The Survivor SA: Immunity Island superfan purge continued unabated this week, this time claiming Dino, who never quite recovered from the self-interested first impression he made in the opening minutes of the game. In another sense, he also found himself triply screwed by a variety of opposing forces: (1) A surprise swap right before the immunity challenge that left him and Qieän outnumbered on his new tribe, (2) a prevailing bias against "flip-floppers," which is certainly not unique to Survivor SA, and (3) a lingering grudge held by Tyson for having seen his name come up at the prior Tribal Council. After he personally asked Dino, at Tribal Council, to vote for him!
There are a surprising number of grudges being held on this cast, in fact. Tyson is out to target everyone who wrote his name down in Episode 5. (Again, he requested them to do it, although to be fair it was mostly Kiran's doing, and also they would have done it anyway.) Santoni has it out for Nicole, whose gloating while feasting at Tribal irked her. And then there's Wardah, who wants to take out just about everyone, but especially those responsible for voting out Carla, including Anela, who she believes orchestrated the move, which is a surprise to both Anela and the audience.
The surprise swap gives a lot of opportunities for this bloodlust to play out, since with the exception of Nicole, these people with grievances and the targets they want to strike are now on the same tribe (Zamba). Also, third-edition Zamba looks well-positioned to lose every remaining challenge before the merge, so get ready for constant fireworks.
By the time they do get around to actually booting someone the day after the swap, though, tempers have cooled a little, and the new Zambas let some logic take over. The original target was Santoni — Tyson and Kiran were skittish that she knew about the idol Tyson had just (re-) found, and Wardah was still angry about the Carla boot. But Kiran and Tyson persuaded Wardah to hold her fire for one round, because they knew (since he hadn't returned to camp the night before) Anela must have chosen to Stay and Play at Immunity Island, so he wouldn't be voting.
That gave the original Vuna quartet of Tyson, Kiran, Wardah, and Santoni a temporary 4-2 advantage over the original Zambas, with just Dino and Qieän voting. If they took out a big player now in Dino, they could still vote out Santoni next time, and maintain a 3-2 advantage, whereas taking out Santi now would kneecap their advantage, making it a 3-3 tie. (Amusingly, thanks to Anela's "No Vote," it would actually be 3-2, but oh well.)
The most curious aspect of Dino's boot was his being targeted for being a "flip-flopper." Kiran and Tyson have very few original tribemates left in the game. Original Zamba does indeed appear to pose a united front against them, their admirable attempts to infiltrate that power structure after the first swap notwithstanding. What they *need* are Zambas who are willing to "flip-flop." But they booted the most prominent one, instead.
That's a bold strategy, let's see if it pays off for them.
Winners and loser of the second tribe swap: New new Vuna
The biggest winners of the second tribe swap appear to be the two women who have coasted in relative comfort throughout the pre-merge: Marisha and Nicole. They've been to Tribal Council just twice, don't look likely to do so again until the merge, and have been comfortably in the majority both times (even if they technically voted "wrong" when Tyson played his idol). They're now reunited with the remaining member of their original triumvirate of power, Amy, they're still with Renier, who has been with them since Day 1, and they now have an easy target in Chappies should they inexplicably lose a challenge (Marisha has won 9/10 and Nicole 8/9 challenges so far, and their current tribe looks even better on paper than their previous two).
One particularly heart-warming reunion here was Renier and Amy's sincere happiness that their secret alliance from back in the early days of Zamba still appeared intact. Renier has played a subtle but solid game so far, and seems to be on good terms with everyone. Likewise Amy, who has had to a lot more active maneuvering, but deftly recovered from an extremely unfavorable first swap, and now has multiple old alliance-mates back on hand. We've heard Renier's and Amy's thoughts on the game almost every episode. Could they be two of our future finalists?
The remaining three don't seem to obviously fit into the new Vuna tribe's power structure. The biggest question mark is Shaun, who like Amy, Marisha, Nicole, and Renier was original Zamba, but questions remain as to whether he's completely trusted by them. Having worked with Amy since the first swap will certainly boost his chances, so he's probably not in any current danger, except maybe from pumpkin skins. Or if the two original Vunas disappear (they might).
The obvious pariah of the tribe is Chappies, who despite his impressive lifesaving heroics and dogged endurance in this episode's grueling reward challenge, still finds himself ally-free. That said, he's still marginally better off now that he's away from the consistently losing Zamba tribe, and he's sufficiently aware of this that upon return to Vuna camp after their immunity win, he basically turns into Daffy Duck, hoo-hooing and ricocheting off the edges of the video frame (while also naked). Going forward, as he points out in the preview, he still has his Diplomatic Immunity bracelet, so there's no way he's getting targeted if Vuna somehow loses the immunity challenge (they won't).
That leaves Anesu, who also has a personal escape hatch in her Tribal Council Pass. This episode was so jam-packed with content (RC, surprise reward sharing, surprise swap, IC, Immunity Island, idol find, Tribal) that there wasn't really room for any real reaction to her previous week's decision to Stay and Play. Did she share the news with Tyson and Kiran? How did they react to her leaving them to navigate the vote at Zamba alone? We don't know. But if Chappies escapes to Zamba, that will probably be enough to trigger her to play her Pass, so she should at least be safe this next time, and maybe that's enough to get her to the merge? We'll see.
Before we depart, there's also a re-hidden idol at Vuna camp, which was prominently featured in the opening shot as they returned there after the immunity challenge. For a second, it looked like Chappies' exuberant cavorting might accidentally knock it out of its dead-branch perch, but crisis averted ... it's still there. If one of the people on the outs (Shaun?) finds it, that's another way in which the original Zamba majority might eventually be forced to make a tough decision. But they have to lose immunity first, which seems unlikely.
