Not to be a Debbie
Wanner Downer, but aside from the Edge of Extinction reveal and return, I was not the biggest fan of this episode, especially when merge episodes have such a high bar. Watching Lesu go back to its Manu ways of madness and Kama continue to keep control of the game was far from what I hoped for in this episode. There’s still time for the course of the game to be turned around, but now it’s a much tighter situation and if events go the way they did this week, then there may actually come a point where I’m rooting for Joe to come back if only to upset the Kama kumbaya. If that day comes, then Hell is real and I’m living in it.
IT AIN’T OVER
Within the first 60 seconds of the episode, the tribes were merged — a Survivor first. This season, though, the merge wasn’t what had the audience hyped. Jeff teased the new tribe by calling what was about to happen “iconic” and apparently, he doesn’t really know what that word means because nothing “takes years” to become iconic. It’s immediate. That’s why it’s iconic. No one thinks, “Richard Hatch winning the first Survivor — you know, I finally recognize that as a big moment in the show’s history,” or “Fairplay’s dead grandma lie? It maybe took me ten years, but I think I’m finally ready to say that was rather memorable.”
Jeff was at least correct about this moment being iconic. The Outcast twist in Pearl Islands will always be the #1 jaw-dropping twist since we didn’t even know about it, but this was just as big of a blindside for the players in the game. What’s funny, though, is that five people in the game didn’t have a single hand in anyone getting voted out, but that didn’t stop any of the Edge of Extinction inhabitants from coming back for blood.
“Fuck you, dudes!”
I was really glad this challenge wasn’t the cakewalk I thought it would be for Chris. Even with the advantage, Aubry was still the first one out of the locked gate. However, the final phase of the challenge proved to be an equalizer as Aubry struggled to find her groove and Chris and Wendy both had the lead and lost it, the disadvantage proving only to slow Chris down rather than knock him completely out.
I mistakenly gave credit for this great one-liner on the live show to Kelley, but it was in fact Aurora giving her best impression of Jeff and his (and my) beloved ball jokes. It’s a damn shame her screen time never really took off, so I hope we see a rise in that soon. The phoenix that finally rose above everyone else, though, was Rick who in winning this win-your-way-back challenge probably had one of the greatest “oh yeah!” moments of his life.
That catchphrase may be better-suited for the redhead of the bunch.
While my heart rooted for Reem purely for entertainment and my head wanted Aubry so she would go back and blow the game wide open, I was overall satisfied with Rick returning because I thought that would still be a win for old Manu. With Rick back in the game and Joerora on the outs of Kama, it seemed like only a matter of time before they and Manu turned the tide.
Rick rejoined the active game and Jeff then announced that the Edge of Extinction twist would continue but withholding specifically whether that applied to everyone or just those wearing the red buffs. When the merged tribe left the challenge, Reem, Keith, Chris, Aubry, and Wendy were kept waiting while Jeff brought back his Jeff Probst Show-style interviews, aiming to make each of the five players cry on what they presumed to be their final day in the game. However, Jeff then revealed the news that they had another decision before them, leading to my favorite moments of the episode:
I loved Reem’s own reaction of, “Oh for the love of God!” I think it was cool the way this small fake-out was done. As good as the Edge of Extinction editing is, that’s why the rest of the overall season is falling flat for me. Nothing has captured my emotions as much as life on the Edge, and it’s been like two completely different shows in the same hour. One is interesting, and the other is ... just the other. That said, much of the twist’s success has been due to the people that have been voted out of the game. Reem and now Aubry will continue to carry this story for me, but if it was left up to Chris or some of the Kamas had they been booted, I don’t know if I’d have as high of an opinion. I dream of Reemie, day and night.
I expected Rick to be welcomed back to his tribe with open arms, so I was taken aback by Kelley’s “oh hell no” reaction. The last time we saw Rick with Lesu, they had called themselves a family in one of the more serious and somber tribal councils. What exactly happened in those six days apart? I could understand Kelley feeling uncomfortable with someone she cast a vote for being back on the beach, but strictly looking at the numbers (something we know The Wardog was doing) Kelley and Rick really needed to be in the same boat here. I understand it from Rick’s perspective too, but I was frustrated by him calling himself a “free agent.” I thought his return would help turn the sinking ship around.
Julie did a fantastic job with approaching Rick at the merge feast and making him feel welcome to sit at the table. She was not as cruel as I’d have been when it came to sending someone right back to the Edge of Extinction — I wouldn’t care. If someone wasn’t going to help me, then they could help themselves to a second walk of shame as soon as possible, but Rick made a quick connection with Julie. We caught a glimpse of Julie’s game last week in her urge to Julia and Ron to stay the course and focus on getting rid of Joe, but in these early moments of the merge, I think we saw the beginning of another important rising story of the season.
