On this week’s Survivor, Natalie’s revenge was finally realized as Jon was voted out in a big blindside, and somehow in the process I think I became a Natalie fan. It was kind of weird for me, not gonna lie, but Tribal Council was one of the first out-of-my-seat ecstatic moments of the season for me, and for that I’m quite happy. I’ll discuss whether or not this move was a big move, or whether it deserves an asterisk when looked at in the history of decisive Survivor blindsides, but nevertheless it sets us up for a really fun, unpredictable finale. Here are my thoughts on the episode that was:
- Natalie continued to play Jon like a fool, successfully convincing him that her vote for Alec was a silly mistake. To paraphrase Natalie herself “These people are such fools!” Seriously though, if her fellow castaways can’t realize how cunning and crafty she’s been playing this game then they really don’t deserve the million. Natalie has flawlessly convinced her allies that she’s been down for their happy family final five all along, strategically earning Jon’s good graces so she could set him up for a big fall. It’s been great to watch this narrative play out step by step, and it’s been even greater seeing her play this game with such patience. Most players in her position could have easily gotten antsy and made the big move happen immediately after they decided it’s what they wanted to do, but Natalie took the time to manipulate the numbers, to find an idol, and to win over her allies over time, and I really have to commend her for that. She even had me questioning her logic with the Alec vote, but apparently I was wrong to doubt her read on the game. I still can’t believe that Jon and Missy bought the line she was selling to them about forgetting who to vote for. I don’t even really know what to say about it other than these two are clearly not playing the game with their heads at all. I’m big on strategic play in Survivor and all of the faith and hope these two are putting into friendships and loyalty is so ridiculous to watch. Have these people even watched Survivor before? You cannot underestimate people, and you have to know a lie when it’s obvious, and the fact that Jon was so comfortable in his place that he believed such a lie without a second thought is just unreal.
- The reward challenge was won by a team of Jon, Missy, and Keith in quite an epic fashion as Missy slowed her group down significantly as hobbling through the obstacle course of the challenge after injuring her leg, only to have them make up their deficit and win in the puzzle portion of it. It was one of those classic come from behind challenge moments, and it allowed Jon to follow the trend of giving up reward for the sake of others’ feelings, giving it up to Baylor to appease Missy, and solidify their bond. I’m done complaining about the reward swapping at this point, it’s ridiculous and that’s all I’ll say, so I’ll just move on. The reward was really great TV as Keith enjoyed the first massage he’s ever gotten in his life, and really got into it in classic Keith style. Keith is such a great character who is constantly providing great one liners and candid thoughts, and regardless of how much further he gets in this game, he’s been a great player in this season. He’s really brought something honest and different to the cast, and I’ve basically loved every minute of screen time he’s got.
- Missy’s injury turned out to be a decently serious issue, as was obvious when she limped into the immunity challenge arena not being able to put much weight on her ankle. Jeff was quick to call in the medical staff to assess the injury to and decide what needed to be done with her to treat her injury. After a quick assessment, Dr. Ben didn’t see any need to pull her out of the game so close to the end, since she probably only suffered a sprain. I was really thinking they were setting this up as a medevac situation from the previews, but in the end I think they made the right call to let her play out the season, even if she’s mostly immobile. I’ve been vocal about disliking Missy this season, but I would never wish an evacuation on any player in this game, especially as close to the end as she is right now. As the medical staff attended to Missy’s ankle, the rest of the contestants took part in the immunity challenge as planned, balancing a vase on a platform. With only five contestants competing, it ended up narrowing down quickly to another fairly epic showdown between Natalie and Jon, with Natalie coming through in the clutch by winning immunity and keeping it from Jon. This was another great moment in Natalie’s game, because if she didn’t pull this one out, Jon would essentially be assured a final four place, and a ¼ chance of going to the final three, but instead she won and took control of the game. The only question left for Natalie was how to deal with the potential of Jon playing an idol, but Baylor and her quickly decided to bring in Missy and Keith to force a 2-2-2 split, in case an idol was flushed. The plan worked brilliantly, Keith didn’t blow his cover, and Jon and Jaclyn were utterly shocked when they saw the split vote. The two of them were helpless and without a vote in the re-vote as the three remaining voters stuck to the plan and voted out Jon 3-0. As a viewer, I will not miss Jon Misch on Survivor at all. If Erik Cardona was on this season, he might have described Jon as having a delusional sense of entitlement, as Jon really thought he was going to win this game easily. It’s still shocking to me how confident and comfortable he was in the game, he basically had his jury arguments written out in his head at final six. I’m not certain what made him think he was so invincible, but on the bright side, at least he got the life lesson he likely needed out of this game. I wish Jaclyn and him happiness in their life, but Survivor just wasn’t his game to win.
- The question I’ve been debating while writing this has been this; was this vote really a big move? I’m really on the fence about how to feel about this, because Jon was a physical threat, who was capable enough to find two hidden immunity idols in this game. On paper, blindsiding him was a big thing. But, on the other hand, Jon played this game with an unbelievable naiveté, and I still don’t think Natalie would really have to worry about him if she sat next to him on the final three. I’m concerned now that Natalie, who has played a brilliant game, is the obvious threat in the game and will be eliminated in short order by Missy and Keith, who may be able to work together better than we think. I think they are both crafty enough to see their ways to the million, and letting Natalie get any further at this point would be an obvious game ender for them. Blindsiding Jon was great TV, but I’m not sure if this move is a game winning move for this narrative’s protagonist, and if that’s the case, then in retrospect this won’t end up being as great a move as it felt like it would be in the moment. It was a nice blindside at final six, but if it ends up exposing Natalie like I think it really should have, then it probably will deserve an asterisk. I think after the finale, I’ll be able to put this move in its proper perspective, so I’ll stay on the fence and re-visit this and other moves next week.
Next Wednesday is the finale, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic event. I have literally no clue who is going to win this, how the strategy is bound to shake out, or how the jury will play the million dollar vote. I know this may sound like hyperbole, but I really think this is more up in the air than most seasons have been going into the final five. It’s going to be good times all around, so until the finale I’ll leave you all with some final thoughts:
- I love to watch the Ponderosa videos on CBS.com, and I was just floored that Jon was still completely clueless after his blindside about the Alec vote after the fact. Alec had to set him straight that he was being played once he was out of the game! If he made it to the final three, Jon would not have received that many votes I think, at least not enough to win. I think people would have voted for Jaclyn over him just to send a message to him about his overconfidence and paranoia…Baylor has come into her own this season as a sidekick to Natalie on her quest to get Jon out. It seems like the cast didn’t really care much for her, so I doubt she wins this season, but at the very least I’m glad to see she’s put a good effort in towards the end and kept her head over water. It’s more than most Survivor contestants can ever say…The hope for Natalie now is convincing Missy that Baylor has been behind every move they’ve been making in terms of getting rid of Jon. I really do believe Missy is playing this game blinded by emotions, and is dense enough at this point in the game to be convinced that her daughter is the real threat over Natalie, and to go to the final three with them. I will applaud Natalie if she can make an argument like that work, but it will also really cheapen this season for me, and make me rue the day they casted Missy for this season of Survivor. If Natalie can get to the final three after making such an obvious game winning strategic move, I will be flabbergasted…I guess this is the point in time where I make my finale predictions, so here it goes; the final three is going to end up being Keith, Baylor, and Missy, Keith wins 5-3 over Missy. I’m sticking to my gut here; I’ve been thinking it since Jeremy got voted out, Keith Nale will be the winner of Survivor: San Juan Del Sur!