Relative to the abysmal depths of Episode 10, this was a decent episode. The majority six alliance was finally forced to vote out one of its own, and Mike played his idol perfectly, winning smiles and nods from the jury. Which was fairly interesting.
But it was also hardly groundbreaking, because one of the two best players in that majority alliance, Tyler, was the person booted. He'd been targeted in the last episode, was a challenge threat, and heading into this week's episode, was far and away the #1 most likely person to be booted, unless Mike did something crazy like forget to play his idol.
Spoiler alert: Mike didn't do something crazy, and remembered to play his idol.
What was missing in the episode was suspense. We were given very little insight into the alliance's deliberations, apart from Mike's glee that they had to do it, and some minor post-IC scrambling. Mike was still enemy #1, but eventually Carolyn proposed Tyler as the victim of Mike's impending idoling, with Dan as the decoy. There was no debate, and that's what happened.
So instead of obfuscation, we just had filler that padded out the rest of the episode, in the form of a near-20-minute foray into Rodney complaining about not being rewarded on his birthday. Yes, that eventually morphed into Rodney thinking he'd come up with a brilliant tactic in pretending he wanted to be voted out. Until Sierra, having had enough of it, told him to "just quit, then." Which, unfortunately for Rodney's genius plan, could be done at any time, and would not trick Mike into voting for him at Tribal Council. There was also the minor flaw that, despite all this build-up, Mike didn't believe Rodney's act for a second. And so, after spending close to half the episode on Rodney's tantrum that went nowhere, the editors skipped right over Day 31, and went to the immunity challenge. Fun!
We assume Abe Simpson wrote this episode.
Can an idolator actually win?
With 11 votes now voided via two hidden immunity idol plays (thanks, Jenn and Mike), this season has now totaled the fourth-most vote-canceling idol plays (HvV had five, Caramoan four, San Juan del Sur three), but the second-most votes voided (11 so far, behind only HvV's 14), and the second-most boots avoided (two, trailing only SJdS's three). Keeping in mind that Carolyn still has an idol she hasn't used. So it's been a pretty good season for idol play, if you're into that sort of thing.
But perhaps more interesting is that we seem to be heading for a test of one of the biggest flaws with hidden immunity idols: Nobody has ever won Survivor after avoiding a boot by either playing an idol on themself or having one played for them. Of the people left, Mike seems like the most likely winner, but he just saved himself with an idol. Could this season finally break the curse? Or does the logical outcome prevail: that someone who needs to save themself with an idol does not have the numbers to survive another vote without another one? And even if that idol player does survive, as those numbers move to the jury, those ousted are unlikely to magically decide to vote for the person that thwarted their superior numbers with an idol?
Ha ha, just kidding. This is Survivor. Logic is pretty much irrelevant.
Oh well, Tyler was vot... ooh, shiny!
Perhaps the most... awkward part of this episode was the launching of voting for the upcoming Second Chance season, seconds after Tyler's torch was snuffed. Before we were even shown Tyler's final words, they were already an afterthought, as every Survivor fan with an internet connection was frantically racing to CBS.com, to vote for their favorite players to return, then engage in heated debates with other fans on social media over who most deserves a spot in the Second Chance cast. And that was before the candidates themselves started campaigning full time for those spots, making podcast appearances (that bury episode-specific analysis in the feed) to plead their cases, and so on, and so forth, such that Survivor fans have been talking about nothing else since last Wednesday.
Did Tyler even have exit interviews? Answer: Yes, there were, see the next section, below. Did anybody care? Answer: Not really, because... OMG, Second Chance! Fans pick the cast! OMG! OMG!!!!1one! (Note: We're just as guilty of this as everyone else, this is one of those rare occasions where we're not being judgmental.)
We're not really sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, it's legitimately exciting that CBS/SEG is giving fans the chance to vote for the cast of the "next" (in airtime, at least) Survivor season. On the other hand, you have to feel at least a little guilty that the final two episodes of Worlds Apart are being completely ignored by just about everyone. To be fair, many fans had already started to drift away, writing the season off as yet another one of Jeff Probst's embarrassingly awful oversells. But the way the fan vote for Second Chance not only overlaps with the final push of Worlds Apart, but supercedes it in both fan interest and perceived network interest... it's just weird.
Given the rousing success this stunt appears to be having, we can probably expect a Second Chance II in the not-too-distant future. In doing so, is there a way to avoid what's effectively talking over the end of a season? The rush to reveal the casting results at the finale/reunion show is obvious: It's a one of the biggest audience draws of the season, they're unlikely to get a live audience for a standalone event, and doing it here allows them to depart for filming immediately after announcing the contestants, which hinders pre-game alliance-making. Even so, the entire process is incredibly rude to the season on which the voting piggybacks.
We don't see an obvious solution to this problem, unless it's extending the "season," and having a freestanding, live cast-reveal event a week or two after the finale/reunion. Open voting when the reunion ends, close it at the reveal. It could work, maybe. But unless Second Chance has spectacular ratings, that plan seems unlikely to get greenlit by CBS. We welcome alternative suggestions in the comments.
Worlds Apart Episode 12 recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Tyler Fredrickson
Podcasts - Episode 12