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The Survivor blindside we’ve been waiting for

Survivor San Juan Del Sur enters its two-hour finale next week minus its villain, the person who’d been consistently given credit for controlling the game. Jon Misch was blindsided first by a vote that resulted in a three-way tie, which gave Natalie and Baylor their chance to send him to the jury, and gave this season yet another strong, entertaining episode that worked from start to finish.

I’ll get to Jon but let’s start with Natalie. Natalie! Her sister was the first person voted out, and along with her went their Amazing Race reputation (i.e. they are super annoying). Natalie’s game hasn’t always been front and center, in part because the editing gave a lot of its focus to Jon and Jaclyn, and I wish we’d seen more–particularly tonight, as she and Baylor convinced Missy to go along with their plan. But Natalie has been there at pivotal moments, from saving Jon to blindsiding Jon. She’s playing. A very likely final three could be Natalie (who would win), Baylor (who might get a few votes), and Missy (no votes), though Keith’s ability to win challenges could affect that.

That Jon had become the villain and its most annoying player is fascinating, and not just because there’s another player who constantly spits on the ground or another who had to be talked into actually playing the game. Yes, Jon frequently acted entitled and was both overly concerned about his image and incredibly naive, but he also appeared to be getting the hero edit. He was often at the center of strategic decisions and won challenges. He thought he had the game locked up, though, and it’s certainly satisfying to watch cockiness bite someone in the ass. Then again, Jon also exited gracefully, and to be voted out by people you trusted with an idol and not be at least frustrated always impresses me.

Interestingly, in a rather somber Ponderosa video, Jon learns from the jury what really happened last week, and also says he thinks Missy used his faith against him, and he’s only really upset about that. There’s a clip from earlier this season when she says they literally have no control over the game because has been pre-decided by God, who hasn’t been playing Survivor much recently, probably because there were more important things to attend to, such as football games.

I seriously wonder how that kind of thinking affects Missy’s game play. We didn’t see much of Baylor having to convince her, but Missy seemed pretty adamantly against voting for Jon. She may have kept her word, though: She forced a tie with her vote to Jaclyn, and her vote didn’t matter in the re-vote, since only two votes were needed, and Natalie and Baylor made their intentions clear.

Missy got more attention this episode than Natalie’s strategy, thanks to that and her injury during the reward challenge. She hurt/sprained/somethinged her ankle, and that opened up an opportunity for a lot of pomp and circumstance.

All cast members are checked privately by medics before and after every challenge, so Jeff Probst was basically pretending that Missy wasn’t checked after the reward challenge, when Baylor literally carried her mother on her back–which is pretty much what she’s doing in the game–after Jon gave up his reward (sigh) to Missy. Missy seemed like a candidate to be pulled from the game since she could barely walk, but the show has shifted how it deals with medical situations. During the episode’s broadcast, Survivor Vanuatu‘s Eliza Orlins hilariously tweeted that when she was on the show, “they told me if I wanted alcohol to clean out my hand when I chopped it with a machete I could quit.”

But Probst even let her sit out the immunity challenge, even though the rule book requires participation in all challenges. (She could, of course, just stepped up and off immediately, so Probst was likely just bypassing that, but it was framed like she could just get treated for her injury while everyone else played the game, and came across like producers were working overtime to keep her in the game.)

The immunity challenge was yet again about endurance, and yet another challenge that involved close-ups of feet in pain, not that there’s anything wrong with getting turned on by that. Even though it was yet another team challenge, the reward challenge was the more satisfying competition, particularly the exceptional camera angle on the net teeter-totter.

The reward–food, a shower, and a massage–was fraught with anxiety for Keith, who expressed his anxiety about gender roles by saying the massage and spa part of the reward is “a girl thing, but as long as there’s food thing, it’s a guy thing.” Then the spitting, sexist twit moaned in pleasure as his body was rubbed. His massage was like this episode, surprising with the amount of pleasure it could deliver.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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