BOOM! The Channel 10 promos promised the Greatest Tribal Council in Survivor History. So hold onto your (unblurred) butts; we’ll get there.
At Heroes camp, the talk is all about Gerry. Did he survive the Villains’ Tribal Council? Meanwhile, at the Villains camp, Gerry is feeling more at home than he ever was as a Hero. “We don’t have to die; we’re already in heaven,” he tells his tribemates as he admires the Samoan beach.
The pilot has a conference with the Spice Girls in the jungle. Gerry is now one of them. Old Spice, in fact. He points out that Simon will gravitate to the muscly men on the Heroes tribe at a swap or a merge. So George starts planning his move on Simon, counting Gerry as a number.
In confession, Jordie notes that Simon is rubbing the tribe the wrong way. “It’s come to a tricky situation,” he says, unaware of the conflagration looming at Tribal Council. “I think I can play both sides.”
— SurvivorAU (@Survivor_AU) February 12, 2023
At the Challenge, the Heroes crane their necks until they spot Gerry. JLP announces Gerry has served his 48 hours with the Villains and can now return to Heroes tribe. The Villains are startled. But wait, there’s more! Gerry has a choice. He can return to the Heroes as planned or stay with the Villains. George points out that the Heroes voted him off. The Heroes counter that they sent him on a mission and they would love to have him back.
In the end, Gerry chooses to return to the Heroes tribe. Was it misplaced loyalty? He was valued by the Villains. But perhaps 48 hours is a holiday, and the Heroes so patently want him to return. It’s flattering.
JLP announces an Immunity Challenge. What, no Reward? It’s a big physical challenge, pushing a huge wooden ball into a goal while defending your tribe’s goal. George counsels that it’s about strategy, not ego, as Simon plunges out to go up against Shaun. “We needed him to be on the one we lose,” George mutters. Heroes score two goals, sending Villains to Tribal Council. “Now we can get George out,” says Stevie. “Let’s say goodbye to the cockroach,” says Simon, grinning at the camera. It’s an ugly slur, and I propose we stop using it to describe fellow humans.
Back at their camp, the seven remaining Villains stare at the ground. The tension is high, and the group is small and about to get smaller. Simon gathers his alliance of four — himself, Stevie, Jordie, and Fraser. That’s four against the three Spice Girls, a slim but helpful majority. Stevie names the George vote-out plan Operation Anaconda, with a go/no-go code of “Mango” and “Papaya.” Stevie will tell George he is voting for Simon and cleverly rehearses his reason for the vote. “I’m fed up with Simon calling the shots.” No lie detected.
— SurvivorAU (@Survivor_AU) February 12, 2023
Stevie and George have a pleasant chat on the beach after George reassures Stevie that it doesn’t matter if the tribe sees them talking; they are adults, after all. Getting into his undercover role, Stevie starts to praise George as an excellent player, and in his performed admiration, a seed of truth resides. That seed will flower faster than any of us could have predicted.
Jordie has another confessional lamenting Simon’s ego and how his style is putting everyone off. Jordie knows he has to decide between game and friendship. And today is the day. He pulls in Fraser and warns that Simon will join “the alpha males” on the other side but that those players are outnumbered. Jordie and Fraser need to be on the majority side. Australian Survivor editors give us a lovely cut of Simon unable to pull a coconut apart, with Liz just ripping it asunder in one fluid movement.
Then Jordie meets with George and Liz. He tells them Simon has an idol. Jordie’s plan is that everyone but Simon and Stevie vote for Simon while telling him they are voting for George. A delicious blindside is set in motion. But how will that make it The Best Tribal Council ever? Will the cookie idol get played? We must be patient and wait for it all to unfold.
Simon tries to get on George’s good side, telling him he needs George and that the vote is Stevie. But he can’t look George in the eye for a second. George predicts The Death of Simon and The Second Coming of King George — Death or Glory. Bombast can be off-putting to some, but George has the chops to back it up.
Tribal Council has barely begun before Simon and George are at each other’s throats. George says they will strengthen the tribe by voting out the weak. Simon lashes back, “You can’t vote for yourself.” Like a schoolboy, he looks for approval from JLP and the rest of the tribe but finds none. George calmly asks Simon to explain his remark, leaving Simon floundering.
Then JLP announces, with a twinkle in his eye, that this Tribal is ‘a little different.’ As we scream at our televisions, he quickly assures us, and the castaways, that someone will be voted out. But there’s individual immunity at stake in a challenge set up behind Tribal Council. It’s Jailbreak with Fire Making. Even while doing the challenge, Simon can’t resist poking at George. Simon is the only one who gets out of jail. JLP tells us that Simon is “teasing that ring with his pole.”
