This is the new era of survived, but some things always stay the same. For example, the merge episode is always one of the most exciting chapters of the season, but unlike the “old school” days, one doesn’t just “do the merge.” In this new harder (but shorter) edition, the merge should be earned.
Another thing that remains the same no matter what new twists are thrown at us is that some players just can’t get past their early game missteps. Of course, the Baka Yellow Tribe has reached this point in the game with a numbers advantage: 5-4-4 over the other tribes. But if they were going to stay together post-merge, they had to try harder – or at least approach things a little differently – before the merge to stay “Baka Strong”.
So what exactly do I mean by “can’t outrun their missteps in the early game?” I mean Come on, who, aside from her tragic backstory (where we learned her sister died of an overdose), was for all intents and purposes cast as a villain. Yes, it’s usually doomed when a player talks about how great his game is going in a confessional interview, as Eli did this week. But damn, Ellie has been shown praising her acting almost every episode this season! It was summed up best at the beginning of the game by Gabler, her nemesis at Baka, who wanted her gone but also supported her, saying she was the type of player everyone would regret letting go far in the game. Ellie was a strong and memorable character (for some reason I could see her getting a second chance season call), but she played a little too hard, a little too fast, and a little too confident.
The Gabler vs. Come on showdown has been teased since the premiere, so we knew it would all come to a head at some point this season. Watching Gabler throw Eli under the bus at Merge Feast, then watching Eli go head-to-head against Gabler is what Survivor is made of. At this point in the game, the other players also just want to make sure they don’t go home and are really looking for some reason to vote someone out…with Gabler dropping Ellie’s name, he pretty much cemented his mission to get her out. And the reason for that is exactly why Gabler is becoming such a beloved character: “By throwing out Eli’s name, I was trying to throw out Eli’s name,” Gabler told us. TV gold.
One feature of this column that I always get positive feedback on is how I list all of the game’s current perks at the bottom (see below!). How great was it for the show to finally do the same? Owen he talked about all the benefits he knew about (of course there were some he didn’t know about) and then the manufacturers made a chart showing all the current benefits. If Come on made every lasting move in the game, was to find out (from Noel we talk about this) this Cody must have an idol as he was collecting beads. Eli told Janine about it so the word will get out to everyone about Cody’s Idol, which isn’t great for all those Cody lovers (count me as one of them!).
Many were also happy to see the “hourglass turning back time” twist not appear this season, as it has in the past two seasons. “Earning the Merge” was a lot more thought out this time, I think. The tribe was randomly divided into groups of six (with Noel on the winning Blue Team’s side) and all challenge winners became immune. This meant that Noel, along with Ryan, Janine, Jesse, Gabler, Dwight and Carla everyone got safety. They were left exposed Eli, James, Owen, Cassidy, Cody and Alone. Let’s break this down in more detail…
Cody, who by some criteria SHOULD be everyone’s target because he’s insightful and super likable, was untouchable when it came time to fight… his name was mentioned and then quickly deleted. Cody, who has an idol, shouldn’t have used it, and the idea that others would be so quick to defend him is a testament to his game and how much of a threat he really is moving forward. Then there is Alone and Owenallies of the Yellow Tribe, who were also barely mentioned as targets (Owen got one vote but was thrown out). Cassidy continues to maneuver in this game, but it is James that I am most impressed. Has there ever been—I mean ever—a player as cool, calm and collected as James? He was in serious jeopardy this week and at worst his reaction was “slightly annoyed”. He has a solid union and feels confident… not in this way Come on she felt confident to the point where it made her make bold, reckless moves, but in a quiet way that kept him off everyone’s radar, even though everyone knew in their hearts how good James was at this game. He emerges as a sleeper pick for me, a no-drama, no-nonsense player who has what it takes to be a Survivor winner.
