With just the Survivor SA: Immunity Island finale left to go, the field of possible winners narrowed considerably this week as idol wizard Tyson left in fourth place, and the announcement (at Tribal Council, on Day 37) that there would be one more immunity challenge for some reason surprised everyone.
This, of course, came after victory in just one challenge gave Chappies not only immunity, free food, and an in-depth conversation/mentoring session with Anesu at Immunity Island about the jury's current feelings towards the (then-) four remaining players ... he also got the additional bonus of removing the juror of his choice.
That juror removal would pop up this season was not especially surprising — there was a lot of space to fill, what with having to make two episodes from the four days left in the game. So the Kaoh Rong approach of throwing in an extra reward challenge to do this seemed like a distinct possibility. What was shocking was that Survivor SA dispensed with the whole running an extra reward challenge part, and just tacked juror removal on to Chappies' other, already sizeable winnings.
On the one hand, it's fine. It's Chappies, he's fun, and he would have won another challenge anyway. On the other hand, it's troubling that this massive advantage was not announced to any of the contestants ahead of time. The breakfast and juror discussion was, sure, as was the sponsor, extensively (FutureLife). So why not the extra reward?
It's weird, it's overpowered, but apparently it's kosher. At least the surprise "pick your two opponents in the IC" reward in the loved ones episode was something the contestants should have anticipated, because Nico never went through his "what you're playing for" spiel before the challenge. Here, in contrast, there was an extremely detailed description of everything *except* the juror removal advantage. So why would anyone expect it?
In an era of excessive, superfluous, potentially game-breaking advantages and twists in other franchises (AU: Brains v Brawn, Island of the Idols, Winners at War, and by all appearances, Survivor 41), Survivor SA *had* been a shining beacon of production restraint and transparency. This move was the opposite of that. On balance, Survivor SA is still head and shoulders above the competition, but this was a step in the wrong direction.
Still, in the grand scheme of things, it's probably fine. Again, if they had run a separate reward challenge for this, Chappies probably would have won that, too. It's possible they had a challenge ready to go, there was some technical snafu, and they couldn't run it, so they just made the RC an RC/IC, and called it a day. These things happen.
Still, whatever was going on behind the scenes here, the problem is pretty obvious: secret rewards, especially ones this important, give the appearance of favoritism, and make the audience feel like the game could be rigged. Which is a misstep on a season that has otherwise been so open and transparent.
Just tell the contestants what they're *actually* playing for, guys. Even if Nico had simply said "plus an extra surprise will be waiting for you" or something, that would have been far better than tossing an envelope containing an incredibly overpowered bonus, one nobody had any reason to expect, on to the reward table.
Full disclosure! It shouldn't be that hard.
(To be fair: We can't rule out that Nico actually did announce the juror removal, but it was cut, because it would detract from FutureLife's product placement, or something. I don't know! But the audience should at least be as informed as the players on this sort of thing.)
Chappies and his historic challenge win streak
We shouldn't let a poor production decision distract us from the good news of this episode: Chappies is on a historic challenge-winning run. Let us count the ways ...
1. Most total individual immunity wins. After spotting Kiran the first two wins, Chappies has now won five individual immunities. That ties the highest US Survivor total for a single season, held by Ozzy Lusth (Cook Islands), Terry Deitz (Panama), Colby Donaldson (The Australian Outback), Tom Westman (Palau), Mike Holloway (Worlds Apart), and Brad Culpepper (Game Changers). (Note the order is from fewest to most total ICs, with Ozzy at 5/6 and Brad at 5/10 ... Chappies has competed in 8 ICs, the same as Colby and Tom.) According to TNO's count, he's also tied for the most Survivor SA immunity wins as well, with Ashley Hayden from season 3*. And as Nico stated at Tribal, Chappies will have one more shot to break that record, at the final IC ("Hand on a Hard Idol," above). *Update: And as corrected by Leroux himself, Chappies is also tied with Rob Bentele in SA: Island of Secrets, who won 5 ICs/6 total challenges. (Thanks to Logan Saunders for the alert on that.)
