Rodney's plan to throw the IC and oust obvious post-merge threat Joe evidently didn't turn out the way he'd envisioned. In contrast, Mike's plan to hijack Rodney's idea in order to save Kelly (currently exiled on Nagarote) obviously did work. And notably, Mike dutifully lamented (in confessional) his decision to throw the challenge, further ingratiating himself with the audience, producers and host. So it seems like Mike came away looking like he successfully took a dive. Even though he had to take that dive three times before it actually took. So, for future reference, when is it acceptable to throw a tribal challenge?
Here's a short list:
The redemption of Shirin... maybe?
She's the last, best hope of the superfans. And on the heels of almost being the "more annoying" person booted in the last episode, Shirin had a pretty spectacular rebound this week. She received humanizing character development, talking about the tribulations of facing prejudice while growing up, and its impact on trying to fit in on Survivor. She reasserted her desire to play this game, and to self-assess and rebuild. And perhaps most hopefully, there was this sequence: When the Nagarotes went to their turtle-watching reward, the guide described how, out of over 100 eggs laid, "only one could survive." The camera then cuts to a silent Shirin. True, they then pan to Jenn, who starts talking at length about how she has much better (and inaccurate) odds of winning Survivor than a turtle does of just living. It was a neat inversion of last week's sequence of Shirin talking/whistling/singing and Jenn staring in annoyed horror. But also, why cut to Shirin after the "survive" quote, if it's not important? Why not just jump straight to Jenn?
With the merge looming, Shirin should now be in a pretty good spot. The first few merge boots will probably be perceived physical threats (Rodney, maybe Joe or Mike). Shirin shouldn't be on anyone's radar, especially if she tones her excitement down, as she appeared to in this episode. If she makes it to the end, she'll have a great underdog story to sell the jury. Then again, Jim Rice picked her as the merge boot. We shall see.
Challenging, the first
Um, was it just us, or was the point-scoring system in the reward challenge Survivor's least satisfying use of projectiles, ever? The contestants used giant slingshots to fling sandbags across a fairly lengthy distance, occasionally hitting large boards draped (for unknown reasons) in chains. That part was all well and good. But then the payoff... lagged. Rather than the projectile exploding on impact, and/or the target shattering or being knocked over, the sandbag would thud into the target, then what seemed like several minutes later, a flag would slowly rise from behind it. For all we know, members of the Dream Team could have been standing behind the targets and playing rock-paper-scissors to decide which one got the duty of raising the flag.
Were it not for the behind-the-scenes test run video, we'd suspect that this was a last-minute rush job, and the challenge crew just didn't have time to come up with a more visually compelling set of targets. Who knows? All in all, the challenge was a clever repurposing of the same apparatus last used in the final San Juan del Sur IC. It just could have used a bit more of a final push to get it across the finish line.
Challenging, the second
As we tweeted after the episode: Dear Survivor, please stop trying to make us think back fondly about things from One World that aren't Kim Spradlin. Aren't three returnees from that season (none of whom were Kim) enough? Yes, we get that this season's title is sort of the reverse of One World, but do you have to keep mentioning it (ahem, looking at you, Max Dawson)? Did we really need an inferior version of a One World challenge here? Should be worried that Troyzan might be making a cameo appearance? What are you trying to tell us?
This memory IC was the first challenge the all-female Salani tribe managed to win in One World, and it just missed being the same for the almost-all-female New Nagarote tribe here. The original was the Ep3 RC in One World, done on Day 6; this was done on Day 16, or 10 days of brainpower depletion later. Maybe that explains the dumbing down: all participants here had to match only six objects, whereas the target ludicrously jumped up to eight for Troyzan's lengthy string of faceoffs vs. Kat, and the final Bill-Christina matchup. Even so, the sequences here weren't that difficult to remember when using initial and/or number mnemonics (as with the more frequently used memory challenge in which Probst flashes a series of symbols on cards). They probably could have done more than six.
But one thing about this challenge does still befuddle us: Why were they playing to three? With six people participating, there is no way for the sixth pair (Tyler, Jenn) to ever actually participate. The obvious answer is that they weren't playing to three, it was to some higher number, and they edited it down to place Mike's hilariously laborious throwing effort right there at the crux. But if so, why was Probst saying (on camera) "It's 2-2" as he raised the curtain for Kelly-vs-Mike? True, the shot of Jenn and Shirin jumping up and down in anticipation of the announced point (/challenge?) win showed just those two, so it might not have been during Kelly/Mike, and the framing could have been done to conceal that Kelly was there on the mat with them. Also, in the post-win celebration shot (above, right), Escameca appears to be consoling Sierra, not Mike.
So probably what happened was that Kelly-vs-Mike was indeed for the fifth total point, but not for the overall challenge win, and that either the Sierra-Hali matchup shown (or another unseen one involving Sierra) was the one that decided which tribe won immunity. It was probably the first tribe to five, as in One World. And the world will probably never know if Rodney actually threw his round. But please, Survivor. Stop thinking about One World.
Worlds Apart Episode 6 recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Joaquin Souberbielle
Podcasts - Episode 6