This was the first official Lydia-less episode and it showed. I’m happy next week we’re getting a double boot because I need the current majority alliance to crumble quickly. When the “cool kids” finally have to vote each other out, I think we’ll be in for fun again, but this week left me longing for a little more. No one wants to do anything too crazy to stand out in a tribe this big. At least we know why, though — anyone who so much as suggests feeling a little uneasy after being told their name is on the chopping block gets called PARANOID.
SCURRYING LIKE RATS
With the tribe officially merged after making it through the last vote, also “official” was who was in and who was out of the new majority alliance. Tori, Chanelle, Romeo, and Maryanne all realized they were left out of the vote and, as Mike put it, scurried away like little rats at camp to find out why.
Chanelle was mad that Hai and Mike left her in the dark, Romeo was mad that Drea didn’t tell him, and poor Maryanne was reminded of her days in elementary school being left out of the group. The latter was especially heartbreaking because the emotions of feeling on the outs extended beyond just the game for Maryanne. Her story so far has been about affirming who she is and showing that “weird kids” can be cool too, but being left out of this vote made Maryanne backtrack a bit on her confidence in herself.
Survivor is tough and it’s designed in a way that puts people in situations where they feel isolated or outcasted — this felt like a low for Maryanne, but I still think this game is far from over for her. She played this episode correctly and of the other four “rats” on the bottom, she was able to blend in the best and avoid her name coming up again. No matter how the Survivor story ends for Maryanne, she is undoubtedly one of the cool kids — arguably even the coolest.
WE ALL AIN’T THAT DIFFERENT
Continuing to celebrate differences in individuals, I really loved this next scene between Mike and Omar with Mike talking about wanting to learn about others’ experiences or beliefs that are different from his own. Mike identified himself among the “15% discount at Denny’s crowd” i.e. “old AF” but what separates Mike from the stereotype of that crowd is his openness to understand lifestyles unlike his own. While Omar and Hai have received the majority of the standard strategic focus, Mike’s social game remains to be shown as the best, in my opinion. Not only does he have game relationships with everyone, but he goes about making genuine, human connections across the camp.
I feel like I’ve been saying this almost every week, but Survivor is about being able to adapt. Mike is almost like a chameleon with the way he’s able to interact with everyone in a way that best builds deep, emotional bonds specific to each person. He’s taken an interest in Omar’s religion, he’s a relatable “big dummy” to Jonathan, and Twitter has made trended #GaysForMike with Vati. Mike’s archetype had all the makings to be a stereotypical, stubborn, stuck-in-his-ways “dad” of the season, but casting completely blew me away with this man. The “we all ain’t that different” line was another one to add to my list of memorable Mike moments of the season with the bonus of it being a beautiful message, and I think Mike’s officially made his way to #1 in my heart as my hopeful Sole Survivor. Great player, greater human — he deserves a million bucks and more.
REWARD – BEWARE THE BENCH
It’s funny when the focus of a challenge is more on what’s happening on the sit-out bench than what’s going on with the competition, but when it’s a team challenge with Jonathan competing, it’s kind of a foregone conclusion so there was admittedly more suspense with the Drea situation.
As if Drea somehow saw season 41 (which I’m starting to expect after last week’s 100% correct call of what was going on at Exile), she made the exact same move as Xander did by swapping places with Maryanne, but unlike Xander, Drea didn’t waste an opportunity to win an advantage, making this, what, Advantage #4? It makes sense why she wasn’t afraid when she saw the word “Beware” again since, so far, that hasn’t been anything actually harmful to her game. In Drea’s mind, it simply another power to pocket.
Thus, Drea got her hands on yet another advantage in the game and Jonathan’s team got their mouths on some PB&J sandwiches. Did anyone else think it was a little cruel for Jeff to tease the tribe with a reward of “a little taste from home” the way he did? I don’t know about anyone else, but when I think of “home” I think of family, not PB&Js. Although, Jonathan’s life sounds to be revolved around food, so maybe for him, a large sandwich was better than a loved one visit. I mean, look at the way he devoured that thing:
That’s love right there.
Similar to Mike, Omar has surrounded himself with several strong relationships and this skill of his was showcased in the episode, so it has to be important, but I’m not so sure it means Omar is winning. Options can be good, but too many options can be problematic. Having an alliance with everyone doesn’t guarantee you’re good to go all the way — just ask Swati.
Omar is obviously tight with Taku and has also positioned himself to be at the center of the new majority alliance, but all it will take is a few people talking and comparing notes about Omar to realize he’s connected to everyone and in control of everything. There was later talk at tribal about knowing when to drive and when to let someone else drive — right now, I think the tribe is content letting Omar drive. I could be wrong, but I think he thinks he’s in a safer spot than he actually is.
In this “new era” of Survivor, strategic threats have become more sought-after targets than physical threats. Omar may be on top now, but when the easy outsider “options” to vote out are no longer around, I could see the tables turning around on Omar — I’d also expect to say “bye” to “Hye” shortly before or after him too. Maybe I’m being too critical of Omar when I earlier praised Mike for having a similarly strong social game, but I do think the two are presented differently. Omar’s “options” feel more game-related where with Mike’s relationships, I sense more heart there. I’m sure both are building personal connections that will go beyond the game, but because we’ve seen more of that personal side with Mike’s in the game, that’s why I’m picking Mike as my “number one” over Omar.
The show got me good here. When we learned that the “warning” part of Drea’s Beware Advantage was that the idol was hidden near the water well, I thought “what the fuck?” There have been plenty of idols hidden near wells across the franchise! Naturally, as would be a safe assumption these days, this sounded like another bogus “twist.”
I didn’t think the “red-handed” part of the note was to be interpreted literally, so I actually laughed when Drea stuck her hand in a tube of paint to claim her prize. Usually when Survivor gets campy, it gets cringey, but this was so insane that I just embraced it. Drea asking herself, “Why am I red?” was peak comedy for me. Thinking how she’d return to camp without literally being caught red-handed, she may have started to think, “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
“I fucked with the paint,” is what Drea told Tori, so when Tori looked over to see the new tribe flag was still a blank canvas and the paint cans were sealed tightly, it shot up a red flag … and that was that story for this week. We know Tori knows, so soon everyone will know that Drea has something in her pants and that it wasn’t just her “time of the month.”
The other week, Drea called herself “Survivor rich” and now she’s just Survivor loaded. We’ve had people find multiple idols and advantages in past seasons, but has anyone ever held 4 at the same time? If she uses her new “Knowledge is Power” (still the most broken twist to ever enter the game) that could put her up to 5 for the season. The show could almost use Ghost Island again as a twist but next time call it Drea Island and have it just be a graveyard of all the advantages Drea will have found by the time 42 is over.
Searching for the infamous “fucking stick” made me think: could Drea not have just used a stick to scoop the advantage out of that hole and avoided getting any red paint on her?
The picture above may be photoshopped but it’s scary that it’s not actually that far from reality. If she manages to eliminate Lindsay and Hai, Drea’s amulet will turn into an idol, so if she also steals Mike’s or Maryanne’s, she could possibly have 3 idols and an extra vote all to play at one tribal council. They all have to be used by final five or six which means Drea could almost single-handedly determine who stays and who goes at a later vote. It’s funny but it’s also fucked up. No one person should have this much power in the game.
There needs to be a cap or a series of contingencies when it comes to advantages. If there’s a certain number still in play, how about we don’t throw in any more until some of them exit the game? What a concept! I truly do not know why Jeff keeps trying so hard to get another Cirie situation from Game Changers, a “default” elimination during the finale. Literally no one wants that, and as much as I’ve loved watching Drea laugh as she picks up power after power — which she should be doing because it’s comical how messed up these rules are — I will not love seeing someone’s perfectly polished game shattered because Jeff didn’t know when to stop. When asked if there could ever be too many twists in the game at one time, Jeff would simply say:
IMMUNITY: THE MONSTER IS HUNGRY
Once again, this challenge was less about the actual challenge and more about a twist outside of it — what a great episode! Another rehash was this rice negotiation we saw in 41, but remember it’s totally fine to do again because the show films two seasons back-to-back which means the cast of 42 didn’t see anything that happened in 41! That’s some secret show business intel for you that you’re hearing for the first time ever!
At least Maryanne got a little confidence back as she weaponized her emotions to get the group to do what she wanted. What no one wanted, however, was Tori winning her second immunity in a row. These were not only the faces made at the challenge but also in living rooms across the country on Wednesday night:
Let’s make it three in a row next week!
^Me next week if that actually happens
While labeled as “chaos,” the conversations are camp weren’t all that crazy; there are just enough hours in the day for people to second-guess themselves or consider changing the plan before ultimately sticking to the original.
The eligible eliminations from the bottom of the tribe were Chanelle, Romeo, and Maryanne, but Maryanne’s name didn’t end up making it onto the final chopping block. Despite losing a Vati at the last vote, Mike and Hai were adamant that Chanelle needed to go next. This was an interesting call because with Chanelle virtually having no other allies, it may have made sense for Mike and Hai to try and pick up the broken pieces of Vati, but alternatively, as I mentioned last week, as a duo they are less threatening than they would be as a trio, so by pushing for Chanelle to go, I do think this will keep Hai and Mike off of anyone’s immediate radar. Mike especially wanted Chanelle out because he was still not over Chanelle voting for him that one time when he also voted for her (minor detail).
