"If I get voted off this island, the Yasur tribe will burn. I can guarantee that."
This is one of the greatest quotes in Survivor history (and not just because - spoiler alert - it's prophetic, at least in a figurative sense). We've said it before, but the difference between the proto-Trolly Rory here, and the modern Trolly (Russell Hantz), is that, despite similar-seeming confessionals, Rory actually meant this.
He was visibly seething after getting told in harshly concrete terms that, (sorry!) because he wasn't female, he had absolutely no shot of being part of Ami and Leann's alliance. Putting the quote above right after this happened was key to getting such a potent quote. In today's Survivor, confessionals like this are pretty rare, and, when coming from the likes of Coach or Russell Hantz, tend to sound rehearsed (or in Colton's case, actually have been practiced beforehand).
What was great about this quote was, as Rory himself pointed out at the reward, the timing. Yes, the letters-from-home thing was a bit hokey, especially considering they've only been out there for two weeks, so the letters had to have been written if not before they left, within the first few days after departure (see also: Rob Cesternino & Tyson Apostol's discussion of this in other seasons). But it worked out perfectly with respect to Rory's "burn" quote, serving to set Rory back on an even keel, watching his temper. At least until after the immunity challenge. We'll say it again: Survivor needs more Rorys. And by that we mean: real people, with real emotions. Not a steady parade of actors.
In addition to the gradual loss of the treemail ritual from the show in recent seasons, the in-camp practice for challenges has also all but disappeared (last seen... Fiji?).
That's unfortunate, because the pre-challenge practice allows the opportunity for two great types of confessionals: One, absurdly overconfident faulty predictions, such as Sarge's "Yasur's like a high school team against, you know, an SEC team. There's no comparison. They're gonna give us a run for our money, but they won't win." (Final score: Yasur-20, Lopevi-17.) Two, dim-witted/doomed pronouncements that challenges are the best, if not only, way to save oneself (in this case, John K). That and hilarious footage of the contestants showing a complete lack of familiarity with whatever weapon or device the challenge involves.
We should also mention that the actual challenge was a far more complex and impressive variation on the common break-a-bunch-of-tiles competition than what we've been seeing in recent seasons. This one had each shooter assigned to a specific column in the 5x4 grid, such that if all four of their tiles were broken, they were out of the challenge. So if someone was really bad at shooting (cough *Eliza* cough), the terrible shooter's tiles could be targeted first, giving the better shooters more frequent shots. Both tribes seemed to eventually catch on to this. In contrast, Survivor: One World had a simple (and dull) tic-tac-toe-like tile-breaking challenge ("Coco Connection," Ep4 RC). Samoa had (in perhaps one of the worst challenges in recent memory) breaking as many tiles as you... or someone else near you... can in one throw, to move on to an even clumsier second stage with a makeshift crossbow. Where have you gone, Vanuatu challenge designers?
At this point, we feel it's time to mention perhaps one of the weakest challenge performers in Survivor history: Scout. Citing the limitations of her artificial knee, she's sat out challenges whenever possible, even though she did just fine (relative to Chris, anyway) in the opening obstacle course/balance beam challenge. But this episode, she kicked it up a notch by intentionally sitting out a challenge in which she was forced to compete, by immediately dumping her coconut water in the RC, to allow someone more nimble (Eliza) to go again. Which is actually pretty clever, and says a lot about the mysterious social hold Scout appears to have over the women of Yasur.
Despite clearly being a challenge liability, despite being the nominal leader of one of the two alliances within early Yasur, despite openly going against the rest of her tribe on the Lisa vote, Scout's name never comes up as a candidate for the boot. (Actually, Eliza mentioned it once, during the Mia vote(?), but attention quickly turned elsewhere.) Why is this? We haven't been shown much of it, but Scout must have an amazing social game to keep doing this, especially since as soon as the merge hits, nobody at all will (still) be targeting Scout, because she has essentially no chance of ever winning immunity. Right?
Aaand... wrong. No sooner do we award Scout a Sitty for her RC performance, than she actually competes (and does quite well) in the slingshot-based immunity challenge. Sigh.
Despite being all but invisible up until the switch, Julie pulled off a neat trick here: getting Twila to trust her. Hopelessly outnumbered on post-switch Lopevi, Twila and Julie both avoided the tribal council boot. John K's slacker tendencies around camp certainly contributed to that, but the seeds for that may have come from Julie's deceptively simple move of getting Twila to talk about the final four deal Sarge had recently offered her.
Now, to be fair, Twila's own incompetence allowed this to happen. Julie asked Twila "final four... have they been promising you that?" When Twila asked Julie "They've approached you about that?", Julie's quick-thinking response, "Have they done it to you?" ended with both giving a (seemingly) knowing chuckle. Twila should have said: "What? Who promised you that?" to force Julie to compare notes. Julie probably could have finessed that, since John K was clearly on the outside, but still, Twila's utter lack of follow-up allowed Julie to create the impression of double-dealing when there actually was none. Julie's trick of gauging Twila's innate cynicism and paranoia, then using that to improbably gain her trust, made them a (temporarily) solid two, which, given Sarge's actual deference to Twila's wishes, probably raised John K in Lopevi's boot sights over Julie. Nicely done, and worthy of at least a weekly Slitty award.
But we should also point out the tribal council mastery displayed by Chris here. Maybe he was just lucky, in that he didn't get hostile direct questions like "John, what is something Twila could do better?" But Chris's response to "What are you basing your vote on tonight?" was an absolute gem - making everyone feel comfortable, while saying absolutely nothing about his plans. He mentions two criteria: trust "...trust is hard to come by in this game," and "my future in the game, who's gonna benefit me... or the people I'm aligned with." It's essentially a generic response, but delivered so smoothly, that John K comes out of Chris's betrayal... rooting for Chris to win (in his Final Words). Pretty slick.