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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Cut Off The Head Of The Snake”

Illustration for article titled Survivor: “Cut Off The Head Of The Snake”

Sometimes, you go into a Tribal Council knowing exactly what’s going to happen. Sometimes, you go in knowing nothing. And sometimes, something so incredibly random happens during the course of Tribal that it doesn’t matter what you know; nothing could have prepared you for the absolute insanity that occurs. This is the beauty of a game that relies on human whim: At any time, that whim can just go bananas—and boy, did it go bananas tonight.

The funny thing is—and pardon while I stall the big reveal so it will be below the reader cut—up until said moment of bananas, the episode was plenty strong enough on its own. In fact, if someone was scripting this episode, the last-second twist would have been stripped out in the writers’ room, saved for a moment where drama was more direly needed.

We’re at a point in the game where alliances are constantly in flux, as players scramble to get in a better position as numbers dwindle. The scramble game hits Malcolm hard, as he’s faced with unexpectedly losing a key part of his alliance last week in Corinne. He’s definitely a glass-half-full sort of guy, though, and still considers himself to be in a great place in the game, so long as he can set up a new alliance by bringing Sherri and Dawn over to his side with Reynold, Eddie, and Michael. Malcolm makes a key error in judgment though—the exact same error Corinne made—by thinking Dawn would be amenable to the switch. Even Dawn is incredulous he’s trusting her, and she goes right to Andrea to tell her what happened and strategize voting Malcolm out instead.

What follows is a master class in how to blindside someone from Dawn and Andrea, with Dawn even getting Reynold to reveal his immunity idol to her to prove his loyalty. It’s all going perfectly until the most unexpected person throws a wrench in all their plans: Eddie. You see, Eddie has been cozying up to Andrea, forming a little side alliance based on mutual attractiveness and horrible flirting skills. What starts as them innocently playing each other turns to disaster for Andrea when Eddie tries to get information on whom she’s voting out (which turns into the equivalent of a Survivor “Who’s on First?” routine) and then absolutely loses it when Eddie casually mentions she might be the one going home. It’s true that his alliance is planning on voting out Andrea, but in her panicked mind, she doesn’t understand they don’t have the numbers to actually get her out, and she tears through camp begging the rest of her alliance to switch their vote to someone “safe” like Michael.

Dawn is completely distraught by this last-minute change of heart from Andrea, and for good reason. Reynold has the idol. They have no reason to think he’ll play it on anyone but himself, especially now that his alliance thinks they potentially have Dawn and Sherri on their side. Andrea’s alliance has a clear-cut seven to four advantage over Malcolm’s alliance. There’s no reason to back away from getting out a strong player in Malcolm, and although Cochran agrees with Dawn here they both make it seem like Andrea’s word is the one they need to follow. The best part: Whether or not it was on purpose (just kidding, it was a total accident), Eddie might have completely affected the outcome of this game.

When Tribal rolled around, I legitimately had no idea who would be going home, but all of Malcolm’s talk of being the only one who knew he had an idol at the beginning of an episode looks like the classic setup for him to go home with an idol in his pocket. Then, led by Jeff, Tribal takes a turn to almost exclusively discussing alliance flipping and people turning on each other, which is precisely the play Malcolm has set up. All of this talk tips Malcolm off that something unexpected is about to go down, so naturally, I expected him to play his idol to save himself.


Instead, something amazing happened, something completely unpredictable, something no one could have scripted: Reynold goes to play his idol, but Malcolm stops him. He doesn’t stop him to play his own and tell Reynold to sit down, however: He stops Reynold to ask for Reynold to play the idol on him. His reasoning: All that talk was about alliance flipping, and they are about to vote him out. Staggeringly, Reynold hands the idol over! Without any discussion! It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen on Survivor before, and it is fantastic.

The best part is yet to come, though. When the votes are read, Malcolm gets no votes and the only vote Reynold got was the one Malcolm threw his way. Everyone followed Andrea’s panic plan and voted poor Michael out instead. So now Malcolm got Reynold to play an idol on him he didn’t even need, and he’s still got an idol of his own sitting in his pocket. This turn of events caused me to laugh uncontrollably for about three minutes straight, just because of how plain dumb it all was. Reynold says at the beginning of the episode that he has nothing to lose, but I beg to differ: He had that idol. And now it’s gone.


Good luck with that, Reynold.

Stray Observations:

  • The reward challenge was an all-around disaster. What was the point of having a goalkeeper if there was no way to block a high-arcing shot? Putting it over the water rendered the goalkeeper essentially useless.
  • The immunity challenge, on the other hand, was well designed but completely sadistic. If you don’t drown, you win!
  • Reynold’s insistence on “bro-ing down” and having an all-male alliance is totally off-putting and exactly what everyone expects from Reynold at this point. The highlight of the episode was Cochran resoundingly calling him out for being such an idiot.
  • Love that while Reynold is talking strategy with everyone at the reward challenge, Erik is just chilling in the background munching on watermelon. He’s a strategic dynamo, that Erik.
  • “I rarely leave my apartment. I rarely leave Twitter.” Is Cochran me?
  • Cochran: “I’m not going to be engaging in any sort of masculine tomfoolery with these numbskulls.”