It’s the merge! Because of the unconventional swap that happened three episodes ago, we didn’t see much of a shake-up converging the original Manu and Kama tribes; this week will essentially be the first time we see the remaining players interact across the original tribe boundaries. After watching the Next Time on Survivor and preview trailers, I’ll be making my predictions for what’s to come in the merge episode.
First up, let’s delve a bit into the Edge of Extinction. The central twist of the season will be made known to all players in the game this week, as we see Jeff announcing the arrival of the eliminated players and inviting them into the challenge grounds. Of course, this comes as a surprise to the 12 remaining contestants, who have voted out their ex-tribemates with the assumption that there wasn’t going to be repercussions. Going down the list of Extinction castaways, we can make a guess at how they would act, should they re-enter the game.
Reem, Keith, and Chris, to me, seem like pretty prototypical spurned players, clearly by having their elimination by the original Manu tribe. Especially for Chris, who was utterly blindsided by his alliance in episode 3. I predict these three won’t be receptive to working with their ex-tribemates if they re-enter the game.
Rick Devens is an interesting case because his elimination came down to the loose Lesu alliance having to send one of themselves home. I think he’ll continue working with his closest ally David, but might be wary of Wardog, Lauren, Wentworth, who voted him out.
Aubry was blindsided hard by the new Manu tribe last week – I highly doubt she’ll trust Victoria, Gavin, and Eric, and perhaps by extension, Julie, Julia, and Ron who were aligned with them before the swap.
And lastly, we have Wendy, who, as usual, is a wild card.
A large part of the merge episode previews sneaked us a glance of the challenge that these six players are going to participate in. In episode 5, Chris got an advantage on Extinction – three bamboo rods with string attached to it, a section of the challenge for him to practice with. And in episode 6, Keith grabbed a second advantage right before Reem could, that would allow him to “penalise [his] biggest threat by assigning these knots to them.” He also mentioned that “Chris is in trouble,” implying that Keith’s going to assign the disadvantage to Chris.
Despite the possible set back, I think Chris still looks the most poised to win the challenge. From what we’ve seen of him in the first three episodes, he was one of, if not the strongest member of Manu, often stepping up in individual portions of their tribe challenges. As such, based on past challenge performance, I think Chris has the upper hand amongst the six contestants.
Another contender to re-enter the game for me would be Devens, as I feel like he had a big enough presence edit-wise and perhaps some unfinished storylines before he was voted out – one of them being his pact with David in episode 1 to be allies till the end of the game. That being said, weighing between Devens and Chris, I am still more inclined to believe Chris returns. I feel like a case can also be made to frame these “unfinished” narratives as ones that have concluded. For instance, David not voting Devens out cemented their tight alliance and closed the story of the duo sticking together. Ultimately, I think past evidence of winning challenges serves as a better indicator than my feeble attempt at reading edits and sequences. (That’s Martin’s expertise, stay tuned for Season 39 Edgic!)
As for the rest of the cast, I think the six Kama new players – Gavin, Eric, Victoria, Julie, Ron, Julia – will reunite in the post-merge. I think Lesu might stay together as an alliance for a while, but I don’t see them together in the long run. It has been stated multiple times that Joe and Aurora (and Aubry) are on the outs of Kama, so it’s likely they join the Lesu camp of players come the merge. All in all, I predict two large factions, somewhat according to original tribal lines. But I think these would be fluid boundaries, as there might be a couple of players hopping over to the opposite sides – Wardog, David, Victoria, perhaps.
The merge episode is always an exciting one that sets the tone for the next half of the season. Leave a comment below with your predictions!