Winners and losers of the second tribe swap: New new Zamba
Obviously, it's hard to fare worse than Dino did with this swap, but some people clearly received a reprieve from this swap, while others are suddenly in big trouble.
On the newest version of Zamba, Tyson and Kiran are two of the obvious beneficiaries, going from hopelessly outnumbered at Vuna to running the vote ... and in Tyson's case with a freshly re-stocked idol. At first glance, Wardah seems like she also went from danger to a place of power, but it's hard not to view the sudden, strong uptick in vengeance-seeking Wardah content this episode as a warning sign for her long-term viability.
On new Zamba, though, probably the biggest worries fall to two people formerly in (post-first-swap) Zamba power positions: Anela and Santoni. Santoni finally got around to retrieving her Tribal Council idol this week, then played it without really needing to. (She did receive votes, though, so it wasn't a complete misread.) But with Tyson and Wardah both seeing her as someone they can't work with, she now has no protection, and is in danger of being targeted next time.
That is, of course, if Anela doesn't get targeted first. Almost all the anti-Anela ire is coming from Wardah: She's still mad that he sided with Chappies and Paul when he knew Paul was being blindsided, and is doubly angry that he allegedly engineered Carla's blindside (he didn't, either Amy or Santoni did, at least according to the show).
With both Santoni and Anela being targeted by Wardah, Qieän has been completely overlooked, so that's probably good for her in the short term. Tyson and Kiran see Anela as an opposing number, but they also haven't even met him yet, so their actual position remains to be seen. So it's easy to imagine a scenario where Wardah pushes too hard to boot one of her targets, everything ends up backfiring, and she leaves instead.
Long-term, though, some of the aggressive play we've seen to this point might bounce back and hurt people. For instance, you have to wonder how much Tyson's and Santoni's idol plays could wind up hurting their chances. Tyson was already struggling against the original Zamba core (Renier, Nicole, Marisha) after the first swap. He played an idol successfully. He was the second-to-last person standing in the first individual challenge, which has to worry anyone working against him. With Vuna fractured and original Zamba united, he'll need a miracle to cut into Zamba's numbers at the merge. So while Tyson appears safe for now, it's hard to imagine him not being an early post-merge target.
(It's also unclear what Tyson and Kiran's long-term plans really are, because they understandably want to weaken the Zamba numbers, but did so by picking off Dino, someone who wasn't at all part of their core power. They also want to take out Chappies and/or Santoni, when they're some of the precious few remaining original Vunas. What magical army of the dead do they plan to conjure up for the post-merge battling?)
Santoni now also has an idol play, but she at least is on solid social/strategic terms with original Zambas like Amy, Shaun, and Anela, and she's not a threat to go on an individual immunity win streak. Still, multiple people have expressed concern at her playing both sides, or that she's too close to Chappies, and she's been in charge of a couple of votes.
Santoni breaks the idol secrecy rules, thrives anyway
She's potentially vulnerable now, but it's important to take a moment and note how far Santoni has come since the first couple of episodes, despite breaking a major unspoken rule about idols repeatedly this season: The conventional wisdom of keeping your idol (and/or clue) secret. True, she did belatedly rue not looking more thoroughly for the idol at Zamba camp, when Tyson found it within seconds of arriving there. But in a lot of ways, her telling Paul about the idol clue (and Paul telling Tyson) at the first swap has really paid off for her in the pre-merge generally, and in this episode specifically.
Tyson and Kiran were already planning to target Santoni, because they viewed her as too close to Chappies, but that idea was tempered by Tyson's gratitude to Santoni when she explained she was responsible for passing that clue along to him. Not to mention that her connection to Chappies was also strengthened by her initially sharing her clue with him, at least as far as the show has presented it.
Later this episode, Tyson and Kiran are still thinking about maybe targeting Santoni, because she saw Tyson find the Zamba idol, making her a potential liability. But she countered this with another idol revelation: telling Tyson that she also has an idol. This was enough to redirect the votes onto Dino, and in that sense, poor Dino did eventually become "collateral damage" (his Ep5 title quote concern) from an idol play. Poor Dino. But a remarkably well-timed reveal by Santoni.
- The ultimate chaos move: Can Chappies's Diplomatic Immunity bracelet *actually* be given to someone else? It's never been clear. In the preview, we see him threatening to jump back to Zamba if Vuna loses next week's IC, but if he *can* give it away, oh boy will there be an opportunity for him to do so the next time Zamba loses immunity. (Projected time: The next time they compete in an immunity challenge.) His only friend, Santoni, is now idol-less. Tyson, Kiran, and Wardah are all gunning for her, theoretically. Even if she wanted to flip to the Anela/Qieän pair, Anela is stuck with a "no vote," and she could only force a 3-2 minority position by flipping. But if Chappies can bracelet her away to safety on Vuna? Absolute chaos.
- It's never a good idea to grab a Day 1 necklace: Sure, you think to yourself, "I'll be safe at the first Tribal!" But ask Yau-Man Chan how far he got in Micronesia. Or Kathy Sleckman, or even Jonny Fairplay, who just missed out on one. Or GC Brown in Gabon. Or Marcus Lehman. None of them made the merge (although Marcus was at least a juror). Add poor Dino to the pile of pre-merge boots. It never works out. Just say no!
- Appreciating the gameplay of the recent boots: For a big Survivor fan, leaving before the merge will always hurt. Thoriso, Carla, and Dino were all big characters who played the game at maximum effort. That didn't magically turn into a spot on the jury (or better) for them, but they should all be proud that they gave it their all, and got the most they could out of the experience. All three faced early adversity (some of it self-inflicted), each did what they could to escape it, all three ultimately fell short. Still, there can only be one winner per season, so making the most out of the hand you're dealt is all you can really control.
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes