Edgic is a weekly feature analyzing each player’s edit, mapping characters to their story-arc. Note that our focus is not solely to determine the winner, as is typical of other Edgic sites. For more information on how Edgic works and rating definitions read our Introduction to Edgic article.
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The merge episode is a time when old stories are cemented and new stories emerge. It’s very often an indicator of which characters will be driving the narrative towards finale night and potentially taking home the crown. With that said, we can now definitively rule JP out of importance. His pre-merge edit was already lackluster, a mix of UTR and MOR, with his primary personality trait being “clueless,” but to be Invisible at the merge is a death-knell.
JP was namechecked once or twice by others when counting numbers, and while I might be generous and award that UTR in a swap episode (when the tribes are smaller), it doesn’t fly in a merge episode. To a casual viewer, JP didn’t exist. The edit didn’t even give him a brief narrational confessional about the merge feast. There was no reunion scene with himself and Ashley, which tells us their story isn’t as important as the others. There was no strategy talk or what his plans are going forward. JP had nothing. He still might stick around a while, but the edit has told us repeatedly that JP is not an important character or an essential cog in the narrative.
Under The Radar
Desi‘s edit wasn’t much better than JP’s. She receives an UTR for her focus after winning the immunity challenge and her small strategy talk with Jessica. But, like JP, Desi was the only other person not to receive a confessional this episode. Not even a narrational one. The story of this season is not being told from Desi’s perspective. She’s a character very much on the periphery.
Her one real scene was when Jessica asked her if she and Joe were still working together. Like I’ve said in previous weeks, Joe is the only other character Desi has been directly linked with, which isn’t a great sign, especially with Jessica leaving this episode, removing another potential connection. Desi told Jessica that Joe was still with them and they could use him while it’s beneficial to them. It showed a little bit of game awareness from Desi, but this scene was about Jessica, she was the one shown initiating the conversation and had the confessional afterwards.
Where does Desi fit into this story? Like JP, I could still see Desi sticking around a while, but her suddenly becoming a driving force in the narrative seems wholly unrealistic. If she has any story, you have to believe it will relate to Joe. Perhaps choosing to cut ties with him now that he isn’t “beneficial” to her or choosing to stick by him at her own cost.
This wasn’t a great episode for Ashley. Other than her confessional before the merge (which was mainly about the food situation), and finishing second in the immunity challenge, Ashley was barely present. I said last week that she could perhaps break out at the merge but that my gut feeling was she would stay a mid-level character. Her edit here was even worse than mid-level, she dropped to a low-level role at best.
It’s not as if Ashley doesn’t have stories or relationships. Throughout the pre-merge, we’ve seen her connect with JP, Ben, Chrissy, and Devon to varying degrees. Yet once the merge hit, Ashley was nowhere to be seen. There was no reunion scene with her and JP or her fellow Heroes. Nothing between her and Devon cementing their bond. No new relationships set up. Ashley voted with the majority, so it’s not as if the edit needed to hide and protect her from a wrong move. What it seems to say is that Ashley is less important to the story than the majority of those remaining. If Ashley was going to be a principal character in the post-merge narrative, you would expect to get her perspective on the vote/strategy at some point in the merge episode.
As with Desi and JP, there is no reason Ashley couldn’t last a while longer. But I would be surprised to see her as a leading character. She will likely be used as and when it’s necessary to tell a bigger story or add some tension to a vote.
Middle of the Road
Ryan was still a presence this week, but perhaps less of a central character than one might have expected based on his edit so far. He definitely talked some game, but he was used more for his soundbites on the importance of making the merge and how crucial the merge vote is. He was part of the correct plan and voted with the majority, but it was players like Ben, Chrissy, and Devon who received the more complex strategy talk.
“Making the merge, I mean, that’s what you dream of. This is the playoffs now,” Ryan said. This was the start of Ryan as merge-mascot-narrator this episode. A merge hype-man if you will. He continued in this vein throughout the episode. “The merge vote is like the cream of the crop of Survivor. This decides who is going to dictate the rest of the game,” he said later. “Going into a merge vote, it is of great importance to take out a threat, and there are so many threats out there.” It wasn’t exactly complex stuff; it was game-related, but very conventional merge thinking. That’s why I opted for MOR rather than CP. It felt like others talked more in-depth about their strategy and thought process and held more conversations at camp. It would be unfair to rate Ryan CP on the same level as a Ben, Devon or Chrissy.
