Australian Survivor: Blood vs. Water

Episode 11 Recap – Flipping The Burger Patty

Alice Barelli recaps Episode 11.

Photo: Network 10

This past week, all the adverts for Australian Survivor have promised three epic episodes with big players going home. While it’s true that losing Nina was a tragedy, it sort of dulls the enjoyment when you’re told “three of these five people are going home,” and only two of them are at the Tribal Council you’re watching… but I digress.

So far, this season has done a pretty good job of holding back from convoluted and quirky twists. Instead, the personalities and the season theme have done the heavy lifting. But the previous episode introduced the second non-elimination Tribal, which seemed to set up a mirror situation for KJ. This time, instead of being joined by her sister Sophie after a non-elimination, she was transferred over to the Blood tribe.

We weren’t given much indication at Tribal of who wanted to leave the Blue tribe to join Red, but KJ confirms pretty much immediately that she’s thrilled to rejoin allies Jordie, Mark, Josh, and Mel. KJ’s bubbly personality seems to be shining through, but even if she seemed a central part of the twist, she’s only around in this episode long enough to crown herself Queen of the Survivor Men Calendar crew.


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On both tribes, loved ones Shay and Ben are trying to play it cool after not getting their way the previous night. It’s very obvious to everyone that there’s underlying tension there. Shay tries to put a positive spin on things—she’s thrilled to have another girl on the tribe after losing Nina. Even if it’s just Shay trying to welcome KJ, it seems to alienate the men on the tribe. No matter what Shay doe,s there’s some kind of tension keeping her at the bottom of the pecking order.

Over on Blue, Ben is trying to convince everyone that he’s over the blindside and it’s water under the bridge. Chrissy summarizes succinctly that the atmosphere is awkward, and even if Ben is saying everything is fine, everybody knows that it’s really not fine at all. Both tribes are dealing with the fall out of the previous night, and both are looking to move forward and out of their sticky situation.

There’s lots of worry about Shay and Ben joining up at merge and dominating, particularly there is an assumption that Ben’s strength will be an asset in challenges. While any duo is something to be wary of, it’s also something unavoidable with this theme. Right now, there are many more paired-up castaways than there are singles (only Khanh, KJ, David, and now Chrissy remain). The need to split up pairs is inevitable, but while the merge is at an unknown point in the future, it’s also possible for the duos to weaponise their status.

Photo: Network 10

If all castaways with duos left in the game were to join together and help each other reach the merge, then there would be a clear route for either tribe. Even smaller alliances could work together to get one another to their loved ones—something we saw Chrissy promise Jesse in the last episode. Even comparing the duos, there are some I would be more concerned about than others. Sam and Mark are returnees who have somehow slipped under the radar (at least, under everyone but Jordie’s radar). And the J pairs (Josh & Jordan and Jesse & Jordie) have all shown they are physical threats that could become deadly if they combine forces.

Members of both tribes discuss vaguely how losing the next immunity challenge could have its benefits. Jesse has the taste of Ben’s blood in his mouth and just wants to get back to Tribal and “finish the job.” Meanwhile, Shay just saw her boyfriend almost get blindsided and knows if he’s back at Tribal, there’s a better than average chance he could go home.

While there are no firm commitments of throwing the challenge, hearing individuals from both tribes say that a visit to Tribal isn’t their worst-case scenario makes me groan. Yes, Tribal is important to keep the game moving forward. It’s also important to demonstrate loyalty and trust—casting a vote is the only way to really put your money where your mouth is. But it’s also very dangerous territory. It only takes a confused castaway, one thrown away vote, someone voting wrong, or an unexpected idol play, to see an entire plan flipped on its head.

Photo: Network 10

For example, going into the previous Tribal, I had no idea that KJ had any votes going towards her as her name hadn’t even been uttered once. Yet she received one vote, and on the back of that single parchment, she was whisked away to another tribe. Now she’s in a stronger position with more leverage and making her way up in the world. Did anyone think a single vote towards KJ could change the game? Probably not, but it did.

Once the game reaches the merge, there is no escaping Tribal. The pre-merge is the only time you can win the privilege of avoiding Tribal, and I would argue that privilege should be sought out as much as possible. There’s a concept of momentum in the game of Survivor, where winning challenges seems to spur more challenge wins going forward. It makes logical sense that anyone who has won food at a reward has more strength and energy to compete. But there also seems to be morale that builds and bonds a tribe if they continue winning challenges together. To give up that morale to go to the most dangerous place in the game doesn’t seem like a good trade to me, but I’m not playing the game.

Blue loses the challenge, and Ben immediately asks to be kept safe as he hugs his tribe. Back at camp, the scrambling begins. It initially seems like a straightforward vote to finish what JLP ruined the night before. Sam, Jesse, Chrissy, and Croc all agree that the vote will be on Ben. Once they have scattered, Croc immediately puts a new plan in motion. Croc refused to vote off Ben the previous night, and he for sure isn’t going to let his mate go home here either. Croc begins recruiting votes from Michelle and Khanh. Instead of booting Ben, he wants to go after Jesse, as he has a legitimate concern that a reunited Jesse & Jordie could be overpowered and so wants to cut that off while he can.

