We dive straight into the Reward Challenge, which tells us we are in for a choc-a-block episode. And the reward is KFC: the only reward George will make an effort for, he says. “I don’t want immunity; I want KFC.” The castaways must hang on a pole in pairs; if one of the pairs drops, both are out. They draw for spots, and we know straight away that the big men are going to drop first.
And so it proves, though Matt quips, “Pain is temporary, KFC is forever.” When Shaun calls for a ladder to climb down, he promises his pole-mate Sam “a family feast on the outside.” Bank that for later. The pairing of George and Hayley win and select the second-place-getters, Shonee and Gerry, to dive into the buckets with them, leaving three of the Vigilantes back at camp to hold down the fort. The chicken munchers agree on the elimination order of Shaun, Nina, Sam, then Simon. Done.
Back at camp, Sam sees the opportunity to “pitch a proposal.” But it is Shaun who pitches to Simon, Nina, and Sam. If the Vigilantes split 4/3, and the minority plus Simon put four votes on George, and they can find an idol to nullify four Vigilante votes, they will have their Big Move and become the King Slayers. And finally, after 22 days, Shaun reveals that he has an idol. “This is the time; this is the moment.”
Simon asks to sleep on the proposal while promising either way that he’ll keep Shaun’s idol a secret. Privately Simon checks with Shaun that he is Shaun’s number one. Shaun assures him that he is, and Simon is chuffed.
George runs down the members of the Vigilantes like he’s putting together a crew for one last heist. Gerry is the wise one; Matt’s the nice guy; Simon is an alliance of convenience. The strongest faction within the Vigilantes is the Spice Girls: himself, Shonee, and Liz. But George says his true frenemy is Hayley. “I’d love to get to the end with the queen because nothing would say redemption more than beating Hayley at the Final Tribal Council.”
George raises “the money issue” with Hayley. “They may not want to give you the money twice,” he says. George says he has a similar problem and tells her about his secret $60,000 prize. It’s a plant to see if she reveals that to anyone else. Hayley knows the secret is being passed to her in his best interest so that George can get to the end with her and win against her. Hayley is looking for a clear path to the end, but she knows she can’t just get dragged along by George.
Sam approaches Hayley to say the door is not closed. Hayley asks him, who is playing the best game? His answer is George. Say it with your whole chest, Sam.
At the Immunity Challenge, players must stack letter blocks on a wobbly platform to spell Heroes vs Villains. Despite George chanting for him to drop or an errant breeze to take out his stack, Simon wins Immunity. He bro hugs Sam then turns and jumps into Shaun’s arms. George notices Simon “celebrating with the enemy,” wondering why the minority looks so happy at his win.
Back on the beach, Simon says in confessional that, with the necklace around his neck, he is unstoppable, and tonight he is going to “take down the King.” In fact, as the swing vote, he is so powerful he doesn’t even need the necklace.
The Vigilantes convene. Simon proposes that the vote be split 4/3 between Shaun and Nina. Simon volunteers himself for the primary side of the split. George picks up immediately that this move indicates Simon is jumping to the minority and, in all likelihood, will be voting for George.
George tells Shiz, Hayley, Matt, and Gerry that Simon has turned and that the plan must change. No longer a split, they will go all in on Sam. The Vigilantes (minus Simon) trust George’s read without question and agree to the new plan.
In the Plotting Hammock, Hayley asks Nina her thoughts on the game. Nina says if George makes it to final two, she will vote for him. Hayley notes that George has corrected his errors of play from last time and now looks unbeatable. Hayley tells Nina that she is safe, going so far as to say “If you have an idol, don’t play it.” Nina asks about the men. Are they safe? Hayley tells her, “If there is an idol, play to on Sam.” Nina asks, “If we vote for George, what is the likelihood of the plan coming off?” Hayley assures her, “Very high.” This is a gorgeous sip of these two subtle, smart players joining forces. May there be more to come.
Nina takes the intel to Sam. “If we have an idol, we should play it for you.” Sam immediately says his gut tells him not to trust Hayley. So perhaps the door isn’t as open as Sam told Hayley it was. On hearing the news, Shaun complains that Hayley hasn’t spoken to him in four days, so why should he trust her?
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When Nina finds an idol, in a place that Sam just looked in, she is so delighted that she refers to herself in the third person. Idol finding does strange things to Survivor players. Nina has never “seen one in the wild,” and her excitement is infectious. When she shows Sam and Shaun where she found it, Sam gripes, “I just looked in that!”
With this sudden embarrassment of riches (the four who plan on voting for George holding the immunity necklace and two idols between them), this minority is fizzing with plans. They can see the Big Move right at their fingertips.
At Tribal Council, on the way to the jury bench, Flick twirls for the Final 10, who hoot their appreciation at her Mayor of Jury Villa glow-up. Then JLP is straight down to business, asking whether there was opportunity during the reward for the minority to approach the Vigilantes left behind. George lays down the hammer; there is absolutely no reason for anyone to jump off the cruise ship. And if someone did jump ship, and George ended up on the jury, he would absolutely not vote for them.
Simon is so giddy under questioning that, even if George hadn’t already figured out something was up, Simon’s manner would have alerted him.
JLP calls for the vote. The editors have shown us the plan already, so we are allowed some nice voting confessionals (and one unnecessarily unpleasant one from Simon), as we already know what the vote will be. Nina, Shaun, Sam, and Simon on George, and the six Vigilantes on Sam. There’s no tension in the vote; the rising tension is in how many idols will be played and on whom?
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Sam tells Nina to play her idol for herself. She was already going to. And she does. George and Hayley are both surprised she is playing it for herself, for different reasons. Shaun rises to play his idol. Now suddenly, Sam wants Shaun to play it for him. Sam and Shaun try to read the faces of the Vigilantes-minus-Simon, but they are giving nothing away. Shaun plays his idol for himself, promising to buy Sam a case of beer if he is wrong. It will go well with the KFC family feast he promised him earlier.
After hiding the secret for 22 days, it would have been very hard for Shaun not to play it on himself. In addition, Simon told them that the majority’s plan was to split the vote between Nina and Shaun. He is far more likely to believe Simon, who jumped into his arms at the Immunity Challenge, than Hayley, who hasn’t spoken to him for four days.
At the first George vote, Shonee recognises Simon’s handwriting. “You’ve played yourself into the minority,” she chides. And Sam can only watch with rising dread as six votes for him come out of the urn.
Sam came into Australian Survivor in 2016 banging the Loyalty and Mateship drum until it no longer suited him, and he turned on his closest ally. He seemed to be much the same Sam in this go-round, but, despite hooking into the Meat Tray Convention of beefy men, his play now included a little more subtlety and a tinge more flexibility.
However, he was just as much a reactive player in Heroes vs. Villains as in 2016. If only he had meant it when he offered Hayley an open door, but instead, he snibbed the screen door and is headed to the jury. With how incredible and enjoyable this season is, he now has a front-row seat for the coming storms.