Out with one power player and in with a new one! Last episode we saw the elimination of “Queen” Jacqui despite two fresh (and former Samatau) targets ripe for the picking. Luke sees the former Queen’s departure as him taking over the kingdom of Asaga beach. Michelle is similarly excited which is in direct contrast to Kent who is only holding off a “dummy spit” to prevent giving his tribemates the satisfaction of seeing him have a tantrum. As we shall soon see, this episode evolves to be a Kent-Michelle main event showdown and having these contrasting confessionals to open the show is just the curtain raiser.
From the Sideshow to the Big Time
Samatau opens with not only the most words we’ve heard Ben say in one confessional but with some clues into his game and personality. Until now Sideshow Ben has been a goofy, lanky figure in the background whose main attribute was “not good at challenges.” Samatau Ben is acclimatising to his new tribal life and is “hoping to capitalise.” Ben starts his quest for world domination by approaching Jarrad to discuss strategy.
Ben seems to be playing a game of “anyone but me.” This particular strategy has worked well for other castaways in the past (including a particular two-time winner who rode the strategy to two million dollars) but requires more than just a willingness to pull it off successfully. Social game is imperative to any successful Survivor game and, while Ben is clearly feeling a little more comfortable on Samatau beach, he needs to find inroads with the majority alliance to move higher than number six in a six person alliance. Ben confirms with Jarrad that he will vote Henry off despite telling both Jarrad and the viewers at home that he trusts Henry and has a good bond with him.
Henry is feeling in control and confident. Even though he is physically located on the Samatau beach, he is still the kingpin over at Asaga. He can’t wait to see his former puppets and shoot them a smile to let them know he is still “Asaga Strong.” A smile could not be further from his face however when he realises his former partner in crime has been ousted and he seems genuinely confused why the other castaways would make a move that is not best for his game.
The Zen Hen has been counting his chickens before they’ve hatched and now that he’s flown the coop there’s a new group of castaways who have stepped up to rule the roost. Luke looks happier than the cat set among the pigeons. Samatau predicted that tribal council would have led to Tara’s demise and even Tara herself is surprised to still be out on the island instead of eating a burger and fries at Ponderosa. Jonathan LaPaglia asks what the different Survivors are craving. If time allowed, I think Jericho would list every food he could think of because no matter what the reward is for it seems to be his favourite. He is not only the Cookie Monster but a cake monster, an ice cream monster, a pizza monster etc. Tessa asks for ice cream and JLP confirms that an island ice cream parlour is the treat in store for whichever tribe can win the challenge.
The challenge is essentially a feat of strength followed by a puzzle. It’s not the most complicated, but it is certainly an entertaining one. With Henry’s transfer over to Samatau, the physical capability of the two tribes is now clearly different with Samatau at an advantage. Even so, the challenge is neck and neck until the end when Sarah and Anneliese pull out the win for Asaga by completing the puzzle first. Tessa is disappointed to be missing out on her most wanted food item but consoles herself with the idea of there being ice cream at home. Ben continues to show a level of comfort by speaking up for the first time at a challenge saying that nobody comes on Survivor to eat.
On a side note, Kent was pulled from the challenge “for medical reasons” the details of which were not extrapolated. Hopefully, in the days to come, we will hear in Kent’s exit interviews what the particular medical concern was. As a nurse, I began to run through possibilities that would prevent his participation in this particular challenge, and nothing jumped out at me as to why he couldn’t play when he has been able to compete both in recent challenges and the following immunity challenge.
The Sweetest Thing… is an Idol Clue
Ice cream! Ice Cream! We all scream (or scheme?) for ice cream! Even as a well-fed person sitting on the couch at home, I really wanted to be on that ice cream reward. The sugar rush that comes with making ice cream, along with the joyfulness of DIY sundaes, with such a vast array of ingredients seemed like an incredible boost to the Asaga morale. There are a few light-hearted comments about how Anneliese must feel good to have beaten AK at a puzzle and Anneliese’s day only gets better when she finds the first part of an idol clue in her ice cream cone. Anneliese manages to swipe the second part of the idol clue under the guise of collecting husks for fire making and learns that the idol itself is hidden within the structure of the immunity challenge.
