This episode packed a powerful punch ... to the gut. DAMMIT! We were so close to the biggest #SurvivorBlindside of the season scraped together by the scrappy underdogs of Lumuwaku. Then came Dean, man. Fucking Dean. He used to be fun, and now he just frustrates the hell out of me. That sort of speaks for the season to me, now that I think about it. What started out so strong has taken a sharp turn to Shitsville and we’re not done stepping in it yet. I’m just going to start chanting “Noura Noura Noura” and hope my reticular activating system manifests an ending to this season that doesn’t make me want to take a wrecking ball to my head.
TIME FOR SOME LOVE
The loved ones visits have already become watered down for me since Jeff turned them into his talk show, but I was really pissed the episode went right into it this week without giving Karishma her proper victory lap after playing her hidden immunity idol. If this episode was to be her swan song, they could’ve at least led into it with a big opening number! This was even worse than the time Jason told Noura she couldn’t dance — it’s like we can’t ever be happy while watching this season!
At least I got to have some fun with a few of the family members. Lauren and her husband were wholesome goodness as were Janet and her husband with the grandbaby gender reveal; I loved Elaine and her girlfriend and was relieved we didn’t get a proposal between Tommy and his. Karishma’s reunion with her husband was long-awaited and watching her break down in his arms was incredibly powerful — all season long, Karishma’s has been the biggest journey to watch for me, and after first hearing her refer to her husband as her “roommate” then later realize how much she loved him for his devotion and choosing to be with her, we got one of the best endings possible in seeing her cry in his arms as he consoled her.
There was an odd moment that Jeff shockingly let pass when Dean opened up about often coming home crying to his mom after tough days at school as a kid. I kind of would have liked to give Dean the floor a little more there to expand and maybe show a more relatable human side — as opposed to his goat side — but I guess Jeff couldn’t be bothered. Go figure the one time I want more from the loved ones, Jeff decides to stop asking questions.
Then of course, we had this dream woman:
From the moment Noura’s sister Lana came sprinting out onto the beach in her best Phoebe Buffay run, I was in love. She was perfect as was her interaction with Noura and hearing about how they’d both been big sisters to each other in different stages of their lives. Are there more Salman siblings out there? Because I need to meet all of them.
Noura’s sister also had some sort of vision impairment, so Jeff let her “ride shotgun” with him during the challenge so that she could more clearly see her sister — ironic because I think that made my eyes water over more than anything else. Some redemption there, Jeffrey.
The challenge was rather lackluster but better than drawing some fucking rocks out of a bag. Tommy and Janet won and got to choose two additional Survivors and their loved ones to join them for the afternoon. We all kind of are sick of any significant screen time Dan gets, but the obvious choice there was picking Dan for the sake of giving that experience to his son, the youngest loved one ever to be flown out for a visit (if we just forget GAME CHANGER Boston Powers). Kids drive me absolutely crazy and even I still would’ve made that same decision, so I can’t scoff at Tommy and Janet for it. The only change I’d have made would perhaps have been hiring a professional actor to play the role of “Dad” for the day.
Lauren was the last pick, leaving Dean, Noura, Elaine, and Karishma to go back to camp with no love. Karishma was lit up more than anyone over the loss of love, and after the winners walked away, she gave a quick pep talk to the leftovers and said it was time to put a wrecking ball to one of their heads – yikes! Her words painted quite the graphic and violent image so, of course, I was here for it: Karishma coming in like a wrecking ball.
She at least left me feeling wrecked after this episode. T_T
Was it just me, or was this the shortest loved ones reward ever? They quickly gushed about getting to spend time together, then we got to hear Dan of all people call the four back at camp a “ragtag group of losers” before the group settled on Elaine as the next target. To be fair, it makes sense this conversation was cut short in order to move us along to the epic filibustering taking place back at camp.
It was a Festivus for the rest of us as we witnessed one of the best airing of grievances in history — what a treat to see Noura get so into the holiday spirit!
This rant was wild. Noura had SNAPPED and while I’ve watched the speech back several times now, I still can’t even wrap my head around everything she included. One bit that certainly stood out was when Noura unintentionally just laid into Karishma, saying “I am in a way the Karishma but I’m actually enjoyable to be around. I’m funny, I’m providing ... ” Noura’s point, essentially, was “I’m like Karishma, but everyone doesn’t hate me.” Uh, way to try and relate to someone, Noura ....
