There were two major themes in Episode 4 of Survivor SA: Immunity Island. The first was a (perhaps imaginary?) division in the Zamba tribe along gender lines, which we'll explore in more depth below. The bigger and most surprising theme, however, was a broad study of the consequences — or more accurately, the lack thereof — for telling lies in the game. As Carla says, the most important form of trust in the game is sticking to your word when you vote. Every other fib this episode, large or small, was highlighted for maximum dramatic effect, but largely went unpunished.
The most visible example was also the one that seemed most likely to affect the outcome at Tribal Council. Carla took a big swing at Immunity Island, deciding to Give Up and Go. In doing so, she gave up a guaranteed personal immunity, just in case her vote was needed to thwart a vote split. As we later learn, she and Wardah had promised each other beforehand that if either was sent to I.I., they would do this. (It's less clear why she declined to give the necklace to Wardah, but having both Carla and Wardah vulnerable encourages a vote split, so it does make some sense.)
So Carla stuck to her word, but also tried to conceal this move when she returned to camp. Everyone could tell she'd chosen the Give Up and Go option, because she returned to camp almost immediately, rather than rejoining them at Tribal. She concocted a story that her Immunity Island necklace was still valid *and* she'd kept her vote, because she opted to give up a (non-existent) feast there. Having both been there before, Santoni and Amy knew immediately that this was untrue, but didn't let on. (Well, Amy winked at her.)
Chappies, however, had Santoni's Ep2 note from I.I. in his pocket, and *also* knew Carla was lying. He gives a fantastic, mustache-twirling confessional reveling in this knowledge, "Tell me more! I'd like to hear more of this falseness! It is so beautiful!"
But alas, despite Chappies' belief that his information about the rules of Immunity Island was "gold," it turned out not to be worth much of anything. The insides of Zamba was a rocky place, where this Chappies seed could find no purchase. He tells Paul that Carla's idol is fake, he tells Anela. They promise to vote Carla. But only poor Chappies ends up actually doing so. Anela and Paul vote for Wardah (as is Paul's habit). Everyone else votes for Paul. (Also, Nico just comes right out and states at Tribal Council that Carla's idol is useless unless she bequeaths it, which ruins a bit of the fun.)
There were other big lies exposed this week, as well. Amy's attempt to cover up having lost at Immunity Island also blew up publicly, as Anesu and Dino arrived in Zamba camp for their raid, bearing a note explicitly stating that Amy had lost at the previous episode's game. (Whoopsie!) Amy's excuse that she had been too embarrassed to tell the truth might actually be close to the mark. She knew the raid was coming, either way. Telling the truth (perhaps accompanied by an explanation that she was worried about being down 6-3 after the swap, so she felt she needed the necklace, either way) would've been the best approach, but in the end, Vuna was coming to take stuff, either way, so it didn't really matter. Plus, thanks to her advance warning, everyone had a good time hiding all of Zamba's stuff, in the hopes it couldn't be raided. (Which, surprisingly, was partially successful?!)
In stark contrast to all this was the actual trust-building exercise of voting. Carla kept her promise to Wardah at Immunity Island, and they voted together to take out Paul. (Who sure did eat a lot, considering how much he hated Wardah's cooking.) In doing so, they also followed a move brought together by Santoni, one that included Amy (and Shaun, although he was visible only as a blister-covered near-medevac, for whatever reason). Carla and Wardah voted together on the last vote, where Mike was sent home. They voted together this time, removing Paul. They have an actual working relationship now, and trust built on voting together. For all the half-truths and lies floating around, that's one of the few reliable bonds in Survivor. At least until someone flips. But for now, they're together.
Santoni and Amy: Playing from the middle
The bigger story of post-swap Zamba is how much power is now wielded by two of the people who seemed most vulnerable in the immediate post-swap aftermath: Santoni and Amy.
Santoni is explicitly playing the middle and trying to break up pairs. ("I don't like twos," she says.) Before Tribal, she talks about how there are two (original Vuna) pairs at Zamba: Chappies and Paul, versus Carla and Wardah, and that "Luckily for Carla and Wardah, Paul was pissing off people." She says everyone at Zamba will be voting against Paul this time, before adding ominously, "but that doesn't mean it's going to stay that way." Next up is Carla and Wardah, and then probably Anela and Amy.
This path has worked out well so far for Santoni, as she was on the outs in original Vuna, but has since helped take out Mike and now Paul. She's been on good terms with Chappies, and she seems trustworthy enough to work with both Carla and Wardah. It's a good spot, although Carla has previously expressed concern that Santoni is playing both sides.
Playing the same game, but less visibly so is Amy, and it's possible that with Amy, we should also include Anela and Shaun. Previously, a secret scene showed Amy describing her key alliance-mates on old Zamba: Anela, and a secret alliance with Renier. Renier is off at unbeatable Vuna now, but Anela (and Shaun) is still here, and he and Amy appear to still be working together, despite Anela intentionally voting incorrectly at this Tribal Council.
