Thoughts on Episode 8:
- The game was clearly afoot after the Kass vote, and the bro-lliance appeared to be back in the game the next morning. Jeremy and Savage were calmly in charge of things, discussing the vote and what’s to come, but while they talked, it appeared as if Fishbach was covering all of his bases on the other side of the beach. We saw Ciera and him discussing his favorite topic thus far in the game; blindsiding Joe. Ciera was coming from a place of desperation in those conversations, but to see Fishbach giving up his place of comfort in his alliance to throw names around camp surprised me a bit. Stephen’s been looking for his redemption about as hard as anyone this season has, and in his mind, taking out the golden boy is the only way to avoid making the same mistake twice. It seems like that myopic view on the game will be his downfall, someway, somehow, and it almost was this week. Fishbach is becoming one of the most fascinating characters of the season, which is fun to watch, given his acumen for the game. It will be interesting to see if he can touch the untouchable Joe at any point in the game, and what Jeremy will do when it comes to picking between Joe and Stephen.
- We got to see the first team reward challenge, one of those wonderful moments in the post-merge game where players are split up and allowed to bond haphazardly on reward. It’s one of those random points of fate in Survivor that’s just too fun to not love, and this reward had some good moments too. We got to see Joe, Ciera, Kelley, Kelly, Keith, and Kimmi win a trip to the ever-popular Survivor café, and we unwittingly got to see one of the greatest random moments of the season when Keith got behind the wheel of the tuk-tuk parked outside the café. Keith looked like a kid in a candy shop driving everyone around in that ridiculous little buggy, and for some reason, the whole scene was just perfect and hilarious. Who doesn’t love Keith as a survivor character? The guy is great, he provides some great entertainment, and he brings just enough game to the challenges to earn respect. I said it on Twitter while I was watching, and I stand behind this; if Keith were to win this season, it would probably be the most fascinating outcome ever. Keith Nale, never stop being you man, never stop!
- The immunity challenge this week was a throwback to San Juan Del Sur, a ball balancing challenge that the afore-mentioned Keith Nale totally nailed. I thought it was an odd approach for the show to have two balance-based immunity challenges right after the merge, and even though it was a fun challenge to watch, I really do want the show to mix up the challenges a bit for the sake of fairness. I say this because inevitably the showdown featured the same guys again, Joe, Spencer, and Keith duking it out balancing a ball on a little platform. Spencer fell out after a short while, and the challenge entered its final segment with the Joe vs. Keith battle we all honestly wanted to see since May. In the end, a second ball was added to the platform, and it made the challenge a hell of a lot harder. In the end, Cool Joe prevailed, leaving only eight more rounds until he completes his perfect immunity run (you all just watch, it’s gonna happen!). It would’ve been cool if Keith had beaten Joe out for immunity to keep his title of ‘Master of Balls’ on Survivor, but it just doesn’t look like anyone can match Joe for odd, quirky athleticism and concentration. The guy is stoic, and he’s running a lot of peoples’ plans to blindside him. I don’t know how long Joe can honestly keep up this little run he’s started, but I sincerely hope he can make it deep in this game on his challenge merit, he’s just too likeable to ever really root against.
- With the immunity necklace around Joe’s neck, some players had to do some scrambling going into the vote. Ciera kind of threw her hopes into Stephen wanting to get rid of Joe, but she quickly shifted her attention to the opposite option. Savage had been distrusting of Stephen since day one, and he was quick to inform Joe that he was gunning for him, leading the two of them to approach the idea of getting the minority alliance to write down Stephen’s name. Joe approached Kelley with the idea, and Ciera, Abi, and her were down to vote out anyone else if it kept them in the game for another three days. It seemed like a cut and dry matter, a blindside of sorts for a guy who’s been rabblerousing despite being in a comfortable spot, but as we always see on Survivor, cut and dry isn’t what happens every vote. Savage and Joe made their pitch to Jeremy and Tasha, as the brain-trust of the majority deliberated their move. It seemed like quite a strategy session, and it’s a shame we’ll never see the unedited version of that discussion, but in the end Jeremy successfully argued to keep his confidant Stephen in the game, as the majority decision became to take out Kelley Wentworth, who seemed unassuming enough. Of course, we the viewers have known since early in the season that Kelley got an idol at an immunity challenge, and she was well prepared to play it going into Tribal Council. For some reason the nine in the majority decided to do the easy thing and put nine votes on Kelley, assuming she wouldn’t have an idol in hand, and Kelley decided to stun everyone left in the game by playing an idol and flipping the game on its head. It was a crazy moment for sure; one of the best idol plays ever on Survivor as she erased nine votes cast against her. In the end it only took three votes for Savage to get blindsided, walking out stunned and in disbelief. I saw this result coming from a mile away, it seemed like Kelley would be a preferred target, and she clearly knew so as well. Savage was someone who was holding the Bayon alliance together with his old school style of play, and getting rid of him was the best opportunity for new school schemers like Ciera and Kelley to break the voting bloc. As a big fan of Andrew Savage, the idol play made me sick, but as a true fan of the game I was able to crack a smile in my sorrow. It was one hell of a play, and Kelley deserves a lot of credit for keeping her game so low key. It paid dividends, and now she’s got a second chance in this second chance game!
- Can we talk about the edit for a second? I know, I’m kind of a nerd of the game, but it always fascinates me the way the producers choose to frame these seasons and tell a story based upon tiny slivers of these contestants’ lives for thirty nine days. What they did with the character of Andrew Savage was fascinating because they made a clear villain out of him by showing him in a smug and arrogant light. Sure, no one made him say some of the things he said, specifically the Fishbach comments, but the show did a really smart thing by making him the villain people could cheer against, mostly because he was the victim of Kelley’s idol play. Fans on Twitter, and even former players were thrilled to see the hero take out the villain, the way the show always try to portray game play, and a lot of the reaction was formed by the editing of the players’ games. Part of the reason I love this show so much is this kind of smart editing, the way they can take actual events and craft them into a narrative, and when the game works out like this with an epic idol play and a resulting blindside, it’s just TV gold for Survivor. I’m very sad to see Andrew Savage exit the game like this, especially because it was more the fault of his alliance than anything he had done at that point in the game. He probably made too many enemies to win the game anyway, but I really love the old-school Survivor mentality that he tried to bring to the game, and I think this season will be far less interesting without him in it. He may have been a villain on TV, but Savage will always be a Survivor hero of mine!
- My player of the week honors go to…oh come on, do I even really need to say it? Only one person flipped the game upside down at any point in time this season, and that was Kelley Wentworth. Simply one of the best…My favorite moment of the episode was honestly when Savage flipped off Abi after his torch got snuffed. Thank you Savage for doing to her face what I’ve been doing to my television all season long, someone needed to…I’ve tried to predict how this game might go down a couple times this season, and every time I’ve tried the game has gone in a drastically different way than I’ve expected. The only thing I’m confident about in terms of this season is the fact that I have no clue what’s going to go down…Without Savage around it’s going to be interesting to see what becomes of the Jeremy-Joe alliance going forward. Savage was the glue of the bro-lliance, but it’s become apparent that Joe and Jeremy have their own separate allies who would probably target the other in a heartbeat. I think the most exciting thing to see going forward will be whether or not Joe can hook up with Ciera and Kelley to go deep in the game before Jeremy’s alliance of Stephen and Kimmi can turn Jeremy on Joe. I think this dynamic could go so many different ways, so I’m definitely eager to see what becomes of the old Bayon tribe.