The Golden Ticket - Ben Martell's recaps

Sallah edition


As seen in both Australian and New Zealand Survivor, two and a half hours of content for a single vote-out cycle is a lot of Survivor at the best of times, but it’s of no surprise that it feels like it’s particularly dragging in the post-swap.  This is often the part of Survivor which sets up the pieces for the merge, but in doing that it is often straightforward and lacking in any deep or interesting moments to analyse.


That’s certainly been the case here.  On both tribes, the choice of votes has been easy and essentially (if not technically) unanimous.  While we have seen plenty of time given to all sides of the equation, it’s been fairly clear that what the correct strategic moves are, and so clear that the alternative is being given air to create false suspense rather than because it’s on the table.


What it has done, however, is really give time to reinforce characters, and at this point it feels like they really want us to have a particular read on each individual.  I feel like this gives me an unusually clear – if potentially catastrophically incorrect – vision of the future of the season that I never get from US Survivor.


I’ll get into that shortly.  But first, what’s on the ticket this week?


  • Definitely New Zealand Survivor
  • Hero reward?
  • Redemption Island tension
  • It’s prediction time


Definitely New Zealand Survivor (things you won’t see at home)

Definitely New Zealand Survivor


For a few weeks now, I’ve been both amused and bemused at the very Kiwi things going on in this show that I am completely missing (because they are normal to me), but Australian, American and Canadian viewers are noticing.  Things like the word ‘gutted’ (yes, I heard Georgia use it at least twice this week).  While there have occasionally been things that clearly need explaining, mostly they fly by.


But this week there was not one but two examples of things that don’t need explaining at all, but certainly seem to only fit in the context of New Zealand editors giving us their own portrayal of Survivor.  The first was when the reward included chocolate bars, and Barb was heard to proclaim that they’d make a good laxative.  The second was even more obvious... the show literally cutting to a commercial break on the words ‘Tight Ass’.   New Zealand humour is often remarkably unsophisticated (as demonstrated by Jak... every episode).  However, I do think there is a little sophistication by the editors in the way they chose to let that humour show this week.  In the case of each of Barb, Jak and Michael, the choice to leave in their own sense of humour seems to point directly into the version of each of their characters that is being portrayed.


Another small note on talking New Zealandish.  Most players out there have got the name “Sala” nailed.  They give the vowels all the room needed to breathe.   They say it, and it sounds Polynesian.  But not poor Shannon.  When she says it, all I can think about is this guy:

This is not Sala


No, he is not Sallah from Indiana Jones.  But I think he’s pretty much exactly as popular.


Hero reward? (Not as good as advertised)


The reward challenge this week was a rerun of the Cambodia hero challenge – but it just wasn’t as good.  I applauded the show for trying something new with its modified version of a hero immunity challenge, where the last person standing could win immunity for their whole tribe, but this one fell flat for me.  So, I think I have some guidelines as to what makes a good hero challenge from now on.


  • Make the stakes real.  That means immunity.  No more ‘hero reward’ challenges.  All they do is potentially put a target on someone’s back as a challenge threat.  When it’s immunity, it forces a player to make a decision between safety now and not being a threat later.  Plus, your heroics genuinely mean something for your place in the game (potentially even  numbers at the merge).  When it’s reward, there’s no real benefit to being the person putting your hand up.


  • Make it ‘last man standing’, and have each tribe put in several players.  I think the hero immunity concept worked because the hero could come from anywhere.  Would Lou have been Megatron’s choice as to who would be their hero in the event only one person could compete?  Probably not, but there she was as the last contestant standing.  By selecting one person and only one person, we lose the opportunity for unexpected heroes (and unexpected failures).


Redemption Island tension (entirely unresolved)

Redemption Island tension


It was good to see that Shannon actually had time to spend at Redemption Island, talking to Izzy and Georgia. Having her come back into the game with her new tribe knowing that she had talked to Georgia and being wary of what might be rehearsed and what she might have talked to Georgia about was an interesting twist.  It probably won’t amount to anything longer term, but given last week I was left with the question of whether or not Shannon was actually going to Redemption Island, it was good to see that resolved.


In the duel itself, though, I was reminded of the early days of US Survivor – the days before the cameramen got really amazing at what they do.  Clearly, Izzy and Georgia both dropped their stacks at really similar time, but the only proof we seemed to have that Izzy dropped hers first was that they showed it (individually) dropping before they showed Georgia’s (individually) dropping.  They went to the commercial break on a cliffhanger, wondering whose plates had dropped first, and the cliffhanger could only have been resolved by a clear camera shot establishing both girls and when their stacks dropped comparative to each other.  But it seems it didn’t exist to use.  It felt like the end of that challenge, and Matt’s ruling, must have been tense to be amongst and see at the moment.  For us at home, though, it felt like it was a event that happened off camera.  Hopefully they can improve on that.


