Kim takes control of the game as 7UP takes control of Survivor

An alliance led by Kim Spradlin, the 29-year-old bridal shop owner, took control of Survivor One World and blindsided Mike before his beard could climb all the way up his face and blind him. Because Kim is the opposite of Colton in all kinds of ways, this played out a lot more subtly than previous blindsides, and it was a bit like taking 7UP from a baby, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great.

Kim’s stroke of genius was, as she said, using Troy to send Mike home tonight.” She basically liked to Troyzan and turned him against Mike, which is one of those super-simple moves that can backfire so easily–but did not, because she seems trustworthy, or Troy is easily misled, or both.

Although she was part of an alliance with Chelsea and Sabrina, Kim also really managed the scrambling well. When weirdly annoying Jay was about to spill the plan to Mike, Kim showed up and held up a nutcracker and cracked several walnuts to shut him up. Actually, she lied flawlessly and told them, “Let’s just do Christina and make everyone feel better.” Mike felt better and, in one of those things people keep saying even though they must know it will be used against them, repeatedly told the camera that he couldn’t possibly be blindsided: “I just don’t see that happening.”

Jay ended up voting with the women, although this wasn’t really an alliance of women alone, because Christina and Alicia did not vote for Mike, and I’m not sure if that represents a fracture or a strategy. And while the core alliance was framed as Kim, Chelsea, Sabrina, and Kat, the preview for next week suggest Kat may bail on that alliance, although that’s probably just misleading us as the women take over.

Jay spent much of this episode freaked out that a swarm of vaginas would overpower him and chew him to little pieces. “I don’t want to be overpowered by these girls,” he said in an interview, and later told a group of women, “I’m scared of ya’ll girls.” (At another point, he said, “it’s almost like a teacher keeps smacking the student,” and I still don’t get that reference.) Despite saying dumb shit like that, he managed to win immunity, putting together an awesome 60-piece puzzle faster than everyone else. Actually, I think he was slower than everyone else, which in the case of this puzzle worked to his advantage.

The reward challenge had an impressive build–a giant water slide and large puzzle piece cubes in the water–The challenge was fun, particularly when they tumbled off the end of the water slide; it knocked Alicia’s bathing suit off and Leif tumbled almost to the water’s edge, and I had to re-watch that. Watch:

There were also lots of 7UP brand 7UP beverage references. I’m pretty desensitized to product placement, but sometimes Survivor goes over the top, which here meant too many 7UP references to count. It was not subtle at all, from the winning team carrying a 7UP cooler away from the challenge and back into camp to Probst’s overselling (“win the crisp, clean taste of victory today”) to the lingering shots of 7UP at the resort/hotel where the winning team went to have food and some kind of green Samoan soda I’ve never heard of.

By the way, 7UP’s cash even bought them a change in the way Survivor reward challenges go: Jeff Probst told EW that while winners usually can’t share their reward, “7UP wanted everybody to get to share, we just changed it so they could bring back a cooler that would play out and be at camp for future episodes! The sponsors are who keep Survivor on the air so we work with them as much as we can to make them happy so long as it doesn’t mess up our game.”

Yes, sponsors are important, and no, letting the losers have some sugar water to drink isn’t exactly damaging to the game, but it’s still far too much control for my tastebuds, which prefer Pepsi.

Meanwhile, just when we think we’d escaped Jesusvivor, Sabrina led the team in a prayer that included this: “a prayer and a grace for those all over the world who are starving.” Yes, starving people really appreciate your thoughts while you alleviate your consensual starving with 7UP. (Update: Prompted by Brian’s comment, I re-listened to the prayer, which is actually quite nice and the opposite of the typical self-serving religiosity we’ve seen on the show recently. Her focus on having new appreciation for others’ struggles was awesome, and I mocked it without listening closely. Here’s the full text of what Sabrina said: “Lord, thank you just for allowing us to be here today. Now we know what it feels like to be hungry so not only is this a prayer and a grace for us, but a prayer and a grace for those all over the world that are starving. In your name we pray, amen.”)

Tarzan’s comic relief this week came in the form of his psychic psychotherapy, discerning that Chelsea had plastic surgery and was angry at her plastic surgeon about it, hence her dislike for his crazy ass. He also took bamboo that may or may not have been part of the shelter for firewood–in the middle of a storm.

But best of all, at Tribal Council, Tarzan went on one of his rantics (a fantastic new word invented by Kat) and told Jeff Probst, “we’re all just playing you … if we reveal too much, it’ll ruin the whole thing.” He said that a few more times in case Probst missed it. Sooner than later, though, I think it’s Tarzan who will realize he’s been played, kept around because he’s a fool and not a threat. Then again, I do hate my plastic surgeon.

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.