Ok, so at the end of last week's episode, we all found out there would be a swap this week - the first swap in the 26-day "new era" Survivor. I've often said the best Survivor players are the ones who can make the best adjustments to unpredictable events (medevacs, injuries, Idols people DON'T know you have etc.) right on the spot. One of the best unpredictable events is a swap.
Sometimes a swap results in a lopsided shift of power, like in One World, where the core of the women's alliance (Kim, Sabrina, Chelsea & Kat) got swapped to a tribe with the strongest male players (Troyzan, Jay and Mike). They all could make plans for the merge immediately. They all knew they weren't gonna lose a challenge. The other tribe had to immediately start making voting plans. They knew they weren't gonna win Immunity.
Other times a swap is a great test of one's ability to earn trust quickly. I've always been impressed with Brian Corridan's adjustment in Guatemala. Brian got swapped into a 4-3 minority, and he didn't have a great relationship with Amy and Gary from his original tribe. Still, he was able to find a crack in the majority's foursome, and turned a majority against one of their own (Blake), who'd been noticeably cocky and annoying. Brian's quick thinking and strong adjustment bought him 3 more days in the game.
So who appears to have to make the most difficult adjustment should they fall on the weak side of this season's swap?
For someone like Emily, her move is obvious. Her mouth put her on the bottom of her tribe. She'll be starting over no matter who she ends up with. Then she'll probably talk herself into a new hole. Sean just got blindsided while watching his partner Sabiyah leave the game with an Idol. He has to start over too. Kaleb and Emily just gave him a great reason not to trust them.
But for someone like Kellie and Brando, who'd been playing the middle pretty well, it will likely be tough. They'll have to be very careful what information they choose to share with their new tribemates, especially if the two of them are separated. Will their cover stories match? Or how about someone like Austin, and Drew who shared way too much information about their Advantages/Idols. Now they have to deal with the possibility that everyone in the game will know about their trinkets.
Thanks to Kendra, Jake now knows others suspect him simply because he's a lawyer. He's able to change how he's perceived, but will he know how? And J. Maya? She seems to have been excluded from most of the Reba tribe's alliances. Is she aware of this? How will she address this situation?
The only ones who appear to be fairly safe in any swap situation are Dee, Julie, Kendra and Katurah. None of them have stood out as an obvious threat - strategically or physically - and they all appear to get along with several personality types. Then again, they could also be swapped into a 4-1 minority. If that happens, they'll be tested too.
A swap is a great test of what I consider to be the most valuable trait any Survivor player can have - the ability to earn trust quickly. It's also a good test of how much each player is aware of how they're perceived by the others. Do Bruce and Sifu know how much they've annoyed their tribemates? Does Kaleb know others are seeing him as a little too smooth?
And one tribe always gets stuck with the crappy camp, or has to rebuild from scratch. How will they adjust if that happens this time?
With 15 people left, its most likely they'll be swapped into three, 5-member tribes. But its also possible they'll shift to two 7-member tribes, with one person left out - doomed to join whichever tribe loses Immunity. That's the scenario I'd like to see because it makes the merge much more interesting. The more players interact with each other, the less likely they'll blindly stay tribe loyal at a merge. Oh, the possibilities.
And away we go ....
Night 7. Yo Sean, you should play the "I understand why you did it" game. But in your head, its time to start over. It looks like he's playing it well.
Kaleb is patting himself on the back for pulling Emily in, but he should know she'll do the same thing to him if she has to.
Emily sees right through Sean's play. But knowing her, she'll screw it up by telling him she knows he's full of it. I've heard Emily's casting test scores were identical to Kass's. I can totally see the similarities between the two. But I think Kass was a better liar than Emily.
Day 8. Here comes the swap. Probst goes straight to Emily for a comment. He knows she'll say something that will shake things up. That tells me she's gonna "find" something soon that might help her stick around.
A single tray of new buffs? Hmm ... sometimes Probst has two trays - one for men and another for women - to guarantee a gender balance on the new tribes. Let's see what happens when he hands them out.
OK, I see men and women all taking buffs from the same tray. This swap looks totally random.
When there's a swap or a merge, I like to see who goes to hug whom first. On occasion, it can be revealing. But when the new Lulu tribe moved to their mat, Bruce hugged Jake first.
