Last week the Next Time On preview promised a lot. For the past week, my mind has been racing thinking of all the possible outcomes. Every one of which was satisfying to varying degrees. Coming into the episode I was excited, a kid on Christmas ready to tear the wrapping off to see what Santa had bestowed upon me. But it wasn’t a new bike or the flash in the pan fad I dropped hints about for months. It wasn’t even coal (or a fainting Cole Medders). What I ended up getting was an itchy Christmas sweater. Not the worst thing in the world but everything I imagined it would be was better than what I ended up getting.
Let’s break it all down and maybe pinpoint where this episode (season?) went off the rails (for me). After the blindside of Josh, Dylan is pretty happy with himself and so he should be. He’s been a part of one of the biggest blindsides in Survivor New Zealand, weakened the invisible five and managed to work his way into a comfortable alliance with Chani. Dylan, who was ostracized and at the mercy of the majority, is now in power, and Matt, who never had to worry about his position, is for the first time all game sweating about the next vote.
Myself, fellow blogger Evan and pretty much everyone else in the Survivor community have asked the same question, and I’ll ask it again. Why didn’t you get rid of Dylan instead of Kaysha?! It’s hard to know for sure how things would have turned out but you’ve got to imagine that Kaysha would be more loyal than Dylan was. She had good relationships with most of her tribe, and I got the sense she wouldn’t want to rock the boat by flipping, instead making use of the numbers advantage to whittle down Chani. Playing a post-merge game pre-merge comes with consequences, something Josh found out far too late.
I’m not entirely sure what those three members of old Khangkhaw thought would happen. It was clear even before the tribe swap that Dylan was on the outs. Come swap time they were happy to sacrifice him which if you’re Chani gives you a perfect opportunity to bring Dylan in to take out a major threat like Josh. Every person reacted how they should have. Dylan did the only thing he could and flipped, and Chani, protecting their numbers, threw the challenge and blindsided a major threat.
It’s the Khangkhaw members (the three members of the invisible five) that didn’t make the best choices. Burning one of your numbers is never a good idea especially in a tribe with a close division like that. Did you want to go to rocks next vote?! Then trying to pull off a vote split (which is idiotic in the first place because you know Dylan doesn’t have the idol!) by throwing votes on Renee is a non-starter for Chani. It doesn’t create an atmosphere of trust if your plan is “well if it all turns to s**t at least one of you guys goes home.”
Over on Khangkhaw, we learn JT isn’t feeling too well. “I’ve wanted to be on Survivor for such a long time, but at this point, it feels like I’m not even playing Survivor and I’m actually starting to put myself at risk,” he says. It feels like forever since we’ve heard from him. This sudden sickness has me worried. He’s such a presence on the show; he’s almost the mascot of Season 2. He’s great at breaking strategy down so whenever his tribe is immune the episode is missing a bit of oomph. I can’t really picture the season without him on it. Let’s all pray that it’s a mild case of gastrointestinal distress.
We’re back at Chani for a quick minute where Adam calls Arun and Dave villains. You got to love reality show contestants. No matter what country they’re from they’ll never have any self-awareness. Meanwhile, Renee won’t shut up about getting a single vote at the last tribal council. One vote only matters at the final tribal council (just ask Domenick… too soon?). It has shades of Abi Maria (“f**k with me and you’re dead”) or even Pearl islands Rupert. You know what show you’re on. People have strategies and it’s nothing personal. Move on and forget about it.
Adam has information that Arun knew Renee was getting a vote but decides not to share it with her yet. I get the sense that this info will screw things up later. Maybe it causes her to flip or is a deciding factor in Arun losing her jury vote. Let’s keep an eye on that.
Broken promises and thrown challenges were enough for Matt to distrust Arun. Matt has a strong relationship with Dave, maybe the strongest a Survivor relationship can be due to their friendship outside of the game, yet he knows Dave is conflicted with his allegiances. He can’t fully trust Dave as long as Arun is still in the game. Matt is in a position of weakness, so all he can do is try and strengthen his bonds with Arun and bide his time.
Khangkhaw reacts as you think they would to seeing Josh voted out when they hit the mat at the reward challenge, where we’re back at the rice paddy once again. One tribe member will hang onto a pole and the other tribe will try and drag them to their mat. They’re playing for chicken and eggs. When the chickens are revealed, every single castaway should be aiming for the Sia humanitarian award. I’d love a crispy drumstick, but I’d pat a chicken for a couple of weeks to get a few grand.
Adam and Eve are on the poles. Adam stays put as an effective anchor. Eve is no match for Arun and Dave. She puts up a great fight, but the boys drag her kicking (not so much screaming) to their mat for the first point. However, the challenge leaves Arun a little shaken. Only after getting the point does he realize how tough it was for Eve and that he didn’t like putting her through that. Khangkhaw are happy to put men on the pole instead, and Adam is happy to continue for his tribe, but it’s still not sitting right with Arun. He decides to concede defeat and give Khangkhaw the reward, almost as a penance for his treatment of Eve.
