Did Survivor finally get its head out of its ass and remember how to tell a compelling story? It’s still a little too early for me to get too excited, but I almost get the sense that the show listened to us after 41 focused too much on idols and advantages, and it’s now spending a lot more time developing this season’s cast of characters. My favorite Beware Advantage made its return, but aside from that, the episode was focused much more on the players, and even the token idol hunt gave us some hilarious Hoboken shenanigans. Finally, Tribal Council was tragic either way the vote went and it’s because the editing team actually did its job to make me care about these people. There’s still plenty of time for this season to get sidetracked, but for now, it’s headed in the right direction!
FEELS BAD, MAN
If these people are sad about the first boot, they’re gonna have a rough time this season.
Romeo’s remorse over voting out Zach was heartfelt because we knew they were #TheSkinnyGuys, but Tori? I know it was dark out, but while she sounded choked up, I didn’t see any signs of real tears. She was kind of a brat in the premiere, and here she was saying how some small part of her wished it was her in Ponderosa eating food and sleeping in a bed. Are we … supposed to feel bad for her? Is this some start of a redemption arc? I really don’t understand Tori’s story, and that’s why I just have no connection to it. I still feel like she’s trying too hard to be a character and is only giving the camera what she thinks it wants.
GOOD WITH THE GIRLS?
On the other side of Ika, someone who isn’t thinking too much about perception is Drea. She showed last week her wavering loyalty to Rocksroy, and this week she seemed to have fully jumped over to Tori and Swati. I will never understand why so many people share their own secrets, especially as early as Day 4. Drea was immediately suspicious of Tori after her idol excursion, but now Drea’s all in with Tori as an ally, going as far as revealing the knowledge of her extra vote. Just why?
By giving up information about your power, you give up part of that power. Now, Tori and Swati can use the knowledge as a weapon to turn the tribe against Drea. If Rocksroy and Romeo catch wind that not only does Drea have an extra vote, but she also is preaching “stay girls strong,” there’s almost no reason to keep her. Like I said last week, I appreciate that Drea is playing hard, but if everyone is noticing, then she’s just playing messy. She needs to relax and focus on R&R — by that, I mean she needs to stick with Rocksroy and Romeo. Playing with Tori is only going to be trouble.
I know that vegetarians have been on the show before, and maybe vegans too, but I never considered what camp life would be like for them without rice and beans. After a cute, comical scene with Jenny and Chanelle catching a crab (Survivor made me laugh again! Yay!) we learned why Hai wasn’t as hyped as the rest of Vati — he’s vegan. This means that his diet is currently 100% limited to coconut, and even if he found a coconut crab, contrary to what may be popular belief, he still couldn’t eat it because of the “crab” part.
Hai had to face a moral dilemma — break his vegan commitment and eat an animal or risk his strength and sustainability by sticking to coconut. After some tears were shed, he made the tough call to eat the crab. Immediately what crossed my mind was Kimmi Kappenberg’s famous food dilemma way back in season two. However, Kucha had more than just coconuts to eat, so it’s not completely comparable to Hai’s situation. Personally, I have no negative judgment toward Hai here — maybe that’s easy for me to say as someone who isn’t vegan, but Hai had more to lose than just social standing in the tribe. We don’t need more medevacs this season.
Just as there are plenty of fish in the sea, hopefully there are plenty of crabs in the sand and Hai can rest easy knowing that his vacation from veganism for a few weeks probably won’t destroy an entire ecosystem. I’m pretty sure the show’s doing that with or without him — they’ve got to be flying in coconuts by now, having stripped all natural sources in Fiji over the course of the last 6 years.
THE HOBOKEN HUNTER
^The show must’ve lost those signs they used to help Ben.
Not that a sign was critical — that advantage looked to be in the standard suspicious-looking tree. Much to Mike’s dismay, what he found wasn’t a full idol yet, but the beloved Beware Advantage, which served as only a tease at one. I’m glad we knew this one would make a return so that I could prepare myself this time, but remember, this cast hadn’t seen 41 yet, so this twist can be the same level of exciting, thrilling, captivating, groundbreaking game show television as it was the first time!
