This episode, with its full-hour focus on the active contestants in the game, and their "so many intertwined relationships" (in Sophie's words), was a reminder of how good this season can be when given the chance to breathe. Very little attention was paid to the peripheral nonsense like fire tokens, and there were no side-quests for new advantages on EoE, just a quick group idol hunt at the new Yara camp. Instead, almost the entire episode was dedicated to watching the contestants adapt to their new surroundings and build connections — or revisit past relationships — with each other.
That freed up a lot of time for fun stuff, like wallowing in the abject boredom of Rob's "buddy system on steroids," or the cringe-inducing Michele/Wendell Ex on the Beach conflict. Okay, maybe those weren't "fun" per se, but they were at least interesting. It was an excellent choice to remind us that these are players with rich histories, that some of their connections come from outside the game, and that all of these past experiences and previously winning strategies are coming together to impact how this particular season plays out.
Perhaps the most welcome development was seeing formerly doomed people like Kim and Adam and maybe Sarah find a better footing in a new environment, and simply *seeing* a lot of players that we really hadn't heard from in a while. We finally had meaty gameplay-related content from Sophie and Sarah, both of whom had previously just been numbers in two unanimous votes. We saw a more solid connection between Michele and Parvati forming, where before had they even been seen together, apart from at Tribal? We saw Denise again! And of course, we had a heartbreaking but inspiring look into what Yul is playing for this time around.
Next episode looks like a return to the previous normal, with respect to time in camps and EoE, AND there's a double Tribal Council of some flavor. Given that we're now up to three camps (four if you count the "tribe" on EoE), that means that it's possible the only time we see the IC-winning tribe is when they hoist the idol. So let's savor this episode while we can. On the plus side, once we hit the merge, things should become less congested again, and from the titles, and having racked up eight boots after this next episode, that opening up of the game should be just two episodes away.
By the numbers: A post-swap update
With a third of the season (and the bulk of the tribal portion) now in the books, there are some key career record numbers to mention this week.
First and foremost: Boston Rob now cleanly owns the all-time record for most days played, with 131. Unlike previous record-holder Ozzy Lusth, none of Rob's days played (so far) were on Exile, Redemption Island or Edge of Extinction, so that's the "clean" part. It'll get messy again in a couple of weeks, though, since Rob will be extending his record on EoE (for those that count that), while Parvati is poised to eclipse him in the regular game (unless she's next to go, which is not implausible), with 128 days played and counting. Obviously it's still a somewhat open debate as to whether EoE days should count as days playing. This season muddies the water moreso by having the Edge people perform grueling challenges for tokens, and find and sell items that directly interfere in the regular game. Sigh.
Tribal challenge wins: Boston Rob's swap luck could not have been much worse for him in his pursuit of another Ozzy record, that of most career tribal or team challenge wins. Ozzy is in first place with 24 wins, and Rob leaves the tribal portion of the game one win short, with 23 total. In theory, Rob could still come back, and find himself on a winning post-merge reward challenge team, but the chances of that aren't great. Of note: Parvati is also not far behind here, with 21 wins. And Yul (15) and Wendell (14) are racing up the charts, but they'll probably need at least another season each to seriously challenge the leaders. Playing in the era of an RC and an IC in every episode may have helped those on top a tad.
And the road ahead: Just one week after it looked like the swap might leave Sandra and Courtney tied for the all-time record in challenge sit-outs, Sandra's tribe had to go and snag second place, meaning they'll be able to sit her out next week. So the Queen will (most likely) be claiming the throne for herself, once and for all. Oh well, so close to a perfect ending.
Where the swap leads us
The dominant alliances from before the swap came out of it pretty well situated. Yul's original Dakal cadre of people with "no connections" (except, um, Wendell) swapped virtually intact into the majority of new Sele, with lone straggler Sophie saving herself on Yara by bonding with Sarah and toppling the Robfather, picking up an idol in the process for good measure. Tony and Sandra were on the bottom (with, nominally, Sarah), and probably remain so on new Dakal.
On the Sele side, the alliances were less well-defined. Nominally, the majority were Ben, Denise, Jeremy, and Michele, but the only solid connection there seemed to be Jeremy with Michele. Adam was desperately trying to work his way back in, and Rob and Parvati were perhaps the strongest pair, firmly on the bottom. Obviously, that power couple is now defunct. And results were mixed elsewhere.
Ben and Adam ended up together on the new Yara tribe, and while we never really saw them formally allying with each other, they did vote together to rid themselves of Rob. Ben has largely been the voice of reason this season, so wherever his votes go, it's a good idea to be joining in. Maybe there's hope for Adam yet. Unless Yara has to go back to Tribal next week. Then we'll likely see Sarah's advantage come into play, with Sarah and Sophie sticking together in a 3-1 vote over one of the two guys.
Over on new Dakal, the other half of the original Sele majority, Jeremy and Denise, found themselves tribemates again, but we didn't really see them working together. Instead, the focus was on everyone individually wanting to scoop up Kim. It's weird, Jeremy and Denise have voted together since the Natalie boot, and have been tribemates since Day 1, yet we've never seen them have a one-on-one conversation. Maybe that's less an editing choice, and more a "we can't show something that didn't happen" situation? Either way, great news for Kim that she's no longer on the outs.
Finally, hope did spring eternal for Parvati this week, as she reinforced her (previously unshown) connection with Michele on new Sele. Of course, they're up against Yul's tight trio, and that group contains Michele's ex-boyfriend (Wendell), so who knows what can happen there. In theory, Parvati could charm Nick into flipping, or Michele could promise someone a post-merge alliance with Jeremy, but on the whole, it doesn't look great for the original Sele duo.
Where does this all end up, post-merge (which is probably Ep7)? Yul's group seems poised to reach the merge intact. We're losing two more people this episode, with one each coming from the outnumbered duos in two of the three new tribes: Parvati/Michele, Adam/Ben, and most likely Tony/Sandra (new Dakal is a bit of a crapshoot, with all the idols stockpiled there).
After the merge, Yul's group looks considerably more vulnerable. Yul and Wendell are two of the biggest challenge threats remaining (until a Natalie or Tyson returns to the game, at least). Kim's mean % finish numbers back up that she should be considered one, too, but she was competing against the likes of Christina, Alicia, and Tarzan in One World (by her design, which is another warning sign for Wendell and Yul). Sophie could easily hop out of the old Dakal alliance and stick with Sarah (and Tony?). Jeremy and Michele could reunite, as could Denise and Adam, maybe? In theory, a lot of fluidity and voting-bloc-style gameplay is possible.
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes
Other Winners at War Episode 5 recaps and analysis
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