Only two episodes to go, and they should be eventful due to the setup from this current episode. But that is just what this episode is – a setup. As much drama as there could have been come the final three, it was dissipated because of the unknown looming at Redemption Island.
I think it was a big mistake by the producers to wait until the final three to bring back two players. I like the switch to bring back two instead of one, but it should have happened last week. Making the final three is such an important accomplishment in the game of Survivor, and three people accomplished that already this season, but they may not be guaranteed to be there when it matters. The move will still work out because they got back the people they probably wanted, sorry Jak. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We begin the episode with Queen Barb coming back from immunity after being crowned with her first win of the season. Everyone seems genuinely happy for her; the older woman winning the challenge is definitely something that you don’t see every day in this game. Winning the final four immunity yields tremendous power for the victor.
Funny enough, Barb has been quite powerful already in this game, before having won the biggest immunity thus far. I think she has played herself off as not having done much, but she has been a significant force in voting out Sala and Shay, two big threats. She is the only person to have voted correctly every single time since the merge. But apparently, that seems to be a bad thing in this version of the game. As you can see at the final four tribal council, she is able to plead her case very well, saying how she has been playing everyone like telling children to brush their teeth.
And my favorite theory about Barb, that has yet to come to fruition and that I keep yearning for her to say, is that she has ulterior motives for wanting to go to the end with Avi and Tom. She keeps saying she wants one of them to win, but could she not be building up their ego so much that they only worry about one another and not her? I just built out her case in the paragraph above. If we were going strategy wise, there would be no reason not to consider her to be the first sole Survivor.
I think the way this season is being played will not help Barb out, as you could see from the faces on the jury when Barb said she had been pulling the strings the whole time and people looked disgusted. But in any normal season, she would be very much up for consideration. In this season, it looks like Mike or Tom will be hard to beat as people can respect what they have done to get this far in the game.
But back to the game, Nate is on the chopping block, and he seems very content to go out on Day 35. I can’t say I understand the rolling over and dying method but who am I to judge. I think the only real play he has is to build up Tom and Avi so much about their chances of winning the game, that Barb sees this and decides he is right and Tom needs to go. This, of course, would only force a fire making challenge though, as getting Avi to turn on his best friend (again) would crush his only string of hope left to win the game.
After the emotional reality of having to vote out her closest friend the entire game, Barb pulls the trigger on yet another victim and votes Nate out. So here is where another one of my crazy theories comes into play. Barb had two smart reasons to vote out Nate here. Number 1: keep her word to go with Avi and Tom to the end. Number 2: don’t let Tom get to Redemption Island, take out Mike, and have an even stronger resume when he comes back in the game pissed off at you. Now that she has kept her word and stopped Tom from building himself up even more, she can act differently come the real final four tribal council.
The rest of the episode mostly took place on the glorious Redemption Island beach. We got to watch Jak and Mike absolutely lose their minds. This was actually quite entertaining. Everything Jak says I laugh at, and when he’s going insane but still smiling because he can’t cry, it made it so much more amusing. And they are both entirely right when they say they are playing patience, not Survivor. But since you can’t feel too bad for them as they are still playing Survivor and I would switch places in a second, you can’t help but laugh at their pain.
Once Nate joins them for the night, we learn about how Mike and Nate each have no hard feelings towards one another and would love to be friendly pals. Wink wink, hint hint from the editors here. Nate expresses his genuine amazement of how Mike has lasted 17 days on the island by mostly himself, as he hated it after just one day. We also get Mike’s Rules of Redemption Island. Don’t touch the food. Get used to sleeping on the uncomfortable bamboo. And if you like hermit crabs, this is the place for you. You know these rules are not quite as good as the Boston Rob Rules, but maybe when he writes a book about them, they will still sell.
Come battle time we are told that two players will be reentering the game. The challenge consists of balancing coins on a sword bottom, something similar to what we have seen in other seasons. My one big peeve about this was that they were able to realign the coins if they were not straight. I think part of the challenge should be to build a straight line, but I guess I can’t win them all. Anyways, Jak drops as he did not have a steady hand and that allows Mike and Nate to rejoin the game.
I want to say something about Jak, or Abe as they call him. His ability to turn everything into a point of laughter was remarkable and a breath of fresh air. His two exits from the game have to be up there for all time bests – wearing a loincloth to tribal and then folding his buff as if it were the flag of a fallen soldier with Tom. He didn’t take everything too seriously, and it was really great to witness.
As for next time on Survivor New Zealand, well it’s what we’ve been waiting for. I had called that the final four would be Tom, Avi, Barb, and Mike, which could happen if Mike wins immunity and the other three stick together again and they vote off Nate. I think that sets up a dramatic Tom vs. Mike final challenge for the third spot in the final three. But if I am a player remaining in the game, I think going with Nate and Avi gives me the best shot to win. As good of an edit as Avi is getting though, I just have not seen the gameplay from him to win. I am excited to get to the end of this season though, it has been a very exciting one, and I can’t wait to see how it finishes.