We haven't seen any explicit description of this, but their behavior post-swap is consistent with a divide-and-conquer approach, with Amy making friends with the new Zamba women (Carla, Wardah, Santoni), and Anela and Shaun doing the same with the men (Chappies, Paul). Immediately after the IC, Anela, Shaun, and Chappies swiftly conspire to vote out Wardah, to "keep it simple." Anela and Shaun then immediately go back to Amy (and Santoni) and tell them about this promise, but that they were actually going to vote for Paul.
The end result of all this is: Amy, Anela, and Shaun found themselves outnumbered by original Vunas 6-3 after the swap, but in two straight Tribals have now lowered that ratio to 4-3. Furthermore, Santoni isn't really in that four, so it's more like 3-3. With Santoni likely planning to target the Carla/Wardah pair next, the original Zambas could well pull numerically even the next time they vote. It's an amazing change in fortunes for them, and for Santoni.
Among this group, the core alliance of Amy and Anela seems the most strong, and you have to worry that Santoni is doing all this flip-flopping without an obvious partner, although she could pull in Chappies now. Still, seen as a group tentatively working together these past two episodes, the foursome of the original Zambas plus Santoni has put on a really impressive demonstration of how to exploit cracks and work your way up from the bottom.
Appreciating Chappies, the unlikely villain
It's weird that Chappies keeps finding himself on the wrong end of votes and working as the antagonist to the heroes of episode after episode, because as Santoni herself says, "Deep down, he has a good heart." He's self-confident to the point where it occasionally sounds like arrogance, sure. He's always putting himself forward as the tribe's strong guy in Hero challenges, okay. He relishes the gameplay, the deception, the "falseness," fair enough. But he still doesn't quite work as a villain, and that's fascinating.
Take, for example, Zamba's loss in the Hero RC, where he handily defeated Dino in his bout, but Zamba lost both bouts where Marisha competed against them, including an almost-instantaneous solo victory over Wardah. Chappies gives all of the credit for this to Marisha (even in confessional!), and explains that she's insurmountably strong, and that no other woman in the game could have beaten her. He's positive, and fully supportive of Wardah's effort.
It's similar to his previous support of Santoni, and that pays dividends here as Santoni targets the Paul/Chappies pair, and comes down decisively against Paul, because, as noted above, she sees Chappies as a decent guy, whereas Paul just does whatever he feels like doing (mostly eating).
The one moment where Chappies-as-villain almost clicks is where it looks like he's about to kick the legs out from under Carla's (false!) Immunity Island story, when he pulls out Santoni's note, and he really leans into the lying and deceit in confessional. But then nothing comes of it! He's such a bad villain.
Even Wardah's mid-Tribal Council attempt to lump him in with the Zamba men's perceived misogyny during the challenge doesn't quite land. (The blame was squarely on Paul immediately post-challenge, so it's unclear how it spread to all the men.) To be fair, Chappies does fumble a bit answering this, countering that maybe the women should have spoken up more forcefully (they did, so this response was pretty feeble), but he at least doesn't discount that the women's ideas were indeed ignored.
(Side note: It would be nice to know who on Zamba convinced Paul and Anela to abandon their ridiculously wrong-headed attempt to carry the crates rather than roll them, because they switched over on their second crate — was it Chappies, or one of the women?)
It's possible that we're missing key scenes and/or context, and that Chappies's statements in support of women who've struggled in challenges (Santoni in Ep2, Wardah after the RC here) could come across as patronizing, rather than sincere. But at least he's trying, and he's saying the right words at the right time. Then again, Santoni does say in confessional that Paul (and Chappies, she adds) sees her as "a little minion." So maybe Chappies does have some work to do. (It's also worth noting that Santoni also sees herself as a third wheel to Carla and Wardah.)
Regardless, the show's handling of Chappies as a character here is really interesting. He keeps getting set up as the overconfident guy whose plans always fail. He's sort of a villain, but not really. (As another example, he gives most of the tribe's narration about Shaun's scary allergic reaction, and it's quite thoughtful and caring.) It's a really nuanced, complex characterization, and it's really intriguing to think about where the show is headed with all of this.
- Coming for Sandra's crown: Thoriso has now gone two complete episodes without appearing in a challenge. Sadly for sit-out title purposes, she's only officially "sat out" once in those four challenges (this week's IC, above). But have faith, Sandra's 13 career sit-outs could still be in jeopardy ... if there's a returnee season, at least. Maybe we should appreciate Thoriso's particular skill at sitting out without technically sitting out, something John Cochran took advantage of in Caramoan.
- This reward brought to you by... : Back in the olden days of US Survivor, when a young Tina Wesson was extolling the virtues of Doritos™ brand tortilla chips in The Australian Outback, the blatant product placement seemed a bit garish. Today, two decades later? Meh. Times are tough, and there's a pandemic going on. In-show sponsors pay for stuff, and help spread the word of your show on social media. If getting your reward items from a pop-up Fresh Stop "store" helps get/keep the show on the air, go for it.
- Is it *really* men vs. woman at Zamba? Certainly, Santoni gathered the four women together at the well, and they collectively agreed to target Paul, who is a guy. But Shaun also voted with them, and Anela's vote for Wardah was mostly to avoid tipping off Chappies that Anela wasn't really working with him. In fact, none of the original Zambas really seemed that deeply committed to the men-vs-women thing. Maybe they're just going along with it for now to let Carla and Wardah think they're in charge?
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