To me, there are two options for the rest of the season: 1) Predictable and boring, or 2) Mind-blowingly random and entertaining. I think we'll know which road this season's cast is taking after tonight's vote. And two people have the greatest potential to decide which path will be taken: Emily and Julie.
As we saw last week, Emily is already realizing she's on the bottom of the Reba alliance. Merely suggesting to Austin and Drew that they go after Dee was met with the two worst poker faces in the history of poker faces. We know Emily is more than willing to switch alliance partners. She had no problem turning against Sabiyah and Kaleb when she saw they were in trouble. But Emily didn't have a vote and was powerless to make a move last week. She's more than ready to make a move, and I think she should.
Julie has tried to influence the vote twice, and was rebuffed both times by Austin, Drew and Dee. Its just as likely she's ready to make a move herself if she realizes she's #4 in the Reba alliance. But can she get it done?
If Emily and Julie decide to work together, they potentially could destroy the Reba alliance by taking out Dee, Drew or Austin. The best option would be Dee since she's been calling the shots, has everyone's respect, and has been playing a strong social game. Austin is holding two Idols (if Julie gave hers back, that is), and Drew looks like the most articulate and strategic. He figures to make a strong case for himself in front of a Jury.
But of course, to do any damage, Emily and Julie have to pull off what appears to be the impossible: convincing Katurah and Bruce to work together. Both Julie and Emily have trust from Austin, Drew and Dee. They should be able to find out who those three are targeting, and what Austin is planning on doing with his Idols. With the right amount of subtlety and discretion, they could remove a Reba. The two remaining Reba would have little choice but to try and reunite with Julie and Emily to outnumber the 3 battling Belo. Julie and Emily could trade seats #4 and 5 for seats #1 and 2 if an Idol or two is flushed in the process. This would greatly improve their chances of winning the million. The game would be wide open, and each episode would be riveting.
But if Emily and Julie don't make a move, the Rebas will likely remove another Belo, possibly flushing Bruce's Idol in the process. If Austin doesn't burn either of his Idols, he'd be holding two of them with only 3 chances left to play them. The Pagonging would likely continue with Jake, Bruce and Katurah all missing out on the final 5, and the audience sleeping until the finale. The only shake up would be if Emily or Julie left before one of the Belos because the trio finally realize what a perfect finals goat Bruce would be.
I've often speculated about how effective a "freinemies" strategy could be. In Winners at War, everyone knew Wendell and Michele had dated and broken up before the game began. They could have tried it. Sarah was furious with Tony in Cagayan, and they concealed their partnership for a while. But they'd made it clear they were no longer upset with each other. Bruce and Katurah are clear enemies, and everyone knows it. But what if they cooperate to get each other to the finals? Would one of them lay claim to executing the strategy that fooled their jurors? What would the other do if that happened?
I know this is a long shot. Bruce comes from the Andrew Savage school of flexibility. He seems to believe his only path to the end is through Immunity wins and Idol plays. I've never been sure of what strategy Katurah has been using, but including Bruce has never been part of it. But how cool would it be if it actually happened?
The optimist in me wants this to become a reality. But the realist in me believes Katurah or Jake will be joining the Jury tonight.
And away we go...
Right off the bat we're reminded that Julie got one of Austin's Idol. Then we're reminded of how Dee drove this boot.
Jake: "I'm back in this game a player, not as a pawn." I've got bad news for you Jake. Your status hasn't changed. You're still around because nobody believes you can win.
Drew knows the only way to get Bruce's Idol out of the game is by someone else winning Immunity. Hey Austin! Guess who they're gonna look to? Since he's holding two Idols, winning Immunity should be a low priority for Austin. As long as Bruce is around, they're not gonna look to remove Austin. Austin should want Bruce in the finals anyway.
Julie is worried about jurors being mad at her, but I don't think she realizes the current jurors aren't seeing her as pushing all the buttons. But Drew is smart for being the shoulder for her to cry on.
Julie: "At some point, we've got to turn on each other, and I almost can't even go there." If you can't, you're gonna find yourself voting for one of them to get a million dollars.
Julie: "How do you vote them out and they love you?" That's a question for Earl or Kim. Ok, Ethan too. But Julie, they don't have to love you. Sometimes, its enough that they hate you less than the other finalists.
But Emily is going straight to Katurah and Bruce. Smart move Emily. And luck is with her. Katurah puts into words what Emily needs to say to Bruce: "If we're gonna make something happen, we're gonna all have to get together."
Katurah to Bruce: "I'm glad we're back to working together." Bruce: "I gave my Idol to Kellie." Katurah buys it, but then he blows it by telling her the truth. Come on Bruce, if you're gonna base a plan around a lie, you've got to commit to the lie!