Ryan does get credit as the first one to bring up the Hero-Hustler alliance. In a conversation with Devon, he says it should be them and Lauren with the old Heroes. “A Hero-Hustler alliance makes sense for us because unfortunately, there’s only three Hustlers left: me, Lauren, and Devon. But I know I’m tight with two of the Heroes, JP, and Chrissy, so it would be a perfect alliance,” he said in confessional. From that point forward, Ryan kind of falls into the background, as Devon is seen to be the one reaching out to people with this plan, and getting credit for it from others. In fact, the only other significant scene for Ryan was at the challenge with Probst mocking him about falling out after two seconds. I initially was going to rate Ryan with N-tone for this scene, but rewatching I don’t think that was the intention. That scene wasn’t about Ryan, it was about Chrissy, specifically how her maths skills became a reason for others to target her. The Ryan stuff was more humorous than outright negative.
One other thing perhaps worth mentioning is that when the Hero-Hustler group was discussing their “Plan B” option, it’s either Ryan’s or Ben’s voice heard saying “Jess.” But neither man was shown on screen saying it, and the scene was presented as Chrissy’s plan – she was the one in control. So I don’t think Ryan gets any credit in the edit here. But overall, Ryan still looks good right now, he got some strong soundbites, presented a plan, and voted with the majority. He reunited with Devon and it was given screen-time which suggests that relationship is still relevant. He talked about his closeness to Chrissy and JP, which again, keeps Ryan’s story options wide open. Everything still points to Ryan being an essential character in the post-merge game.
I said last week that a solid merge episode for Lauren could shoot up her winner chances. While her voice was undoubtedly heard this episode, I’m not sure how solid her content was in the grand scheme of things. Lauren was a swing vote, in the middle with Ben, but it was Ben who got most of the content regarding that predicament, and certainly the one who got the more complex explanations of his position.
What’s bad for Lauren here is how she stuck her flag in with the Healers alliance but then ultimately voted against them. “The Heroes and the Hustlers want the Healers gone, and I don’t want no part of that. I’m sticking with the Healers,” she said after Devon approached her with the Hero-Hustler plan. “You know, I really like Dr. Mike, and I made a pact with the last Yawa tribe, and, uh, it does make sense for the five of us to stay strong,” she continued. We then saw her telling Mike the same thing, spilling the beans about Devon’s plan, and confirming her loyalty to him and the Healers. “On our children,” Lauren even said, when cementing her alliance with Mike. “I made a vow to you, Mike,” she finished. It’s never a good sign for a player to be shown going against something they were so gung-ho about earlier.
Lauren does get another scene later in the episode where Ben tells her Cole should go first. Now, while this doesn’t completely eradicate Lauren’s earlier scene, it did give her a chance to show that she hadn’t entirely made her decision before tribal council. “Ben and I, we’ve been together since Yawa, and he was the only one from Heroes, I was the only one from Hustlers, but now we are really in the middle,” she said, highlighting how Ben has become her closest ally. “This is a whole new game. It’s just so much to try to figure it out in your head and make a great decision. It’s very hard.” Like I said, it’s good that Lauren got a follow-up on where her head was at before tribal, but it doesn’t wash away her earlier stance.
Where does Lauren go from here? Lauren’s edit has always been one of the most intriguing for me. It’s difficult to work out where exactly her story is heading. She’s not overly visible but we always check-in with her, even if ever so briefly. I think Lauren needs to explain her decision next week to keep her on track, if she doesn’t get to explain herself then that is another strike against her edit. There was also quite a bit of focus on her relationship with Mike, so I suspect there is story potential there, either with Mike’s backlash, or the pair trying to reconcile.
The writing was on the wall for Jessica after last week’s episode. This moment had been a long-time coming, and despite a couple of decent scenes here and there which suggested long-term potential, her edit always circled back to Cole, and that for me always meant that she was going to leave before him. As I said last time: “It honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see Jessica gone in the next two to three weeks and you best believe the main reason will be her relationship with Cole.” Things were ominous for Jess ever since she told Cole: “You can’t make it to the end without me.”
