“This is going to be a fun day,” Jeff Probst said, looking directly into the camera before Survivor 42’s pseudo-merge. That’s when I started crying.
The big question going into Survivor 42’s merge episode was this: Would the producers see the error of their ways and adjust the worst twist in Survivor history?
The answer was a clear no—though there were some changes, and this two-hour block was considerably better than Survivor 41’s.
Probst, breaking the fourth wall, explained that the back-to-back filming “gives us the opportunity to do the same thing, only tweak it a bit to see if we can change their decision-making process.”
There, for me, is problem number one. I do not understand why Probst lacks so much trust in his own show’s format and in his own casting that he thinks this kind of meddling is required.
Probst continued: “So here are the three variables we’re gonna change,” and then he said, and I wish I was making this up, “First, all of the food is from Applebee’s.”
So, I consider myself effectively trolled. Congrats, you win, game/set/match.
There were two actual changes, though.
After the immunity challenge, the winning team again had to choose between the two players who’d drawn gray rocks and were forced to sit out. One of those players became safe, and joined the reward; the other went to Exile Island.
The change was that Probst told them this: “to complicate your decision a little more, the person you send away will have the power to change the game.” The second was that he offered them the ability to send away one of their own members.
Had they chosen to do that, it’s most likely the hourglass wouldn’t have been smashed. But the second the winners—Jonathan, Hai, Maryanne, Tori, and Lydia—chose Rocksroy, there was no suspense; they guaranteed that their win would be overturned.
Why on earth would someone who’s vulnerable not flip the hourglass, reverse the result of the challenge, and become immune—especially when that person’s closest allies could suddenly go from at risk to immune? (Likewise, had one of the immune tribe members gone, what incentive would they have had to make themselves suddenly vulnerable?)
The slight change did introduce an opportunity for a strategic blunder, and perhaps the winning team made a mistake looking at Rocksroy and not realizing that three-quarters of his original tribe would be positively affected by a game-changing move.
The one thing everyone was definitely aware of was how dire Probst sounded about the twist. “He was warning us almost,” Hai said.
Of course, why would the winning team suspect that the twist is actually reversing the result of a challenge? That is, after all, ludicrous. Or in the words of Survivor 41 hero Danny: “the integrity of the game is at risk when you are the host and you’re able to lie to the contestants.”
Drea, however, is smarter than me and basically figured out the twist—minus, of course, the all-powerful hourglass and the Very Special Episode of The Jeff Probst Show: Sand Edition—while back at camp, suggesting Rocksroy could flip who has immunity.
Still, it’s all just so, so dumb—and I say that having watched Drag Race 14, a season of television where eliminated contestants stand on stage and open a chocolate bar upon their elimination to see if they get random immunity. But I digress.
I am never going to like the hourglass twist, and I really hope that the public backlash leads to the same fate as the Edge of Extinction.
Bonding! Strategizing! Plan-changing!
After the sponcon merge feast, branded by a restaurant chain I actually thought the pandemic had killed off, the merged tribe joined together, and the episode offered some redeeming moments.
That’s because we got to see new relationships forming, old relationships fracturing, and actual strategizing, something I thought SURVIVOR DROP THE 4!!! had forgotten about.
Maryanne and Romeo worried about not being among the big, physical people; the big, physical guys, Mike and Jonathan bonding over how everyone judges them for being big, physical guys.
Romeo bonded with another out gay man, Hai, admiring how open Hai was. “I had to adapt and pretend and be somebody I was not,” Romeo said, and also shared that he feared future response from people in his life. “You don’t want people to stop loving you or seeing you…” Romeo said, and broke down. That was a great moment of connection in both the game and to the real world, and what’s happening now.
Meanwhile, we also learned more about Rocksroy, who through tears and laughter said, “I feel like the luckiest person right now,” and told us that was in part because there are “no kids around, no wife that’s bored and wants to nag me.” Well, there was a detour into misogyny I didn’t expect.
Things got particularly interesting as new alliances formed. A big eight-person alliance took shape during a conversation on the beach, with Hai pushing to solidify numbers. “I’m a driver. I can’t take the back seat,” he said.
The alliance consisted of Drea, Jonathan, Hai, and Lydia, and later Romeo, Rocksroy, Mike, and Omar.
Omar learned that he’d lost his vote on the summit with Chanelle; Drea revealed that she had an extra vote. after learning that they’d both lost their votes; people bailing on Chanelle constantly to go spear fishing.
That new alliance of eight was targeting three “easy” votes—Tori, Chanelle, and Maryanne—with Chanelle as the possible first.
Of course, Rocksroy smashing the hourglass meant that she now had immunity, and that put the target on Tori, whose therapy sessions on the island are not going well.
Tori immediately taking this personally was a hilarious moment, especially when she said exiling Rocksroy was to help him out. Probst incredulously asked her if she thought it was actually “a gift to Rocksroy.”
Tangent: This is the Probst host I want! Incredulous in the moment, not shouting every single thing we’re seeing in a challenge and then manipulating the game for his own pleasure.
Lydia called the reversal “basically worst-case scenario for everybody,” but it turned out that it was worst of all for her.
That’s because, in a surprise I did not see coming, Tori won the first individual immunity challenge.
Talk shifted to Maryanne and her closet full of advantages—but Omar wanted those. “I’m trying to bring Taku back together,” he said, because “I’m going to need weapons.” He told Maryanne she was the target but said, “I’m shifting things to Lydia.”
Omar’s gambit worked, sending Lydia home. Even her #2, Hai, voted for her. Worst of all, Lydia barely missed making the jury. That’s a tough spot to exit in.
And it’s even tougher to exit after your hard-earned challenge victory was erased by producers who decided their own cast cannot be trusted to bring the drama.