As the sun rises on Day 8, Soka enjoys a refreshing post-Tribal meditation session led by Frannie. Josh, in particular, is feeling wonderful as he’s positioned himself right between two power duos. Danny and Heidi think he’s on their side, and Frannie and Matt believe the same. Unfortunately for Josh, both pairs can agree on one thing: Josh is dead wrong with his reads and dead in the game as a result. While he thinks he’s calling the shots as the swing vote, the others are living in a totally different reality, one where Josh is an easy 4-1 boot if Soka loses again.
Meanwhile, Tika continues going through the bird cage blues as Carolyn gets sneaky. Planting a pair of sticks tied into an X in the cage’s bars, she intends to trick another player into finding her fake dummy idol hidden under a similar X around Tika’s camp site. And it won’t be long before Sarah stumbles across the trap and takes the bait without hesitation or concern.
At a blowout reward challenge, Soka and Ratu defeat a hapless Tika as Carolyn struggles with the slingshot. The winners get some nice tarps, but Soka gets a special privilege as the first placers: choosing a player from each tribe to take a trip to Advantage Island. They send Josh from their own tribe (a questionable move if they want to keep him from getting any kind of advantage) along with Carson and Jaime.
With the last three seasons going totally swap-less for better or worse, production has decided it’s finally time to drop some buffs and switch things up… kind of? Instead of a full random buff draw with the entire cast, the three players on Advantage Island will be the only ones to switch. It’s less a swap and more so a half-baked twist akin to Survivor: China’s hostage situation swap, where the people swapped over are so blatantly on the outs that you question what the point of the twist is beyond screwing people over.
But production fixes this issue with an even bigger issue because all three swap victims are given free idols that expire once the tribes meet on the same beach. That’s six, count them, SIX active idols in the game at once, plus three fake idols made by production, one fake idol made by Matthew, Lauren’s extra vote, Matt’s lost vote, Sarah’s inheritance advantage, and over a dozen possible Shot in the Dark attempts on the board. And maybe some other random thing I forgot to mention because the sheer amount of stuff crammed into this season has totally fried my brain.
It’s just way too much. Too much for even the most idol-happy super fans who salivate at the thought of a juicy idol play each week. How is anyone honestly supposed to seriously play the game or take the game seriously right now? Even the best social-strategic players of all time couldn’t play around this much stuff because it’s all totally random and unpredictable to an almost unfair degree.
But with this “swap” in play, the edit is ironically forced to focus on new dynamics for a change, even with the idol surplus. On Tika, Josh enters a lion’s den as a sacrificial lamb of sorts, figuring he’ll need to use his idol to survive a loss. When the old Tikas ask if he’s a surgeon (based on his tribe talking about his job requiring “steady hands” at a past challenge), he lies and claims to be a personal trainer. Sarah clocks his lie for what it is, and soon Carolyn and Yam Yam are on board to give him the old revolving door treatment for his immediate shadiness if the swap screwing wasn’t enough of a reason.
On Ratu, Carson arrives to a warm welcome and immediately continues his strategy of hiding his true well-rounded potential from the cast. Though he’s been wielding the most power and making the moves on Tika, he’s happy to throw Yam Yam under the bus as the real puppetmaster of the tribe. It plays right into Ratu’s own suspicions, but Matthew isn’t as happy to get that info as the others. After all the work he put in with Jaime, she’s suddenly vanished and left him without the numbers yet again. But that just means he has to work his magic on Carson, forging a quick bond and relaying information about Jaime’s totally real, not fake at all idol as a token of trust.
And on Soka, Jaime, unfortunately, finds herself in the Josh spot with four people plotting against her. Even though she’s a lovely and very positive person, there’s no reason for the majority to break up and ruin a good thing before the merge to keep an outsider around. But little do they know that Jaime’s packing a real idol in addition to her fake, especially after a failed bag search by Danny puts their minds at ease. Should Ratu lose, it really just boils down to who Jaime wants out unless the core four fracture.
But it will be Tika who sees Tribal Council a second time when Soka dominates another challenge and Ratu barely snatches a comeback victory. And as expected, a Josh boot is on the menu, but that doesn’t mean an easy 3-1 vote is the recipe. Yam Yam, Carolyn, and Sarah agree he’s gotta go, but they have to feed him some kind of story to calm his nerves. And that’s where the messiness begins.
Yam Yam lives up to Carson’s tales and tosses out Carolyn’s name as the decoy vote. To her face. It’s a sloppy move on his part, causing a small rift between the wacky top dogs as Carolyn feels cast aside and expendable. Josh hears the decoy story loud and clear, happily agreeing that Carolyn’s weak challenge performances and chaotic personality make her less valuable than his chill, athletic self. But as clueless as Josh was on Soka, his arrival on Tika awakened some game instincts.
Carolyn and Josh pull each other aside and dish some dirt on the others, exposing their plans and formulating a new strategy heading into Tribal. Josh reveals his idol and says he’ll play it for Carolyn, and together they can vote out Sarah 2-0, push Yam Yam to the bottom, and run the tribe as former outcasts. But Carolyn obviously has reservations about the move. She should be safe either way, but breaking Yam Yam’s trust this early could provide a more troublesome path moving forward. But if she plays it cool and votes for Josh with her old allies, she might fall to the bottom again or even risk going home if Josh gets cold feet, saves himself, and votes for her instead.
If Carolyn had any reservations about flipping, though, Yam Yam’s loose lips at Tribal Council solidify her stance. To placate Josh, he spins a metaphor about a new kid at school, referring to a kid he’s lost interest in playing with anymore as a “her.” Carolyn assumes he’s referring to her and won’t let his questionable phrasing go, resulting in a contentious back and forth between old allies.
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Yam Yam says it’s “Bye, Felicia!” to tonight’s target. Carolyn snaps back with a dejected “I’m Felicia.” But it turns out the real “Felicia” tonight is Sarah, who leaves in a 2-0 vote when Josh saves himself, and Carolyn flips her vote as planned. Yam Yam’s jaw drops so far off his face you’d swear it got dislocated, and Sarah departs with a fake idol she amusingly wishes she’d played.
Ultimately, Sarah’s downfall came primarily from her lack of a bond with Carolyn, who wasted no time in blindsiding her the second she felt alienated enough to strike. And while Yam Yam may have been the major instigator of that drama, he and Carolyn have a working relationship that might bear fruit down the line. All Sarah had was Carolyn’s dummy idol, a spot on the bottom of the old Tika dynamics thanks to her once lost vote, and an advantage that couldn’t save her at that point. Yet another victim of unpredictable bad luck to some degree, though at least her elimination had some basis in her own mistakes, even if production’s fingerprints are all over it.