If last week’s episode of Survivor was all about the utter incompetence of the Brain tribe, this week’s is all about the ways the game can turn on a dime and make this incompetence moot. With the Brains down to three lonely members, the producers decided it was time to merge the three tribes into two and therefore completely change the Brains’ fortunes. It’s the kind of thing the show has done many times before, but the shifting power structure it inevitably creates never fails to delight me.
The power shifting this time is all going straight to the three remaining members of the Brain tribe, who in the random draw for new tribes all somehow end up staying together in the newly formed Solana tribe, paired up with three members of the Beauty tribe (Alexis, Morgan, and Jeremiah) and one lone Brawn (Sarah). It’s hilarious to watch how elated Spencer, Tasha, and Kass are about their sudden good fortune, especially when it becomes abundantly clear to them that the three Beauty tribe members they’ve been sorted with don’t trust each other one bit. Suddenly, the Brains are in a power position in a game they’ve consistently played from the bottom of the pack, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
The new Aparri tribe is facing a power imbalance of their own, as it contains five former Brawn (Tony, Trish, Cliff, Lindsay, and Woo) and just two Beauty (LJ and Jefra). LJ immediately sees himself as being in a terrible position and tries to make inroads with anyone willing to listen. He finds a friendly ear in Trish, who like him hails from Massachusetts and therefore he feels like they have something in common to build on. There’s also a truly gross undercurrent of condescending seduction, as LJ recognizes that Trish might find him attractive and comments on his willingness to use an older, desperate woman in order to get further in the game (this is a paraphrase, but not much of one).
The bulk of this episode is basically about these two new tribes feeling each other out, and it’s a good one. There is a lot more alliance-specific action happening at Aparri so when the immunity challenge rolls around, it seems fairly obvious that despite it being a Brawn-focused challenge, the Brawn-heavy Aparri is heading for a loss. What’s great about it is watching the utter shock on Aparri’s faces when they lose, and the utter joy the Solana tribe expresses when they win. Everything is suddenly coming up roses for the Brains, huh?
Back at the Aparri camp after the challenge is when things get serious. The obvious move for the former Brawn members is to stick together and vote out LJ 5-2, but Trish has other plans. She wants to keep LJ around and vote out Cliff, who she sees as a far larger threat once they start playing an individual game. I didn’t think Trish had a shot of pulling this off until she started talking to Tony and I remembered how Tony explicitly turned Sarah against Lindsey and Cliff, and had a tentative alliance with Trish. Tony seems skeptical about breaking up a dominant alliance when it isn’t necessary, but once Cliff starts talking about being excited about going to Tribal Council it was clear the writing was on the wall and he was going home.
What is fascinating about the situation at Tribal is how sure LJ must have been that he had Tony and Trish on his side, because although most of the talk at Tribal seems to hint that he is a goner, he allows the vote to be read without playing his immunity idol. Knowing when to play an immunity idol is an intricate art, and I both admire LJ’s restraint in not using it when he didn’t have to and also think he is insane for not at least playing it just in case. How could he be so sure these two people weren’t lying to him? It’s great to keep your idol in your pocket until it’s absolutely necessary to use it, but going home with an unused idol in your pocket is even worse.
Luckily for LJ, it worked out for him this time and Cliff is voted out, much to Woo and Lindsey’s surprise. Perhaps the best way to sum up this episode is the look on Woo and Lindsey’s faces as their friend and alliance member is voted out of the game without them having a clue it was going to happen. Surprise, guys! You’re screwed.
- So did Tony make a good move by getting rid of Cliff or did he make a move just to make a move? With Tony it is really hard to tell.
- The reward challenge was a brutal one, except when it was lightened by Cliff’s quiet laughter as people tried to pull him off the pole. He basically is the pole.
- Between the upright maze from earlier in this season and this cool log table maze, the challenge producers are really stepping up their puzzle game this season. I approve.
- Kass: “We’re not the brain tribe; we’re the crap-for-brain tribe.”
- LJ: “Either that’s a tarp or that’s Cliff’s jacket.”
- Tony: “Nothing personal, just strategical.”