This was definitely the most satisfying episode of the season, and with the way this season was going I didn’t think the ultimate outcome would have been possible without two or three idols coming out at once. Surprisingly, none showed their nullifier-fearing faces and instead we were gifted with a good, old-fashioned flip without having to use advantage to alter the numbers. I wish the blindside could have been pulled on a John Carroll level puppet master poser (“What’s a poser?”), but if that’s my only real gripe this week, along with an angsty news anchor, then this must have been an excellent episode of the Edge.
I almost forgot what season I was watching when the episode opened with the tribe getting back to camp after the vote rather than us visiting the Edge of Extinction or going right into a challenge. What a throwback!
Aurora was expectedly outraged over not being included in the Kama vote for Joe. I couldn’t give a crap about my supposed alliance just not wanting to make me feel “uncomfortable” with a vote — if I was left out, they’d be dead to me. Ron’s reassurance to Aurora of, “We’re strong” was just eugh. I’m so glad Aurora found her inner WOKE after this and saw right through the bullshit.
Ron and Eric later hugged David and Rick and welcomed them to the cult of Kama with Rick 100% on board that train. David was told that he was betrayed by his Lesu alliance, but in the back of his mind, he still knew as well as they did that this couldn’t be the end of them working together in the game. Kelley, Lauren, and The Wardog regrouped on the other side of the beach and committed to rebuilding and bringing over Aurora to force Kama to rocks.
With 12 left in the game, the Kama 6 was one vote away from having a complete majority, and no matter how much of a trainwreck Lesu had become, they truly were each other’s only hope whether they liked it or not. In a game of numbers and voting blocs, sometimes loyalty needs to go out of sight and out of mind to make room for just simple logic.
MEANT TO BE
This is the story the show was waiting for: Joe waking up every morning on the Edge of Extinction contemplating the entirety of his life and tearing up over it. Jeeeeesuuuuuuuuuuusss. This was just episode one of The Joe Show and was exactly why I didn’t want him voted out last week — he’s going to steal all the screen time away from Reem and Aubry!
“You are not gonna get me this time, pal!”
I like that whenever the producers give the Edge people something to play with, it’s always painted as though they stumbled upon whatever it is. This time, they “found” a set of four wine bottles only to find out there was no wine but instead more clues inside. That may have been the last straw for me – teased with wine only to realize it was another scavenger hunt.
“No wine?! Screw you, dudes!”
I absolutely adored that Reem took “your game still at stake” to mean there were steaks hidden somewhere on the island to find. That was just so precious and I would have died if Reem did end up pulling a giant ass t-bone out of the bushes.
“Call off the search dudes. I found the freakin steak.”
Aubry spotted the real prize right behind Reem (again, she was so close yet so far away), so she subtly snuck it into her shirt and walked down the beach to find out what she had won, referencing Kelley’s “sneaky sneaky” Second Chance confessional. This was a two-for-one first in the form of practice for the next Edge of Extinction re-entry challenge — if that’s to come around Day 36, I’m not sure how big of an advantage it is to practice once over two weeks in advance, but whatever. The bigger score was influence on the game in another extra vote since, you know, Bracco botched the last one. Overall, these weren’t substantial powers for Aubry, but I’ll take any small steps toward her getting back in the game and helping her friends on the other side.
REWARD – WORK THE PLANK
The teams in this reward challenge looked a little imbalanced with the strongest man and woman, Eric and Aurora, both on blue as well as Victoria and Julia on the puzzle for them against Ron and David, the latter of whom has had a poor puzzle track record this season. Yellow didn’t have The Wardog, though, so they at least had that going for them.
A few “put it in/get it in” That’s What She Said jokes later, blue did end up pulling out the win even though Victoria and Julia faced a struggle trying to maneuver all that heavy wood.
I’m sorry, Kelley, I couldn’t help myself there.
Yellow may have lost the Chinese takeout reward, but Ron was apparently happier this way with Kelley and Lauren not being able to take part in the feast. While I do enjoy living 30 seconds from a Chinese restaurant, I’m kind of with Ron with this reward not being the worst to lose. If my diet consisted of rice for 20 days, I don’t think Chinese is the first food I’d be eager to eat ... but mostly because that’s like 80% of what I get when I order Chinese. “Can I have the chicken fried rice with just the chicken and the rice? Thanks!” — Me.
NO HARD FEELINGS
At least the Chinese looked more appetizing than the famous Fijian pizza. I bet that it stayed in everyone’s system a whole 30 minutes longer too.
Lauren lamented once more how tired and hungry she was, a narrative choice that would soon make sense, and Julie for the first time felt like she could relate to the rest of the Lesu losers by not winning another reward challenge. She and Kelley shared a solid heart to heart moment, Kelley feeling especially sympathetic toward Julie and her loss.
Or not so much.
The real heart to heart moment was had between Kelley and David while trying to clear the air surrounding the last vote. With the numbers where they were, it was in Lesu’s best interest to bury any hatchets and come together to take a crack at Kama or else Rick, David, Kelley, Lauren, and The Wardog would soon drop like flies.
Much like that fly. Wentworth does not miss.
I worried this wouldn’t be possible, but David and Kelley quickly coming to their senses about working together and pulling the obvious Kama outsider Aurora over to their cause had me as giddy as an Aubry at a coleslaw convention. My smile grew even wider when Eric and Ron talked about Aurora having nowhere else to go and the Lesus being not long for this game. The pieces were all falling into place for an underdog upset edit, but I became upset myself when, moments later, Rick the dick burst into the scene.
You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. TRU FUCKING DAT.
Going off on The Wardog and especially David like Rick did was not a rootable look for the no-longer-Lesu. I get it that things sort of went to hell with Rick and his former tribemates, but I just don’t honestly see how he thought shacking up with Kama was a better path. Rick may have been in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, but 5th in an alliance sounds a lot better than 8th. He should have The Wardog explain the numbers on that one more time.
The way Rick talked down to David like he was crazy for thinking he’d ever get the numbers also rubbed me the wrong way. It has to be weird to be voted out and then a few days later forced to play again with the people that were responsible — only a few have had to do it, and more often than not they do get a little too self-righteous for my taste. Too much salt, and Rick has to remember that though he may refuse to work again with Lesu, that would make them all members of the jury in his mind, so he’d potentially be throwing away allies and jury votes with his attitude, much like the OG Outcast/returnee.
I don’t know if it’s been 100% confirmed, but there’s this story of Sandra literally kicking sand in Lill’s face in Pearl Islands shortly after Lill voted out Rupert, and it always makes me laugh so I hope it’s legit. If not’s not, please no one tell me otherwise. With the way Rick keeps mouthing off to old Manu, I could totally see Kelley doing the same to him.
IMMUNITY – BLOCKED OUT
I’ve always felt that I would do well in most Survivor endurance challenges because I’m skilled at standing still. This is one, though, is one I know I’d never fare well in at all. As much as my hairspray-held hair would give me a little shelf for that block to sit on, it’s more of the posture required to last in this that would push me over the edge. That said, I feel confident I could battle The Wardog head to toe and win any day. 15 seconds? Yikes, dude. I hope lasting only 15 seconds isn’t a common shortcoming of yours.
With Lauren talking earlier in the episode, and the season for that matter, about starving, I narrowed down the near-medical evac to her, but the way she fell toward the end of this challenge was still shocking and could have been much worse than it was. When Lauren came back to her senses, her first word was “dammit” and knowing she was obviously okay, I now wish she would’ve yelled “Dammit Wardog!” out of pure force of habit.
He’s just taking a beating from everyone!
The challenge came down to Victoria and Aurora, all while Lauren was blacked out on the ground. Julie had another morally high moment when she couldn’t believe Aurora was trying to strike a deal for Vic to step down not knowing how bad of shape Lauren was in which was ironic because Julie was the first person to say “keep going” to the Kama competitors as soon as Lauren collapsed. Aurora needed no deal to be made, however, as Victoria eventually dropped by her own mistake, giving Aurora the big win she felt she needed (which gave me major fantasy league points! Huzzah!)
DIAL UP THE WARDOG
Continuing her hot streak, Aurora got back to camp and found an item in her bag, the extra vote courtesy of Aubry. It didn’t really hit me until then how major this extra vote could have been with the numbers as tight as they were. Kama still had their beachside board meeting and fantasized over all making the family visit, but if Aurora flipped and Rick also regained some common sense, then there would have been 7 votes against the Kama six and no idols would have been needed to kill Kama strong.
Side note — the loved ones visit being used to lure Kama into complacency was more than a little nauseating for me. Yeah, let’s have everyone throw away their games just to see their family 10 days sooner than they otherwise would. I know any loved one of mine would be more than alright with me risking seeing their face for the sake of a better shot at a million dollars. I’ve got no strings tied to any puppet master. That whole Ron-run rendezvous had my eyes rolling big time.
I also hated how Eric stated that Kama had “so craftily acquired” all these numbers. Excuse me? What exactly did they do besides win challenges, and by “they” I mostly mean Joe? All the Kama wins were impressive, don’t get me wrong, but winning immunity isn’t “crafty.” This sounded like something Probst would say — he and Eric must own the same set of dictionaries.
While Kelley and Lauren became Kama’s targets with a split vote, The Wardog decided to try to split Kama in a different way by working over Julia and Gavin. The Wardog said they could dial The Wardog up anytime, the sooner the better. Gavin and Julia were warned that David and Rick would be used by Ron and Eric to knock them out rather than going to final seven as Kama strong, and Julia got the necessary confirmation on that when Eric wouldn’t hear anything about voting out David or Rick over Kelley and Lauren.