Three tribes of five members each. On visual alone, Reba looks pretty weak. Katurah is still with Bruce. That could be very interesting, but I don't think they're gonna lose Immunity. Right about now, I'd REALLY like to know what J. Maya's pre-swap position was. If she was disliked, this would be a good time to remove her.
I'm loving that we have a 90-minute episode to see how each player adjusts.
Kellie: "A tribe swap is where you separate a good from a great Survivor player." I agree 100%.
Damn, Bruce looks crushed. Even though I'm sure he's having severe flashback trauma, it could be interpreted as a play for sympathy.
And sure enough, Katurah wants the info from Kaleb to see if Bruce was full of it. Bruce picked up on it too. Katurah was channeling Emily here. She could be talking herself into a hole. She might as well have said "I don't trust you, Bruce." If Bruce wasn't sure how Katurah felt about him, there's no doubt now. Bad move, Katurah.
Jake: "I gotta be ready to jump ship. Thank God, I'm a good swimmer." Dude, you laughed a little too hard and too long at that line. I was waiting for you to high five yourself.
If Emily can keep her mouth shut (I doubt it) she could be in a good spot. Both duos around her could want her on their side, much like the Cagayan swap when everyone wanted Sarah on their side. But Sarah got cocky and thought she had all the power. She got blindsided when she tried to force the vote where she wanted it to go.
There's that green screened background behind Emily again. Emily: "I want them to know I have no secrets." But by sharing so much info, they know she won't be able to keep their secrets too.
Austin prepared the fire pit, but it was Kendra who sparked the fire. I could tell by the tattoo on her left forearm.
I think Emily might have been better served by NOT telling everyone Sabiyah left with an Idol. Had she done that, some of the others might have wasted time and energy looking for it. But since they know Sabiyah left with it, they'll know that Idol most likely won't be put back into circulation. Then again, the Belo Idol hasn't been found. Now everybody knows what to look for - an Idol encased in wax.
Drew: "Everybody wants Emily." He should also be thinking "Emily is an easy boot."
It's nice to hear from J. Maya, but I still don't know who she wants gone and/or why. I also don't know where she sits on her own tribe.
Dee: "Tie Sean's bag back the same way he had it." Dee is SMART! She knows how to cover her tracks.
J. Maya to Sean: "If we lose, we want to blindside Sifu." Thanks for the info, but you should have waited to tell Sean that. Now Sean can save himself by tipping off Sifu, or by telling the women she has spilled their secret.
The Reba tribe should be planning on voting two people out, not just one.
Day 9. Since they always film in Fiji, I'm surprised there are any trees left that aren't all chopped up.
Austin: "We can take over any tribe." Not if every tribe knows what you've got. Dee and Julie can blab to J. Maya, Sifu and Sean now. And if they tell Emily what they've got, she'll tell everybody And Drew has a pretty big mouth too.
Hmm ... Drew is dressed differently in this confessional than he is around other players.
If Bruce truly thinks Kellie is his #1, that's bad news for Katurah.
Just like everybody wants Emily on Belo, everybody wants Kaleb on Lulu. Katurah is laser focused on booting Bruce. She's not appearing to be very flexible. Then again, Sandra was laser focused on booting Russell in Heroes vs Villains, and got her second win by openly distancing herself from him. Just the same, I don't think Katurah should have given Kaleb so much info so soon unless she knows she's solid with Kellie and Jake.
They had a similar version of this challenge in Island of the Idols. Aaron and Missy did the shooting for their tribes, then got identified as Challenge beasts. Eventual winner Tommy didn't step in until someone started missing shots. I like that this version is water-based, but I think Reba is doomed. They need the other tribes to make a mistake because they're gonna be very slow moving their cage.
Dee's height disadvantage is huge. She's not gonna be able to lift that cage as high as the rest of her tribe.
Sifu had to move to different spots before Reba could move their cage. First he was in front on one side, then in the middle, then he had to move to the back to keep from dragging the cage on the sand.
And of course, Kaleb jumps into the spotlight role, and starts shooting. Kaleb "That's the one." Yep, there's that Alpha Male cockiness.
To nobody's surprise, Austin shoots for Belo.
Sifu shoots a basketball like a musician.
Julie stopped to look at Austin's shot before getting the last ball to Sifu.
Lulu gets their flint. If Kaleb is smart, he won't make the fire. The target on his back is big enough.