That wasn’t the only hypocrisy happening, though, as people got pissed at Romeo reacting to hearing his name next to Chanelle’s. He was called “paranoid” for…correctly identifying that he was at risk of being voted out? That’s literally the game – if you hear your name out there, change it to someone else’s. Why he was vilified for doing that, I have no idea, and he had every right to be “paranoid” because he was one of the two people at risk of being voted out, even if he was the #2 instead of the #1 target.
Annoyed by Romeo’s behavior, Hai wanted to switch the vote to Romeo, but out of everyone, Mike made sure the most to keep the vote on Chanelle. For this vote, Mike was like the dad driving the car who had to deal with Hai and Romeo screaming in the backseat when all Mike wanted to do was focus straight ahead and run over Chanelle. The level of disrespect for the Denny’s discount crowd…
SHUT UP AND DRIVE
Did you feel that car analogy was forced? Well then you know how I felt during this tribal council. Honestly, nothing really stood out to me here other than Maryanne indicating that she must’ve had some insane road trips as a child. I wasn’t sure if she was getting at that she used to often ride “bitch” or was just hanging onto the bumper for dear life.
As expected in a tribe of 11, no one wanted to be too direct about how they were voting except for maybe Drea who I think very clearly directed some heated comments toward Romeo and the recent drifting apart of that duo. Hai tried to end tribal talk with a title-worthy quote about “better be wearing a seatbelt” but like the episode overall, it didn’t really evoke any major emotions out of me.
I really thought this one was going toward a Romeo vote so at least the episode ended in a little bit of a blindside to me. It was also one for Chanelle who didn’t think she was in a dire enough situation to take a shot in the dark.
Chanelle started off strong but risking her vote really seemed to mess everything up for her, huh? There’s some “edge” to her that I think would’ve cost her the game at some point anyway, but coming out of Vati so bruised and banged up, my thinking is that she was used to playing defensively which maybe made her a little less approachable for conversation at the merge. It looked like people struggled to connect a bit more personally with Chanelle because she came across as such an aggressive gamer. I don’t know what she could’ve done differently this week since “chill” was evidently not the right move even though it seemed like it should’ve been. I think the only thing that would’ve saved her was another hourglass that let her go back and protect her vote, but the immediate tribal council after that pivotal point in time was the best of the season so far, so I’m glad that this is the timeline we got.
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR…
How far Mike has fallen from working with Hai and Lydia now go with the “the guys are coming together” alliance. At least they’re three guys I don’t hate? But in general, this is obviously never a direction I want a season of Survivor to take. We’re in a for a double boot as well which has me worried — what started as the most LGBT-filled merge ever has already lost two and if Romeo and Hai are still at odds next week and get each other voted out, we’ll be down to zero. Can y’all just play nice instead of insisting on voting each other out? Thanks!
Drea – C-c-c-cold hearted ssssssnake! I love how absolutely stone-cold and straight-faced Drea is and the way her face doesn’t move when she laughs. I think you have to be a little mix of hard and soft when you play Survivor, separating emotions from the game when you need to but knowing when to open up to connect with people, and Drea is a little too “hard” to have an easy time winning, but it’s not impossible. Her line, “that ain’t your family” was a little blunt of her at tribal council to telegraph to everyone that she doesn’t care who she has to screw to get to the million, but I admired her honesty. When you have some people trying to play up to the camera in confessionals to get airtime, on the flip side, you have Drea basically saying “I don’t give a shit about these people,” and I respect that.
Omar – Omar is one who of those comes across as a little rehearsed to me with his animal analogies, trying a little bit I think to have the episode title be something he said. Still, he remains a strategic focus and at the center of the “Kula Kula” tribe which I understand he named. This high visibility, though, is why I’m not convinced he’s winning. I think the show wants us to think he’ll remain at the center of everything and keep pulling all the strings, but sooner or later, that circle of sharks is going to close in on him and eat him. I think he’s going to emerge soon as the whale, rather, whose blindside is the big prize for someone.
Mike – What I love most about Mike is that he makes me laugh and it’s usually when he’s laughing at himself. This guy is just gold and I can’t get enough. On top of being my favorite character left (RIP Lydiangel) he’s who I still think has the best shot to win. He’s a little high visibility like Omar, but I think he’s involved without being “too involved.” Mike’s “Denny’s discount” status as the old, goofy dad is also why I’d give him the upper hand. I don’t have any reason yet to believe that people are soon going to turn to Mike and say he’s running the show. On paper, he entered this merge and has gone 2 for 2 in losing original tribemates at the last votes, so I think this sets himself up well to let it seem like he’s not in the driver’s seat. I do give him credit for keeping the vote on Chanelle this week, but it’s what most everyone wanted anyway, so this won’t be looked as like “Mike’s move” like last week’s was Omar’s or this one would have been Hai’s had he been successful in switching to Romeo. Mike is just sitting pretty.
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