I’m short on time this week, so I’m going to keep this recap pretty short. In any event, this week was thankfully fairly straight forward, so not too much to derail me into long philosophical discussions of whether people made the right moves (they did) or what the impact of the twist might be (the winners and losers are abundantly clear). Nevertheless, the episode was an important one in terms of the dynamics of the show going forward, even if it was mostly dealing out a few Survivor 101 lessons.
So, what’s on the ticket this week?
Bye Tony and Georgia (the good, the interesting)
Honestly, I was glad to see Tony go. I came into the season thinking ‘this is the hard guy, the kind of guy New Zealanders are going to end up rooting for’. But he wasn’t. Instead, we got the full picture of why he was voted out early. He was negative, he didn’t have a head for the game, and he was clearly a challenge to live with. He was a good character to have on the show and I think his speeches about Shay could affect the game long term in a very ‘F*** You Brad Culpepper’ Blood vs Water way. But it was his time to go.
Even more satisfying, though, was to see what was the dominant alliance in the game lose a truly central member. The Hermosa five appeared to revolve around Georgia, and while I was very impressed with the lengths of her scrambling, it was clear that the truth was that she would never flip on her original alliance – and why would she, when it was the way to get to end game? Her ouster puts the proverbial cat among the pigeons; Nate and Barb live to see another day, Original Megatron look a step closer to regaining a foothold in the game, and the merge looks just a bit up in the air. The best thing that could happen next is that Izzy beats Georgia, because Izzy’s decisions at the merge seem far less likely to be settled and far more likely to lead to an interesting season.
A medevac (the ugly)
It’s fairly rare that I feel particularly affected by a medevac on Survivor. I think that’s because, in general, they choose to give characters who are medevaced lower profiles deliberately, to avoid people feeling too emotionally invested. Even the elimination of the Beast Mode Cowboy, while dramatic, didn’t make me feel a huge amount. The only times I can remember really feeling something about medevacs in Survivor were the three men who were brought back to Philippines, all three of who had felt like devastating blows when they were taken out.
Lou’s name is one to add to the list. She felt like she was right in the heart of that tribe. It was so endearing to hear Sala calling her Lulu through the episode, and this came just an episode after Lou had nearly single handedly won an immunity challenge for her tribe. She was in a very safe (and interesting) place in the game at that point, and so her elimination is also going to effect the season as a whole. My guess is that the ‘black buff’ was an idea created on the fly, as the intent had been to swap at 12 (for a merge at 10). Adding Lou to either tribe would have led to interesting dynamics. Would it make Barb and Nate feel less safe if they were allying with three members of Team Megatron instead of two? And would Tom/Shay/Lou manage to keep together at NewMegatron? It’s a shame to be deprived of it.
There’s a bit of New Zealand history to this specific kind of injury, as well. It may come as a surprise to many people, but New Zealand has a bit of a history of being the birthplace of some of your favourite TV shows. We invented the show, Popstars, that lead directly to American Idol being produced. And at the same time that Expedition: Robinson was starting in Sweden and Mark Burnett was making Eco-Challenge, New Zealand was making a show of its own, on the same Fiji islands that Survivor now resides, no doubt, named Treasure Island.
As tends to be the way with reality TV shows, they eventually morph into ‘celebrity editions’, and a New Zealand celebrity, Lana Coc-Kroft, cut her foot open on coral and ended up spending 9 days in a coma and several weeks in critical care. There were reports that her life was seriously in danger. So seeing a similar thing happen to Lou was scary indeed, because coral cuts are not to be messed with.
Despite being only 19, I think Lou already had the respect of her cast mates and a really decent shot to win the game. It was very hard to see her go out in this way.
Status updates (checking in with most of the players left in the game)
So – Nate and Barb, fortunes up. That’s an obvious one. Enough of these players seemed like Survivor fans that they shouldn’t need a cautionary tale, but perhaps that wasn’t true of the Hermosa five. They might have been better served keeping Dee around. Whatever, Nate and Barb knew that they couldn’t trust a thing Georgia said because she never bothered to make them feel like anything but outsiders. It’s not all on her, but she took the bullet for it. Never leave two people on the outs!
Avi and Sala also look to be in a pretty good spot on NewHermosa. It’s hard to see the merge being much later than 10, and they have an easy next vote in Shannon if they need it – I feel like they should be safe for now. I was slightly nervous to see Avi being Georgia’s target, though. I still think he looks in great shape to win.
Tom is in an interesting position. He now has genuine options and a new lease of life in the game, and his smiling index increased tenfold this week. It’s not surprising to see him gravitate towards the boys club of OldHermosa, but I’m not sure if he can really trust that he’s a full part of that clique. He better watch his back.
Michael, Lee and Jak have nothing to worry about for now – all should sail to the end.
Shay seems to be the clear next boot should Megatron lose – and they’re already talking about throwing the next challenge. But mightn’t it be in Hermosa’s interests to throw it as well? We’ve seen so much talk of throwing challenges this season already, so it would be very interesting to see if next week we see another first as two tribes are trying to throw an immunity challenge at the same time. That would be one for the books!
Shannon’s next move (could she make it out of a tribal?)
Shannon’s spot is particularly interesting, though. From the outside, she could simply be the next Georgia – a member of that five person alliance who is expendable and who the tribe would unanimously boot.
But I think she has a much better chance at finding cracks than Georgia did. We were specifically shown footage of Shannon talking to Nate and Barb last week, and while it was subsequently her idea to throw a challenge to get rid of them and she ultimately wasn’t on board with aligning with them, from the perspective of Nate and Barb that all looked like the plan of Michael and Georgia.
Shannon could conceivably claim that she prefers the idea of working with Nate and Barb, but she could see that no-one else would flip and so she had to do what she had to do to advance her game. She could say that, now that the game has been shaken up and the old alliance doesn’t have sway over the game any more, she can go ahead and work with Nate and Barb and ditch her old alliance. And there’s a chance it could actually work. Especially if Nate likes the idea.
While we haven’t seen a lot of Barb, I get the sense that she was much more isolated from people generally than Nate was. Nate has been good at making connections (he’s made them with Avi and Sala), and there’s a chance that he will buy a pitch from Shannon that she wants to work with him. I don’t think it’s impossible that, if Hermosa lose, Barb ends up being the one to go home as Nate looks to forge a new path.
So, Shannon might have a couple of possible paths to making it out of next week – work with Nate and Barb to remove Avi or Sala, or convince Nate to turn on Barb. Either one would cement Shannon as one to watch for the end game.
All in all, I think we’re now in a clear spot to say there are deliberate narratives and a clear tempo to the edit of the season. It feels like Hermosa now has the players who have been getting lots of play – Avi, Sala, Nate and Shannon, while Megatron has the players who haven’t been getting nearly so much play – Lee, Jak, and Tom. The only player who has really had plenty of air time over there is Shay.
So, prediction time – next week we see Megatron throw the challenge, and Shay goes to Redemption Island. There, she wins her way back in to the merge, and we end up seeing current Hermosa plus Shay take out a couple of the boys club in the early part of the merge, leading to an end game full of the players who, up until now, have been getting all the air time. For now, Avi, Sala and Shannon really feel like they’re head and shoulders above the rest in terms of their winner chances, with Nate hanging in to the conversation.
That’s it for this week. Please comment and tweet at me if you are keeping up with the season!
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
Other NZ: Nicaragua Episodes 5-6 recaps/ discussion
Episodes 5-6 exit interviews: Tony Deane
Episodes 5-6 exit interviews: Lou McClintock
Episodes 5-6 podcasts