I'm enjoying this season more than recent seasons, but the cloud of the two quits will hang over it forever. It's entirely possible these two departures will have an effect on how the eventual winner makes it to the end. And if that happens, how that winner is perceived by the audience could be negatively affected too.
One prime example is Fabio's win in Nicaragua. NaOnka and Purple Kelly both quit after 27 days. They both served on the Jury, and both voted for Fabio to win. Most players had been keeping Fabio around because he was harmless and easy to fool. Some were planning on discarding him when the two women quit. Fabio's late Immunity wins got him to the finals where he won by one vote 5-4. Both of the quitters voted for Fabio. This is the most clear case of quitters affecting who wins. It was so clear, Survivor changed its rules to prevent anyone who quits from serving on the jury.
The first season that saw multiple quitters was Survivor: All-Stars. Jenna Morasca and Sue Hawk both opted out. Sue's original six-person tribe included eventual finalists Boston Rob and Amber. There were five people on Sue's tribe when she quit. Who knows who would have been voted out had they lost Immunity, but the already-obvious duo of Rob and Amber would have been in trouble if Tom, Sue and Alicia decided to break them up. With Sue leaving, this spared Rob and Amber some scrambling, and also brought Tom closer to them both, mostly out of necessity.
I don't think any winner benefited from quitters more than Parvati Shallow in Micronesia. The experienced Favorites had a natural advantage over that season's rookies, several of whom had no idea what they'd gotten themselves into. But before she even sat in the same camp with the fans, Jonny Fairplay asked to be voted out. We later found out Danny Bonaduce flipped Fairplay over his shoulder, and Fairplay landed on his face. He hadn't fully recovered, and needed his painkillers, but left claiming he needed to be with his pregnant girlfriend. Parvati hadn't yet solidified a majority alliance, and Penner had taken dead aim at her. After a swap, Fans Chet Welch and Kathy Sleckman realized how overmatched they were. Chet mentally checked out, then physically caused an Immunity loss. Then he passed on Ami's plan to blindside Ozzy because he wanted out. Then Kathy Sleckman quit for a variety of reasons. Their departures, plus two medevacs (Penner and James) spared Parvati five trips to Tribal Council, not to mention that Ozzy was around to protect Parvati at the merge vote. Who knows if she'd have been voted out at any point, but her post-merge position might not have been as strong under different circumstances, especially if Ozzy leaves pre-merge.
It's too early to tell how Hannah and Sean's quits will affect how this season's winner gets to the end, but without a doubt, Emily and Sifu were both saved by the quitters. If either of them win, they'll have an asterisk-shaped thought bubble hovering over them, saying "You only stayed because someone quit." And it seems certain one of them will serve on the Jury. Because of Sean's quit, Sifu knows someone voted for him. If he finds out it was Dee, then refuses to give his jury vote to her because of it, Dee's loss could be forever connected to Sean's quit.
But I'm getting way ahead of myself. Dee still has a fair chance to do damage control, which is of course part of the game. If she's as smooth as Cirie, Sifu could be convinced Dee did him a favor, and become her partner. Under no circumstances should Dee come clean to Sifu. Dee is in a much better position if Sifu thinks someone else voted for him.
And away we go ...
The "Previously on" is all about the Reba Idol and Dee's vote for Sifu. Gee, I wonder what we're gonna see tonight? I say Reba is going to Tribal Council.
Sifu: "My name coming up was a surprise." Julie blows her cover by saying "I'm not ready to talk about it." Damn, the tension is thick here, but I wanna see how Dee handles Julie. I want to see the "Why didn't you vote for Sifu?" question.
Julie tries to pass it off as Sean's vote, but Sifu knows the truth from Sean. The quit has immediate blowback on all three women.
Wait, why is Julie worried about Sifu playing an Idol? She already knows Austin has the Reba Idol.
Dee: "I voted Sean." That's my story and I'm sticking to it. And it looks like Sifu is buying it! All three women are using that plausible deniability angle. Dee is smart to keep her mouth shut about the truth. Nothing good will come from being honest here. She's got to cover her tracks.
Kendra found a worm. I wonder if she considered splitting it 5 ways? She tries to down it, then spits it out. I wonder if she considered offering her saliva covered worm to the others like Neleh did with her mint in Marquesas?
Drew on Kendra's entertaining personality: "Its nice to have that presence in camp." Kendra doesn't know it, but she's created a reason to keep her around.
And now we're getting stomach drumming from Jake. Yeah, Reba is going to tribal. The tribe with the lighthearted goofy content is usually safe.
Jake is down again, and this time he didn't inhale a ton of smoke. He's a medevac waiting to happen. Guess who's sitting out the Reward Challenge?