There was talk of time travel, ex-boyfriends, waving of some surrender flag, I can only assume a deep dive into Salman family history, perhaps a discussion on the importance of a heathy diet — I don’t know, but everything about this “you know what really grinds my gears?” tirade was terrific. After what I would guess was about 6 hours, it was time to finally gather around the Festivus Pole and figure out what the hell to do.
The four formed a fast alliance and set out in search of a rehidden immunity idol, the secret weapon they’d use to split up the opposing group of four. With some luck and the help of her reticular activating system, Elaine found the idol and the world rejoiced. This whole time, though, there was a sinking feeling in my stomach that this was all too good to be true. Elaine, Noura, Karishma, and Dean about to overthrow the powers that be? An actual road to a Noura-Karishma-Dean final tribal council?
Yeah, so, naturally, someone was going to fuck it all up.
IMMUNITY – FOCUS FACE
One of my best friends from college would make that exact same intense expression whenever he was about to shoot during beer pong. We dubbed it his “focus face” and that’s what I was reminded of throughout this challenge — the look of someone somewhere between concentration and constipation.
I have nothing much else to say about another endurance challenge. My only slight surprise was that Noura wasn’t able to win her third immunity in a row here, and instead it was Lauren who got to check another box off her Survivor dream list. That was step one in messing up the “ragtag” plan, but this in turn opened the door for an even bigger blindside than Lauren: Tommy!
... it’s never just going to be Dan, is it?
MATH IS HARD
What the fuck even was this leaf math? Oh my good god ....
Once again, the plan seemed too perfect to be pulled off — Tommy, Lauren, Janet, and Dan were splitting their votes between Karishma and Elaine, giving the other four a completely fool-proof opportunity to blindside them without even having to use Elaine’s idol. Fool-proof, yes, but evidently not Dean-proof.
I found it quite hypocritical for Dean to nitpick Noura’s ability to do simple math when if I recall correctly — which I do — Dean being the one back in the early game who was the genius behind the math of a split vote, suggesting it to his tribe when everyone was standing in a circle together. What about those numbers, Dean?
Everyone was worried over what “loose cannon” Noura would fire off about when they all should have been wondering how Dean was going to out-dumb himself this time. We’ve seen him fail math, play a fake, fake advantage, declare himself not-a-goat — thank God we only have two weeks left of this season because otherwise I’d start losing brain cells myself trying to make sense of Dean’s logic. I nearly bashed my brains out for what he ended up doing at tribal council ....
This turned into an absolute mess less than 10 seconds in. I went in wondering how this would blow up in my face with a teeny tiny hope that maybe it wouldn’t, but Dean spared no time in giving me that “Whoomp! There it is!” moment.
In the 11th hour, Dean told Tommy the plan was to vote for him but that Dean wasn’t going to do that, so everything was good. This set the whole tribal council ablaze as Tommy began talking to everyone, trying to get to the bottom of what Dean had just told him. Tommy had no idea until that moment which makes this whole thing that much worse — the plan was going to work until dumbass Dean opened his dumbass mouth.
To me, Dean has no defense for this “move.” What was he hoping to gain with this? More trust with Tommy? Great, enjoy Tommy keeping you around to destroy you in the jury vote. Dean’s best (only?) chance of winning was to go to the end with Noura and Karishma due to their popularity with the jury. Maybe he was still unsure of Noura — fine, who isn’t? — but by playing it “safe” here and spilling the beans to Tommy, Dean 100% threw his game away and gave it to Tommy and Lauren.
Tommy and Lauren have played the best games of everyone left and have been in total control the entire time — taking one of them out here would’ve been huge. If they get to the end, they win. If that’s what everyone in the game thinks, it doesn’t matter how big of threats they “really” are; they need to go. Lauren should be the bigger contender to Tommy, but with her immune, the tribe needed to go for her right-hand man.
