by Ian Walker
Survivor merge episodes come in all sorts of flavors, but the merge of Survivor: Samoa comes in some of the most delicious flavors of all: crazy and unpredictable. From the outset, though, it doesn’t appear that way.
Right in the middle of the action is Erik Cardona, the man who will see his torch snuffed by episode’s end. This is where the crazy comes in, as Erik’s demise is caused by some of the most break-neck, last minute scrambling in the history of the game, constituted by a number of factors, the first of which coming from Erik himself. Erik had already been a heavily cocky guy before the merge occurred and his behavior hadn’t gotten any better since. That brazen attitude would come back to bite him as he bossed around the Foa Foas by telling them who to vote for, which they did not take kindly too at all and made them want to vote him out even more.
Erik’s off-putting attitude got the wheels turning in the Foa Foa people’s heads, and led to some savvy gameplay from the underdogs. Natalie White especially seized this opportunity, scurrying around the camp talking to any Galus she could find, painting Erik as the bad apple of the tribe who betrayed them all and needed to go. This conversation caught like wildfire because soon everybody not named Erik (save for poor Shambo) was planning on writing down Erik.
The most ironic part of all was that Russell Hantz, who had been flashing his precious hidden immunity idol to anybody with eyes with the hope of grabbing some new allies, had nothing at all to do with this plan- he even wastes his hidden immunity idol at tribal council. It was mostly all Natalie, a key point on her resume for the eventual Final Tribal Council.
While Erik’s behavior can certainly be blamed for his ouster, he also fell victim to some genuine miscommunication. Erik was aligned with the Galu member with the itchiest trigger finger, John Fincher, and he was the one who initially floated a potential hit on another Galu after listening to one of Russell’s crazy-eyed pitches. Reluctant to go along with the plan, Erik signed off on it to appease his alliance mates, thereby setting the first domino that would eventually lead to his demise.
Erik left the game bleeding Galu purple, unfairly painted with the disloyalty brush despite being a company man and being unwaveringly loyal to his tribemates. His loss comes as a true gut punch, especially because he had a hidden immunity idol in his pocket, setting up a wild post-merge game and the first step in the downfall of the Galu tribe.