Alright, two and a half hours of show to recap, and a very short window to do it in. So, off for some quick hits!
On the ticket this week:
Survivor integrity in action (how to betray without losing a vote)
One of the first things we saw in these two episodes was Shay, at Redemption Island, talking down Avi’s game to try convince Mike and Jak that they should take Avi to the end.
Last week, I wrote about my concept of ‘Survivor integrity’, and I felt that Avi had mostly gotten it right, but I said that the first episode this week would be telling. What I meant was, that Shay’s reaction to Avi’s betrayal may well determine whether or not he wins.
Well, Shay knew Avi voted for her and immediately went in to bat to get him the win. This has been Avi’s influence on this season; he has made very close connections, he has done what he can to save people or stay with them, and he has been loyal, but only to the point of it damaging his game. Whether he communicated it before tribal or in the hug as she went out, it’s clear that Shay harboured no ill-will towards Avi – probably because she realised he couldn’t use his vote to save her but he could use it to save himself.
Avi has hit the key to winning this game dead on – he’s made and managed relationships in such a way that he isn’t hurting feelings with his betrayals. I’m fairly sure his promises have been about ‘doing everything he can’ and not promising he’ll never write people’s names down, and that’s probably helped.
I can’t wait to see Mike’s headspace as he re-enters the game. Is he going to believe that he can beat Avi? We will have to wait and see, but if Mike does end up buying Shay’s idea that Avi has done nothing, he’ll get a rude shock at the end.
The mystery of Barb (still unresolved)
OK, so it’s fairly clear at this point that Barb wasn’t playing anyone – she genuinely did intend to just let Avi (not Tom) win. Just more evidence of Avi’s social influence over the game as he manages to have people batting for his win all over the place.
I wonder if this is a bit of a Kiwi mindset. I remember when I watched Pearl Islands, thinking that if I had been on Drake instead of Fairplay, that Rupert might have won (if I didn’t). The point being, I think this is a bit of a New Zealanders attitude – we want to win first, but if we can’t win we’d rather lose to someone we really like. The worst case scenario is bringing along people you don’t want to win and then ending up not winning yourself.
In any event, after making what has to be one of the best immunity comebacks ever, Barb suddenly begins thinking about the game again. What exactly she was thinking? Well, we’ll never know, because it came to nothing and she voted out Nate anyway. But, it’s really interesting seeing Barb get her mojo back a little and start thinking. Possibly the only thing that can stop Avi marching to the final three is a Barb change of heart. I can’t wait to see how Barb’s role in the story plays out.
A twist (that only a careful stats keeper would see coming)
So, that whole ‘two people come back from Redemption’ thing happened. In that case, it makes total sense that it would happen now instead of one round earlier. The person who was fourth (Nate, in this case), could easily simply grab both people who came back and create a 3-3 tie if they returned at final 4, but this way all three on the beach are able to get to the end by picking the returnees off. This means that the returnees actually have to work to find a way in.
I quite liked the twist of two returning. It made the second episode lack in dramatic tension when Nate was voted out for all of about 15 seconds, but other than that it creates a fairly interesting dynamic, and still requires a player to win two challenges to automatically make it to final tribal council.
However, the chief issue with Redemption Island remains – if Mike makes it to final tribal council or good forbid, wins the whole game by literally winning every challenge other than the one where he gets voted out, it doesn’t make for great TV. I’m not really invested in Mike’s story at all, and he feels like someone who everyone will simply vote back out right away if given the chance.
But all in all I feel as though Redemption Island was executed better here than in any season bar Blood vs Water. They put it in the right place in episodes, generally speaking, and this choice of how to manage returnees gives it the most chance to bear actual fruit. I still think they missed a trick not putting Hannah back in during episode one, though.
A little jury jeopardy (who beats who?)
Not a full jury jeopardy, but my view about who can win and how:
Avi vs all comers
First, I’m fairly confident Avi has the votes of Shay, Sala and Shannon if he gets to the end. Truth be told, he probably has the vote of any of Tom, Nate and Barb as well... so he may well already have the game sewn up if he gets to the end.
His one weak point might be if he gets to the end with Nate and Barb. Is it possible that Mike, Lee, Jak and one more (Tom or Shannon), could actually end up being so impressed with Barb that she beats Avi? I wouldn’t be surprised. But it requires Nate to sit there as the 0 vote finalist, as I’m pretty sure Barb loses some of those votes to Tom or Mike if they are there, and Avi sneaks through.
Tom probably gets the votes of Avi, Mike, Jak and Lee. Funnily enough, the scenario that might be most risky for Avi suits Tom the best.
Mike collects Lee and Jak for sure. Nate picks up Sala. Barb might get Shannon and Shay. That leaves Tom and Avi choosing. Avi might vote for Nate, but I can’t see Nate picking up a vote from Tom. So, it’s possible Tom decides whether it’s Mike or Barb who is most deserving, and he’d probably go Mike. Barb still in with a hunt though.
Nate gets Sala and Barb. Mike gets Lee. Tom gets Avi. There’s a realistic possibility Shannon could vote Nate, Jak for Mike, and Shay for Tom, leading to a Nate 3-2-2 win here. Mike could also still take it, and if Jak chose Tom over Mike, there’s a chance Tom could win this configuration too. This might be the most fun final tribal council, but probably leading to the least satisfying winner.
Mike once again gets Lee, Tom gets Avi, and Barb gets Nate. Barb might also get Shannon and Shay. Jak could vote for either Mike or Tom, but either way it leaves Sala with the deciding vote. Would he respect Barb for getting him out, or would he go Tom to stay Megatron strong? Hard to know for sure, but I lean a Barb win with Tom on the outside track here.
It feels like Avi is running away with this, but if he doesn’t make final tribal council then I’ve just presented scenarios in which every one of the other four win. It’s actually kind of exciting going in to the final five without anyone having been so ignored by the edit that you know they have no shot. Perhaps it’s the most refreshing thing about the length of the season.
Assorted nuts (not nougat)
* It was really fun watching footage of nearly everyone left in the game demonstrating that 40 days in the jungle sends you crazy. Jak laugh-crying, crab racing with Avi and Nate, Barb being sent a horse from the heavens, Mike crawling around the sand to catch dinner, and Tom playing drums with the dinner before returning to his sad old smileless stare. I feel as though I haven’t seen the show focus on how mad people must go since Panama.
* I was so convinced Jak was going to beat Mike that I actually got a shock seeing Jak lose. I guess the editing was playing it straight again.
* I also really liked watching the boys destroy the redemption island camp and eat all the food, only to be sent back. In a game where they’ve clearly been told a lot (final 3, no idols etc)... they should never rely on something that they haven’t been told. It seems clear that the producers were seeding deliberate doubt around redemption island (hence all the talk about the possibility of two people coming back – surely the producers were asking questions about the idea?)
Anyway, that will do for tonight – see you all post finale, and tweet #teamavi at me if you’ve made it along with me this far!
By day, Ben Martell is a public commercial lawyer from New Zealand.
By night, he moonlights as a self-described Survivor 'expert'.
By day or night, find him on twitter at: @golden8284
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