It’s saying absolutely nothing that this episode was “better” than the last. I don’t even want to try and imagine how any episode couldn’t be. That said, I’m not optimistic about being able to recover from last week. On paper, this episode should have left me feeling fantastic. Karishma found an idol, underdog Janet survived another vote, Noura did Noura things, and we witnessed blindsides of two of the game’s biggest players (and villains). As much as the show would like us to move on (insulting our intelligence in doing so), last week was too impactful for me to simply put on a smile and enjoy this one to the fullest. It sucks because there was nothing “wrong” with this episode, but I do feel wrong celebrating it too much knowing how we got here. I don’t know how to feel, honestly. I want to feel good, but I feel bad feeling too good, and I fear that’s how I’m going to feel the rest of this season. Que será será.
QUITTING IS NOT AN OPTION
Wow ... so we’re reeeeeeeally just going to pretend like last week didn’t happen, huh, Survivor? Anyone tuning in this week having missed last would have absolutely no idea the gravity of the tribal council this tribe had returned from — it’s criminal. The story was framed almost to be a standard case of someone (Janet) being on the wrong side of the vote and feeling alone. That’s ... not the story, thank you very much, and the fact that no address was made to the real situation Janet was in blows my mind. Everyone else has owned up and apologized for what we saw last week, so when’s the show going to do the same? We’re waiting!
On the topic of glossing over things, how about the tribe bashing Karishma the next morning after being restless during the night as Elizabeth literally sat there and sobbed about how miserable it was? I watched that play out thinking, “My god, are Karishma or Janet ever going to be able to win again?”
Noura sent Karishma on a coconut run so that she wasn’t completely useless to the tribe, but little did Noura know, this would be one hell of a coconut run. Half-dazed and confused, Karishma stumbled upon the most recently hidden immunity idol which caught me completely off-guard but I was so happy. There was now some small sliver of hope that the next two votes wouldn’t be utterly depressing.
Karishma had to come up with an excuse for why she was away from camp for so long, so she decided to grab two whole coconuts. Noura immediately called bullshit on this and on Karishma’s other lie about not feeling well but then being miraculously cured by one sip of water. I guess with Jamal out of the game, Noura needed someone else to be driven bonkers by, and that lucky gal was Karishma. It was truly heartbreaking to hear Noura say she had no interest in working with Karishma — the only way this season can be saved is with a Noura, Karishma, Janet final three so I need Noura’s opinion of Karishma to change ASAP.
IMMUNITY – SENDING HEADS SPINNING
I hate when they do this temporary “de-merge” twist and send two randomly-made groups to tribal council. Granted, those that get voted out aren’t any less victimized by those who get swapfucked before the merge, but I don’t like the strange shift in momentum. This week the twist probably saved us from heading down an even darker timeline with Janet leaving, assuming votes would’ve been split between her and Karishma, but I’d always rather watch the game unfold naturally rather than by an impromptu twist.
The best part about this challenge, of course, was Noura celebrating a bit too early and while securing immunity for herself, sacrificing PB&J sandwiches for the rest of her group. You know what? Fuck them (except Janet). I was happy that Noura screwed them out of food after the decisions they made last week.
I wasn’t as invested with who won in the other group since Karishma was carrying an idol which now it seemed inevitable for her to play. Noura was safe which meant the only other person I needed to be concerned about was Janet — completely alone and without an idol to save her this time. When Jeff announced her tribe would be going to the old Lairo camp, my heart skipped a beat and hoped that Janet would get a chance to find an idol there — I don’t support Survivor rigging the game for anyone, but since it was willing to let the shit that went down last week slide, I felt it justified just this once for them to plop an idol in Janet’s bag.
A PERFECT STORM
Can I just say how much I love that Noura didn’t immediately take off the necklace at camp as is custom after winning it, instead trouncing around with it during initial strategy talks? One of a kind!
Aaron described the scene as a perfect storm — Karishma and Janet were the next two to go and they ended up on opposite tribes without immunity, so it looked like everyone would be getting a two-for-one deal and have them sent to the jury. Clairvoyant Noura, however, saw another shot to take.
