I’d like to open this week up with a special song:
My pre-season Dannifesting evidently was not strong enough for my Danni Girl to go all the way (at least with not being voted out). This episode had a lot of great moments but also was terrible and I hated it — okay, not really, but I hated the ending after having to watch Danni completely drown. I would’ve ranked her very last on the list of players in danger going into this week, so all of this came as a big shock to me which is why I needed the sweet sound of Moira Rose to soothe me. No one is safe this season, and for that I love it. I’m loving Winners at War, and while I’m not going to love every vote, something tells me I’m going to love every episode, like this one, regardless.
THE GAME IS STILL GOING
It was a huge relief to see Amber smiling and in relatively high spirits after being sent to the Edge of Extinction. As she mentioned, had it not been for the Edge, this poor mom would’ve been absolutely devastated over leaving her four daughters at home only to be voted out on Day 3 with no game left to play. Luckily for the Marianos, one of them is still in what I call the “main” game. Not only does Amber have a chance to rejoin as well, but the motivation to help Rob keeps her head up.
I honestly don’t know what’s come over me this season, but I am such a sucker for this story. It must be Amber, mostly, because I’m usually not Rob’s #1 fan, but I’m seriously rooting for these two to “communicate” via tokens for the rest of the game, and whether it’s when Amber wins her way back into the game (unlikely) or when Rob arrives at EoE (very likely) and they share a loving, lovers embrace, I’m probably going to well up at least a little. I hope you’re happy, Melanie.
The adventure of the episode for Natalie and Amber came later in the form of a strange note, and as any student of Survivor should know, the note wasn’t just a note. It was a clue. I immediately saw that the first letter of each line spelled “WATERWELL” but it took the girls more than a minute. They searched high and low until Natalie realized they hadn’t yet looked at the water well, and sure enough, inside was one wet surprise.
Natalie unsubmerged the “safety without power” advantage, a questionable advantage that was also offered to Janet last season (she passed). For the low, low price of one fire token, Natalie could offer to sell this advantage to anyone in the game, and they’d be granted the power to leave tribal council just before the vote — they’d be safe, but they’d also be giving up their vote. Natalie weighed who would be best to make the offer to, contemplating the probability of who had the most tokens left, but let’s be real — Natalie’s going to give everything she finds to Jeremy. She knew he had at least two tokens at this point, so I doubt there was as much debate over the decision as we were shown.
I was a little surprised Jeremy took the bait because, again, this advantage doesn’t sound all that advantageous when one’s vote is their biggest weapon in the game, but the show’s not exactly charging big money for these things, so for one fire token, Natalie was making Jeremy an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Right. Sorry, Robfather.
SURPRISES FOR SELE
Rob received the news that he had been bequeathed a fire token, and his gut reaction was that this meant his wife had been voted out of the game. Him reading that note killed me — we don’t see Boston Rob break down often, aside from that one #SurvivorMeltdown in Heroes vs. Villains that was so bad that Jeff had to be called. It was like a scene from a movie where a spouse received the news that their soldier away at war had been killed. *sobs*
Rob confided in Parvati, his temporary “Amber,” and wondered about the possibility that Sandra could have also bequeathed him a token. However, Rob wasn’t sure if he could trust Sandra, but if she was responsible for voting out his wife, then this was going to turn into another movie, The Clash of the Titans. Of course, we already knew the answer to Rob’s question.
I feel like this story has to climax with a big battle. Sandra or Rob can’t get voted out of the game before they fully go to war, so I’m thinking they’re going to be safe for as long as they’re on opposite tribes. Maybe the exchange of words doesn’t happen until they’re both on the Edge of Extinction, but this one’s brewing bigger than even the relatively recent Cold War between Domenick and Chris in Ghost Island. Besides, Chris never stood a real shot there, while between Sandra and Rob, ain’t nobody wants to get caught between that crossfire.
More surprises for Sele came with Denise finding an idol while on a walk with Ben – I cringed at the narrative of Ben being this idol-hunting sensei who was the only reason Denise found what she did, but it was a relief knowing that the Sele idol landed in Denise’s hands and not Ben’s. My heart was pounding there when I saw him peeking into trees.
The twist with this idol was that half of if had to be given to someone else, and only when combined would the idol hold real power. Essentially, Denise had to pick someone who’d will – or bequeath – her later to “activate” the idol’s abilities. I’m a little surprised Ben didn’t sort of *hint hint* *nudge nudge* Denise right then and there, but his selflessness in letting her decide showed he’s still not a bad guy.
Denise shared the news with her Jungle Boy 2.0, Adam, of course and also told him that “Ben knows.”
What almost had Adam making that face again was Denise asking what he thought about giving the other half of the idol to Parvati, to which Adam replied, “I think that’s a terrible idea.” Coincidentally, there’s one winner left out of this season who could’ve vouched for Adam here, being a firsthand witness (/victim) of the last time Parvati was gifted an immunity idol.
Adam got in the therapist’s head and was able to get Denise to bequeath him the other half instead. ‘Twas a big episode for Denise and Adam — the only downside was the ticking Ben Bomb that also knew it was a big episode for them.
A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL
Kim and Denise are back-to-back winners, so fittingly, they had back-to-back idol finds. Kim had become a lone wolf at Dakal, so she didn’t have as safe as an option as Denise in choosing who to share her idol with. She could’ve simply chosen the other person on the bottom, Tyson, but naturally, Kim made a more calculated call than that. Rather than further making it “us against the world” with Tyson, Kim sought after Sophie who was in a very secure spot within the tribe, possibly hoping Sophie could carry Kim up a few rungs of the ladder with this gesture.
I think of Kim’s options, this was the safer one on paper. If Tyson and Kim were neck-and-neck on the chopping block, giving Tyson something to use against her (Tyson? Use information against someone? Bollocks!) may have guaranteed Kim’s neck being the one to get chopped. Sharing the idol with Sophie was potentially a seat at the new popular kids’ table.
Unfortunately, Sophie disagreed with me. See, Sophie’s too smart for her own good, and that’s exactly what makes her bad – “evil” bad, not “Ben” bad. Sophie knows Kim’s skillset and understands how she won her season, so she isn’t going to let Kim charm her way to victory again. “She shouldn’t be telling the devil,” Sophie said, comparing herself to Satan. Damn. Sophie means serious business this season, and I love it. I felt bad for Kim getting cut down once again, but you have to respect the hell out of the game Sophie’s playing right now. Maybe Yul should be using her as the nerd shield – I’m kind of terrified (re: hyped) to see what future diabolical plans hatch from Sophie’s mind.
TONY “THE TOOL MAN” VLACHOS
I’d have watched an entire Survivor episode of just this entire sequence of events. In an attempt to hold back — or unbequeath — Tony may have actually instead pulled his craziest stunt ever. Tony needed a project, something to keep his mind occupied, so he decided to build a ladder to help the tribe collect fruit from the trees. I can only imagine this vision came to him in a dream of Angelina.
The plan was simple: “Climb up, and simply pick the papaya off the tree. Simply walk down the ladder. Simply go to camp, chop it up, and simply eat it. Simple as that.”
Bada bing bada boom.
First, Tony had to actually build the ladder using what looked like the most bamboo possible and the least amount of twine/rope possible. Wendell estimated the thing weighed about 150 pounds, but the architect himself wouldn’t know because instead of helping carry it out of camp, he barked marching orders at his construction crew.
Just how bored must this entire tribe have been to humor Tony’s insane idea? As Sophie described it, even “ladder” was a stretch for what this was.
How the hell Tony didn’t fall off this thing and break his neck, I’ll never know. Tyson brought up a very good point – “that’s the guy that’s enforcing the law at home.”
Same, Sophie. Same.
This is what this season needs more of – just absolutely absurdity. These people love the game and love being on the island, so I really hope we see a lot more content like this of everyone simply enjoying themselves amidst the inevitable chaos that will ensue before every vote.
After Tony’s timeout from the game, he and Sarah were finally able to talk “Cops ‘R’ Us” which I wondered if we’d be seeing make a return this season. Sadly, I don’t see it lasting any longer than it did in Cagayan. Either Tony’s going to screw Sarah or Sarah’s going to screw Tony. This reunion sounded simply too good to be true. Sarah was out by the hands of Tony the first time; Tony, while not technically Sarah’s fault, lost to Sarah the second time, so which cop will come out on top in round 3? For the sake of more scenes like the ladder bit, one of the best of Survivor recently – rivaled only by The Noura Show last season – I hope it’s Tony.
IMMUNITY – THE BEST OF THE CHESTS
With the show being all but officially permanently set up in Fiji, the art department is limited with what “theme” it can use for each season, so you end up with ... this. Some shipwrecky thing with treasure chests and also dragons? Pick a lane, people! You’re not as versatile as Debbie — only she could pull off both being a pirate and a dragon queen.
Of course, staying on theme with the Rob vs. Sandra war were the death glares they gave each other after Jeff announced that Amber had been voted out at the last tribal council.
That look of Sandra says, “Yeah, bitch. It was me. I booted your wife’s ass.” I was waiting for her to go into Olenna Tyrell mode and command Jeff, “Tell Rob. I want him to know it was me.”
Rob suffered another major blow after Dakal kicked Sele’s ass on the puzzle – Rob and Denise both choked pretty hard — so overall, not a great day for Rob. He was down, but he wasn’t out. My gut told me he’d find a way. For Ambuh.
LET THE CRAZINESS BEGIN
If you’d have told me how this vote was going to go down, I’d have said you were displaying the same big crackhead energy (BCE) that Tony was this episode. Danni? Danni?! No. She couldn’t be the reason the old school ship sinks ....
Oh, but she was. As a huge Danni fan, this was excruciating to watch. It was like what most of the fandom would feel if Parvati just completely blew up her game unprovoked. Danni could’ve done the dead man’s float in the ocean all day every day, and she’d have made it to at least Day 36 on that alone. Just why – why – did she have to decide she wanted Parvati out? Was I being punk’d?
Of course, this completely dismantled the old school alliance (which was Danni even a part of since the only two people she ever targeted were Rob and Parvati?) Rob, Parvati, and Ethan all agreed they needed to dump Danni. The new schoolers quickly welcomed the three aboard their ship, but I think they missed a big and, more importantly, easy opportunity to take a bigger swing here.
With Danni and Parvati now permanently opposed, leaving them in the game would only make for easy votes in the future. Adam, Denise, and Ben knew they didn’t have an idol to worry about, so this would have been a prime time to go for the Godfather himself, Boston Rob.
Why didn’t they? I don’t know. Maybe they wanted him for challenges even though, as Ethan so politely pointed out, Rob sucked that day (a great callback to a moment in All-Stars where Ethan called himself “the goat” after losing to Boston Rob in a race). Jeremy even said he didn’t like Rob and Parvati controlling the game, and getting Danni to go here was kind of their move. It was a simple defensive play, but it was still theirs and they were asking the rest of the tribe to follow suit. Parvati’s name was briefly on the table, but sometime between the beach and tribal, it was brushed off. I weirdly wish she and Rob just keep steamrolling Sele because it’s wildly dumbfounding yet fascinating.
Adam got a lot of significant screen time in this segment, so while he didn’t pull the trigger this time, I wonder if he’s the one who finally takes the big shot at Rob and Parvati. That, or he’ll be their next victim, wishing he hadn’t wasted a bullet on Danni.
IT LOOKED LIKE A HOLE
Awkward Adam is officially my favorite Adam. That entrance was iconic.
Tribal council was quickly blown up as old school went to blows with itself – Danni soon called out her early relationships – the main one being with Parvati – as being fake to which I swear I saw Parvati mouth “such a bitch.” Ben jumped on the bandwagon and called out the old schoolers for playing paranoid, but oooooh boy, if you play with the fire that is Rob and Parvati, you’re going to get scorched.
Going into tribal, I thought there was no way Danni would see the light of the next day, but some small part of me thought that Ben being called too much of a “wild card” by Rob would come back to bite him. When Rob started the whispering chain, I screamed. I thought, “This is it! This is how Ben Ben-Bombs himself!” after he ended up admitted to running around just as much as the old schoolers he was calling out for it.
Side note on Ben: I know I put him on blast a lot in this, but every winner does bring something to this season, and as frustrating as whatever Ben brings is, it still counts. I have to admit, if not for Ben, the Sele votes would not have been what they were, this tribal council especially. Honestly, if he were playing this messily and the madness was just impacting not my favorites (if I even know who “not my favorites” are) I’d be less on edge about him. Every season needs a certain amount of chaos, and while I don’t like who his is hurting, I can appreciate that Ben adds an element of unpredictability to the game. I’m not saying I am a fan, but I’m going to try to find him more funny and less frustrating moving forward.
To add more fireworks to the festivities, Rob brought up the threat of idols and point-blank suggested everyone dump out their bags to prove they didn’t have one. I’m not even sure he was serious, but the tribe did as the Robfather asked and emptied all of their belongings on the tribal council floor — a Survivor first that would have had Alan Ball’s eyes popping all the way out of his head.
Denise, the one “guilty” party in this, stealthy concealed her idol to avoid Rob’s wrath, and after everyone settled back down, the tribe voted, and an exciting tribal council ended in my own depression as my sweet Danni Girl was sent packing.
While Danni was not the first winner this season to have her torch snuffed for the first time ever, Natalie has at least lost before — a race, instead of Survivor — so seeing Danni’s flame extinguished was surreal to me. 15 years I’ve waited to see her back, and I’m gutted she had to go this early. She’s famous for flying under the radar and being as cool, calm, and collected as can be, so especially with her starting such a wildfire on her way out, it’s like I was watching an entirely different player. I suppose a decade and a half would do that to someone.
Maybe this is just the Danni defender in me, but I don’t think her legacy is hurt too much here. I love Danni to death, but I wouldn’t say she’s the most impressive winner ever, certainly not the one known for making the most Big Moves™. As Boston Rob famously put many years ago, “Paranoia will destroy ya” and destroy Danni it did. Feeling the pressure of an old schooler to make an impact in a new school game, I think she wanted to claim responsibility for a move which is why she so early went after Rob and then Parvati this week. I still can’t believe neither of those two plans worked for her, but she was working with all winners — they weren’t going to be predictable.
Danni will have quickly learned for her mistakes, and despite her age as Jeff so kindly pointed out at tribal, I think she stands a strong shot at winning a challenge to get back in the game. This Danni stan would be all for her coming back to slay. Either way, I hope Danni doesn’t get beaten up too bad over this. Parvati’s quote and my selected title this week, “Is she just clueless?” is pretty harsh, but nothing could make me love Danni less — her success would have just made me love her more.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR...
Sandra is fucking pissed and we love to see it. I’m not a fan of Tyson facing the queen’s wrath, but her line, “If you f***ing come after me, I better not find out about it” sent chills down my spine. With that and Tony becoming the next great white shark killer, Dakal is going to be where all the drama’s at — over at Sele, Adam says it’s time to take out the big dogs. Oh, sure, now it’s time to take them out. You couldn’t have done that before voting Danni out, could you Adam!? Thanks to you, I’ve found a new hole in my heart!
Adam – It’s nice to see Adam being shown off as the great player he is. He had a shaky start, but he might low-key be the leader of Sele right now. Everyone’s still playing the Godfather’s game, but I think that, in reality, it’s all a front. Behind the scenes, Adam has been pulling the strings by roping in Denise and Ben, and we saw him have a critical conversation with Jeremy and Michele just before the vote, indicating he’s involved in all the important talks. I’m sensing next week, Adam finally feels he has the numbers to take down Rob or Parvati, but we’ll see if something finally happens. Maybe it all backfires on Ben (one can hope). Still, with numbers and an idol, Adam’s holding a lot of the cards right now — he could be the real poker threat.
Rob – The Robfather does it again. I do get the strategy behind using Rob as the game’s biggest meat shield, but this could’ve been the perfect time to take him out. Sele wants him out at some point, and while he was expecting a vote between Danni and Parvati, this would’ve been an easy shot. I guess with Adam and Denise having an idol, they don’t fear one coming from Rob, but they can’t be so sure with fire tokens in play. I don’t know how much longer Rob realistically has left, but I’ve been loving him more than ever this season. I’ve seen him called a “bully” but I think the dude is simply just playing the game. He hasn’t been belittling people — he’s just been bold and in-their-face, using his old “fear keeps people loyal” tactic. His intimidation isn’t malicious; it’s just a move. I don’t think he seriously expected any idol to fall out at tribal council, but I’m sure he amused himself by getting everyone to empty their bags anyway. Frankly, I was amused as well. Rob’s bringing it this season, and I appreciate it.
Tony – I cannot stop laughing over how Tony “holding back” nearly killed him — literally. Tyson’s “how is this guy still alive?” is exactly what I was thinking. If Tony put himself in danger like this during a game, I can’t even imagine what his daily patrol looks like. He’s had to have been shot at before, right? Thankfully, he’s managed to not die so he can bring all kinds of life to this season. Even toned-down Tony is one of the best things to ever happen on Survivor. I don’t want to live in a world where Woo was on this season over Tony.
Sophie – I didn’t mention Sophie in this spot last week, but I probably should have. Sophie’s been given a better edit in two episodes than she did in her entire winning season – I guess that’s the impact of the “Coach factor.” She’s as sinister as she is smart, and she knew the way to my heart when she labeled herself “the devil.” Survivor doesn’t like editing its winners to be villains anymore, so if she continues down this path, I fear she won’t be getting the winner edit, but I’m all in for a Sophie-so-fierce villain edit. I know she’s got that kind of fire in her, so I can’t wait to see her start shutting people down at tribal council with that cold, soulless stare – like when her eyes are fixated on her favorite movie, Jack and Jill.
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