When Jessica said last week that she wasn’t ready to play this game without Cole, that pretty much sealed her fate. The edit has told us over and over that Cole is a liability, he’s selfish, greedy, inconsiderate, and can’t keep a secret. Jessica herself recognized this and for a brief moment in Episode 5 seemed to be pulling away from him. But by confirming her allegiance to him in Episode 6, Jessica put herself back in the firing line. Both Ben and Lauren pointed out Jessica’s closeness with Cole on several occasions. And so when it came time to discuss a “Plan B” in case of Cole playing an idol, who did the target fall on? Jessica of course. Now, I’m sure in reality there were other reasons to pick Jessica, but the edit told us that Jessica became collateral damage because of Cole. Even in this episode she again chose to stand by him after his cinnamon stick blunder. “But Cole is my number one, and I just feel a connection with him. We have built a great thing together, and I need him here,” she said.
Despite her Cole connection, Jessica was still shown to be an active strategist. She was the first Healer to lay out the strategy going into the merge. “So the goal going into the merge was to remain Yawa Five to the end. That’s me, Lauren, Mike, Cole, and Ben, but we need to bring in at least two more people to make the majority,” she said. “And I think we can get to the old Healers, Joe, and Desi.” Then at camp, we saw Jessica approach Desi to see where her head was at and if Joe was still on board. All of this was CP content. Although, the sign that things weren’t going to turn out well was foreshadowed when she called herself “Queen Bee” in confessional. After that scene, Jessica wasn’t really seen again until her pep-talk with Cole, which set-up why she became the “Plan B” option.
Overall, Jessica leaves the season with a CPP edit. Despite her failure to cut ties with Cole, she never got any of his N-tone, she was shown as a decent strategist and a positive influence. But her inability to disassociate with Cole ultimately cost her.
The best thing I can say for Cole is that at least he wasn’t OTTN again. He actually had complexity this episode, as we saw him talking strategy in both confessional and at camp, and he even had a scene where he got to apologize to Ben. It’s hard to give that apology scene P-tone though when Ben immediately dismissed it in confessional. The overall tone of Cole’s edit was still steeped in negativity, and this episode continued his arc of selfish eating habits.
Cole started the episode feeling really good about his chances at the merge. “I feel really good with my five here in Yawa. We trust each other explicitly now, ‘cause we’ve been through some hard things together,” he said, not recognizing that he was the cause of those “hard things.” “Ben, he’s a good guy, and then Lauren, I think she’s going to stick with us,” he continued. “So if this group just stays together, we can accomplish so much, and I don’t think anyone else is gonna have that same unity.” Obviously, this group didn’t have unity, as immediately after this Ben tells us he doesn’t trust Cole and Jess, and ultimately Ben and Lauren vote with the Hero-Hustler group. All of this makes Cole look wrong, wrong, wrong.
After the merge, Cole had a nice confessional where he talked about how now people are going to be out for themselves. He told us he needed to be on the lookout for an advantage. “But I feel like I need to keep actively looking, just because people are going to be with other people now, talking a lot, plotting and strategizing, trying to build new alliances.” In one sense, Cole was right that there was an advantage hidden somewhere. On the other hand, he should have been plotting and strategizing and trying to build new alliances. He also looked bad when the camera zoomed in on the clue hidden within a bundle of nails just as Cole was removing one of them. So while Cole looked good for thinking about the potential of a hidden clue, the edit made him look silly for missing it right under his nose.
But Cole’s main negativity this episode obviously came during the cinnamon stick situation. The set up for this scene started at the merge feast when Cole said: “I usually eat, on a regular day, 8,000 calories, and so before the merge, I was just in survival mode. Like, I just want food. And now, after almost three weeks of starving, we have Outback Steakhouse.” He excused his selfish behavior on Yawa as being in “survival mode, ” but now he was replenished thanks to the Outback feast. That should have been the end of Cole’s selfishness with food, right? Wrong. Despite the feast, Cole was caught snacking on cinnamon sticks back at camp. “He’s selfish, and I don’t think Cole respects anyone here. He just respects himself,” Ben said. “Cole has made some big mistakes, especially with food. He just doesn’t think… and he goes off by himself; he doesn’t talk to the group, he eats food alone. You can’t do that in Survivor,” Jessica qualified.