As a Kiwi, there are times that I’m irritated by the actions of the American castaways. There are some fan favorites that I can’t stand because of their boasting, poor sportsmanship and peacocking. It’s something I’ve come to accept that it’s just an aspect of the US version that doesn’t gel well with me because of my upbringing. Arun’s forfeit is a very Kiwi thing to do. I don’t think you’d see it in any other version of the show. Earlier this season we had the sumo at sea challenge that had hints of this attitude. There’s no killer instinct. I’ve watched Survivor contestants spit out broken teeth, break bones, show their “taataas” and almost die for spices. Those are all things a Survivor New Zealand contestant will never do. Winning isn’t the most important thing. To us, it really is about how you play the game. Survivor is the same where ever you are; you’ll have idols, twists, a lack of food and a battle against the elements. The people are always different and one reason to watch international versions is that you also get a glimpse of a different culture.
Another trip to the Outpost, this time it’s Lisa and Dave. I found it funny that everyone just decided it was Dave’s turn and didn’t really consider Dylan. His running storyline has been his failure to visit the Outpost and inability to gain an advantage. Dave and Lisa compete in a word scramble that will give them an advantage in the game. Lisa is called the puzzle queen again which irks me slightly. I’m a believer in the principle of show don’t tell, so Lisa constantly being called a puzzle queen with little evidence (have we seen her do well in that area?) is annoying.
On Dave’s puzzle table is a scroll which immediately gets his attention. I think he was more distracted by that scroll than solving the puzzle. Lisa wins the challenge (tick… eye roll). Maybe Dylan would have been a better choice than Dave. It looked like a challenge Dylan would have been good at and seeing two “puzzle masters” go up against each other would have been fun. Sadly it wasn’t to be. Lisa gains Stephen Fishbach’s vampire vote (is that what the community decided upon calling it?) which can only be used at the next tribal council she attends.
I’m not really sure if Lisa played this correctly. She won the challenge and Dave had no idea what advantage she had gained until she let him read her solved puzzle and even stated it outright. There was enough time for her to shuffle the pieces around to keep it secret, known only to her. Matt Chisholm might give it away, but in the moment you should be thinking of protecting that piece of information. An advantage everyone knows about is far less powerful. I could be over thinking this. That’s what any fan should do (you know, like Lisa).
Having said all that Chisholm goes on to explain the rules of the extra vote in front of Dave. I get that you have to inform the audience of the advantages powers, but there were other ways that wouldn’t have blown up Lisa’s spot. Have someone give Lisa the terms and conditions off screen then have her give a confessional explaining it all, have all the rules written in the parchment she receives, anything is better than Chisholm stripping her advantage of any power it had. Dave and Lisa have a chat after the challenge trying to feel each other out. Lisa tries her sweet mum routine which Dave sees through. Neither gives much away which is how you should treat these interactions. Lisa comes off more sketchy than Dave does though.
The scroll that Dave had on his station is a clue to a hidden immunity idol. Just think if Dylan had gone to the Outpost he could have had an idol and an extra vote. He could have done amazing things or flamed out horribly. Either way, we would have had great TV. Ah, the Survivor gods weren’t smiling down on us today. Dave immediately goes to the well (where his idol clue directed him), splashes around in the water for a bit (is that sanitary?) and then digs for approximately thirty seconds to find an idol. You guys really need to do a better job hiding those. A gust of wind could reveal an idol, that’s how easily they’re found.
Lisa returns to Khangkhaw and does her best not to give anything away. JT sums up my thoughts on it so I’ll quote him directly. “Lisa comes back from Outpost and delivers one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen on Survivor.” In a matter of minutes he’s poked holes in her story and figured out exactly what she won. This may seem like a backhanded , but JT is the best Survivor New Zealand contestant (over the two seasons). JT is what I like to see in my Survivor players. He has a good handle on the game and always knows what’s up. He’s a snake. A Richard Hatch kind of snake. Always thinking of how to move his group forward and more importantly what’s best for his game.
The next immunity challenge is going to be interesting. Khangkhaw knowing Dylan flipped are worried about the fates of Adam and Matt so are keen to throw it to protect them and go into the merge with numbers. Chani know about Lisa’s extra vote (thanks Chisholm) so are contemplating throwing the challenge again to make sure she has to use the vampire vote before the merge and also to knock out Matt. The only person that actually wants to win the challenge is Dave. He’s against throwing because the only logical choice to vote out is Matt. That’s his BFF! They sat up all night gossiping about boys 15 years ago. What a pickle.
The immunity challenge is an obstacle course, and at the end, they have to solve a maths equation. I’m not used to seeing maths in anything other than Korean game shows. It’s a lot more complicated in those programs than its use here that’s for sure. Chani have a decent lead all challenge until they get to the equation. The puzzle is the great equalizer. Khangkhaw catches up and it’s a battle to see who finishes first. The game has taken a toll on JT and he’s not as on top of the puzzle as he normally would be. Lisa is almost sitting out the challenge just resting on the side. The tribe’s two main puzzle solvers aren’t as useful as they would have been mere days ago. All members of Chani are working on their puzzle unable to make much progress. In one of the closest finishes so far Khangkhaw takes the win. If Wendell taught us anything it’s to call when you’re puzzle is finished.