Anneliese decides she needs to share the clue with somebody else. I thought this was an interesting play on Anneliese’s part because within the game just knowing who has possession of an idol grants power. If somebody knows you have the idol they can also arrange split votes to circumvent an idol’s effects or try to facilitate it being misplayed. Sharing the idol location with Sarah is sure to build trust between the two but only time will tell if this will help or hinder Anneliese’s game. The girls decide that Sarah will go for the idol during the challenge since the idol clue suggests that completing the puzzle will make it hard to get to and Anneliese can’t easily back out of doing the puzzle after her recent successes.
The Show Must Go On
Back on Samatau, the full weight of Jacqui’s departure is hitting Henry. It seems like the self-proclaimed puppet master is realising that his marionettes have minds of their own. Henry is explaining the Asaga tribe dynamics to Samatau and says that Tara and Anneliese will have joined Luke, Jericho, and Michelle to form a new majority alliance. Interestingly he doesn’t pick Sarah to have flipped. This speaks volumes for Sarah’s social game and ability to build genuine trust with others.
Henry’s delusion is only confirmed to me when he tells Ben that he was part of Henry’s alliance and even Sideshow Ben looks unconvinced that they were working together. Now sometimes Ben does look a bit confused, but this seemed like Ben was genuinely struggling for a response when Henry names him as a former ally. To help climb the ranks at Samatau, Henry devises a trivia style game to show off his value by being charming and funny. He’s going to use the game to help take control at Asaga. And it works… kinda. Ziggy, AK, and Tessa all agree that he is fun to be around and boosts morale at the beach, but they also follow it up by saying that these same attributes make him a threat and someone that needs to be voted out pronto.
The immunity challenge involves transferring a series of discs along a course and solving a puzzle. Samatau seemingly breezes through with incredible teamwork and finish the puzzle before Asaga has even made it through the first obstacle. There was an interesting moment where we see Jarrad perched on Ben’s shoulders. Ben was assuring Jarrad “I’ve got you” while Jarrad was concerned “are you sure?” This seems to be reflective of their current strategic dynamic where there has not been a chance for Ben to prove he is loyal to Jarrad. JLP calls out Ben as being strong in the challenge. I’m not sure if we are seeing a Ben redemption arc, but we certainly see Ben in a much more positive light than we have previously.
Anneliese, who is banking on Sarah grabbing the idol during the challenge, is becoming visibly more frustrated as Asaga flounders near the starting line. While Samatau celebrates victory Anneliese coolly walks through the obstacle course to nab the idol herself. Although I am thrilled that Anneliese got the idol, and believe that it could be the start of her emergence as a power player (#TeamAnneliese), I also think we were robbed of a Craig style #bitchstolemyidol moment where Sarah gets the idol and refuses to share it once it’s in her possession.
In the midst of tribe celebration/condolences, Henry slips a “clue” to Jericho. There was no explanation for this before or after the scene although one could presume it’s the clue for the idol Henry already has. Jericho seems a little surprised by the gift and, given it was a split second scene that was not discussed again, I’m not sure why it was included in the show at all.
Kent vs. Michelle
Scrambling ensues on Asaga beach. Luke is thrilled to be going back to tribal council and is convinced he is safe. Sarah is saying all the right things to Anneliese about her idol (“I have no claim to it, it makes me excited to work with you”) and the two seem to have formed a solid bond. Kent “opens shop” on the beach and is waiting to sell his argument for voting out Michelle to anyone who will listen. Sadly he has very few customers except for Tara who agrees that the tribe needs to be kept strong after spending the first 20 days with a weaker tribe that lost challenge after challenge. Sarah pops in store at the last minute and discusses an alliance with Kent that would result with ousting Luke and Jericho.