AND THEN THERE WAS THREE
The biggest blindside of the episode for me may have been this rising of the white sail to signal Wendy and Keith’s self-removal from the game, especially after their ecstatic reactions to hearing that even after they lost the challenge, they could still continue. The term mentioned was “buyer’s remorse” which I think is accurate — on the way back to the island, Wendy and Keith must’ve had a change of heart and realized that they were not meant to remain.
That was wild to watch — Chris, Aubry, and Reem standing on the opposite end of the beach watching Wendy and Keith call it quits. The shock of it too was still settling in as I went, “Wow. This is actually happening.”
I said before the season that I wouldn’t necessarily hate anyone for leaving the Edge of Extinction so long as they at least gave it a go. I could never surrender in Survivor like that, but realistically the odds were not in either of their favors of winning their way back again around final five. I’m sure they realized that too and with the next 20 days not going to be the experience they signed up for, eh. Let ‘em walk. I’m over it.
I wasn’t totally surprised that Reem chose to stay, but obviously I’m glad she did. Like Keith and Wendy, I don’t know how much of a real chance Reem has to return, but if she goes as far as she can by living on the Edge of Extinction, she’ll absolutely be the most iconic first boot of all time, and it won’t take us years to recognize Reem, Queen of Extinction.
First of her name (and COME ON GOD, please let her be the last).
Down in numbers and still writing off Rick as an ally, Kelley told Lauren they just needed to work with anyone they could to survive until they could find some more crack.
Oh. She said “cracks” didn’t she?
Feeling déjà vu back to Cambodia, Kelley found herself once again in the minority while Joe sat pretty in his majority, but he at least knew he was on the outside of that majority. This should have been the moment where they came together to make the Joerora jump, but Kelley’s pitch instead sounded more like throwing Rick and David under the bus rather than convincing Joe and Aurora to hop aboard.
^Me internally screaming.
Kelley and Lauren approached the Kama girls and made a similar pitch, this time focusing 100% on Rick as an easy vote for the entire tribe. Julie called Kelley and Lauren “brutal” for, again, suggesting that Rick be cast back to whence he came. Julie basically accused the two of not having hearts as I sat on the couch contemplating where their heads had gone. We don’t see everything, but from what we did see, Manu wasn’t doing much to try to get themselves out of the minority and instead were seeking to cannibalize themselves in front of Kama which would absolutely lead us down the darkest timeline. Not cool, cool, cool at all.
WHAT’S IN THE BAG?
Okay, so this was some BULL. SHIT.
I like Rick and all, but this gifted idol for making it back into the game was more than I could handle. Whoever re-entered from the Edge already lost the game, so getting a second chance should have been reward enough. This idol was overkill. Yes, Burton and Lill got full immunity for a round when they came back as Outcasts, but that was good for only that round. I’d have been okay with that, but a choice of immunity at any of the future rounds of the game?
At least all of Joe’s wins were wins and not dropped in his bag like some cheap Halloween candy. I hated this and I hate the impact it will inevitably have on the game. I also was not a fan of Rick’s choice to fulfill that whole half-idol nonsense with David. David didn’t need any more reason to keep Rick around, while had Rick gone to someone on Kama, like Julie, it would have given them extra incentive to steer the vote away from him. Maybe Rick worried about being sold out in that instance, but the whole thing played out in a way that would have had Reem shouting, “Lame!” Let’s be real. Probst was just probably feeling WOKE about a man not finding an idol yet, and this was the best idea he had to fix that.
“Make men great at finding idols again!”
IMMUNITY – LITTLE BIT OF WOBBLE
It honestly didn’t even cross my mind that Joe wouldn’t win this challenge. As long as he doesn’t pass out, he just wins immunity. That’s his game, so when he dropped out of nowhere, leaving a showdown between Lauren and Julie, I was shocked. I wonder if the Vata tribe felt the same — in that moment did anyone go, “Oh? We can ... vote for Joe now?”
All of Kama, basically.
Devasted more than Joe, I’m sure, was Jeff having to place the immunity necklace around Julie, but what a great moment that was for her. She’s a little “soft” for my liking surrounding the EoE returnee revolving door strategy, but otherwise she’s proven to be tough, and I can’t help but to root for the moms in moments like these.
Kelley giving ZERO fucks — also something I can’t not root for.
EVERY TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME
Julie continued to be the one in power as she officially called for a Kama vote against Kelley. She again approached Rick and finally revealed to him that Kelley, Lauren, and The Wardog had no qualms about sending him right back to Reem Island. Julie wasn’t going to tell Rick who Kama was voting for other than that it wouldn’t be for him, which he felt was trust enough at this point to drink that sweet Kama Kool-Aid.
Julie was working it and stirring the pot, but seeing an opportunity to go after Joe, Ron emerged to tip that pot over which once more contradicted what we last heard from Ron. First he was against Joe, then he was singing his praises, and with Joe no longer immune, he became Ron’s #1 target. Like I said last week — this story makes no sense. Are different people editing the show each week without watching what happened the one before, or does Ron’s brain bounce around as his body does on the dance floor?
