I was definitely still mourning my neon warrior this episode, but the show must go on! Another episode of next to nothing when it came to talk of idols and advantages was again a surprise to me, and the fact that Ghost Island wasn’t even a part of this week was an even bigger surprise. I’m not sure if this means we’re going to be trampled with twists post-merge, but right now I’m continuing to be a big fan of this season. Now that the cast has been whittled down a bit, we’re getting a lot more content from people, and it’s more than just emotional epiphanies while they’re exiled. Surely this “Naviti strong” crap won’t last, and when that tribe finally cracks, this season’s going to get crazy—I’m confident!
WHY JEFF, WHY?
It had been 3 votes since the last swap, so the tribes were one vote overdue for another! I remember being at first satisfied with the relatively early swap at 18 due to the divide it caused at the new Naviti tribe, but since then we saw the less exciting sequence of events play out on the new Malolo tribe. What Episode 3 showed as a major shift in dynamics appeared only relevant to Naviti while the pecking order on Malolo became rather dull because of the “Naviti strong” cult culture.
Hindsight is always 20/20 but, in this case, I think the first swap came about two rounds too early. In order for a swap to provide the maximum amount of shift in momentum, I think both original tribes need to vote at least once to given everyone a feel for where they stand within the tribe. OG Naviti never had to face that, and had they done so once or twice, Bradley and Kellyn and Domenick and Wendell would have probably remained tight pairs, but others like Sebastian, Desiree, and Chelsea—if they all survived—may have went into a later swap with different plans than sticking Naviti-strong.
Since they never had to experience tribal council, most of Naviti except now for Chris and Angela were left feeling comfortable with undying loyalty to their initial tribe. This presented a further problem with this swap as, once again, a random draw gave Naviti a definitive majority on each of the three(!) new tribes as follows:
Naviti – Domenick, Bradley, Chelsea, Donathan, Libby
Malolo – Kellyn, Desiree, Angela, Michael, James
Yanuya – Chris, Wendell, Sebastian, Laurel, Jenna
(Was I the only one who had no idea what the new tribe was named until they got to camp and the camera zoomed in on the tribe flag? It sounded like something out of Sebastian’s vocabulary.)
On the newest Naviti tribe, Libby was the clear outcast after Donathan’s established tie to Domenick last week. Chris and Sebastian were former bros and Sebastian had his side chick Jenna which put Laurel in trouble. This left Malolo as the only questionable tribe given Angela’s past experience with betrayal from her former Naviti tribemates. Therefore, I was actually hoping for another Malolo loss because it looked to present the only opportunity for a major upset in what has otherwise been a Malolo massacre.
THE GUY WHO LIKES TO HEAR HIMSELF TALK
After Sebastian was reunited with his dead conch (another word I didn’t hear correctly the first time and wondered who was getting fired for missing that bleep), the focus was all on Chris at the new Yanuya tribe—just the way he liked it!
Is it just me or is Chris kiiiind of becoming the next Debbie? I mean, there will never be a true “next Debbie” but Chris’s ego must be large enough for him to think it can be him. In the premiere, he told us he was a fisherman; last week it was a baseball pitcher; this week it was a champion volleyball player, and he’s always been billed as the male model. Then Laurel added another job prospect to Chris’s growing resume when she told him she could see him being a motivational speaker (way to stroke that ego, Laurel). Topping it all off, with the players finally getting their bathing suits this week, did Chris’s new trunks trigger any memory? They should have.
I think we most definitely have a Wanner wannabe here. Chris, as the self-appointed and unopposed President of the Debbie Donato Wanner Fan Club (Est. 2016), I’m going to give you some beneficiary advice and tell you to stop while you still can. There can only be one Jack-of-all-trades in the world, and it’s actually a Jill of all trades. Watch yourself, because Debbie doesn’t miss when she tries to chop someone’s arm off—unlike you.
Perhaps my favorite quote of the night was from Chris when he proclaimed, “I look at myself as my own entrepreneur. Even though I’m not investing in a million things right now, I see myself investing in me.” Way to totally disprove that “dumb, self-absorbed” model stereotype, Chris. Honestly, Chris is casting gold and while it seems imminent that he’ll be an early merge boot at the hand of Domenick, I hope he somehow manages to stick around a lot longer than that to provide us with gems like this as well as to inspire more facial expressions like these from the people around him.
