Wow, a Survivor episode with non-strategic camp scenes, a normal tribal council where everyone votes, and an individual immunity challenge where every gets to compete!? Ahhh, so close, but two out of three’s not bad. Of course, a week wouldn’t be complete without an idol hunt or Jeff trying to make himself a main character, but with all of these advantages and fake idols flopping, I’m getting hope that we could see a standard, satisfying finish to this season rather than the Advantagegeddon I was afraid of at the start. I’m not holding my breath, though (that’s for the second attempt at Last Gasp coming soon).
Agent 000, along with Carson, played this perfectly despite being fully aware of what events were going to transpire at this tribal council. Aside from the initial shock, everyone was taking the vote rather well with congratulatory commendations going all around – even Ratu blamed Brandon for not wanting to split the votes.
While this all sounds nice, I’m not going to lie and say I don’t miss the days when people would come back kicking and screaming after a “controversial” vote.
Survivor is too “gamey” now with less personal stake involved which I suppose is better for humanity’s sake, but not better for TV. The shorter season duration and each day being like its own game within a game doesn’t allow for relationships to go as deep, so the cut of a betrayal is also only surface-level and takes less time to heal. I appreciate that we get these post-tribal moments at camp because for a while, we weren’t, but they’ve become high-fives and handshakes, so maybe I don’t care as much and we can just skip to the next day.
More espionage was at play that morning after, if it can even be called that with Danny claiming the shy part of looking for idols being over. I’ve said before but I’ll say it again, the (correct) assumption that one idol going out means one idol going back in really hinders the social-strategic game. There’s less pressure to play with the people knowing they can just go look in the jungle the next day to find a new idol to save themselves instead of having to talk to each other.
It was another boring idol hunt burning up precious minutes of the hour, and in the end, Heidi found her second advantage of the game which this time was something much more useful. She claimed she won’t tell anyone about it, but Heidi’s had loose lips about other idols, so it remains to be seen whether she’ll be tighter about the knowledge of her own.
13 YEARS SOBER
I didn’t realize at first that Carolyn was trying to say “S” here and it just came out sounding like “ass.” It reminded me of this video of Reba McEntire trying to utter the phrase “chewing ice” in her very thick Southern accent – if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to YouTube right now. It’ll have you laughing your S off.
Day 16 was a rare day in modern Survivor where there was no challenge or tribal council, so, unsurprisingly, we were able to step away from the game and see some of that much-missed personal bonding between players that doesn’t happen when the strategic pace is so go-go-go. Carolyn said they finally had time to just connect with each other which is her favorite part of Survivor, debunking Jeff’s whole approach of designing this game “for the players.” This was essentially a light admission that even the players don’t like the game Jeff has created even though he’d argue it makes it more fun and exciting for them.
Carolyn had a very vulnerable and candid conversation about her past struggle with addiction but recently hitting her 13-years sober milestone (yay!) This wasn’t forced, either, like some of the other scenes that insert clips from home. We’ve been along with Carolyn this entire journey and have seen her kooky side come out and this scene perfectly captured where it comes from, and we got to see Carolyn celebrated for simply being herself. Frannie talked too about how this inspired her to do the same – be more open and truer to herself. Overall, this was a highlight of the episode that had nothing to do with “the game” – maybe we’ll see more of this kind of content if Survivor goes to 90 minutes, but I still have my doubts on that. Refer to the next part of the episode that Jeff just wanted to make more about him ....
IMMUNITY – WET BALLS
Ahead of the immunity challenge, the tribe was prompted that they’d be given the choice to sit out in exchange for rice for the tribe ... how original. This was fun when Angelina approached Jeff unexpectedly, but it’s become boring and tiresome, now going as far as to include “instructions” in preceding treemail. Carson was still a little sick, but he was among the few indicating he’d sit out because, as any sane person should want to do at this stage of the game, immunity probably felt more important than some rice with only 9 days left in the game. I really appreciated Danny quickly dismissing this and refusing to play with Jeff.
The tribe showed up to the negotiation which ended up lasting almost as long as the challenge itself, and Jeff immediately opened with a demand for four people to sit out. This wasn’t so much of a “negotiation” as it was a rule since it was coming directly from the executive producer of the show which, thus, begged the question why we were having to call this a negotiation if there wasn’t room for any actual negotiating. If the tribe countered with two or three sit-outs, I’m sure Jeff would’ve either countered with less rice or just a flat-out no, again taking agency away from the players and forcing them to playing in his stupid games even when they don’t want to.
