Survivor merge: holy chaotic sandwich idol what wow

On one level, the events of Survivor Cagayan‘s seventh episode were pretty straightforward: Tribes merged, Sarah’s lack of commitment to either her old or her new alliance and her simultaneous swing-vote power trip led Kass to flip, and Sarah was voted out.

On another level: OMG!!!!!!! WTF!!!!!!!

That was an incredible episode and a particularly spectacular Tribal Council, from people exposing their idols to the Tribal Council vote-switching to the surprise result of the vote to the obnoxious applauding by those who did the blindsiding. It was just moment after moment, yet another of the amazingly crazy Tribal Councils we’ve seen over the past few years.

The fun idol play seemed to lead Aparri to switch from Tony to Jefra, but also seemed to be entirely unnecessary because Tony wasn’t in danger (though I can see why he’d want insurance for Kass’ swap). Also, sometimes men feel the need to pull out their idols and make sure everyone knows they have one.

Tony revealed and then played his idol for LJ, who then revealed his idol and played it for Tony. Thus both idols were discarded–and after all that work they went to re-finding their idols before switching tribe beaches, too.

After Spencer challenged him to pull out his idol, Tony did, but before playing it, asked Jeff Probst to validate it, as if that’s a thing. Jeff, the correct answer was, No, I won’t. Play it if you want to see if it’s real.

The repercussions for Kass’ swap will be interesting. As she said early in the episode, best-laid plans end up “sprawled out on a murder scene floor.” (Um.) And as she said after the vote at Tribal, when Spencer basically said she’d lost any chance of winning, there’s a lot of game to go.

While “Chaos Kass” (sigh) has probably destroyed her long-standing alliance, it was possible Sarah would have destroyed it anyway, so I think it was better for Kass to take control herself–especially since things didn’t seem to be going her way with Tasha basically telling Sarah to vote Kass out. Even if Kass ends up on the bottom of the new pile, that’s better than being in the middle of the pile that’s being picked apart.

Sarah spent most of the episode walking around with a giant sign that said “FORESHADOWING MY OWN EXIT,” telling the cameras and her fellow contestants that she was the swing vote, even saying the game was a “Sarah sandwich,” but it ended up being one of those sandwiches you pick up and the middle squirts out onto the floor.

Sara was also acting odd about her alliance’s desire to vote out Jefra, Proving that she really was the best strategist, she insisted Tony didn’t have an idol and wanted to vote out LJ or Tony because they didn’t have idols. Meanwhile, Tony wanted Sarah to swear on her badge and she refused, which didn’t exactly give him confidence, though the demand was obnoxious.

Woo won the first individual immunity, perhaps because he was was the only person wearing shoes while having to perch on thin pieces of wood and the narrow top of a floating platform. If his Vibram FiveFingers-like shoes actually did give him an advantage, he deserved the win even more: Probst says contestants were given a choice about whether or not to wear shoes. While this balancing challenge isn’t new, it did show off some fantastic cinematography and editing–never mind nature’s role, as the wind picked up just as everyone stepped up to the top of their platforms, and started falling off in waves.

Earlier, the tribes merged after receiving Tree Mail that was so vague that I thought for sure the tribes wouldn’t be merging, just living together, at least for an episode, but they actually did merge–even their names merged, because tribe name creativity is dead. While the drama that resulted was fantastic, on some level, I wish they hadn’t merged: all of the tribe-related twists are being flung at the contestants and us really fast, and we don’t really get a chance to see longer term impact of them.

But, clearly, the choices Probst and production are making are yielding dramatic results. So are the choices the players are making. I’m not quite sure what game many of the contestants are playing, but they are certainly ensuring things stay crazy interesting, emphasis on the crazy.

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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.