The apology scene was more about confirming Cole’s lack of awareness. He told Ben he’s sorry but that he doesn’t even realize when he’s doing this stuff. “Cole came up and apologized to me, and I did my little, ‘Oh no, bud, we’re good. Yeah, you know?’ And he’s offended me this whole time I’ve been at camp with him,” Ben said, dismissing the apology. Ultimately, Cole’s actions were presented as the reason for Ben choosing to side with the Hero-Hustler group and for Jessica becoming the target. He also had another secret-spilling scene when he told Joe about the Yawa pact, and Joe questioned why Cole would bring Ben in on the plan, again, highlighting Cole’s lack of awareness.
What’s next for Cole? He kept comparing the game to rock climbing throughout this episode. “When your gear pulls, and it doesn’t hold, you’re all the way at the top, and now you’re gonna be on the bottom. And my alliances are my gear. I just pray that’s going to keep my life in Survivor going.” Obviously, his closest ally ended up going home, and now Cole is firmly on the bottom. His story becomes how long can he survive without Jessica? “You can’t make it to the end without me,” Jessica told him earlier this season, now we’ll see whether that is true or not.
Mike had a significant role in this episode as one of the key strategists for the Healers alliance. We got to hear his thoughts on the dynamics, his supposed alliance, and his plans moving forward. The bad thing for Mike is that he hitched his wagon to the wrong group. Mike put his trust in the wrong people, and that could be damaging for his edit in the long-run.
“I am concerned that the Healers can be ganged up on by the original Hustlers and Heroes, but the reality is that we’re still five Healers strong, plus I’m strong with Lauren, and I’m strong with Ben,” Mike said after Lauren told him about Devon’s plan. Mike was rightly concerned about the Hero-Hustler group, but he told us that he was strong with Lauren and Ben when they ended up voting against him at tribal. He later explained that he was wrong for thinking his alliance was so strong. But this whole confessional is concerning. He started by saying: “Post-merge dynamics are nothing that I thought they would be. I imagined that I’m the only person playing this game, but it ends up that everybody is playing the game.” To think that he is the only person playing the game shows a little bit of naivety from Mike. “Just because I went in here with a supposed alliance of five doesn’t mean that everybody is sticking to the alliance of five,” he continued. This confessional is both bad and good. It’s good that he recognized that the alliance wasn’t as tight as he thought but a bad sign that he seemed utterly shocked by that fact.
Before tribal, Mike was the person to name the target for his group. “The first person that needs to go is Chrissy because is this game you gotta get out the really smart ones– they can trick people,” he said. “So tonight we’re going to be five Healers strong against Chrissy, and I think I can trust Lauren to vote with us. So now we have six people.” If Chrissy went home this episode, then Mike would be looking fantastic right now. Instead, Chrissy survived, and Lauren didn’t even vote with Mike. Again, it’s a mixed bag of a confessional. Mike was right that Chrissy is smart and can trick people – she was given credit for coming up with “Plan B.” But he was wrong about trusting Lauren. Also, it’s never a good sign when you directly name your target and then they don’t go home.
Mike still has a bunch of story potential. While he didn’t have a reunion scene with Joe at camp, the two did have a fun back and forth at tribal council where they talked about their former feud. Mike and Joe are now both underdogs and may find themselves working together more closely. Mike also has a story with Ben and Lauren. His story with Lauren is especially interesting seeing as the two made a vow to each other. I suspect that will play a part in where Mike goes next. I think Mike’s winner chancers may have taken a hit in this episode, but as a character, he is still positioned in a pivotal role. He’s now on the bottom which plays perfectly into his theme of “the underestimated doctor.” It wouldn’t surprise me to see Mike stick around a while longer and make some big moves.
Joe was back to his negative ways this episode. Chrissy piled on the negative SPV (second-person visibility) at the merge feast when she said Joe was “really loud and totally obnoxious.” That was backed up with scenes of Joe yelling across the table about ordering “three desserts and two steaks!” It was all leading up to Joe’s brash performance at tribal council where he brandished his idol and boasted about his skills in the game. The edit presented Joe as a loud, in-your-face, aggressive player – something which has been a constant in Joe’s story so far.
It wasn’t OTT though. Joe still got to give his insights on the game throughout the episode. “I think I’m in a good spot. I have more numbers with the Healers. You know, and the Healers are five. There’s only four Heroes and three Hustlers,” he said. “In addition to that, no one knows about the Immunity Idol that I have. So, I mean, right now I’m excited.” Joe explained to us why he was sticking with the Healers, which is a good thing. However, there was a lack of awareness here. He talked about the Healers having five as if that was a majority. You need seven for a majority at the merge, and he basically spelled out that the Heroes have “four” and the Hustlers have “three.” It doesn’t take an Einstein (or a Hofbeck) to work out the danger of a Hero-Hustler majority alliance. Joe also said no one knows about his idol, but after he spilled about his first idol find, Chrissy assumed based on that that he’d likely have found another one at Levu.
Despite Joe’s lack of awareness early in the episode, he does later call out his suspicions about Ben. When Cole tells him about the Yawa pact, Joe says that Ben is going to flip, which was correct. “Ben’s playing both sides. My Healers tribe has been compromised. You know, they’re– they’re definitely, you know, sipping on Ben’s juice right now,” he said. He then explained what he was going to do as a counter-measure. “But if I’m feeling the heat, I have an idol, and if I use it for myself or if I use it for someone else at the last minute, I’ll make my final decision.” Joe did play the idol at tribal, albeit incorrectly, but just recognizing straight away that Ben wasn’t with them makes him seem more aware than Mike and Cole and his other Healer allies.
I said last time that I could see Joe becoming an underdog at the merge, and now that he’s on the bottom without an idol, that certainly seems to be the case. He had a nice reunion with Mike at tribal and their relationship looks set to continue in the coming weeks. Also, like Mike, Joe took a hit to his winner chances, but he’s still a massive character. He may be cocky about his own strategic capabilities, but it’s not as if others don’t echo that same thought. Devon said, “Joe knows how to play the game” in this episode, and said it’s a reason why Joe is a threat. I suspect Joe to remain a threat and a target in the coming weeks. Making it to the end might be tough now for the Probation Officer, but I expect his story to be a wild and visible one while he lasts.
I said last week that “I’d really need to see a strong merge-episode for Devon to shoot to the top of winner candidates.” Well, I think this was a very solid episode for Devon. It looked a little bit shaky when Lauren spilled his plans to Mike but seeing as Lauren ultimately went along with the plan, that might not be as bad as it first seemed. Devon was a key strategist in the Hero-Hustler alliance, seen approaching the likes of Lauren, Chrissy, and Ben with the plan to take out a Healer. Lauren and Ben even referred to it as “Devon’s plan” which is a good thing.
But before we dig into Devon’s strategic content, I first want to talk about that pre-merge scene on Levu beach. The opening on Levu was all about their lack of food and how deprived they were as a tribe. There was a significant focus on Devon. “I’m running on empty. There’s not a single calorie in my body that is usable. My brain feels dead and every single one of my limbs feels like it weighs like a thousand pounds,” he said. “This game is a lot more real than I thought, and going into the next Reward Challenge, if I don’t get this win, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” This scene ended with an impressive drone shot of a near-lifeless Devon sprawled out on the beach, alone, not another person in sight.
That could be a Sole Survivor shot right there, even if he does look dead. Or perhaps this was included simply to highlight how much the Outback Steakhouse feast meant to the castaways. Devon went from near catatonic state, to smiling from ear to ear once he had a pint of beer in hand and a steak on his plate. “I am in just perfect bliss right now,” he said. “To make the merge is such an accomplishment, and to go from such a low this morning to being with all these amazing people and then to go to eat this Outback feast with such happiness, I feel like a king, man.” Was Devon just used a poster boy for Outback? Maybe. But remember another Survivor player who didn’t stop talking about her love for Outback? That’s right, two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine.
If that was all Devon was used for in the episode I’d be much lower on his chances. But he also got a lot of strategic content. We saw him meet back up with Ryan and discuss their plans for moving forward. “Right now, looking at the twelve we have, I think the strongest people truly made it to the merge,” he said. “But the Healers and the Heroes, they’ve seen each other as threats this whole game. And us Hustlers, we’ve been kinda flowing under the radar, which coming into the merge isn’t a bad spot to be in.” Devon talking about flying under the radar is good for his chances because it’s an accurate read of his game – he isn’t in your face like a Joe or outwardly smart/strategic as a Chrissy or a Ryan or a Mike. Ryan also talked about how a Hustler doesn’t wait, they go and make alliances. It was Devon who we saw doing exactly that – he approached Lauren with his plan, and then Chrissy and Ben. Devon was hustling this episode.
Now, Devon did misread Lauren, who told us she wasn’t on board with his plan, and then went and told Mike everything he said. It’s hard to know how bad this is for Devon given that Lauren still voted with him. Ben also went and told Mike about “Devon’s plan.” This could be a sign that Devon will soon become a target or it could be the edit giving Devon credit for the Hero-Hustler alliance. Also, by the end of the episode, Devon got usurped by Chrissy, who was given credit for coming up with the “Plan B,” although Devon was right there in the conversation and agreed to it.
This was a strong episode for Devon, and while there are still some concerns with his overall edit (I’d like him to get some more personal content soon), he is probably in the top handful of winner contenders remaining.
This was another top-notch episode for Chrissy. I talked a lot last time about who might have the Ken/Brad type edit and worried that if Chrissy slipped to UTR or MOR that it might be a sign that she’s heading that way. But as I said before, if Chrissy continued to be CP at the merge, then I expect to be a significant player right until the end. Well, she was still CP and very much a significant part of this episode.
Remember last week I said how Chrissy always gets the first confessional after she’s been to tribal? Well, it happened again. “I have been playing this game 24 hours a day, and I think that I am dominating the social game on this tribe, and both guys are closer with me than they are with each other,” Chrissy said. Given what we’ve seen of the Soko tribe, her read appeared to be true. “So that leaves me in a very nice position on this tribe, potentially the power position, and I think that where I am right now is setting me up for a nice future run.” Chrissy is always looking to the future and talks about how her relationships can help her advance further. It paints her as a smart, self-focused player.
At the merge feast, Chrissy gave us her thoughts on Joe, calling him loud and obnoxious. She and Ben were seen asking him about the Levu tribal council. During this conversation, Joe talked about using the idol he found on the old Soko beach. Chrissy took this info and surmised that Joe could very possibly have found another idol on Levu. “So Joe tells us there was an idol that was played. The question is, does Joe have a second idol that he dug up at Levu?” This looks good for two reasons. 1) It was true, Joe did have an idol, and he played it at tribal and 2) It explained why Chrissy later came up with a “Plan B.” There was one scene during the merge feast where Chrissy and Ben were talking and Ben became cautious, saying that others might hear them. Chrissy brushed it off saying they can’t hear them over the wind. I’m not sure if this was intended to show Chrissy as becoming overconfident or perhaps it was included to add some doubt over whether or not Ben was still aligned with Chrissy. Ben said it was “concerning” that Chrissy wanted to talk in front of everyone. So it’s worth keeping an eye on this to see if it becomes a trend.
Perhaps another sign of Chrissy’s overconfidence came at the challenge. When Probst asked how much longer Desi and Ashley had lasted in the challenge than Ryan, Chrissy quickly jumped in with the answer both times. This was then touted as a reason to get rid of her back at camp when Mike said Chrissy is “a huge threat.” “She’s so smart,” Cole said. “Yeah she just threw those numbers out there like it was nothing,” Lauren added. “The first person that needs to go is Chrissy because is this game you gotta get out the really smart ones– they can trick people,” Mike said in confessional. If Chrissy is booted before Final Tribal Council, then there is enough set up to tell us why – because she can’t hide her smarts.
But the major positive for Chrissy here is that she got the credit for the Jessica boot. Yes, she wasn’t the first to directly name Jessica, but she brought up the reason for needing a “Plan B.” She said: “I would be agreeable to voting Jessica out because we think that Joe might have an idol or give an idol to Cole, and I think it’s unlikely that Jessica has a Hidden Immunity Idol.” “Plus Jessica and Cole have gotten very tight, and we want to split them up,” she continued, further cementing the story of Cole ruining Jessica’s game. She then got a really nice bit of personal info to finish the confessional: “I’ve been applying to this show for 16 years, so I’m a student of this game enough to know that Tribal is live and people do change their votes. I just hope that I’m on the right side of it tonight.” All of this is telling us that Chrissy is a smart player, has a good read on the dynamics, and is a massive threat.
