Hey, what is that? Is it a horse? Is it a cow? Is it Sue’s big move? Whatever it is, it definitely isn’t a blindside. However, while the result of this episode wasn’t what most viewers were hoping for, it was still a great episode that displayed the strategic thoughts of the more neglected characters this season. It was all about Sharn and the carrot of safety she masterfully dangled above the heads of two hungry herds desperate for her vote. With both factions of the game eating out of the palm of her hand, we see Sharn wrangle both herds around the Survivor beach, ultimately leading to her decision of which herd she will lead to slaughter and which she will lead to water.
We begin the episode with the tribe still riding high from the adrenaline-filled events that almost led to a rock draw. Having been the centre of Tribal proceedings, Sharn managed to avoid a possible game-ending decision to go to rocks by pledging her allegiance to the Vakama alliance. Up until this point, Sharn has kept her double agent strategy under control and under the radar by hiding behind bigger threats and the chaotic aftermath of Tribal Councils. However, after being the centre of attention at the latest Tribal, there is nowhere to hide for Sharn, meaning that she must do damage control to get back to everyone feeling comfortable with working with her.
Sharn has somehow found herself in a position where she is a vital number to both factions, with both sides convinced that she is working with them. I know that saying she “somehow” finds herself in this position doesn’t give her the credit that her gameplay deserves. Still, it makes no sense that someone who finished runner-up and was regarded as one of the best players has made it so far in the game, and that’s truly a testament to her skills as a player. With that said, it makes even less sense because Sharn has given the rest of the contestants no reason to trust her with the number of times she has either flipped or been loose with her loyalty. Yet here we are watching players like David go out of their way to take Sharn on reward in an attempt to win her over. David completely recognises this, yet he still tells us in his confessionals that he wants to work with Sharn regardless of not trusting her 100%.
We’ve seen many times the players who choose to play the middle are often run over for standing in the middle of the road. And if there is anyone who is driving the truck to run Sharn over this episode, it is Truck Driver Tarzan who has lost all trust in Sharn after she mouthed for him to vote Moana out at the last Tribal. He tries to relay this information back to Moana and David, telling them that Sharn isn’t trustworthy, but Mo isn’t having any of it. She is indignant and adamant that it was simply a case of miscommunication. Moana tells us that she knows who Sharn is as a person and player and knows that she wouldn’t go after her like that. Mo throws herself in front of the road in defence of Sharn, which in turn calms David down and makes him feel better moving forward.
There’s an interesting interaction between Shonee and Brooke, where they discuss the possible ramifications of Sharn breaking her word and voting one of them out. At first, they seem confident that Sharn is working with them and that it would be really poor form for her to break her word this far into the game. Shonee says that it makes sense for Sharn’s game to vote with them as they perceive her as being on the bottom of the alliance. However, Sharn is a lot more insulated in that alliance than the Vakama 3 give her credit for. Her alliance with Moana has been underreported all season, by the edit and the players, and has been the force behind many blindsides. It is also the reason why Mo was so fervently supportive of Sharn the whole time Tarzan was trying to sell her out. There is no doubt that Mo would take Sharn to the Final 2 if she had any say in it. And even her relationship with David, as tumultuous as it has been, is showing signs of growth that could see them genuinely stick together until the Final 4.
The point being that the Vakama alliance seems to really be underselling Sharn and her position in the game—something which might’ve really cost them this episode. Another reason why this conversation is so interesting is that the edit goes out of its way to show us a confessional of Shonee pointing out that she didn’t vote for Sharn the last season they played together. Shonee continues on to insinuate that if Sharn doesn’t vote with her at this next Tribal Council, then she won’t vote for her in the Final 2 if she were to make it there. It’s a small detail that could be very interesting to follow and see if it does prove to be foreshadowing for what’s to come.
Heading into the Immunity Challenge, Sharn and AK outline who they want to target going into Tribal. Sharn begins by reassuring AK that she is happy with the move that was made and that they are in a prime position to take control of the game moving forward. When the duo both hear Tarzan approaching in the distance, AK quickly suggests that David should be the target if he doesn’t win Immunity, a plan which Sharn doesn’t oppose but doesn’t emphatically agree with either. Sharn tells AK that she is all for voting David out so long as it is done at the right time and under the right circumstances.