Carson, Kane, Lauren, and a reluctant Heidi ended up making their way to the bench after the “scout’s honor” promise that no one would vote for them at tribal council, but come on, we all knew how that would hold up. “Sure, Jan.”
After a grueling five whole minutes, the challenge finally came to a close as Frannie won another showdown – this time, against Danny who found himself yet again in 2nd place. Luckily for Frannie, there was plenty of room in between them in this challenge so she wouldn’t end up like Lauren downwind from another Danny “delight.”
SICK OF HIM
Carolyn had had enough of Danny’s stench at camp, but unfortunately for her, the other two Tika stooges were still on the side of Soka for this vote. Heidi called Kane the biggest threat of the three Ratu for being the most strategic and just ... the literal biggest. Kane himself, mind you, reminded the audience, “I have not voted someone off this island yet.” Of the three votes he’d cast up to this point, two were nullified by idols and the other was for Yam Yam who was obviously still in the game (swearing revenge against those who wrote his name down), so yeah, maybe a wizard at the D&D table, but not a wizard in the game of Survivor. I appreciated Heidi wanting to continue making up for the witch hunt against all the women in the pre-merge by voting out another man, but citing Kane as the biggest “strategic threat” was not something I was buying.
A major takeaway from all the pre-tribal talk was Frannie calling out (for the second time this episode, actually) how Tika was so obviously playing the middle in this Ratu vs. Soka war. Danny, and presumably Heidi, weren’t hearing her, though. Danny was too concerned about Jaime’s “idol” and Lauren’s extra vote to even consider taking out a Tika, when I think Frannie would have been right to gather the troops to do it. If nothing else, they could’ve sent a message to Tika that they weren’t to get away with flip-flopping back and forth all the way to the final three.
Technically there’s still time, but the longer Ratu and Soka take shots at each other, the harder it is going to be to reconcile and reunite against Tika. Carson seemed the safest (whether because he was sick or a sick social player, TBD) as Frannie proposed splitting votes on Carolyn and Yam Yam. I could see the argument against “now” since if a Tika left, then they’d just again be in a swing position between two tribes of three. As much as I don’t want Carolyn or Yam Yam to go, I think a move against Tika next week at eight could spice up this season. Ratu will be the 2 between two 3s and having been burned by Tika twice now, that may be all the ammo they need to take a shot against them.
Even if Tika didn’t end up a target this week, I was a little disappointed Danny or anyone else didn’t rat them out to Ratu. They could’ve easily implicated Yam Yam and Carson by telling Ratu that those two knew Danny was going to play his idol on Frannie. Then the Ratu vs. Soka war potentially could’ve turned into the Ratu vs. Tika war with Soka in the middle instead of Tika. A missed opportunity, but I’m glad for the sake of drama, Tika tip-toeing in the middle hasn’t gone unnoticed. Frannie is ready to go after their fannies!
I almost forgot to mention – not that it would’ve mattered because this plot had no impact – the whole exchange of goods going on out of fear for the “Knowledge is Power” – the key exchange being Jaime giving her “idol” to Kane. Ever since Matthew gifted that to her, we’ve been hit over the head with how confident she was, so I was expecting a much bigger payoff to that than Kane leaving the game with it in his pocket. “So much for my dreams” once again.
All in all, though, I think the 3-3-3 split allowed for some fun dynamics this episode. While Tika maintained their middle position, the right conversations could’ve made any one of the three tribe the decision makers. Tika’s idol is also unaccounted for, so Soka and Ratu should be thinking about that. If they wait too long to target Tika, Tika could leverage that (along with any unknown advantage that could be assumed to be in their possession) to secure a set majority in just a few more votes. Therefore, next week is the one Tika should be most nervous about which makes me nervous too because they remain the season’s star trio, but I wouldn’t mind a big show at tribal council with a true three-way standoff.
