In terms of satisfying Survivor episode arcs, going from “I have the numbers to sway the game in the direction I want” to “I just got blindsided … I did not even suspect it. It was stunning” is rather perfect.
That’s what happened to Hai Giang on Survivor 42‘s 10th episode, thanks in part to some brilliant and diabolical manipulation by Omar.
What made it especially satisfying that, even as he was realizing he was blindisded, Hai started to smile, and before his torch was even snuffed, he said, “Well played, gang! Oh my god, that was amazing. That’s how I wanted to go out.” He added, “Love you guys.”
That’s someone with respect for the game and game play, even when he’s been played. That kind of outcome makes Survivor so fun to watch.
In so many ways, this felt like a throwback episode to the Survivor I love: two challenges, strategizing that we got to see, the elements making all of this a lot more challenging, no projectile vomit of advantages splattering all over everything and making a mess.
It began with the aftermath of Roxsroy’s exit, with Hai saying “our Tribal went exactly the way I wanted to, again” but his #1 ally Mike not so thrilled about going along with that plan.
It’s here that Omar sensed an opening. What’s incredible to me about Omar’s game is how light of a touch he has with other players, and then how direct and overtly strategic he is in interviews.
Omar: “I’m like, hmm, funny you say that” (to Mike) “but I do want you to be a little leary of Mr. Hai”
Omar told us that he wanted to “sever his relationship with Hai” and said “Hai has given me enough ammunition to do that”
Another thing working against Hai was his possession of the three-way amulet thingy; his exit meant it became even stronger.
Drea still has a closet full of advantages: an extra vote; the Knowledge is Power advantage, which allows her to steal an idol; and the amulet, which gets more powerful if one of its three holders exits.
Meanwhile, fresh off of playing her idol at the last Tribal Council, Maryanne found a second idol, and I loved the way she described it: “there is no stipulation, no secret code, no bunny rabbits or mailboxes.” She now has that plus an extra vote.
The other potential evictee was Jonathan, who “totally screwed everything up,” as Lindsay told Omar.
“He doesn’t understand shit,” Omar told Lindsay. I’m getting strong Xander vibes from Jonathan, in the sense that both are beloved by viewers for their charm, but the actual players playing the game with them have zero respect for their games.
The reward challenge not only provided a much-needed reward, but also helped advance the game. The players arrived in driving, freezing rain.
“How we doin’?” Probst asked as the players stood, literally shaking from the cold. Just great, Jeff! Why don’t you continue talking incessantly about what’s happening while we stand here and freeze?
Lindsay won the challenge, and a visit to a “sanctuary” with pizza, beer, blankets, pillows, and shelter from the rain. And of course, she got to choose people to go with her.
“Before you choose, walk me through,” Probst told her. “Look at everybody right now. … How do you make this kind of decision?” I was waiting for him to hand her a screwdriver and say, Just drive this into the thighs of the people you aren’t choosing.
Lindsay picked Omar and Mike, who hadn’t yet been on rewards. The most significant part of their overnight stay was Omar’s brilliant lie: He told Mike that Hai said Mike was his “puppet.” He started by connecting with Mike: “We weren’t really allowed to talk to each other—there’s a middle person always talking for us.”
The editing unfolded this perfectly, showing the conversation, and then showing Omar confessing that Hai never said that. Diabolical and brilliant!
Lindsay used the opportunity to throw more fuel: She told Omar and Mike about the three-way amulet, a risky confession but one that helps her gain trust while putting more heat on the person who’s already being targeted.
The reward also included messages from family members, artfully projected onto the sides of containers, which began with creepily disembodied—but recognizable to the players!—voices echoing in the air.
While the tech was different, this was a throwback to the videotaped messages Survivor: Borneo players received.
I’m sure the players and family members would prefer an in-person reunion, especially with an all-expenses-paid flight to Fiji, but as a viewer I vastly prefer this version, especially since it doesn’t give Jeff Probst the chance to demand love like he’s asking for all the fixins’ in a Chick-Fil-A drive-thru.
At the immunity challenge, Hai was out early, and it came down to Jonathan and Lindsay balancing balls while standing on narrow beams, with Maryanne offering the best commentary: “He has giant feet. Oh no!”
Lindsay won, and that was her second consecutive challenge win.
There was a possibility that Jonathan could be targeted, and Omar asked, “Should I just work with Hai now because no one trusts him?” in an interview.
But the Hai writing was on the parchment long before Tribal Council. After all, this episode included a clip package about his life and family. Everything was screaming: This is your last episode!
“He thinks he’s the king? Well, guess what? The king will be dethroned tonight,” Mike said. He later told Jonathan, “We’re cutting the head off the snake.”
Drea had an interesting fourth wall-breaking observation, saying, “I see my husband watching this on television” and wondering “Why didn’t I get him out?”
Hai, meanwhile, was clueless. He thought Jonathan was going home, and with all the confidence in the world, told us, “I can make the target feel comfortable enough.” He told Jonathan he’d play an idol for him—which, hilariously, not even Jonathan bought. Jonathan said later that was “the worst lie I’ve ever heard.”
At Tribal Council, Jeff Probst tried really, really to stir up drama: Lindsay, you let everyone else freeze. Do you think they hate you and are going to put a curse on you as a result? I expected him to say: Hai, do you think those three conspired against you and maybe you should play your dumb dice thing so that someday it might result in some drama because I came up with that idea in my kitchen and I’m sad it hasn’t delivered anything?!?
There were two votes for Jonathan, Romeo and Hai, but otherwise it was unanimous, sending Hai to the jury with a smile on his face, and mine.