The Survivor merge tends to get all the attention as it is often the moment where the castaways are finally released from the shackles of previous tribal lines and are free to let their games be driven by self-interest. This week, we ride the wave of the post-merge adrenaline as a new group of power players emerge out of the shadows to make their presence in the game felt.
Power Behind the Throne
Ron and Eric are the self-proclaimed puppet masters who have cemented a loyal alliance of 6. This episode we start to get some real insight into how they’ve managed to get to the point where they are running the Kama side of the game sitting pretty on their thrones. They reveal that they are using the upcoming family visit as a common goal for the Kama 6 alliance and motivation for them to stick together – it is also a very effective and subtle form of emotional manipulation.
As everyone arrives back from tribal council, Ron and Eric immediately go to work and take David and Devens aside to try and add fuel to their animosity towards their fellow Lesu members who voted for them. They also check in with Aurora, who labels Joe and herself as the “idiots” of tribal council for being the only Kama members that were left out. Ron and Eric reassure her that they’re still solid and very much Kama Strong; Aurora is an emotional wreck trying to cling to whoever will offer her comfort and stability in the game. It seems like Ron and Eric are working well together to set themselves up for long-term success in the game by maintaining relationships outside of their core alliance.
After the reward challenge, we are presented with Ron, yet again, spinning his web of manipulation by consoling Aurora. From what we have seen, Ron is really good at adapting his personality depending on different relationships. From his interactions with Joe throughout his time on the Kama tribe, and now with his interactions with Aurora, Devens and David, it’s clear that Ron is very good at being aware of what the right thing is to say in different scenarios – something that I can’t say about Eric later this episode.
Meanwhile, Wentworth, Lauren and Wardog immediately recognise that the only way they can regain control of the game is if they reconcile with David and Devens and bring in Aurora – who has since declared herself a free agent. Wentworth outlines their position perfectly by saying that the Lesu 5 have been so consumed with getting each other out they have completely been ignoring the “Kama situation” that has been festering around them.
A Disenchanted Devens
After the reward challenge, which saw Devens, Victoria, Julia, Aurora, Eric and Wardog bond over Chinese food, Wentworth extends an olive branch to David. The two returning players apologise for voting for each other like two mature adults who are able to compartmentalise the game and personal feelings, and both agree to work together for the sake of getting further in the game. Confident that they can bring in Aurora, the last number that they need to secure is that of Devens. This conversation does NOT go as smoothly as it does between Kelley and David.
The chat begins with Wardog and Devens walking through the jungle when Wardog tries to reaffirm that the Lesu 5 is still strong. This is when Devens COMPLETELY pulls the wool over Wardog’s eyes so severely that it took a solid 30 seconds for him to realise that the newscaster was being totally sarcastic. Devens bluntly tells Wardog that he “doesn’t want to f*&^#*# get back with at all.”
Overlooking the fact that Wardog is a man-splaining, condescending, arrogant man, there were so many things that Devens did wrong on his end in this conversation. To begin, he should’ve just smiled and nodded (kind of like he did at the start of the chat before he flipped the script) and agreed with the plan before finalising it with David afterwards. Secondly, Devens completely let Wardog see how good of a liar he was – he was so convincing even I was caught off guard! In his confessional, Devens lets us know that he feels indebted to Kama for saving him which has spurred his desire to work with them. Wardog unsurprisingly doesn’t take this well and calls him an emotional player – something that Devens is going to hear a few more times this episode.
Devens and David then butt heads over whether or not they should stick with Lesu or flip over to Kama. David prefaces this discussion by labelling it as a “conversation are going to remember” after Survivor is over. David argues that going with Kama will render them both puppets to Ron and Eric’s game, whereas remaining with Lesu will allow them to have more control over their fate. Alas, Devens refuses to go back with Lesu and even asks David for his half of the immunity idol back – to which David politely refuses.
We end this crazy series of conversations with David telling us in a confessional that he is frustrated with how emotional Devens is playing the game and that he is going to have to potentially figure out a way to get to Day 39 without him.
Black Friday on Extinction Island
Back on Extinction Island, the eliminated contestants all get a wine bottle filled with a clue that lets them know that there is an advantage out somewhere on the island. After all the players scrupulously investigate the edge of a rock wall, Aubry discovers the advantage in a hole in the wall. Inside she finds another clue that leads her to a conspicuously placed post with some rope and knots for her to practice with in preparation for the comeback challenge. In addition, she is also given an extra vote advantage for her to gift to someone who is still in the game.
Could this be the godsend that David was looking for? A temporary solution to a serious problem that is his loyalty and working relationship with Devens. If David were to receive this extra vote, then he is able to proceed with his plan to collaborate with Kelley, Lauren, Wardog and Aurora while the scorched Devens is free to galivant towards the Kama 6.
This week’s challenge involves the contestants going on their tippy toes in order to hold blocks up against a wooden plank above them without the blocks falling over. As the contestants fall one by one, we see Lauren feeling increasingly more ill to the point where she says to herself that she can’t see anything and is about to black out. Lauren passes out, leaving Aurora and Victoria to battle it out as she lay knocked out on the sidelines.
