Tribe swaps don’t just represent a mixing of the castaways; they represent a change in thought and strategy. Swaps also have the tendency to create chaos, turning those in power into targets and pawns into kings. Many strong players, Anna Khait, Aaron Reisberger, and Joel Anderson to name a few, have fallen victim to the swap. Now commonplace in the newer era of Survivor, swaps breathe new life into the monotony of the initial tribe phase.
This episode was no different, as everyone was sent scrambling to solidify numbers and alliances. When all was said and done, yet another #blindside flashed across our television screens, but the only person truly surprised was the one on their way to Ponderosa.
Wright or Wrong?
After a very questionable idol play at the previous tribal, David, along with fans everywhere, were left wondering if it was the right move. While Gen X’s resident #Tigermom was on her way to pre-jury ponderosa, Jessica, saved by David’s idol, was left to decide where her loyalty lied. Reading into the votes, Jessica pledges her loyalty to David and Ken.
Interestingly, it’s Ken and not David who has the conversation with Jessica after tribal. Apparently, Ken’s piercing glance at the previous tribal worked its magic. Putting her words into action, Jessica spills the beans on her Legacy Advantage to Ken, also pledging to will it to him if she is voted out. David’s move definitely was great for Ken, but Jessica not letting David in on the Legacy Advantage raises questions about her favorite member of her new alliance. Still, time will tell if this is the right move for David.
Idol Search Party
The efficacy of David’s play aside, the entirety of Gen X knew that a new idol was in play and all efforts the next day focus on finding it. With most of Gen X running around blindly, David’s knowledge of production’s hiding technique this season gives him a definite leg up. After narrowly escaping detection by Gen X’s new resident invisible female, Sunday, David sees the tribal logo on a mundane log and smashes it free. It’s clear that this season, knowledge of the idol hiding strategy will prove incredibly valuable. If those who know it can keep said information under lock and key, I think it leans toward players using idols far more frequently than in seasons past.
Drop Your Buffs
The first four episodes of this season have seemed like we were just watching the castaways go through the motions. While there have been some unexpected votes, both tribes had a clear majority and minority. When we got look-ins at both tribes, efforts focused more on the minority and their biding of time for a swap or merge. Four episodes in, the inevitable swap has been foreshadowed long enough, and I found myself begging for new interactions and dimensions inserted into the game. So, color me excited when Probst finally broke down the generational boundary and initiated the mixup of the tribes.
After a random drawing of new tribe buffs, the breakdown of tribes is as follows:
Vanua (former Millennial beach): CeCe, Chris, David, Zeke, Michelle.
Takali (former Gen X beach): Figgy, Taylor, Adam, Jessica, Ken.
Ika Bula (new beach): Michaela, Jay, Hannah, Sunday, Bret, Will.
Yes, there’s a third tribe. In the same vain as Survivor: Cambodia’s Angkor, Ika Bula is tasked with starting a camp from scratch without any food or supplies. If Cambodia is any indication, Ika Bula is destined for demise, unless another Hero Challenge happens. In an attempt to avoid this, Ika Bula receives a sixth member.
On the surface, Gen X’s 3-2 majority at Vanua would reign supreme over the two Millennials – Zeke and Michelle. As you break it down, however, the lines of allegiance are far more muddled. David and CeCe are aligned together, while Chris was on the outside, after voting incorrectly at the last two Gen X tribal councils. Additionally, of the two Millennials, Zeke and Michelle were in different alliances.
After introductory conversations, it’s Chris and Zeke who bond together, with both having roots in Oklahoma. Chris’ spot on the 2000 Sooner national championship team has Zeke exclaiming about him being one of his childhood heroes. This bond proves incredibly beneficial, as Chris informs Zeke of his minority position and set out to change the status quo.
A lot of the screentime so far has been dominated by the romance between Figgy and Taylor, and this didn’t change after a swap. The only difference, however, is the cast of people watching. Now on a tribe with Jessica and Ken, “Figtails” are forced to move their romance from one of openness to one of secrecy. While Taylor is still wearing his love goggles, Figgy opts to keep their relationship unknown to their new tribemates. This doesn’t stop Taylor from making lovey-dovey statements when nobody is looking or in earshot.
The way their romance is being played up, it seems almost certain that it’s going to be revealed and become a death-knell to their game. This is certainly possible with Adam’s idol and/or Jessica and Ken aligning together earlier in the episode.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
From the onset, it was clear that the concept of Ika Bula wasn’t well received. The moment that it’s announced, the camera pans to Michaela, sporting an angry look. This look is only exacerbated, as Michaela is revealed as one of the six members of Ika Bula. The 4-2 split in favor of the former Millennials isn’t a factor in comparison to the massive amount of work ahead of them at their new camp.
The major question from the outside would quickly become: would Ika Bula become Angkor 2.0 or a success story? This conundrum would be quickly personified in the form of the fire, which, as Survivor is always apt to remind us, represents life. After countless attempts, potentially the unlikeliest of candidates, Michaela, sparks a fire for Ika Bula. With fire, Ika Bula becomes a place of opportunity in the game, instead of purgatory.
While fire is essential for life, water bears equal weight. To me, water is the most valuable resource or element in Survivor. Castaways spend most of their day boiling water or preparing a fire to ready it. They build shelters to actively avoid rain, which, was powerful enough to evacuate them from the game. This season, however, water has shown it’s true power in challenges. Last week this was on full display, as the waves thrashed players around as they battled each other to move rings. Even Probst took his knocks, as a wave had its way with the host.
In the first chance for the three new tribes to prove themselves, the water, again, turns out to be a major factor. In a challenge that has contestants swimming to buoys and diving down to retrieve them, an utterly resounding statement rings true: the vast majority of these contestants are terrible swimmers. And yes, I’m accounting for the fact that they have been out there for almost two weeks with minimal food and water. The ability to swim and dive becomes paramount in this challenge, where a tribe with decent swimmers gains a massive lead on one with far inferior ones. This lead proves to be the difference in the challenge, as Vanua are unable to overcome the deficit in the basketball portion and book their ticket to tribal.
CeCe-ce You Later
Following their pitiful challenge performance (well, shy of Zeke and Chris), Vanua is left scrambling to figure out who should be voted out. Two main trains of thought arise: should loyalty or challenge prowess be valued? It quickly appears that Zeke and Chris, the two who performed the best in the challenge, are the ones in charge. Despite his poor performance in the challenge, David’s proactive scheming keeps him safe, leaving CeCe and Michelle as the two under fire.
Both CeCe and Michelle enter tribal under the impression that the other is going, so, for the most part, it’s a fairly cut and dry tribal. I don’t think anyone would exclaim that this tribal was “live.” In the end, Michelle is spared, despite almost blowing it for herself by openly targeting David, and it’s CeCe who falls victim to the swap.
On the whole, this was a great episode in that it set the table for events to come. Most importantly, it set the precedent that the Gen X and Millennial division isn’t the end-all-be-all.