Since nobody trusts Sifu, its probably smart to remove him. They still have the numbers to remove Sean at the next vote.
J. Maya is wearing different clothes in her confessional too. I'm wondering how many confessionals were filmed after day 26?
Kaleb: "I could be Kawhi Leonard." That dude sits out 40 games a season. The Survivor equivalent would be Kaleb only playing 13 days.
Bruce pretends he lost the flint? Peter was the first one voted out of Marquesas for pulling a similar stunt like that. He joked that their water supply was miles away. Nobody saw his humor.
My thoughts exactly.
Sean: "I can't believe we lost the challenge." Didn't you read a few paragraphs ago? I called that one from miles away.
Sifu seems to think its a no-brainer to remove Sean. He could be in for a surprise.
J. Maya to the women: "If Sifu plays an Idol, one of us goes home." That confirms Dee, Julie, Austin and Drew kept J. Maya out of the loop. She doesn't know Austin found the Reba Idol.
Julie: "If we boot Sifu, we'll lose the next challenge." News flash, Julie: you're gonna lose the next challenge no matter who you vote out. You should set up Sean as the next boot now.
Dee: "Sifu first, then Sean, then merge." Several players seem to be planning on a 13-person merge. But Julie thinks they've got a chance to win the next challenge? She needs a reality check.
If I'm Sean, I'm playing like I'm on board with the women, but I'm looking for an Idol.
Watching Sifu's confessional, I understand why nobody trusts him.
Sean: "I don't want to go to Tribal Council every time." Denise won in Philippines after going to every Tribal Council. Its definitely possible.
I like Dee's position. The vote is going where she wants it, but she's not pushing too hard. She's letting J. Maya think she's guiding things. That might make it easier for Dee to remove J. Maya later. Austin and Drew already knew the women wanted Sifu gone, so the women won't surprise or alienate their original tribemates.
I think Sifu is buying Dee's argument. If he does, that means Dee is a good liar.
Sean's speech about his Mormon background is touching, but I still think Sifu is leaving.
Wait, Sean is quitting too? In my book, asking to be voted out is the same as quitting. Probst looks absolutely stunned.
Probst: "You're engineering a quit." I don't know if I like knowing I'm agreeing with Probst.
Sean wants to spend every possible moment with his husband? Doesn't he know he's gonna be stuck on the Ponderosa until at least day 26 no matter what? He might as well stay in the game and make some extra money to take home.
Is it me, or does the pen in the voting booth look just like Sabiyah's Idol?
So Sean voted for Dee. I wonder if his reasoning was the same as Rita's in Fiji when she voted for Earl? She wanted to waste her vote on the one person she knew wasn't gonna leave because she knew Sylva was leaving. Rita wanted to keep the promise she made to Sylvia to never vote for her. Did Sean promise Sifu he wouldn't vote for him? Rita ruined Earl's "perfect" season. Aside from their unanimous Jury votes, nobody else wrote down Earl's name all season.
And Dee voted for Sifu. We saw her mouthing Sifu's name, and Julie acknowledging it. But we don't know if J. Maya saw it. Sifu didn't initially know who voted for him, so its safe to say he didn't see it.
Julie's voting confessional is the first one we've seen this season, and it brings up the most questions. She said she got a last-minute audible to vote for Sifu, so did Julie betray Dee? If so, why? Was Julie setting Dee up to face Sifu's wrath? If that's her reason, I don't understand it. She seemed very close to Dee, so why throw that trust away? There's also the possibility that Sifu will think Julie voted for him. This move makes no sense to me. Does Julie seriously think they'll win the next challenge? Even if they do win, her move here just divided the tribe.
When Hannah quit, I wrote "I hate quitters," then regretted it, saying I should have said "I hate how quits affect the game." Having two people leave the game this way puts another bad taste in my mouth. At least we got to see people voting this time.
Dee's social game is gonna be tested now. She's been pretty good at covering her tracks so far. I'll be very impressed if she gets out of this one unscathed.
What do you think? Did this vote just guarantee the present Reba members will enter the merge splintered? Does this drive a wedge between Dee and Julie? Dee has to know Julie isn't dependable now, so she'll need a new long-term partner. Does the Survivor Casting Dept. have to change the way they screen their players now? What if anything can they do to attract players more willing to tough it out? Let me know in the comments.