Another blindside! This season continues to impress with an exciting mix of both character developments and strategic (or not..?) gameplay. Between the swap, expansion to three tribes, and the new idol nullifier advantage, Episode 4 definitely switched things up for the David vs. Goliath cast.
But first, the most apparent portion of the preview trailers would be the explosive storm forcing its way through the campsites. According to the episode description, the relentless downpour “puts a sudden halt to the game”, meaning that we’ll likely see a mass evacuation happen – the second-time ever in Survivor history, following the cyclone evacuation of Millennials vs. Gen X. This is accompanied by the alarming visuals of the Vuku and Jabeni camp wrecked, almost decimated with hefty branches and bamboo haphazardly strewn by Mother Nature.
The harsh Fijian weather has been an unforgiving recurrence since the season premiere, and it’s no question that the tribes have to be evacuated for safety reasons. Being sequestered by tribe and not allowed communication, I wonder how much strategy might be affected by this temporary arrangement. After all, every minute counts on a game that runs 24/7.
Moving on to the new tribe dynamics brought about by the swap: As a refresher, the Jabeni tribe (purple) consists of 3 former Goliaths – Natalie, Mike, Angelina – and 2 former Davids – Lyrsa and Nick. Tiva (green) is made up of Dan, John and Alison from Goliath, as well as Christian and Gabby from David. And finally, the Vuku tribe (orange) comprises of Alec and Kara who were former Goliaths, Elizabeth and Davie who were former Davids, and inherited Carl, a former David, from exile island, after voting out Natalia in the last tribal council.
But of course, as usual, Natalie Napalm gets on the nerve of her tribemates. After four episodes, there really isn’t much more to add. The former Davids on Jabeni quickly realised the character they’re up against, which led to Nick rightly identifying a blatant crack amongst the Goliaths. The episode trailer, however, further escalates the situation. Its setting up a Nick vs. Natalie division, and on a tribe of only five, it’ll certainly have a great impact on the vote. Personally, I worry for Nick. On paper, it seems to me that Jabeni is the tribe least geared for challenges which puts them at risk of meeting Jeff at tribal. Secondly, Jeremy, the previous player to cross Natalie’s path, was sent packing. I feel like at this point it’ll be more useful to keep Natalie around, precisely because she’s getting under everyone’s skin. She’d continually be a target and an easy vote.
Furthermore, perhaps in the interest of Mike and Angelina, evidence points to Natalie wanting to stay Goliath strong. As they reach camp post-swap, she unabashedly reveals to the camera that she wants the Davids on Jabeni gone. I feel like the most recent elimination of Natalia on Vuku might cement original tribe lines, especially as we approach the merge. Should Jabeni go to tribal with an overt Natalie vs. Nick scenario, I suspect Mike will be the swing vote, determining whether to stick to his original Goliaths tribemates or his newly formed Rock Stars alliance with Nick. Based on his calculated confessional weighing the heavier risk he needs to take, I feel like that is foreshadowing of Mike choosing his original Goliath tribemates over the relative unknown in aligning with Nick.
We didn’t get any new information about the dynamics on the Tiva tribe from the preview trailers. However, based on the episode, I feel like Christian’s charmpocalyse is a success! I see a strong bro-bond forming between him and John. And with his number one ally Gabby, it looks like he’s in a safe position on Tiva.
The player I think is in the best position, however, is John. The Mayor of Slamtown has plenty of options! He can choose to work with Christian and Gabby; he can choose to stick with the Goliaths; he can pull both sides together… And with the almost public knowledge of Dan’s idol threat, he might very well be able to flush the idol before the merge. (Yes, I’m still waiting for my Dan blindside.)
I’m still trying to rationalise Alec’s move during tribal. The best I’ve reasoned is that perhaps he wasn’t plainly putting Kara and himself in a minority against three Davids. I predict Carl and Davie working together – a huge duo to be up against, no less, with a hidden immunity idol and an idol nullifier. But I don’t really see Elizabeth as a strong member of that alliance. Both Davie and Elizabeth threw each other under the bus at at least one point in the last episode, and Elizabeth blindsided Davie in the Jessica vote. I don’t see Davie trusting Elizabeth enough to properly work with her anymore.
For now, I see Alec aligning himself with Davie, and by extension Carl, in the majority. Even though the preview shows Kara reflecting on the blindside post-tribal, I don’t think she’s in much danger the next episode. She’s been portrayed as a socially charismatic, but also a self-aware player, and I believe she’ll be able to navigate the Vukus moving forward.
I mentioned that the line up of Jabeni seems the least suited for challenges on paper. However, looking at the immunity challenge press photos released on the CBS website, Angelina, John and Alec are seen neck and neck balancing and navigating the final puzzle portion of the immunity challenge. With the clear difficulty of the brand new ball puzzle, it seems like it’s anyone’s challenge to win.
I think that Jabeni will visit tribal council in either the next or following episode. The narrative and development of relationships there seem to be crafting some sort of face-off. Personally, I want Tiva to go to tribal too because it’ll be interesting to see how Christian and John operate on a smaller tribe.
Players most at risk? I’m guessing Nick for Jabeni, Elizabeth for Vuku, Dan for Tiva. Which tribe do you think is going to tribal? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!