Last week was such a high point of the season thus far, and not that this week was necessarily its obvious “low,” but it certainly lacked the same kind of magic of the last episode. Normally, I’m in support of swaps shaking up the game to keep it from growing stale after several votes, but this may have been a rare case where I actually wish the tribes would’ve stayed the same? There still was plenty of drama in both camps — I think we could’ve gotten a lot more excitement with another Vokai vote and having a shitshow ensue of Jamal vs. Dan vs. Noura, and in the more likely scenario of Lairo losing, it would’ve been Dean and Karishma fighting to stay alive — lighting up camp as they did — with the unpredictable Missy maybe throwing another curveball into the mix. Instead, the story was “which minority former Lairo goes home?” and from the looks of it, that’ll be the story all the way to the merge. That’s not very exciting ... much like this episode for me.
Unsurprisingly, Dean was disappointed by being the only person to return to camp after the Chelsea vote who was not in on the Chelsea vote and he was determined to find out who ordered the hit on his “girlfriend.” As he put, “Detective Dean” was on the case — although, he wasn’t the first detective we’ve seen in Fiji.
Does Dean also have a BS radar?
Dean quickly put together that the plan didn’t come from him or from Chelsea — how astute — and Tom had always wanted Karishma out, so the field was narrowed to Elaine, Elizabeth, Aaron, and Missy. Only a highly trained professional could’ve drawn that conclusion.
After interrogating the tribe, Dean finally landed on Missy who admitted in confessional, “Yeah Dean, it was me. I took your girlfriend out of this game.” Savage. However, Missy too denied that anyone ordered “a hit” and let Dean believe it was a tribe consensus, chastising him a bit for even acting so accusatory. Mystery unsolved ... for now.
There wasn’t much time for Dean to dwell on the past with the big swap in his future. As seen in the screencap above, not everyone was 150-200% satisfied with the new tribe breakdown:
Lairo – Jack, Jamal, Janet, Kellee, Noura, Dean, Karishma, Tom
Vokai – Dan, Jason, Lauren, Tommy, Aaron, Elaine, Elizabeth, Missy
The players chose from two baskets Jeff held which, from what I could tell, were separated by gender so that each tribe would end up with 4 men and 4 women, so there was theoretically a chance Lairo could have ended up with a majority on one tribe, but they were not so lucky. Vokai had an absolute majority on New Lairo and were at least even on New Vokai.
New Lairo was looking especially “doomsday”-y indeed because New Vokai was totally stacked. Lauren and Jason had proven themselves on puzzles, Tommy and Aaron were beefed-up brutes, and Elaine, Elizabeth, and Missy are the physically strongest women in the game. These challenges until the merge may end up very lopsided against Lairo unless there’s some sort of watermelon-eating challenge for Noura to crush or an epic game of Clue for Detective Dean to dominate.
REWARD – EVERY DAY I’M SLYTHERIN
The only thing more over-the-top than the design of this challenge (which I love) was Jeff hyping the shit out of a “once in a lifetime reward on Survivor” known as ... Applebee’s. I’ll admit that I’ve only eaten at Applebee’s once, but I remember it making me sick so I never cared to venture back. Also, this story comes from an Applebee’s where I used to live and in case you’re not clicking the link (you should, it’s a fun read), basically someone found a dead lizard in their salad. A four-inch fucking lizard. Mind you, this was central Illinois where wild lizards aren’t even common, so that thing had to have been decomposing in some boxed salad for who knows how long after coming from who knows where. Needless to say, I went to the Chili’s down the road instead. Hard pass on ever even pulling into a parking lot of another Applebee’s.
Lairo itself made their way through this challenge like a limp, limbless lizard and proceeded to blame Karishma for the loss after Noura had to drag her as if the pair was recreating the Joel and Chet match-up in Micronesia.
Okay, Karishma wasn’t a killer here, but whose idea was it to make her slither in the sand? We don’t have a timestamp, but I also can’t imagine the team of Tom and Janet doing double time compared to Noura and Karishma. If Jamal or Kellee was confident enough on the puzzle, they should’ve swapped one with Karishma to “minimize” her damage. I’m not saying Karishma’s blameless, but I feel like the tribe, especially Tom, was a little overly harsh to her, as usual.
EATIN’ GRUEL IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
This reward was nothing more than the world’s longest Applebee’s commercial, literally preceded and followed by Applebee’s commercials for us live viewers. My favorite part, though, was when Missy said she was “done eating L’s” because she should’ve known “L” stands for “laxative” and that was exactly the effect this food would have on the tribe. I’d have only been interested in that “shark bowl” drink — I mean, who could fuck up a giant bowl of booze?
The answer is “Applebee’s.”
