Previously on … the show that finally gave us a recap because there are so many goddamn twists and advantages in the game that it would be impossible to air this episode without reminding us how they all work and who has them! That did not bode well at the beginning of the hour, but the “Advantagegeddon” I feared did not ending up happening … yet . Yes, there may still be a dark day where every single idol and advantage in the game is played at once, and the victim is someone who the audience knows little about or cares little for so that we don’t react so negatively, but we still can’t say yet who that person will be — I SAID WE CAN’T SAY HER NAME YET !
In the meantime, we are in the middle of a bizarre season where every secret is not actually a secret which sort of made this episode unique and interesting. Everything was on the table, but exactly where on the table was unknown. If the season’s story is stuck on idols and advantages, then I suppose this was at least a satisfying way for that story to be told: watching those powers backfire thanks to stellar Survivor strategists who can play the game when they — GASP — know the rules of the game!
STOP! HAMMER TIME!
Since last week, fans across the globe have been talking non-stop about the hourglass twist and what decision Erika would make. I, for one, couldn’t take my mind off of it. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat — I haven’t gone to work since last Wednesday. I’ve read every post at every message board and every comment across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. I even found several dissertations deep-diving into the pros and cons of Erika using the hammer to smash the hourglass and “go back in time” as was the opportunity presented to her.
All of what I just said, of course, is complete bullshit as was any mystery regarding Erika’s decision. So, did she decide to reset the last 48 hours in order to be safe from the next vote? I’ll defer to Clay for the answer to that question:
What made the reveal entertaining, at least, was Erika trying to explain to the tribe (if we’re allowed to call it that yet). She began with, “I had the opportunity to go back in time,” which made the poor girl sound like she was out of her fucking mind. Then she went on to talk about a “special visitor” showing up with an hourglass for her to smash and giving her the power change history. I’d have been questioning whether Erika went to Exile Island or Ghost Island where she overdosed on a bottle of Shane’s crazy pills.
Jeff had to step in and provide additional details because so far this made no sense to anyone. He laid out that the losers from the day before would become immune and the immune would have to compete for immunity (again) if Erika smashed the hourglass which, obviously, she did.
Jeff made everyone with a merge buff drop their buffs — a display, to me, that seemed superfluous. For all intents and purposes, this tribe was merged. They all lived on the same beach, competed as individuals, and voted together at tribal council. I get that Jeff wanted to push this whole “earn the merge” narrative, but that story wasn’t even true. The people immune as a result of this twist didn’t earn anything at all. They just reaped the benefits of a twist that was designed to screw over six people just for shits and giggles.
So Evvie, Ricard, Sydney, Naseer, Deshawn, and Danny had to compete for the immunity they had won but then lost. Talk about wibbly wobbly timey wimey wackiness! Ricard narrowly won by just a toe, but I don’t think he got to put the red buff back on? Is he not officially “merged” yet? These are the questions I have that the show doesn’t care to answer. My biggest question, though, is why are we 7 episodes in and still not getting any meaningful Heather content besides cute reaction shots?
I don’t even remember Purple Kelly being this bad. I feel awful for Heather, probably watching the show each week with her family and friends who, without her telling them she’s on the show, would have no idea she’s playing. It’s becoming a crime; although, maybe legal issues are exactly why she isn’t being shown. Did Jennifer Coolidge threaten to sue the show for using her likeness without her permission? I thought she was friends with Mike White! He apparently solves all of Survivor ’s problems, so someone should call Mike and tell him to tell Jeff to give Heather a storyline! This woman is a public advocate for opossums. You can’t convince me there is nothing interesting about her!
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
When everyone knows a secret, it’s no longer a secret.
The “Knowledge is Power” twist first appeared so broken because it forbade a player to lie about what was in their pocket, especially busted when it came to idols because the only way to obtain them this season has been to publicly claim them, essentially. Because no player is perfect, however, word got out not just about idols but also, and more importantly for this episode, Liana’s advantage. At first what was such an overpowered, ridiculous advantage became interesting when — SHOCKER — the players were able to play around it.
