With the fall of Arun, who at point had seemed one of the top contenders for the late game, following Josh, JT, and Dylan out the door circa-merge, we're starting to have a San Juan del Sur-type situation on our hands here. Obviously someone has to emerge from the scrum and Natalie Anderson this thing eventually, right? So who will it be?
Pros: Lisa has taken a Natalie A.-like uptick in the edit during the past two episodes, and just this episode articulated almost word-for-word the same drive to make her game more visible to the jury that we hoped for last week. She clearly knows what she's doing, and seems pretty well situated now that the target generated by the vote steal advantage has been removed. She's made a big move, she has plenty of allies, and she's surrounded by physical targets like Dave, Brad, and Matt. If her ideal final three is herself with Tess and Tara, she'd have to be the favorite to win, and would clearly be the Natalie of that trio.
Cons: The one worry for Lisa's game is the lingering memories of last season, where the Nicaragua jury viscerally shredded Barb's strategic gameplay. (Arun would probably have faced much the same problem.) So far, everyone still seems to like and respect Lisa, she hasn't done anything particularly nefarious. How far can Lisa push "big moves" without crossing some nebulous "too far" line that NZ jurors find offensive? Does the perceived jury bias against older women from US Survivor extend to Survivor NZ as well? So far, Lisa seems to have had a good read on everything this season. (She is, after all, a librarian.) Let's hope that keeps up.
Pros: Matt is also well situated ally-wise, with potential connections to the Chanis through Dave (although that's now just Dave and Eve). He had a humanizing moment at the immunity challenge, tearing up over his partner, Jayde. Everyone seems to like him. He's also smart and a longtime fan of the show, so while we haven't seen much strategic gameplay from him yet, there's every reason to think he's capable. As an affable, athletic young guy, he's also the kind of person juries love to vote for. (He's the Wendell of this cast.)
Cons: Matt faces one huge obstacle: He's too good in challenges. Through two individual challenges thus far, he has a win (this episode) and an almost-win (the opening RC that Jose won). He was a key performer in all the swimming challenges for Khang Khaw. If there's any endurance- or balance-type challenge, as has become standard for post-merge US Survivor immunity challenges, his body type will be perfect for that. With nine people left, there should be six more immunity challenges. Could Matt actually run the table on them? Maybe, but being the odds-on favorite to win every one is not the same as actually doing so. It's a tall order. And an NZ jury just turned its nose up at Tom doing the same last season.
Pros: Renee's presence in the edit took a huge step forward this episode. She gave a rational, rootable explanation for wanting to stop being just a number for Arun and Dave, and to become an active participant in the game alongside Adam. She actually followed through on this threat too, voting against Arun in the first post-merge Tribal. This fits with her never really being shown as part of the core Chani alliance in the beginning, so as a now almost independent player, Renee has a lot of room to maneuver, and play the game hard.
Cons: Which potential jurors would vote for Renee, though? In aligning with Adam, she's taking control of her own destiny, sure, but thus far, she's more likely to now end up being seen as Adam's pawn. Adam told the stories about Arun and Dave's cruel tyranny at new Chani, not Renee, so he'll earn more jury respect for this move from his fellow original Khang Khaws than would Renee. Arun himself (in exit interviews) gives the thumbs-up to Renee's move, so she won't be completely shunned for this flip, as Cochran was in South Pacific, and Arun might even give her his jury vote. On the other hand, Dave and Eve seem less likely to be forgiving of this betrayal. Still, with further moves, Renee could catapult herself into contention as the big move maker of the season, and could have a shot at the win.
Pros: It was a relief to see the switch flip this episode, turning pre-merge Adam, whose role was mainly being a dick to Dylan for what seemed like purely personal reasons, into post-merge Adam, who made his mark by telling devious lies about Arun and Dave to his old Khang Khaw mates for solidly strategic reasons. Sneaky, sneaky. In addition to getting a firsthand view of Adam's underhandedness, we also saw him praise his own social game. That might seem like typical over-the-top Adam fare, but a lot of people really do seem to get along well with him. He had pre-merge Chani in stitches this episode (despite his claims to the contrary), and Renee in particular clearly enjoys hanging out with him. Plus, of course, he and Tess have an unbreakable bond. He's not an obvious challenge threat, so he seems pretty safe for at least the immediate short term.
