Last week Steve had a target painted on his back as he was chosen to be the “Dead Man Walking,” a twist which removed his ability to vote at tribal council rendering him useless in the game. Having failed to secure his safety in the Immunity Challenge, Monika emerged from the woodwork as a swing vote where she ultimately (after a lot of crying) decided to stick with Brian and vote out Steve – sending him off to walk the Green Mile. In this episode, we see how a combination of arrogance, complacency, and strategic ineptitude can result in a move backfiring in spectacular fashion.
We begin with Brian reminding us that he is the last male standing and the self-appointed King of the Jungle. As Neanderthal-like his rationale and decision-making skills might be, Brian’s game (which has consisted of laying low and being a larrikin) has been very effective. He recognised that he was on the bottom of the Champions alliance when Mat was targeting him and then shifted his attention to working the two Contender women who were on the outs. Shonee and Fenella insist that their giggly and light-hearted demeanour is only scratching the surface of the game that they’re playing. As the rest of the Champions saw Shonee and Fenella as the enemy, Brian has seen them as a powerful tool that can be utilised – a desperate voting block of two that will cling to whatever source of power and security they can find.
Shane and Sharn have both given up on trying to get Monika on their side after she voted out Steve and instead decide to turn their attention to Shonella. Sharn’s pitch inadvertently works against her as even though she tells the girls that Brian has no intention of taking a Contender to the end, she also reveals that Brian told them herself and Shane will be voted out first, thus confirming with Shonella that they are secure at least until the final four.
Afterwards, Shonella decides to report back to Brian with the information that Sharn is trying to turn his alliance against him. Brian chooses to take a confrontational approach to prove to Sharn that there is no way that she can break his alliance. Having been caught red-handed, Sharn shoots straight for the bushes in search of a hidden immunity idol – which she successfully finds! This time she manages to shove the idol in her pants without it falling onto the floor. Luckily for her, she found the idol whilst nobody was around. With an idol in her pocket, the only thing left to do is to secure Shane’s safety by trying to draw all the votes her way so that they can be vote out Fenella with their two-vote swing. Going into the immunity challenge, Sharn and Shane have their backs against the wall in an attempt to try and secure safety.
With Brian winning his third Immunity Challenge, it is time for Sharn to get to work and try to get all four votes on her. She has a conversation with Monika, whom she believes to be the easiest person to manipulate in the game. All I can say is poor Monika. She got an invisible edit (bar her infamous bellyflop moment) until a few episodes ago where she has now been painted as an emotionally unstable dim-witted model. She is hardly getting any credit for her ability to get people to feel comfortable around her and then lie straight to their faces – a skill which we have seen various times whilst she has been in power with Brian.
Meanwhile, Shane is also making the rounds by having conversations with Brian where she throws Sharn under the bus by painting her as the biggest threat left in the game due to her unrivalled “Survivor story.” Shane tells us in a confessional that her approach to Brian was to stroke his ego and compliment him into submission. Shane is meek, mild and vulnerable in a way that only an old woman can be. To her credit, it works perfectly because Shane’s conversation sows seeds of doubt in Brian’s mind causing him to have a change of heart. Before the contestants go to tribal council, Brian approaches Shonella and tells them that he wants to split the votes 3-1 for Sharn and Shane respectively. The problem with this, as pointed out by Shonee, is that if Sharn plays an immunity idol, Shane and Sharn will get to dictate who goes home with their two vote swing.
Going into tribal council there is an interesting scenario which is not discussed during the episode. Since we are at the final 6, the most likely scenario would see the alliance of four (Brian, Monika, Shonee and Fenella) split the votes between Shane and Sharn which will cause a 2-2-2 split. If Sharn was so inclined, she could forgo playing her idol and completely incinerate her relationship with Shane by placing a vote on her which would send her home by a vote of 3-2-1 for Shane, Sharn and Fenella respectively. In this situation, Sharn would walk away with her idol firmly in her pocket (hoping that it wouldn’t fall on the ground again) keeping her safe until the final 4. Of course, this would make too much sense, and instead, we see Sharn play her immunity idol for herself whilst Brian flips his vote against Sharn allowing Shane and Sharn to say farewell Fenella, leaving Shonee spewing on the sidelines.
It’s interesting to note that Sharn has put so much work and time in with the Champions throughout her game that she is teetering more towards the mateship end of the spectrum rather than the strategic snake side. Had she voted out Shane as I suggested above, she would have lost a lot of credibility with the jury and lost Shane and Steve’s jury vote along with it. However, I’m just splitting hairs and credit should be given to both Sharn and Shane for getting Brian to flip his vote and completely screw the vote by inadvertently voting out an ally.
Speaking of jury votes, the topic of jury management was the conversation at tribal council – specifically earning the respect of the jury. An issue which saw a significant reaction from the contestants as well as the jury members themselves. I think the conversation of bitter jurors is always a fun one as it changes from person to person. But as Steve rolls his eyes when Fenella mentions that a strategic and deceitful game is a “game well played” one thing becomes very apparent. Steve is an egotistical and bitter jury member. The one thing that I believe separates a bitter juror from a non-bitter one is the ego – or lack thereof. When asked how to earn the respect of the jury, Brian states that you need to play the game according to the values of the game (which he says are outwit, outplay and outlast). Steve comments with an immense amount of incredulity from the sidelines saying that the winner of Survivor is CHOSEN rather than won. Steve’s ego is so large that he needs to “choose” a winner that matches his style of gameplay – one of integrity and honesty – thus validating the way that he played the game. Of course, this is opposed to actually being objective and putting your ego aside to vote for the most deserving winner.
But with all this talk of jury management, it is difficult to understand why Brian was so adamant on placing one more vote on Sharn. Brian got cute with the vote and the numbers, and it cost him an ally. I guess that he wanted to try and show Shane (and potentially the jury) that he is a man of his word by not voting for Shane, which might come in handy if he makes it to the end. Considering he still has an idol, securing his spot in the final 4, in addition to the fact that he has the best immunity challenge record of the remaining contestants, it’s definitely a possibility.