Thoughts on the episode:
- It’s time for a tribe swap! The previews from the week before took away the surprise of it all, but the show still managed to keep one secret twist hidden; they were going to 3 tribes instead of 2. I thought they would switch to 3 tribes at 18 when it would’ve been an even mix, and I do believe they had every intention of doing that going into the season, but the logic here actually made some sense. They were bringing back the much maligned “Have Nots” tribe concept from Cambodia, but to offset the unfairness of the advantage, they gave that tribe an extra member for the sake of tribe building. One of the cool things about Survivor is the fluidity of the game twists, and this season you can clearly tell the game is being produced on a day-to-day basis because these twists, while interesting, are being scrapped and changed depending on how interesting they feel the twists will be to the game. This season is becoming a shining example of Survivor’s fluid nature and how it really helps the entertainment value of the show. The producers decide to manipulate the game based upon how things unfold, and I believe it makes the show better.
- I think the tribe divisions ended up working out great, even though I think a lot of that is thanks to the great casting. I do believe the original theme for the season inevitably pigeon-holed the contestants into cultural stereotypes, and inevitably made alliances form around those stereotypes, but with the random breaking up of tribes we got to see individuals start to shine outside of alliance blocks, and I think the game really started to flourish with three tribes. The Vanua tribe consisted of 3 Gen X and 2 Millennials; even though the mix of each tribe created a lot of uncertainty as to how alliances would really break down. The Millennials on the tribe, Zeke and Michelle, were on different sides of the alliances before the swap, and Chris was clearly not strategically in line with either Cece or David, meaning this tribe was going to be an unknown moving forward. How fun! Takali ended up having the best tribe make-up of them all because the Survivor fates aligned perfectly and Taylor and Figgy managed to stay together! I said it while tweeting the episode, and I’ll say it again here; I’m actually starting to like the Taylor and Figgy story. It took me a while, but I think they’re both genuine characters trying their best to succeed in the game, versus the caricatures they were portrayed as early on. On the other side of this tribe was the newly reinvigorated alliance of Ken and Jessica, leaving Adam squarely in the middle of two duos he wasn’t particularly close with. Nothing much came to fruition with this tribe in this episode, but the concept of Adam, with an idol in his pocket, having to eventually choose between these duos is exciting because that decision will very likely decide how the post-merge game unfolds. Than the new “Have Nots” tribe, which was called Ikabula, consisted of a slightly lopsided mix of 4 Millennials and 2 Gen X with Jay, Hannah, Will, and Michaela coming in as a solid voting bloc, and Bret and Sunday coming into the tribe as the obvious minority. The ‘Have Nots’ twist always comes packed with an interesting story of struggle and survival versus the other tribes that have established camps and rewarded equipment, but in general this tribe actually turned out to have the least interesting story of the three, so there’s really not a heck of a lot to talk about them just yet. But, still, the three tribe format has brought this game alive a little bit, and the splitting of tribes has effectively shattered the molds that these players were playing in, and from this point going forward I think the game is clearly afoot.
- We got to see a pretty contentious immunity challenge between the three new tribes this episode. The first two tribes to complete the challenge were to be awarded immunity while the team in last would get nothing but a date at Tribal Council. Much like some of the challenges at the old Gen X tribe, Cece and David were both heavy anchors for their tribe, struggling with swimming and getting the balls they were transporting to the finishing platform. Because of both of them, the Vanua tribe fell far behind and eventually lost the challenge, even though it ended up being much closer than it should’ve been. Going into Tribal, it seemed like Michelle might be in trouble since she was outnumbered and connected to the Gen Xers a little less than Zeke, but Chris had some other intentions. Cece and Chris never got on the same page at any point in time during the game, and her inability to perform in challenges made her an easy sell for the Millennials to vote out. At the end of the day, Chris decided that clueing in David to the vote would bring some unity and numbers for him down the road, given David’s keen ability to string together an alliance or pull out an idol at the last minute. It seemed like a tough decision for David to turn on Cece, but when all was said and done I believe he saw the unity of the Vanua tribe as being something greater than saving an unconnected ally. Even though it was a blindside for Cece, she was voted out unanimously, and it seemed like everyone on the tribe was comfortable moving forward as a foursome.
Thoughts after the episode:
- My player of the week honors got to Chris this time. I thought he did a masterful job of bonding with his new tribe and subtly taking control of the vote. The way he turned a bad situation before the swap into a good situation afterwards was quite impressive, and it shows his merit as a player…My favorite moment of the episode was a subtle thing, but as a Survivor geek it really made me happy. When the buffs for the new tribe were being handed out, Jay started humming the Survivor theme music, in a really fantastic “Breaking the 4th wall” kind of way. I really love Jay’s enthusiasm for the game, and its little moments like this, or when he shows some real game acumen in his confessionals that makes him a really good character this season…I think it’s amazing that a potentially significant bond on this season was made revolving around Oklahoma football. This show can be random at times, but it’s the wildly unpredictable human element that makes it special. The Chris and Zeke bonding scenes were some of the best of the episode; in my opinion…I’m really hoping that they’ll keep 3 tribes around for a while. I think the dynamics of having all of these small tribes around has made the game just a little bit more intense and critical. I’m a big fan of adding a tribe to the mix, it worked interestingly enough in Cambodia, and it’s turning out to be even better in MVGX, at least so far.