“The era of alliances is over” – the chaotic messiness this line implies sounds fun on paper, but I’m not sure Survivor is better off in its “no alliances” era. If each episode is a reset of everything, that makes a season impossibly hard to follow and we’re left with almost so much unpredictability that we can’t even enjoy what’s happening. I don’t think we’re quite as extreme yet to say alliances are “over” but it’s something else to not look forward to in Survivor’s future if we’re to go there. That said, I liked this week, I think? The pacing felt not rushed but normal and while the vote was convoluted, at least we mostly understood how it happened (even if it was all based on bad assumptions).
BRAND NEW INFORMATION?
It didn’t even stand out to me last week that Frannie voted for Jaime all by herself – I figured it was just some weird split-vote decision but apparently it was not, given Frannie’s frustration upon return to camp. The vote had switched from Jaime to Kane, and Frannie was left out of it. I was not only confused about this but also about Jaime saying she lost her #1 ally in Kane. Did we see a single one-on-one interaction between them this entire season? This was certainly the first mention of them having any connection beyond “Ratu strong,” so the episode was off to a 10/10 start with new information being presented to us like it was old. Admittedly, I could’ve missed it with 99% of my focus on Carolyn, but the show has been bad about “telling” instead of “showing” in the past so I’m leaning toward this being a miss on their part rather than mine. I’m perfect.
REWARD – PICK UP YOUR BALLS
Another lazy production decision followed on reward day with the exact same challenge at the exact same point in the game as last season with the exact same rewa—oops, I’m sorry! The players had to pick up balls in this challenge instead of sandbags, so it was a totally different thing – completely new and redesigned for our viewing pleasure.
I took real pleasure, though, in watching Danny attempt to scoot his way across his beam – or “Scout” his way.
Such a free spirit, that Scout.
Frannie channeled her inner older lady too with those granny shots that scored her another victory in a challenge – Jeff was quick to point out that this was her third in case anyone on the tribe hadn’t been paying attention.
Not only did she have that to worry about, but Frannie then had to choose some friends to join her on an overnight trip to the Survivor sanctuary for tacos, margaritas, and letters from home. In a sweet and caring move, she chose all the moms in the tribe so they could read letters from their children. I thought that was really cool and a justifiable enough way to pick people as much as someone else may have been hoping to hear from someone special like their assistant coach or their neighbor’s sister.
While I’d totally understand and support Frannie’s decision, I know it would be tough to have zero hard feelings from being left out or even if not directed at Frannie just sad in general over not receiving any love. Yam Yam broke down in trying to make small talk with Jaime, asking her who she was expecting to hear from – he could barely finish that sentence before shedding some tears and sharing that he wished he could read the letters from his husband and his mom. That would suck knowing they were so close yet so far away.
In the fast-paced new era, though, the game rarely can take a long break from itself, so while this group of four had some time alone, Danny quickly threw out Frannie’s name as the next on the chopping block due to her challenge performances. I should note here that Danny’s performed almost as well as Frannie; he’s just always been the immunity bridesmaid and never the bride, so I thought it was interesting to rally around that rationale when, without Frannie, his own criteria would make him the next biggest target. I’m curious to see how his tune changes next week when that could be the case.
After Frannie was established as the vote, Jaime shared the revelation that Kane left the game with her idol which absolutely no one believed even though she thought the truth would set her free. It was too convenient to say she gave the idol to the person who happened to be voted out, so I wasn’t surprised no one was buying her story. “Kane left with your idol? Sure. And Sarah left with an advantage that let her share everyone’s advantages. You’re a terrible liar, Jaime!”
^For anyone who forgot about what the “Inheritance Advantage” was ... or who Sarah was.
MOMS AND MARGS
That’s a party I want to go to! Everyone knows I love some Mexican food and margaritas – most of all, I love a warm, gooey bowl of queso – but all those flies buzzing around the taco meat and drinks made this one of the most unappetizing fiesta spreads I’ve ever seen. Eating only coconut and some crabs for 18 days, though, and I maybe wouldn’t care about a few flies making it into my tacos. Extra protein! Also, I’d still choose it over Fiji pizza all day, every day.
I still can’t believe this was actually called a “reward.”
Carolyn is sober so she enjoyed those virgin cocktails Jeff advertised, but she was still her unapologetically silly self to which Frannie expressed further endearment. The two were forming a fast friendship which was adorable, so naturally it was doomed to not last too long, because we can’t have nice things on this show anymore.
My favorite part of the episode was perhaps what followed when the moms moved on from sipping margs to ripping open their letters. Tears were flowing and we learned a little more about Lauren as she expressed how her dad was never the emotional type so seeing him express himself in his letter really touched her.