Cons: The problem with Adam's game is potentially two-fold. First, at some point, people are going to compare notes, and realize he was wholesale lying about his and Matt's time on new Chani. While someone like Arun might tip his cap to Adam for playing the game this hard, the more straight-up, drama-free players like Dave and Eve are going to be livid, and/or outraged. Secondly, if the true extent of Adam's manipulation doesn't emerge until he's facing the jury, that will probably be received about as well as Russell Hantz in Heroes vs. Villains (i.e. not well at all). Adam made impressive plays this episode, but he needs time for them both to become known, and for potential jurors to process and come to terms with them. That seems like unlikely to work out.
Pros: Dave has been a key narrator all season, so he can't be completely ruled out as a contender. He does have an idol, which could win some jury respect, if he plays it correctly. If he was a finalist against two original Khang Khaws, he'd likely have guaranteed votes from Arun and Eve, leaving him just two votes short of victory.
Cons: If you had to pick one of Matt or Dave to win, it would have to be Matt. He has better connections with everyone, he knows the game more thoroughly, and he's been a beast in challenges. Dave, comparatively, has... well, almost no allies (except Matt), and has generally been a poor performer in challenges, despite being perceived as some kind of beast-in-waiting. All of this fits with Dave's only real role in the merge episode being as comic relief, through his overeating at the merge feast, rather than as a key strategic move-maker. Chances are, he'll play his idol the next episode, then leave the following week.
- Tess has been a big character, but like Adam, not always in the most positive light. Apart from Adam, we haven't really had any indication about how her tribemates see her, apart from Lisa's Ep1 feeling that Tess was being disingenuous in claiming never to have watched Survivor. Tess's approach at the merge—seeing her reunion with original Khang Khaws as a return to safety—doesn't seem like a winning one. Instead of being a "the merge is where the game really starts" type of player (like Lisa), Tess seems to be shutting hers down. Wrapping itself up like a burrito, you might say. Although she did tear through those chocolate bars in record time, probably.
- Eve has seemed isolated since JT's departure, and instead of this episode being filled with scenes of her racing to reconnect with Arun, Dave, and Renee, the bulk of her post-merge content involved fetching the treemail for the post-RC in-camp reward (alone), then filling it out. Also, Tess complained that Eve was unwilling to work with any of the Khang Khaws, and was like a brick wall. (Unlike Adam's tales of woe, we're guessing Tess wasn't making stuff up here.) So... that doesn't seem like a great sign for Eve's chances of winning.
- Brad had a fun episode with his slingshot foibles, but he didn't come away looking like an obvious winner. Perhaps it's conservation of Brad: He is to slingshots as Culpepper is to numbers. Every season needs a big guy named Brad who probably won't win. He does have an idol, which we haven't heard about in a while. If Arun was the obvious post-merge Chani leader target, Brad is his equally obvious post-merge Khang Khaw counterpart. Like Dave, Brad probably doesn't have too many moves left except playing his idol.
- Tara really hasn't had much of a story the entire season. She's happy to serve as Khang Khaw's camp mum, she felt bad about losing at the Outpost, and... that's it. On the one hand, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to vote her out. On the other hand, it's difficult to see her reaching the finals and having any other outcome than a losing finalist.
Least effective secret alliance ever?
After all the buildup in the early episodes, Matt and Dave have now been on a tribe together for 12 days—half the season! In that time, they've attended three Tribal Councils, and have voted together exactly... once. And that time was the Dylan blindside, where everyone on their tribe not named Dylan was in on the plan. As such, they don't seem to be any closer to trusting each other than they were after the Josh blindside, and with Dave being the obvious next Chani on the chopping block, it's possible that if he somehow misplays his idol, he could join the jury as soon as the next episode.
If that's how it all ends, has there even been a secret alliance that's turned out less robust than this one? Save, perhaps, the massively over-hyped cross-tribal alliance in Tocantins? Even Patrick and Ali in HvHvH voted together at their first Tribal.
So let's hope that's not how it ends, after so much narrative emphasis has been placed on this storyline. Dave does have an idol, after all. Matt did state that he would look out for Dave, and would let him know when he was in trouble. So if Matt tips off Dave to play an idol, that will be a signficant trust-building measure. Of course, that would require Dave to tell Matt about the idol first, which hasn't happened yet. Or, as Ryan Brink & AK Knight speculated this week, the Khang Khaws could just split their votes again, Dave could play his idol for himself, and someone like Eve could get the boot instead, producing zero trust between Matt and Dave.
