Probably the biggest, most unexpected development on Survivor Redemption Island came at the end of the episode during the preview–or seconds earlier on Twitter, if you were watching the show by reading Jeff Probst type what was about to happen three seconds later. The news was that tribes would merge next week after the final Redemption Island duel, which seems early but is about right on time.
At this week’s duel, Matt won again, beating Stephanie in a game of memory because higher powers, who are apparently playing the game for him, wanted him to stick around (“I told God that I’m going to stay out here as long as he wants me to be out here,” Matt told us), so if he wins next week’s final duel, the sixth, he will have swept them.
That’s an impressive feat, but he’ll face an even bigger one: Finding his way back into a game that he was voted out of.
I’m not sure what I think about the duels ending at the merge. Is it a pretty fair point for Matt–er, the winner of next week’s duel–to re-enter the game, because everyone will be scrambling and they’ll all be on the same basic level? Or is he an easy first vote because the two tribes can delay any actual strategy or flipping by just dumping him first? He is an obvious threat: Winning six challenges in a row means he’s likely to win at least a few individual immunity challenges.
Zapatera lost again, after a pretty awesome and pretty close challenge. But Grant’s skill with balls helped Ometepe recover after it fell behind thanks to Phillip and, it seemed, Rob’s difficulty retrieving bags of balls. The obstacle course was awesome–I loved the hay, the net maze, and the brick wall. And we had the best challenge visual of the season when Julie slammed her body into the bricks and absolutely nothing happening.
While David seemed like the likely target because he was being annoying around camp and split with the tribe last week, they actually turned on and voted out Sarita, who is a weaker link but arguably makes their tribe weaker because she was tight with the alliance in a way that David is not. Or maybe that’s just what the editing suggested to give us a little twist ending. She definitely seemed blindsided and, hilariously, seemed to be most distraught that she’d left her bag back at camp: “I wish I’d brought my stuff,” she said, perhaps as a way of saying, “thanks for telling me, jerks.”
Next week’s merge also means is that the Phillip versus Rob showdown will happen in a merged tribe, where Phillip will presumably have more anti-Rob allies. Phillip’s argument about Rob’s controlling nature and the tribe’s absolute deference to him is actually pretty accurate, and Rob is getting cockier, taking the idol clue in front of everyone at the reward and then brazenly tossing it into the volcano (which was awesome, and I wondered if a producer somewhere gasped because of the littering and/or because the clue had some kind of surprise, like $100 bill taped to it).
And Phillip is, of course, an ass, getting into unnecessary fights and not endearing himself to the tribe. The big conflict was over The Crispy™, the burned rice in the bottom of the pan that is apparently Rob’s favorite. Phillip wanted some of The Crispy™ so he said, “I don’t see where one scoop of The Crispy™ would matter,” and went on a rant that included with him arguing that “just because [the women on their tribe] sleep in [Rob's] underwear every night” doesn’t mean they should kowtow to him (and he meant that literally: they literally are in his underwear, presumably when he’s not). Anyway, Phillip also ranted about being “entitled” to respect and The Crispy™, and that kind of attitude is going to get him booted. Or taken to the end where he’ll be easy to beat.
Oh, also, at the duel, where Phillip went with his babysitter Rob, and told Matt, “You are truly a samurai warrior.” You, Phillip, are no Coach, so stop with that kind of talk. At least Ralph recognizes that he’s an idiot. At Tribal Council, Jeff Probst asked Ralph if he’d rather have a cohesive tribe or a strong one, and Ralph said, “Well, first, Jeff, I don’t know what cohesive means.” Jeff rephrased as an either-or question, and Ralph said, “I disagree.” I really want to see Phillip and Ralph align, because that will be comedy unlike anything we’ve seen before.