NO LONGER LAIRO
While Lairo was still “Lairo” in buff color, old Lairo was effectively no more. At camp, Karishma was quick to confide in Kellee about her history with her former tribe while at the same time, Tom got to talking to the rest about how much of a liability Karishma was in challenges. Neither of those conversations were especially shocking, but what was a surprise was finding out Dean and Kellee had a mutual connection with Dean’s ex — no, not Chelsea — his real ex who attended business school with Kellee, which made Kellee consider working with Dean; however, Karishma had made it much clearer that she had absolutely zero ties left to Lairo, securing her as the safest player to keep for strategic reasons.
Karishma opened up to this new crew more than we had seen her open up to the old, as she shared the story of her marriage with Jack and Janet. Karishma’s caught a lot of flak, so I thought the show made a nice narrative choice in giving us this scene to show a more sympathetic side of her, what motivates her, why she’s on the island, and what she hopes to get out of the experience. She’s no stranger to feeling unwanted or unvalued in her life, so that kind of brought together the whole picture of why we’ve seen Karishma act the way she has and why she’s susceptible to those feelings — I loved this moment of sharing. It was a refreshing repose from game talk or everyone just kicking sand in Karishma’s face.
READY TO FLIP
Is this a live look at next week when Elaine finds out Missy has flipped?
Aaron observed more of Elaine working her social game hard and the old Vokai members eating it up — with numbers tight, he wasn’t willing to go to rocks and knew Vokai wouldn’t either, so he set his sights on forming an alliance with Tommy to keep the two big guys in the game together. Prepared to flip on Lairo himself, proclaiming “Orange” to be dead, Aaron made a pact with Tommy who agreed they’d serve as each other’s shields in the game — a mutually beneficial bromance of sorts. I think this was a brilliant play on Aaron’s part to secure himself safety since no one on Vokai was budging. He later filled Missy in on the plan to let go of Lairo, and she sounded like she thought the idea was no doubt “dope” as well.
This will go one of two ways: Aaron and Missy made the right move to pledge their votes to Vokai, or they’ll be viewed as too aggressive or cutthroat and Vokai will vote them out instead. It’s ironic that last week a major concern of Lairo’s was Karishma being quick to flip when this week, almost every Lario did exactly that. Only Elaine still bled orange — presumably Elizabeth too since we didn’t hear from her but know she’s tight with Elaine — and when purple has all the power, that’s not so good.
IMMUNITY – WAITING ON KARISHMA
Jeff really ridiculed Karishma here more than anyone else, and at one point I was happy to hear her snap back at him because it was typical Jeff being too much. Lairo did lag behind in the entire challenge which made it seem like a blowout, but it ended up coming down to just one buoy shot to be made. I don’t know what happened because Missy and Dean both played college basketball but neither sealed the deal for their tribe — instead it was Tommy who came in to bank the buzzer-beater as Lairo’s losing streak continued. The same streak of Karishma-bashing kept going as well which more or less meant she’d be safe once more. Still, we can never be 100% about these things.
PLAYING UP THE SOCIAL GAME
Knowing it was a Lairo leaving, Dean, Tom, and Karishma all offered up their votes to Vokai. Tom and Dean pushed Karishma for her weakness in challenges while Karishma simply said she’d vote out whoever she was told between Tom and Dean. Survivor’s ultimately a social game and thinking challenge strength is short term. The tribes could assume they have 3 votes before the merge — with that in mind, the Vokais at New Lairo don’t need to win a challenge, so making that the entirety of one’s argument isn’t a smart decision. The situation sort of presented itself with Lairo’s voting history, but Karishma 100% outmaneuvered Tom and Dean in the social game this round, giving Vokai reason to keep her long term whereas Tom and Dean essentially gave them a reason to keep them for only one more vote.
When it came to Tom vs. Dean, Janet was the first to paint a target on Tom, talking about him being a straight-shooter and telling it like it is — something she appreciated — but also being one who’s going to go straight back to his old tribe at the merge. Still, Janet “had” Tom the same way Kellee “had” Dean, so the two had a conversation about who then should be voted out. This also was the first noteworthy Noura moment of the night — one reason this episode may have been underwhelming: not enough Noura. I’m glad the show could at least squeeze her in if only briefly.
Umm ... what exactly was going on there? At first, my reaction was, “What the fuck, Noura?” thinking she was channeling Karen Smith with the local weather report.
Thankfully, Aurora McCreary came to my rescue on Twitter to explain to all of us ignorant men what a “boob water release squeeze” was. In all honesty, that was probably my key takeaway from the night, so thank you for the education, Aurora. Sorry for our stupid boy brains!
We are not worthy!
