Alice Barelli recaps the events of Australian Survivor episode twenty-two.
The countdown to the Survivor finale is happening. There are six players left, and I’m 99% sure they have all worked out that they are playing a game called Survivor and that the object of the game is to win. I’m also convinced that these six castaways are aware that in order to win the game and win half a million dollars they have to:
A) Get to the final tribal council with only one other person (also known as the ‘Final Two’) and…
B) Feel reasonably confident that they can attract more votes to win from the jury than the other person in the final two.
Even if they don’t understand why they’re on the island at least everybody seems to be playing to get to the final two and win the game which sets us up for a good episode. The beginning of the episode sees Fia Fia traipsing back to camp and it is apparent pretty quickly that Matt and Sam know that it was Flick who flipped the vote leading to Brooke’s departure. Sam is gutted. He says that he and Brooke were a tight duo and he thought everything was going in his favour. Now he’s set adrift with his only ally left being Matt. Lee tries to explain that they had planned to go to final five with their previous alliance (bet Kristie loves hearing that) and to keep being honest with each other but Sam and Matt don’t really want to hear it.
The following morning Flick goes for a walk to plot her next move and decides it’s time to clear the air with Matty in case she needs him in the future. Flick seems to do an excellent job in this conversation, she’s honest without being brutal and seems to be winning Matt over until she throws out the “it’s just a game” line. Matt is offended that she can think that way because humans and emotions are getting involved (Flick admits she’s had her feelings hurt) but also acknowledges that Flick might be his only chance to get off the bottom of the tribe in this game. Finally, Matt seems to have gotten over his Chester crush and is starting to play the game.
We skip to Flick, Lee and El having a mini-alliance meeting where the agenda is confirming that when it gets to final four, they will have to let Kristie go. Like every other person remaining on the beach (including the crew, the producers, JLP and most likely Chester) I am wondering why exactly Flick thinks it’s a good idea to go anywhere further in the game with the strongest power pair there is. While we haven’t seen Lee or El personally say their duo is unbreakable, it seems to be the truth universally acknowledged among all the other castaways and nobody is trying to sneak in and get one to vote against the other. While Flick, Lee, and El are discussing their options, Kristie sidles up, and the conversation topic quickly changes.
Kristie is beginning to rise in my estimation because once again her game instincts are on point. Her explanation of her strategy so far is that she’s let other people feel like they’re controlling her which we saw most effectively when she had a teary moment in front of the post-swap-pre-merge Vavau members. It’s certainly true that Lee is confident he’s got Kristie on his side. She feels uneasy seeing her other alliance members meeting without her and decides it’s time to suss out her other strategic options. This leads to an arts and crafts session drawing plans in the sand with Matt. El and Flick start feeling uneasy that she hasn’t come back to see them and set off to check she’s not hashing out strategy with Matt. Even though this is exactly what she is doing, she manages to convince El she is just helping out with camp chores and we see another glimpse of her maniacal laugh when she reveals this to the camera.
Matt for his part is thrilled to have a new option in the form of Kristie moving forward. Lee puts in a token attempt to make sure things are good with Kristie. I’m never sure if Lee is trying to convince himself that she is important to him and his game because he’s always describing how she is loyal and a good person but also adds on something about her being quirky and awkward. Kristie still trusts Lee and El, but she also acknowledges that she didn’t wait her whole life to play this game and be kicked out at final three. Lee is totally reassured that Kristie is with him.
Meanwhile, Matt and Sam are doing their best to convince Flick to move away from Lee and El to work in a foursome with them and Kristie. The boys manage to pull off this discussion masterfully by firstly convincing Flick that she’s dead in the water if she’s in the final three with Lee and El and that she shouldn’t accept that as how her game will end. They both promise her votes if she makes it to the final two and talk to her like she’s carrying the torch for former Saanapu. Flick starts off with the ‘when I go; I go’ attitude but you can see her mind ticking over as she listens until she finally asks what she can do to get herself to the final two. In the background, Matt and Sam are jumping up into the air, mentally high fiving and are thrilled that there’s a chance Flick could be on board with their new alliance of four. Flick points out to the viewers that she doesn’t like being disloyal, but she wants to win the game and has to think how she can do that.
We flip to Part One of the Reward Challenge which is a complicated combination of counting different items, memorising numbers and wrapping ropes around different poles to find a bag of puzzle pieces. I got a little confused as JLP explained it and felt a twinge of sympathy for the poor castaways who have gone 45 days without proper nutrition and hydration. Flick takes an early lead in the challenge until she struggles to pull her puzzle pieces out of the sand. The challenge finishes with a puzzle showdown between Lee and Matt with puzzle king/master/genius Matt pulling out the win.