I couldn’t quite make out what the other tribes’ phrase are, but one I recall from the original teaser of the season was like, “Am I a potato?” and I saw in Mike’s note the other phrase was something about a rabbit. I really wish I could’ve been in the room when Jeff — we know this was all him — came up with these “clever” lines. I’d first like to know what kind of psychedelics he was on and second to slap some fucking sense into him.
Much like Drea, Mike also could’ve used some sense slapped into him before he shared his secret. If you tell someone a secret on Survivor, you’re really better off holding a public forum and announcing it there. Then, you’re hiding from no one, and you’re getting the story out before it gets out ahead of you. That’s just how secrets on the show work. Don’t be a dummy – it’s simple Dumbledore logic:
Normally idol finds are nothing special for me, but taking after his fellow New Jerseyan Tony, Mike made this one memorable. Since players are not shy to bag searches, it’s smarter to stash your goods in the woods, and while I’ve wondered what would happen if someone forgot where their hiding spot is, we’ve never actually seen it … until Mike.
I almost forgive him for telling Jenny and Daniel about his advantage because of how hilarious this second search was. Daniel must’ve thought Mike was a madman talking about this idol-but-not-yet-an-idol that he thought he found. I was legitimately concerned Mike had lost it for good — what would’ve happened then? Would the Beware Advantage just be dead? I can only dream!
Lucky for Mike, I guess, he finally found the thing again and let Daniel read the details. Naturally, the show made sure to keep the clip in there of Daniel talking about how much he liked this twist and how it was a great idea of Jeff’s. That’s how you guarantee yourself screentime.
As mentioned, once a secret is shared with one person, it’s news for everyone. Daniel went to his #1 Chanelle and showed us exactly why Mike made a misTaku by sharing. Mike no longer holds the power; Daniel does. Daniel talked about either voting out Mike to presumably vote out the advantage or convincing Mike to keep quiet so that all idols stay out of play.
There’s a critical flaw in that logic, though, and it’s that thinking the advantage wouldn’t be re-hidden if Mike leaves. Daniel may not have seen 41, but he should still know that when an idol (or not-idol) goes out, one comes back in. Thus, the optimal option here is keeping Mike with the inactive idol in the game. Daniel wins by keeping three idols out of play; Mike wins by Daniel protecting him, and we the audience win by Mike staying in and idols staying out. It’s a classic win-win-win scenario.
GETTING TO KNOW TAKU
Last week, Taku was almost entirely about Jackson and Maryanne, but this week, everyone on the tribe was heavily featured (even before they were the tribe going to tribal council). What I loved about them this week was that time spent at camp was just so personal. There wasn’t game talk until after the challenge, and instead we just spent time getting to know this tight-knit little family.
Of course, that time was led off by the loud but lovable Maryanne performing for the tribe — her shining moment, of course, was recreating an iconic movie moment with, “Here’s Maryanne!”
We all have at least one person in our life we love but recognize they can be “a lot” sometimes (I’ll call out my friend Andrew here who I don’t think reads this every week), and Taku’s already picking up this vibe from Maryanne. Lindsay described her as “on the whole time” and Survivor is grueling, so while it’s sometimes fun to have that high energy at camp to keep things lively, I can understand why at other times it would be draining. I think Maryanne can still make it far in this game, and her “growth” story still has a long way to go, so I’m optimistic, but it would also be realistic for her stay to be short too. At least she has a Ponderosa prince waiting for her should that happen.
A MAN OF FAITH
Maryanne managed to share the spotlight with the rest of her tribe, particularly Omar who opened up about being Muslim and what that means in his life and the game. I’m not religious, and I hate when religion is used to manipulate people whether inside or outside of Survivor, but clearly that is not Omar’s M.O. Instead, he wants to shake off the 20+ year stigma of Muslim-Americans, and Taku was terrifically receptive. Jonathan extended a bridge between his own Christianity practice, and while Lindsay admitted she was “not really a great Jew,” it was a fun little moment seeing all three come together over their differences.
Particularly, the bond was building most between Omar and Jonathan, an “odd couple” made up of a meat-shield and brain-shield. Jonathan and Lindsay being close came as no surprise, but the Omar and Jonathan pairing should play out interestingly. The meat-shield is typically a bigger target in the game, so I’m 99% sure Omar will benefit more from hiding behind Jonathan than the other way around, but I like that Jonathan is much softer in personality than I expected him to be and someone who’s open to working with people who look and think differently than he does.
MOM ON A MISSION
Lindsay asked Marya what her story was, so Marya was next to share. She spoke last week about wanting to find something in Fiji, and she delved into greater detail this episode, talking about the brother she lost at the early onset of COVID-19 and the closure she’s seeking over it. Marya’s brother was the first U.S. healthcare worker to die of COVID and at the time of filming, it had just been over a year since Marya’s family lost him.
Marya revealed that she was wearing a necklace with her brother’s face printed on it and intended to bury it somewhere on the island, saying that closure for her was worth more than a million dollars. This was some heavy stuff but perhaps my favorite part of the episode. It’s good for the show to have its light-hearted moments but also share some with more emotional weight. If everything’s just about “the game” then Survivor loses what makes it special for me. Sadly, I suspected that this segment meant Marya’s story would soon end, but it was still one of the standouts for me in a super strong episode.
IMMUNITY: Y’ALL BITCHES COME HERE
I love a screaming match on Survivor, so this challenge hit all the right notes for me. Also, it was the only major Lydia content for Episode 2 which is, frankly, homophobic of the show, but whatever, it’s her Edgic “cooldown” episode so I will allow it this ONE time.
The challenge was the usual ball-buster featuring Jonathan channeling who I’m pretty sure was possessed by the Devil himself with that guttural, terrifying yell. Maybe Jesus tag teams, being present in the rest of Jonathan’s life but letting the demons take the wheel during challenges. That would explain the super-human strength.
Of course, the show-stealer was Maryanne who, before the challenge, had a big reaction to Zach being voted out of Ika. We learned that he had been Maryanne’s crush since the start of the game — apparently, he’s “every type of white guy [she has] a crush on” — and it broke her heart when she found out they wouldn’t get the chance to meet. Never short of words, Maryanne went on to lament how her love life has been a little lackluster, referencing a “100% rejection rate.” I’ve had doubts about the dating game myself, but knowing that not a single man has met Maryanne and immediately fallen in love confirms to me that the game is rigged.
As a fanbase, I think we should make it our mission to find Maryanne someone who can love and adore her as much as we do. To make it easier, we already have half the work done in narrowing down her type:
I’m fairly confident that Survivor has had more successful, long-term romances than The Bachelor franchise, so come on, people!
It just wasn’t a great day for Maryanne, not only losing her hopeful showmance but also the immunity challenge on top of that. Last week I’d have said I’d like to see Taku lose since we just watched Ika vote, but learning so much more about them this episode, I wanted them along with Vati to stay intact. Assuming the boot was probably going to be between Marya and Maryanne, I too was in for heartbreak before the night was over.
MARYA VS. MARYANNE
I know what they say happens when you “assume” but sometimes I assume correctly. Taku’s tribal council was indeed a question of “Marya or Maryanne?”
Marya’s story felt more complete than Maryanne’s, so the vote felt obvious enough to me, but we can never be 100% certain. Taku recognized that Marya would be steadier and more stable long-term but maybe a bigger liability in the short-term, whereas Maryanne’s energy was good for the tribe now but potentially a problem later, labeling her as a wild card.
Even though Maryanne’s “great romance at Ponderosa” potentially awaited her, I wasn’t ready to let her leave the screen. I also was rooting for Marya and her journey to continue, so while I have nothing but terrific praise for this episode, its ending was totally tragic. At least in the middle of tragedy, I was still able to find comedy with Jonathan’s ingenious and innovative strategy of lying to the person you’re voting for by telling them you’re not voting for them…
Mind. Blown. Never in 42 seasons has anyone come up with such cleverness — I was completely blown away! Alright, I see you, Jonathan!
