We’re back, back in a big way! We are beginning to wind down the season, as we are now getting a tribal per episode, which varies from the usual one per week. This week’s episode was also different, as we did not have a Redemption Island duel after a vote out. This would lead you to believe that next week will we be getting a returnee from the battle arena, which would make sense, as they are not coming back into the game at such a late point that is too an unfair advantage.
I really hope people have continued watching this season, as it just keeps getting better, we have so many likable characters, and the gameplay is getting better for sure. As I do not live in New Zealand anymore, I am not sure how well the show is being received, but for the sake of the series, I hope it has had rave reviews.
The only time we get to see the inhabitants of Redemption Island this episode is in the first scene. Jak brings his nude body to his mate Mike so they can spend a night of pure bliss together in the Nicaraguan forest. But really, Mike is just happy that he keeps getting cool people sent to him on Redemption. He is finding grace in not being in the craziness of the game, as he thinks people have no idea what they are doing back at camp.
He is partly correct too. This game has shifted to such a voting bloc system. We have Nate and Barb, Avi and Shay, Shay and Shannon, and Tom by himself now without Jak. There is no clear path to take next, other than getting Tom out if he doesn’t win immunity, which we have seen isn’t as easy as it sounds. I like how this game has shaped up; there are so many paths it can go down from here.
Back at camp, Avi is flabbergasted that Barb is the one running the show. I see how he could be confused, but he then goes on to say she is a goat to take to the end because she hasn’t done anything besides make the biggest move of the game. I’m not sure Avi understands, but that is exactly what you need to do to win this game, well usually. He goes on to say they need to take her out solely because they are scared of who she will target next. I wish I could just tell Avi that he is right with the idea to take her out, but his reasoning is flawed. You need to take her out because she now has a resume, which is more than a lot of these players can say.
We also get to see how much Shannon and Shay’s relationship has blossomed. Survivor is a funny game. You can reason with someone for the entire day and have it not work, but you could also just be there for them when they are down on themselves, and that could be the difference for you to get them on your side. This reminded me of when Terry Dietz went out to sit with Abi-Maria on the beach in Survivor: Cambodia. You can continue playing the game while also showing human emotion, especially when you can use it to your advantage.
Shannon and Shay now seem very tight, combine that with the fact that they have Avi on their side and they only need to swing one more. Nate is approached by both Avi and Shannon to get Barb out of the game. I think this was a big mistake. Anyone could see Nate and Barb have been tight the entire game. Don’t go to someone’s closest ally to get them to flip!
Nate does seem to buy this slightly though. “It’s an interesting game where leaders are targeted, but no one actually wants to lead. So you shoot the leader,” he says. It’s a great viewpoint of the game and very true. I think the last sentence needs to be modified though to “So you either shoot the leader or use them as protection for yourself.” Sure Nate could help take out a big threat, but that big threat is his number one ally and is protection for him.
We continue to the challenge, which to our surprise is an immunity challenge and not a duel. This must mean it is the last challenge before the Redemption Island player reenters the game. In this challenge, you must race into the jungle to untie bags filled with smaller sandbags. You then need to throw five of them into square boxes at differing lengths away. I must say these challenges have not been very post-merge like, I feel like after the merge the challenges turn into endurance or balance challenges. These have been more along the lines of athleticism and coordination. That helps the stronger men, who usually will falter once merge challenges begin.
With that said, Tom runs away with this challenge. It is his third straight immunity win, which puts him into the territory of the record of five, which he could very well get to and maybe even surpass.
After the challenge, Tom goes to work. He gets his old mate Avi to trust him again. Not only that, but he gets him to mistrust his closest ally Shay by telling Avi she said she does not want to take him to the end (a true statement). Tom obtained this information by calling a truce with Shay and then beginning to bond. The truce is not a very meaningful one; he still intends to take out Shay’s new sidekick, Shannon. This would weaken Shay and make Avi need Tom more. It is a smart move for Tom, for everyone else, not so much.
Tom needs any help he can get other than immunities to reach the end. Why not get in an alliance of three with your only remaining friend just for some chance that if you lose, you may not be a dead man walking? For the others, Shannon is the true goat; most of the people who will end up on the jury hate her. People who aren’t going to vote for her may just vote for you instead. She also has completely checked out of the game already, as she doesn’t even feel like she is playing anymore. I don’t see it as a smart move to get rid of this person at all.
It becomes clear that the vote will be either for Barb or Shannon. Tom and Avi look to be the deciding factors. As Tom worked Avi’s trusting of others so well this episode, he is able to sway him towards voting out Shannon. Shannon gets voted out 4-2 and Mike will finally get to take on his main enemy in a duel.
Next week, we get the three-way duel. It is a classic Survivor challenge of holding your arm above your head as long as possible. I believe this means the person who wins will rejoin the game, but you never know with Survivor. Tom also seems to be caught double dealing by Shay, and we may finally get to see their hatred of each other come to an end, with on of them getting voted out.
I also just wanted to lay out my prediction for how the rest of the season will play out.
I would love to see it come down to a Tom and Mike dogfight for the final spot in the Final Tribal Council. I think Avi and Barb will also find their way there, and all three would have very strong cases to win the game, which definitely would not hurt the overall series ratings.
Avi, the loveable youth leader, playing the honorable game for his kids and not backstabbing people whom he has become close with. Is it a game I think deserving of the win? No, not really. It’s a good social game for sure, and if the other people he is sitting with are despised enough he would win. But I don’t think we have many people left who are hated so much by others. I would say Shay and Tom maybe? I think Tom would have won respect though through challenge victories. I just can’t get over the edit he is getting. He is getting the edit of a guy who comes up just short in the end, but that everyone wants to win. Nothing would surprise me at this point, but I don’t see him taking home the gold.
Barb, the underestimated mom who no one gave a shot in hell to win. Would she deserve to be there? Hell yes. Is she incredibly lucky she didn’t have to go to tribal when she was a sitting duck in the pre-merge? Hell yes, but Survivor is a game of luck. She pulled the biggest move of the season thus far and was not afraid to go after the nicest guy in the game because of mateship. She understands strategy extremely well, and not often do you see an older woman running this game, and I for one love it.
Tom and Mike are pretty interchangeable to me. Both are challenge beasts, both were overshadowed by their partner in crime (Jak and Georgia), and both think they are really good at the strategic part of the game, but I’m not so sure about that. I tend to root for Tom, as he was not voted out of the game at all, was targeted since Day 1, and has learned to fit in well with the people he is with.
But, we may get to see the Redemption Island twist pay off. If Mike can come back into the game after avoiding all the controversy and drama and continue to win his way into the final, he would be the clear winner. I think Mike is a likable enough guy and the casual audience does tend to like the good-looking, athletic guy (Joe Anglim, Malcolm Freberg, Ozzy Lusth etc.).
With all that said, I think Tom will be your first winner of Survivor New Zealand. Let’s see if I am right, and if not you can all make fun of me.