Sarah describes her interaction with Kent as an opportunity to flip. The word opportunity makes it seem like Sarah thinks of it as a positive thing, but given she has already flipped twice, I’m not sure how worthwhile a third flip in four tribal councils would be. I’ve been a big fan of Sarah’s game so far – she has been involved with strategic decisions without ever seeming to be a dictator or “leader” of the alliance. Sarah flipped away from the majority alliance led by Sam and Mark W and has now flipped away from a second majority alliance to get out Jacqui. Although Sarah is playing well, it could only be a matter of time before people see her flipping and begin to lose trust in her as a rock solid ally.
Michelle is disgusted albeit unsurprised that Kent has been floating her name. There is no love lost between the pair and instead of squishing any animosity (which would be required for Sarah’s plan to get out Cookie Monster and Elmo) tension seems to build between them more and more. The longer the game goes on, the more fixated Kent is on getting out Michelle and vice versa. From a social stand point, you almost want one of them to go in order to start moving in a new direction. Michelle is confident and utters the magic word “if” describing the plan to vote Kent out if the alliance sticks together. Survivor is a massive game of “ifs,” and that is why it continues to evolve.
Tribal Council rolls around, and there are some bland, vague remarks about their loss in the immunity challenge. Luke and Anneliese try to point out positive aspects of the challenge, but the reality is that Samatau (or Sanaapu 2.0) is physically dominant and unless Asaga can start pulling wins out of the bag they are likely to be dominated in any physical challenges before the merge. Some insight into game play is shown with the competing viewpoints of a “tribe that gets along” vs. “the tribe that’s strong.” Michelle is all for a tribe that gets along and most importantly where trust is established. Odette wants a tribe that is strong so that challenges can be won.
There’s been lots of hype about Odette’s invisible edit and internet hype that she has potential that is being wasted. To me Odette is in way over her head – she came in unfamiliar with the game and has expressed in former tribal councils that there is more to it than winning challenges. It almost seems like Odette is surprised by the strategic aspects of the game and unless she is willing to embrace them, I don’t believe she will get much further.
Various castaways try and dance around the question of tribal tension before Jericho states what everybody has seen all episode: Michelle and Kent cannot get along, and neither seems prepared to make an effort to anymore. Kent points out that on his scale of helping around camp Michelle is “below average.” Michelle retorts, asking how Kent is doing any better than she is. Whether helping at camp is a good excuse to vote someone out is a whole discussion in itself but seems to be a front for personality incompatibility.
Despite Kent’s manouvering, he is voted out 5-2-1 with two votes to Michelle and a single vote for Odette. Kent is a good sportsman when leaving, wishing his former tribe the best of luck and humorously exclaiming “don’t poke the bear” when Sarah calls him by this nickname.
Kent was an interesting character in the game. He had a business background from a political setting and has completed physical feats like swimming the English Channel. I thought he would have hidden depths on the show despite his appearance of an older man. After Kent’s ‘dickhead’ confessional in Episode 1, I figured he was perceptive and would have a good handle on interacting with the tribe. Seeing him build bonds early in the game to stay one step ahead of Joan and to avoid being eliminated first made him seem like a player to keep my eyes on. On the one hand, I wonder if Kent could’ve made it a bit further if he was willing to put his grudge against Michelle aside. But I also believe that he had ‘stuck’ himself in his dwindling alliance and didn’t seem willing or able to be sly in order to turn the tide in his favour. JLP talks about shifting sands at the Asaga tribe, but it seems to me that the shifting had already been done. Kent and Odette seem to be caught in quick sand, and I’m interested to see if Odette will be able to free herself.
The next episode boasts a chance to compete for a powerful advantage, most likely the ‘super idol’ and I’m not sure how this will play out. It seems like the super idol would be a tool for an individual but the whole tribe is aware that they are sending a tribute to compete for it so there may be wider game effects seen. Australian Survivor managed to put on seven amazing, twist-less episodes before the tribe swap and seemed to be getting warm feedback from superfans, casuals and critics alike. I only hope this incoming flurry of twists won’t mess up the highly entertaining tribal dynamic that we have seen so far!