Hey Inside Survivors, it’s me, Ian, again. Your regularly scheduled recapper, Martin Holmes, is still enjoying some time away on vacation, but he’ll be back next week to reclaim the seat I’ve been keeping warm for him while he’s away. In the meantime, I get the privilege of breaking down part two of the merge of this very solid season, which had a great combination of smart and silly gameplay to go around.
This episode’s vote may not have been a blindside to the audience, but it was certainly to Nick Maiorano, who had his torched snuffed after visiting his first and only tribal council of the season. However, the lack of mystery surrounding the vote is what contributed to the episode’s overall strength, as the show put together a well-told and compelling story of how the vote eventually came together, from idea to execution. Nick was not the merge boot at the top of the hour, but he became the merge boot by the end of it, and this episode did an excellent job of explaining how that happened.
Nick’s demise was mostly thanks to some impressive play from Cydney Gillon. For the last few weeks, Cydney had been hanging back, letting her status as one of the members of the Matsing tribe of the season, the Brawn tribe, speak for itself. Just riding the waves of the game put her in a good position at the merge, and she looked poised for an easy path for the next couple rounds, with the seven-person Brawn/Beauty majority seeking to pick off the outlying three Brains people.
As this episode progressed, it became apparent that Nick was becoming chummy with her fellow Brawns Kyle Jason and Scot Pollard, which may have been what started to arouse her suspicions. As it turns out, that trio’s suspicions were equally raised about an all-female alliance, so much so that Nick had to conduct his one-on-one chat with Julia Sokolowski to make sure the all girl thing wasn’t on the table. However, it was those side convos, plus Nick’s general sense of sketchiness, what ended up putting Cydney on the offensive, so by the time the tribal council was approaching, she was ready to make a move of her own.
The way Cydney pulled off this move was quite excellent. Firstly, she approached the three Brains people; a very intelligent choice considering their position on the bottom. In a callback to last season (and remember this was before Voting Blocs became a thing), Cydney recognized the three people on the bottom and looked to them to help make her move. Once she had their votes secured, that gave her the opportunity she needed to go to Julia and Michele Fitzgerald, who were in with the majority, and pitch them on her new plan. With this move, instead of being in a precarious spot in a seven-person majority, Cydney pulled people from opposing factions to form a new majority, cementing herself right at the top of this new power group. Sure, she is now more exposed than before she made this move, but she also has more options and more opportunity to shape the game in the direction she wants it to go, and sometimes that’s all you need to put yourself in a winning position.
Speaking of putting yourself in a winning position, Nick did not do that this week with the massive amounts of hubris he demonstrated this episode. Time after time, he talked openly about how outnumbered the Brains were, and how there was nothing they could do about it, and just how supremely confident he was in his group’s plan to take them out. To be fair, he was kind of self-aware that he was coming off as arrogant, which is exactly the reason why Nick was an intriguing player to watch this season. As a super fan with an extensive knowledge of the game, Nick was here to play and knew exactly the right ways to play up to the camera, give a good soundbite, and craft his character for the TV show in a way that wasn’t contrived or over the top. Instead, he was a knowingly smug, mid-level villain that embraced the deviousness and duplicity the game of Survivor requires, and that made for a fun Survivor character.
Nick’s richness of character speaks to the overall level of quality of depth that all of the castaways have this season. Almost every player that’s still left has had some effort put into developing their story. Not all of them are the fabled “winner’s edit” but a lot of them feel like they have long term legs, more than it usually should feel like with nine people left. Even the big-time villains of the season, Jason and Scot, had some time delving into their softer sides, with Jason talking about his autistic child and Scot sharing the situation about his mom. After this vote, they’re seemingly on the outs, but they still feel like they got more story in them beyond the next episode.
With Cydney’s power move, the game is now much more wide open than it was last week, and it’s going to be exciting to see this next chapter unfold. Until next week, Inside Survivor readers!