Dad-gummit! There goes my second winner pick a mere two weeks after my first. Not only were Danni and Tyson the two I most thought would win but they were the two I most wanted to win. Technically, they still could, but as much as I love them, either would be a sour win for me — I’m not rooting for the Edge of Extinction, especially not after this week. Tyson just HAD to be such a huge threat (I guess Dakal saw in him what I saw). Maybe if he had done more chores or cooked more coconut soup for the tribe instead of impressing them with his infinite amount of coconut bicep curls, my “happy times” could have lasted a little longer ....
Adam was one vote away from leaving last week, and also being left out of the vote he tried to orchestrate, Adam said he felt he was castrated at that tribal council (sometimes I wish I was castrated — then I wouldn’t feel so blue-balled by the almost-Nick vote this week). He quickly owned up to his mistakes and set out on a Sele apology tour, suddenly becoming the hardest working man at camp — stocking firewood, filling water bottles, making soup, and whatever the hell this was:
Sifting sand for fire tokens?
Adam’s intentions were good, although incredibly transparent. Every single person on Sele knew exactly what Adam was doing which was attempting to make amends. Jeremy compared Adam to one of his kids, like when they know they’ve done something wrong, they then go on their best behavior to try and make mom and dad happy again. Jeremy’s looks could kill this season, and some of the daggers he was shooting at Adam this episode let us know that Adam still had a long way to go to get back in the tribe’s good graces.
Annoyed Jeremy is the best Jeremy. “Why y’all so happy?”
While Adam was digging himself out of his grave, Rob and Parvati didn’t find their position to be much better. Adam approached them as they asked where the three of them would go from here, and Adam gave an answer saying that he couldn’t really try to pull anything at the risk of repeating the last vote or worse. After he walked away, I absolutely loved Rob’s immediate suggestion.
Rob was right. Adam didn’t need to say anything — Rob did. With Adam already seen as a slippery little sucker, Rob and Parvati didn’t need Adam to actually give them any real ammo. All they had to do was lie about Adam being up to no good again, and they were likely to be believed. Jeremy and Michele were who Rob went to with word of Adam’s latest wrongdoings, and as Rob predicted, they were sold the story. Jeremy and Michele at this point were sick of Adam playing both sides, and had Sele been sent to tribal council, the vote may have been a big loss for Adam and a big win for Boston Rob.
Speaking of wins, the other significant scene at Sele was a small talk between Rob and Michele over particularly Michele’s controversial Kaoh Rong win. Michele shared with Rob her experience of facing backlash over winning (of all things), and Rob gave her some nice words of encouragement. He told her, “If you win, you win. The end.”
Rob and Michele share a unique bond over this because while Michele is perhaps more notorious for “robbing” someone of a win, Rob’s victory in Redemption Island was controversial in its own way with many fans feeling the season was rigged for Rob to win from the start. I thought this was a really cool moment between the two because regardless of how fans feel, they both hold their wins as special, and I couldn’t help wondering what this means for the season. Was this just highlighting a bond building between Boston Rob and Michele, or could this talk of “if you win, you win” be indicative of one of these two taking the title?
Rob winning seems impossible, but Michele ... she could do it. So far, most of her story has been about proving herself and why she won the first time — something she shouldn’t even have to do — and while I’m not ready to make Michele my winner pick, I think this is definitely going to be a season-long arc for her. We could either be looking at Michele in tight contention with a finish in a close second, or she’ll get to smile holding up a second check in her Survivor career.
Yul is literally too precious to play this game.
Dakal has been dominating for most of the game, so they were a little cheerier than Sele – especially Yul whose apparent morning routine is to wake up and give everyone a hug. At first, this was sweet, but then it turned sad as Yul talked about how good he felt because those are simply famous last words in Survivor. If Yul is the purest angel to every play, then Sophie the devil is the yin to his yang. Her looking out at the Edge of Extinction and reminding us that the good times are all just a façade were in stark contrast to Yul’s hope for more happy times ahead.
Of course, Dakal dished out a few more laughs with the unlikely pair of Tyson and Sarah – their morning routine evidently involved a breath check. Sarah’s Survivor reputation is one that is perhaps one of the farthest things from a joker while Tyson is without a doubt the biggest joker of them all, and that may be what drew out Sarah’s silly side. I was a fan.
I believe Sarah had the most pre-game votes cast against her, for that was worth, yet she’s managed to infiltrate herself into this tribe incredibly well, positioned perhaps what could have been two alliances. On one side was the “loners” and as for the other, Tyson tried talking to Sandra and Tony about the necessity of working together, picking up Kim and Sarah so that all the “connected” players couldn’t be so easily picked off. This alliance sounded great to me — Tyson, Tony, Sandra, Kim, and a growing-on-me Sarah teaming up? Fuck yeah! Unfortunately, Sandra thought “Fuck no.”
Maybe it was the long blonde hair reminding her of that “snake motherfucker” Jonny Fairplay, but Sandra was not down with Tyson’s plan. She told him, “as long as it’s not me” but in her mind, she was thinking, “it’s you.” I was disappointed that Sandra was so stuck on Tyson even though he did throw her under the bus last week. On one hand, Tyson should have known Sandra enough to know that he’d be dead to her if she ever found that out, but on the other hand, Sandra could’ve been a little more forgiving for the sake of her long-term survival.
Even though he obviously wanted her out eventually, the timing of Tyson’s current game plan made the most sense, in my opinion. I can see how Sandra thought Tyson was potentially playing both sides, but in talks with Tony, Kim, and Sarah she may have realized this was the real deal for now, and if Yul, Sophie, Wendell, and Nick were targeting Tyson anyway, then all the more reason to go with him for at least one vote. Watching all of this come up then get shot immediately down about killed me.
NOT GONNA STOP
The Edge challenge this week — not a good one.
I want to start by saying that Natalie, Amber, Danni, and Ethan are all incredibly strong human beings to have completed this task. Natalie never slowed down, Amber powered through, and Danni literally finished with a Rocky Balboa cheer and smile on her face. Ethan, of course, came back from the brink of death, all for the sake of a fire token.
Personally, I thought the show was absolutely reckless in designing this mini-game. Five runs up and down that big hill with no food and little sleep would have been a big ask, but twenty? They were asking the four Edgers to essentially run a marathon with zero fuel in their bodies. For me, watching them all press on wasn’t satisfying — it was scary.
The show was almost asking for someone to die here or be pulled from the game, and it damn near happened with Ethan. I felt like I was watching the show actually try to kill these people — they wanted that physical breakdown, and they got it, but almost at the cost of serious harm to one of the players. This has always been a TV show, and opening the door for drama is part of that, but they went too far with this one. I don’t want to be afraid for someone’s life watching Survivor. I shudder thinking that when Jeff got word that Ethan collapsed, his first thought wasn’t “is he okay?” but rather “did we get it on film?” Teasing it last week the way they did was just tacky and tasteless too.
Survivor isn’t supposed to be easy, and I get that, but there’s a certain standard of care that needs to be in place. Have we already forgotten the shameful neglect we witnessed during Island of the Idols? I thought that had all been addressed, but apparently there’s still a good way to go, but I’m glad everyone ended up okay because this Edge segment could’ve gone much, much worse than it did.
The intensity of their experience, though, brought everyone immensely closer together with the girls going as far as walking an additional lap up and down the hill just to support Ethan’s finish. Moments like this bond people, as Amber said with tears streaming down her face, and while I said earlier in the season that maybe this more competitive Edge of Extinction wouldn’t create as tight of a pact on the final jury, after seeing this week’s events unfold, I’m now nervous that we are in store for exactly what happened a year ago — if an Edger makes the end, they win.
IMMUNITY – CHAOS COMEBACK
This puzzle is officially cursed or blessed depending on who you are. It’s a favorite whenever I see it because it reminds me of Chaos Kass’s epic comeback win at the Cagayan final four immunity challenge. While no “greatest comeback in Survivor history” will ever top that for me, this one could be argued as a respectable second.
The stakes were set in the beginning with a little rivalrous remark from Parvati about renaming the sit-out bench to the “Sandra bench.” Sandra certainly didn’t mind, and honestly, I don’t either. People put way too much stock into challenge strength = good gameplay, even Jeff during the “Outplay” segment of the newer Final Tribal Council format. Sandra’s not here for that shit, and I’m proud to see her own that. She wins the game in spite of it, and that’s even more impressive to me, so keep on sitting on the Sandra bench like it’s your throne, queen, especially if Tony sitting is right next to you.
