This week’s Next Time On Survivor preview is rather unique in that it shows just one scene previewing the upcoming merge twist. With the three tribes lined up at a challenge, Jeff announces, “Everybody, drop your buffs.”
The players chime in, “merge!!” which is what is usually expected around the midpoint of the game with 12 players left. However, as repeated countless times over the course of the season, it’s Season 41, a new era of Survivor—were we really expecting a traditional merge? We see brief shots of players’ immediate shocked reactions when Jeff squirms out a little “not exactly…,” teasing a brand-new twist.
“Not exactly” a merge leaves things really open-ended. I’ve considered a few possibilities. First, the tribes remain as Ua, Luvu, and Yase but “merge” as they live together on the same beach. In this scenario, they would continue competing against each other for tribal immunity. However, I think it’s unlikely for this to happen as it’ll be a nightmare for Ua, who is down to only Ricard and Shan. It’ll also be rather unbalanced for just two people to rep the entire six-player tribe of Luvu.
Next, this “merge” could be a swap situation where the three original tribes shuffle into two tribes of six players each. But that seems like an ordinary pre-merge swap scenario and certainly wouldn’t incite confessionals like “There has never been anything like this!” from Evvie.
I think the “merge” element may come in if the tribes actually merge for a day or so, allowing the players to intermingle across their original tribe lines. After a period of time, they have to regroup and form themselves into teams of six versus six players for the next immunity challenge.
Alternatively, they may be formed into new teams there and then in the preview scene. Then, they carry on with the immunity challenge where one team of six wins. As a merged tribe, all players then go to Tribal Council, but only half the players are vulnerable to being voted out.
This week’s Game within the Game philosophical strategy test alludes to another twist that’ll happen in Episode 6. Jeff asks the viewer to consider if they “had to send someone to an exile island sort of scenario, would you be more likely to send an ally or an adversary?”
He then goes on to explain how sending an ally would be beneficial for one to gather information and a potential advantage (at this point, it’s definitely not a leap to think there’s an advantage to be gained). And how sending an adversary would be “[sending] the poor fool out there and let them suffer with whatever they have to deal with.”
There are a few things we can glean from the above: Foremost, the “exile island sort of scenario,” which, in this season, is likely to translate to the summit twist or that new island where players visit to make a risk/protect decision. However, this time, perhaps only one person will be sent since Jeff refers to it as an “exile island” situation. In this case, there can’t be a prisoner’s dilemma decision with only one person, so it’s likely going to be a decision with higher risk/protect stakes at play.
As for the “sending an ally or adversary” portion, it brings to mind how Shan and Liana were picked by Yase for the summit twist in the last episode. Similarly, perhaps the tribe who wins the challenge will have to pick an individual for the upcoming twist. Or maybe, a player finds a message hidden at camp in the form of an advantage clue and has to choose someone else to take the journey when the tribes are “merged” together. Both would present the choice between sending a known and close ally or someone relatively unknown and thus more of a wild card.
And so, these are my plebeian thoughts after viewing the previews for Episode 6. If you’d like details of the merge twist and other insider scoop, consider joining Inside Survivor’s Patreon!
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We’re halfway through the season; how are you finding it so far? Leave a comment below with anything you’d like to share!