With Sam on her way to Jury Villa and every couple finally split up, the endgame of Blood vs. Water is evolving into an open playing field. While the results of a Mark or Jordie victory seem inevitable, the winding path to that inevitable ending is another story, one teeming with two dangerous idols, high stakes challenges, and reckless big players who can flip at the drop of Ben’s “This Holiday Sucks” hat. And though I can’t say this season will live up to the best Australian Survivor has to offer, at least its parts are actually moving as the last week of the game plays out.
Returning to camp, Mark feels conflicted about Sam’s departure. While allowing the surviving member of the couple to carry both idols was part of the plan they established beforehand, he still feels responsible for knowing he held her life in the game in his hands. But with Sam’s elimination comes new life for Mark: a quest for revenge. And so his campaign begins.
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First on the docket is confronting Josh about his awkward decision to flip to the bottom of another majority. The pilot’s excuses shift the blame onto David and Chrissy, who hit him up with the option at the last minute and forced his hand. In his ideal world, Sam and Mark would still be around, but without the public idol driving Josh up a wall with paranoia. Well, it didn’t work. And now it’s a classic three-on-three standoff with a swing vote in the middle: Juicy Dave, the one person nobody fully trusts on either side.
However, as much as Mark wants to punish Josh for his betrayal, he needs meat shields to maximize his odds of survival should he need to play both idols and fail to win crucial challenges. Plus, there are other options to satisfy his hunger for vengeance, starting with Jordie and Dave. The former’s been a thorn in Mark’s side for weeks and will continue to apply pressure in every aspect of the game until he’s gone. After weeks of laying low, the latter has emerged as a skilled flip-flopper with solid negotiation skills, making himself a bit of a kingmaker. Neither of them matters to Mark’s game, so it’s all about figuring out which one can take the walk of shame first.
But the lines drawn in the sand can be washed away by the fickle tides of a classic Survivor dilemma: winning an individual reward and deciding who to take with you. With a spa night on the line, Shay, Chrissy, and KJ agree to take each other on a girls’ night out should one of them pull out the win. But caught in the heat of pain and promises, Shay cuts a deal with the last men standing, Josh and Jordie, and opts to take them instead.
It’s a sloppy and pointless betrayal at an absolutely awful time. KJ already wasn’t totally sold on Shay as a long-term ally due to their personal differences. And Chrissy’s never been particularly close with Shay either, given their history on the original Water Tribe. So unnecessarily burning them both in one move when the numbers are so close is a massive blunder. It might not cost her immediately, but when Shay needs allies in the game and on the jury, these seemingly small social faux pas can be game killers.
Without question, though, Jordie walks out of this challenge as the true winner. Knowing from personal experience how badly questionable reward picks can blow up weeks of hard work, he masterfully put Shay in a tough position and got his way without burning any bridges himself. Now he can work on earning Josh’s loyalty, keep Shay close as a member of the Purga-Trio, and have a blast at the spa free of charge, all while getting even more airtime to spout off Batman analogies ad nauseam.
Despite their past rivalry, Josh agrees it’s time to put his feud with Jordie aside and make some magic happen against Mark and his idol before it’s too late to strike. The plan is simple: split the votes between Mark and David, get Mark to play the idol, and send David home to get rid of the chaotic swing vote once and for all. But Josh isn’t exactly playing with a full deck here. He’s still in denial about Mark having two idols, one of which might tragically be his downfall in the coming days, and yet again, his target isn’t exactly the big guy himself, just his idol.
I understand where Josh’s head is at here. He wants to play a fairly loyal game and work with Mark, who’s presented a guise of forgiveness after the last vote. But Josh can’t truly commit until that idol is out of the picture. I just can’t get on board with letting Mark anywhere close to the final three at this point; loyalty be damned. Flushing the idol is important, yes, but Josh should be doing everything in his power to blindside Mark with it in his pocket. It would be a game-winning move, and he’d still have Jordie as a shield and Chrissy as a sworn loyal vote heading into the last couple rounds when the gloves come off. Letting Mark slip through only makes it harder to win challenges, and should both land at Final Tribal Council, Mark’s game is far flashier, especially his endgame, which will be fresh in the minds of the jury.
But just to throw some spanners in the works of this big scheme, the four camp-bound reward losers are ready to draw some new lines in the sand. Chrissy wanted nothing more than a day at the spa, and KJ’s so burned by Shay, she’s considering options outside the Purga-Trio. With Mark and Dave standing by and open to ideas, the four decide it’s possibly time to turn the game on Jordie, whose social game has allowed him (cough, with the help of two back to back powerful twists, cough) to infiltrate the hierarchy and set up shop at the top.
After winning immunity in a now rare Survivor AU puzzle challenge, Josh puts the spa trio’s plan into action, sharing the news with Chrissy. His plan is to get David, KJ, Shay, and Jordie to vote Mark, while himself, Mark, and Chrissy split on David. But Chrissy isn’t totally sold on any plan that doesn’t involve voting Jordie out.
Similarly, Jordie’s pitch to David hits the same impasse. But Juicy Dave’s luck is running dry. Mark says he’ll put Jordie’s name down but intends to blindside Dave instead as punishment for flipping on their strong six. The name of Mark’s game is working with people he trusts, and Dave clearly isn’t trustworthy, nor is Josh. Dubbing the new majority alliance the B Team, the commander brings out his people-reading skills once again to detect if he’s in danger. Ultimately, the people-reading isn’t even needed because Shay, no stranger to making weird moves and spilling beans, straight up tells Mark he should probably play his idol while looking down and trying not to laugh. You don’t need to be trained in interrogation to read a response that transparent and so Mark’s mind is made up. He’s bringing out the big guns.
At Tribal Council, Mark plays his idol (not that I ever doubted he’d make the smart play here given his position), nullifying three votes. And thanks to Chrissy throwing a vote on Jordie, we have a 2-2 tie between the Joker and the Juice (a sentence that physically pains me to type, but blame the show’s penchant for overly silly nicknames). This should be the prime time to take Jordie out, but the man has allies everywhere and only gets heat from KJ on the re-vote. As easy as it is to say Jordie only has this much influence because of some twists magically going his way, he still fostered a strong social game with his allies in the process. The guy has raw talent for playing Survivor, and while the twists did give him a much-needed status buff at his lowest point, it’s not the be-all, end-all of his game.
But as Jordie survives, Juicy Dave meets his demise. If I had one word to describe this man, it would be “enigmatic.” Dave either wasn’t on the show at all… or stole the show as a wildcard master of chaos who wasn’t afraid to gun for power players, sporting one of the most laughably random nicknames yet. Unfortunately, we “saw” more of the former, so I’m left wondering why we didn’t get more Juicy content along the way. He was an interesting guy with decent confessionals, had a big character shtick going for the entire season, and made some big plays. It sounds like the recipe for a main character, but alas, he got banished to the background until it was time to set up the reasons for his elimination.
With Dave gone, we’re down to a final six of only original Water members: Mark, Jordie, Josh, KJ, Shay, and Chrissy. It’s not the most electric final six ever, but each player has a unique perspective and game plan heading into the endgame. Mark’s ready to bulldoze his way to the end with idols and necklaces, Jordie’s pulling together an army of misfits and appears to be the frontrunner playing defense, Josh is trying to balance loyalty, properly timed betrayals, and a rising threat level, KJ’s a dark horse strategist waiting to strike, Shay’s gearing up for a challenge run to the finish line, and Chrissy is the wildcard comic relief who certainly seems like the most likely of the bunch to reach Day 47.
Regardless of who survives to the final three and who takes the title, at least this season of disappointments and wasted potential is shaping up to have a dynamic endgame, and at this point, I’ll take what I can get with fingers crossed for some surprises.