(Note: It's a good thing Dave didn't take Matt's promises that Dave was not in danger literally, and go off and heroically play his idol for Arun last episode, because that would have sent Dave home instead, due to the vote split. Almost-whoops.)
This episode, the eighth of the season, started on Day 22 (when the merge took place), and ended on Day 24, with Arun's boot. Unless it was Days 21-23. Or perhaps Days 21-24.
Why the confusion? Because the timestamps (above) in the past few episodes have conflicted with the statements Matt Chisholm has made at challenges and Tribal. That makes trying to fill out the calendar... confusing. For example, according to the timestamps, Episode 7 (last week) began on "Day 19." With a reward challenge that day, an Outpost visit the next (Day 20), and an IC/Tribal the following day, that would put Dylan's boot on Day 21, according to the timestamps. Easy, right?
Wrong. When #KiwiJeff greeted his Chani visitors at Tribal Council, he said it was "Day 20, halfway through the game." Matt's statement made sense, because the Thailand season had been on a fairly rigorous streak of one challenge (or Outpost) every day. Episode 5, which contained the swap, was only two days, because there was no Outpost that episode. That put the season one day behind the three days-per-episode schedule. Which was fine, and made sense, if you just ignored the date stamps.
So when this episode opened and claimed to be on "Day 22" (which would leave a mysterious one-day gap between Chisholm's announcement at Tribal and the start of this episode), that could be chalked up to being just another erroneous timestamp. Except that, after the RC/merge day (21), reward in camp day (22), and IC/Tribal day (23), Matt's first words at Tribal Council were... "Day 24." Sigh.
For a possible explanation for the differing timelines starting around the swap episode, Kerry Harvey at Stuff.co.nz published a story this week about the medical team that worked the Thailand season. In it, they mention Tess had a "day of rest the next day" after her head injury in the Ep5 RC. If that's the case, there must have been three days in Episode 5, because Tess competed in the IC. Even though Matt's "Day 20" announcement at Tribal in Ep7 matched up with Ep5 being two days. But it would at least sync up the timestamps and Matt's Ep8 Tribal announcement ("Day 24").
In that light, Tess's day of rest has been officially recorded in the calendar, and we've reverted to every episode spanning three days thus far. So good news, Liam, JT, and Dylan: You've each added another day to your Survivor experience through the magic of recalculation. Woo-hoo!
Thank you for your kind thoughts in this time of calendrical crisis.
Jeff Pitman is a New Zealand expat, is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, you can do so on twitter: @truedorktimes
Here's Renee, who is on the black-and-white tribe, apparently
Fixed it, now she's on Chani, which, as everyone remembers, wears navy blue buffs.
Or maybe it's purple. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Actually, yeah. That buff does seem familiar.
Where's my burrito? Where's my burrito? D'oh!
Brad later frees Cha and Ni. Foreshadowing?
"It was hideous over there, the energy's disgusting!"
I'll let you go first, Matt. I'm an expert.
Well, at least he didn't hit the other team's target.
Congrats for winning, Khang Khaw, your prize is new buffs for everyone! Also you get to chose "Phsan" as your name. Win-win!
Lisa is so excited by this magnificent prize that she changed her buff color back to yellow.
Welcome to the merge camp, Dave and Arun! We won't waste the shady seats on you, because you won't be here long.
This week's accuracy in subtitling award goes to...
We have some bad news about how the jury vote works, Adam.
The merge feast was so nutritious, Tara grew an extra meter.
Oh great. Some sort of Thai witchcraft has turned half the contestants into objects. Oh well, better odds for Adam now.
Dave and Arun, scrambling hard.
Who's ready for an IC previously won by such physical powerhouses as Susie Smith and Jerri Manthey?
Adam, hoping everyone else's towers collapse at exactly the last second.
Maybe it's not such a bad plan after all.
Matt, copying off of Adam (also Tina Wesson)
Victory is... not Lisa's
Yay, shiny new giant necklace
Whoops, looks like the buff-o-matic stopped working mid-way through here
Dave and Matt. Totally on the same page.
Ugh. That seems like work.
Hooray, cave time.
Cave? You don't mean that in the sense of just rolling over and not scrambling, right? Or whatever.
I would like to not Fishbach this up, so I'm stealing Arun's vote
Dear contestants: Please consult Lisa for correct spellings
Other NZ: Thailand Episode 8 recaps and analysis
Exit interviews - Arun Bola