Russell and Erik both get blindsided; Erik “was completely vilified in five minutes”

Finally: Survivor Samoa kicked into overdrive, with the merge episode pulling it out of its mid-season slump. After the tribes merged into Aiga, which Brett said was Samoan for “extended family” (maybe also for “extensive retching caused by cheesy tribe names”), everyone woke up from their game-play comas.

Just as he did on day one, Russell talked to everyone, showing his immunity idol to anyone who would look at it. He also formulated a plan to get rid of Laura, ending the Laura/Monica alliance. I’m still not sure why she or they constituted the greatest threat, but when Laura won one of two immunity necklaces at the first individual immunity challenge (another so-so challenge; I’m convinced they’re saving the good ones for all-stars, or hopefully later this season) everyone went into a scrambling panic.

It was like the game went from 0 to 60 in two minutes, and it was great. It led to Russell finally losing control and playing his idol at Tribal Council even though he got zero votes, and also to Erik being blindsided but everyone except Shambo, who had earlier forgotten who he was (“Who’s Erik?”).

I was sad to see Erik go, and not just because his handling of Shambo and color commentary were both fantastic, nor just because he was so enthusiastic about playing the game after coming to Samoa as an alternate. Erik seemed to be one of the few people besides Russell who were actively engaged by the game, thinking ahead, especially before this week.

I just talked to Erik, and he told me that being voted out “broke my heart, man.” He said he felt most betrayed by Brett and John, because “the plan was hatched and they didn’t do anything to stop it, which to me was even worse.”

That plan unfolded at the last possible second, and happened really fast, which is why Erik truly was blindsided. “The entire plot went down within five to seven minutes, from the idea to spreading to implementation to actually going to Tribal Council,” he said. He’s still dismayed that it came from Foa Foa: “This idea came from a Foa Foa member … shut up and think about what you’re doing,” Erik said.

Earlier, he communicated with Foa Foa about plan, to vote for Monica after flushing out the idol, and because he came off as obnoxious, that seemed to trigger the chain of events that led everyone to blindside him. “Was I cocky? Was I arrogant? Absolutely. It was a show, it was a facade, and it was a show I put on for Foa Foa,” Erik said. “I didn’t care if they didn’t like me. They were the enemy.” He said their support was irrelevant: “No shit you can get four votes. We, Galu, are in control of this game.”

Erik also said, “never in my wildest dreams didn’t I think being cocky to Foa Foa would come back to haunt me.” And he’s someone who would think about that: Pre-game, he kept an 80+ page journal with his observations of the other players.

By the way, Erik said voting for Monica was “John’s plan” but “I got the blame for it.” He said that while “I knew it was a good decision to break that [alliance] up,” he was willing to go along with it instead of a bigger power play because “I was loyal to my guys,” and because he knew they could “make that work without jeopardizing our tribe.”

I asked him if it was smart to continue to play a tribe-based game post-merge, and Erik said he tried to fight everyone’s perception that the merge changed the game for a reason. “I did not want to get into an individual mindset, because an individual mindset works against me,” Erik said. “I definitely underplayed the individual part of the game because I couldn’t let my group start thinking that way” because in an individual game, “I am one of the top two or three people to go.” But with Foa Foa gone, “I’m at least in the top eight,” Erik said.

Now, he’s the first member of the jury.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.