Survivor was stunningly good this week, as Jeremy was blindsided in a last minute change of plan from Jon and Missy. In a single moment, a season that was heading towards mediocrity suddenly became chaotic, must-see TV for the rest of the way. Now without the two most likely winners of the season, it’s going to be interesting to forecast what’s to come and who’s going to win this game, but of course I’m happy to give it a try. Here are my thoughts on the episode:
- Let’s get right to that reward challenge, where things really started to get over the top from the old Hunahpu alliance. A team of Jeremy, Natalie, Alec, Baylor, and Reed defeated the rest of the contestants in a series of one-on-one duels to see who would fall off a shaky beam last. The reward the winners were to get was a trip on a yacht, where they would enjoy a nice feast with sandwiches, champagne, cake, etc. and even though they had won the reward, Natalie and Jeremy both gave their rewards away to Jon and Jaclyn as a “thank you” for their allegiance in the last Tribal Council. Reed was able to sum up my thoughts on that move very succinctly in his confessional later in the episode, saying ‘it makes me want to hurl.” Yes, Reed, I agree with you 100% because it made me want to hurl a bit too. We’ve seen this from Natalie before, volunteering to go to Exile Island before, and it only adds to her annoyingness. It’s really a smug move of her, and then Jeremy afterwards, to give up a reward and pretend like it’s a magnanimous thing. Clearly this was a strategic move to try to solidify an alliance, but in reality such moves only make you vulnerable in this game, as Jeremy saw by being immediately sent to exile Island. By the time the episode was over, it was pretty clear that the move was a mistake, but at the moment it was at least clear to me as a viewer that once the gratitude was over, the transparency and smugness of Jeremy and Natalie would likely settle in for Jon and Jaclyn, even though I wouldn’t have assumed they would get their comeuppance as soon as they did.
- Once Josh was voted out of the game, it seemed like Reed would likely be a dead man walking. It seemed at least to me that Reed was playing second fiddle to Josh in the strategy department, even though he did appear to have a solid social game on his own, and while Reed might be a capable player and ally, he had a jury vote pretty much locked, which would make him an obvious vote off. But, Reed played a really strong game this week, saving himself, and creating the atmosphere of chaos that he knew would be able to keep him safe for another week. In a controversial move, Reed went through Keith’s bag and found the paper that comes with the idol, and Reed took the opportunity to share the news with Jaclyn and Missy. While the vote may have been leaning towards Reed at that point, Reed’s information opened up the strategy a bit, making Keith and Wes targets, and getting everybody thinking about different strategies again. As for the bag search, I think Reed was totally justified to make that move to see if he can’t gain an advantage from any information he was to find. There’s no real room for privacy in the game of Survivor, and looking through bags is definitely fair game for strategic purposes. The only thing that should never be accepted is taking an idol from another player, and I doubt production would allow that anyway, but anything else is all part of the 24-hour, 39 day game all the contestants willingly signed up for.
- The immunity challenge was another really interesting idea from production, as the contestants were to place a series of blocks in a three-tiered circle, but were only allowed to use their feet to complete the task. It proved to be a unique and difficult challenge, as many of the castaways struggled to figure it out. In the end, Baylor won the challenge and immunity, despite being challenged closely by Reed. At camp, there wasn’t a whole lot of scrambling by anyone, as it appeared that the alliance lines were clear, but a lot of discussion commenced once Jeremy was back at camp after a two day stay at Exile. Jeremy had a detailed clue for the idol buried at Exile, and searched for it with no luck. But, since the clue was very revealing, Jeremy believed Jon must have it if he couldn’t locate it with all the hints he was given. Jeremy tried to discuss the idol clues with Jon, the only one who had been to Exile post-merge, and gave him every opportunity to admit that he had the idol, but Jon wouldn’t budge. Instead, Jon got concerned with Jeremy’s prodding and went to Missy with the idol, pledging his allegiance to her all the while hatching a plan to get rid of Jeremy, the one clear threat to win the million in their alliance. It was shocking to see them even discuss the possibility of turning the vote on Jeremy because it seemed like the alliance of 6 was strong after the reward deal, but even then, the conversation seemed preliminary, like a plan for what to do when the numbers got down to 7 or 8. At Tribal Council, the conversation got heated between Jon and Jaclyn and Wes and Keith, as they debated the merits of each others’ strategic and social decisions, but after all was said and done, Jeremy was blindsided by his alliance, being voted out 5-3-2, with Natalie and him remaining to the intended plan to vote out Keith.
- Natalie had one of the best lines after the vote, turning and saying “What the fuck Missy” as Jeremy walked out of the arena, and I was just as shocked as she was. This was definitely not the best time to make this move, but it was such a fantastic vote, that I’m willing to put all my doubts aside, and praise Jon and Missy for seeing the threat and eliminating it. I thought after Josh was voted out the ideal next step would be for everyone to turn on Jeremy and totally even out the playing field without the leaders of the merge alliances, and apparently Jon thought the same. This vote really came down to Jon and his idol, with it in hand and his girlfriend by his side, Jon’s feeling like he’s in charge, and after being swayed away from voting out Jeremy the first time, he saw an opportunity to solidify a final three with Missy, leverage the idol for strategic power, and vote out his biggest long-term threat. It was really a great move by Jon, but my only question is did he do this while on the wrong side of the numbers? If he had a solid 4 person alliance in mind, why make a big move until you have 8 people left, and assure yourself the numbers? With 9 people left in the game, and Natalie and Reed being left without their pairs (so to speak) to play as wild cards, Jon may have accidentally voted his alliance out of a majority. It’s probably all going to depend on Natalie, and how she reacts to the blindside, but if I had to bet, I bet she won’t be forgiving. One thing is for certain though, this season will be chaos from here on out, and I think it will be strategic anarchy in a way Survivor hasn’t usually seen. This is going to be great TV.
With Jeremy on the jury now, this season of Survivor has been turned upside down, and from the previews, it looks like Natalie will feel the same sort of desperation Reed showed this episode, and will play her game like a woman possessed. It truly is anyone’s game for the first time all season, and we’ll all just have to watch and see how it plays out from here. Until next episode, here are my final thoughts on the episode that was:
- Not to tip my cap too much here, but two blogs ago I threw it out there that the Jeremy vs. Josh narrative seemed like a misdirect from production, and that the two of them would actually be picked off early. I called that one, probably the only good call I’ve made prognosticating this season, but I’ll take it…I’ve praised Jon’s performance this episode up until this point, but it wasn’t all great strategy from him. He should have never sent Jeremy to Exile if he had no interest in sharing his idol with him. Realistically, Jon could only do two things from there, confess to having found the idol, or get rid of Jeremy completely, and he chose the latter, a decision that could get him voted out next week. I like any decision that eliminates a threat, but it was Jon’s bad decisions that made this vote necessary, not necessarily clever strategy…With the exception of the two couples that voted Jeremy off, the rest of the Tribe needs to take advantage of their 5-4 numbers and blindside Jon before the 4 of them get the numbers necessary to take everyone else out. Taking out the power players has been the game so far, and Reed and Natalie especially need to seize the day…Kudos to Jon for pulling ahead on the power couple power rankings this week. I said last week that Jaclyn took the lead in strategic dominance between the two of them last week, but I’m calling that #1 spot for Jon again this week for seemingly orchestrating the Jeremy ouster. We didn’t see Jaclyn or Baylor involved in that discussion, and I have to think that’s telling of who’s in control of strategy.