Chrissy and Jesse
Photo: Network 10

Croc presumes Chrissy will follow his plan, as will Ben, the person who it’s designed to save. Chrissy outwardly voices that she doesn’t want to take out her camp son Jesse but is overruled by Croc. Instead of embracing Croc as someone truly on his side, Ben takes this new plan to the immediate attention of Jesse and Sam. Either Ben truly doesn’t understand that they were masterminding his blindside the day before or irony is having a good laugh. Ben wants to use this new information to take out Croc. While Jesse, Sam and Ben (the “new three”) begin searching for votes, they all agree that Croc & Chrissy can’t be told of the new plan, which leaves Michelle and Khanh as the swing votes.

Chrissy struggles with the internal battle being waged between her head and heart. She wants desperately to follow Croc and his strategy, but she feels strongly that she can’t betray Jesse. In various shots of her around camp, Chrissy looks miserable. It’s not often I can see the weight of the world on someone’s shoulders, but it’s absolutely palpable on Chrissy. Chrissy has become a kind of “everyman” for the viewers of Survivor: she’s experiencing the highs and lows of the game and picking up the subtleties of strategy along with the viewer.

Where other castaways have great poker faces and hide their strategy behind kind smiles, Chrissy is distressed by the choice she will have to make. She contrasts her own social strength against Croc’s strategic mindset. Both are strong and valuable, but in this case, they can’t both get what they want. It’s the kind of emotional torment that only a Blood vs. Water season can bring. Any season can pose difficulties choosing between the desires of the head and heart, but this theme really exemplifies those battles by making it a choice between a loved one or yourself.

Croc and Ben
Photo: Network 10

Going into Tribal, there are three plans. One against Ben, one against Jesse, and one against Croc. The scrambling seemed to end up with the Croc plan having the most support, but it’s hard to say what could happen when both Croc and Khanh have idols. JLP repeatedly brings up that Ben got through the previous night by the skin of his teeth and asks around if he’ll be able to make it further forward. Through all the typical gameplay generalisations, there’s a very clear theme: anyone but me.

All Ben really had to do to flip the vote was show Jesse he was at risk. After being so gung ho for 1.5 episodes about taking Ben out and knowing that it’s unlikely Croc could gather the votes against him, Jesse still immediately flips the vote to take out Croc instead. In a rare comment, Michelle talks about leveraging yourself over the next person—any little thing to keep you in the game longer. Croc is oblivious that he’s in over his head. Chrissy still looks like she’s going to vomit.

For someone who knows there’s a plan against him, Jesse remains confident. He has a lot of gusto, and I’ve been impressed with his manner. But in these past two episodes, he’s really sticking his head straight in front of the bullseye. While he’s got a good ally in Sam, Jesse is playing with a group who seem to sway back and forth, so it might be a little early to be growing in confidence.

Photo: Network 10

The votes come in, and the new trio of Sam, Jesse, and Ben get their way. Chrissy ends up following her heart by voting for Ben (or, more accurately, not voting for Jesse), a move that has no impact as a Jesse vote wouldn’t have secured his exit. Khanh joins her voting Ben, Croc submits his ballot for Jesse, and everyone else takes the rugby star out.

It’s a clear blindside that affects not only Croc but Chrissy too. She begins crying as soon as the second vote against him appears, and I’m not sure she’ll stop until she falls asleep back at camp. Croc’s exit might curtail the emotional turmoil for Chrissy, but it also leaves her more vulnerable than before. In the pre-season ads, Chrissy described Croc as the greatest emotional anchor the game has ever seen. Chrissy isn’t worried about strategy or physicality; what she wants to help her succeed is a sounding board and someone to reassure her. With Croc out of the game, she will need to find it in someone else or go it alone.

The game is still approaching merge. There’s lots of focus on simply getting to merge and getting to a loved one. I sense that not much thought has been given to the logistics after achieving that goal. After the festivity of making merge and pairing up, then I believe things will really blow up. People will continue being voted off, and pairs will continue being split up. Pairs disagree over who to work or not work with. Singles try to leverage any part of the game to get further. The emotions and the blow-ups and the blindsides should be aplenty. Right now, it’s just a matter of working out who will make it there… oh, and wishing we could see just a little more (or any!) confessional time for the twins.

Written by

Alice Barelli

Alice lives in rural Victoria, Australia. Working as a nurse and midwife catching babies by day, she spends her evenings catching Survivor and other reality TV shows. She’s been a fan of Survivor since its premiere in 2000. Alice writes Inside Survivor’s episode recaps for Australian Survivor.

One response to “Episode 11 Recap – Flipping The Burger Patty”

  1. Very strong episode, one of the best this season. Frustrating how even when she is the swing vote we still don’t get to hear anything from Michelle (or Mel? I don’t even know…)

    Croc absolutely DEVASTATED by his boot which IMO is more fun to watch than people being cheery and friendly afterwards.

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