I WANT SOME SUBTITLES
Unlike this one which I felt ended up “live” for no reason. Nothing stood out at tribal council as something that set the whispering into motion, but we ended up getting that anyway. I appreciate the fun little editing play to fulfill Yam Yam’s polite request for subtitles, but that didn’t really save this from being another meh tribal council. Stephen Fishbach tweeted that a fun way to spice up tribal would be to require answers to Jeff’s questions contain a name so that the players can’t just talk vaguely without ever making a point that ... has a point. I know this seems silly, but Survivor has done much sillier things at tribal council.
Or, hear me out, Jeff could just start asking good questions.
To my comment earlier, with Survivor evolving and becoming to “gamey,” tribal council feels less of the open forum as it used to be and just a waste of time. If nothing much is said that’s really going to change the vote, let’s just shave some time off at the end to allow for more meat in the middle or maybe bring back voting confessionals that, for some reason, have gone missing. I’ll submit this suggestion to the On Fire with Jeff Probst podcast and y’all can thank me later.
Some fun farewell words addressing the tribe, but he said them with a smile which made their meaning a little less impactful. “Enjoy your rice, you bitches,” holds no candle to “Scumbags ...” by any means. Bring back bitter exits!
Okay, that last one wasn’t an “exit” but still an iconic “goodbye” to the boot.
Kane lasted a lot longer than I thought he would, probably given that Ratu only lost the first immunity challenge, but his voting record speaks for more of how I thought he may perform. I thought his D&D references at first were fun, but they became less so when it was so clear producers were asking him in literally every confessional to compare what was going on in the game to something D&D-related. Just let him be his fun, authentic, nerdy self. I hope he was at least able to accomplish that at Ponderosa.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR ...
I love Jaime’s early celebration of May the 4th with those Leia buns.
“The era of alliances is over” – that sure as hell is true. Again, the game moves so fast that it’s easy to not get too attached to people and start each day like it’s a new game. I get why this approach is necessary, but I’m still sad Survivor’s evolved into this. One would think this makes each episode excitingly unpredictable, but at the same time, without those deep emotional bonds driving decisions, it’s hard for the votes to have as much emotional weight and make me care about them in the end. Anywho, my prediction for next week is that Tika finally gets targeted and while Carolyn and Yam Yam’s names were teased this week, Carson’s talking head in the preview makes me wonder if he’ll be seen as the head of the Tika snake.
Frannie – Who doesn’t love Frannie? It was fun seeing her win another immunity this week, impressing no one more than herself which is always sweet. On top of that, she had the very astute read on Tika and their positioning; however, she was sadly powerless to act on it given Danny and Heidi’s sights set still on Ratu. Unfortunately, while a strong player Frannie has proven to be in all aspects of the game, I think she’s going to be the one who gets to say “I told you so” at the end when the winner is a Tika. She might take that a shot next week – I just hope for her sake that the bullet doesn’t bounce back and hit her.
Heidi – I think Heidi’s still the low-key leader of OG Soka – a few votes came her way this week, but had it not been Frannie or Danny immune, I think they’d have split Ratu’s instead of Heidi. Will Heidi make more use of her new idol than she did her “Control a Vote?” I think she will. I expect her to lose another Soka eventually, but unlike Danny playing one for the team, I think Heidi’s going to hold onto hers to get herself closer to the end, even if it comes at the cost of a Soka ally.
Carolyn – Carolyn is one of the most complex individuals to appears on this show. She has as much humor as she does heart, and unlike most players that have been “the character” in past seasons, Carolyn continues showing us she's very self-aware. She recognized this week how she went from the odd lady out to being someone people are coming around to, seeing her threat level as low. While she’s managed to be more relatable and stronger in relationships than she may have worried she’d be early in the game, she’s treading a dangerous line in slipping from not being taken too seriously to not being taken seriously enough to win the game. Not that I think every winning game requires a “big move” but I only say this because modern juries ask for it: Carolyn needs something she alone can claim on her résumé, so I’m hoping she can at least pull off something spectacular with that idol she’s kept hidden so perfectly for so long.
^I hope that’s not the case at Final Tribal Council for Carolyn. We seem way too invested in her story for her to lose in a blowout vote, but if she sits there with Carson and Yam Yam, that is truly going to be a close battle. I think it would go between Yam Yam and Carolyn with Carson in third strictly going off of portrayal to the audience. We’re supposed to like Carson, but we’re supposed to LOVE Carolyn and Yam Yam. I’d really like to be living in a world in one month where Carolyn is publicly a winner of Survivor. If we aren’t, then what’s the point?