For SurvivorNZ, Tom Paterson won 5 in NZ: Nicaragua (5/9). Brooke Jowett won 6 ICs in AU: All-Stars, which is the highest total in SurvivorAU history, and appears to be the international high-water mark. This was accomplished in 10 total ICs, which is more appearances than anyone listed above except Brad, as are almost all the rest of the leaderboard (at least the pre-2021 entries): Emmett Pugh in BvB (5**/7), Hayley Leake in BvB (5/13), Andrew Ucles in BvB (4**/8), Brian Lake in CvC1 (4/11), Sharn Coombes in CvC1 (4/11), and Luke Toki in CvC2 (4/10). SurvivorAU just does everything more, and it's hard to cross-compare with US and SA because of that. (**Emmett and Andrew also each won three (!) ICs that had more than one winner, which really dilutes the accomplishment. Only one of Hayley's wins came from those. Sigh, Survivor AU.)
2. Longest individual challenge win streak. Streaks are more labor-intensive to track than simple win totals, so we could be missing someone here. But at the least, Chappies appears to have already secured the record for longest overall individual challenge win streak, with 7, dating back to the Ep11 IC, where just he and Nicole competed, while everyone else ate spaghetti bolognese. That's a lot of challenges, and appears to far ahead of the international competition.
In US Survivor, the longest streak is just 5 individual challenges: Kelly Wiglesworth in Borneo, Ozzy in CI, and Bob Crowley in Gabon. In Survivor AU, the longest streak appears to be Emmett again, with just 4. The prior record in Survivor SA appears to have been Rob Bentele's season-closing 4, last season. So Chappies has a chance to double that!
3. Longest immunity win streak. This is the more important streak, because it's been Chappies' #1 means of keeping himself in the game. Heading into the finale, Chappies is at 5 consecutive imumunity wins. He almost certainly *needs* to extend that in order to stay in the game. It's possible he's been banking on the Chappies Diner being irritating enough to his tribemates that they'll keep him around as a finals goat, and that's a fine Plan B, but it's definitely a risky one. Still, given what Anesu told Chappies about the jury's feelings, he might be able to convince Nicole he is that, and get there with her.
In US Survivor, Chappies' five straight IC wins are matched by just two people, Colby in S2 and Terry in Panama. For AU, Emmett's asterisk-laden 4 is the record. Rob's 3 in Immunity Island are the next-highest SA totals.
Can Nicole or Anela win?
Of course! But they probably have to outlast Chappies in the final immunity challenge to do so. In a final two season, Chappies finishing the game on a streak of 8 challenge / 6 immunity wins will both be a demonstration of physical prowess AND an argument against everyone else's strategy, because unless they can spin some claim they intended to face Chappies, it's clear their Plan A for getting to the end failed.
But if it is an Anela vs. Nicole final, it might actually be closer than Anesu thought. Nicole's game lacks deception, but that's a clear distinction from Anela, whom Chappies described as the biggest flip-flopper in the game. Anesu diagnosed this gameplay as making moves out of fear, which doesn't seem like a ringing endorsement. Nicole in constrast comes across as sincere, friendly, and loyal.
Nicole vs. Anela also would potentially test the loyalty of the original Zamba voters on the jury. Nicole has some close friends on the jury, especially Marisha, possibly also Amy and Renier. Anela, meanwhile, burned his closest friends, Kiran and Tyson. He also was heavily implied to "owe a debt" to his original Zamba tribemates (Renier and Marisha), when they sent him to Immunity Island in back-to-back episodes after the second swap. Renier and Amy may hold some resentment that when they were sent to the jury by the Tied Destinies twist, Anela received a free pass due to Nicole endurance challenge prowess. (Then again, they may still be mad at Nicole for picking them for the waterpark trip.)
The most likely outcome is still probably that Chappies just wins out. The "Hand on a Hard Idol" challenge is endurance, of course, but it's not one with a bias against larger people, the way "Get a Grip" is, and it doesn't require much in the way of balance, as the two challenges Nicole won did. It's just focus and endurance. Even if he does fall one challenge short, though, Anela vs. Nicole will at least be an interesting question for the jury.
- Finally getting it done: Even though it failed, it was good to see Tyson set aside his strong personal dislike of Chappies and try to convince him to work together. As heartwarming as the Tyson-Kiran connection was, as the game went on, Tyson seemed content to let Kiran do most of the outreach to other players. Had they reached the final two together as planned, that would have worked strongly against Tyson with the jury. It's a definite struggle for introverts (as both Tyson and Kiran say Tyson is) to build even fake relationships with people they don't like. Day 37 was obviously too late for Tyson to start working with Chappies, but at least he gave it a shot.
Jeff Pitman 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, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes