Merge episode, baby! I always love the merge episodes. Typically, there is so much going on and so many different plans and alliances coming together. This season’s merge was a little calmer than what we have seen in the past, but there was still plenty of chaos and madness to go around. Two people were immune after the challenge (with both Denise and Jeremy winning the first individual immunity of the season) and all fire tokens were spent on the Edge of Extinction for idols or advantages in the challenge to return to the game. At least I assume that they still have their idols to save if they get back in the game ... either way, lots to discuss, so let’s get to this week’s Top Five Baby!
1: The return of Tyson
What an exciting finish it was to this challenge! Both Tyson and Rob were right there at the end and it looked like it could have gone either way. I watched it twice and was still on the edge of my seat even though I obviously knew how it ended. It really makes your heart go out to players like Natalie who have been out there pretty much the whole time and came up short, only to go back out there and wait for another shot. But Tyson pulls out the victory in the end and wins his way back into the game. He looked like he was on a mission from the start of that challenge too, I don’t think anything was going to get in his way to come out on top here.
After the initial excitement, he wasn’t saying too much around camp and that is probably the smart way to play this here. There is every reason to think that he should be the next target to go right back to Extinction Island, but somehow things worked out for him and his name didn’t even come up once as a potential vote off candidate. He will have to continue treading lightly over the next few votes to make sure he stays where he is at. He didn’t get an idol on his return like Rick Devens did this time last year, so unless he finds something on his own, he is vulnerable at every vote. Let’s see how long Tyson can make his good fortunes continue.
2: The Queenslayer
Sandra is gone. Not only did she get voted out, but she raised the flag and left the Edge of Extinction. So, who was the culprit behind Queen Sandra leaving the game? Well, who was it, other than herself I mean? Why it was Denise of course and ever since that happened, Tony has been trying to make her seem like she is a massive target and must be the biggest threat in the game. I wouldn’t have thought too much more about this other than just thinking that Tony was trying to make her seem like a bigger target than she actually is. Except, during the merge feast when Denise was telling her tale of taking down the Queen, Sophie took notice. Sophie said in a confessional that she notices that Denise now has a big move on her résumé.
What does this mean for Denise? Well first and foremost, she better pump the brakes a little for a few rounds. It is too early for people to be seeing her as a threat, she needs to hope that she doesn’t get spotted as the one making big moves and someone to get out of the game quickly. Once she gets down to the final eight or nine, then slowly start ramping up some of her moves again.
Next thing she needs to watch for is winning immunity. This sounds crazy, but if she wins another immunity challenge, she then probably becomes the person who is too strong and must be voted off for that. People will vote you off for any reason they can come up with. No matter, how she plays it, she better be careful. She still has plenty of people on her side for now, but let’s see how long that lasts.
3: Big threats vs. little threats
I find this concept a little silly. This is a season with twenty returning winners. Are any of them really considered a little threat? They all won their season for playing a certain way that worked out well for them. So, I think that every single person out there is a threat to win this game. I don’t think that the plan between Tony, Tyson, Ben, and Jeremy is going to pan out, either. I don’t know how Ben got grouped in with the likes of Tony and Tyson, he isn’t at their level of play just yet. Maybe he was just in the right place at the right time. Also, there isn’t enough of them together to make that stick.
The “little threats” have a better chance of banding together and knocking out the few remaining big names. The aforementioned Tony and Tyson, along with Sarah and Kim are the “big names” that are still out there waiting for their time to join the other big characters on the Edge of Extinction. I think they would be better off in mixed groups and seeing who ends up on top. But, like I said, this is an all-winners season. Everyone is a big target to win this season and everyone thinks that they are a big threat to go far.
4: Who will the votes land on?
Adam, Nick, and Wendell are the three names that we saw bounced around the most before tribal council this week. Denise was also mentioned, but she was immune, so nothing ever came of that. By now, we all know that Wendell is the answer. Most of the votes landed on him and he was sent to the Edge. I am sure that Jeremy isn’t happy about that. He tried really hard to save Wendell and originally wanted Nick out so that Wendell would be his number one instead.
How is Jeremy going to behave because of this? He still has a group that he is tight with and should be ok, but Sophie noticed how close he was to Wendell and wanted to break them up. So that also puts Sophie in a spot moving forward. How many people know that it was her idea to vote out Wendell? Will this move make her more of a target or will people respect her decision making? Or do they even know?
Finally, the other person receiving votes this episode was Adam. Even though he only got three of the twelve votes, it appeared that most people were 100% ok with writing down his name as an alternative. He has been in a tough spot for most of this season and keeps surviving, but how many more Survivor lives is he going to have?
Lots of potential fallout from this week. Should be fun to see where it all goes from here.
5: Blindside, merge-style
This could be 4b. because it also deals with the aftereffects of the Wendell vote out, but this is my article and I will do what I want…
There are two kinds of blindsides. The first kind is where everyone votes for a single person, and they are left completely in the dark as the only one who didn’t know what was going on. The other type is like what happened this week. Not only was Wendell blindsided and had to leave the game, but Nick and Michele were also blindsided. The only difference is that they didn’t know what was going on, but they are still in the game.
The two of them now must go back to camp with nine other people who just voted out their ally and act like everything is ok and try not to stir up too much trouble. I think that would be extremely difficult. Knowing that you may be one of the next two people to get votes, but still have to play nice ... or at least act like you are playing nice while scheming behind their backs to get your revenge. A blindside can ruin more than one person’s game, so let’s see how Nick and Michele can overcome this obstacle.
So there you have it for the merge episode. I am curious to see the breakdown of everything next week. I want to see if the lines hold strong or will they start to turn on each other already. Also, I want to apologize if my article this week is shorter than usual and full of errors. Even while social distancing, my family and I have passed the normal flu bug around amongst ourselves and I was a little under the weather this week. So, I apologize for anything being out of sorts.
But I want to hear from you as well, let me know if I missed any moments or if you think I’m way off base, the interaction is part of what makes this fun!
Will the nine hold on strong to get rid of Nick or Michele or will voting blocs return this season?
Will poor Adam ever get a footing in this season?
Please catch more of me here next week where I will try to bring you more fun top five thoughts as we continue the 20th year of Survivor!
Brent Sullivan is a long-time fanatic of Survivor and has been writing about it for years. When he is not writing, talking about, or applying to be on the show, he spends his time with family, doing nerdy IT stuff, and watching movies. Follow him on twitter: @BSully_13