For only the second time this season, everyone who attended tribal council got to cast a vote which is a step in the right direction, but was this episode good? I don’t think so as much as it was just not as offensively bad as last week. Of the 43 minutes, we spent a solid 20 on puking up PB&Js and a ridiculously long, 3-part immunity challenge yet with enough time to keep in a fart gag ... really? There’s still so much being left on the editing room floor, but we also have to consider that this episode was just one day in the game, so the room for the players to breathe remained suffocatingly too small even if we got a somewhat “normal” round. Compared to last week this one was fine, but the mess that was the last episode should not be used as our baseline or else every episode would look like the Cagayan merge in comparison.
TURKEY OF THE TRIBE
Expectedly, Frannie faced some heartache after watching her island bestie get the boot. I’m sure it was nice to finally be able to express herself in full there, no longer having to hide her feelings about Matt, and he’s just one jury vote, so I don’t think it was worth Frannie downplaying their relationship anymore. Everyone knew what they were up to, right?
It was clear that Ratu felt like they had won the game with this vote. They remained four-strong with Lauren’s extra vote so if they could just stay intact for two more votes, they’d have an unstoppable majority, Kane citing that they could be the first (fuckers?) to finally decimate another tribe ... as if that had never been done before ... in the literal first season of the show. Ratu’s plan was to use Yam and Carson, but equally wanting those two votes was Soka, though, who had to do some damage control after Heidi forced Lauren’s vote onto Yam Yam.
On the topic of Heidi’s advantage, she admitted that she knew it wouldn’t change the outcome – telling that to Yam Yam could’ve been a lie, but she also said so in confessional, so was she forced to play it? I don’t recall the note indicating it must be played, but if she sensed there was no hope of saving Matt, I feel like she should’ve been given the option to do nothing as to not show her cards. However, given the direction the game has gone lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was yet another choice removed from a player, calling into question whether this was truly an “advantage.”
Tika had established itself in the perfect position here to now swing between Soka and Ratu. The “three stooges” were very much the ones in control this week even though the other two tribes thought they were the ones fighting for it. Carolyn said her strategy was to just remain underestimated and look like the “turkey of the tribe” which felt like even more foreshadowing that Tika will run the rest of this game, assuming nothing like a medevac happens.
Was the zoom-in and volume increase on Carson’s mic really critical? Carson looked a little rough here, but he told us the sudden upset stomach was probably caused by the previous day’s PB&J reward, so it appeared to be just a temporary stomach bug. I guess it’s good that the bad stuff was coming out instead of causing blockage inside like we’ve seen take people out in the past ....
Fiji must have better sources of fiber.
IMMUNITY – STAY GASSY, SAN DIEGO
God, we got through this near-20 minutes of challenge time and about the only memorable moment was Danny farting. This is what the show has really turned into, huh? That tracks, I guess, with everyone’s new favorite challenge element that the 43 cast dubbed “the butthole.”
In case you needed a visual of what was happening in Bruce and Joe’s bowels.
Here’s the thing: I guarantee this is not the first time that ever happened at a challenge; it’s just been a (correct) choice not to reduce the show to that level of juvenile humor and cut it from the edit. Dalton Ross put out an article after the episode in which Jeff admitted he makes this show for kids now, so I suppose we should expect more stupid shit like this to make it into the hour. Can’t wait for a “boobs” gag to make the show. Well, to be fair, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Neleh: underrated strategic mastermind.
I wouldn’t miss this marathon-length challenge going away in 45 and beyond, but I hate it, so that means it’ll remain a staple. I did appreciate the ending irony of Danny helping Lauren, his target, make it to the final stage of the challenge and win, thus thwarting his plan for tribal council. We also got a very sweet moment of Lauren celebrating and giddy over how proud her students and own kids would be of her, but it made me stop and ask: is this the first time Lauren’s really talked about being a mom on the show? That I even have to question that is a problem itself – this moment would’ve been so much more meaningful had we learned anything more about Lauren and her family in the first half of this season. It still was touching, but the payoff would’ve been more powerful if the show actually cared about sharing the story that led up to this bucket list reaction:
I thought that was only achievable on The Price is Right!
MUDDY AS HELL
In what felt like the last 5 minutes of the hour, we finally got to ... Survivor!
Less than 24 hours after the last vote, Va Va hit the beach after cleaning up and put together a plan for the first true “merge” vote. I was not shocked that Ratu picked Frannie who stood out to Brandon last week with her challenge win – what I was shocked by is how quickly they told everyone that was their plan. It sounded like everyone but Frannie was told “Frannie.” I guess Ratu worried about pissing off Soka, so they wanted them to feel included? WEAK!
Luckily, it wasn’t just one kumbaya voting block after that. Heidi saw this as an opportunity to formally unite Soka and Tika to take out the big man, Brandon. With 6 votes to Ratu’s 4+1, there wasn’t even a need for an idol, but Danny told Heidi he had one anyway, and I think Heidi slipped here in telling Yam Yam and Carson the same thing.
Yam Yam and Carson were ready to vote out a Ratu to achieve balance in the tribe, but once the whole idea of Danny playing his idol for Frannie came into fruition, Tika saw a bonus opportunity. They could vote for Frannie, maintaining their “loyalty” with Ratu while getting out a Ratu and burning an idol in the process. The result was a loss for Ratu, a win/loss for Soka, and a win/win for Tika. Tell me again who the “stooges” are in this game?
