After the emotional ouster of Simon, of whom we have all become rightfully fond, the Final 5 are treated to coffee with far too many sugars. George tells Gerry, “Whether I finish 4th, 3rd, 2nd, or 1st, I’m proud of myself either way.” But if anyone thinks George isn’t playing for first place, they’ve been ingesting too much sugar and caffeine.
Liz has sniffed out how incredibly close Gerry is to George. She sets her sights on Matt as the target to take break-up the Gerry/Matt duo and to take out her biggest opponent when it comes to physical challenges. Liz hopes the Jacuzzi Alliance is merely fractured and not dead. She approaches Nina with the plan to get rid of Matt. With Nina on board, she reminds George of their bond, that she sees him as a brother, and makes a forceful pitch against Matt. George agrees. Plain sailing to Tribal Council, no? No.
At the Immunity Challenge, Liz focuses on preventing Matt from winning immunity. The challenge is an obstacle/balance run, then a vertical maze. Such a great challenge. You need your balance and delicate coordination just at the time the most adrenaline is flowing. Liz leads from the start; her flexibility, strength, coordination, and laser focus make this one to watch, even for those with a heavy finger on the fast-forward button during challenges (I see you).
Back at camp, Liz casually licks the machete, instantly sprouting a thousand memes. George checks in with Gerry and Matt, saying Nina is the one who will win at the end. She has more locked-up jury votes than anyone else, naming Simon, Flick, Shaun, and Sam. George says Liz is voting with them because she has no choice.
Liz rightly worries that George is too close to Gerry. George is worried that Gerry will be cross if he votes for Matt. Liz pulls George aside to say he is playing emotionally and that Gerry is making George soft. “You need to snap out of it,” she instructs him. “I’m thinking clearly and I’m striking. I’m not here to make mates. And you need to be cut-throat now.” She has a machete he might like to meet.
From episode one, Liz has been an impressive person, and she is an impressive player. Perhaps a little heavy-handed and not always alert for double-talk and possible betrayals, but the edit seems to tell us she will be in the final (be it two or three), and it would be thrilling to hear her lay out her game.
In confessional, George weighs up which way to vote. He is an untouchable swing between two votes for Matt and two votes for Nina. He thinks this vote will set him up to take the bronze or the gold medal, so making the right choice is imperative. Going with his social game means keeping Matt, and leaning to the strategic side means keeping Nina.
Liz makes an excellent case to Matt that, yes, she is voting Nina with the men. However, Matt has been growing his Survivor spider senses over 43 days, and he sniffs that something is off but can’t quite put his finger on it. Hint: think about what makes sense, what is the right move from each person’s individual perspective, and not just the plan you are set on.
At Tribal Council, JLP asks, oddly, “When strategy fails, can you appeal to other players’ humanity to stay in the game?” Liz gives Nina credit for “giving it a crack’” and trying to snake any way into the ‘solid’ alliance. JLP asks George point blank if Matt’s prowess at challenges factors into his decision when voting. Matt fingers Liz as his rival challenge beast, as someone to watch out for.
George says he is constantly pondering his best path to the end. Gerry claims there has been no one true leader all the way through. It is George’s turn at the moment, but a few of them have been taking the main role from time to time. Gerry asks if George agrees. George says yes. Perfect answer, George.
Nina’s eye rolls beg to disagree. She says that she, as a jury member, will want to hear how a player was instrumental in moves, not just “I was told a name, and I wrote it down.” She says that an active leader normally is running around, making sure the numbers are right, not just at camp waiting to hear what’s going to happen. George’s eyes continuously go to the jury, and we all agree with Nina when she concludes, “shouldn’t have said that probably.”
It is time to vote. Nina votes for Matt, saying, “It’s either me or you. I’ve been waiting for you to flip the switch and become that really great player I know you can be, but you never let go of the golden ticket”. Liz votes for Matt. Matt votes for Nina, saying, “You’ve proved that you are a phenomenal game player and a huge strategic threat.” Gerry votes for Nina. George’s vote isn’t shown until JLP pulls the final vote for Nina out of the urn.
Although we didn’t see much of Nina in the pre-merge, with the Heroes mostly staying out of Tribal Council, we caught wind of some great gameplay, including a thwarted Hayley blindside. Post-merge, she had to use some fancy footwork to find her way to the final 5. More great gameplay and a wonderful strategic mind brought her here to have her torch snuffed for the first time.
But she gave George the perfect reason to vote her out, with her eloquent description of the game that she, and perhaps the rest of the jury, will be looking to reward at Final Tribal Council. Nina hasn’t finished playing Survivor yet. It’s exciting to dream of what we will see on her third time out.
In his voting confessional, George says he came in ready to vote for Matt, but Nina’s “final tribal performance” and the thought he’d rather have a happy Gerry and an unhappy Liz to go back to at camp than the other way around, sealed her fate. Nina was right. George voted for her because he saw her as his one credible threat on the last day.
And so here we are where we never imagined we would be. The newbies came into the merge 4-8 down. Now we have a Final 4 consisting of one returnee and three newbies. With Nina’s torch being snuffed, there goes my winner pick. If I was compelled to say who will win now, I’ll take an each-way bet on George and Liz. And I think it is George’s season to lose.