As soon as the episode ended, I could hear a faint noise in the distance. It was the groaning of hundreds of superfans, distraught that this season was already shaping up to be a predictable steamroll with a couple of people just playing for 7th or 8th place. I can’t calm all those fears, but hopefully, I can make a convincing argument this week.
Overall, the episode wasn’t the most eventful chapter of this story. The outcome was expected, with only a couple moments of doubt thrown in throughout the first half, followed by a massive chunk of strategy talk that seemingly led nowhere new. It was more of a follow up to the events of last week than anything that pushed the game in a different direction, but as I said in my previous recap, not every episode will be groundbreaking.
However, the season is worth the long investment. It’s only 55 minutes a week. Hang in there. We’re still in the season’s adolescent period: the stubborn part of its life where it might want to talk back and cause more strife than anything. With eight episodes left, there’s time for the season to grow and break out of this phase, and I feel like it will. The cast is hungry for the win. The powerful alliance has cracks. The Island of Secrets is always lurking in the shadows. Just give it time.
With that forced analogy out of the way, let’s get into the episode. Geoffrey returns to camp feeling spooked by the six votes that came his way, but he’s happy that Meryl’s out of the game. He understands the decision to split the votes on him and goes to bed, laughing about his narrow survival. Even Jacques finds the time to crack a joke about writing his name down twice. It’s always fun to see a cast take the game as a fun adventure because that only means it’s going to be more brutal when the claws come out and the fun time comes to an end.
Speaking of fun times coming to an end, Rob is still out to dominate this game in Nathan’s absence and tells Durao of the Spit-Shake Seven. Considering Durao’s last name is Mariano, I’m calling this little pact the 2019 Rob-Mariano Agreement of Manumalo. Durao gets absorbed into the majority under Rob’s wing and feels safe, and Rob gets info fed to him from Durao’s perspective as he plays both sides. Great deal. But Rob’s not done. He decides to tell Nicole about the SS7 and their plan to knock out all the Sa’ula 3.0 members one at a time but reveals his own master plan: an all Amigos final four of himself, Nicole, Seipei, and Steffi, battling it out at the end as the ultimate come from behind victors.
For me, it sounds too good to be true. Yes, the Amigos have control of the game through the SS7, and none of the outsiders have any power at the moment, but what Rob doesn’t know about is the dormant Misfits alliance. If anything can stop his dream of an Amigos final four, it’s Jacques and Durao reclaiming Seipei’s allegiance, taking in whoever’s left of the non-Amigo players, and knocking the South African Robfather off his throne with a stealthy stab in the back. Rob’s playing a great game right now, but everyone can see it. It’s in plain sight. It’s the same problem Werner Joubert faced last season: everyone knew he was the biggest threat and he was taken out the second he ran out of protection. And now I feel like Rob’s riding that same bus. It’s sturdy, but it has a limited gas supply that could run out before he reaches his destination of the Final Tribal Council.
This week’s first post-merge reward challenge is for a day at the spa. It’s a close battle at the end between two teams, but Geoffrey, Dante, Mmaba, and Durao pull off the win and block any of the Spit-Shakers from enjoying a refreshing trip away from camp. But one team fell completely out of it and couldn’t even score a single point in the challenge’s puck sliding final stage: Cobus, Laetitia, Seipei, and Steffi. Cobus did most of the shooting, so I had to wonder if he was throwing it or not. They were already in dead last thanks to Laetitia struggling over the last obstacle in the course, but they still had plenty of shots to score. If Cobus was indeed throwing it, I could see why. He was the one to start the SS7 alliance. Giving the outsiders a reward would let the massive alliance regroup at camp and avoid being split up to the point where a move could be made. Just as it pays to win, it can also pay to lose.
Conspiracy theories aside, Laetitia isn’t happy about the loss. She came out here to prove she can keep up with the younger castaways, but her performance in the reward challenge was a big morale nuke if I’ve ever seen one. She feels so bad about costing her group the win that she decides to volunteer for elimination. Not because she was in a bad spot in the game or wanted to protect a doomed ally, but because… she lost a reward challenge. Yeah, it was painful to watch. But it was just a reward challenge, one that wouldn’t mean anything in the big scheme of the game. Nobody would seriously care about this one loss on Day 39.