BACK ON THE BOTTOM
At the new new Malolo tribe, it was the same circus just with different clowns for Michael. Kellyn and Desiree were still preaching NAVITI STRONG and with Angela, they maintained a 3-2 advantage over Michael and now James. The one question mark, though, seemed to be Angela. She immediately made public the events that took place at Naviti with Chris and Domenick taking shots at one another and her being caught in the crossfire. Kellyn was frustrated by Chris and Dom’s behavior, but she was nothing compared to Angela’s two shades of pissed off—not “Debbie pissed” but enough to make Angela break her deadpan stare for a few moments.
James and Michael had an awkward relationship with James reminding us that Michael voted for him at Malolo’s second tribal council. Unfortunately, James didn’t really have a choice but to work with Michael here. I suppose he could have immediately sold Michael out to the girls and saddled up with them instead, but I think there was enough of a link present with Angela that James may have thought he could flip her rather than be forced to flip himself. It made sense to me—Angela’s Naviti “family” had already voted against her once, so why not work with Michael over Kellyn and Desiree? If the next time Angela gets her throat slit is her last, then I can see this round being pointed to as the one where she done f***ed up by not going with the guys.
THE DEVIL IN AN ANGEL’S BODY
This week was the sequel to Coffee Cryfest at Naviti which had me back to wondering what secret ingredient was in that coffee that made tear ducts flood. As Chelsea stirred— “I’M STIRRING!”—she clearly wasn’t even looking at her cup, so anything could have snuck its way in there, maybe even a ghost! Hey, since we didn’t have any Ghost Island this week (really, have we since the first week?) the ghosts had to find another way to make someone cry, so spookily spiked coffee it was!
Naviti wasn’t up to much else, although we learned that while Domenick no longer had Chris breathing down his neck, he was evidently free to let his hair down and spend his time… breathing down Libby’s neck. He maybe had a point with Libby being a little ruthless, at least more than she appears to be, after she cut her friend Morgan, but to go as far as to call her Parvati 2.0…
I get it. She’s a girl who wears a bikini (on a beach – how promiscuous) and seems to be at least a little conscious of how to play Survivor but, my god, every time a female player shows an ounce of wit, does she have to be labeled Parvati? That’s a little insulting to Parvati. Libby’s played for just over two weeks now, and Parvati has played for over 100 days. Let’s see how Libby does after the next 90 or so before we put her on that same Survivor: Legends ballot as Parvati.
This seemed like the usual overly-dramatized storyline that makes me think next week Libby will be the source of the show’s main conflict and this whole “Parvati” business will be an excuse to get rid of her. Don’t get me wrong—Libby could easily be a threat if she’s as sharp as she is sweet, but the only more delusional statement made at Naviti this week was when Bradley said he was fantastic and playing an “A+” game. Unless the “A” stood for asshole, in which case his game is an “A++,” he’s been far from an “A+” at least when it comes to his social game. Bradley sounded about as dumb as a male model with that self-assessment. I should clarify, though, that Bradley is not a male model like Chris.
IMMUNITY – COME TO MY VOICE
A blindfolded challenge on Survivor is always one of the best of the season because of how literal a ballbuster it typically is. Fortunately, the tribes were finally given their bathing suits which… totally didn’t seem to have any relevance in this waterless challenge, but okay. I guess the guys needed some extra padding in front? While men do tend to walk away from these challenges the most broken and bruised, this time it was the women that seemed to take the brunt of the brutal beating. Let’s review some of this challenge’s biggest casualties:
And of course, Malolo faced the biggest blow of all to what little remained of its dignity. Womp womp. They made the right decision in choosing the loudest voice to be the caller, but when it came to the puzzle, Desiree proved to be the wrong choice after she couldn’t REVERSE THE CURSE of her poor puzzle performance on Day 1. Speaking of curses, the biggest one this season still remains to be the one that came from Jacob opening his big mouth to declare Malolo the greatest tribe ever. In retrospect, he probably should have put a rice-filled sock in it.
GIVING UP MUSCLE
With Desiree breaking down over disappointment in herself after the challenge, that’s another crier to add to the list. Who’s left off that list now? Just Laurel, Wendell, Domenick, and Sebastian I think is all that remains. Everyone else has cried in one way, shape, or form. Through the tears, Desiree knew she still didn’t want to go, and Kellyn didn’t want her to either, so the old Naviti girls settled on James as their target. The decision would make them even weaker in challenges but would hopefully keep that NAVITI STRONG.
