On this week’s Survivor, the ebb and flow of this hectic season continued to change, as plans were made, double crossing was more rampant than ever, and people actually needed votes to be explained to them in the moment. It was something else, to say the least, but at least we know there are two people in the game who get it. That’s something, right? I’m going to try to break down all the intricacies of the episode below (as best as I can), tell you who did right and who did wrong, and break down what should (read: won’t) happen next in Nicaragua.
- After voting Jeremy out, Reed was seeing an opportunity to start running this game, and immediately targeted the threesome of Alec, Keith, and Wes to help him carry out his plans to vote out Jon, the last “alpha male” around. After winning the reward with Alec, Jon, and Jaclyn, he strategically gave up his place to Missy, both as a coy move to win favor with her and her alliance, and to give him time to put a plan in place with Keith. Reed became a real gamer this episode, plotting and strategizing at every opportunity, and almost pulled off a really big move at Tribal. Reed really wasn’t given much screen time early, so it would’ve been easy to write him off as just Josh’s boyfriend, but he’s really been a great second half player, and deserves some serious props for playing big with his back against the wall.
- The reward challenge featured very heartfelt confessionals from Jon and Jaclyn, as they bonded over giving out baseball equipment to under-privileged Nicaraguan children. As mentioned before the season, Jaclyn has a condition that prevents her from having children, and being around these children as a sidebar to the stressful game of Survivor really made for some touching moments between the two of them. It was very hard not to really feel all warm inside when Jon talked about how little not being able to have his own children would matter in the bigger picture of spending his life with the woman he loves. Jon may come off as aloof at times in this game, but moments like that seem to paint a picture of him as a very likeable, All-American kind of guy; someone who the viewers can root for to win even if he doesn’t always totally get it.
- The immunity challenge this week ended up being probably the most entertaining of the season, as the contestants had to balance on a very tiny platform with handholds over their heads. It seemed like a fairly standard balance/endurance challenge, until Jeff Probst started doing what he does best, tempting the castaways with food. It didn’t take any more than seven minutes for Jon, who struggled from the get-go, to step down from his platform for a plate of candy and sweets. Clearly Jon felt very comfortable about his place in the game, but even so, he probably made a good move stepping down because he clearly was struggling with the challenge comparatively. The challenge kept getting better as periodically Jeff would come out with another platter, tempting the tired contestants to step down. Baylor and Jaclyn succumbed to a plate of cookies, and Wes stepped down for some wings and beer (shocking, right?) until there was only Reed and Natalie left going. Once Natalie saw that Reed was going to be going strong after a few hours, she too stepped down for some nourishment, handing Reed individual immunity. It was such a fun Tribal to watch, and with Reed winning it threw a wrench in Natalie’s hopes to eliminate the burgeoning strategic threat that Reed was becoming. At that point, everything was up in the air.
- At camp, Reed used his immunity necklace to leverage some power over the strategy of the upcoming vote. He convened with Alec, who ended up being the lynchpin in his plan, as the two of them approached Missy with the plans to flush the Nale idol, with 4 votes going to Wes, and 3 going to Keith. In reality, Reed and Alec planned on flipping their votes for Wes to Jon, in order to get rid of him in their own 4-3-2 split. The plan was pure genius, and Alec was great at convincing Jon that he was on board with reed’s idea. While it did seem like a con, there’s some rationale for Missy and Jon to believe these two, as they are simply trying to make their way two votes closer to the Final Tribal Council, and in the end they went to Tribal Council with the 4-3-2 plan to flush Keith’s idol. Of course, everything fell apart drastically at Tribal Council, as Reed’s attempt to misdirect the vote to get rid of Keith failed, as Keith insisted that Reed stick to their secret plan in front of everybody, starting up a lot of chatter and chaos, something not unprecedented, but also highly unusual at Tribal Council. It was a mess, and the blame falls squarely on Keith, as he totally misunderstood what Reed was doing and blew up a brilliant plan that would have benefitted him greatly. The group of five stuck to their vote plan with Reed and Alec but Natalie came through in the clutch for her alliance, insisting that Jon play his idol. Apparently Natalie was the only one who really understood what was actually happening, and quickly acted to protect a guy she plans to vote out soon anyway, because she needs Reed gone first. The vote went exactly as Reed wanted, with 4 votes going to Jon, and 3 votes going to Keith, but Jon played his idol at Natalie’s urging, forcing Keith to do the same, as Wes was sent packing with only 2 votes against him. It was such a shame, because Reed put together such an intricate, brilliant maneuver, and had it in hand, only to have it blown apart by his alliance, the same way Josh’s plan got blown up by his own alliance previously. The shame here is more to the effect that for three straight votes, the best strategists at every Tribal were done in by individuals who were misplaying the game strategy. Josh was taken out because Keith and Wes couldn’t strategize well with others, Jeremy was taken out when Jon’s paranoia got to him, and Reed was undone because Keith didn’t understand what a misdirect is. This season is becoming a survival of the least fit, with one clear exception of course: Natalie.