But Laetitia wants out, just because she feels like she’s getting in the way of her allies and holding them back. Mike gets annoyed and says she might as well just quit the game if she wants to leave so bad, because holding the game hostage for a mercy vote is the definition of getting in the way of people wanting to play the game and could cost them a valuable chance to vote out a major target. Just think back to your favorite blindsides in Survivor history. Now imagine someone stepping up and saying “Yeah, I think I’m wasting everyone’s time here, so just vote me out!” before Tribal Council. Not a fun hypothetical, is it?
I can’t be too hard on Laetitia, though. Even if I don’t respect the thought of begging for a mercy boot when you’re still able to compete, I think it’s important to understand perspectives in the game. Laetitia barely scraped through the pre-merge on tribal immunity wins and could have been sent home with a hurt leg had Rocco and Rob not been able to hold off on their showdown for one more night. Then when she magically makes the merge against all the odds, she feels left out and ignored by her younger allies, drops out of the first individual challenge just seconds in, and then has a big red spotlight cast on her during the reward challenge while Nico calls her out. Thankfully she performed well in the immunity challenge and toughed it out instead of going for the food option, so I’d say she redeemed herself. I don’t think this little lapse in focus will do her any good when it comes to winning the game because while nobody will care about the loss, they will care about her response to it. But she’s still in the running, and that’s what matters. As I said, there’s a lot of game left to be played.
As usual, rewards in the post-merge offer the chance for participants to both enjoy themselves and strategize without needing to worry about the rest of the tribe interfering. Dante knows he’s a lone wolf, so he pitches himself as a free agent to Mmaba, Durao, and Geoff. I have to honorably eat some crow here because I figured there was no way Dante would consider working with the guy he threatened to hug with his fist. But here we are, and it’s happening. Dante wants to work with Geoff for the sake of his own game and to take down the people in charge. Survivor SA is being unpredictable again and for its own good. I just want to know if there are two Dantes out there now, because he swings back and forth from “Boo, screw the social game! Physicality is where it’s at! Geoff’s the devil!” to “Time to steal the flint and make some massive strategic moves in this game!” Is there some twin twist we don’t know about?
Geoff’s still hesitant about trusting him though and blames this strange, out of the blue truce on the booze. Dante plans to pull Jacques, Cobus, and Laetitia into this new spa alliance and claim the majority, but I knew from the start that it would be a difficult one to pull off. Cobus started the alliance, Jacques is well insulated and wants to stay in the trenches until the battlefield is a little less dangerous, and Laetitia can’t swing the game with just her vote alone. Plus Geoffrey isn’t keen to work with Jacques, though apparently, he could throw him very far. He better be praying for a Jacques throwing immunity challenge then, because he needs that necklace more than anyone.
Speaking of Jacques, he’s thrown on IOS and gifted an advantage I’d forgotten was once a thing: the Reward Steal. I personally think it’s a lame advantage that doesn’t offer that much on its own and works better as a bargaining chip (see how it was used in Season 33 of the US version for a good how-to guide). But Jacques has different plans. He wants to use it at the family visit to see his wife. And that’s when my heart skipped a beat. Under no circumstances would I ever consider winning that specific reward, let alone stealing it from another person. If Jacques is dead set on playing it there, he needs to steal the reward and take the person he stole it from to minimize the damage; even if it’s someone like Rob, Mike, Seipei, or another big threat he doesn’t want to energize. Every jury vote counts and robbing someone of a day with their loved one is one of the easiest ways to burn them. It’s truly playing with fire, and for Jacques’ game, I seriously hope he knows what he’s getting himself into by doing this, especially if the family visit is near the end of the game with little time to soothe those wounds afterwards.
The reward winners return to camp, and Durao immediately goes to Rob and spills all the tea from Dante’s pitch, proving how great Rob’s move of pulling in Durao really was. Geoff’s feeling like there’s still hope if they can get Dante’s plan to work, but first he needs to win immunity. Unfortunately, it’s not a Jacques throwing competition. Instead, it’s the scariest challenge in all of Survivor: Last Gasp. It’s nowhere near as terrifying as the recklessly torturous version that appeared in SA: Maldives, where they tied bags of bricks to their feet and held it out at sea. But the abnormally high rising tide made it the hardest version I’ve seen otherwise. I’d probably just refuse to compete as someone who squirms just watching it.
