During the Immunity challenge, Angelina lamented the critical turning point of balancing the balls on the large disk: “Once they separate, you’re screwed.” It’s a fitting statement in more ways than one – as demonstrated tonight through the growing free-for-all that is David vs. Goliath.
The simplest form of Survivor is played out through loyalty and constancy, where one alliance whittles down the other and then eats away at itself to leave the core. However, once those alliances begin to fracture, everything shifts and the game becomes a whole lot harder. For every player that strikes out with their own agenda, the game complicates again. So when you’ve got every player separating to play an independent game, where even the term “voting bloc” sounds too rigid, it becomes a daunting challenge to avoid getting screwed.
The fissures in the Kalokalo tribe have been building all season, but as the Davids continued to implode and the Goliaths still struggled to work as a unified force, the field is left wide open. Ultimately, it seemed as though Christian’s days were numbered, but the road to the elimination of the season’s breakout star was anything but predictable.
PRAYING FOR A SIGN
In large part, tonight’s episode belonged to Davie, as he orchestrated a blindside against his closest “frenemy” only to double back on his plan all the while pocketing an Idol and using its limitations effectively. In the aftermath of Gabby’s elimination and Christian’s Idol play, Nick got cute with a fake Idol, “finding” it in the presence of Angelina, Christian and Mike, and leading Davie to suspect that Nick – already a threat – was now potentially the wielder of two Idols, or if he was pulling off a scam, he was leaving Davie out in the cold. Already wary of the Jabeni ties in his supposed Final 4, Davie set to work to make his move. He spoke to Christian – desperate for any leg up in the game – about pulling off a blindside against Nick, and naturally, he was amenable to the plan. The next step was pulling in Kara and Alison.
After winning the reward challenge, Davie utilised his companion choice to keep Nick close and unsuspecting but also bring Kara to strategise, pitching her the blindside while Nick was taking a walk. Kara, too, was game – and it’s worth noting how instrumental Kara has been in nearly every plan since the merge. She has her ear to the ground and has been involved in blindside plot after blindside plot. Even though she’s not leading the charge, and some plans don’t come to fruition, she’s playing the field well – while also avoiding accusations of doing so (unlike Davie, who raised Angelina’s ire after he ignored her admittedly pandering plea to go on the reward as recompense for her rice deal).
Nevertheless, Davie’s plan was taking shape, and Kara was tasked with passing the idea on to Alison, who also responded well, relieved that other targets were finally coming up and giving her a modicum of relief. However, Alison too was keeping her options open – and Davie’s good instincts to hide the plan from Mike and Angelina conflicted with Alison’s own allegiance to Mike, and she leaked the plan to him, passing the power to him in the process. It’s a testament to how convoluted the game becomes when the gameplay is so fluid, as what’s good for Davie, Kara and Christian isn’t perfectly in tune with what Alison wants and needs.
Meanwhile, Davie found himself facing another intriguing wrinkle – the return of Chris Noble’s Ghost Island Idol, not as a relic, but in its twist. Still suspicious of Nick’s alleged second Idol, Davie continued his search and found a clue that led him back to the site of the merge feast to be presented with an Idol only useful at the next Tribal – unless he was willing to wager his vote to extend its lifetime. I love this twist and was thrilled to see it return, and equally excited to see Davie consider it from all angles before turning the decision over to God, taking a gust of wind blowing the cauldron of fire away from the tempting urns as a sign to not risk his vote – and his carefully orchestrated plan. It was a complex decision, but definitely the right call, as the numbers were too narrow to risk a vote with a move to be made.
Of course, the move to be made ultimately faded after Nick shared the truth with Davie, revealing that his Idol find on the raft had been a ruse. With this show of honesty, Davie realised that he could still trust and rely on Nick, and decided to delay the strike against him – something I’m not sure that I agree with. There were so many moving parts at this vote, and I feel like Davie’s decision to back out of his own plan may harm his game as it revealed him as a competitive player without achieving his move of eliminating a threat. That said, Davie has utilised meat shields well this game, and keeping Nick out in front – as he had with Christian before – could still reap some benefit. Or, at least, it might have if the game was not so fluid.
I WANT TO SURPRISE MYSELF
The unexpected wrinkle in tonight’s vote was Mike. Going against Kara and Davie’s wishes to keep the Nick blindside secret, Alison confided the plan to Mike – who has found himself, like about half of the remaining cast, firmly in the middle of the field with options aplenty. When he later won Immunity to continue the rare trend of different players winning Immunity each round (heading into the finale, only Nick and Angelina have yet to wear the necklace), Mike was emboldened to turn the vote to his best interest. With one half of the tribe targeting his Goliath ally Alison, and the other half seeking to eliminate his fellow Rock Star Nick, Mike wanted to flip the vote altogether and once again target Christian, who he maintained was the biggest threat.
