Season 30 of Survivor is becoming must see TV week in and week out, and this week’s merge episode may have been the best yet. As the final twelve contestants in the season joined together as a new tribe, ever so epically named Merica, sparks flew, ice picks were drawn, an idol was played, and a lot of people were certainly left asking ‘what’s next?’ Worlds Apart remains wide open even after the first post-merge vote-off, and there are a lot of really interesting stories, schemes, and alliances to follow as this season continues to shake out. Here are some of my thoughts on this week’s episode:
- The tribes were called to meet for what some of them thought might be a reward challenge, but it was clear when Jeff was not around that the tribes would be merging. It wasn’t the most spectacular tribe merge event ever, the twelve just enjoyed a low key feast and casually mingled. In the past we’ve seen immunity idol clues, decisive mixing, or drama, but the only interesting thing that happened at the feast was Rodney getting uncomfortable when the other Blue Collars talked about voting out Joaquin. Still, this cast is 100% about the game, and there were really no extra scenes or special twists needed surrounding the merge feast to heighten the drama that the Merge would bring. The final twelve was a fairly even mix of collars, 5 Blues, 4 No Collars, and 3 Whites, and at no point in the episode until the vote did we really know how they would split. It became clear that the tempestuous pair of Mike and Rodney were going to keep Blue together until the moment was better for backstabbing, making them a solid voting bloc that seemed evened out when they convinced Will to vote with them. The Super threesome of No Collar was back together and feeling good, even if they were a little behind on the numbers. Joe knew he had the abilities to turn into a challenge beast, and Jenn had an idol in her possession, so there was something formidable about their alliance, and with Shirin in the fold they had at the very least a solid four to work with. The unknowns within the group were Tyler and Carolyn, who formed a secret alliance based upon the idol she found on Day 3 at the Masaya camp. Going into the first individual immunity challenge, the two former White Collar were squarely in the middle as swing votes, and depending upon who won immunity, camp was about to explode.
- The individual immunity challenge for the final twelve Survivors was a Survivor classic, and one of the more minimalistic challenge concepts the show’s used. The challenge is simple, hand onto a large totem pole for longer than anyone else. Almost immediately after the challenge started, both Dan and Will dropped off, further proving that neither of them are threats in this game at all. It was a tense challenge after that, with a decent amount of banter, and odd moments like Jenn getting stung by a bee in a sensitive area late in the challenge. At the end it was Joe who came out victorious, to no one’s surprise, as he outlasted Carolyn and took the first individual immunity, thereby thwarting Mike’s plan to get rid of Joe one vote late. Joe looks like he could be unbeatable at challenges, which is an incredibly fun thing to see, especially considering how many strategic players are around. He has an Ozzy quality about him that makes him likeable, fun to watch, and completely incapable of winning the game. But, until he slips up and gets sent to the jury, Joe is a fun competitor to have around for these challenges.
- With Joe getting immunity, plans had to change in a hurry on the beach of Merica. The old Blue Collar alliance decided they would gun for Jenn, who they saw as a strategic threat within her alliance. Of course, just for fun they decided to tell Will to vote for Hali, solely to judge his allegiance to their alliance. It might make sense to lead Will astray, especially if they don’t trust him to not go back to the No Collar group, but it was kind of ridiculous for them to leave him out to dry. Will’s played a pretty bad game so far, but even he may turn smart to Mike’s lying and desert him later on for that kind of deception. In the end, all of the votes went to Jenn, the only person in her alliance with an idol, and in a great moment of game awareness, Jenn decided, at final 12, to play her idol and save herself from the vote. Of course Jeff and production had to make her sweat by reading Will’s vote for Hali first, but a decisive seven votes for Jenn were struck from the record, as Kelly ended up getting voted out by the three No Collars and Shirin. It’s always a great moment in any Survivor season when somebody successfully plays an idol to save themselves, it doesn’t happen every season, and it usually doesn’t happen this early with as much uncertainty as there was surrounding this vote. Jenn is continuing to play a great game, and by saving herself tonight she bought Joe, Hali, and herself three more days to let the cracks in the other alliance set in, which may be all she needs to go deeper in the game. It wasn’t really a losing vote for the Blue Collar alliance though, since they still possess the numbers advantage, but you do have to wonder why they didn’t take their eight votes and split them two ways to force a 4-4-4 split just in case an idol, was played. I think the only reason they didn’t work a split was because they were unsure of who would vote with who, but it ended up being a missed opportunity for them, and now they’ll have to try desperately to keep hotheads like Rodney and floaters like Tyler and Carolyn in with the alliance. It will be fun to watch Mike try to work his new mega alliance, it’s really his voting bloc to keep, so the burden will be put on him to keep it together.