What an iconic band of benchwarmers.
Tony’s Jedi mind tricks were in full force during this challenge as Sele couldn’t jump to save their lives. Adam played the role of small hero with being the only one to be able to successfully make the jump (Sele obviously underestimated the height of those keys), but it goes without saying that the bigger heroes in this challenge were that familiar pair of Rob and Michele. Rob found redemption on this puzzle as he and Michele crushed the gap between Sele and Dakal, eventually surpassing them to secure Sele a night of safety.
Oddly, the exit from the challenge wasn’t voiceovered by a member of the losing tribe, but instead Adam talking about the triumph of the challenge, being driven by the wise words of his mother: “when Adam decides that he is going to do something or accomplish something, there is absolutely no stopping him.”
I’m not sure if this was just the show trying to make this moment the next “Cirie crosses a balance beam” but Adam was definitely meant to take a big part of the credit for this win. Adam obviously set his mind on winning this game once, and here he’s done it a second time, so we’ll see if Susie’s right! Drawing dead after last week, I think this confessional at least foreshadowed that Adam will make a comeback be a contender again. The swap will give him the second life he needed.
IS IT THAT EASY?
We returned to Dakal with Tyson being classic Tyson, commenting on how everyone pats the puzzle solvers on the back and tells them “it’s not your fault” when ... it 100% always is. Nick and Sarah blew that one big time which Tyson took as an opportunity to pin the vote on Nick. Everyone seemed to unanimously agree, thus begging the question of whether the vote would really be that simple.
Of course, it wasn’t, as it never is. Nick was informed that Tyson was targeting him which sucked for Nick because Tyson was one of his favorite players, but now it was time to go to war with that idol of his. Yul, Sophie, and Wendell were going to be solidly on Nick’s side, but the other votes were ones Tyson hoped to secure.
Tyson and Tony talked, and Tony saw the benefit in keeping a big target like Tyson around, but he was afraid of shaking up what had otherwise been smooth sailing for him so far in the game. Tyson again made great arguments here about how once the first big player went, the rest would go down like dominoes. Tony saw that, and from the sound of it, Kim and Sarah saw it too. The problem was convincing the queen.
Notice Tony trying extra hard to convince her by shaking his hand vigorously in Italian.
Sandra admitted that Tony was right and that they’d be stupid to let Tyson go, but she also couldn’t let go of her lack of trust in Tyson. She said she didn’t like to play with emotion, and while she liked revenge, she liked two million dollars more. At this point, I still wasn’t sure, but Sandra was sounding like she saw the light and knew that Nick had to be the one to go. Tyson and Tony were absolutely right about that, and even at the risk of rocking the boat right before the swap, I think Sandra should’ve spared Tyson here.
Next week with the swap, Nick is going to be able to slide under the radar or, worse, do direct damage against Sandra, Tony, Kim, and Sarah should he land in a minority and have to sell them out. Those four will always be bigger targets than Nick, and they had the opportunity to axe him, but with Sandra the swing vote, the others had to fall in line with her. Short of Sarah using her steal-a-vote on Sandra — way too big for this early in the game — there wasn’t much else that could’ve been done. I’m hoping Sandra didn’t screw them all, but I see many more scenarios where this vote ends up doing exactly that.
TAKE DOWN THE TROPHY
The tribe talked about two major topics at this tribal council. The first was the fact that everyone was trying to maintain “the façade” that this was one united tribe while acknowledging that one person for sure was on the outside of it. Dakal was obviously looking ahead to the swap with the strategy of keeping the people who would least likely stray from that façade even if everyone knew full well that it was indeed fake.
The next conversations revolved around “idols” — not the advantage kind but the people kind. Some of the winners in the game notably have bigger names than others, so the thought of making that “trophy” kill was on certain individuals’ minds. The word “starstruck” came up, and even Yul admitted to having some larger-than-life images of these players before meeting them, bluntly admitting he thought that Tony would be an asshole but was surprised he turned out to be so caring and likable. Only Yul could get away with saying that and making everyone laugh, including Tony.