This was good news for both of them Jesse and Janine that they were immune after winning the challenge, but both lost their votes due to previous risks they took in the game. It’s one thing to not have the right to vote, but being on the chopping block would be tough too… Janine would certainly use her idol in this scenario on herself as well. The big debate this week was whether or not he should have played it for the save Come on, and I actually feel like it was a much better move for Janine to have stuck with it like she did. Look, Janine had no idea what the final result of the votes would be, but she had to guess that if the tribe was going after Ellie, this wouldn’t be the only week they did. If she had saved Ellie, that would have been fine in the short term, but now Janine would be anchored to a huge target and without the protection of her idol. That’s one way to play it, I guess. But I think the much smarter move was to just let Ellie go. Now she can claim (since she didn’t have a vote) that she wasn’t that close to Ellie anyway and distance herself a bit. She still possesses a hidden idol that makes her a threat. She is also a wild card and a much needed number for other alliances moving forward. It must have been hard for her to watch her alliance partner Ellie fall, but I think keeping her idol in the game was a move that could have pushed Janine much deeper into the game.
Tribal Council finally showed us that Gabler came out on top of its rivalry with Come on, but they didn’t leave without one final blow. As Ellie extinguished her torch, she told the tribe, “This is what happens when you trust Gabler.” A last ditch effort to spoil the game of the man she so terribly underestimated. “Right to you,” Gabler told her with a smile she could barely contain. Even after being immune to this vote, remember that Gabler’s Idol had an expiration date, so by not playing it in this Tribal, Gabler now goes into the rest of the game without an Idol.
What else fell? Ryan tried to form an alliance of the Final Seven with the other challenge winners, an idea that was flatly rejected and which put Ryan even more out of touch with almost everyone. Carla crushed his finger and still completely crushed the challenge…what a beast! And that final vote may have left some heads scratching…there were seven votes Come on out of a possible 11 (remember Jesse and Janine I couldn’t vote). Of the remaining five votes, James got two votes… we know one was from elie but so what Owen voting with Ellie to not vote for James? Um. Noel then seemed out of the loop with a yes vote Cassidy, and Carla voting for Owen, or was this perhaps an attempt to set up a tiebreaker scenario between Cassidy and Owen if Ellie was playing idol? I’m sure we’ll get an explanation next week.
Takeaway Episode: If I had a vote, I’d vote to always have a two-hour premiere (as they usually do), but also ALWAYS have a two-hour syndicated episode (which they didn’t do this season). As exciting as it was to watch Gabler and Come onrivalry of peaked, the post challenge shuffle seemed incredibly choppy and hastily edited. A merger episode always introduces so many new dynamics that it would be nice to let some of them get airtime or breathe at all.
We’re now down to 12, and that would normally start the Jury phase of the game, although there’s no solid confirmation of that yet… but if there’s another Final Three, then that would leave nine seats on the Jury. There are a few idols and perks still in play, and more than a few lone wolf/wild card types…not to mention I’m sure Survivor isn’t done with twists for this season. Don’t give up now! Survivor 43 is just getting started.
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Out this week: Come on
Earned Immunity: Carla, Dwight, Gabler, Jesse, Janine, Noel, Ryan
Voting result: No perks or idols were played. Jesse and Janine couldn’t vote. 7 – Eli (Ryan, Sammy, Dwight, Gabler, Cody, James, Cassidy), 2 – James (Ely, Owen), 1 – Cassidy (Noel), 1 – Owen (Carla)
Current list of benefits:
- Janine – 1 Immunity Idol
- Cody – 1 Immunity Idol
- Carla – 1 Immunity Idol
- Noel – 1 voice theft
Next week’s episode: Noel is becoming a force and others are starting to notice… also, a new force is set to be unleashed in the game and it’s hidden under their shelter! Besides, as if Gabler wasn’t character enough anymore, he calls himself “Ali-Gabler” (think “alligator”).
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TELL US – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS WEEK’S EPISODE? ELIE WAS HE THE RIGHT PERSON TO FIND? AND WHO ARE YOU LIGHTING FOR SO FAR?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]