... what even is this show anymore? If you read this every week you probably wonder, “why does he keep watching if all he does is wind up bitching about too many advantages to be played and too many disadvantages against women in the game?” I guess it’s love for what the show once was. You don’t want to abandon someone/something you love when they’re falling apart, but good god is it hard to watch, and even more when you feel so helpless to help change it, so here we are. This week was such a whirlwind of WTF that it just was off for me.
What makes a “good” “player” in this game now? There’s so much that can literally not be tracked that is it worth trying? With so many random obstacles that can enter the game, many of which are heavily “produced,” even with the greats of Survivor I struggle to see how they could have tried to be successful in the game as it is today. I my maintain my rank of Kim’s game as the best win for a first-timer, but for as incredible as she was, how would she have fared with more idols than there were women or a new twist or advantage entering the game every other round? Would it have been a knock against her if she wasn’t able to overcome, or would it have just been some bumblefucking random luck that gave us a different winner?
I don’t know how we as a fanbase can be any more vocal about just letting the players PLAY, and even if we could, I truly think it would fall on deaf ears. The man running the show is running it into the ground. Player choice? Gone. Personal dynamics driving interesting drama? Gone. My hope for this show ever returning to even the early 30s era of gameplay? Gone.
SUDDENLY THE SWING?
The show is so pressed for time between challenges, journeys, and idol chatter that it’s clearly difficult to craft a cohesive narrative, so all we get are shoehorned bits about what maybe is going on. We started with Soka this week where all of the sudden Josh proclaimed to be in the power position between two pairs(???). Immediately I asked myself what I thought we watched last week in Josh nearly being the one to go with one of those pairs firmly in favor of voting for him (if only if votes weren’t lost), so this story was very confusing.
It turned out that Josh was just wrong and that the two pairs actually saw Josh as the next one to go. Thus, that kind of felt like writing on the wall that this week maybe was going to be Josh’s last. That’s all we got from Soka, so what else were we to assume?
X MARKS THE SPOT
This was at least one genuinely funny moment in the episode, the Tika tribe even pretending to think that that “X” was legitimate. Bless Carolyn’s heart for trying, but I think we all knew that everyone knew that it was just a pair of fucking sticks.
To Carolyn’s credit, Sarah followed the X to the location of Carolyn’s fake idol and from what the confessionals told us, at least, Sarah sounded like she believed what she had was real. Long story short: Carolyn is the greatest strategic mastermind this game has ever seen and all future Survivor players should be taking notes. I will die on this hill.
REWARD – SLING AND A MISS
The most tension in this reward for me was whether or not Matthew’s arm was going to go flying off when he released the slingshot. Ratu must’ve wanted to risk losing reward instead of immunity because otherwise this seemed like one of the worst challenges for a guy with a very sensitive shoulder.
The only thing more surprising than that was apparently who sat out for Ratu, in Jeff’s eyes, at least. Frannie sitting out for Soka got the standard “Frannie gonna sit it out,” while Ratu got a response of “KANE gonna sit out” as if that was SO shocking. Jeff just go ahead and ask them why they decided not to sit out Jaime or Lauren – that’s what he wanted to ask. Ignore the fact that another guy dislocated his should a few days ago ....
The sit-outs may or may not have mattered, but Soka and Ratu ended up first and second in the reward challenge for tarps with Soka getting the more significant decision of who to send on a journey – oh joy! We’ve been long overdue! This time, however, they didn’t realize that sending Josh, Carson, and Jaime would send them away from their tribes forever ....
BOTTOM OF A NEW TRIBE
Again, of course, there was no time for us to see these journeyers get to know each other because we had more important things to get to know. For the first time in 4 seasons, we got a swap! Except ... it was nothing like one we’ve wanted.
Not since the Survivor: China swap has one seemed so busted – there, each tribe got to select two people from the opposing tribe to swap, effectively putting them in an automatic two-person minority. Here, to make things worse, the show forced only one player to swap, giving them even worse odds at survival. Seems pretty broken, right? So how does the show fix that? Keep it broken, but in a different way!
Someone had to have realized how absurdly unfair this swap was, so to “fix” it, they just gave these unlucky three players an expiring idol to save them before the merge. If the show realized this swap was shit, why not just scrap it all together or, I don’t know, do an actual tribe shuffle???
I also don’t buy for a second there was any chance that this swap wouldn’t happen, i.e. no matter what path each person chose, the producers made sure a new buff was in that bag. Otherwise, everyone’s just getting a free idol at no expense.
Who thought this would be fun? I wouldn’t have wanted to see anyone swapped into shitty numbers, but at least there would’ve been some more “fight” to see in that scenario. Instead, with these idols, they don’t have to do anything. Just bide their time until the merge or use their easy idol should their new tribe face tribal council. What we saw happen at Tika was totally predictable and I expect to see the same at Soka and Ratu as well. This solidified, in case it wasn’t already, that the show doesn’t care at all about the social and strategic elements of the game anymore. Jeff just wants flashy tribal councils and idols galore at the cost of literally anything more interesting that could happen.
At Tika, Josh was easily singled out. Whether or not he was lying about being a surgeon made no difference in what his fate would be despite the edit incriminating him with his lie. Tika wanted to take all Tika to the merge because duh, so the “reason” for eying Josh didn’t matter. Steady or shaky hands, “Josh” was going to be the name Tika wrote down at tribal council.
At Ratu, this was a little more interesting as Matthew pulled Carson aside to attempt to build trust by telling him about Jaime’s *cough*fake*cough* idol. I appreciate Matthew playing so hard, but I think he’s beginning to over-extend his reach – with his right arm, obviously. In his attempts to build all these connections, I feel like it’s going to come out just how involved he is in his own web, and especially once Jaime learns her idol is a fake, Carson’s going to realize that Matthew’s outreach wasn’t as important as it seemed, maybe pointing fingers back at Matthew for being the mastermind behind everything.
All I think this established is that if Ratu loses, Matthew will try to influence Carson’s vote, so when Carson inevitably plays his idol, Matthew’s decoy target will be the one to go. Who will that be? I have no idea because we still know shit about relationships at Ratu.
At Soka, again, all eyes were on the new enemy at camp. Since it’s not off-limits, Danny took the liberty of looking through Jaime’s bag, suspecting an idol but ultimately coming up short. Matt commented and said that Jaime could just have the idol on her person instead which seemed obvious at that point. Soka has potential to be a little interesting to watch each pair try to throw Jaime’s vote onto the opposite one, but still, all these camps approached this swap the exact same way. Vote for the easy, new target but make sure that they vote for the “correct” backup boot. It’s the same story told three different ways which isn’t compelling to me in the slightest.
IMMUNITY – BACK ON THE BEAM
I was really disappointed with last season not having a memorable enough balance beam blunder to award my Debbie Donato Wanner Award for Best Performance on a Balance Beam, so I am pleased to say we have a strong contender this season already in Yam Yam! I don’t have a specific award for this, but Lauren’s belly flop also made me think that I should perhaps consider a “Best Diver” designation as well – maybe a new Chet Welch Award?
The Superman extension of the arms is what’s really key to nailing that perfect form.
Soka and Ratu won the day again, sending Tika to tribal council, so the question would just be “who is Josh going to vote for?” because the answer to that would be the ultimate answer to what happened this episode.
DON’T GET OFFENDED
“No offense, but [something offensive].” Yeah, that always goes over well.
Worse than Yam Yam telling Carolyn that he’d be seen as more of a threat (what I would call a “humble brag”) was him saying that her name was going to be the one he and Sarah gave to Josh. Carolyn was thus expected to accept that if Josh had an idol, she’d go home. Great idea, Yam Yam! Even when he and Sarah then went to Josh, their words just felt super transparent, so no wonder why Josh then ran to Carolyn to tell her what he had been told to do.
If there was concern of Carolyn being a wild card, Yam Yam should’ve told Carolyn that Sarah would be who they told Josh to vote for; instead, by saying it would be Carolyn, he effectively told Carolyn that she was more expendable to him than Sarah. This also made no sense with the story so far after seeing Yam Yam literally run to Carolyn’s rescue the other week when it was between her and Helen. What changed? We don’t know because we never get told the full story about anything!
To add a bigger move to Carolyn’s résumé, I wanted her to convince Josh to play his idol for her and turn around to vote for him anyway, sort of like Denise slaying Sandra, but I don’t fault Carolyn for doing what she did instead. She felt dumped by the two other Tikas so why not flip and ride with the Soka who had just shared his idol with her? That was a sign that Josh wanted to work with Carolyn vs. Yam and Sarah’s sign that they were okay with losing her.
Josh played this as expected. He could’ve kept the idol secret, but I think he smartly chose to secure an ally in the process since he knew he’d be safe anyway. Yam Yam and Sarah dropped the ball here, but especially Yam. With Josh’s idol, Sarah may have been booted no matter what, but Yam now has burned a bridge with Carolyn and is at risk of going if Tika goes to another tribal. Carolyn is now in the driver’s seat, and we are all her lucky passengers!
I couldn’t tell how much of this tribal council was real or really an act. If I was Tika, I’d have planned to set the stage for Carolyn to turn a little unhinged, trying to lull Josh into a false sense of security thinking that Tika was at civil war. They had to have had this discussion, so I think what we saw had some showmanship on display, but Carolyn’s emotions behind it all were real. She did feel betrayed and she did feel like a Felicia, but if she’s criticized for playing this vote emotionally, I’d call those critics wrong. When you know you’ve been bumped to the bottom, it’s time to flip. I, of course, lived for #ChaosCarolyn.
I need them both on 50 together.
Sarah, we hardly knew ya. She didn’t seem like a bad player, but she got dealt some shit hands with losing her vote and an ally at the first tribal, and this swap was specifically designed for a member of each tribe’s majority to go. Not that the show would EVER try to influence the vote, but when that meant the options this week were Carolyn, Yam Yam, and Sarah…I think we know who the show wanted to see stay in the game. Given all the other personalities and characters on original Tika, I think Sarah was destined to be one of its early boots. That, and her lacking of something I drilled in on ad nauseum last week: “penis protection.”
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR ...
Matthew medevac? He’s made it, I believe, 7 days since his injury so as painful as it may be, it would be odd if he left now because of it. The game has, what, 5 days left? I expect him to fight through the tears and still see him as a major winner contender. At Tika, it looks to be some tearing apart with some gay-on-gay violence between Yam Yam and Josh. Bitchfaces are a blast for TV, so I hope that scene actually is as spicy as it was teased – I can always count on Tika to turn it out.
Carolyn – Is this season being told too much through Carolyn’s perspective? Maybe so, but it’s clear that she was Casting gold, so it feels warranted. It’s game but also a TV show, so it makes sense for the biggest starts to get the most airtime, especially when they’re a critical piece of the plot – I’m finally glad it’s someone so unique and unpredictable. She played up her lost puppy angle perfectly this week with Josh and while I think we’ll see another tribe lose next week, if it does end up with Tika at tribal council, it’s Carolyn’s call on who stays and who goes. Given where she was at the start, it’s amazing to have witnessed her crawl and claw her way to the top. I may be biased in loving her story, but objectively, I think it’s a good one.
Josh – Unknowingly, he narrowly escaped the boot last week to be granted a new life in the game. Had Soka stayed the same and lost again, it sounds like Josh would’ve been blindsided. But if there was no swap, that means there would instead have been a new advantage, so we’ll never know if that’s really what could’ve happened. This Josh and Carolyn connection could be interesting, but I don’t know that Josh will continue being a main character like he was this week. He played the swap perfectly, but it’s hard to give him too much credit when he was given so much by Production. I wish he knew how not-safe he was at Soka because I think he’ll simply go running back to them at the merge and probably suffer a later blindside. He’s a sharp guy but I’m not sure of him being the sharpest Survivor yet. I’d like to see him navigate more when there aren’t idols or (dis)advantages driving so much of the game before I make that determination.
Without Carolyn, I hate to say it, but this season would be suffering as much as 43. It’s more or less the same in terms of what we’re seeing, but Carolyn is such a special gem that she makes the monotony somehow more enjoyable. Literally every week has me going in like, “What will Carolyn do next?” I was worried for her in the beginning, but now she’s taken over Tika and to Yam Yam’s point about “threats” I do think her personality will prevent her from being one at the merge, so long as she can keep #ChaosCarolyn at rest. Thus, my gut says she’s safely in this season for the long haul. Should she somehow leave us sooner than the finale, though, this WILL be my face: