I realize people read this after the episode airs, and the answers are already known. Just know that everything that precedes “And away we go” is written the day before the episode airs. So try to go back to your pre-episode mindset for this intro.
I love the merge episode! ... when the Producers don’t screw it up. Think about some of the greatest merge episodes from seasons past.
Cagayan: Sarah got power hungry and tried to force her swapped tribe to vote how she wanted, alienating Kass in the process. Tony thinks he’s outsmarted everyone by playing an Idol nobody knows he has, to save LJ. LJ pulls out an Idol nobody knows he has, and plays it for Tony. Then they’re both wrong and watch Kass smirk when her flipped vote blindsides Sarah. And nobody knew Trish was the real power at this vote.
Pearl Islands: After lying to Lill about warning her if she’s in trouble, Andrew Savage finds himself at her mercy when she returns to the game. The comeuppance was delicious to watch when Lill told Savage she’d let him know if he was in trouble. Savage’s butt hurt face when he left was the season’s highlight for me.
Cook Islands: Yul lures Penner back to his side by letting Penner believe he’d get booted if he didn’t flip on his original Raro tribemates (No, Yul didn’t threaten Penner).
Fiji: Watching the targets bounce from Alex and Cassandra, to Mookie and Earl, back to Alex, to Boo, back to Mookie, then to Stacy, and finally landing on Cassandra and Edgardo, while Dreamz flutters between alliances playing double agent. Yes, I know technically, Michelle was the merge boot. But I just love the Edgardo boot episode and wanted to write about it. My column, my rules.
This week the possibilities are endless. Cody and Jeanine are both holding Idols … but they’re weakened because people know about them. Karla has one that nobody knows about … but that could easily change if people start talking about who’s been collecting beads. Gabler has one that’s good for one Tribal, and only Gabler, Sami and Owen know he’s certain to play it. Noelle can steal someone’s vote. Dwight knows this, but we don’t know if Jesse and Cody know it. And speaking of Jesse, he and Jeanine have lost their vote. Karla is the only Coco member who knows this … unless she’s told someone. Jesse and Jeanine have to wonder what Advantage Geo got, and if he gave it to anyone before getting voted out. And the three people playing the middle well — Karla, Owen and Jesse — can shift the balance of power anywhere.
There’s so much to be excited about … until you realize the Producers could kill it all by forcing the action with another “earn the merge” meddling twist. Some or all of these possibilities could be snuffed out faster than Francesca’s torch if the Producers give half the players Immunity like they did in each of the last two seasons.
What would happen if all six players at a split merge vote could protect themselves? Suppose Karla, Jeanine, Cody, Jesse, Gabler and Noelle all go to Tribal Council? News of the four Idols could leak out, and nobody would want to vote for any of them. That potentially keeps votes away from Karla, Jeanine, Gabler and Cody. If Cody rolled the dice (who, Cody?) and gave his Idol to Jesse, that could protect five of them. And Noelle could have two votes if she steals Karla or Gabler’s vote. If nobody votes for Noelle, and everyone else plays an Idol, what happens? A revote won’t matter, even if Noelle can vote twice, unless she can vote for Cody — which presumably, she wouldn’t want to. Would Cody go home by default in Advantagegeddon 2? Would Noelle leave if she refuses to vote for Cody? How much would either of those scenarios suck?
And away we go …
Did James not notice the word “merge” wasn’t on that note? Why is he so excited? Earl knew how to keep his cool much better than James does.
I didn’t know there was any such thing as “Gladiator School.” Jesse must have learned that at Berkeley.
Wait, did they all move to Baka beach, or are they all going to a new camp?
Baka beach it is. Did Baka get a note too, or were they blindsided?
Owen gets some info right off the bat when Noelle blabs some intel without being prompted. Bad move, Noelle.
I know, Owen and James helped you get your Steal-A-Vote Advantage, but don’t talk about it in a huge group. At the most, pull them aside and tell them in private. Is she gonna tell James? Does she realize he’s already upset at her for helping Baka win Immunity? She could have just missed a great chance to do some damage control.
Elie – “I was made for Survivor. I’m way better at it than I thought.” Weren’t those RC’s last words right before she got booted in Philippines? I’m eagerly awaiting her blindside face.
Hmm … Jeanine’s scar looks worse at the Immunity Challenge than it did when everyone met up at Baka beach. Bad job by the makeup department.
Aww, crap, Probst is about to say “earn the merge.” Dammit! At least if you win Immunity, you know you get to keep it. I’d love to see Danny’s reaction to this moment.
Noelle’s decision should be easy. Ryan has been the beast all season. Go blue. But she should have put a target on Ryan by saying “Ryan has been the beast this season” before announcing her choice.
Ryan beasts the challenge yet again.
Elie puts herself on the puzzle, then doesn’t solve it. I guess she’s not as good at this game as she thought she was.
I hope Karla isn’t medevaced like James in Micronesia. That cut could easily get infected.
Well, Elie knows Cody has an Idol, so she’ll probably talk Sami and Owen out of voting for him. I think James and Cassidy are in trouble. Elie is arrogant enough to think she can talk Jeanine into giving up her Idol. Or perhaps Sami will try to get Gabler’s since it expires at this Tribal Council. I’d love to see Elie ask Gabler for his, only to see him say “Hell no!”