Bruce: "That's our hook to get one of the Rebas outta here. Do you feel me" Katurah: "No, I don't." This is why my dog hates Survivor. My burst of laughter at moments like these scare the crap out of her.
Jake is buying it too, but Katurah is sure to spill the truth to someone now.
Bruce: "I'm leaking information. I'm like my own TMZ." Uh, Bruce, TMZ doesn't leak information. People leak information to them, and they expose it to the world. TMZ is how I found out Fabio blew through his million in 6 months on things like paying for a limousine to pick him up from jail when he got arrested for public intoxication.
Bruce would have been better off being upfront with Jake and Katurah at the same time. The way he's trying to pull it off, his execution is gonna come off as sloppy. He came up with a decent short-term plan, but killed it ten seconds later.
Day 18. Hmm ... a Reward Challenge instead of Immunity. Me thinks the winner is gonna get to take two people along. Its always better to be taken along than to be the one doing the taking. I say don't win this one. You should finish in the middle. That way, others will believe they can beat you for Immunity. Since Bruce has been winning, he should tank it completely. Its probably better to be left at camp with a majority. You don't want Probst to be praising you in this one.
Probst: I'm gonna make it even better..." Are you gonna give them chairs this time?
It looks like everybody is trying their best though. And Probst is saying Austin's name a lot.
Emily wins(?!). Now she's got tough choices to make, and everyone now knows Emily can win a challenge.
Everyone brought their bags to this challenge. Nobody is leaving camp without their Idols or Advantages. But I'd still like to know if Austin got one of his Idols back from Julie.
And letters from home are on the line? Now everyone left behind will have a reason to be upset with her. But she made a good speech about getting a Reward on her own merits.
Emily chooses Julie first. She needs Julie's vote on her side more than anyone else, but Julie is also the most likely to spill a plan to Austin, Dee and Drew.
Emily also takes Katurah, and gets one more pick. If she takes Bruce, the others will know she's making a move against them. But she takes the worst person in Dee. Now she can't plan a strong move against the Rebas. Dee's social game must be even stronger than I thought, and I thought it was pretty strong.
This worked out perfectly for the four Reba players. They'll have access to all the info discussed between both groups. If Austin and Drew are smart, they should convince Jake and Bruce to move against Emily.
Hmm ... this group gets chairs, utensils and glasses? If I'm Kendra watching this, I'd be really pissed off about now.
Emily: "We're gonna have a female winner." I'm thinking Dee has the best shot.
My wife is a wine enthusiast. Its proper form to hold your glass by the stem. That way, your hand won't warm up the glass, which could affect how the wine tastes, Emily held her glass by the stem in confessional, but held it by the wider part around the other women.
And right on cue, Katurah spills Bruce's plan.
Wow, we're hearing a Kenny Loggins song! Music clearance is NOT cheap, and Survivor usually doesn't even let the players sing familiar songs. I saw Kenny Loggins in concert a few weeks ago. The place was packed. He doesn't need the money. Maybe he's a Survivor fan, and let it go on the cheap.
Austin: "Bacon is good, but its not amazing." WRONG! Bacon is definitely amazing. Now I'm really rooting for Dee.
Ok, first Emily, and now Austin has mentioned the phrase "Thanksgiving feast." Gee, do you think the Producers told the players this episode would air right around Thanksgiving?
Bruce wants to boot Dee. Its a solid idea, and probably the best move for everybody in the game. But Bruce has got zero influence on these players.
And right on cue, Jake spills the plan to Drew. But Dee and Julie are sure to tell Drew and Austin that Bruce still has his Idol. Jake doesn't know it, but I think he just got himself voted out.
Drew: "All that matters is that the Idol goes away." The Rebas seem united on this plan.
The letters from home segment may be very emotional for some, but its just not hitting me that way. But it does make me miss the traditional Loved Ones segments. I like seeing family members with the players.
And in one conversation, Bruce's lie has been blown up. Emily tells the truth to Drew, and the Rebas are still in control.
Jake pitches his 'boot Drew' plan to Emily and Julie, and they immediately reveal it to Drew. It makes me wonder who is getting information brought to them first between Drew and Dee?
Drew confronts Jake, but doesn't realize he's putting a jury vote at risk. Why make Jake upset with you when he's certain to be on the jury? Don't say anything to Jake at all about his plan failing. You've got to make Jake want YOU to be the winner. And by clapping back, Jake probably just threw away Drew's possible Jury vote.
Day 19. This looks like a new challenge. Is this a "hang from a slide" endurance challenge? Well, maybe not. I think this was used in Fiji. Dreamz won it, then changed his mind about the truck deal he made with Yau-Man. Do I have that right, Jeff?
I have separated my shoulder. I'd have no chance in this challenge.
It looks like all the guys and Julie are using an overhand grip, and the women are using an underhand grip.