The whispering really bugged me this time too and perhaps for the first time ever, I was pissed on Probst’s behalf. Tribal council is described as a “ritual” at the beginning of every season, and maybe Dean whispering to Tommy came later than what we saw, but if it didn’t, then I’m a little offended at the blatant disregard for the tradition of tribal council with Tommy instead trying to hold a parallel court to the one Jeff was already residing over — there’s time to talk but there’s also time to sit your ass down do what you’re supposed to do here.
Everything was just so frustrating to me because all season long I feel Tommy has gotten the golden edit where he can do no wrong and is shown making and getting credit for the right move, so him winning will be of zero surprise. I don’t hate Tommy or his game because he’s objectively played extremely well — I just hate how predictable a Tommy win would be. The strange thing is, though, I don’t think he’d win against Lauren, Janet, or Elaine, but if he’s got that winner edit, that means there’s a real possibility that he wins because he makes it to the end with Dan and Dean. A final three of Tommy, Dan, and Dean would not only be a boring blowout, but it’d be the cruelest form of irony this season could shove in our face after showcasing possibly the strongest female cast to date.
On the gender topic, why was Noura taking all the heat for blowing up this tribal council? It started with Dean! All. Dean. Noura was content to go with the perfect plan to take out Tommy, but Dean went rogue and ruined everything, yet somehow Noura took the biggest beating for it. Sure, she got caught in a lie to old Vokai, but leave it to people to portray her as this batshit crazy woman who disrupted a perfectly peaceful vote with unnecessary drama. Dean wrecked this night. What the hell was Noura supposed to do? Admit she lied and ask the tribe to vote her out as punishment?
This wasn’t a fun “live” tribal for me — it was a total disaster filled with tons of disappointment. Everything this episode built came crashing down thanks to Dean crushing on Tommy. There was only room for one more nail to be driven in to this season’s coffin, and I think Dean did it. Karishma’s “miracle” may be escaping the end of this inevitably frustrating final stretch.
I have so many words to say about Karishma and for the first time in a while with my final thoughts, they’re nothing negative. Karishma may be a polarizing character to the masses, but if you look past people calling her lazy or weak in challenges, Karishma’s may be the best story told in the last several seasons of Survivor and personally an all-time favorite of mine. With how many people that are done dirty by the edit, Karishma miraculously managed to be a shining star from beginning to end. She struggled in the game, absolutely, but that’s what made her journey so compelling to me. She made mistakes but she had tremendous triumphs too and her final episodes especially were something special for me to watch. Karishma may not be as universally loved as someone like Cirie, but that getting up off the couch and going after a dream story strikes me the same way. If Survivor still goes on for many more years, Karishma would be toward the top of my list to see play again with how much she learned about herself from this experience. She’s not done climbing that ladder.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
You spin me right ‘round, baby, right ‘round like record, baby, right ‘round, ‘round, ‘round.
Noura’s a basket case? What an original teaser! I really hope Noura just wins everything from here out or finds all kinds of idols. Honestly, I don’t even think I’d be mad at a “Ben” win from her. It’s better than most of the alternatives.
Noura – This season is really making it difficult for me to pick a favorite. Karishma. Noura. Kellee. Janet. Karishma. Noura. This episode it was Noura I think who rode the wrecking ball the most from beginning to end. She was certainly a smash for better or for worse.
Like Karishma (but likable, funny, not a living piece of garbage and other horrible insults ... ) Noura’s taken some shit this season and is getting the cuckoo edit, but she’s been severely overlooked as oftentimes being right on the money. This week was no exception, and while maybe a little intense in her effort to rally the troops, she instigated the exact move that needed to be made and Dean just did her so dirty. I’m still at a loss for words with how frustrated that whole tribal council made me, and maybe with another idol rehidden, there can still be #JusticeForNoura, but even if she survives, that tribal may have torpedoed any real chance she ever had to win. More than anything, I just feel bad for her because she didn’t deserve to take all the blame like she did.
We also saw a new side of Noura this week with her emotional struggle to overcome the biggest obstacle in her life which she felt has always been herself. Those were some deep, heartbreaking words to hear and I’ll admit I got a little choked up when Noura said through tears of her own that she always finds a way. I hope that’s true because I need you to find a way to win this season, Noura. Really fucking bad.
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