Uh-oh, Jake is getting his personal story segment. In old school Survivor, this would guarantee he's a goner very soon. But I think the editors have gotten much better at fooling the audience lately. My thought is he gets taken out in the final 4 fire challenge in heartbreaking fashion like Jesse a couple of seasons ago. That would really suck if he loses to Emily or Sifu, who should have been gone already.
Jake: "If I'm going out, I'm going out fighting, not falling." Yeah, that says he loses at fire to me.
So Katurah walked off alone, and returned to an empty shelter? That violates a basic rule to me. Always stay physically close to a majority. She should have taken at least two people with her to look for crabs. If they're not talking to you, they're probably talking about you.
Katurah gets caught Idol hunting. Kellie is smart for not calling her out at that moment. It's better to turn the tribe against her first, like Sandra turned everyone against Russell in Heroes vs Villains.
And that's exactly what Kellie does as soon as Katurah leaves. But I like how Kaleb used this moment to earn trust from Katurah.
Kaleb: "I think Kellie is the best player on this tribe." I agree with you, but that also means she's better than you are. Does Kaleb know how many people think he's too smooth to trust very long?
J.Maya: "Sean told Sifu he didn't vote for him." Dee: "What does that do to us?" Dee must have read the intro to this column.
I still want to know why J.Maya voted for Sean too.
Sifu adds his name to the list of phony Idol makers. But then out of the blue, he tells Dee and Julie "I'm not worried 'cause I have an Idol." Will Dee's BS meter see through it?
Kendra is digging in. Is this an editor's hint that she's not winning?
Brando and Drew bond over Pokémon. Which one is Carson and which one is Kane? Who knows, but Emily looks like Alec in David vs Goliath when Christian babbled on endlessly during a challenge.
Yo Napoleon, its a bad move to shut Brando down when he pitches an alliance. Just as Brando says in his confessional, if you don't want to work with me, you're telling me to work against you.
Everybody still wants Emily. Will she be smart enough to tell everyone "yes"? Will she be smart enough to start making a plan for damage control when she betrays one of the pairs? If she is, she'll have the element of surprise on her side.
Day 10, and no Reward Challenge yet. I'm not missing it. I'm loving seeing how these relationships are developing.
Bruce's social game is really bad, and Kaleb knows it. If three people want to save the papaya for later, save it for later. But Katurah should also realize the more annoying Bruce is, the more people are gonna realize how easy he'll be to beat in the end.
J.Maya: "I'm gonna make myself the decoy." Outside, Dee is stone-faced. Inside, she's jumping for joy. J.Maya clearly hasn't seen Ciera Eastin playing Survivor.
Dee to Julie: "I know we want to get his Idol out." Hmm ... was she talking about Austin? They both know he has a real Idol. Could she be talking about the Idol Sifu bluffed that he has? Julie seems to think she was talking about Sifu. I'm confused here.
Wait, now Julie thinks sending Sifu home is a good idea??? Why wasn't she thinking this at the last Tribal Council? You know, right after Dee mouthed "Vote Sifu?"
Bruce, J.Maya, Drew and Julie all just provided great examples of what NOT to do while playing Survivor.
We've seen all of these elements in Immunity Challenges before.
Once again, Probst straight out lies and says Sean was voted out. But it's a combined Immunity/Reward challenge. I'm ashamed of myself for not seeing this coming.
After the way Jake passed out, I might have let him sit this one out. Kellie is small, but she's scrappy. I think she could handle that sling shot.
Probst: "There goes Kaleb extending his lead." Kaleb is just asking to be voted out as an Immunity threat.
This is actually a close challenge. We rarely get a shot of all 3 tribes during a challenge.
Since every player has to hit a target, this challenge has 1 spotlight role - freeing the sandbags. Julie, Drew and Jake stick their necks out this time, but none of them will take a turn on the slingshot.
Drew releases the sandbags, but stops to rest instead of helping put them in the bin.
Reba wins Immunity. I'm glad I don't make predictions.
Austin missed a lot of shots, then he swapped out for Kendra. It makes me wonder if he was sandbagging, knowing they were too far behind to win? I doubt it, but this column is about my spontaneous thoughts, so there you have it. Failing in a challenge this close to a merge is not a bad idea.
J.Maya: "We're sending Austin because we want him to give us information." Once again, J.Maya shows us what NOT to do in Survivor. She just exposed an alliance, even though he's not aligned with her. She provided a reason for everyone to be suspicious of an Austin/J.Maya connection. Then again, if it was Dee's idea, and she simply convinced J.Maya to deliver the message, that could work out well for Dee.
I don't like Brando's offer to give Drew his Shot in the Dark. That should set off an alarm in Drew's head.
Drew: "My suspicions are raised." Ok, at least Drew read my column. Maybe I'll stop calling him Napoleon Dynamite.
