It was a nail-biter this week on Survivor: Worlds Apart as the season was thrown to chaos by a bold move at Tribal Council by a desperate player. As a biased fan, I was really nervous for my pick to win the game, Tyler, as his name got bandied about at Tribal Council as Shirin pleaded her case to stay, but it was Mike who pulled out all the stops to destroy the Strong Six alliance that was gunning for him. What happened at Tribal Council was some of the more exciting and tense moments of the season, leading to one of the most exciting vote-offs of the season. With this episode, I think the script has been set for the stories that will define the outcome of the season, and it should be an exciting showdown to the end between a group of very different players. Here are my thoughts on this week’s episode:
- As a whole, this episode was much less personal and melodramatic as the last one, and for that I was quite happy. I hated seeing all of the attention turn from the game to real life issues and concerns, so seeing an entire episode of game play and strategy was very much to my liking. Of course, the whole episode wasn’t perfect, as we did get to see Dan act like a fool with Shirin early on, as he faked some sympathy for her, but gave a confessional about her playing the victim card. Dan is getting the classic ‘Survivor Idiot’ edit right now, and it literally just makes me shake my head at him. First with his candid thoughts on Shirin, then later with ridiculous quotes like “There’s no Mike in team,” and ending out with his antics while half-listening to Shirin’s voting pitch before Tribal, Dan is being shown more and more as a hapless player, which makes his advantage all that more intriguing as they draw closer to the Final Five. As for Will, we didn’t see anything from him, and it’s a shocking show of defiance for the editors and producers of Survivor to basically quit telling his story after his show last week. We know he won’t get any votes at the end, and his edit made a lot of fans of the show uncomfortable, so it was good to not see him on screen. There was a quiet, yet firm message sent by the producers here, and I don’t think it should be overlooked (and as a sidebar, shame to anyone who attacked Jeff Probst on Twitter saying he was complicit in bullying, that’s truly ridiculous).
- We got to see a very entertaining reward challenge this week, as the final eight players were divided into two teams of four and given three barrels and a long plank and told to make it down a lengthy course. Apparently this challenge has been done on a few previous occasions, but nonetheless, this was really fun to watch since the two teams took very different approaches to their complex task. Mike lead his team in trying to roll the barrels on their side, but put way too much pressure on himself to shoulder the lead. Tyler lead his team of Dan, Will, and Carolyn by keeping the barrels upright and stable, and their team slowly pulled away with a steady approach. A last ditch effort by Sierra to go barrel rolling failed, and the team of Tyler, Mama C, Dan, and Will won reward and got to eat some burgers on a boat. This reward challenge was kind of significant in a small way because it gave us the first definitive showdown between Mike and Tyler, the two guys who are being sized up as the real threats for the overall win going down the stretch. If it means anything (and it likely doesn’t), the first win went to Tyler, even though Mike certainly got his revenge later on.
- The immunity challenge had a very nice twist this week, with Jeff revealing that two individual immunities would be won, one by the ladies and one by the men. This really made things tense from the get-go because you just had to know that the producers were looking at Mike and Shirin getting the opportunity to both be immune to see if they couldn’t stir the pot with the alliance of six. In the challenge, the contestants were forced to hold a wound up line with a certain percentage of their Day 1 body weight attached. For the women, it quickly came down to Shirin vs. Carolyn once Sierra dropped her weight, but Carolyn’s athletic prowess eventually sealed her victory, as she easily outlasted Shirin. For the men, the matchup quickly boiled down to mike vs. Rodney, something we had been hoping to get during a meaningful challenge, and it was Mike who took the victory in an unflinching, powerful performance. Make no mistake about it, Mike Holloway wants to be the Sole Survivor, and he seems physically and mentally prepared to take it to the remaining seven challenge after challenge all by his lonesome. I can’t remember a time since Terry Deitz played in Panama almost a decade ago that we’ve seen somebody taking on the game in such a mono y mono fashion, and it’s making Mike into a real heroic figure. I don’t think he’ll win the game, it’s way too much of an uphill battle for him to endure through four more votes, but it will be amazing to watch Mike fight tooth and nail to stay alive in this game, a game he clearly loves.