This was another really great episode, I must sound like a broken record at this point, but the Worlds Apart cast is putting on one hell of a show. If the promos show to be true, next week should be just as good, with Rodney maybe pursuing other strategic avenues beside his old tribe’s alliance, and an all out alliance hunt which looks to be just as good as the famous Spencer vs. Woo idol hunt from Cagayan. With the tenuous nature of a lot of the interpersonal alliances in this merged tribe, every week could be an unpredictable ordeal, and I’m certain it’s going to keep being great TV every week. At this point in the recap, instead of ending with some parting notes like I usually do, I want to try something different. Today I’m debuting my Survivor Power Rankings, where I rank the players left in the game from least likely to win to most likely. Let’s see how good of a beat I really do have on the game of Survivor! Here it is, starting at 11:
– Yeah, he basically has no chance of winning this game. It’s not as if Dan doesn’t know the game of Survivor, he does appear to be a fan of the show, it’s just that he lacks the tact and social graces to be successful at this game. Now, could Dan make the Final 3? Of course he could, he’d be a great goat to take to the end, and I expect his to stick around for a little while, but I see no way that he could really get any votes at the Final Tribal Council.
– I only give Will an edge over Dan because he has played his own game so far and not relied on following alliance lines to a tee, but Will has not played well. He’s made bad strategic decisions this season, and has proven to be a true liability in athletic challenges. He may make it deep in the game if he finds the right partner to ride the waves with, but Will could also get voted out next week for being wishy-washy. He’s not making friends on the jury, and he’s not winning a million dollars.
– She’s my favorite Blue Collar player, but I think Sierra has become a bit stagnant in the social game after embracing the Blue Collar alliance to vote off Joaquin. She had chances to dictate her course in the game, but I think she passed those up, and I just can’t see her making any game winning strategic moves from the place that she’s at. She doesn’t have any one close ally to lean on, and without that, I think she’s just going to be along for the ride without much say.
– I think Shirin has actually significantly improved her position in the game over the last few episodes, to the point where she actually stands a fighting chance in advancing deep in the game. I’m just not sure if she has the allies to pull off big moves, but I would love to see her duck and weave her way through the major fighting and make it to the end of the game. I think at least one super fan has to represent in the final 3 this season, so why not her? Her chances to win aren’t good, but stranger things have happened in this game than her turning up her game and being competitive.
– He’s one hell of a good character for this show, and he does have the understanding of the game and strategy to shake things up. The reason why Rodney is onlt 7th in my rankings is because he seems a little unlikeable on the show. I’m not sure he’ll get votes regardless of how well he does, but then again if he can play a dominant game like Tony Vlachos did, and take the right people (Will and Dan) to the end, I think he would win. He’s a dark horse right now.
– After that brilliant immunity idol play on this week’s episode, all eyes will be on Jenn going forward. She’s a great Survivor player, someone who embraces the game and all facets of it, and that’s something I love as a viewer. I just can’t imagine her being able to slip through the cracks and get to the final three, especially with this savvy of group. I do hope she proves me wrong though, she’s a fascinating player to have around.
– I likened Joe to Ozzy Lusth earlier, because both have very similar game attributes. Both are very athletic, provide well for their tribes, and are very good at making alliances. The biggest issue for Joe at being like Ozzy is that a lot of these players have seen Ozzy play three times already. They know what to expect from a prototypical challenge beast like Joe, and the tribe as a whole have their targets on him. Still, I think Joe is capable of deferring attention off of himself enough to maybe sneak by votes if he doesn’t win immunity. If he gets to the end, he’ll have had to have won his way there, and he’ll probably win in a landslide. I think he’ll actually be voted out early, but there’s a small part of me that thinks he could go deep and be a really memorable player.
– He has the numbers right now and appears to be the leader of his alliance, so all is looking good for Mike in this game. I just can’t help but feel like Rodney could be Mike’s undoing in this game, like he’ll take him down even if it’s on his way out. But, if Mike survives Rodney, he has a great alliance to work with, and a good jury case to plead as the main protagonist of the Blue Collar’s successes.
– I think she may go overlooked behind Jenn and Joe, but Hali is crafty, sociable, and capable of living in the moment on Survivor. Even if her tribe is taken out one by one, Hali is the type of player who will be able to subtly charm her way into being safe, and before anyone knows it she’s at top five and flipping the script on the perceived power players. Hali is also a dark horse in this game, and I think she’s the most likely No Collar to win. I only put her third in my rankings because she doesn’t have a winner’s edit though (and yes the winner’s edit is most definitely a real thing)!
– The minute she found that idol and survived the first vote of the season, Carolyn became a big threat in this game. Her and Tyler are in a wonderful position where they’re alliance is undercover, they’re votes are needed for numbers, and they aren’t on anyone’s radar. I think Carolyn will be able to use that idol late in the game (6 or 7 left) and make a huge move, but the only question will be if she’s able to survive ‘til the end if she makes a game winning move. Still, she’s smart, she’s sneaky good at challenges, and is careful with who she trusts and who she doesn’t, and I think her keen perception will help her succeed in the game.
– His stealth game is so impressive right now, perhaps the most impressive strategy of anyone in the game right now. He’s going to be involved in deciding who goes home every single time, but because he’s on the outskirts of alliances he’ll be able to dodge any suspicion for a little while. If he can have Carolyn use that idol of hers for their benefit at a crucial moment, and if he can put her on the jury in fourth place, the game might be his. I’ve been saying it since day one, Tyler seems like a cerebral player, and a lot of times it’s the most cerebral player who wins the game. This game is wide open, but I can clearly see his path to the million now.