themselves at the center of the tribe but also at the center of each other’s games. I died when Rick said his strategy was to find “the big guys” and use them to get to the end, proceeding to say that he found that in David. DAVID!? David Wright? I don’t believe that David had ever been called a “big guy” in his life before that moment, but whatever works for you, Rick. I’m sure David was equally as excited to find his new Ken.
The bigger surprise than those two getting along was David being on board to boot Kelley. I’m not sure I believe David needs to be as worried about Kelley coming after him as he said he was, but voting her out quickly may not be all bad for David. With fewer returnees around, his status as one may not seem so threatening because he’d then just be one (big) guy. On the other hand — the one I’d lean toward personally — the players could easily gang up on him at that point, but to his credit, David has snuck by any sort of target on his back which can’t be said for any of the other three returnees. Hell, I think David’s managed to make himself Manu’s top dog — my condolences to The Wardog.
HUNTERS AND GATHERERS
Gavin has a pineapple print shirt and underwear? I never knew someone could be such a diehard fan of a piece of fruit or any other item of food for that matter. Even Aubry, we know, loves her coleslaw, but you don’t see her walking around the beach sporting some kind of slaw bra. I guess that’s just the difference between men and women.
Another gender disparity, as we know, is the male-to-female ratio when it comes to finding idols. Like Angelina last season, Julie came into this one wanting to change the status quo and get a girl’s hand on an idol. She was tired of the men being the hunters and the women being the gatherers and while it wasn’t like her to be sneaky sneaky like Kelley, Julie was determined to put a dent in those idol figures. If I was her, I’d have started my hunt in Victoria’s beanie.
It’s so big because it’s full of secrets.
Aubry’s mean girls of Kama came up short, but back over at Manu, the hunt was officially over when Lauren discovered the tribe’s idol tucked in a totally-not-strikingly-obvious-tree-stump. First Lauren teamed up with her role model, then she found an idol just like her — what’s next? Will Lauren dye her hair with some bleach so she and Kelley can look alike too? Still, saying “screw ‘em” to stats, Lauren had lots of reason to celebrate and I hope Angelina was dancing at home right along with her.
Lauren must be an alum of the Ron Clark Dance Academy.
IMMUNITY – SNAKE WEIGHT™
This challenge was made for Aubry to come out like that cobra and REVERSE THE CURSE having previously lost this one in Game Changers. What two awful Survivor terms to mention in a single sentence ....
This challenge proved more than the last how much stronger Kama was set up than Manu who’s a little lacking in big guys — only having The Wardog and Chris
and David. Kama’s got more brute strength coming from Joe, Gavin, and Eric — plus I bet Aurora could take down almost anyone in one of those tribal council arm wrestling matches mentioned last episode. Have you seen those guns she’s got?
Speaking of super strength, did you see Eric LITERALLY CARRYING THE SNAKE ON HIS BACK!?
Not quite as iconic of a moment as when Boston Rob “literally” carried his family on his back during that challenge in Redempshit Island, but at least Jeff learned how to use the word “literally” correctly.
I’d say there was suspense when Manu finally made it to the ring toss, but again, Kama had Joe who barely missed any throws and gave Eric the lead they needed to come through with another win.
We expected the war between Wendy and Wentworth to come to a final blow, but walking out of the challenge, we heard The Wardog reflect on Keith’s poor performance in the water. Wait, what!? Someone wants to vote to actually keep the tribe strong this time?
THE WARDOG IN WAR MODE
The infamous True Dork Times Draft Pick #18 was actually the first person this entire episode to make any fucking sense whatsoever when it came to the vote. I guess I’ll give Kelley a pass too since she was mostly playing defense against Wendy, but as the tribe debated between those two women, I was screaming, “WHAT ABOUT KEITH!?” Thank the Survivor gods for The Wardog.
I mentioned earlier how I feel like a lot of modern Survivors are too focused in the beginning on the end. There’s also the near-formulaic timing of swaps making them all feel like taking out a big player early won’t hurt their tribe long-term, but nothing is ever certain on Survivor. Thinking “we won’t need Kelley’s strength in 3 days” or “she’ll be too big of a threat in another 30” is stupid. Overlooking Keith killing it — or killing them, rather — in challenges was going to damage Manu more than any move Kelley could make on her own.
Manu had no way of knowing the dynamics of Kama — unlike us, they were spared from seeing the dancing — so if I was one of them, I would absolutely not have supported voting out Kelley and risking the tribe losing again to suffer an even greater numbers disadvantage headed into a swap or the merge. Plus, keeping Kelley would also just keep around a bigger threat to Kama rather than Keith who they could easily scoop out of the sea since he was already a proven ship-jumper. As Keith made his desperate loyalty pledges in the eleventh hour, this only confirmed to me that Keith had to go.
