It seems a lot of the Survivor fan base stopped watching Survivor New Zealand before the merge. That’s a real shame as the game post-merge is just as dynamic as an American season (maybe not big moves era Survivor but what do you expect from Season 1). Alliances are shifting week to week making it an unpredictable game. My fears of a Pagonging were thankfully not realized and at this point, it really is anyone’s game.
All the boring camp life scenes of the pre-merge are paying off now as each character is someone to root for. There are no Purple Kellys this season. If you’ve stopped watching the NZ series and for some reason are reading this recap, give the show another chance. It’s just getting good, and I’m sure there’s more craziness to come.
Avi’s blow up that was hyped in the preview was as anticlimactic as I thought it would be. He didn’t really go off and came across more like an annoyed substitute teacher than the typical reality show contestant. “I feel like such a f***ing fool. I thought I could just be nice and trusting. I thought I could just trust people, but I guess that’s not how this stupid game goes,” says Avi. It frustrates me when I hear people in the community saying Avi’s playing the best game. I still don’t know what game he’s playing. It’s not “New Zealand’s next best friend,” it’s Survivor, a game that necessitates lying, backstabbing and taking out threats.
Avi is still upset about the Sala blindside the next day and is in full angry girlfriend mode, giving the tribe the silent treatment. He pouts on the beach not speaking to anyone and taking out his anger on his journal, writing twenty pages about the tribal council. He sits on the rocks stewing that the people actually playing the game are undeserving. With Sala sent to Redemption Island, Avi gets a bigger share of the winner’s edit. Avi has a “moving” confessional about how the prize money will go to giving his students a better life.
The audience is supposed to see RV (as Mike calls him) as a saint and I’m sure WHEN Avi makes it to the final three this same pitch will work on the likes of Nate and Sala. These stories have little impact on me and do little to convince me they are a worthy winner. Keep your stories of dying loved ones or need for the money out of it; gameplay first and foremost should be rewarded.
There’s a new power structure on Casar. The Barbfather sits in the hammock blissfully taking in the Nicaraguan sea breeze. One by one the castaways go to her making their pitch for the next vote and doing their best to get on her good side. Barb was a sitting duck before the merge; she now sits in full control. That’s what I love about this game. Power shifts vote to vote, and anyone can change the game if they put enough work in. Avi, Sala, and Shay learned the hard way not to underestimate the people you’re playing with.
Shannon is going through an internal struggle. She’s been playing the game logically, taking out the threats standing between her and the money. After Avi’s stern talking to, Shannon is starting to question her approach and regrets flipping (which time?!); this is probably a debate she should have had after the Lee and Mike vote offs. It’s a bit too late after your third betrayal.
Sala is content on Redemption Island as he no longer has to participate in mind games. I’m sure if Sala had his way he wouldn’t have to vote anyone out and at the end of forty days he’d still end up getting the money for being a top bloke. “People use the game as an excuse to lie and deceive,” says Sala. I never understand people that go on reality TV and expect people to play fair. Being a “good person” and relying on concepts like mateship aren’t enough to win this game. On a side note, my phone doesn’t recognize “mateship” as a word, and we all should do the same.
The whole tribe gets to witness the Redemption Island duel. This has got to be an audible from production to maximize the drama. They are desperate for Mike to confront Shannon finally and wouldn’t mind Sala guilt tripping the tribe for not letting him skip gingerly to the final three to collect his cheque. But the producers don’t really get the drama they were after. Sala just asked his core alliance if they knew he was being voted out and Avi spits out that he misses Sala in a sappy interaction.
Mike gets the opportunity to address Shannon standing in the rain with thunder clapping. It would be epic if us Kiwis weren’t such a laid back people. The gist of Mike’s speech is that Shannon is a liar and fake. When you compare it to moments like Rupert almost choking Jonny Fairplay in the darkness after tribal council or the Lex meltdown in All-Stars, it’s all fairly forgettable and uneventful.
Shannon owns up to her game and says she didn’t want her Survivor dream being decided by a rock draw. I totally understand Shannon’s dilemma. You love this game, watch it religiously, listen to forty hours of podcasts a week that dissect the game and then after seventeen years you actually get to play it. Who would leave their dream in the hands of fate? I do however have problems with how Shannon dealt with the situation. She straddled the fence, pledging loyalty to all sides. To win Survivor you only need to do two things, get to the end and get the votes. I’m skeptical Shannon can do either of those things.