This BIG MOVE to flip on Kama then became Julia and Gavin’s to make along with Victoria, a sort of Millennials vs. Gen X divide within their alliance. Victoria wasn’t having any of the so-called “shenanigans” but I appreciated that Gavin and Julia went for it anyway, especially Julia. We finally got to see her game and it’s funny (while frustrating from a story standpoint) that one of the biggest nobodies of the cast was about to become the biggest SOMEBODY in the game.
THE KAMA TRAIN
Tribal council was more or less of the same dance as last week, led by Ron Clark. Only this time, Rick was all aboard the Kama train and didn’t care who knew it. Ron declared that there were “limited spaces open for a limited time only” so Rick must’ve taken this to mean it was now or never to join even if it meant that he was the caboose.
Aurora brought up a great point about the success Kama’s had in the game, adding to the list of reasons I was in love with her this week, in that it wasn’t necessarily because they were so great but that the original Manu was so bad. This refers back to a comment of Eric’s I mentioned not caring for — again, Kama didn’t “craft” their way here. They won a bunch of challenges that dwindled Manu’s numbers down and caused them to cannibalize themselves because that’s the only way they had learned to play the game. There’s a huge difference between physical and mental dominance, highlighted by who came out on top after this vote.
I’d have much rather seen Ron go here because of the buildup we’ve been getting of his “puppet master” story the last few weeks. Eric’s being the biggest blindside yet is just “meh” with me. It reminds me of when JP (who?) was voted out of Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. It was an exciting episode and a major turning point in the tribe dynamics, but ... it was only JP who left. With a flip vote blindside this big, we need someone like a Savage or Sarah whose as overconfident as all get-out to make the night truly iconic. Eric was confident in Kama, but he wasn’t calling himself king. Also, he was way too gracious in his goodbye. Get the fuck out of here with that positive attitude and good sportsmanship!
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
Okay, so normally previews like this are a major oversell of what’s coming, but if Aubry’s on the edge of excitement, then I’m going to be too and go in expecting to see the second volcanic eruption of the season. I went 100% into this last episode waiting for “Wentworth does not count” but maybe I was just one week off in my prediction. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going and avoid a crash and burn finish — the Edge of Extinction twist could still cause that, but that doesn’t mean a few more strong episodes can’t come out of this season.
Aurora – I’ve been waiting for an Aurora outbreak since the beginning and this week was finally the one that made me proud to be a stan. From swearing vengeance on Kama for Joe (I’ll let it slide), beasting her way to both a reward and immunity win, and being brave enough to flip on the phonies, Aurora had her big hero awakening. Who knew all that had to happen was for Joe to leave? Well, I guess we all did because Joe’s a known camera hog. I’m not exactly sure of Aurora’s path to the end, but having no strong allegiance to anyone may be a huge help for her in this war between all the “packages.” With her being so under the radar up until now (funny faces and one-liners aside) I unfortunately don’t see this season ending with an Aurora win unless her story is 100% some “avenge Joe” narrative ... which initially after typing that out as a joke, I actually could see the show making that a real thing — “If Joe can’t win, let’s edit the winner as his protégé!” Regardless, Aurora should be around a while to bring more general ass-kickery.
Julia – This was the week for purple edits! Technically we don’t have any because both Aurora and Julia have had confessionals in the pre-merge, but it was wild to see these two women as such a showcase willing to make the BIG MOVEZ. I’ve complained about the editors this season not knowing where they’re going with the narrative, and the edits of Aurora and Julia add more to that mystery. This vote changed the course of the game more than any other, and both played a huge role in making it happen, so why did it take until the day of it actually happening to really notice them? This frustratingly isn’t anything new for the show, but ... COME ON GOD! Oops, I meant “guys.” Fijian slip.
The Wardog – I think The Wardog gets plenty of praise from fans when a vote goes The Wardog’s way, but with a show that usually beats us over the head with “WHAT A GOOD MOVE THAT WAS,” it really hasn’t made it obvious who this season’s true puppet master may be. We hear from The Wardog about a plan, and when it plays out, it’s a big win, but then we’re almost let to forget it happened or at least The Wardog’s tribemates aren’t talking about it — not a “good call changing the vote to Keith” or “targeting Wendy sure saved us there” as a follow-up. Maybe next week The Wardog will get more credit for instigating the crashing of the Kama train, but if The Wardog was the Sole Survivor, I feel like with all The Wardog has done wonderfully right this season, the show wouldn’t be subtle about The Wardog as a winner. I’d definitely be down for that (in spite of The Wardog constantly cyber bullying me), but I’m trying not to get my hopes too high. Those wise words of Reem are on repeat in my head so that it doesn’t get stuck in the clouds:
Reem is more iconic than the entirety of the Edge of Extinction twist. Don’t @ me.
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