Nick, too, mentioned having a big crush on Parvati in high school which caused Tyson to do a major eye-roll.
He may have just been annoyed that Nick didn’t say Tyson was his high school crush.
Maybe because the votes were already locked at this point, but why didn’t this raise any red flags about Nick? He basically admitted to having the hots for Parvati, and while he was either serious with his girlfriend or engaged at the time, a little crush is all Parvati needs to completely destroy a man and everyone around him. If they meet up, a little harmless flirting could be all it takes to make Nick a flipper. But no, Tyson is the one that needed to go here. Totally.
I’m surprisingly not as sad as I thought I’d be. Obviously, I didn’t want Tyson voted out and after briefly getting my hopes up that it wouldn’t happen, it was terrible to watch, but his story seems way too incomplete for him to be gone forever. I know Natalie’s got a growing monopoly on fire tokens, but I think Tyson will be one of the two Edge returnees this season. Why show us that significant-seeming scene about his relationship with Sarah if it amounts to nothing in-game? Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I didn’t feel the same finality over Tyson’s boot as I did with, for example, Amber and Ethan’s. I still can’t let myself root for someone who’s been voted out to win it all, but I’m rooting for Tyson to at least get back in and cause trouble. I hate that both he and Danni are fighting for the same spot ... but maybe one can come back at the merge, and the other in the finale?
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR...
ABOUT TIME FOR A SWAP. I at least got my wish this week of Sele winning ( ... but looking back, at what cost?) but given that there was no theme to the tribal divisions this season, I’d have been alright with an earlier mix-up. Predicting what could happen is a crapshoot not knowing who lands where, but I have to imagine Rob, Parvati, and Sandra are in the biggest danger of being swap scapegoats. Yul’s confessional about “happy times” still feels awfully ominous, and since no dark cloud came this week, I wonder if it means Yul will face an ugly storm at the swap. Michele’s ex-boyfriend saga should at least make us laugh before we inevitably cry at the end of the hour — kind of a spoiler re: who ends up on a new tribe together if you already know who it is. As for my guess…
Tony, when he used to have hair. They’re both from New Jersey, so this makes the most logical sense to me.
Tyson – He did everything he could this week, and I am not convinced that voting him out was the right decision. Tony was right on target about why Tyson needed to stay, and I think Sarah and Kim would have been on board had it not been for stubborn Sandra. Throwing her name out there was definitely Tyson’s biggest mistake, and one he should have known better than to make. “It’s not your fault ... ” but it is — for that, he’s not blameless in his boot. I get that it had to have been difficult for Sandra to forgive and forget that; however, not doing so (at least the forgiving part) I think will come back to bite her. Whether Tyson gets back in the game with a vengeance or Sandra faces regicide during the swap, she may end up wishing she’d have listened to Tony. If Tyson’s bequeathing of his fire token to Nick says anything, it’s that Tyson’s done with everyone on Dakal. As Sandra would say, if Tyson returns, Dakal will be in “deep doo-doo.” While I still have favorites there, some would deserve that fate.
Tony – This week, Tony was a surprising source of sound logic after some of his ... questionable ... choices in the last two episodes. Antics aside, Tony has felt a little toned-down to me compared to his last seasons (keep in mind that “toned-down Tony” is still absolutely wild). I suppose his “ladder” and Ash Wednesday shenanigans could suggest otherwise, but at least strategically, he’s not been the aggressive steam-roller (“asshole”) he usually is. I think Game Changers served him well as a reminder that against returning players, that strategy isn’t viable (unless you’re Boston Rob). With that, my fear of Tony being a two-time pre-merger has significantly shrunk. I’m just hoping Sandra didn’t screw him with being stuck on voting out Tyson — Tony could’ve used Tyson as a shield, but I think there are enough other players still in the mix that Tony may not be in too much trouble at this swap. Separated from Sarah, Tony doesn’t have any other connections so if Cops ‘R’ Us is split up, he may be able to sneak his way to the merge. I mean, we haven’t even seen the next evolution of the Spy Shack yet, and we’ve barely heard mention of Tony as a target which is something I would not have predicted four weeks into this season — maybe his Jedi mind control powers are real after all! I’m starting to think he had more influence in Game Changers than we may have realized ....
A legend, he is.
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