An advantage in a tree, an advantage in a bag, an advantage in a prosthetic foot — 22 years later, the Survivor creative department is still at the top of its game. Remember when idols were buried underground a specific number of steps from a tree that looked like the letter “Y” and you needed multiple clues to find them? LOL, how lame! With our first standard-length show of the season, things were back to normal with a little bit from the winning tribes and a lot from the losing tribe. It’s right about now I could use a swap to shake up the game, but given that Coco hasn’t voted yet and Baka’s next vote is bound to be a shitshow, while this week was a little straightforward, I’m excited by those prospects in the few more to come before the merge.
SLEEPING ON THE COUCH
“Previously on Survivor …” segments are a thing of the past, but the show gave us a throwback with Cody recapping last week’s bead business, in case we forgot! I think there’s just an editor who really likes using that flashback filter, so they try to work it in as much as possible (too much … ).
As was promised in last week’s preview, Jesse was served divorce papers by Dwight and found himself in the doghouse, or sleeping on the couch, rather. Dwight didn’t make Jesse sleep all the way outside of camp, but Dwight did push Jesse out of his inner circle after the light betrayal in voting out Justine.
Feeling the burn, Dwight turned to Noelle who was the only other person left out of the majority vote and she became Dwight’s rebound as they both expressed new distrust in Jesse. Jesse played his positioning perfectly to be the deciding vote within the tribe, but he failed to foresee the consequences of those actions clearly and made himself a new target in the eyes of two who thought they could trust him. Though, I suppose when everyone trusts you, you’re bound to break that trust with someone, so it's a hard balancing act. I just hope that with this big breakup between Jesse and Dwight, their “island kids” end up okay.
MOTHER ON A MISSION
Later, we learned a little more of Nneka’s background and her mission work, evidently her motivation for winning the million dollars. With this new insight, it only made natural sense as to why Nneka was viewed around camp as “the mom” which we know I always love. Everyone has different reasons for playing, but it was nice to hear Nneka’s whose is likely different than anyone else’s – finally some deeper character development from someone who didn’t get a lot the last two weeks! I only knew she was from Nigeria and that she sucked at puzzles. With this added depth, I thought, surely the show wouldn’t be setting me up to care for someone just as their swan song started playing!
THE GABLER BABY
It’s ironic that the oldest member of Baka is the one who’s treated most like a child, and I also love that we’re constantly reminded how much Gabler is breaking down after Morriah was voted out first for being “weak.” I know the real reason for her departure was just that Elie was closer to Gabler and Owen than she was to Morriah, but I wish the show could’ve made that clearer. Instead, we got the lame old narrative of “this woman’s the weakest” when you have a guy that looks like he’s in frequent need of a pulse check:
Which island wife kicked Gabler to the sand?
More on Elie’s game: my how the mighty have fallen. In the first week, she had Baka eating out of the palm of her hand, but I think all that power’s gone completely to her head. I find it strange that she struggled so much of her life feeling intellectually inferior to everyone around her, but with this newfound confidence, she’s come across as the contrary, thinking she’s the smartest person at camp.
We saw her last week act a little condescending to Owen, and though it was the therapist in her trying to calm him, the head pat still felt patronizing to me. This week, she didn’t only underestimate Gabler’s intelligence but his literal literacy. The instructions he had with his idol were admittedly poorly worded, but it was extreme of Elie to assume that Gabler hadn’t read the rules to his own damn idol less than 100 times or that she knew the rules better than he did.
I thought Elie’s idea to trick Gabler into thinking his own idol expired was genius, on paper, but only if Gabler was a complete fucking idiot. Even if Elie made him rethink what he read, did she not think he’d just verify himself? Owen told us, “He’s not an idiot,” but Elie still pursued her plan that rested on Gabler being exactly that. Watching Elie come up with that whole scheme, go through with it, then celebrate with Jeanine on the beach when she thought it worked was just … cringe. Remember when I raved about her as my preseason winner pick?
I obviously should’ve gone with the 19-year-old masterfully masquerading around as a 22-year-old. Now that’s an impressive strategy. And that face! There’s such drive and determination in that face!
I know I’m not alone in thinking that the difference between 19 and 22 is completely irrelevant and the fact that Sami thinks he’s really pulling off some incredible con with that is laughable. Personally, I think of anyone under 25 as still a child, so whether Sami said he was 18 or 24, it’d be all the same to me. It’d be like me going on the show at 30 and “playing” that I’m 33. Imagine me making final tribal council and delivering that big “reveal.” The jury would look at me like:
Bad example — Alec would probably think that’s the greatest move of all time.
Baka may not be the losingest tribe I thought they’d be, but they’re still a clusterfuck, and I can’t wait for their next tribal council. The other week, I wouldn’t have been as excited with Elie at risk, but after her shenanigans this week, I’m kind of ready to see her shooketh. I just hope it isn’t Jeanine who takes the fall for Elie’s arrogant overplaying — my gut still is saying that’s going to be how the cookie crumbles.
