Survivor: “Just Annihilate Them”
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Survivor: “Just Annihilate Them”

Although Survivor quickly threw this season’s men vs. women gimmick away like a used tissue, the bonds formed in those early episodes are still heavily influencing how the game is being played. Those bonds, along with the additional alliances made once the tribes merged, are creating one of the more interesting strategic seasons in quite a while, just because it’s so difficult to tell where everyone’s ultimate alliance will fall. Perhaps the best aspect is how the players themselves realize just how fragile all of their various allegiances are. After several seasons where strategy seemed to take a backseat to religion and crazy, it’s just nice to see people aware there’s a game taking place.

Heading up the strategy charge for the women is Kim, who has sneakily been playing a very low-key, smart game. Tonight brought her gamesmanship front and center, with Kim emerging as the clear leader of the female alliance. Her core allegiance seems to be with the original female tribe, especially now that it has a numbers advantage on the men, and she plans to keep it that way. Knowing fellow Salani tribe members Jay and Troyzan might be hesitant to vote out a man, she intelligently comes up with the idea to feed Troyzan a story about how Mike is out to get him in order to bring Troyzan over to her side. The problem is she knows Jay is far more cautious of the possibility of a female alliance resurgence, and therefore, she tries her hardest not to let him catch wind of the plan to vote out Mike, letting him think Christina is on the chopping block instead.

Her plan hits a bit of a snag when Chelsea (who in the past has seemed smarter than this) asks Jay about voting off Mike right in front of Alicia and Christina, who aren’t supposed to be in their alliance. It’s a silly mistake, and you can almost see Kim’s teeth gnashing when she hears about it. Still, despite a very uncertain outcome going into Tribal Council—a Tribal Council that was almost hilariously vague because for once no one wanted to reveal their position in the game—a shocked Mike ends up going home. Kim was touting this as a big move, but if she can manage to keep her alliance intact for a few more Tribal Councils, it will be the move that might just put her in the final three.

All of the scheming was wonderfully put together, but once the votes were revealed, the editing became a bit frustrating. Why did Christina and Alicia vote for Tarzan? Was it to throw off the male alliance? Also, Troyzan, Leif, and Jay all voted for Mike to leave, so obviously Jay got wind of the plan and agreed to go along. I would love to know more about his thought process there, considering all of his interviews in this episode made it seem like the thing he was most worried about was the men losing even more of a numbers advantage to the women. However, those are minor quibbles I wouldn’t even be concerned with if the series didn’t show the voting results at all.

Other than the interesting scheming, the episode also featured two fairly pleasing challenges. It’s nice to have the reward challenges back again, and especially this one with the super awesome slide component. Similarly, even the very familiar-seeming ladder/puzzle immunity challenge was more fun to watch because of the genuinely interesting puzzle at the end. This season has featured quite a few different and difficult puzzles, which makes me think some challenge producers took a Reality Show Puzzle UCLA extension course or something during the hiatus. 

Whatever they did, the little creative touches they’ve put on the familiar challenges this season have been greatly welcome. As a whole, in fact, this season‘s production has been top-notch. Casting people who actually seem to know how to play the game again has simply been a bonus.

Stray observations:

  • Anybody want a 7-Up? I’m more interested in the lemon meringue pie, myself. Mmm, pie.
  • Mike smugly discussing how nice it will be to blindside Christina and then getting blindsided himself was awfully fun.
  • Tarzan might be slightly insane. In his mind, Chelsea doesn’t like him because of some deep-seated hatred she feels for the surgeon who did her breast implants. 
  • Did Kat call Tarzan’s crazy soliloquies “rantics”? What do we think she thinks that word means?

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