As the Survivor medical team work on getting Lauren back to consciousness, Aurora begins to beg Victoria to let her win the challenge – much to the absolute dismay and fury of Julie who can’t believe that she would fight for her life in the game while Lauren is suffering on the ground fighting for hers. Aurora even takes it upon herself to let everyone know that nobody is cheering for her to win the challenge which leads to a few pity cheers from Devens. To give Aurora the benefit of the doubt, given the nature of the challenge, each contestant had their peripheral vision obscured. For all Aurora knew, if Lauren’s situation was THAT bad, then Jeff would’ve stopped the challenge and called for the chopper so she could be evacuated Caleb style.
Eventually, Victoria drops from the challenge with no warning, leaving Aurora as the last woman standing and the winner of the immunity challenge. Upon arriving back from the challenge, Aurora discovers a parchment in her bag – the extra vote that Aubry sent to her from the Edge of Extinction. Sorry David!
An Uprising Emerges
The Kama 6 (plus Aurora) convene on the beach to reaffirm the loyalty to each other. Ron and Eric continue to talk about the Kama 6 (plus Aurora) reaching the loved ones visit together and that being their grand goal. They agree that they want to split the votes between Wentworth and Lauren with Wentworth being the primary target and Lauren as the back-up in case Kelley plays an idol.
Unbeknownst to the rest of the tribe, Ron and Eric think they have David and Devens in their back pocket and are ready to flip on the Kama 6 once Wentworth, Lauren and Wardog are voted out. Eric stresses in his confessional that he and Ron aren’t in any hurry to flip on their alliance and that they are comfortable with letting the game play out for a few more votes before they make their move – a sensible move. However, the one variable that they weren’t counting on was the Tasmanian Devil himself – Wardog – completely seeing through their game and perfectly reading it.
Wardog takes both Julia and Gavin aside individually and gives them both the same speech on how Ron and Eric are planning on targeting Julia, Gavin and Victoria once the numbers dwindle down, using David and Devens to do it. Julia is aghast by what she hears and reaches an epiphany, telling us that everything Wardog said makes complete sense to her. This spurs Julia to test Eric’s trust by approaching him with a plan to get rid of David instead of Lauren or Wentworth. Eric refuses, saying that David is a loyal player and will be a solid vote in the game.
From this conversation, Julia concludes that Eric is untrustworthy and will definitely use David and Devens to flip on her down the road. Key phrase – down the road. All the signs and information point towards any strategic shenanigans to not happen for another 3 or 4 votes. Thus, keeping the Lesu 5 intact only leaves more variables in their (Gavin and Julia’s) games and with that, more chances for Wentworth and David to spin their webs and fight back against the Kama tribe.
Nevertheless, with Eric’s in-game reputation well and truly tarnished, Gavin and Julia devise a plan to vote out either Eric or Ron with the help of Victoria, Wardog, Wentworth and Lauren. Victoria puts up a little bit of resistance by saying that they should wait for at least one more vote before making a move but will ultimately go with however they want to vote. Victoria finds herself in a tough situation since she didn’t think the plan was a good idea, but plays it cool enough where she doesn’t make herself appear to be a wildcard for being too emotional or a liability for being too overbearing with her opinions. Devens and Wardog take notes!
Going into tribal council, we don’t see any interactions between Gavin and Julia and Lauren and Wentworth which makes the vote appear to be up in the air. However, Lauren and Wentworth do mention that they are ready to use their idols if they get that “gut feeling” that they need to. Though, the outcome of this vote is well and truly in the hands of the little rascals of the Kama tribe – Gavin, Julia and Victoria.
In Sight, Front of Mind
There have been many analogies throughout Survivor history to describe players who follow and players who make decisions. This episode David unveils a new analogy for us to sink our teeth into – pilots and passengers. Victoria drops a brilliant quote at tribal council, saying that the game is about taking your shot but not shooting yourself in the foot. In other words, the game is about timing, making the right move at the right time.
Wardog does his best to sew seeds of doubt by making it clear that Ron and Eric are only interested in taking David and Devens forward in the game, no one else. Amongst all this is Devens, who desperately tries to separate himself from Lesu by throwing his former tribe under the bus. In the end, Gavin and Julia finally emerge out of the shadows by managing to recruit the numbers that they needed to vote out Eric – throwing the game and their Kama “strong” alliance into absolute shambles — also leaving Lauren and Kelley with their immunity idols.
It’s also important to note that Devens, despite his desperate attempt to jump over to Kama, was not included in the vote and was blindsided with the outcome. Even though it is only the final 11 after tonight, it is difficult to see Gavin, Victoria or Julia to bear many repercussions from their move. With that said, since they effectively destroyed their alliance and reset the game, they are so meek that it will be essential for them to really secure themselves in a new solid alliance to make sure they don’t lose leverage to the bigger and flashier players left in the game.
Jeff Probst brought up a very interesting point which I believe can sum up the downfall of Eric (and to a lesser extent Ron’s) game. Jeff mentioned that part of being in the dominating alliance is navigating through relationships – something that Ron and Eric seem to have failed to do with Gavin, Victoria and Julia. It’s all well and good having a strong alliance of 6 and giving everyone a common goal to work towards – the family visit – but beyond that point, there was no future laid out for many of them.
The plan to ‘get down to final 6 and then we’ll figure it out’ hardly ever works. When Julia approached Eric in an attempt to test his loyalty, his response was “if nobody does anything stupid then we will be good,” rather than reassuring her that sticking with Kama will secure her final 3 or 4. Ron and Eric took for granted their allies and got complacent when their loyalty was challenged and it cost them big time.