Meanwhile, poor Owen. He’s managed to make his way to the safe middle spot of the tribe and now gets to watch the madness ensue, hoping he doesn’t get caught in the crossfire. Owen was saved by Elie in Episode 1, and while in Episode 2, he seemed to be grouped up with the guys, where does his true loyalty lie? Will he go with Gabler and Sami against Elie, or will he vote with Elie and Jeanine, avoid Gabler’s idol, and blindside the young squire Sami? These are the questioned raised, like Owen’s eyebrow:
WHAT WOULD MY WIFE THINK
Coco has yet to lose a challenge, so it’s still Camp Kumbaya (not yet “Holy Crap-baya” as coined by Mike last season). This week we opened with a copyright-free rendition of Happy Birthday sung to James as the tribe made him a special birthday bracelet! Cassidy claimed they were building a community, “slowly … until we slit each other’s throats.” Ahh, there it is. The real Survivor community.
James was told he could do whatever he wanted since it was his birthday, so he eagerly announced that he wanted to go look for idols .…
I guess “whatever you want” didn’t include going to get an idol. They already made you a bracelet, James, don’t get greedy! Karla had been contemplating herself what could be out there, and like Survivor magic, as soon as she started searching, she found what she was looking for! But OH SHIT, it said “Beware” which she knew meant could be a gamble of her vote and, “Honey, your vote is your life,” as she said herself 2 weeks ago. Karla was in good with Coco, and I didn’t want her losing that powerful vote she possessed, so I broke out into nervous song, hoping that in some physically impossible way across the space-time continuum, she’d hear me:
And she did! But she didn’t listen for long. Karla heard another voice, and instead, like she was living out another favorite Disney musical number of mine, she followed it into the unknown. As it would turn out, that voice was Karla’s wife, driving her to think “what would my wife do?” as she went back and forth on whether she made the right decision to not take the risk and open the Beware Advantage. She said this game was about overcoming fear, and with that inspiration in mind, she ran back and ripped that advantage open to see what blessing and curse was in store for her inside.
We, of course, knew what that would be (although I was hoping there’d be something slightly different about it), so Karla was tasked like Cody to convince her tribe to give up their precious beads. Unlike Cody, however, Karla chose to act alone — I suppose she had the luxury of time that Cody didn’t have. Having just made a birthday bracelet for James, Karla decided to use that as a convenient reason to make another bracelet for her wife’s birthday (that wasn’t actually anytime soon, but no one needed to know that).
James was an easy one, but there was some resistance from Geo, Cassidy, and Lindsay because those beads are, like, really pretty, so Karla had to trade a few of her own possessions away to get them. She was successful in doing so, which meant only Ryan remained. He wasn’t quite on the same page as what was going on here, thinking Karla was just going around exchanging random personal items with people, so he said he could give her his sock.
It was giving me:
Karla had to be a little more explicit with exactly what she was wanting, but luckily, it didn’t take much more convincing for Ryan to finally bequeath her his bead (why does that sound so dirty?) With that, Karla had successfully corralled all the beads, winning back her vote and an immunity idol! She said, starting to tear up, that this gave her a confidence boost, sharing, “I just think it’s so badass that I believed in myself.” Love that journey for her, and I’m loving that Coco is coming up Karla! PLEEEEEEASE let that journey end in a million dollars.
IMMUNITY – HOLD MY LEG
Did anyone else notice the awkward “surprise” reaction to Jeff sharing the news of Justine being voted out at the last tribal council? Like they hadn’t been standing on that dock for at least several minutes to have been able to figure that out already ….
In another “badass” moment of the night, before the challenge, Noelle took a quick second to take her leg off and set it aside. I was honestly expecting Jeff to have an even bigger reaction to that than he did, like with an attempt to make “She took off her leg!!!” the new “She voted out her mom!!!”
Almost as cringey as that would’ve been, Vesi’s performance in yet another puzzle was … pitiful. Nneka being selected for that after blowing the last one was a choice, but perhaps it was a choice Vesi was forced to make. Between swimming and solving the puzzle, Nneka may have been less detrimental on the puzzle since she’d at least have Jesse helping her, but I think there was only one “best” spot Vesi could’ve placed Nneka in this one — on the bench:
But, per the rules, she had to compete, and so finishing at a turtle’s pace, Vesi was sentenced to another date with Jeff at tribal council but not before some EXCITING news that some tribe members would get to go on a journey! Baka selected Noelle, James, and Owen from their own tribe to go on an adventure unlike anything we’d ever seen.
THAT’S HOW YOU BUILD TRUST
This short and sweet segment was all about Noelle negotiating her way into an advantage. It didn’t take much effort as she spilled to the guys that it was her neck, not Nneka’s, was on the line having been left out of the last vote. She offered them an alliance later in the game if they helped her here, so they did, and Noelle got to reach into a risk-free bag of goodies.