After the immunity challenge, the name that immediately was thrown on to the chopping block was Evvie’s. Evvie-dently, she was perceived as the biggest threat by most everyone despite there existing an intact tribe of 6 still in a 12-person game. But yeah, let’s pick on the nerd! Super original!
The group wasn’t necessarily wrong; I just think an Evvie vote was way too soon for anyone who wasn’t formerly wearing a blue buff. Even if they looked potentially fractured, how do you not take a shot at that armor at the very first opportunity? In my opinion, Shan and Liana jumped ship to Danny and Deshawn too early. As part of that “deal,” Danny and Deshawn should have been made to agree to dump a Luvu first rather than for Liana to ditch Evvie.
I wish we were given more insight from Liana as to what exactly Evvie did to push her away. Last week, I was singing all sorts of praise for Liana and how between her new alliance with Shan, Danny, and Deshawn on top of what I thought was a great position for her on Yase, I thought she had the components to become a major contender to win this whole thing. However, along came Shan who got in Liana’s head and sort of “changed history” herself by convincing Liana that she was at the bottom of Yase.
Were Evvie and Xander really the tightest duo of Yase, and were the two working closer to Tiffany than they were with Liana? From all that we’ve seen, it looked like Liana and Evvie were the real deal. Sure, Evvie was keeping Xander as a side deal, but the Yase story this week kind of rewrote what we’ve actually seen play out — not that I’m surprised by this editing, but I’m just frustrated. Shan made it seem like Liana was doing the right thing by completely abandoning ship faster than Yase did back on Day 1 boat opener which, to be fair, wasn’t a very hard time to beat.
Had Liana played the middle for a longer time, she could’ve kept Shan, Danny, and Deshawn on one side with Evvie, Tiffany, and Xander on the other. A Sydney vote could’ve still happened but without Liana looking like an idiot and blowing up her game all in one swing. That’s what it felt like watching Liana this week — a game completely smashed to bits, fitting with the hammer whack at the top of the hour.
Perhaps this is where Liana’s age caught up to her. She wanted to put on her “big girl pants,” as she said, and make a big move, stealing Xander’s idol and voting out her former best friend turned big threat. In doing so, I think she let slip what could have been a super tight hold on the rest of the game. It’s such a shame, but Shan really screwed Liana in so many ways.
What started it all was last week when Shan let slip (intentionally or not) in front of Tiffany that Liana had some type of advantage. Knowledge is power , so when Liana had to give up her secret knowledge, she effectively gave up any power that came with it. Tiffany soon told Evvie which tipped Evvie off that Liana wasn’t as solid as she thought, meaning Tiffany and Evvie needed Xander’s more than they may have realized. Admittedly, here is where that dumb advantage actually delivered us some gold.
It was like the episode of Friends , “The One Where Everyone Finds Out” (arguably the best) — who was in the know and who wasn’t? Everyone knew each other’s secrets, but not everyone knew everyone knew they knew! Aha! Since everyone knew about Xander’s idol, he thought it only was fair that everyone knew about Liana’s idol-stealer, so he told Danny who told Liana, and when she found out, she panicked because now that Xander knew she had this advantage, he could simply let someone else hold onto his idol which would make useless her knowledge that Xander had initially found an idol.
Evvie, Xander, and Tiffany expected that Liana was going to try and use her advantage to take Xander’s idol and vote out Evvie, so the three needed to come up with a counterattack.
This was brilliant stuff. They baited Liana so well here. Liana was told point-blank that Xander would play the idol on Evvie, and that the idol would be on him the whole night. Liana then watched Xander walk away with it still in his pants, confirming its safe location. She tried asking Evvie if Xander would just give her the idol before tribal council (so Liana would know who actually would have the idol for her to steal), and Evvie confirmed that Xander wanted to have “the moment” for himself, a believable story about a 21-year-old male.
Shit spun out of control from there as Liana quickly relayed to her new Luvu and Ua friends that Yase would be voting for Deshawn. Deshawn, having never experienced the thrill of a pre-tribal scramble, spun a little here too which supports the idea that winning everything isn’t always good. Shan and Ricard — and to a lesser extent, all of Yase — have more experience orchestrating a vote than anyone on Luvu, leaving the latter strategically in the dust.
Sydney especially had no idea what was going on – she only assumed everyone wanted to vote for her because she’s admittedly self-obsessed and the best player in the game. I guess that was meant to be all the explanation we needed as to why votes would be going Sydney’s way. Sydney is awesome and amazing and smart and charming and athletic and just the best overall player to ever play this game, so that made her a threat that needed to go. That all makes sense to me.
DO YOU HAVE AN IDOL, XANDER?
LOL at literally half of the
lighting their torches for the first time at this merge
Final 12 vote. That’s a record, right?
Another question – didn’t Danny deny earlier that he was a former NFL player? Tribal council, however, opened with him talking about this being one of the top 5 (baby) arenas he’d ever played in – I guess that’s another secret that was no longer a secret? Par for the course.
Before chaos erupted, Deshawn delivered a sad line that may get overlooked but really says something about how this season has been shaped. He said, “I just wish there was more, like, value … in terms of my social abilities.” Preach to the motherfucking choir, Deshawn! He had to act grateful for the opportunity, emphasizing to Jeff that he wasn’t complaining, but this tells me that even the players have felt this season that it’s been driven more by twists than by social strategy. I think he also commented earlier that this was, “not the game I’m used to.” I’m sure everyone is still having fun — they’re still on some version of Survivor ; it’s just very apparent that it’s not * the* Survivor they signed up to play.
^ Deshawn having the most fun ever
What happened next, though, was unmistakably fun. My biggest fear of how Liana’s power would play out was thinking some heroic underdog would end up the Charlie Brown to Liana’s Lucy holding a football. I’ve been loving Liana, but I loved what happened to her here. I wish it would’ve been someone else in her shoes, but as far as how this power could be put to rest, it could not have been more perfect.
The setup was wonderful. Xander first looked like an idiot by confirming he had the idol on him, but it was actually a fake – a convincing one, I might add, but when the idols now look like trash on a string, that’s not as impressive as a Bob Crowley original. Then, hook-line-and-sinker, Liana asked if Xander had an idol, to which he replied, “No, but you can have this fake one.”
Cue the Curb Your Enthusiasm music!
For the most part, I think the show’s been doing a great job with the flashback sequences, but I believe this is the first we’ve seen mid-tribal council. To add a twist on top of a twist, Xander didn’t give his idol to Evvie but, instead, Tiffany . All eyes would be on Xander and Evvie, so Yase wisely let Tiffany hold onto both Xander’s idol and extra vote, knowing no one would think to steal anything from her. The satisfying look on her face as everyone determined that Evvie must have the idol was just MUAH! *chef’s kiss*
That whole reveal was where the episode peaked. Immediately after that, we went into what’s now just part of this “new era” of Survivor : the whispering. I don’t care for it, but I know it won’t go away because it obviously gives Jeffy a stiffy:
Just once would I like Jeff to announce, “Shut the fuck up. It’s time to vote,” and that be the end of it. I don’t know why he thinks whispering is better TV than a potential 4-3-2-2-1 absolute clusterfuck of a vote count.
It seemed mostly hopeless for Yase + Sydney to skate out of this alive, but there’s a scenario where it could have worked. Xander had an extra vote, so between them, they had 5 votes. The other 8 players only had 10 with Deshawn and Shan’s extra votes, but if neither was played, that could have been a 5-4-4 split without Xander needing to even play his idol. If one extra vote was used by Shan or Deshawn and Xander played the idol correctly, Deshawn still could’ve been voted out. The only foolproof strategy was for both Shan and Deshawn to use their extra votes — Deshawn did, so I guess Shan got greedy since it wasn’t her own neck on the line. All that’s to say that there was a shot this could go the minority’s way, but that wasn’t the shot Sydney wanted to take.
DAMMIT. Can I smash an hourglass to let Sydney re-draw?
When Sydney pulled the scroll from her bra, that changed everything for me. I wanted so badly for the piece of paper to read “Safe,” Xander to play his idol on Evvie, and Deshawn to go. That would’ve elevated this vote a lot higher for me, but instead, while there was a moment where I worried for Evvie as Jeff read the votes, ultimately it was Sydney that ended up the sacrificial Luvu — not a super shock, so thus a little bit of a letdown, but overall, I suppose the episode brought me more excitement than I guessed it would.
