After three weeks of absolute chaos, Week Four kicks off with the most understated instalment yet: a straightforward majority vote with very little manoeuvrability or intrigue and the elimination of a castaway we knew next to nothing about. Was it a bad episode? Not at all, though the extended run-time due to the reward challenge timing did make for a little bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, it was a perfectly fine episode and a good breather before things inevitably pick up as we accelerate towards the merge.
GEORGIA ON MY MIND
In essence, there’s not too much to dig into the Georgia boot episode. After trying and failing to eliminate one of the three Brains women for the past few rounds, the majority on the post-swap Brains finally succeeded. Their rationale to vote for Georgia over Laura or Rachel was a little out of the blue given how little she’s been highlighted in the season thus far. Still, it was clear that she was seen as a calculating and intelligent player and a threat to the new majority.
Given she’d also freshly returned from a 24-hour sick leave, it’s possible that may have factored into the vote too, consciously or subconsciously. In no other franchise have we seen a temporary evacuation allow for a player to skip a Tribal Council and remain eligible. And while the convoluted twist of the previous Tribal essentially meant it was a wash for her tribe, it did feel a little strange for Georgia to be back in the mix. The players may have been feeling that discordance too, or it may have just been the Survivor Gods course-correcting fate. Bt it did contribute to Georgia’s elimination feeling a little more perfunctory.
All that said, I do wish we’d gotten to see more from Georgia. Her only major story up to this point was trailing George on his Idol hunt, ineffectually trying to blanket it with bonding talk. That same aspect of an attempted—but deeply transparent—truce reared its head again this episode with Georgia’s pitch to Emmett.
With her allies on the outs, she tried pitching to Emmett to bring the Brawn (himself, Gerald, and Kez) into a vote against wildcards Cara and George. But her rhetoric—the tried and tired “good guy versus bad guy” routine—was shaky and Emmett saw straight through it. Granted, I think he would have seen any pitch from the women as desperation, but Georgia’s attempt to play the morality card to someone who has been aggressively egotistical and dismissive felt especially off the mark.
But despite this, it was apparent that the move WAS one of desperation. When alone with Rachel and Laura, she was quick to criticise Emmett’s privileged position of leadership just because he was the strong guy. Rachel and Laura clearly shared this same exasperation with Emmett, especially as he exacerbated his privilege with incredibly condescending tone at Tribal Council that Laura & Rachel were quick to call him out on. But when one of your best options to survive revolves around trying to appeal to someone that callous, it’s pretty clear that “you’re cooked.”
Even more hare-brained was the “tension” of the vote—whether or not the three women could convince Kez to flip against her alliance, vote for Cara and force a tied vote. While I applaud Laura in particular for building a good foundational relationship with Kez, it would have been insanely idiotic for Kez to go with that plan. While in keeping with the madness of the season, it really felt like an illogical option—and it really highlighted the pickle the three Brains women were in.
Their earlier alienation of Cara and George had made it so impossible to work with them that they were explicitly pointing out they hadn’t even been approached for a Brawn blindside, which is remarkable for its demonstration for how deeply the line between the majority and minority was. So while it would have been an entertaining and exciting move, it seemed like a long shot at best.
Granted, Kez isn’t in a great spot. Her ally Shannon just got voted out of the other tribe, and her bestie Flick looks to be next in line (at least, from her vantage point). And Cara’s mistake had also cost her Daini. While she’s worked with Gerald in the past, she’s currently “taking orders” from Emmett, who was a core part of the opposing Brawn alliance that tried to vote her out. On top of that, she has clear animosity with Cara—and George is a demonstrated wildcard who can be loyal but can also blow stuff up against his allies’ best interest.
Maybe if she could have convinced Gerald to flip too, it could have been a decent play, but we don’t know where his head is at strategically. So while in some respect, aligning with the Brains women could be advantageous for her in the long run, this was not the way to do it.
Nonetheless, it seems like Kez has a good head on her shoulders, insightful and social. Her bond with Laura could be her saving grace if the minority do catch a lucky break with an Idol find. They’re unlikely to target her over someone like Cara, who they’ve got bad blood with, or Emmett, who they clash with for his arrogance and condescension. But even though she is furious with Cara, Kez has been able to swallow that distrust to make the logical move to preserve a majority that keeps her in power. But also keeps her in the middle of the tribe.
While the Brains tribe could be easily positioned for an easy pick-em-off Pagonging of Rachel and Laura should they return to Tribal, the fight in these two women could keep it interesting—and maybe even turn it around. Maybe they could get something going with Kez and Gerald to seize a new 4-3 majority.
Or maybe the stars could align for a reconciliation with Brains. George holds a grudge, but he’s also a pragmatist, and if the target is turned on someone obnoxious like Emmett, or perhaps more effectively, someone socially threatening like Kez, a marriage of convenience is not wholly out of the question. Convincing Cara would be the biggest roadblock, but I do appreciate the determination to make something out of nothing.
PERCEPTION & REALITY
And speaking of magic tricks, Hayley continues to play a dynamite game over on the new Brawn tribe. After her incredibly effective play to bluff the Brawns into turning on each other and eliminating Shannon, she followed up the move with the perfect fallout management.
Simon, Dani, and Chelsea are riding the high of finally getting Shannon out of the game. While I agree that they deserve some kudos for being the ones the Brains chose to side with, their apparent assumption that this means the Brains will stick with them is worrying. It seems blatantly apparent that it is the four Brains who now hold the real power. Even if the Brains stuck with them and voted out Flick at the next chance, the Brains would have the majority over the Brawn. In essence, it’d be a short-term gain at best.
It does feel like the Brawn are specifically courting Hayley to join their alliance, which is a good step in the right direction. I hope they’re also working on extricating the others too, but Hayley or any of the other Brains would be foolish to step out into the bottom of a tight alliance. Rather, it makes far more sense to do what Hayley was doing, pull in the loose vote of Flick, who is desperate and unmoored to secure a decisive majority.
Additionally, lulling Simon’s crew into a fall sense of security could make it the perfect opportunity to thwart the Idol he has—and openly mentioned to Hayley in their strat chat. Assumingly, Hayley and co are in a perfect position to safeguard themselves by directing minority votes to Flick while they can take a shot at Simon.
Nevertheless, Hayley is increasingly becoming a threat as she’s been the mouthpiece of the Brains alliance and is at the centre of the action. Knowing Simon has two Idols in the pocket—one known and one secret—and knowing he’s an aggressive player willing to take a swing to cut the head off the snake, it could easily blow up in Hayley’s face. But for now, things are looking up for her and the Brains. I’m fascinated to see if she can continue to dominate the strategic manoeuvring through the rest of the pre-merge.
So the question now is: was this episode the sign of things to come—a few straightforward votes as we take a break from the unpredictability of the season? Or is this just a pit-stop and we’ll be charging straight back into full octane madness?
Regardless, the playdough of this season is being pulled and stretched in so many directions, but it does feel like the moulding is beginning to take shape. I finally feel like I’ve got a sense of the majority of the players remaining, not just in terms of personality, but in their approach to the game. Despite the season’s obvious flaws—largely due to its poor execution of twists—this is settling in to be a very exciting, intense, and fascinating season. And a quiet episode that helps reshape the playdough for what’s to come has its place.