Speaking of refusing to compete, Nico offers a pile of nachos to anyone willing to sit out. Jacques, Seipei, and Cobus take the free meal and watch as everyone suffers. Eventually, it comes down to Geoff, Rob, and Steffi, but Geoff and Steffi can’t hold their breath and Rob wins, killing any chance of a blindside against the South African Robfather. For now.
Despite the super long pre-Tribal segment, it feels like nothing is really up in the air, and nothing is going to change. Geoffrey is going home and nothing can stop it. Jacques, Cobus, and Laetitia, the people Dante assumed would flip, have no comment on the plan. The move to get rid of Nicole of all people will never work given her newfound connections. Rob himself says he’s 100% certain of Geoffrey’s fate. The entire episode feels like a big swan song, like the tragic number at the end of the Second Act where Geoffrey is bleeding out and sings one last song in Mike’s arms.
Geoff tries to throw Dante, whom he still didn’t trust, under the bus at the last minute to save himself. But without the time for the plan to be seriously considered, Rob remains steady and sends Geoff to the jury with nine votes, leaving Dante and Mmaba on the outs with no more shields and no allies.
Despite the Rob and Geoff war concluding, this was a big week for Mike as well. It was the first time he was put in a dilemma this tough and watching him figure out his best move proved why he’s a good player. He was considerate and willing to work with Geoff if the numbers manifested, but he kept his distance, so he didn’t lose the trust of the other Spit-Shakers. It’s not a big move, but it’s a move. Meryl and Geoff have both spoken highly of Mike in their Jury Villa videos, ranking him as the best player and the person they’d vote for if the Final Tribal Council was held now.
The game can shake up and Mike can either get voted out or sink his reputation by Day 39, but he’s in one of the best positions moving forward and should be seen as a huge threat… yet nobody seems to be throwing his name out there while Geoff was constantly targeted from the time of the first swap to his elimination. They played similar games, were seen as a strong duo for most of the pre-merge, and took out their own alpha male threats after the second swap in Rocco and Nathan. But Mike’s been on a completely different trajectory going upwards while Geoffrey crash landed.
Geoff struggled to branch out and make new connections at the swaps and burned too many bridges. Mike hid behind his more visibly strategic ally, got a good swap outcome when he needed it, and used it to forge a new alliance with more potential than his struggling Laumei alliance. All while he was playing multiple sides from Day 1 to keep his options open and not burn those crucial bridges that could give him a shot at the money. I would even say his age is a factor in his success too. Mike described himself as an un-rugged kid in the premiere and can pass himself off as the likable 21-year-old out there to have fun, effectively hiding his strategic side.
Geoffrey can’t do that as easily. When you look at Geoff, you might see someone who was likely cast as an older, wiser strategist who would make big moves and shake things up to fill his resume and bring up all sorts of modern Survivor lingo. That archetype has become more threatening over time. Whereas Mike’s archetype, the goofy, plucky millennial, never caught on as someone you should be wary of because they almost never win. You could also make a case for Mike’s job helping him succeed. As a radio presenter, entertaining people and getting them to listen is right up his alley. And the way he earns trust and keeps everyone feeling like they can rely on him is a testament to why occupations can play a big factor in the game. In short, Mike was a great fit for this season, and he’s used his innate advantages to his benefit. He’s got a real shot to win as long as he remains shielded by bigger threats, because once they run out, he’s number one on the hit list.
With Geoffrey gone, where do we go from here? Are we in for a big shakeup next time on Survivor SA? For the time being, I don’t have much faith in that outcome. Dante and Mmaba are still easy targets so we could be in for a couple more weeks of predictable vote outs, and even with the preview teasing another big move against the power players, this time by Mmaba of all people, I don’t buy it just yet.
There might be some scrambling and paranoia, but I’m not expecting something as massive as a sudden Rob blindside or the Spit-Shakers imploding this soon. I’d happily accept being totally wrong though, don’t get me wrong. Last season’s post-merge suffered from a series of predictable vote outs while the guy in charge continued to stroll towards what I thought was one of the most obvious wins in the history of the game, and it took until the final four for anything to seriously change the pace of the game. I want to see some change happen earlier this year. Let’s break up this big alliance; let’s make the gameplay fluid, and let’s get more cutthroat in Samoa.