James sees right through Elie’s ruse. I guess she’s not as good at this game as she thought she was.
I see Karla has a bandage on her finger, but there’s no discussion about it at all?
Ryan just blabs out a plan, and he thinks everyone is with him? He’s not as good at this game as he thought he was. You’d think he’d learn that after the Geo blindside.
Gabler doesn’t realize he should make new friends before targeting current enemies. Every Survivor fan knows he’s not as good at this game as he thinks he is, but I like the drama he just created.
I’m gonna call Karla “Right place, right time.” Valuable info just falls in her lap wherever she goes.
Elie confronts Gabler. What good could come out of this? She just lost his vote.
Elie confronts Sami? What good could come from this? She might have just lost his vote.
Elie expects Sami and Owen to stick their necks out for her? Everybody … 1,2,3: “Elie isn’t as good at this game as she thought she was!”
Gabler’s game keeps reminding me of Shambo from Samoa. Everything he says screws something up.
Everybody’s identifying Elie as the leader who is stirring things up. She’s drawing votes to herself with every word.
Elie — “I thought I could call the shots.” Elie finally realizes … aw you know what I was gonna say.
What’s with all the slick pre-production shots of Tribal Council? We’ve seen this set before. Wasting this time makes me think Tribal won’t be as good as I thought it would be.
Jeanine is sitting very far apart from Elie. How can she slip the Idol to her if Elie wants it? Are we in for another “stand up and whisper” party?
Elie’s eyes are bugging out more than Jessica Lewis’ infected eyes in Millennials vs Gen X.
James really doesn’t know how to keep his cool.
Earl was so cool, people needed their jackets when they were around him – even during the day. James needs to watch the Fiji season again before the next vote.
Did Jeanine really think Elie was safe? I guess so. Jeanine isn’t as good at this game as she thought she was. But Sami and Owen might be.
I wonder why Karla voted for Owen? Was that purely Shot in the Dark insurance? If Owen is smart, he won’t say a word about it. If Karla is smart, she won’t either.
The best Survivor players (Earl, Kim, Yul, Sandra) play the game with humility. They always realize no matter what they do, they could be wrong, and their plan might not work. So they maintain the appearance that they’re more worried than they actually are. They’ll usually have some kind of plan B in place that requires them to keep their cool too. Even Tony, who played with an outward bravado, also appeared nervous enough to convince others he didn’t think he was as confident or in charge as he was.
Elie never once showed any humility I could identify. The phrase “crippling overconfidence” applies to her just like it did for Sarah in Cagayan. And just like RC in Philippines, Elie got booted first at the merge because she alienated most of her original tribe. Jeanine was the only one who was with her 100%. Gabler turned on Elie just like Abi-Maria turned on RC. And just like Pete used the tension between two players to his advantage, Sami exploited the tension between Gabler and Elie to his benefit. But I think Sami will play it better than Pete did.
I think Elie’s is a case of someone getting themselves voted out (like Lindsay), but Elie laid the groundwork for this the moment she made a priority of reading Gabler’s Idol note a second time. There just wasn’t any need to do that. But Elie was so confident in her ability to deceive, she couldn’t resist. It was a move for the sake of making a move, as opposed to a move to improve her position. Props to Sami for immediately knowing how to use Elie’s overconfidence to his advantage. And props to Owen for knowing how to expose Elie while keeping his cover (at least for a while). They both knew Elie would always play for Elie. She made herself a vote they could never influence. Elie also brought heat towards everyone on Baka, and for that, she had to go.
Elie did a lot of things wrong, including 1) standing out as an obvious duo with Jeanine, 2) letting her frustration with Gabler show, and 3) snapping at Owen for snapping at Gabler. All of these factors contributed to her RC-esque demise. Elie not only played too hard, too fast, she refused to believe any of her plans might not work. She unknowingly created reasons for others NOT to trust her. Even nudging Jeanine towards the Beware Advantage had the potential to blow up in her face. Elie couldn’t get out of her own way.
Next week’s episode might make up for the split tribe Producer meddling. Jesse and Jeanine have their votes back. Everyone could know about Noelle’s Advantage, and (thankfully) 11 out of 12 players can be voted for. Three Idols are still in play, and Gabler could try and play his off as a real Idol too if nobody sells him out (but I bet Jeanine will). Jeanine might have a new bandage for her hurt feelings. And with a juicy 4/4/4 split, everyone will/should be looking for a defector. But no matter what happens, “Right place, right time” Karla will be the first to know about it.
Despite the meddling, I was entertained by this episode. It probably won’t rank high on any “best merge episode” list for me, but its in the upper 1/3 for sure. What do you think? Did Elie play herself out of the game? Were you entertained by all the action? Was this a great merge episode for you? Will more people fall victim to Gabler’s spontaneous meltdowns, or will they realize they’ve got to remove the vote they can’t control? Let me know in the comments.
Damnbueno got his nickname in 8th grade Spanish class when his friend shouted out "You're pretty damn good at Spanish." The teacher insisted he say it in Spanish, so the friend said "Esto es damn bueno en Espanol." The nickname stuck. These days, when he's not forgetting his 8th grade Spanish, Damnbueno is indulging his obsession with all things Survivor. Reach him in the comments section here at True Dork Times.