No, she wasn’t talking about the girl who was trying to work some Princess Leia-like buns.
Just a few inches lower, about double the circumference, and Lauren would’ve nailed the look — an admittedly tough one to replicate.
This vote marked the first since the merge that Aaron was without immunity and without his allies, so in Noura’s eyes, this was the prime time to fire away at him. This sounded almost too good to be true for me — Janet was safe? Of course, it was too good to be entirely true as Dean proceeded to have side conversations to keep people focused on Janet. DAMMIT DEAN!
I get why Dean wanted to keep Aaron, but that should have made zero sense for anyone else so I was keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t be crying after this tribal council. Janet is a strong woman and should be able to sweep a jury vote, but with 11 people still in the game, she shouldn’t have been priority number one. Aaron was absolutely the best call here – as Janet said, this wasn’t rocket science. TAKE THE FUCKING SHOT.
NOT YOUR PUPPY
We’ll work on that wink, Karishma, but other than that — good work this week showing yourself as someone not to be pushed around!
Missy came back to camp feeling confident and ready to seize control of the vote. What looked like an easy Karishma vote was instead a chance for Missy to take an opportune shot of her own at Tommy. Missy believed that no one would award Karishma a million dollars, so Missy was going to use and abuse her as a final three “goat.”
The abuse was a little heavy, as what should have been an easy sell to Karishma, “it’s Tommy or it’s you,” ignited some flames between Missy and Karishma after Missy came off as a bully. As we saw on full display last week, Missy is cold and cutthroat (at times, concerningly so) and her big mistake here was not knowing what kind of communication worked with Karishma. Elaine, however, knew exactly how to communicate with Karishma — with compassion and understanding.
Once Elaine learned of Missy’s plan to take out Tommy, that was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. That didn’t work for Elaine’s game, and with Missy growing even more power-mad, that sparked enough in Elaine to turn the tables on her.
Tommy really lucked out here from all the turmoil of the old Lairo tribe. Voting Missy made sense, but I wished Elaine had seen how sloppy Missy had been playing — to Missy’s credit, though, she correctly scoped out Tommy’s rare vulnerability here and if I was Elaine, I’d have said to myself, “suck it up, buttercup” and voted out Tommy, leaving Missy to be dealt with later. Elaine had had enough of being on the bottom of the Aaron-Missy-Elizabeth alliance (when Elizabeth chose them over Elaine, I don’t know) but with the move against Missy, I fear she gave too much voting power to Vokai. Especially after seeing what happened to Aaron, that could’ve been an easy buy-in to Elaine for a final three with Missy and Elizabeth. I guess we’ll see how this goes for her.
DUH, THAT LADY MADE SOME SENSE
Rob laughing at Dean rolling up his sleeves was about the only memorable thing about this short tribal council — I blinked and it was nearly over. The few minutes we got were filled with non-answers and a little bit of Janet talking about how much trouble she was probably in — I felt calm until Rob said he thought Aaron was going while Sandra guessed Janet. Uh oh — the queen can’t be wrong! Fuck! Was this just a cruel joke ending in Janet’s torch getting snuffed?
Luckily, it was not.
I loved that little exchange between mother and son. It made the Aaron ousting all the more satisfying.
I think for the most part, my initial impression of Aaron stuck all the way to his end. Admittedly, he had some nice human moments while sharing about his son, but Aaron was too aggressive and too arrogant to ever take seriously as a winner contender. He got a lot of strategic content, so I’ll give him that for being more than just a meat head, but it’s no surprise to see Aaron as an early merge boot. I’m not sure how much he learned about himself while in the game, but watching his public apology to his actions last week, I think he’s certainly learned enough since. He deserves some of the shit he got (/is getting) but I’d never wish serious suffering on the guy and genuinely hope he takes the eye-opening experience to heart.
ONLY ROOM FOR ONE OF THEM
Elizabeth and Missy were blown way by the Aaron blindside — Elizabeth so shaken that she forgot how to math, calling Aaron “one of my number ones.” Missy followed up with saying that the jury wasn’t looking how it was supposed to, another nail in the coffin for getting a little too full of herself, as if she alone decided how the jury should be formed.