Honestly, his whole confessional was great. I’d never seen someone mansplain how to play Survivor the way he did. 10/10 lecture!
WORST FIRST DATE EVER
This season so far has really been waving “dating” in my face which is just what I need. Last week it was Zach talking about awkward first kisses and this week it was Maryanne describing tribal council like the worst first date ever: “You show up with the person you like and then in the end they leave and you never see them again.” Damn girl, you’ve been through it too.
I wonder how much weight emotions carried in this first vote for Taku. Had I been there, I just don’t think I could’ve broken Maryanne’s poor, already-wounded heart by making her the official first boot for our tribe, whereas it would’ve pained me to vote out Marya too, but I’d know she’d handle it better.
Thus far, it’s yet to make a real impact, but I like that we’re so for 2 for 2 with Shot in the Dark getting played — not because I love the twist but because it shows how bold the boots have been to Taku their shot. I’ve loved them leaving nothing at all on the island and going out giving it all they could possibly have given. More of that energy in this game!
I could tell Marya was a little hurt by this vote with the way she looked at her tribe as she stood up to start her walk of shame, but like I said, at least she should be proud she laid everything on the line like she did. Marya’s story this season was exactly what I thought it would be based on what she said in pre-game interviews. I wished it wouldn’t have ended this early, but I was between a purple rock and a hard place this episode. Even though her stay was short, I hope Marya found what she was looking for in her time on Survivor. At Ponderosa too, while not in the game, I suspect she had the time to properly let her guard down and grieve without the pressure of having to be a rock for her family. Her story in the game was as tragic as it was touching, proving that when Survivor spends time on the true heart of the show — the people — we get really awesome arcs like Marya’s. If I care this much about the 3rd person to leave, that’s incredible storytelling.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
More airtime for Maryanne! It looks like she’s found Taku’s Beware Advantage, and we know Maryanne won’t keep her lips locked on that, so we’ll definitely hear either talk of potatoes and/or rabbits. Out of everyone, Maryanne should be best able to pull this off if the rest are tuning out half of what she says. The only question will be whether Mike remains silent — that is, if he can even find the advantage note it seems he’s lost … again. What the hell keeps happening to that thing?
Marya – It sucks that the standout for me this week was the person for whom this week would be the last. Her story just really hit me — she’s this amazing mom who’s been through hell in the last year, but because of “mom duties” she hasn’t been able to Taku care of herself before the needs of her family. I sympathize and I imagine most moms watching the show can relate to that struggle too. Marya said her brother would tell her she needed to lighten up and “do stuff,” so I hope that by doing Survivor, Marya feels like she’s honored her brother’s wishes and took back home from Fiji that adventurous spirit. She said this experience was more than about the million dollars to her, so I genuinely hope Marya found that other reward.
Omar – Omar stood out to me last week as someone who’d be important later and his story picked up this week on both a personal level and game level. A guy who didn’t pee standing up until he was in his 20s surely has some interesting stories to tell. I think this week confirmed my hunch that Omar will be an important character and player this season. Based on traditional signs, I’d say he’s the frontrunner winner pick in terms of the edit, but last season makes me hesitant to put anyone too high on the list or write anyone off of it. I’d still go with Omar though since otherwise I’d be trying to predict the unpredictable.
Mike – Since they didn’t give Lydia the comedic relief confessionals this week, I’m glad we had Mike. He was on fire! His was one of the funniest idol hunts I can remember because he was looking for his own hiding spot. Does forgetting where your shit is exponentially increase when you become a dad? I swear half of my childhood was my dad looking for his keys or his wallet, asking if the rest of us had seen them, as if we had been the last to touch them. Mike’s struggle isn’t even done as the preview for next week suggests he lost his advantage all over again! I hope this all just erupts into chaos at camp, like with Mike going around asking people to drop their pants in case he misplaced his advantage in their crotch.
Imagine this tribal council:
“Jeff, I’d like to play my hidden immunity idol.”
“Sure, Mike. Bring it up here to the podium.”
“Well, about that. See, I don’t actually have it with me. It’s at camp.”
“Where at camp?”
“I don’t know.”
“Sorry for you.”
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