The medics are called over for Lisa. Apparently she’s sick for real. I just thought she was dragging it on the challenge and pretending to be ill as a good excuse. Interesting to note that the medics have been on the show so much that next episode I expect them to appear in the opening credits.
Chani have an easy decision to make. Get rid of Matt, the biggest threat in the game. They’re making it more complicated than it needs to be. Dylan is all on board to take out another one of the invisible five and Renee doesn’t care what anyone else is doing she’s going to take revenge on Matt for the one vote she got at the last tribal council (Josh did that by the way). The rest of the tribe aren’t so keen though. Adam would rather Dylan go, Dave wants to save his old rugby mate, and Arun is unsure who helps his game more in the long run, making this easy vote not so easy.
Arun and Dave are the decision makers of the tribe and Matt has already got Dave on side. His pitch to Arun is that he’s close with Lisa and can act as a double agent to find out how she’ll use the vampire vote (extra vote, double vote, steal a vote, whatever). Double agent plans are always risky. If someone brings that to me as an option, I’m going to look skeptically at that person. Chani should go into the merge expecting to lose a vote. It doesn’t matter whose vote it is. Solidify your numbers now, take out Matt then you at least have five plus Dylan. Dylan can’t flip anywhere else and he’ll continue to be a target for old Khangkhaw, giving you the edge going into the merge.
Chisholm appears at the Khangkhaw camp. Never a good sign for the host to turn up unannounced. I have an ad break to ponder which castaway will be taken out the game. My worst fears are confirmed when Chisholm asks JT how he’s doing. I would have been fine with any member of that tribe going. Anyone other than JT. It came as a bit of a shock. To lose such a strong player that way. It wouldn’t have been easy for JT to pull himself from the game like that. For a fan to be taken out by illness instead of a blindside, it must be a bitter pill to swallow.
“This is a horrible decision to have to make. Winning Survivor has been a twenty-year dream of mine, but it’s not my only dream in life. 32-year-old me has a lot different priorities than 13-year-old JT and health is one of them,” he says. And with that JT leaves the game. I didn’t think JT would be voted out and… he wasn’t.
I don’t think I mentioned this in any of my blogs and I guess now is a good time to do so. Coming into the season, I knew JT was one to watch. You know he’s going to stir stuff up, he can’t help but be the strategic mastermind. He has that vibe. With all the hints that the winner of the season is going to come from Chani (people stating it, underdog story), I really did picture that person being JT. I toyed with making him my winner pick. My heart and my head were all screaming to pick JT. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick him in all honesty. I see a lot of myself in Dylan, but I’d hope to play like JT. In his short time there he showed what he was made of. The last time someone said “JT is a good Survivor player” was a decade ago. There are a lot more people saying that sentence these days.
Wait the episode is still going? Yep. The Chani tribe enter tribal council and do their chit chat with Chisholm. We spend far too much time on Renee’s single vote. LET IT GO! Whenever Dylan speaks the Chani members squirm awkwardly. I’m fairly certain that he’s next to go. There’s a little bit of hope for me though, as JT has just been medevaced, it’s not uncommon in Survivor to go through the motions of tribal letting people show their cards before sending them all back to camp without a vote. It’s a good way to cause drama especially going into the merge.
Chisholm stands holding the urn after they had all voted. I kept waiting for him to pull the rug out from all of us and say “no elimination today guys, back to camp.” I kept waiting optimistically for something that was never going come. At that moment I was James from Palau. Instead, Chisholm reads the votes, and of course, it’s Dylan. We can’t have nice things. If Dylan was going to go out, being blindsided isn’t that bad of a way to go.
This blog has been a love letter of sorts to Dylan over the past few weeks so I’m not really sure what else I can say about him. Every week my blog was a eulogy for him. I expected him to go every episode and every episode he managed to find a way to stay. For quite a while Dylan was a Survivor Houdini. That’s why his elimination was a bit of a surprise for me. It was predictable as hell, but part of me expected him to slip his way out of it.
Dylan was a great player that the Survivor gods didn’t do any favors for. He got a bad tribe draw at the start having to claw and fight to survive. When the tribes were finally swapped around, he managed to land himself on a tribe with two childhood friends. Dylan didn’t have many allies in the game, and it’s safe to say luck was never on his side either. Maybe luck will be kind to Dylan and he’ll get one more crack at that Survivor dream. If any potential Australasian all-star contenders are reading, here’s my advice, vote Dylan out. The kid’s that good.
This was a downer of an episode. The forfeited challenge had no strategic value; it was because Arun didn’t want cooties. We lost not one but two strategic powerhouses. The two characters that excited me about Survivor New Zealand are gone. After the tragedy that was Avi, I was hoping for a true snake to snatch the crown.
We have the merge to look forward to though. Dave and Brad have idols and are pretty juicy targets. Lisa has her vampire vote that has to be used next episode (and everyone knows it). Renee still has a vendetta for that one vote. Tara is still there guys! How will Dave and Matt’s relationship pay off? That’s one of the most interesting story threads of this season. So many possibilities for how this season will play out. Let’s see how those Kiwis f**k it up!