Angela was still in a bit of the swing position, and while she said she trusted James, she didn’t seem all that quick to jump on board with him and Michael. She gave another confessional about how important family was to her, so I thought that being betrayed by her Naviti family would have pushed her to find a new home with Malolo, but maybe she still felt compelled to stay true to her roots and pledge NAVITI STRONG herself.
In my opinion, Kellyn didn’t even make a much more convincing argument than James (who maybe said the right things but in a lackluster motivational way). Kellyn essentially told Angela that the five Navitis that were previously on Malolo were tight, she and Desiree were tight, so Angela should be tight with them too. It was essentially telling Angela “you can be our third now and settle as our sixth later.” Call Chrissy to check my math, but that didn’t seem like a winning numbers scenario for Angela. I didn’t feel confident Angela would have the guts to firmly flip on Naviti, but I can never be sure with her – she keeps one hell of a poker face.
What an interesting word choice from Mr. Exotic himself—James! Ironically, he could have been digging himself an even deeper hole with that if Malolo was determining whether or not to keep the tribe strong by keeping James—a nearsighted decision for Kellyn and Desiree who wanted old Malolo as weak as possible going into the merge.
Later Jeff surveyed each member of the tribe on whether, in life, they lead with their head or their heart. Angela, Desiree, and James all said “head” while Michael said “heart” and Kellyn gave a long-winded answer talking about her gut again and how it was a mix of both “head” and “heart.” While Jeff seemed to go along with her answer, surely at some point during her monologue he and everyone else was thinking, “This was a multiple-choice question, Kellyn, not open-ended.”
James was clearly puzzled like me in Angela’s ultimate decision I guess to go with her head and vote out James despite what her heart may have wanted. I was confused as well by Michael’s decision to also vote for James, but perhaps it was so he wouldn’t have to apologize to anyone back at camp. James called this vote a blindside, but uh… I mean, he really didn’t see that coming? Not at all? Yikes. Suddenly I wasn’t as bummed about me missing out on that Harvard education.
There’s nothing to really dislike about James, but I think the other four Malolos may end up having more interesting stories to watch, so I was alright with the sacrifice. Though he was dealt a bad hand with this swap, I don’t think he was dealt the worst. That was probably Michael, yet Michael succeeded in escaping elimination once again while James failed to capitalize on his connection with Angela from Naviti which probably cost him the game. It seemed like he did have some cards to play with her but I guess he just didn’t play them correctly. I knew James would struggle at the social game but I think most people liked James well enough, so if he just knew how to use his likability as a weapon, we may have seen a different ending for him.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
“He’s nasty son of a bitch”—I seem to already have my title for next week’s recap. NO ONE ELSE CAN CLAIM IT. While Malolo burns its flag, Bradley’s burning more bridges. Hooray! If Naviti loses next week, I imagine we’ll be pitched the story of Domenick considering flipping on Bradley for being a total dick, but Domenick knows that Bradley’s exactly the kind of guy to keep in the game for the sake of having a goat to slaughter at Final Tribal Council. It’ll end up being Libby given her content this week, or perhaps Michael will be the final pre-merge victim of the Malolo massacre. Who knows—the Chris vs. Domenick story will have played out for seven episodes after the next, so it’s just as likely that the Domenick vs. Libby could take its place after Chris leaves and last for just as long.
Chris – I don’t know if I was amazed by any gameplay this week, but Chris had another breakout as someone who delivers A+ content when it comes to character. I loved his Debbie-esque listing off of his résumé, his confessional about how models definitely aren’t dumb or self-absorbed, and I’m pretty sure his misuse of “beneficiary” will be mocked for a good while. Like I said earlier, I think Chris is being set up as the merge boot, but it will be beneficiary to all of us if he sticks around longer than that.
Laurel – Contrary to Chris, Laurel talked about laying low and simply smiling and nodding when needed. The contrast is now completely comical because I’d have guessed Laurel to be the one boasting about all of her accomplishments this season, but she’s remained humble and hidden. I could only see this coming to bite her if she’s up against a much more obvious move-maker and shaker like Domenick in the end, but Laurel I think is still playing one of the best games to at least reach the end. I almost forgot she was an original Malolo with how well she’s been able to blend in. Another thing I loved about Laurel this episode was this incredible look she gave while listening to Chris:
I relate to that look on a highly spiritual level.
Ryan Kaiser has been a lifelong fan of Survivor since the show first aired during his days in elementary school, and he plans to one day put his money where his mouth is by competing in the greatest game on Earth. Until that day comes, however, he'll stick to running his mouth here and on Twitter: @Ryan__Kaiser