I’d have been pissed if I was Danny, though he has himself to blame for telling anyone he had an idol. The only way out of this was to follow through with his offer to Frannie to play his idol, even though he knew that Tika was technically on Soka’s side. I wouldn’t have liked having to play Tika’s game and essentially allow them to openly play the middle between the two former tribes, but I don’t think I’d have had any other option.
As impressive as it was for Yam Yam and Carson to hide all their cards, for the sake of drama, I hope they get exposed next week. The numbers will now be 3-3-3 so there’s room for a new 3+3 alliance to come together. If Soka tells Ratu that Yam and Carson were in on the vote and only wrote Frannie’s name down as a fake sign of trust, that could make them look very bad and turn this two-tribe war into a three-tribe war. Carolyn doesn’t seem as in the middle as everyone else, so perhaps her “turkey” approach is what could leave her the only one not to face any fire next week.
Despite a satisfying strategy session, about the only highlight of the episode for me, tribal council had me back to my usual snoozing with not a lot of real talk and instead everyone keeping their lips sealed against giving anything away. The main topic was how everyone was trying to be a part of the majority which ... no shit? That’s how voting works. However, Jeff still was asking questions as if this was a brand-new concept. Votes? At tribal council? Why, I never! At least I had Matt and Frannie smiling and giggling at each other to keep me half-interested.
I was holding my breath for more from Danny as he brought out his idol, but he kept himself composed and followed through on his word to Frannie. From there, it all came down to whether Yam Yam and Carson let Ratu know what was happening, thus allowing them to switch their votes to Danny. That certainly would’ve had Danny shitting his pants, but the Soka+Tika plan worked and they successfully sent Brandon to the jury.
Brandon’s most memorable moments for me will be him ruining the birdcage idol twist not once but twice – first when he opened the cage in front of everyone at Ratu, making the fake idol useless, and then telling Matt about the real vs. fake idol which (thankfully) spared us of Matt looking like a total idiot at tribal council. Suffice to say, Brandon will not be asked back as the breaker of all Jeff’s twists. Overall, Brandon was ... fine. He was more interesting and complex than our typical “big man” athlete – no Alan Ball but better than a John Rocker or Scot Pollard.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR...
After tasting the blood of Brandon, Carolyn next wants to vote out Danny! After that trip to the sanctuary between these three, I’m pissed (though not surprised) we got NOTHING on that front this episode when Danny and Brandon were major players at risk of leaving and Carolyn was on the correct side of knowing which way the votes would ultimately go. That bro-out felt like it’d be important but it ended up going nowhere else in the story. Par for the course in new era Survivor – I don’t know why I expected more. Maybe next week we’ll get a throwback to that, but I doubt it. At least we’re getting the first Final 9 vote we’ve had since Winners at War ... until Jeff ruins it with another twist. That I don’t doubt.
Danny – This dude is literally going to be remembered most from his Survivor run as the guy who farted. What an icon. Danny was a big player this week with his big save on Frannie, but that was only the result of his big mistake in telling Heidi he had an idol. I think Tika was ready to vote for Ratu until they realized they could kill two birds with one stone. Still, props to Danny for following through with a successful idol play and making for the first legitimately fun vote of the season.
Heidi – Heidi was a key player in bringing Tika and Soka together, but like Danny, I think she made an error in executing what was going to be a great plan. It still ended up a good plan that got her target out of the game, but she could’ve saved Soka’s idol from having to be used. I think all these idols and advantages get to Heidi’s head – without them, I she may be able to keep her “10” on the adrenaline scale a little more unnoticed like Jaime’s, but I can tell they spin her wheels just a little too fast and things start to slip.
Yam Yam – Another impressive flip from the bottom to the top – a versatile king! Ultimately, Yam Yam and Carson held all the cards this week in being able decide whether the three stooges sided with Ratu or with Soka. The “main character” focus has shifted from Carolyn to Yam Yam since merge-atory and I’m undecided on which one that’s good for – either Carolyn’s winner edit is losing steam and Yam Yam’s is picking up, or Yam Yam is growing his resume and will become someone to take out later, setting up Carolyn to seal the deal. Both would be wild and entertaining winners, but we all know which way my heart leans a little more.
Lauren – I just love when someone saves themselves with a good, old-fashioned immunity win. She was in danger, she needed the necklace, and she won it. This was a huge win for someone who hasn’t gotten much screentime this season, so I was happy to finally get to celebrate with her!
I’m still upset we didn’t hear anything from Carolyn on voting out Brandon after he seemed like he’d be a big target for her along with Danny. Carolyn’s starting to coast a little and if the tables ever get turned on Tika for playing too many sides, that’s good for her as Yam Yam and Carson will take more of the heat there. The concern would be if Tika stays tight all the way to the end, then Carolyn may not have as standout as a resume, but there’s still a lot of game left to go. After such a big, flashy start, it makes sense for Carolyn to take a little bit of a break in the middle before her equally big, flashy finish. She’s been carrying this season so much – she deserves to relax and get some Zen.