And Emily immediately tells Brando that Drew spilled the info about wanting Kendra out, and she's suspicious? There goes the element of surprise.
Then Emily gives the same info to Kendra? Emily is too blunt and honest for her own good.
Why does Emily keep calling him "Brendo?" Hey look! There's the rock Matthew fell off last season.
Kendra seems to be losing it. She's got no poker face at all.
Ahh, the Amulets angle again. I liked this the first time they were used.
Austin wants a sandwich, which is an easy decision since he already has an Idol, and access to two more Advantages. But he can be outvoted here too.
Kellie is a little screwed. No matter what she chooses, someone is gonna be angry at her. Why would Austin want to work with her if she denies him food? And why would J.Maya want to work with her if Kellie denies her an Advantage? Austin was smart for speaking up first. I think the safest move is to take the food. That way, Kellie will know neither J.Maya or Austin has an Advantage. Also, it's doubtful Austin will be voted out. She might not have to do damage control if J.Maya leaves tonight.
Austin lets Kellie off the hook by caving in. But he's smart for realizing he's got to get rid of one or both of them.
Emily shows Drew she's not on board with the original plan. Emily has identified herself as an indecisive swing vote, and she said she thinks he lied to her. Should Drew consider removing Emily instead? That worked very well for Rob C. in The Amazon when he blindsided Christy. What does Emily gain by telling Drew she thinks he's lying to her?
Emily: "I don't know who has my best interest at heart." Nobody does! They have THEIR best interest at heart. This is why I said a few paragraphs ago you should come up with a damage control plan! Enter Tribal Council with both pairs 100% confident you're with them. That way YOU control the vote. But by showing them you're being iffy, the pair you side with will know how close they came to losing your support. Nobody wants an indecisive partner. Emily just enhanced a reason NOT to keep her in your alliance.
I have no idea who's leaving, and I love it. Well, I know Austin isn't leaving.
Brando is coming on too strong. "Here's why I'm so valuable" is more likely to backfire.
Emily: "Survivor is about survival." Thanks for that revelation, Emily.
Both Drew and Brando had a bad night at Tribal Council.
Austin burns the Goodwill Advantage. Smart move. You had to have a vote tonight.
Kendra is justifiably in shock. And since Emily sat out of this Immunity Challenge, she has to participate in the next challenge. If that one is for Immunity, Kendra could be in big trouble. Austin, Drew and Emily can simply throw the challenge and vote Kendra out next week. Emily just betrayed Kendra, so she has extra incentive to remove Kendra. Doing that will prevent a revenge move from Kendra. But I bet Emily wasn't thinking about that when she decided to remove Brando. And of course, Drew knows Kendra just wrote down his name.
Oh, next week is the merge? Disregard the previous paragraph, except the part about how Drew and Emily should target Kendra.
I thought Brando had been playing the middle fairly well on original Belo, but I wasn't sure if he was thinking on his own, or merely following Kellie's lead. The way he stumbled after the Immunity loss gave me my answer. It was a terrible move to immediately serve up Kendra. It just didn't ring sincere, and backfired. I often preach subtlety as part of your strategy. Brandon didn't have any of it.
I continue to be impressed with Dee's game. She didn't expose her vote for Sifu, and by keeping her mouth shut, she maintains the possibility he'll work for her.
But I was very unimpressed with J.Maya. NEVER serve up your own name as a decoy vote. She simultaneously made Sifu upset with her, and let Dee and Julie off the hook. What was she thinking?
Next week's merge will be interesting. We've got all six Reba members, but they're not unified at all. Dee was contemplating blindsiding J.Maya, and Julie betrayed Dee at the Sean quit. Sifu doesn't trust anybody, but he doesn't have an alliance either. Austin wants the Amulets gone, so he may push to boot Kellie or J.Maya. We have five Belo members. Bruce seems the least connected, but he's closer to a finals goat than an immediate threat. Kendra can't trust Austin, Drew or Emily, but she's back with Kellie and Jake. Then there's the last two Lulu, Emily and Kaleb. Just like at the swap, everyone will likely be recruiting them. They were pretty close pre-swap, so they might get to decide where the first vote goes.
In recent seasons, the merge vote has gone against the person most players suspect is unarmed. This season, the likely candidates are anyone who hasn't taken a Journey yet. Some of them are safe for various reasons, so to me the most vulnerable are Dee, Julie, Jake, Kendra, Katurah and Sifu.
Then again, one of the Advantage notes said it was good "until everyone is on the same beach." It didn't say the word "merge." I suspect some shenanigans or tomfoolery could be at play. As Tarzan from One World would say "The game is afoot."
What do you think? Who did the most damage to their game this week? Who is most likely to leave at next week's vote? Is Emily's blunt honesty actually a weapon working in her favor? What is Sifu's best move? Will there really be a merge? Let me know in the comments.