This made me wonder, with these meet-and-greet journeys, how many have actually proven useful post-merge? Shan and Liana’s is the only that comes to mind as impactful to the later game. The first-ever journey with JD, Xander and Naseer amounted to nothing between those three. Evvie and Deshawn’s promise of a later alliance went nowhere. Maryanne and Drea made acquaintance (with Jenny, another pre-merge casualty like JD) and while they met up at the merge, there was no explicit tie back to their initial climb together. Chanelle and Omar? No. Lydia and Rocksroy? Nada.
All that to say, saying “we’ll work together at the merge” on these trips means jack shit, so can we just skip the charade and get to the part where people stick their hands in things?
WE CAN’T KEEP LOSING
Upon return to Vesi camp, the elephant in the room remained that Nneka choked again, and even Nneka was choked up about it, knowing that she didn’t to leave the game but was emotional over Noelle likely being the one to take the fall with the vote. I felt for Nneka there — she was obviously disappointed in herself and embarrassed, strong feelings that go far beyond just the game.
As Jeff wrote last week, the mentality of “keep the tribe strong” is statistically a sound one, so Cody and Jesse immediately debated whether keeping Nneka for her loyalty to their alliance was more important than keeping Noelle for her strength in challenges.
Narrator: It was not.
Cody even said the two may have made a mistake in making an alliance so early in the game with the weakest physical player in it. Ouch. Those words cut deep, but so did the thought to Jesse of voting out Nneka who had become — if we’re calling Dwight his island wife, then — like an island mom to him. Digging further into Jesse’s past, we learned that he lost his mom which helped explain why this mother/son relationship with Nneka and the thought of betraying it weighed so heavily on him. The last vote was an easy one for Jesse, but this was much more difficult. You could say that the game was afoot.
Personally, I’m still a fan of the “crotch idol” or Sandra’s “idol in my bra” but the prosthetic leg steal-a-vote was pretty clever too.
Noelle got back to camp and told her tribe she didn’t risk her vote — wow, someone actually kept a secret for on — JUST KIDDING! She immediately told Dwight everything. Dwight is on her side, though, and with the ability to steal someone’s vote, they effectively held all the power headed into this tribal council. Nneka still made the most sense for everyone, but I had a sinking feeling that Noelle and her new island wife were going to make a big move and use that advantage to take out a “big player” like she promised James and Owen.
Tribal council was a confusing measurement of everyone’s confidence. When Jeff asked the usual question of how everyone was feeling, Dwight said he was “very confident,” Cody stated he was a “nine,” and Nneka was at a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes — Noelle was the only one on the lower end in the 2-3 out of 5 stars range. That is to say, only Noelle felt uneasy about this vote … but not uneasy enough to play her game-saving advantage? Or it was the usual *acting* to make the real target feel safe in their 9.5/10 confidence rating?
The disrespect — most couldn’t even spell her name right! Two N’s, guys, two N’s!
I was really excited that Nneka avoided being the first vote, the stereotypical “old lady out” vote, and then Vesi was hit with a hard reality that in tribes this small, sticking to that just isn’t a viable strategy. Had this second vote happened later, I think we’d have seen a different story, maybe one where Noelle pulls that advantage from her foot and makes it a LIVE tribal, but night-night Nneka is the story we got. She seemed positive — smiling on her way out — and had good spirit in the game, but with her struggling on Day 7 to cast a “hard” vote, Nneka was never long for this game. I hope Vesi can win a puzzle or two in her absence because Cody and Jesse remain my favorites here, and another Vesi vote would NOT go well for either of them. The power now rests in the foot of Noelle.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR …
I hope I’m wrong, but I think this preview 100% spoiled what happens with one tribe talking about “revenge” and another saying “we’re at war.” Sounds like the warring tribe is the one that pays a visit to the loser who, naturally, wants “revenge” after the raid. However, stealing from another tribe has always made for fun moments on the show:
So, I’m a little excited.
Karla – KARLA MOTHERFUCKIN’ CRUZ GODOY, M.Ed!!! Last week it was for Cody, but this week I was LIVIN for Karla. What could’ve easily been a boring repeat of “oh look, they asked if they could have their beads and that person said yes” was made more entertaining with Karla’s colorful commentary — “THAT’S NOT GONNA WORK!” had me dying! Karla looks like she’d be someone who’s always loud and lively, but I can kind of see a little shyness when she talks about herself or maybe some uncertainty in her skills, but this week she proved she’s a fearless force to be reckoned with! I loved her personal moment of triumph, and I’m thrilled we picked up her story again after a low-key week 2. I just know the best is yet to come when we see Karla attend a tribal council too — she’s gonna run that shit like I hope she runs the rest of this game.
Noelle – A big week for Noelle, and shy of making a BIG MOVE with her steal-a-vote, Noelle made a big comeback from what was the brink of death for her. She’s a fighter, and I like that about her, but I fear she’s coming for my larger favorites, so Vesi needs to get its ass in gear and get back to winning challenges — particularly, Cody or Jesse whose vote will end up in the booth with Noelle if they attend tribal council again. I love a Kill Bill revenge story, so I’m kind of into it, but I wish those guys weren’t next on Noelle’s death list.
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