Alice Barelli is back to recap the events in episode twenty of Australian Survivor.
Well. What is there to say about Australian Survivor? This game is like watching pre-school kids taking an exam on university calculus except there’s a 32 season cheat sheet that they didn’t pay attention to. I wonder if they genuinely believe they will all get a joint win and share the money then sit around in the sun and look at unicorns flit around – do some of these people want to win at all? I don’t just blame the castaways, though – there are stories in the episode that they could draw out which don’t seem to be quite getting there.
JL (like Nick before her) tried to blow up alliances and shake up the tribe at the previous tribal council. JL is acutely aware that she is so far on the bottom of the tribe that she isn’t even on the totem pole (isn’t even in the vicinity of the totem pole) and hasn’t been for some time. But she won’t give up. She reminds the camp that she’s the last original Vavau member standing. JL might be on an individual sinking ship, but Kristie has opened her eyes to what is actually going on. She talks about receiving the second highest amount of votes at tribal council as “a good wake-up call…now’s the time to start playing. It wasn’t before but now it is”. It’s true that timing is everything in Survivor and a well-timed flip can put the power in your favour but in this case, I’m not sure why it was bad timing for Kristie up until now.
The following morning Lee has a guilty conscience. He speaks in his confessional about “Tricky decisions to make morally and ethically” and wants to talk things out with Kristie since he feels bad that he voted for her the previous evening. I wanted to pause the TV and rewind. Talking out what happened with Kristie, that’s a good idea. Telling her he voted for her? That might not be necessary. Obviously, Kristie knows she received votes and is probably aware that two of them came from JL and Sue. The other two she knew came from a general group, but Lee doesn’t need to claim responsibility.
Every single conversation and move that is made in Survivor needs to be thought out. I think Lee apologising to Kristie is a good thing and they do have a bond from being original Aganoa together. To make matters better Lee gives a somewhat bizarre confessional saying “I like Kristie, she’s awkward” which doesn’t seem like a golden commendation to me. Kristie appears to be taking what he says with a grain of salt.
JL is feeling lonely at camp without Sue. Without Sue, she’s got plenty of time to talk to the cameras about the other castaways voting themselves into a corner that can only erupt in chaos the more ‘outsiders’ they vote out. After being invisible for so long JL is saturating our screens and must have had more confessionals this episode than all the other episodes combined.
Similar to Kristie, the other castaways are beginning to wake up, smell the roses and see each other as threats instead of lifelong buddies. Matt, who has been blissfully unaware that he is only a moment away from being chopped, says that everybody is waking up to the game now and that they’ve reached the ‘scary part of Survivor.’
JL is talking with the girl power alliance of Flick, Brooke, and El. El spits out that ‘the game doesn’t sit morally well’ which is exasperating given the game they’re playing isn’t Snakes and Ladders or Snap! Survivor is a game of strategy and to win you need to make moves and step on toes and push some people out of the way. It’s a theme we’ll hear over and over throughout the episode as people lament having to lie to their previous allies and worry about hurting other people’s feelings.
Brooke and Sam talk on the beach saying that El and Lee are jury threats that can’t remain in the game if they want a chance to win. There’s a moment here where Sam looks gut-wrenchingly sad as he talks about needing to scheme against others. This is the type of thing production could draw out – look at the emotional processing that’s going on with these people and the guilt they feel about having to betray one another. There’s a story there that could be built up into an arc, and instead, production has people wondering why most of the castaways are dancing around the object of the game.
They agree the final four should be all original Saanapu: Brooke, Flick, Sam, and Matt. Brooke and Flick agree that El and Lee have been good friends, but they’re no good to have around in a final four. The irony here is that Matt has genuinely been on the outs since before the merge and he will never believe he was so far down the food chain now that he’s part of the (new) power quartet. JL could not be more serious when she says the castaways are running out of time to use her and Kristie as numbers because after this vote there won’t be enough castaways left to flip the vote.
Then came a series of moments where I was seriously flabbergasted – first Matt says that this (without really saying what ‘this’ is) is “one of the best alliance moves ever in Survivor.” I was so confused I rewound to hear it again – Matt thinks this quartet, which is essentially the product of a winning streak and wanting to avoid taking threats to the final four, is making one of the best alliance moves ever in Survivor. I don’t even have a rebuttal. This is just unfathomable to me.