The established “plan” was for Missy and Karishma to play up the way they butt heads, but I don’t know about anyone else — that all felt real to me. What felt a little more forced was what Missy closed the conversation with, bringing up the fact that Jeff didn’t acknowledge the two African Americans winning immunity the last round.
The general idea of celebrating this I totally support but I don’t know that this was the right time and place for Missy to draw attention to herself for it. Last week, she made light of some pretty bad behavior toward a fellow woman of color, so to ask Jeff for some praise I think was a big ask. Again, I think it’s great to acknowledge achievements especially of people whose we don’t as often acknowledge, but given Missy’s past actions — not to mention her personal voting history in the game — I think she should’ve stayed quietly humble on this or tabled it for another time. It felt like she was asking us as the audience too to applaud her for last week which I know none of us feel like doing. One good doesn’t make up for all the bad.
So much to say about Missy. She came into the game as one of my favorites, played a little too hard, but I respected that. I lost quite a bit of respect when she came across so cold last week, almost sociopathic in some scenes and again this week with being so focused on the game that she was completely unaware of how she was coming across. I think Missy was a big example of how everyone’s a hero in their own story. She thought she was playing this big, boss game — and at a few votes, she was — but didn’t see how it was at the expense of showing the necessary care and compassion for others. Like Aaron, seeing Missy go this week was satisfying after what transpired at the last tribal council, but I’m left feeling more disappointed in Missy because of how high of hopes I had for her. Hopefully she’s another who takes this experience to heart and learns how to be a little softer and more sensitive to others and their feelings.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
That chicken’s fucked. Sandra killed an innocent baby goat — a chicken that dares to bite her finger may as well break its own neck. Speaking of goats, Dean is shown to be assembling some kind of goat army? That ... might be incredible. I really hope it’s a major story because I desperately need to find some reason to laugh again this season.
Karishma – All hail Karishma! Slated to be the next to go, she found an idol, didn’t even need to play it, and she stood up to someone who was trying to keep her down. Karishma continues to be a highlight of this season for me and watching her journey is so captivating. Yes, she’s not great around camp or in challenges, but how can you not root for her to overcome all of that? Karishma’s life has been all about following set expectations of her, but in Survivor, she’s crushing them. I was so proud of the way she stood up for herself too, defiantly telling Missy, “the answer is no” when Missy demanded to talk more. Her next response was priceless as well.
Missy: “How long would you like to wait?”
Karishma: “I don’t have a watch.”
Missy didn’t think that anyone would vote for Karishma to win this game, and the last few weeks I was worrying about the same, but I think this episode could be the start of a Survivor spectacle where Karishma picks herself off the ground, defies the odds even more, and maybe just walks away with a million bucks. Survivor tends to give its big “journey” edit to a loser, but maybe this time it’s finally the winner.
Elaine – Excellent read of the dynamics this week, and while I’m not sure it was the best move to save Tommy, Elaine got it done. She knew exactly what would get through to Karishma and was able to convince her to finally make a move on Missy who had been making a mess of things for several weeks in the game. Elaine keeps playing up how out-of-the-loop she is at tribal council, but she knows exactly what she’s doing.
Noura – You know who also might know exactly what they’re doing? NOURA. Noura showed some strategic chops this week in moving the votes onto Aaron. I think while a little harsh toward Karishma, her read was right and Karishma needed a nudge – without it, she wouldn’t have an idol in her pocket. Could Noura actually win? This whole season, I’d have said, “no chance” but Noura may not actually be that crazy. She just has a wild way of expressing herself and her thoughts, but they surprisingly make sense to me. Maybe all that says is that I’m crazy too which is totally fine. I’m cool being another crazy person living in Noura world.
Janet – She did it! She survived! I thought this would be near impossible and that if not Karishma, Janet would 100% have been the person to go this week, but she’s alive! Aaron and Missy leaving also could shake up the game in a big way which is what Janet needs right now. Just keep at it, Janet. Keep fighting. Credit to @ATribeofOne1 for the idea, but I too am all in for the rest of this season being one giant revenge tour for Janet and Karishma, Kill Bill style.
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