It was the Tribal Council we were told we couldn’t miss. And while it was an outcome many viewers could’ve predicted from a mile away, it didn’t stop the episode from being any less enthralling. This episode marked the end of an era. The conclusion of a story that has dominated the overall narrative of the game since the first episode.
The previous episode explored the battle between David and Shaun, which saw David come out victorious. However, bubbling under the surface was a rivalry unknown to David—and a plan that has been weeks in the making. Like Josh and Jeremy in Survivor: San Juan Del Sur, we received a familiar ending to a story that was anything but familiar. Even until the very last moment, I was still expecting one last trick to be pulled from David’s man-bun or, even better, pulled out from underneath his sarong.
Comparable to Survivors like Tony Vlachos, David was a mythical unicorn in the game, an anomaly dodging bullets left, right and centre. He found idols when he needed to and was a beast in the challenges. The era of the Golden God might have come to an end, but as we see throughout the episode, we are not short in big, bold power players left in the game. It is safe to say that the season remains in great hands.
BLINDED BY LOYALTY, BLINDED BY EGO
It was an outcome that David should’ve seen coming. At times, he seemed self-aware enough to know that he was being arrogant to the point of rubbing people the wrong way. He was doing deals with everyone, making final twos left and right, he was controlling and condescending during strategic conversations, he tried to get his alliance on board with targeting their own friends, and made a fake idol and fabricated a whole story around its existence. This episode saw the return of David’s controlling and arrogant style that had been so repulsive to Pia, Abbey, and Janine in the past. By this point, David’s game and personality had become far too predictable and easy to manoeuvre around. Everyone and their mothers knew to just smile and nod politely whenever he came up to them with a plan. As David ran around solidifying the plan to vote Daisy out with no awareness that people had started to turn on him, it became too easy for everyone to unify against him.
While it made sense for the Contenders to promote a David blindside, did it benefit the Champions to get rid of him so soon? For how frantic and wily he had been throughout the game, David was also more loyal than the contestants—and the edit—gave him credit for. Despite having said in his confessionals that he wanted to eventually turn on the Champions, he had no immediate plans to get rid of anyone in his alliance. This was illuminated at Tribal, where David reiterated his desire to stick with the Champs. The Golden God had been playing from the bottom for a large portion of the game, so he had no choice but to play aggressively. I think that David would’ve been loyal to the Champs for a little while longer and wouldn’t flip against them unless he knew the tides had turned against him.
Despite his intentions to stay loyal to his alliance, it was the small and unnecessary moves that David made that made him seem so untrustworthy. For instance, making a Final 3 deal with Abbey and John made absolutely no sense at all. He knew that Abbey, Janine, and Pia were incredibly close and should’ve known that Abbey (a loyal and emotional player) would’ve taken issue with David making such a proposition. It was his confidence to assume that he could get away with such moves that played a considerable part in sinking is own game.
However, for as much as David was a huge strategic, social and physical threat, there was one point that wasn’t touched upon in the episode that I’m confident played a factor in the vote. For 33 Days, David was a giant magnet that absorbed attention. Every move and action revolved around him, and he was seen as the leader of the Champions. Anything that didn’t go his way was easily negated through the use of a Hidden Immunity Idol. Getting rid of David allowed for an opportunity to shine the spotlight on more players—and that’s not only in relation to editing/airtime.
The field now becomes significantly more open, leaving nowhere to hide for the remaining players. Removing someone who dominated the strategic conversation and forced people to follow his plans can allow more players to make their own moves moving forward. Demolishing the Contenders and taking David to the Final 6 or Final 5 would leave three votes for the remaining players to create a resume for themselves. Thus, despite David being a valuable and loyal number for the Champions, he was too much of a scene-stealing strategic hog for it to be worth keeping him.
For David, eliminating Shaun was a large weight lifted off his shoulders. In his mind, Shaun was not only one half of a power duo with Daisy, but he was the leader and glue that was keeping the remaining Contenders together. The next natural move was to exterminate the last half of the power couple in Daisy. David had conversations with everyone in the tribe, confirming that Daisy was the target. It was the obvious move according to David, and the rest of the contestants seemed on board. It was just too easy in David’s eyes. Everyone was eating from the palm of his hands, he was the chief of the camp, the leader, the strategic mastermind, the Golden God. According to David, he hadn’t had that much control in the game since the Champions original flip. However, as the Survivor saying goes, “If the vote seems too easy and straight forward then it’s probably you going home,” and David was too blinded by his own ego to see it.
TAKING CENTRE STAGE
In reality, it was David’s inability to read the room and recognise shifts in the game. Despite eliminating Shaun, another rival was coming after him, and this time the call was coming from inside the house. What David failed to realise was that, under his very nose, an Italian mobster mamma was twirling her very real moustache while she gathered a mob of players who were ready to deliver Oscar-worthy performances to lure David into a false sense of security. The season has been setting up this move for Pia for weeks now. Even though Pia hasn’t been the face of many strategic moves so far, she has been portrayed as someone patient and calculated and waiting for the right time to strike. We always know what Pia is thinking strategically. This episode was her time to claim the centre stage spotlight for herself.
Just as David’s plan to vote out Daisy was simple, so was Pia’s. The move consisted of Pia (along with the rest of the tribe) telling David what he wanted to hear. This involved not acting too paranoid around camp and not be seen having too many conversations with Daisy. Speaking of which, Daisy had to display a significant amount of restraint and resist the urge to crumble under pressure. It would’ve been so easy for her to say the wrong thing at Tribal and force David to play the idol for himself, which would’ve sent her home. There was a moment before leaving for Tribal where Daisy left to have a conversation with Luke that had the Champions on the verge of a heart attack. Of course, the editors cut the conversation short, so we never got to see what was said, which added a lot of suspense heading into the vote.
David was everyone’s target and, in many ways, the easy vote, and even though Pia came out of her shell to make this move, I believe that she is still too understated for it to be considered her plan. As Aubry Bracco once stated, it’s an effective strategy to be the person behind the curtain pulling strings, but if nobody knows what you’re doing, then it’s as if you’re not making any moves at all. Janine has been Pia’s biggest cheerleader, but if they were to find themselves in the Final 2 together, it would be difficult for Pia to make a case for herself.
Even though the episode really went out of its way to give Pia credit for this move, it would be interesting to see if the players themselves felt the same, especially as it appeared to be a collaborative effort. This was beautifully highlighted during Tribal where each contestant played their part in pulling the wool over David’s eyes. Jonathan, who doesn’t have a history of being subtle with trying to shake things up, poked and prodded at everyone, trying to get someone to slip up on the plan. He questioned Janine about her intentions for the vote, for which she simply said it was straightforward and strictly about staying strong to her alliance. She then went on to say that it was not the time to do stupid things with so many numbers still in the game.
Harry complimented Janine’s argument by saying that the game had returned to old tribal lines, which meant that Daisy and himself were on the chopping block. Even Baden and John played their part by mentioning that their strategy heading into the vote was purely based on self-preservation. Credit to the editors that tried to build as much tension and uncertainty heading into the vote with the tense music and dramatic side-eyes that implied doubt. This was truly a beautifully played Tribal Council performance from everyone, which resulted in the Golden God himself going home with an idol in his pocket.
Next time we are promised yet ANOTHER big episode with a potentially big result. I’m not too huge of a fan of the way each episode is advertised, as they do seem to either give too much away or overhype it. The frustrating part is that each episode does seem to live up to the hype, which means the editors are justified in their self-praise. Nevertheless, it appears that the move to eliminate David has blown the game wide open, and I’m incredibly excited to see what new stories unfold and who emerges as the next power player!