I’d tend to agree that any chance to take out Joe should be taken, but given how much of a mess Manu was, I don’t think Kama needed to shoot their shot this soon. Blindsiding Joe would also blindside Aurora, so any loyalty she had to Kama would be gone, and they couldn’t have been absolutely certain that Manu wouldn’t manage to pick up the pieces, realizing that they were each other’s only way of winning against the Kama 6.
It was another vote where very few, I felt, made the right move. The Kamas who were coming after Joe were doing so too quickly, and especially with the Edge of Extinction in play, sending him there’s only going to allow him to chill for the next few weeks while conserving energy he’d have otherwise spent winning immunity. They’ll just see him again around Day 36 or 37 stronger than ever. Kelley, Lauren, and The Wardog of course were a complete clusterfuck in cannibalizing their own and Joe and Aurora weren’t even shown entertaining the idea of flipping when the Aubry boot should have made that a no brainer. Julie didn’t look too bad, and I think she’ll look even better next time if a Kama gets idoled out, but she let someone else steer the ship against the tribe’s better judgment, even after being so adamantly anti-Joe the whole game.
David and Rick couldn’t have done much else besides entering self-preservation mode amidst all the moronic moves, so they’ll be the lucky two that escape completely unscathed by me this week. To everyone else:
Thanks for the headache.
NO NEED TO SCRAMBLE
As evidenced by this clearly wide-awake Wardog, this tribal council was very live. Actually not — instead it was just painfully obvious that the Kama-6 was dead set on sticking together. The only names that were on the table at this point were Kelley, Rick, and Joe, so it was only a matter of determining whether Kama still considered Joe one of them or if it was time for him to go. The evening was filled with some rather snippy banter about the majority not feeling the need to really scramble, most vocalized by Ron.
Now that’s the look of someone who could stand to hear “Wentworth: does not count” at least six times. I’m glad neither Kelley nor Lauren played their idols this week, as watching them idol out Rick or David would have been extremely anticlimactic, even more so than the outcome we ended up getting. Hopefully being kept in the dark by Kama about the Joe vote will wake Manu the fuck up and force them back together for the greater good. Between 5 people, they now have 3 idols which creates just insanely good odds at taking out a Kama majority from the minority, maybe even over multiple tribal councils. If Manu loses this opportunity by continuing to be stupid and stubborn, then I’m going to stroke out like this:
Or is that Lauren just trying to wink at the camera?
We reached DEFCON 1 for the night when I was actually rooting for Joe to stay (only if it meant one of the Kama-6 being sent to the Edge of Extinction). As much as the “Joe painted the flag instead of playing the game” story was lulzy to me, seeing him go was actually not what I wanted to see happen *this* week. Now that he’s living on the Edge, I expect his story to take off and accelerate toward the win we all feared immediately when we learned of this season’s twist and cast. We saw the jury thus far disappointed in his departure which served as support to the argument of many fans that if the Edge returnee makes the end, they could have the game on lock due to a feeling of comraderie between the game’s casualties. “Thanks for feeding us, giving free yoga classes, and being an all-around ‘amazing’ guy — here’s a million bucks.” Yuck.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
I’m really feeling this Kama comeuppance next week, and I hope that’s not just me being overly optimistic. Ron calling the shots on the Joe vote may give him a big head, and while Eric and Gavin remain the bigger physical threats of Kama, Ron could be seen as the “head of the snake” that Manu decides to go after if they can manage to get their heads out of their drunk asses. Speaking of that, which one of these Vatas gets a little too tipsy from the leftover merge vino and tips over in the challenge? Going with my gut, I bet it’s The Wardog who’s a lightweight, assuming he throws ‘em back as well as he can throw a sandbag.
Julie – Julie had a ton of time on screen this week which was great because seeing that this was her first tribal council, we caught a glimpse of what strategy talk at camp may have been like at Kama had they lost in the pre-merge. Julie has solid inroads with everyone, evidenced by inclusion in key conversations with Victoria, Ron, and also as the Kama ambassador to Rick. Ultimately Julie didn’t get her way in wanting to whack Wentworth, a move which at least one Kama is going to regret very soon, but I still see her as someone with the most influence in that alliance without being noticed as its leader. She also got her big win at the immunity challenge, checking off a lifelong bucket list item which made me go “aww.” It would be oddly poetic if the two members of this season’s #MomSquad were its bookends, so we’ll see if the Etsy shop owner can craft her way to the win.
Rick – While I still hate that “Devens” got an idol, he did win his way back into the game against some strong competitors – and Keith – so he deserves at least a shoutout here. If it couldn’t have been Aubry or Reem, I’m glad it was Rick. I also can’t blame Rick for not trying to stay Manu/Lesu strong, so I won’t say he cast the wrong vote. That’s a stern talk I’m going to need to have with Kelley and Lauren where I ask them to tell me exactly what they were thinking.
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