I was disappointed in David for wanting to go after Kelley so much, let down by Chris for buying into Keith’s crap, and frustrated that the whole Wendy-Wentworth war was happening. Literally the only one with wisdom at all was The Wardog. See, The Wardog knows The Wardog will be a threat later in the game, so keeping a threat like Kelley helps The Wardog while keeping Keith does not help The Wardog, but The Wardog’s tribe had been duped by David and Wendy into thinking Kelley was the better vote, so The Wardog had The Wardog’s own war to start and finish.
THE SEVEN BEST LIARS IN THE WORLD?
I’m always tickled pink when everyone thinks the vote is going to be a blindside and they openly admit that at tribal council because it means someone’s about to get WRECKED. By now Kelley knew her name would be written down again and had figured out that she should put a hold on warring with Wendy and instead focus all her fire at Keith as she preached “keep the tribe strong.”
Kelley may have idoled out Savage and said “sneaky sneaky” in confessional once, but I never would have gone into this game thinking she was untrustworthy. A great player? Yes, but not for being a notorious liar, so I didn’t get the whole argument being “keep Kelley and keep the tribe strong, or keep Keith and keep it loyal.” What reason would Kelley have to flip to Kama, and would they even take her? Keeping Kelley over Keith just seemed like an all-around win/win for me here and, again, why not keep her to win some challenges and then ditch her later? Keith was going to be no asset to Manu in any way, shape, or form, so the tribe was correct to follow the way of The Wardog and vote for Keith.
I didn’t mind Keith last week, but he was pretty painful to watch this episode even before his decision-making meltdown (which is where a lot of additional fire from me comes). While everyone was talking about Wendy vs. Wentworth, I just wanted to drop some coconuts on their heads — sure, because I much prefer watching both of them, but I just saw so little reason to keep Keith from a tribal perspective. He knew he was on the bubble at best and literally dragged Manu down in challenges — if he made it to the swap, he’d have flipped faster than The Wardog can say “woof.”
So Keith’s out, does the usual walk of shame, and then he is presented with the decision as was Reem. Oh, but to my absolute shock and bewilderment ... he actually pauses, and not just for a little — a lot. As a so-called “superfan” he shouldn’t have even had time to blink before busting a move for that torch. Keith kept chanting, “Come on, God. Come on, Jesus” as I shouted, “Come on, Keith!” This was agonizing. Reem should have just been there to grab the fucking thing for him ... or beat him over the head with it.
To top it all off, we didn’t even get to see the outcome of Keith crying over what to do. Yep, so we’re officially in the territory of Survivor being able to go Ryan Seacrest on us and say, “... after the break” or in this case, after the week. Awesome.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR...
That does not look pretty. Aside from Wendy’s injury, next week looks to be more of the same “all the returnees except David are in danger” so if we end up losing Wendy and either Aubry or Kelley, this war dog will be on his own warpath.
The Wardog — The Wardog was the biggest strategic surprise for me this week and was the only person I actually agreed with throughout the entire episode. What surprised me even more, though, about The Wardog was not The Wardog’s sense of what The Wardog’s best move was but how The Wardog held back from barking it out like an order to the rest of the tribe — The Wardog clearly passed obedience school. It’s weird. This is a totally different version of The Wardog than I expected, but Ben was still right – The Wardog is very on-brand for me because of what I expect The Wardog to offer this season — I can’t wait for the eventual unleashing of The Wardog because we know it’ll happen at some point. Based on what we saw this week, though, could The Wardog ... actually win? No. I don’t think so, but maybe. Yes? Absolutely. The Wardog is winning. Wait, no. The True Dorks couldn’t have been that wrong about The Wardog, could we? If we were, then we’ll have to send a box of Beggin’ Strips or something to The Wardog as an apology.
David — While I don’t think voting out Kelley on Day 6 would have been David’s best move, color me impressed over him integrating himself into Manu as much as he has. Obviously, I knew he was a great player because he’s one of my favorites, but I just expected him to get even more of the Aubry treatment than Aubry. I wonder how long it can last, though. I thought David would be drawing dead early but he’s actually looking the best of all the vets. Another totally wrong pre-game assessment of mine.
Kelley — This whole episode was basically about blindsiding Kelley, but ha! She ended up in on the blindside! Kelley is getting so unnecessarily shit on and it sucks watching, but I’m glad she’s skating by, if barely. When she needed to, she identified the direction Manu was headed and astutely adapted her strategy to go after Keith instead of Wendy. The comparisons to her being the next hero-turned-villain like Stephenie LaGrossa are ludicrous, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be excited to hear Kelley say “You wanna think I’m a threat? I’ll show you how threatening I am.”
Aubry — Succumb to even more shit than Kelley, what the hell is going on with Aubry!? Even the edit would have us thinking Aubry isn’t a great player. She is great — that’s why no one wants anything to do with her! Stop trying to force the narrative that Aubry’s playing a bad game. This game was designed to make her an immediate target. I mean, at least Kama isn’t throwing a challenge to get rid of her like Zapatera did to Russell, but they’re acting like she’s almost as bad as him and it really needs to stop before I run everyone over with a covered wagon.
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