- I would be amiss if I didn’t discuss the amazing episode Natalie had this week. I am not a Natalie fan, I think she’s obnoxious and I cannot root for her to win this game, but she really played a superb game this week, and put herself in the pole position of the cast remaining, in a much more subtle way than anyone has so far. Natalie could have easily gone into a spiral after her closest ally was voted out by their alliance behind her back, but Natalie saw the big picture and realized her best bet in the game was to stay true to Missy and Baylor. Natalie went to find an idol that she got a clue for a few episodes ago, something I completely forgot about, and dragged Baylor along. She ended up finding the idol, giving her an amazing strategic advantage as most players in the game are clueless to her having that idol unlike Jon and Keith, whose idols were well-known. Then Natalie came through for Jon as she saved him from getting voted out with an idol in pocket, and as an added bonus, got Keith to play his idol too. Not only did Natalie find an idol this episode, but she critically wounded both of her rivals’ chances, flushed every idol but hers, and did so without having to do any lying or manipulating. She is in a great spot in this game right now, and I’m seriously hoping Jon can figure out she’s gunning for him before he gets blindsided, because a Natalie win just wouldn’t appease me as a biased fan.
So yeah, this week saw a pretty dramatic shift in the game play, as Reed and Natalie clearly showed their gamesmanship, while just about everybody else just kind of toed the lines given to them. Next week, Survivor Wednesday will include a double episode and, given how late it is in the season, likely two votes and two more Survivors becoming jury members. Next Wednesday will be must see TV for sure, so until then, I’ll leave you all with my final thoughts on the episode that was:
- This immunity idol situation has become confusing, and even slightly irritating. If they were going to re-hide the idol that John Rocker went out with, and they were going to use the camp with the hidden immunity idol still left unfound, then why on Earth would they introduce a post-merge idol? Dear survivor producers, there is such a thing as overkill, and you guys have found it, congrats…I think Wes did the right thing when his father asked if he wanted to play the idol, because he must know that his father has played a stronger game and might have an outside chance of winning if the cards fall in the right ways…I think Reed’s only play left is to convince Jon that Natalie is targeting him, and if he can over the last vote, I think it might work. Jon and Jaclyn will have a bid fight next week, according to the previews, so I think a disagreement about getting rid of Natalie might be a likely cause for their fight. This blood vs. water game is such drama…As much as I was annoyed by Reed and Natalie giving up reward, I didn’t mind the way Reed did it. Reed’s move wasn’t nearly as transparent as theirs was, and it wasn’t really done with any self-righteousness either. This is what separates Reed from Natalie; Reed is playing strategically and doing so for his own interest, Natalie is doing the same but trying to convince people that she’s caring and loyal too, and it’s fake and annoying. Ugh, I just can’t stand her!!!!…Even though Wes got voted out tonight, he had the line of the episode when he randomly brought up the point about Jeff being on Two and a Half Men once, simply saying “That was awesome man.” Just fantastic, I’m going to miss candid Wes moments.