Lack of trust leads to a last minute vote change at tribal council in a truly alive episode of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng.
In recent Survivor seasons, it has become somewhat of a trend to turn tribal council into its own chamber of strategy. It used to be that plans were locked in before castaways picked up their torches and took the dreaded walk to tribal. Changing a vote at tribal council was a very rare occurrence. But more and more recently we’ve seen plans change on the fly and clear strategy discussions happen right in front of Jeff Probst’s eyes. Probst himself has gone on record as stating that he loves when a tribal council is “alive.” He was undoubtedly delighted then with this week’s tribal outcome.
The story of Peter Baggenstos and the Brains tribe was always heading towards disaster. It just wasn’t quite obvious whether Peter would be the cause of that disaster or the cost of that disaster. It turns out he was both. Ever since his failed uprising with former partner in crime Liz Markham, Peter has been itching for revenge on his Brains comrades. While sticking together for numerical advantage seemed the most logical option, when Julia Sokolowski returned from exile and joined the new Gondol tribe, Peter saw his opportunity to stick the knife in his former Brains. Except the art of subtly is lost on Peter, and he made his scheming as blatantly obvious as Anna Khait did last week.
Peter eventually backed down from his plan of attack after being berated by former FBI agent Joe Del Campo. Peter looked like a scared little boy being yelled at by his granddad for lying about finishing all his vegetables. Things took an interesting turn however when Aubry Bracco learned that Peter had been throwing out her name as a target. Aubry is someone that up until this point has always tried to make the most logical move for her game. She has followed the numbers, remained a loyal ally, and acquiesced to the plan’s of others even if against her desires. This tribal council was a pivotal moment for the Brown graduate, as she had the choice to continue on the path she had been going down, or carve out a new direction for her game.
What made the decision even more compelling was that it took place in the moment at tribal council. As Scot Pollard mouthed “Original plan” to Julia and Tai Trang, the camera was intently focused on Aubry’s reactions. Probst and the producers milked the tension for all that it was worth. The prodding by Probst. The whispered conversations. The choice to show Aubry write her “Julia” vote before taking a dramatic pause. It was all building up to the reveal of Aubry’s vote – a crossed out “Julia” with “Pete” scribbled underneath. It might have been this season’s first great moment and provided a welcome downfall for the arrogant Doctor.
The dynamics over on the Chan Loh tribe were as equally compelling and entertaining. You got the sense that had Chan Loh lost the immunity challenge that their tribal council would have been just as fascinating and alive. After messing up part of the reward challenge, former Beauty Michele Fitzgerald had her breakout episode of the season. There have been countless players in the past that have tanked their games after a poor challenge performance, but Michele took a timeout to compose herself and returned focused and determined to salvage her game. She did what she has been doing from the start, using her social skills to build bonds. She quickly put that to work with part-time model Debbie Wanner, another break-out star of the season, and we once again heard Debbie claim she wants a woman to win this game.
There has been an undercurrent of strong females this season that is developing into a theme. There was the consistent focus on the Beauty girl’s alliance. Alecia Holden’s edit of never giving up and standing her ground against the men of her tribe. Cydney Gillon’s content has focused a lot on her physical, and now mental, strength. Michele continued that theme this episode. If Peter wasn’t providing enough unearned arrogance for you over on Gondol beach, then look no further than Nick Maiorano. Michele confessional’s quickly undercut Nick’s condescending attitude towards her when she explained that she knew what he was doing and how she would play along until the time comes to make a move. “I’m a strong, independent woman… I don’t need to be carried, bro” could well be the defining line of the season.
It speaks to how well this tribe shuffle went that it left us with multiple interesting dynamics. On Chan Loh we were left wondering if the Brawns would side with Beauties or Brains, or if the Beauties and Brains would team up against the Brawns. On Gondol we saw the former Brains fall apart after some last minute decision making. Heading into the merge next week we have 4 Brains, 4 Beauties, and 3 Brawns, and various personal relationships mixed within. It has the potential to be one of the all-time great merge episodes. Last week we said this season still has life in it, and this week proved it is well and truly alive.