After merging the players into one tribe, but not really, we have finally arrived, for real this time: the players are actually merged, and they are playing an individual game.
“Everybody looks good merged,” Jeff Probst said as they arrived at a challenge arena for their “first individual immunity challenge.”
But context clues—and by that, I mean massive poles—told us otherwise. Half of the telephone poles the players had to hug were painted blue and the other half red. For a fleeting moment, I thought/hoped this was just a reward challenge, dividing in half to compete for a pile of hot bologna or something.
Yes, the merge was the perfect time to separate them into two groups and send the players to Tribal Council separately.
I know this twist has happened before, and I should have expected it. This is better than last season, when the winning tribe just watched Tribal Council but did not participate.
Neither of those makes it any less stupid.
I’d have loved to be in that meeting: At the merge, we’ll tell them it’s not the merge! Then they’ll have to earn the merge. Then we’ll divide them into tribes again! Doesn’t anyone speak up and say something like, maybe: What the actual fuck are you thinking, you drunk squirrels?
After watching this play out, I’m convinced that it interrupted the merged, individual game that was developing for the worst.
I’ll even blame this twist on ending Kaleb’s game. Had the tribe stayed merged and voted as one, I’m not convinced he would have been the target yet again. So, nice work there, Jeff Probst!
At the first Tribal Council, Jeff Probst said, “For me, that is the pivot point in this new era: You are either glass half empty: Oh no, another twist. Or you’re glass half full: Oh boy, another opportunity.”
I’m: Smash your glass full of random tribes, bring back the Survivor merge!
The merged tribe is called Dakuwaqa, a Fijian shark deity, and they were still reeling from Kaleb’s luck.
“I just appreciate the way you guys handled it. I know it’s 12 votes,” he told then, but then he told us: “Every single person on this tribe voted against me. … Ultimately, I don’t need friends here.”
Bruce, being the subtle and supportive player he is, decided to confront Katurah—who voted for Kaleb— about being hesitant about voting for Kaleb. He said something to us about “the narrative that I’m trying to push right now,” and I think may have called her “Katori”? I thought he said “Tori” and I was confused for a moment.
Katurah, of course, wanted to get rid of “the thorn in my thumb.” Others were annoyed, too, including Kellie, though she said both that she was “having a hard time getting through to him” but that Bruce “does have a lot of trust with me.”
There was a lot of Kellie being conflicted about Bruce throughout the episode, but in a way that just repeated it without taking it anywhere. I sensed that the editors were struggling to fill these 90 minutes, given what transpired.
Kaleb had his own issues with Bruce, who pulled Kaleb aside for a lecture, saying word such as, “you stumbled, you landed on your ass” and “your fight was your fight at that moment in time.” Such insight.
“It’s taking everything inside of me to try to work with this guy,” Kaleb said. Based on Kaleb’s facial expression while listening to Bruce, I thought it was taking everything inside him to not throw sand in Bruce’s mouth to shut him up for a few seconds.
Emily told Kaleb “you have the numbers now,” but told us “I resigned myself to letting Kaleb go.” That’s quite the turn—and perhaps foreshadowing of Kaleb’s still bottom-rung place in the game.
At the challenge, everyone grabbed onto poles after learning that they’d play in groups, and that the winner’s group would win tacos and the right to go to Tribal Council second. That mattered because the first group’s evicted player would not make the jury.
Narrator McExposition’s narration was particularly insufferable, despite all the possibility with people wrapping themselves around giant phalli.
“Sifu’s down!” Yeah, no shit: he’s lying in the sand.
“It hurts the minute you start,” Probst said, which is coincidentally what I said to my TV as the challenge narration began.
Kellie won immunity, while Kaleb, Katurah, and Dee remained on the red team until Dee won—and then beat Kellie to win reward for her team, too.
Tribal Council #1
In the not-a-tribe tribe of Bruce, Drew, Emily, Kellie, Kendra, and Sifu, Kellie told us that, by not holding on, she was upset about “killing someone’s dream”
The only person we heard talking about his dream was Sifu. “Making the jury is a dream of mine, so it does break my heart,” he said, realizing he was a target. That pretty clearly telegraphed he was done—that, and his relative absence and lack of character development so far.
There was a lot of hitting the same note: Kellie is conflicted about Bruce.
Drew wanted to dump Bruce, too, but as Kendra said, Sifu is an easy target.
At Tribal Council, Probst went to tally the votes and then the show went to commercial—a reminder that Survivor’s editing usually doesn’t have to resort to such cheap tricks except in these awkwardly structured episodes.
All the votes went Sifu—well, also to “Se Fu” and “Seafu”—except Sifu’s vote for Bruce.
I don’t need another episode with Bruce’s babble, but I do hope this means Katurah gets the chance to blindside him and end that feud.
Tribal Council #2
The not-a-tribe tribe of Austin, Dee, Jake, Julie, Kaleb, and Katurah went second.
The easy vote seemed to be Kaleb, but not for Jake. “I need to take control of the game,” he said. “I want to play Survivor and win Survivor.”
In a fascinating editing choice, Jake told us, “The plan is…” and the editing flash forwarded to show us Tribal Council with elements of what he was describing, including Probst revealing votes.
Jake’s plan was that there’d be three votes for Julie, three votes for Kaleb, and then a revote. After that, they’d draw rocks if they couldn’t come to a decision, and Jake said, “I think I can convince Austin we don’t have to go to rocks,” because Austin is playing a fearful game.
Before that, Kaleb wanted to ensure Katurah was on their side by telling her about Bruce’s idol before Austin had the chance. Katurah appeared to be in, though she seemed especially shocked and hurt to learn from Jake about how he lied about looking for his ring to get Bruce’s idol.
Once Tribal Council rolled around, it played out as usual—though not as expected! Yes, the flash forward was not of a tie vote at all.
There were three votes for Kaleb, two for Julie, and then Probst said those words that indicated Kaleb was out: “The eighth person…”
Katurah voted against him. Earlier, Kaleb thought he had a strong alliance with her and Jake. “If you show that type of loyalty, then you will get it in return,” Kaleb said.
But I wonder if Jake’s revelation that everyone lied to her about the idol made her distrust them both. Now she doesn’t have Kaleb as an anti-Bruce ally, and I am worried about how much more of Bruce we’ll have to endure.
Next week—when I will not be able to watch live or recap, alas!—the Survivor auction returns. Let’s hope the true individual game does, too.