I feel like we’d already watched this tribal council before ... oh, wait, we kind of did last week. Lairo was looking at another blindside, so the game became keeping the victim in the dark. We had lots of “tribe strong” chatter which is never an entertaining narrative at tribal – they could’ve at least loaded up Rob and Sandra with a few of those “shark bowls” so they’d have been slurring (if not spewing) in their spy shack.
With Karishma in self-preservation mode once more and Tom only talking about tribe strength, the only highlight for me of this tribal talk (which should come to the surprise of no one reading this) was Noura. Jeff began to prompt her with a question, and before he could even get it out, Noura burst into a fit of maniacal laughter.
Don’t we all ...
I love that Noura knows she’s nuts and I can’t thank her enough for being the person I can always count on to make me laugh like a maniac as well.
*Shrug* Tom was a stand-up, straight shooter like Janet said, but that’s not good Survivor TV for me. Between Karishma, Dean, and Tom, this was by far the best outcome for the sake of the show. Tom was never going to stir the pot. He’d preach “keep the tribe strong” until the merge, and then his tune would just be “Lairo strong” until he inevitably got voted out — first if not two or three votes into the merge. As the show’s first Canadian, he played about as anyone could have suspected. He didn’t rub anyone the wrong way but at the same time didn’t start any fires to heat up the game. Tom’s an example of how nice guys finish last — in Survivor, you’ve got to be a little more creatively cutthroat.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
Noura wants to kill someone? Oh boy! That’ll be a great return to The Noura TV Show with it being on a relative hiatus this week. I assume she’s talking about Jack and Jamal who were sort of after her at Vokai’s only vote. What I’m thinking is that she’ll propose a power move but get swiftly shut down, and if/when Lairo loses, the tribe will vote out Dean and save Noura for later (again), so it’s a big red herring. New Vokai will be a little wilder with the talk of rocks – but again, I don’t think this sneak peek is serious. It’s clear that Vokai is tight and that Missy and Aaron won’t go to rocks, so I think they’ll end up letting go of Elaine who is shown saying she doesn’t think anyone will flip — famous last words ...
Karishma – Is she playing the best game? No, and even farther from it in challenges. However, Karishma played this swap exactly how she needed to in order to survive/continue climbing her ladder of chaos, and ultimately that’s what it comes down to: doing whatever needs to be done to not be voted out. Vokai was very set on voting out a Lairo, so Karishma made it immediately clear that she was on the bottom of her old tribe which spared her over Tom and Dean despite everyone knowing she was the weakest person in the game (even before the swap). The story is starting to revolve a little too much around Karishma, but she’s been at focal point of the last few votes, and at least each week we’re getting to peel back a few more layers of her personal story. I feel like Karishma could be someone you either love or you hate depending on why you watch Survivor — I watch for the drama, the characters, and their stories, so Karishma is definitely a “love” for me. We understand why Karishma feels the way she feels and can sympathize with her, but we also understand her tribemates’ perception and why they have valid reasons to vote her out — I like that. It makes Karishma a lot more complex.
Dean – Oh, Dean. Now 0-for-3 in trying to vote out Karishma, Dean’s becoming the little engine that couldn’t do anything right. Dean looks doomed if Lairo loses again, and let’s face it — they will, but I hope we have more than just another week or two with Dean. He actually played impressively well this week (except when it came to Janet) and had Karishma not been so anti-Lairo, Dean probably would’ve had the best chance of surviving over both Tom and Karishma. He could make the same argument Karishma makes, but his perhaps holds a little less weight having been left out of only a single vote versus being the target of two. The Detective Dean bit was great, and while he’s yet to catch his culprit, maybe he’ll still manage to find a lucky lead on Lairo.
Kellee – Kellee hasn’t played a significant role in the show’s strategy because she hasn’t really had to on Vokai, but with other players like Tommy and Lauren landing on the other tribe, Kellee kind of took the new lead on Lairo. This was a great episode for her and showed she has a strong mind for the game and can step back to see the bigger picture where she otherwise could’ve easily fallen into a selfish trap of wanting to do all she could to keep Dean in her pocket. She’s got him, but she’s not afraid to drop him either. Kellee ended up as my last pick in our TDT draft after being ranked #19 overall — suddenly, I see her as a potential top contender to take it all. How’s that for a steal?
Aaron – Another prominent strategic showing for Aaron. If the vibe at Vokai is either letting Lairo go or going to rocks, he made the right call in working over particularly Tommy to stay in the game. Tommy has a lot of sway on Vokai, and Aaron’s a good shield for him, so this is a mutually beneficial bromance for the both of them. As long as Aaron doesn’t get too aggressive, I think the work he put in this episode will pay off to protect him and his girl Missy should Vokai ever vote. As we know, though, Lairo loves their dates with Jeff.
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