The Redemption Island duel is a memory challenge where they must match pairs of symbols. It takes five matches to win. Going into the duel I’m conflicted, I’ve been banging on about Sala’s obvious winner’s edit since the first episode, and like any Survivor-prognosticator would love to be proven right. I’ve gotten behind Mike the last few episodes though. Part of me wants Mike to do what Ozzy couldn’t do, come back from Redemption and win the game avoiding getting his hands dirty for most of the game. I want to see someone do that…. ONCE.
Sala is quite clearly not a fan of the Dom and Colin podcast as he would have done the optimal strategy of limiting his opponents knowledge. He instead flips over tiles randomly exposing the layout of the board to Mike. Mike easily gets five matches due to Sala’s lack of strategy and stays alive for a few more days. Shay is in tears, most likely upset she can no longer ride Sala’s coattails to the end. Sala leaves the game staying true to himself, playing with honor every day he was there. Where did that get him?
I have no sympathy for Sala. He was the architect of his own demise. At the tribe swap, he could have thrown the challenge to take out Shannon or his alliance could have taken her out at the merge vote. Doing either of those things would have increased Sala’s longevity in the game. He kept Shannon out of some misguided idea about loyalty even though he had no plans of taking her to the end. Shannon knew that and took him out first; Sala only has himself to blame.
We’re half an hour into an hour and a half episode, and someone’s already been sent home. I wonder what will fill the rest of the airtime. I wouldn’t put it past TVNZ to show an hour of monotonous camp life or introduce a twist to bring Sala back into the game. Otherwise, his glorious winner’s edit makes no sense.
The tribe discusses the memory challenge back at camp which is halted when Shannon bursts into tears. If her constant flipping hasn’t lost her jury votes, this Dawn Meehan style emotional breakdown won’t be much to help. Shay sticks to Shannon like white on “Gallo” – great strategy from Shay. She’s down in the numbers and needs allies, and it’s the perfect time to take advantage of Shannon’s vulnerable emotional state. Her motives are completely transparent to the tribe and the audience at home, yet masterful gameplayer Shannon falls for the sales pitch joining a minority alliance of three and flipping once again. Great work Shannon you absolutely deserve the internets adulation
There’s another immunity challenge which explains why there was time left in the episode. The tribe listen to a history lesson about the region and then race to five stations to answer multiple choice questions. The first to five wins immunity. Lou’s medevac deprived us of comedy gold. Imagine Lou competing in a historical quiz; it would be a bubblier Rudy Boesch “I dunno.”
Most of the tribe struggle with the challenge, getting multiple answers wrong. Watching it at home, I struggled to get the right answer, and I had the show highlight key dates and names. The challenge can’t be easy after a month of starvation and lack of sleep. The only one not having a problem is Tom who easily wins immunity for the second consecutive time. It’s an impressive win, but it was mostly due to the rest of the tribe’s incompetence.
It looks like Mike could reenter the game, so some members of Casar want to weaken his position if he manages to return from Redemption. Their plan is to take out Jak. “While Michael’s there let’s keep feeding him his mates,” says Natedog.
Jak decides to wear his loincloth to tribal. Jak is a jokester, but he’s perceptive and always has a good read on the game; with Tom wearing the immunity necklace he must know that he’s a possible target so wants to go out in style. He’s often used humor to disarm his opponents so maybe this off the wall tactic can keep him in the game for three more days. It at least has some effect as Nate feels badly wanting to tell Jak he’s writing his name down. The rest of the tribe talk Nate out of going through with that horrible idea, and we head off to tribal council.
Not much of note went on at tribal. The usual stock answers about trust and playing the game. Jak goes into battle with his pet rock Fred Flinstone, his cheeks on full display. His attire is a good metaphor for his position in the game; he’s exposed. He’s brave to let it all hang out, but there’s no hiding the fear on his face. Jak has put on a show for most of the game, acting the fool to lower the guards of those around him and appear less of a threat. Zeke from Millennials vs. Gen-X said tribal was theater and this is turning into the performance of Jak’s life. There’s fear in his eyes, yet he keeps up his brave facade. Despite a valiant effort, Jak is still sent home in a unanimous vote. The possibility of Mike reentering was too threatening, and he needed to be weakened. Jak’s final moments are the same as his first, cheeky. What a way to go out.