While Simon is making fire and clearly on his way to winning, George corrals the players still behind the grate into voting for Stevie. Meanwhile, Simon watches his fire burn through the string and starts to cry. It’s an important moment for him, and we see the passion and the vulnerability behind his bluster.
As JLP puts the necklace onto Simon, the tribe applauds and praises him in a very genuine way. We know they are despondent at their plan being cooked, yet their innate good nature and understanding of this show as a game is on display.
Back at Tribal Council, George draws Shonee and Liz to one side while Simon takes Jordie, Stevie, and Fraser to the other. Plans are whispered in both groups. George asks the women to trust him, to act as if he is going home. When Shonee and Liz approach the other men, Simon won’t talk to them, raising his voice and cutting them off. Oh, Simon.
Under questioning from JLP, George states that Simon told him the plan was to put the vote on Stevie. Stevie is taken aback. Simon starts scrambling. He tries to compliment and assure Stevie, but Stevie isn’t buying it. Stevie recalls the second Tribal and asks if Simon said his name then. Simon tries to explain but cannot deny that he did and so shifts the blame onto George, who expertly turns the tables. “Never make this game personal,” he says. “Don’t make the same mistakes you made in the Outback.” Simon says he doesn’t plan to and storms off to his ‘side.’ It is Mango — Go for George.
Meanwhile, George privately tells Shonee and Liz he has an idol. This is a good move; having kept the knowledge of the idol from them, he wants them to know about it before he reveals it.
After more back and forth between Simon and George, Jordie asks for a change of tone. He wants a fun game and to leave aside the nastiness. JLP agrees and calls for the vote.
Simon votes for George, counselling respect and human decency. Jordie writes down Stevie’s name. Back in his seat, he gives a rueful head shake. As George votes, he says, “No one in this game is a bigger warmonger than me, and I’m about to blow shit up.” But who did he vote for? As Stevie goes up to vote, George pulls out his idol and pops it on. “Wow they’re green this year, Jonathan. Isn’t that interesting”. Jordie and Fraser laugh with disbelief and admiration.
Simon asks him, “So who are we sending home?” Meanwhile, Stevie votes for George out of “immense respect”.
George asks Simon if he will save Stevie with his idol. “Are you a Hero or a Villain?” Stevie returns to his seat, and George spins his idol around his head like a bullroarer. “You’ve been played, Simon and it wasn’t by me. You’re a dead duck,” he says.
JLP calls for idols. George makes a proposal to Simon. He names Jordie as the “betrayer from within” and says that Jordie has told everyone here about Simon’s idol. George says that Simon has a chance to redeem himself. “If you don’t save Steve tonight, you literally stand for nothing. We are both waking up on Villains’ beach tomorrow. I’m begging you; please save Steve. Because all of these people here have voted for him.”
George plays his idol for himself. Simon asks Jordie if he has anything to say. Jordie says, “Yeah, they were all coming for you, man.” He says he has voted for Stevie. Stevie appeals to Simon to save him. George says Simon has the chance to be a legend. Simon shakes his head, trying to clear it like a boxer up against the ropes. You can almost see the cartoon birds circling his head. He looks at Jordie with confusion and hurt. Stevie says, “He’s got us. He’s covered all angles”.
“Checkmate,” says George, somewhat unnecessarily. He continues, “I’m sorry, Steve. Tomorrow morning you will know who you could trust.”
Simon thanks Steve for everything. Then, he starts to explain his position, but for once, he is the one interrupted, as Steve says, “I hear you already.”
JLP reads the votes. George — does not count. George —- does not count. Stevie. Stevie. Fraser. Fraser. Fraser. Astonishment, hugs, apologies. Then George and Simon start to get into it again, with Jordie and Stevie calling for respect and to allow Fraser his moment.
“Only one of you may have made fire tonight, but it’s clear this whole tribe is going up in flames,” says JLP with his latest Tribal capper.
In an astonishing move, thought through in the time it took for Simon to make fire, George has splintered the alliance of four men. With Fraser gone, Stevie turned against Simon, and Simon unable to trust Jordie, there is no way back. Some might think that George wasted his idol, but it depends on what you think an idol is. In my opinion, George sees an idol’s power not just in negating votes at one Tribal. Instead, he used it to goad Simon and confuse him, show a willingness to Stevie and where trust could be laid, and assure his tight three that he can be relied on to follow through on big and bold plans.
As for whether Jordie should have been the target instead of Fraser, a few reasons come to mind. Leaving Jordie in the game with Simon feeling as betrayed as he does means chaos and dissent at camp, and George thrives there. George has split the four, leaving the remaining three adrift and ripe to be drawn into his future plans.
And it cannot be ignored that all of the six vote-outs thus far have been newbies. We could wish that Fraser had had more visibility this season. But he was part of The Most Thrilling Tribal Council In Survivor History, and that’s a big story for a fan.