It was an uphill battle, as both sides seemed firmly entrenched in their existing plans and so Mike attempted to use Alison’s information to sway Nick, revealing that Davie and Christian had been orchestrating a move against him. However, even this seemed to hit a wall as Nick fixated on Davie’s betrayal, seemingly rejecting Mike’s suggestion to vote out Christian still. Once again, the montage of Mike trying to manipulate six independent minds to achieve his goal was a demonstration of the overwhelming challenge that is a competitive field in Survivor. But ultimately, it’s worth acknowledging that Mike’s plan came to fruition.
Even with Nick’s paranoia pushing votes onto Davie, which were ultimately negated, Christian was sent home with the majority vote in a split of 3-2-2. While Christian and Davie seemed to be left in the dark casting their votes for Alison, the remaining five split their votes between them: Alison & Mike voted Davie, while Angelina, Kara and Nick cast the deciding votes for Christian. Although it’s a little unclear how this split vote came to be, it’s a huge feather in Mike’s cap to be the man behind the move. Even though I’m still not sure if he can pull off a victory, it strengthens his own story as the one to finally slay the slippery Christian (who follows Kelley Wentworth & Ben Driebergen as only the third player to be saved by Idols at more than one Tribal in a season), particularly as Davie – and particularly Nick – took a hit in a public Idol misplay.
At Tribal, the last advantages in the game were played, and neither was effective, but I suspect the perception of these ‘mistakes’ could wildly differ. Davie’s Idol was only valuable at one Tribal, so it was all but guaranteed he’d use it – but his fellow castaways did not know this. All they saw was Davie play an Idol and successfully negate two votes against him in a narrow vote that came down to a margin of one. Although his Idol was technically unnecessary, it could be viewed as Davie smartly sussing out that he was in some degree of danger, even with the other two vote-getters of Alison and Christian being the perpetual targets. I’m curious to learn, however, how much of a fluke this move was – and whether Davie had any sense that his name was in the conversation. Regardless, Davie came out looking solid – especially in contrast to the Idol play that followed.
Nick has been playing a strong game throughout the season, course-correcting from his initial perception as scheming and lazy on the David tribe to becoming a great strategist and excellent social player who has used creative vote splits and advantages to gain an upper-hand, and has yet to have a vote cast against him. However, his play with the fake Idol was a catastrophe and solidifies him as a threat. First of all, his choice to “find” the fake Idol he’d hidden was a poor one. Hiding a fake to throw other players off the scent was a good instinct that’s been effective before (see David Wright in Millennials vs. Gen-X), but by digging it up himself, he managed to instantly put a target on his back and turn his closest ally against him. It made sure that everyone knew he had power in his pocket and as we’ve increasingly seen over the past few seasons, secret Idols and advantages are far more effective.
But this wouldn’t have been so bad were it not for his very visible blunder at Tribal. Again, playing a fake Idol or forcing theatre to try to read opponents’ reactions is a tried-and-true method, but Nick oversold his performance. By playing the fake and publicly revealing the ruse, he admitted that he’d duped even his allies. He also called his shot – and called it wrong – claiming he was using the fake to gauge whether he should play his real Idol – which he again read wrong. Not only did his trick Idol play look blatantly devious, but the misplay of his real Idol showed him to be not nearly as clever as he claimed. It’s not a nail in the coffin – several winners have misplayed Idols or advantages in their time – but I fear it could make him an easy target for the remaining players, who could see this action as evidence of a dangerous player to cut sooner rather than later.
And with that, we’re down to our Final 6: Alison, Angelina, Davie, Kara, Mike and Nick. A group diverse and competitive and with stories that could all support a victory. With Christian – ostensibly the biggest character of the season – quietly departing the game one vote short of tying the record for most-votes-against set by Laura Morett in Blood vs. Water, the game feels even more open than ever, and I honestly have no idea how we’ll see this epic season reach its conclusion.
I can see Nick or Davie – the remaining underdog Davids – claim the title with a story of scrapping their way to the end against the odds using strategy and advantages. I could see Kara or Mike carry a case of playing the middle, making friends and having their fingers on the pulse of the game throughout. Even Alison and Angelina – dark horses in the race for different reasons – could pull it out if the last four days go their way as both are determined and well-spoken women capable of constructing a compelling argument.
This season has been a delight through-and-through, and I can’t wait to see where the climax of this truly Biblical tale takes us.