Who doesn’t love a good blindside? In this episode, we had arguably the best gameplay of the season so far, we lost a fan favorite, and the game has immediately taken a pivot.
The episode starts with Mike on Redemption Island, as we are becoming accustomed to after a victory in the battle arena. He has two things on his mind. His disdain for Shannon, which is still alive and well, as his game fell apart solely on her shoulders. And his other thought is for his boo. He is reminiscing about how Georgia was on the same plot of land he is currently only two or three days prior to his being there. He clearly misses her, and her boyfriend should definitely be worried, but still, he is much more focused on Shannon, and if only she could find her way to Redemption to face him.
If this season of Survivor has proven anything to me, it is that the raw emotion of being voted off of your tribe is so real. Almost every player that has been voted out this season has been so angry with their peers, vowing to have vengeance on those who betrayed them. I think in a normal season we do not get to see how this affects players as much until the end of the season at the final tribal council, or in Ponderosa videos. Survivor New Zealand has done a good job portraying the passion for the game a lot of these players have.
When we get back to camp, everyone seems to be going through a mid-game crisis. It is Day 23, and people are starting to get sick of each other. Avi, in particular, has had enough of being trapped with the same people in the same space. Shannon says, “We feel like prisoners.” I understand their complaints, but I do not feel sorry one bit for them. You are playing the greatest game on the planet, and you are complaining about it? Sure, I will ease your pain and vote you off then.
We then get a rare moment from Sala. Sala opens up about how he is the luckiest man in the whole world. He says he has the best wife and greatest kids. He is not out here for the money, but it would not hurt his family life at home. This whole confessional felt different to me; it was like they wanted to make sure everyone knew Sala is such a great guy and was not playing up his honesty and relationships for the camera. He was painted in the light of a man of honor. And while I think every person watching knew he was genuine before this, this felt like it was a goodbye from Sala. It felt like he was so well respected and enjoyed that he deserved to speak his peace in his last days.
With so much time to fill in these episodes, we always get some humor around camp to be shown on television. Last episode it was Shannon trying to cut open a coconut, this episode it was Jak performing his food dance in a loincloth that left little to the imagination. While this was a fun little performance, I don’t think the assless chaps on Jak was something I needed to see.
We get a confessional from Shannon about how she is unsure if it is better to stick with Barb’s plan to take out Sala or whether she should go for Tom. I get her unsteadiness here, but she has to stop being so wishy-washy. Just last episode she had Sala and then Avi on her hit list, and now she is strategizing with Avi about what to do. She has already alienated half the tribe by voting against them after acting as their ally, and now she is looking to do so again. She even wants to throw Barb under the bus for her plan to take out Sala, that she is a part of!.
Shannon is sadly turning into a goat to take to the end, as people will not respect the backstabbing she has been doing. I don’t necessarily agree with this, as we have seen people switch back and forth between alliances and win before, see Cops R Us duo Sarah and Tony, but the average Survivor New Zealand player takes these moves way more to heart than those in the American version. As I stated in the beginning, we have seen how these moves have affected the players, and because of that, I don’t think the game she is playing will give her the opportunity to win sadly.
At the immunity challenge, we have an elimination round type of game. In the first round, you have to dig for a stick to break your lamp with. Two things I noted from this, digging in the wet sand is brutal; what a tricky move by the producers. And after breaking the clay or glass material, they just kept running through it. This is such an easy way to slice open your foot and be done with the game. In the next round, the players had to dig and slide under a table with a mouthful of water in order to fill up a jug. As only three players could advance, and as Nate and Jak were too horizontally challenged to slide under, it was a race between four people. In the end, Tom, Avi, and Shannon advanced.
In the final round, we saw a classic Survivor challenge where the players must stack four blocks and have none of the same colors on any side. It is a tricky challenge, and one I would suggest every person wanting to play Survivor know how to do. Ultimately Tom won the challenge, securing his safety and making Jak the sole player not in the group of six that could receive votes.
This is exactly what Sala, Shay, and Avi are thinking, vote out Jak because it is an easy vote. The others play along with this plan. Jak even acts so melancholy that he refrains from speaking as much, to give the look of hopelessness to these tight three. These three have become complacent. You can never become complacent in Survivor, especially when you are an extremely tight three who have willfully told everyone else you will not vote for one another. One of the most dangerous things in Survivor is a close couple, are they not seeing that they are even more threatening as a tight three?
The new Queen of the Island, Barb, for certain sees this, and she wants to change the game up a little bit. I don’t blame her one bit. Had she gone along with the six, she probably ends up in 4th or 5th. So why not get rid of them, before they can get rid of you? She pulls together her closest ally, the two outcasts, and Shannon to form a five to vote off the lovable Sala. The only problem with this plan is Nate has come to enjoy Sala’s company so much that he does not want to vote him off. So will he flip back and force a tie? Or will he unwilling go along with the plan?
At tribal, we get quotes from both Sala and Nate about how the hardest part of the game has been breaking relationships that have been formed with others. And from Nate’s side, he says he did not expect this to be the case when he started the game, but it has become true. When it comes time to vote, Nate is indeed unable to write down his good friends name. But he doesn’t flip either. He uses a throwaway vote on Shannon, in order to complete the 4-3-1 vote to get out Sala.
I have two things to say. First, Sala was a joy to watch and was really an uplifting soul in the game; he will be missed if he is unable to beat Mike next week. Second, that is a soft move by Nate. His alliance should not be too happy with him as he did not commit to them fully and could have cost them the vote had Shannon went with the other three instead.
Next time, we get to see the Queen of the Beach take control of her troops directing them to do as they are told. We will also have a terrific Redemption Island battle, but I think Mike is the real deal for now. And lastly, the repercussions of the vote seem to hit Avi hard, as he unleashes on his fellow tribemates about how they broke his trust. It should be another good one!