Where does Chrissy go from here? Chrissy is such a central figure and has so many different connections and potential storylines. There is her relationship with Ben which returned to the forefront this episode. Will that continue to hold strong? Or will Ben’s creeping doubts eventually cause a divide? She has her bond with Ryan, old relationships with JP and Ashley, and even a new potential enemy in Joe. Chrissy is in that handful of winner contenders and without a doubt one of the season’s major characters.
Ben was all over this episode from start to finish. The merge vote was basically presented as Ben’s dilemma. Which side will he choose? We got to hear his thoughts every single step of the way, and while the edit obviously left his final decision up in the air until tribal (to create suspense), he provided us enough reasoning beforehand for us to work out why he chose to go with the Hero-Hustler alliance.
The episode started with Ben and the Yawa tribe in the water talking about sticking together going forward. Ben said they need to make a plan, execute it and stick to it. But right away we got to hear Ben’s real feelings, and that feeling was his distrust of Cole. “If we go into a merge, guns-ablazing, five strong, we’ll do alright, but my biggest concern right now is Cole,” he said. “Cole and Jess sit down there and play patty-cake all night long, and it’s just hard to trust that.” Ben’s argument against Cole wasn’t new information; this is the story the edit has been telling these past three weeks. Cole has continually rubbed Ben the wrong way, and it happened again in this episode when Ben caught Cole stealing the cinnamon sticks. “He’s selfish, and I don’t think Cole respects anyone here,” Ben said. “I’m listening to everyone, and I could go one way with the old Heroes and old Hustlers… or I can see if we could get that Yawa five working. The question is, can I trust Cole?” That was Ben’s dilemma, and we got plenty of information on why Ben ultimately sided with the Hero-Hustler crew.
All of Ben’s thoughts were clear CP. He was constantly weighing up his options and thinking about all the pros and cons. When it came to his relationship with Chrissy, he told us: “Before the tribe swap, Chrissy and I were pretty tight, but no one knows we were working together. And she’s wanting to talk in front of everyone, and that’s kind of concerning because I don’t want us two to be considered a tight alliance.” It reminded us of their prior relationship but also showed us Ben was thinking about the perception others might have of them. He then explained how the game changes at the merge: “Now that we hit the merge, everybody’s starting from scratch. You gotta anticipate. There’s no teams now. It’s about me and my family, so moving forward, there’s not gonna be all this camaraderie. It’s gonna be blindsides, lies, and I’m sure someone is going to cry.” Ben, of course, ended up blindsiding Jessica, correctly calling the “blindsides and lies” of the merge game. He also mentioned his family again which is a nice touch.
There was another potential winner quote from Ben at the merge when he said: “The merge is the first step in getting to that million dollars.” As always, very good to mention the money. But my question is, is Ben’s edit TOO obvious to be the winner? He has been CP in every single episode so far. He had a strong intro on the boat in the premiere, has had tons of personal info, a significant amount of visibility, and multiple relationships set up within the narrative. It’s all good stuff, but is it too in-your-face?
If Ben is just a great decoy, then what elements of his edit are the ominous signs? Well, as I said last week, Ben doesn’t get a great deal of strategic credit. Yes, his dilemma was a big focus, but he was a swing vote, not a leader. Chrissy got the credit for the Jessica boot (even if it was possibly Ben who mentioned Jess’ name off-screen) and Ryan/Devon got the credit for the Hero-Hustler alliance. He also said in this episode: “Having to choose a side, this is the worst thing you can do in a million dollar game.” That could suggest his decision will ultimately backfire.
What is next for Ben? He’s undoubtedly one of the season’s stand-out characters. His focus in this episode tells us that his perspective is important. The relationship between him and Chrissy is back in action and is sure to be a continuing storyline. He also has a bond with Lauren, and after their talk this episode, it looks like Lauren is choosing to stick with Ben for the time being. His beef with Cole is still very much present. And he has a friendship with Mike which might now be tarnished. Not to mention his old connections with Ashley and JP. Ben has lots of narrative upside but I just worry that he is too out in the open. I would like to see Ben have a serious cooldown episode next week.