Izzy going out wasn’t particularly a surprise, given how underdeveloped she was.  She seems like someone who could have done really well on the season, but in the end she just didn’t pop, and her going home does leave Georgia in the game which takes things to an all or nothing duel that really matters next week.  This will really ramp up the tension!


It’s prediction time (plus some molten (chocolate) takes)

Molten (chocolate) takes


Georgia has been given the edit of someone who will battle and never give up, while Shay seems like the exact opposite – someone prone to giving up and who is very changeable at any moment.  As they go in to duel, the stakes will really be high for both tribes.  Shay is going to defeat Georgia, though – her story was more developed in the early episodes, and it feels necessary for the rest of the show to pan out the way it feels like the edit is leaning.


At this point, Michael is being portrayed as a complete moron who is more or less wrong about everything.  This week we saw him pining after Georgia even though we know she had a boyfriend, and believing they could keep throwing the challenge secret even after we knew Hermosa was all over it.  We also heard a discussion of how shocked Michael will be to see Shannon write his name down.  He also said that, at this point, all the people who already weren’t in his alliance are his enemies because they voted out his beloved Georgia.  Everything about Michael reminds me of Bobby Jon from Guatemala (and possibly Palau as well).  He’s a well meaning guy who should be in a decent game position but his finger is not on the pulse.  Michael is the merge boot, and he won’t see it coming.


It would be easy to overlook, but Shannon had the opportunity to tell us, through confessional, that she is telling Nate and Barb the truth about wanting to work with them.  That means she does plan to be loyal to current Hermosa, and doesn’t want to work with Michael.  I think it’s pretty clear that the story in the merge episode is going to hinge around where Shannon’s loyalties lie, but I think the editors already tipped us off with that one confessional.  Shannon will stick with Hermosa and it may well give her a good chance to win.  My guess is she’s removed when someone believes she’d get all the Megatron boys votes come the end.


Tom seems like the guy whose hand is going to get stuck in the cookie jar playing both sides.  I have no doubt that he is more loyal to the Megatron boys than he is to Avi – we had a week one confessional from him about how he felt closer with the guys on Hermosa, and now here he finally gets to spend quality time with them.  His buddy relationship with Jak is getting play and so they could be a duo for a while, but sooner or later his true loyalties are going to catch up with him.  He’s backed the wrong side.


Barb feels like a form of comic relief at this point.  Where Nate gets to seem switched on strategically, Barb seems to be edited more towards the one liners.  She is a fun presence to have on the season for the most part (brief desire to leave aside), but I think her entire alliance sees her as being on the bottom, even Nate, and I don’t think she will see that coming.


Jak is literally only on the show to make toilet jokes and write ‘tight ass’ in the immunity challenge.  His friendship with Tom is the first time he has had any story on the show beyond being the joker.  He’s going to find himself in the minority after Michael’s boot, and I think he’s already burned too many bridges to make it back in.  People don’t respect him.


Avi, Nate, Barb, Shannon, Sala


Nate I have no prediction for.  No hot take.  I don’t know where his story is heading at all.  But I do think a lot of the show has been around his perspective and I think he’s in good shape to make it deep.  Perhaps he could even be a losing finalist?


Sala is truly liked by everyone.  If anyone lets him get to the end, he might win in a unanimous vote.  I don’t think anyone is going to let him get to the end.  It’s going to be a tough vote, but you know there’s going to be confessionals about “Voting out Sala is the hardest thing I have to do in this game.”  Ultimately, though, the players are going to know they can’t beat them.


That leaves Avi as the winner.  I’m certainly biased, but I’m becoming more convinced of this by the episode.  Avi  seems to be getting a huge amount of love by the edit in showing his thought processes at each and every vote, showing him creating his relationship, and otherwise getting to have positive commentary on more or less every event that happens – and usually being the first confessional afterwards.  No-one seems to be tracking confessional count or where they occur this season (I don’t blame them), but Avi’s confessionals often feel like they are placed in very deliberate and important positions.  I’m fully on board the Avi train at this point.


Have I forgotten someone?  I don’t think so.  I can’t figure out why Megatron only has three tribe members left though...


What about Lee?




And on that note, I’ll see you all for the merge next week.  Please comment and tweet at me, and I’ll respond.




Ben Martell - The Golden TicketBy day, Ben Martell is a public commercial lawyer from New Zealand.

By night, he moonlights as a self-described Survivor 'expert'.

By day or night, find him on twitter at: @golden8284

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Episodes 7-8 exit interviews: Izzy Pearson

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  • George Fenwick at the New Zealand Herald (5/29/17): "The odd reason Survivor's Izzy is struggling to sleep at night"


Episodes 7-8 podcasts

  • Nick Iadanza at RHAP: "Know It Oz | New Zealand Week 4 | Mike Bloom"