- With Mike and Carolyn immune, the rest of the Merica tribe shifted their focuses to Shirin, the popular pick to be voted out. Even though Rodney wanted Mike out next, he was very comfortable with his final six plan, and urged his five to stay cool, calm, and collected through tribal. Tyler of course had some other plans, and decided he needed to know just what they were dealing with when it came to Dan’s advantage in the game. So, channeling Reed Kelly (who he didn’t even get to see before he played oddly enough), Tyler decided to go do a little bag check, and found that Dan gets an extra vote at Tribal Council. It is a significant advantage, and for Tyler and Carolyn to know it could mean a lot for their survival against the Blue Collars in their alliance, who seem to see them as five and six. Still, it seemed likely that those two would vote Shirin regardless, and store that information for when they could use it best. That was of course, until Mike flipped the game upside down at Tribal Council. At Tribal, Mike pleaded his case to the tribe, but it was when Jeff asked if he had any big moves planned that Mike reached into his pocket and grabbed the idol. He threatened to give it to Shirin, and Shirin countered with her idea to get Tyler out. In a move Jeff likened to Russian Roulette, Mike said Shirin would vote Tyler and he would throw his vote to another player, and dared everyone else to follow suit. It was a really fascinating move by Mike, clearly a bluff, but threatening enough to make Tyler and Will switch their votes to Dan, who Tyler probably wished to vote out anyway. In the end, the Blue Collars and Carolyn stayed true to their voting bloc and Shirin was voted out in a 4-2-2 decision. Mike lied about his roulette play, voting for Tyler instead, but he got precisely what he wanted; a fracture in the alliance of six he could work with. While I normally don’t like switching your vote at Tribal Council, I think Tyler made a decent decision. Even if he thought Mike was bluffing with the idol, he had to protect himself in the off case he wasn’t because a revote between himself and whoever Mike would vote for would assuredly lead to him leaving the game, since he had been outed as a major threat. Tyler had to take a gamble that he could send a vote Dan’s way and hope Mike did the same. That way, at least he would be safe if everyone else stayed true to their alliance, and perhaps it would be Dan who would be eliminated along with the advantage he knew someone would talk him into using against him at some point. Of course it did not work that way, and now Tyler is going to have to scramble am little to explain himself. Seeing how he can talk his way out of this voting mess will be entertaining though, I have all the confidence in the world that his game has been good enough to win if he can just deflect attention away from the others a little while longer. The Mike vs. Tyler narrative should be worth watching from here on out I think, they’re the two fitting winners left on the show, in my opinion.
This was a much better episode than last week’s Survivor, and it was great to see a player like Mike turn his situation from really bad to only kind of bad with a really bold strategic play at tribal Council. His idol bluff is probably the best strategic move of anyone this season so far, and it totally revived his game, which was dead in the water before he forced division in tribe Merica. I think the ending of this season will be fantastic because we’ll finally get to see a game where alliances basically won’t matter at the end, where 7 people think they can win and can probably do so without really relying on anyone to prop them. There are so many different scenarios that could play out from here that I don’t even know where I’d start speculating on how things are going to go. I think I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the show, and hope for a final three with at least one deserving player. Until the next episode, I’ll end my post with some final thoughts:
- Don’t disregard the scene between Sierra and Rodney where Sierra pitched getting rid of Tyler; I think it’s probably meaningful that we see that move from Sierra’s perspective. I think we’re going to see Sierra step out from her alliance in some meaningful way, but whether it’s to move against Rodney or Tyler, I’m not certain…I would be shocked at this point if Will does not make the final at this point, there will never be a good reason to get rid of him because he’s extremely unpopular and very incapable in physical challenges. This is going to make it much more difficult for anyone else though, now that they have to play for final 2 (assuming a final three)…I wonder what would happen if Mike and Carolyn both managed to get all the votes cast against them but play their idols? Would they even re-vote or would it just be a situation where no one gets eliminated? And the best question of them all; if that happens, would the season end with a final four? I think the producers would go for a final four if Tyler and Mike were both still around, just to make things really interesting. It sounds crazy, but seriously watch for this to be a plausible ending scenario.