The reward is a night away from camp at a spa, and I’m on the edge of my seat wondering how many people JLP will let him take with him and who he will choose. The best choice, in my mind, was clearly Flick, in order to get more time to talk her around to his way of thinking. Taking Kristie might be too obvious that he’s making a play to get her vote and, while Sam is a friend, he will gain very little strategically from taking him on a reward trip. While I’m mulling this over and extrapolating where Matt’s choices might take him, JLP announces that someone will be going on the reward with Matt but that nobody knows who it will be until tribal council that night.
Tribal WHAT? This really threw me (and the Australian Survivor Twitter watching population) for a loop. Immunity hasn’t been handed out! How can they vote before that happens? Back at Fia Fia, the castaways have the same concerns – someone suggests that Matt may choose someone and after they have both left for reward the tribal council vote will take place. Now that would be a delicious twist to behold, but I don’t think they would be eliminating two choices when there are only six people left. Kristie is unsure of who she should vote for. Sam and Matt have a little fireside meeting with Flick and Kristie, and they unanimously decide that the biggest threats to win are Lee and El. Matt tells us how he’s hoping that by having these conversations with Flick and Kristie eventually one of them (or ideally both of them) will flip over and together they can make a move on El and Lee.
Despite the strategy talk that’s gone down tribal council ends up being Part Two of the reward challenge and nobody is going home tonight. Instead, they’re doing one of my very favourite Survivor challenges. Earlier in the episode (unseen by us), the castaways filled out a survey about their fellow Survivors. For the challenge, they need to answer questions they were previously asked in the survey with the name of the castaway they think the majority of the tribe chose. The answer they give shouldn’t be their actual opinion but what they think the consensus was as per the survey answers. It’s a sure fire way to make tribal divisions clear, and it puts a spotlight on threats in the game. A lot can be learned about how you are perceived and how the group perceives others during the playing of this game.
Somehow Sam manages to be the correct consensus answer for the majority of the questions leading him to be labelled the most AND least deserving to win, most likely to blindside you, the worst listener and the least likely to win. Sam seems to be pretty bland from my perspective so now I wonder what exactly he is doing behind the scenes back at camp to lead him to amass all these titles. Flick is labelled the person playing the game the hardest. El wins the title of the person who is most wanted to sit next to in the final, but more interestingly she is voted as the person flying under the radar. Before this question was answered I would’ve thought Kristie would earn this title but El makes much more sense – she’s tied to Lee, but he is seen as the one making moves and is universally liked amongst the remaining tribemates. She hasn’t had to get her hands dirty in the game so far, and it makes her a strong social player.
Kristie looks a little disappointed to be named ‘least popular’ and it might be the kick she needs to move across to old Saanapu. The only person who doesn’t win any titles at all is Matt! What does this mean? There’s also some interesting things to be learnt here by looking at how each person answered each question. El voted Flick as the person most people wanted to sit next to at the final two which shows that El (and by extension Lee) see Flick as somebody who will get to the end while the rest of the tribe sees Lee and El getting to the end together. I’m surprised El didn’t vote Lee here, but maybe she’s trying to hide what she actually thinks the answer is. Sam is first out followed by El, Kristie, and Lee. Flick takes out Matt with the final answer (the worst listener) and gets to join him on his night away at a luxury spa.
JLP then gives them a massive gift in the form of taking a third person on the reward and the two pick Kristie to come along on the basis that she’s never had a reward before. In reality, Matt has been given a chance to isolate Flick and Kristie and possibly lock in an alliance. Matt knows it, Sam knows it, but I’m not entirely sure that Lee and El recognise the danger that this situation imposes. For their trouble Sam, Lee, and El are sent to exile beach for the night, ostensibly to suffer without food, shelter, and fire but really to give them another chance to find that hidden idol. Maybe, this time, they’ll actually look for it rather than agreeing as a group to leave it buried.
Tension is in the air! It is absolutely in Kristie and Flick’s best interests to move away from aligning with Lee and El, but the bond that’s formed between the pair and each girl isn’t anything to be sniffed at. It lured Flick away from her former tribe best friend Brooke, and it could lead her into another sticky situation if nobody makes a move soon. This episode was a strategic delight, and I can’t wait to see it unfold. If Lee and El get one more vote forward together, I’d say the game is pretty tied up. You can’t even combine Lee and El into a cute couple-y name (“El-Lee” just doesn’t cut it), but I did read on the Survivor AU Reddit group this week that their names are essentially the reverse of each other, so that’s something. I’m keeping my fingers crossed one of them will go home next, and we’ll see a real battle to the finale.