The challenge is ultimately won by Brooke in a tightly contested competition of endurance, which sees David as the runner up yet again. Brooke’s storyline this season has been underwhelming only due to the fact that her story as a character was tied so closely to Locky. Since then, she has flown under the radar with very little strategic content, outside of her conversations with Shonee and AK. Nevertheless, her victory adds to the complete and utter dominance the women have had in the Immunity Challenges this season and makes David vulnerable to possibly being blindsided with an idol in his pocket later that night.
Back at camp, the conversations pick up right where they left off, with Sharn bouncing between both factions and telling everyone what they want to hear. The time is ticking before Tribal, which means it’s time for the final pitches to be made. When the Vakama alliance plus Sharn convene, AK warns the group that if David isn’t eliminated now that they all run the risk of him going on an Immunity run or finding more hidden idols. They don’t call him ‘The AKoutant’ for no reason, this is a pitch that should instill the fear of god in any rational thinking human. It is a very real possibility, especially considering that David already has one hidden immunity idol and has been runner up in most of the challenges.
Having been briefed on the Vakama strategy, Sharn goes off with Moana to confirm the Mokuta side of the plan, where she learns that it is full steam ahead on Shonee. From here, Sharn tells us that she wants to use her position as the swing vote to make a big power move. She says that she thinks it’s important to make this big move since she is playing such a covert game in comparison to her last season, where she was playing more overtly. It’s interesting that Sharn thinks that she is making moves that nobody notices considering that she has been a key cog and the centre of attention in the past two votes and many more beforehand. As someone who has had her hand in multiple cookie jars, and is under constant scrutiny from players like David and Tarzan for flipping back and forth, it is difficult to believe that anyone would think of Sharn’s game as covert especially at this point of the season. If she were to make it to the Final 2, there will no doubt be a large group of people who will have strong feelings about her game, be it positive or negative.
I digress, Sharn’s departure from camp gives Tarzan the perfect opportunity to continue his quest to get Mo and David to start questioning Sharn’s loyalty. However, every time he brings it up he is quickly shut down and reprimanded by Moana. Tarzan tries to plant seeds of doubt in their minds that Sharn could potentially be stringing them along and using her position in the middle to her advantage. Although, while Mo is staying strong in her defence of Sharn, Tarzan’s words are lingering a bit more in David’s mind, especially since he is still holding onto an idol. So David decides to whip out the idol and show it to Moana and Tarzan as a way to solidify their trust and make them secure in going to the Top 3 together.
David then asks the pair if he should show the idol to Sharn, which sparks a quick and resounding “no” from Tarzan. But once David explains to them that it will be a great way to get Sharn on their side and increase her loyalty, they are more receptive to the idea. So, before the contestants to go Tribal, David takes Sharn aside to show her the idol and tells her that he will have no problem playing it if he feels like he is in danger of going home. But Sharn sees right through this and tells us in a confessional that she won’t let David try and call her bluff and says that this would indeed be a great opportunity to vote him out with an idol in his pocket…. for the second time in his Survivor career.
Sharn continues to play up the idea that she will be voting with Vakama alliance at Tribal. The conversation revolves around the promise that Sharn made at the last Tribal, where she said she would vote with Vakama if they avoided going to rocks. JLP asks Shonee how she would feel if she Sharn were to break her promise, and we get more confirmation that Shonee would be an upset jury member if that were the case. The Vakama members lay this message on real thick and pander to Sharn’s ego of being a big player to try and convince her that staying loyal to them is the right move. But when the votes are read, we learn that Sharn ultimately stays true to her Mokuta alliance and votes Shonee out of the game. In her voting confessional, Sharn tells us that she needs to keep David in the game as her shield, and that is why she is voting her out.
I actually liked the move for Sharn to stick with her alliance because I do think that she is well insulated and can ride it out. Now with her knowledge of David’s idol, I also think that there was real potential for Sharn to really play up her indecision of who to vote out even more as a way to play on David’s paranoia and flush out his idol. But judging by Moana’s comments earlier in the episode, everyone seemed on board with Sharn pretending to vote with the Vakama 3, so David probably wasn’t playing the idol no matter what Sharn said. Also, sticking with her long term alliance gives her just a bit more credibility in the game with the few players that are left, rather than burning bridges at both ends.
Ultimately, what this vote comes down to is the fact that even though Sharn views David as a massive threat in the game, she recognises that she is also a large threat and can use the Golden God as a shield to get to the end. This was a really illuminating episode for Sharn, and her strategy is really coming to light. With the amount of times we heard Sharn describe her game as covert and behind the curtains, I do worry that she will be unable to prove her game to the jury if she were to make it to the end. Nevertheless, the season is not over yet, and there is still lots of game to be played.