THEN TO MAKE IT EVEN WEIRDER – Flick says this alliance ‘could have the biggest move that’s ever been made in the game of Survivor’. I’m dumbfounded. Clearly, Flick has never seen Survivor before because gathering four people into an alliance and then voting out someone they were previously loyal to IS NOT A BIG MOVE. That’s just a normal-regular-everyday Survivor move. Being willing to draw rocks and possibly gain the numbers advantage? That’s a big move we saw from Hayden and Ciera in Survivor: Blood vs Water. Stealing a member from the opposing alliance? That’s a big move we saw from Aubry last season on Survivor: Kaoh Rong. Voting off your closest ally? That’s a big move we’ve seen twice by Ciera (Survivor BvW) and Michele (Survivor Kaoh Rong). Eventually, some of the alliance would have to vote out some other members of the alliance and it’s not a big move, it’s the nature of the game. Please excuse me while I go and bang my head against the wall.
On to the challenge! Thank goodness JLP is here to distract me from Matt and Flick and their inane chatter. This immunity challenge is a good one; it’s not based on endurance, and I like how they’re combining physical elements with the memory aspect. A really interesting part of this challenge that gets skipped over a bit is that there are not enough balance beams for everyone to cross back and forth at the same time. Every castaway has a workstation with a see-saw, but there are only four balance beams to cross over the grass and then two that cross over the mud pit. When you think about castaways needing those balance beams to cross both ways, there is plenty of opportunity for fisticuffs and frustration. Who do you let cross before you? Nobody? Your allies? Everyone? It could have played out in an interesting manner.
The challenge sets off with Sam and Lee getting out in front, but the game soon evens out once everyone is working on the block puzzle. Several people get the arrangement of blocks wrong before Brooke gets it right on her second try. At first, I was a bit confused how the castaways were getting these wrong when there were only nine blocks to arrange which isn’t overly difficult to memorise. We’ve seen Stephen Fishbach memorise ten symbols in a row to win immunity in Survivor Tocantins and last season Michele memorised a dozen animal and number combos to win immunity. So nine animals in a block pattern shouldn’t be too tricky – it was then I had a closer look and saw that each cube had an animal on every side so all in all they were choosing nine pictures from a total of 54 options which makes it seem a bit more complicated. Throw in a few similar looking pictures and more than a month of dehydration and malnutrition and this challenge was a lot more complex than it initially looks.
The castaways walk back into camp to some tense strings music. El asks JL how she’s feeling and JL replies by laughing. I love how blunt JL has been these past two episodes – there’s no beating around the bush, she’s just laying everything on the line. Ask how she is when everybody knows her neck (or torso as Nick might say) is on the chopping block? She’ll just laugh.
JL and Kristie take a walk to discuss what they think might happen. They both know they’re on the chopping block, but JL also knows that the cogs in the alliance are beginning to turn and it’s only so long before there are bigger fish to fry and the two of them can relax a bit and watch the previous alliance fight it out. JL isn’t sure that all the flipping and in-fighting will happen tonight but poses the question that the viewing audience is thinking and has been thinking since the merge: “Don’t they realise after you and I go home they’re going to go home?”
We get a few hints about the possibility of a blindside (Sam saying there’s potential for a blindside and El twisting her mind into knots when JL talks about gameplay), but we haven’t seen any names thrown around so I don’t think we’ll be in luck at this particular tribal council.
We then get to the tribal council which is essentially the Jennah-Louise show. JL talks about how the alliance needs to wake up because not everybody knows where they stand within the alliance. Lee says there are things he’s gotten from the game ‘that have higher net worth than a half a million dollars’ and JL sweetly offers to take the money off his hands if he wins. El and Lee talk about not wanting to turn their back on their alliance, and JL handily points out that members of that very same alliance are now watching them from the jury. Nick, bless him, waves to his former allies after JL says this.
JLP very directly asks JL if choices to help flip a majority vote are running out, and she agrees that they are ‘rapidly running out.’ Flick says her big line from all the publicity this week “Let’s be honest there is a smaller alliance” and follows it up by not saying who it is or what that means for her game. JL is still running the show saying that she may be a game player, but she can be a game player that benefits someone’s game.
Everybody votes. We don’t see what anybody writes down. JLP reads the names: three to Kristie and four to Jennah Louise. JL seems surprisingly cheerful for somebody who just lost their shot at $500,000. She gets a hug off JLP and takes off into Jurydom. It occurred to me at this point that maybe nobody wants to turn on the alliance because all of them genuinely believe that they’re in it.
I’m going to have to put all my eggs in one basket now and hope that Kristie makes it through the next few weeks. I can pin my hopes on an underdog. Kristie is laughing in the promo for tomorrow’s episode, so I can only hope we see the promised crack in the alliance and something crazy go down at tribal.