Can we just say it was an impressive bit of planning for the producers to have scheduled a tribal shuffle on exactly the morning that a 5.8 earthquake occurred? (Better yet, what are the odds that it would happen right as Leann, who never gets confessionals, was giving a confessional? Although that may explain why she doesn't get them.) They should do this every season! Sure, CBS lawyers would probably try to shut it down, due to liability issues related to falling coconuts, but it was still a neat piece of serendipity. All the same, there was one other natural force that appeared to billow its way, uninvited, into this episode: the local volcano, Mt. Yasur.
Look here, Smokey. We know you like to puff and rumble. But earthquakes are not caused by volcanoes. Or really even associated with them. You didn't need to be in this episode. You're already in the intro, and have a tribe named after you. Isn't that enough? (To be fair, they're now a particularly pathetic tribe, but you showed up before the switch.) Then again, we should probably be grateful Burnett didn't strong-arm the editors into blaming the whole ground-shaking sequence on the Spirit Stone, so... tiny victory? Either way, this week's Trolly is yours, Mt. Yasur. Try to keep quiet, at least for a few more episodes.
In addition, an honorable mention must be tossed Jeff Probst's way this episode, for both his in-challenge badgering of Rory, then his post-IC castigation of the entire New Yasur tribe. Moments after Yasur's defeat, Probst sneered: "Rory! You lost a lot of time on the knots... [and] some of the worst paddling I've ever seen. Someone's gonna pay for it tonight." The heckling was especially galling, since Yasur actually made up quite a bit of time on the paddling leg of the challenge, and it was only Lopevi's horrendous paddling that made the challenge remotely close. (As a producer, you'd think Probst would be praising that.)
Everyone was pretty well attended to edit-wise this episode, so let's turn our attention in a more accessorial direction, shall we? You know who we're talking about: the Yasur chief's necklace.
Let's review: Lopevi's Chief necklace was all over the place. First, it showed up for Lopevi's scintillating argument about sharing the premium log spaces around the campfire... before the Vanuatu natives even came to camp to hand it out! That's almost Trolly-worthy! And later, for no apparent reason, the Lopevi chief necklace showed up around Twila's neck at the waterfall reward. Because... she's demonstrating how well she gets along with the guys, by embracing her feminine love of necklaces? New Lopevi went on a drunken Chiefing bender? That Lopevi necklace sure gets around....
In contrast, where was Yasur's necklace? Scout took it, and it's as if it disappeared into a black hole. This was no doubt aided in part by Scout's traditional habit of sitting out challenges, but still. Equal time!
Eliza was completely right: After a season in which the gender-divided challenges mostly focused on balance, memory, or puzzles, the first two post-switch challenges were much more physically demanding. Of course, since Bubba sat out the one that involved swimming, his being retained for his "strength" was perhaps not the best argument. But Eliza's point was still well-taken. With physical challenges looming, New Lopevi will now have John K, Chad, Chris, Sarge, Julie and Twila matching up against... Scout (although Ami, Leann, Eliza and Lisa all seem reasonably capable).
How bad was Scout's division of the tribes? While there was a personal strategic advantage for her in splitting up Julie and Eliza, only two people from each tribe ended up switching places, including three of the people previously in the most danger of being booted (Julie, Twila, Rory), who were put into instant minorities on their new tribes. It might have been more even if she'd put John K on New Yasur. But instead, she left New Yasur at a large physical disadvantage to New Lopevi. Maybe she hoped they'd get fat and lazy from too much Pringles and beer?
Hiding tribal swap mechanisms used to be one of the cat-and-mouse games Survivor production played with the contestants. These days, production just skips swaps entirely, if there's a risk they might screw up the strategy of a treasured contestant (Russell Hantz, Boston Rob, Coach), or just has Jeff Probst announce them straight out. But back when they were first introduced (Africa, Amazon, for example, even as late as Guatemala), there was an implicit expectation of trickery when it came to swaps.
So it was an impressive bit of deception getting the two tribes to elect chiefs, once again relying on the English-Vanuatuan language barrier to keep the contestants off-balance. Having the two natives show up on the beach, saying "one chief!" forced the tribes to make a decision: who do we send, with no further information? Since the tribesmen arrived in an outrigger, everyone seemed to expect the chiefs would have to leave in the canoe with them, perhaps to meet and shuffle the tribes (as in Amazon). It wasn't entirely clear that this "chief" business was an honor, either. The Africa twist mechanism ("send three people" who were then swapped to the other tribe) raised the possibiliy this was more a glorified version of a house full of frat boys selecting someone to go to the door and disperse the seedy-looking solicitor peddling cleaning products. But because the natives "couldn't" answer the tribe's questions, what the chief status actually meant remained opaque. Nice work.
And then... Scout went and made new Lopevi an all-powerful challenge machine. Ho-hum.