I lied. The peak of the episode was actually hearing Heather speak. Go figure it was only allowed to make the edit when literally everyone else was muttering indiscernible noise. Whatever. I’m still excited over anything Heather, even if it’s the bare minimum.
WHY GOD WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?! Maybe this is why the show decided to split the not-merge episode, to save me from a 1-2-punch of a Genie boot followed by a Sydney boot. Sydney is a legend and it’s absolute bullshit that she got this far, won immunity only to have it stripped away, got voted out, and didn’t even make the jury. The least the show could have given her as compensation for the dumbfuckery she endured was a seat on the jury, but she said it herself. She didn’t even want to look at anyone’s faces again, and her life outside of the game is 500 kajillion times better anyways.
Would Sydney have won the game? No shot in hell. Still, it looked like she wouldn’t have left had there been more than 5 options on the table. Almost certainly the vote would’ve been between Xander and Evvie, and we’d have been gifted with more Sydney content the rest of this season — at worst some killer glares from the jury and at best an amazingly arrogant final tribal council as she explained to the jury how she’s Survivor ’s coming of Christ. Sydney was robbed, and therefore, we were robbed. Heather’s dream may have come true, but so much for mine ….
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR …
^me begging for more content
Evvie, Tiffany, Naseer, Xander, Heather — all name-dropped one after the other in this preview. We’ve seen these “sneak peaks” before where half the cast is on the chopping block, but are they ever accurate? I actually went back to one from David vs. Goliath were several names flashed before us, and sure enough, one of those names was actually the boot, so if history serves … scratch that. We can’t use history as precedence when there are now twists that let players time travel. It would make sense, though, for one of Xander and Evvie to go. I’d like to see them pull off something big with Tiffany, but two in a row is going to be hard to do. Tiffany’s best move could actually be to wait for Xander and Evvie to get picked off and infiltrate the Luvu+ alliance from there. I hope the next two weeks aren’t as easy as that, but I can definitely envision Xander, Evvie, and Naseer in some order as the next three boots — IT BETTER FUCKING NOT BE HEATHER.
Xander – The dud actually did something for me this week! I’ve always found Xander to be incredibly boring and dry, shown only when he has to be because he was brought up every time an idol or advantage was found at Yase. I still mostly believe that, but he delivered an exceptional performance at tribal council with his handling of Liana’s lust for his power. That required the perfect poker face and maybe since Xander’s generally expressionless, that’s why he was able to pull it off, but it was still “the moment” of the episode. His idol will soon be leaving his pocket another way, most likely, but he’s part of the remaining “the little Yase that could” so I have to root for his success now because that’s also Evvie and Tiffany’s success.
Liana – This was a rare “crash and burn” character arc that didn’t end in the person leaving — the lucky twist may or may not have contributed to that. I was so high on Liana last week that it pained me to see her stumble so much this week, look the complete fool at tribal council, and probably blow what were once very good odds at winning this thing. Having yeeted Yase like yesterday’s trash, Liana is now at the complete mercy of Shan who did an amazing job at convincing Liana to burn all other bridges. Since Liana has a good shield in Shan and her new Luvu allies, I don’t think she’s an immediate target, and while I’m not going to say Liana has zero chance of winning this game, since there’s a long way to go, she took a nosedive in this episode. I think she’ll go relatively deep, still, but no longer will she be in as much of the driver’s seat as I think she could have been, and that’ll make her pitch to win at the end significantly more difficult.
Tiffany – I praised Xander for his poker face, so I have to give Tiffany props too for a Caryn Groedel-level acting performance, staying silent when all eyes were fixated on Xander and Evvie. I loved the eventual reveal so much and I’m loving Tiffany more and more as the weeks continue. She came off as a little too crazy to win at the start, but maybe she’s the right amount of crazy to not be taken too seriously, but crazy enough to eventually take control of everything. Women in Tiffany’s demographic too often aren’t given enough credit for the games they play, just as often labeled too “emotional” or not strategic — Noura, Julie, and Angelina to name just three recent 0-vote-getters at final tribal council. Will 41 ’s story and Tiffany’s story end the same way? I don’t know about that ....
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