Katurah steps down. Does she have a fear of deep water? I didn't do a lot of pregame research. If she's afraid of deep water, Survivor wasn't the game to play.
Julie is out. I thought she had a good chance in this one.
Jake to Probst : "What carnival have you seen this at?" My thoughts exactly, but Jake should be tuning Probst out.
Dee has switched to an overhand grip, but if they have to straighten their legs, Dee can't use her T.O.U.S. (Toes of unusual size), for support, and she's out.
Austin wins Immunity. It looks like Bruce's Idol will leave the game right before Jake does. The target on Austin's back got a little bigger, but he needed to win this one to remove Bruce's Idol.
Probst is pushing Katurah into a Cirie Game Changers beam-crossing moment. Cirie's moment didn't work for me either.
Everyone is totally convinced Bruce will play his Idol. Its a great chance for Bruce to hold on to his Idol ... if he can sell it effectively. How much stronger would his position be if he'd never told anyone about his Idol?
Emily's face lit up like a fireworks show in a paper warehouse when Katurah asked her to go after Julie.
Emily goes to Bruce, who repeats he's gonna play his Idol. He's laying it on a little too thick.
Emily is explaining her game very well in confessional, but is she doing it as effectively around the other players? Is fooling Bruce a strong enough move to win the game? Why is it impressive to fool the most annoying guy, and clear finals goat?
Jake to Bruce: "Why'd you lie to me about your Idol?" This is why Bruce should have committed to his lie completely. His stuttering response was too revealing. He might have just lost Jake's vote this round, AND Jake's possible Jury vote.
Now Bruce is talking to Jake like he spoke to Kaleb a little while ago. Jake could come out of this feeling insulted just like Kaleb did.
Bruce doesn't realize if Julie is gone, Emily is just gonna take her place in the Reba majority. How is he expecting to get to the end?
Jake telling the jury how much he hasn't known what's going on isn't helping his chance of winning. The jurors will remember him saying "I feel dumb." Very few jury votes are based on sympathy.
Julie is doing the same thing by saying "Its terrible when you lie to someone." People aren't gonna feel better about you when you admit you felt bad about voting them out. Nobody knows this better than Amanda Kimmel.
Emily did it better by looking at the jurors. They know she's focused on playing the game, and isn't being overwhelmed by emotion.
Hey! We got a voting confessional. Four whole words from Drew!
Bruce holds onto his Idol, and Emily is happy.
Kaleb knows what's coming.
Bye Bruce. You didn't fool anyone. Even if you played your Idol, Jake was leaving. Nobody was nervous about this vote.
Bruce joins the ranks of those blindsided while holding an Idol. Us viewers saw Emily making the plan in confessional, but I wonder who really pushed it through? Did she tell the others she believed Bruce would hold onto his Idol, or did everyone just go with the plan Drew pitched right after returning from the Kendra boot? And it was Katurah who pitched the idea of putting more votes on Bruce during the Reward trip. Nobody looked very surprised, so I think everyone was in on the plan - which means Jake sold it very well at Tribal Council.
Kellie, Kendra and Kaleb were ecstatic about seeing Bruce voted out. This confirms none of them wanted him to win, which also confirms they just voted out the best goat in the game. Its also possible the jurors will think Katurah got it done since she was far and away the most vocal about removing Bruce.
All season long, we've heard about how Bruce wasn't playing the same game everyone else was playing. Kaleb described Bruce's game as "archaic," and Kaleb was right. Bruce played the entire game with a misplaced confidence. He probably would have done much better if he played in any of the first 7 seasons. But he was just too far behind strategically to compete in "new era" Survivor.
Emily looked very excited about Bruce leaving the game. I don't think she made the right move. Sure he had an Idol, but he also had zero chance of winning the game. His position wasn't much different from Xander's in Survivor 41. Everyone knew he had an Idol, but nobody cared because they knew he had no shot at winning the million. Xander only received two votes against him the entire game. They didn't even care about his Immunity wins. Some of them wanted Xander in the finals. With Bruce gone, how is Emily gonna work her way into the final 3 now? She has to get rid of two Reba players, and only has Jake and Katurah to help. And those Reba players still have two Idols.
After the first episode, I was certain Emily would make it onto my "worst players" list. She's not a candidate any longer, but I still don't think she's playing a very good game. This move and her Reward choices didn't improve her position in the game nearly as much as removing a Reba would have.
Removing Bruce was ok for Austin, Drew and Dee because they're in charge of the game, but even they missed Bruce's goat factor. Its only good for them if they believe they've got the best shot at getting Bruce's jury vote. We know Bruce isn't voting for Katurah if she's there.
And I was so sure Bruce was gonna be in the fire challenge. Oh well. Survivor is better when its unpredictable.
Does this mean Katurah is the new finals goat? Is it Jake? Who has the easiest path to the end? Who has the hardest? Let me know what you think in the comments.