Blood v Water’s second week comes to a thunderous close after a series of, for better or worse, big shockers. From the typical Tribal twist to an unfortunate quit to the unexpected dominance of the game’s biggest threat against all odds, this season came to be big and memorable.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for a select few cast members, including this episode’s boot, who finally gives Sam Schoers some company in the zero confessionals club. But even with that disappointing fact looming over this episode, it still proved to be a fun, engaging, and suspenseful sixth chapter of this 24-part story.
Let’s dive into Water first, pun fully intended. With Alex gone, Sophie knows she’s surviving on borrowed time. Dubbing herself the Wicked Witch of the Outback who can’t be killed (ironically missing the grim part of the metaphor where the witch in question was dispatched by her tribe’s namesake), she’s dedicated to not just her survival but that of her sister. She’s finally wised up to the reality that her social faux pas and hunger for revenge can sink KJ’s carefully laid game if she’s not careful.
With that in mind, Sophie heads to resident royalty Khanh to forge an unlikely big threat/bottom feeder alliance. Too bad Khanh’s not hearing a second of it and laughs the proposal off immediately. Even if the target on his back is hard to shake, Sophie has no power, is scrambling for any numbers she can get, and just tried to flush Khanh’s idol herself. Khanh has nothing to gain from aligning with her as the tribe stands now, but as long as Sophie thinks she’s got him in her pocket, that’s always a bonus in his book.
After winning a club sandwich feast, the Water Tribe prepares for the worst-case scenario of losing immunity. Once again, the stage is set for a Khanh vs. Sophie showdown, and if Mark’s word can be trusted, Sophie is doomed if she doesn’t find an idol. In fact, Mark’s so dedicated to making sure that never happens that he walks over to the reward table and humorously flips it over in front of the entire tribe just to make sure nothing’s hiding underneath.
With nothing to be found, the clock continues ticking towards Sophie’s demise, and there’s very little she can do to change it. Except winning immunity, obviously. Water dominates the next challenge, set at a particularly gorgeous oasis that really sells this outback location as one of a kind, and Blood is sent back to another Tribal Council with an extremely exhausted Croc in tow. Sophie survives to see yet another day and perhaps gains new life in the game.
The Blood Tribe is ready to spill some of their namesake, and it’s a big episode for a lot of players, finally fleshing out the dynamics of this group after six whole episodes. Jesse, owning the quirky comic relief role as he lays in wait, dubs himself Juicy Jesse, a decision I 100% support because the more people we have calling themselves “Juicy” with zero context on this season, the better. Croc, finally entering the fray as more than a quiet number, gets his home video package explaining how competing on the show is a test to restore his lost confidence after retirement from the NRL.
Meanwhile, Jordan continues providing his strategic insight, giving us a glimpse into the social dynamics we haven’t been privy to thus far, such as his bond with Amy. Even Michelle, who’s only seemed to appear quietly standing next to her “Survivor Bible” Sandra for five episodes, finally gets to speak and plays a major role in this chaotic mess of a vote. It took some time, way too long even, but we finally know who some of these people are!
But most of these emerging characters still remain as supporting characters, or should I say soldiers, because there’s a war brewing between Amy and Sandra—and both women need troops to seize power.
Sandra has a sobering realization that Day 16 is fast approaching, the curse of her last two seasons looming large over her game even across international lines. Survivor has given her and her family a lot to be happy about, but even with two wins and many great moves under her belt, she has a bit of unfinished business: survive to see Day 17 and beyond one last time. It’s another benchmark she has to pass, but if she can avoid going home first, survive multiple Tribals, and give it her all in the challenges without making the sit-out bench her vacation home, she’s more than well equipped to conquer those demons once and for all.
Meanwhile, Amy has ambitions—and lofty ones at that. Sandra believes Juicy Dave wrote her name down at her first Tribal (an assumption that’s 100% pulp, no juice to be found) rather than the real culprit, Sam, who’s somehow managed to get one over on the Queen and remain off her radar. I’ve doubted Sam’s ability to correct her 2017 era mistakes at some points, but keeping up with Sandra’s social reads and outwitting her head to head is a sign of great things to come.
With Dave on the chopping block and Sandra hyped to pour him down the drain, Amy sees a chance to make a huge move: assassinating the Queen at the height of her power. She’s still scared of Sandra, though, but the thought of losing an easy, non-threatening ally like Dave is even scarier. It’s now or never.
Unfortunately for Amy, she makes some rookie mistakes. Spending most of her time with Jay and Dave makes it clear they’re a tight trio, dubbed “The Throuple” by a watchful Sandra who sees all like an omnipresent deity on the beach. Correctly identifying herself as their target, she springs into action to recruit her anti-Amy army with Sam, Jesse, and Michelle, along with the desperate remnants of Sophie’s bottom-feeding Big Boys alliance.
It’s a move that’s been set up from the early days of the game, ever since Sandra discussed working with alpha males all the way up to her giving Jordan, Croc, and Ben helpful game advice when nobody else would. Sandra planted some seeds in fertile soil and the harvest is bountiful, just in time to give her a fighting chance against her would-be usurpers.
Nothing’s settled, though, because the Big Boys have a choice to make. They can side with Sandra, working with someone who can provide great game advice but also stab them in the back without mercy. Or they can side with Amy, finding an ally who’s less experienced and might make questionable rookie moves but might prove more trustworthy in the long-term. Either way, Ben, Croc, and Jordan will decide who goes home just a couple days after being on the bottom.
But this is an Australian season, so things are bound to be even messier than expected. Amy’s alliance decides it’s time to finally find the Blood idol, competing against Sam and Michelle to find it first and seize power. Amy seemingly finds it without being spotted, marching into battle with a secret weapon and all the ammo she needs to take down the Queen. But things take a turn when it turns out Michelle was watching the entire time and knows Amy’s secret. And where else to go with this game-changing information than Sandra herself?
Armed with all the info she needs to strike back, Sandra gets aggressive, organizing a split vote between Amy and her barely relevant ally Jay, intending to spook Amy into playing her idol. Jordan is still feeling conflicted, caught between wanting to seize control of the game and the raw emotions of turning on someone he considers a friend. So he lands a bit in the middle, telling Amy she’s in danger and needs to play her idol. Amy starts to panic, realizing someone has blown up her plan and possibly her entire game, all while Sandra casually asks her allies how to spell Amy’s name. If you ever wanted a perfect dichotomy of experience and confidence vs. the lack thereof, there you go.
And just in case you hadn’t realized this episode was messy yet, Tribal takes it up another notch as Sandra and Amy clash face to face. Sandra calls her alliance out for ghosting her all day, citing her previous seasons to explain how obvious they’d made it that she was their target and why it was a terrible play. Amy attempts to fight back, but Sandra isn’t letting up, and when Amy alludes to some mysterious reason why she’s in the firing line, Sandra delivers another great line: “Say it.”
With nowhere left to hide and all eyes on her for answers, Amy bites the bullet and reveals her idol, news to Jay and Dave, and it’s soon time to vote. Knowing what’s coming her way, Amy plays her idol on herself, because “not today, Satan,” and takes three votes out of contention. And in a 4-3 vote, Sandra’s slow-burn social game bears fruit as Jay gets blindsided, offering her congratulations and a kiss on the cheek on the way out as a sign of respect.
I really wish I had more to say about Jay. Based on the slim amounts of camp life he was shown in, plus his few Tribal responses to JLP, I have no clue why his edit was this terrible. Which production member’s puppy did this man kick to deserve a spot in the Sam Schoers club? He seemed like a fun, charismatic, likable guy. Hell, they barely let him say anything about his loved one quitting, just a short answer on the mat about being proud of Alex for toughing it out, and his one secret scene was, and I’m not joking, about how badly he was chaffing.
I’m truly baffled, and I could write an essay about how much I loathe this extremely lopsided style of editing with a passion, but I’d be a broken record. We all know it sucks. But we also know it’s probably not changing for the foreseeable future as long as the current production team remains in charge. Just grin and bear it with fingers crossed, I suppose.
Instead, let’s talk about Amy’s downfall here and where her plan went wrong. I do think taking out Sandra was the right idea for her specifically. She benefits from knocking out big threats and making a name for herself, and nobody would be a bigger prize than the Queen. But she still needs the numbers—and forming a tight trio on a tribe of 10 when she doesn’t have quite the social capital of the player she’s targeting set her up to fail. Perhaps if she’d found the idol without being spotted, the votes wouldn’t have been split, and she’d be hanging out with Denise Stapley in the Queenslayer Club.
But Sandra’s been around the block four times. She knows how and why vote splits work. I don’t believe for a second that she wouldn’t take precautions this round whether she knew about the idol or not. And with enough relationships on her side to hold a powerful majority, she had the round locked up and simply had to let her two weeks of work pay off. It’s an honor to watch Sandra play this well and cut throats this viciously in a season where she had every reason to expect an early exit.
The way they’ve shown Sandra’s game on screen really hightlights why she’s so successful in ways the US seasons never could. She sets up her pieces early, gives herself options, and lets her work unfold like a Rube Goldberg machine. Relationships blossom into alliances, alliances give her protection, and protection gets her through a game where her physical limitations should be her undoing at the early opportunity. And yet, she remains in the game with power to wield and a serious shot to shatter some low expectations.
But Sandra’s not out of the woods by any means because with Week Three brings the first major tribe swap, something that’s been her undoing in the past as it disrupts her carefully maintained social dynamics. But with Nina confirmed to join her on a new tribe, her game is about to take a massive turn unlike anything she’s dealt with before.
As for the other players, the likes of Amy and Dave desperately need to wash this Blood stain off their hands and find new allies. And on the Water Tribe, Sophie and Khanh might escape the firing line yet again as new targets, as well as new pairs, enter the crosshairs for the first time. Regardless of how the new tribes shake out, if the rest of the season proves to be as compelling as this episode, the end result can’t be disappointing.