Lauren then shared her story about facing a lot of life challenges (divorce, single motherhood) and being told by even her loved ones that she wouldn’t overcome them, yet she powered through and surpassed those expectations. I thought her message was really powerful as she said she was a living example to women who, no matter their circumstance, can “do it” just like she did – maybe not to the extreme of going to play Survivor, but if that’s what they want, then that’s what they can get too!
That was a very emotional confessional and one I wished we would’ve gotten a glimpse of sooner so that her immunity win the other week would’ve been all the more powerful, but it is still inspiring to see Lauren bursting through barricades life has built along her path. After this much-appreciated removal from the game, it was a fun turn to have Carolyn bring us back from the tears through laughter over her sharing how much her son hated to write and how he probably hated writing this letter. Knowing that, it made it that much sweeter for her to receive. I also loved the narwhal he drew – I’m not sure if there’s any meaning behind that or if he just thought, “this letter needs a narwhal.” Being Carolyn’s son, I would guess (and hope) it was the latter.
Even the flies were obsessed with it.
Again, this wouldn’t be super-fast Survivor without the ever-present pressure to talk game. Carolyn jumped on the opportunity to throw out Danny’s name once again which expectedly drew a little hesitancy from Heidi, but ultimately, Heidi said she was willing to lose him if it was finally “time.” Carolyn knew that Frannie was a threat just as much as everyone else, but she also knew Frannie served her game more than Danny did, so she was happy to send the vote Danny’s way – the trouble would be convincing the rest of the tribe to do the same. I don’t think the ladies were given any to-go boxes or else I’d have expected Carolyn to pack up some margarita mix to bring back to the tribe in order to win favor.
When the women returned the next day, Jaime repeated her good news that her idol was gone and the reaction from the women was the same as it was from the men:
The “truth” is subjective in Survivor.
IMMUNITY – DO THE WORM
I love that Danny just goes 1000% all the time – always giving it the gas.
We’ve seen both the snake/worm thing before as well as the star-shaped puzzle, but fear not, just like the reward challenge, this one had a new element that totally spiced things up – the players not only had to crawl thought the sand without using their limbs, but now they had to carry a buoy in their mouths!
At what point did the challenge designs become more interested in making the players look like idiots instead of exciting TV to watch? Some of those old blindfold challenges were funny (as long as no one was getting injured) but they weren’t “designed” to be funny – that was just an added bonus. Here, and like the dizzy reward or the “butthole” net, I feel like the players were made to look stupid just for the sake of looking stupid for some cheap laughs like this is MXC or the American version, Wipeout. I also don’t fully understand the rules of the worm movement. Danny was using his hands to push himself at one point, so I’m not sure what can and can’t be done to help someone move in this challenge. Do their abdomens just have to be on the ground at all times? I mean, rules, who needs ‘em?
Another puzzle we’ve seen before, so it was another puzzle won by the wiz-kid with a 3D printer. Woohoo. My groan isn’t directed at Carson but instead the laziness of the show to let this puzzle memorization propel someone to a win. On one hand, sure, it rewards “students of the game,” but if episode after episode it’s “ooh I practiced that at home and that and that and that ...” the challenge is almost won before it starts so what’s the point of watching it?
Frannie was oddly excited to not be wearing the immunity necklace for once, saying she loved tests and that this would finally be a test of her social and strategic games. Famous last words ....
Frannie was the biggest target starting off this pre-tribal scramble, but Danny and Jaime were not far behind, and when the Tika-Soka group initially met, that’s where they said their votes were leaning – a split between Danny and Jaime with Jaime going on the re-vote if she didn’t play her idol.
Danny was still pushing for Frannie and he made a rash decision to approach Heidi and tell her that was happening with or without her vote – what a way to talk to your allies! Heidi went to Carolyn and Carson to confirm because she assumed Danny’s math included their two votes, but Carolyn and Carson denied such claims. This set Carolyn off not at Danny but at Heidi, thinking this was Heidi trying to confuse everyone. It was time for Carolyn to roll up her sleeves, stick a lobster claw in her hair, and figure out what the fuck was going on.
While Carolyn went off to investigate, Carson and Yam Yam talked about the threat that Frannie posed to them with her growing closer to Carolyn, potentially becoming Carolyn’s new #1. I don’t understand the logic in “let’s piss Carolyn off by taking out her ally so she’ll be our ally” but that seemed to be their approach – because Carolyn responds so well to not being included!
Carolyn was off with Frannie, Jaime, and Lauren who all ended up landing on Heidi for the vote due to her tendency to blow up plans. In all this chaos, Tika still remained completely off the radar. With Frannie, Danny, Heidi, and Jaime all having their names tossed around, that should’ve all pointed to Tika being responsible for the trouble, but nope. It was still Ratu vs. Soka.
As I laid out last week, not knowing what advantages Tika may have, it should have been priority #1 to take one of them out this week. Otherwise, the tribe risks Tika making it to seven with an idol or extra vote, and then they’d get to six with half the votes. The Soka civil war was clouding everyone’s minds this round, I think. If this was a 39-day game still, I think an extra day may have cleared those heads, but the one-day tunnel vision allowed for a one-way ticket to a Tika final three that seems more and more likely with every vote they survive.
SO MANY PLANS
I never want to hear f*** t*** b***** ever again in my life.
Earlier in the night, I said Frannie felt too obvious, but all these other names coming up as we neared tribal felt like just enough “distraction” to have the vote still land on Frannie but be more of a “surprise” that Jeff thinks we like. Personally, I just like to understand the vote more than anything, and while I mostly did since Frannie has been labeled a threat for several weeks now, I don’t know how exactly that chat between Frannie, Carolyn, Lauren, and Jaime ended up going nowhere. “The era of alliances is over” so maybe we should just expect the era of conversations meaning something to also be at an end.
I’ve always wondered since the “Natalie’s jacket” situation whether items of clothing follow idol/advantage rules in that they’re not able to be transferred after someone is voted out, but Frannie gave Carolyn her belt back so it’s now confirmed that Natalie just really hated Angelina ... and I love it.
I also loved Frannie. UGH. This one sucked. It also sucked that she was so excited to experience the merge without immunity only for it to be her one and only experience. Frannie was fun. I loved seeing her surprise herself with those challenge wins even if they ended up being her undoing. I think those moments will ultimately mean more to her than had she held back just to play it safe. I appreciate players going ... that thing Jeff brought up, and I hope she and Matt ended up with an amazing week at Ponderosa, finally getting to spend time with each other without the game getting in the way of their feelings. A sad outcome in the game for both but a happy one in life which is way more important!
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR ...
Hell hath no fury like Carolyn scorned. I thought Carolyn’s revenge tour would’ve been the result of losing Yam Yam, but I’m here for her mission to seek justice for Frannie. I know she’ll still want Danny out, but I hope we finally see Tika crack and turn on each other. Carolyn burning down the camp metaphorically (or literally, idk) should be a show for the ages, so I’m looking forward to it.
Lauren – While not as strategically significant in the episode (she voted correctly but I’m not sure what ultimately tipped her that way) her moment on the taco mamas reward was the week’s biggest standout for me and gave her some desperately-desired character development. I feel like she’s even under the radar still compared to Erika was at this point, so I don’t think Lauren is winning, but I’m happy she’s getting this experience to prove to herself just how much of a winner she is. Like Frannie with those challenge wins, I think these kinds of wins for Lauren will be worth more than a million bucks. I love a #MomSquad so I loved Lauren this week!
Carson – Everyone else was kind of about the same for me in terms of standing out, but I’ll give a callout to Carson here for remaining the only person to never have his name thrown around, and nearly everyone’s was this week. He’s “in” with everyone, both individually and in any pseudo-alliances we are seeing, so I’d say his social game is objectively the best. However, like Danny, I think his logic in targeting Frannie for the reason he did could come back to bite him. Logically, if the next “Frannie” is the next to go, then it should be Carson. I still think Tika can take it to the end if Carolyn cools down, but of the three, I’ve always felt we’re more personally invested in Carolyn and Yam Yam’s stories, even more so after this week, so if any of the stooges are expendable, it’s Carson. We finally heard his name come up in the preview and there’s no reason for Soka and Ratu not to be targeting Tika next week, so the next “test” will be for Carson to pass or fail. I’m not 100% sure he’ll fail, but if he was sweating this week while wearing the necklace, I expect he’ll be sweating even more next week.
Carolyn is still delivering everything as a character, but this week was another strategic swing and a miss for her to get rid of Danny, and it was obvious she was outplayed by her other two Tika stooges. Now they definitely have a stronger Survivor résumé than her, so she needs to separate herself from them in a big way. Next week may be that week, but Carolyn has admittedly struggled with letting go of her friends. While she seems closer to Yam Yam, she’s shown a soft spot for Carson as well, so while I can see her landing once again on Danny as her target, I really hope she pulls out the knife and pulls off a blindside. She’d lose a Tika, but she’d win a lot of favor with the rest of the players in the game and on the jury by making a move that she can claim as her own. Maybe something crazy with her idol?
That’s it – she’ll finally get everyone to vote for Danny, but then she and Danny will vote for Carson and she’ll play her idol for Danny like Natalie Anderson played hers for Jaclyn and Carson will go. And then this woman will become a millionaire: