Following the previous night’s non-elimination twist, Nina and Gerry are banished to Survivor Isolation, which might as well be renamed the Survivor Playpen with how goofy it looks. The rules are simple: they can’t leave that cage until Tribal, so they’re at the mercy of the other four when it comes to food, water, and information. But there’s plenty of info to be shared within the pen itself as Nina wastes no time exposing George’s game to a salty Gerry. Learning that George had final threes all over the place and will likely betray him as he did with Shonee and Hayley, Gerry is finally waking up and realizing the time to strike is now.
From the shadows, Simon emerges with a late-night proposal to blindside George and finds the isolated duo willing to join him in his attempted regicide. But George is listening from the nearby brush, and a terrifying realization sets in: he’s been caught in his own web of lies now that notes have been compared. Even with Gerry furious and Nina desperate to flip him to her side with straight-up facts, George won’t let a loyal ally slip away so easily. He’ll bring him a chair for comfort, apologize for the stray vote he caught, use Matt as a proxy to explain his strategies, whatever it takes to keep his path to the end clear and open.
The immunity challenge is a literal twist on the classic domino stacking challenge, and it all comes down to Matt and Simon, with the lifeguard taking home the necklace by a single second. Despite the sting of such a close loss, Simon’s not too worried. The fractures in the tribe are clear, so he feels hopeful that someone can scoop him up and give him new life in the game after weeks of dwelling around the bottom. And lo and behold, Gerry and Nina are looking for anti-George votes as he speaks! If Gerry can swing Matt and Simon’s on board as usual, it’s a done deal.
Back at camp, George is calling the shots and argues for a split vote, basically repeating what should’ve happened at the last vote. He and Liz vote for Simon, Matt and Gerry vote for Nina, and Nina and Simon can’t wield any power. As for which of the two is his true target, he weighs his options. Nina is a bigger strategic threat and more likely to win a jury vote with how many Heroes are on the jury, but Simon’s been his nemesis from the very beginning and could easily win out in challenges to foil his endgame plans.
But just to keep an insurance policy in place, he needs to guarantee Gerry’s on board. Nina rightfully points out that George is using Matt as a mouthpiece to present the info as a sneaky manipulation tactic, and Gerry seems to understand where she’s coming from. The trust with George is broken, the king’s cards have been revealed, and it sounds like the perfect time for revenge… but one last box needs to be ticked before he fully commits. Matt needs to be in the loop and agree to the George plan. Nina and Gerry fill him in on what’s actually happening behind his back, giving Matt the courage to consider a big move.
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As the tide shifts, a paranoid and panicking George pulls a last-ditch effort to win Gerry back. With Nina in earshot, he marches up to the playpen and gives Gerry something to chew on: he’s Gerry’s number one, and if he gets third place to Matt and Gerry after such an incredible game, so be it. But he’s sticking with Gerry to the very end, and nothing will change that. As much as George taking his loyalty for granted pains him, Gerry can’t deny that George has been a friend, ally, and mentor in a game where almost everyone else was willing to toss him aside.
When Tribal finally arrives, the red flags shoot up for Nina and Simon. Gerry spent a lot of time dragging George through the mud in Isolation, but that open wound has had just enough time to heal. What seemed to be a simple George blindside goes off the rails when Gerry shamelessly gives a passionate speech in his defense, pitching himself as not a spineless pawn to George but a pupil learning the game from one of the greats. Fearing he’s fallen back under George’s spell and hit the snooze button on that wake-up call (meaning Matt’s a lost cause as well), Nina and Simon are forced to turn on each other and join the split vote. From a 3-3 to a 4-0 re-vote, Simon the cockroach is finally crushed.
As much as this season has shamelessly been The George Show, his rival Simon was, ironically, the breakout star nobody expected. The beautiful mess that was Simon’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Game was a spectacle, if not one of the best storylines Australian Survivor has ever seen. From his early rise to power, to his immediate downfall as George took control, to the hilarious cookie idol saga that sent him crashing to the bottom of two tribes at once, to the brief light of hope he quickly extinguished with an attempted flip, to his underdog immunity run leading up to his eventual demise… I loved every second of it.
And to make it even more tragic, despite how badly Simon played, the jury was actively rooting for him and likely would’ve given him the win in multiple final two combos because his story was so compelling. In my opinion, the man cemented himself as a modern legend (more so for entertainment value than actual gameplay), and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him play a third time someday.
Then there were five: King George, Princess Nina, and three newbie “pawns” who’ve yet to cement legacies of their own. If this season goes the course of previous iterations, this should be a slam-dunk George victory, as nobody else looms quite as large on the edit, the narrative, and the game itself. But I wouldn’t give the man his coronation until the crown is actually in his hands. With a couple of clutch immunity wins or a decisive big move from George’s allies, Nina could slip through the cracks and repeat history in her mom’s footsteps with so many friends on that jury.
And as much as we don’t want to imagine it as a possibility, I can’t shake the feeling that Gerry, Matt, and Liz have kept George around to be sacrificed at the last second once he’s served his purpose in getting them to the end. And at that point, it’s a battle of who’s the least offensive goat between two or three largely ignored and unimpressive players. Regardless of how it plays out, though, some crazy history will be made at the end of this high-caliber season… for better or worse.