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.
You can read previous weeks Edgic posts here.
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What Does This Episode Tell Us?
As the merge episode, we saw lots of strategy discussion go down, so there were quite a few CPs and only one UTR. The episode was also charged with tone as the game lines were being drawn.
Over here in the left corner, we have the Brawn tribe, depicted negatively as bullies. Over here in the right corner, all by herself, is Debbie, portrayed negatively as leading the charge and losing the game for the Brains. We have the Beauties in the center of the ring as the referees, toneless, observing and arbitrating the game. And shoved out of the ring, we have the remaining Brains, depicted positively as likable people falling victim to infections, Debbie’s grating style, and the appeal of taking bullies to final tribal council.
Particularly with an idol exiting the game with Neal, this episode neutered the Brains. The emerging theme was people drunk on power, playing aggressively and arrogantly, while the most humble players hung back and danced around them.
The recap discussed three topics of the season: the elements, perseverance, and uncertainty. Once again, the season is tough. All three idols have been found, and one person knows the whereabouts of two of them to be able to take advantage of its power. Chan Loh is Brawn vs Brains with Beauty as the middlemen. Gondol strategy was centered around whether or not to vote out Peter. Jeff ends the whole clip with, “And now everything is up in the air,” shuffling everybody’s status on the Gondol tribe going into this episode.
We heard confessionals from Tai, Scot, Michele, and Aubry. Tai’s was representative of the toughness of the season. Scot’s was centered around the idols. Michele’s and Aubry’s were focused on whom to side with/which way to vote. In other words, Michele was depicted as the decision maker for the Chan Loh tribe and Aubry as the decision maker for the Gondol tribe.
On the Chan Loh tribe, the footage showed specific people as Jeff narrated the struggle between Brawn, Brains, and Beauty. Jason was the face of Brawn, Debbie the face of Brains, and Michele the face of Beauty; this was a setup for what was to come in the episode with Beauty as the middleman to the Brawn vs. Brains battle.
Jason was largely depicted as the face of Brawn in this episode. There were four back to back Debbie name drops, letting us know Debbie’s presence will be loud in the episode, and it was: she was obnoxious. The odd one out was Michele. It was Nick who was depicted as the Beauty middle man throughout the episode, not Michele. This stands out as something to keep an eye on: while Nick may be the one wheeling and dealing and representing the two day to day, it is Michele who’s given focus in the narration of the season.
Scot, Tai, and Julia were all three individually credited for conceiving of the plan to vote out Peter, but Aubry was named as the person they had to convince to execute the plan. The recap had a fair bit of focus on Aubry. It talked about her conflicting feelings regarding the vote and gave her a voice to explain her position. This presentation lent credibility to her indecision, which makes her look good, but also ironically sets her up to be screwed going into this episode.
Note that Joe and Cydney were completely absent from the recap. This calls into question their presence in the game.
Under The Radar
On one of the most strategy heavy episodes of the season, Julia is the lone UTR player. This effectively eliminates her from winner contention. She was given credit in the recap for convincing Aubry to vote out Peter, which was a good start. During the episode, however, she was written off.
She was talked about a few times as voting with the Brawn folks because she’s indebted to Scot for saving her. There was supporting footage that she’s siding with Brawn when she talked voting strategy with Jason in the shelter. We never got to hear her perspective on any of this in a confessional. Perhaps the edit is hiding her to keep some surprises in store, making us believe she’s with the Brawn when she’s really not, similarly to how Aubry was hidden in the first few episodes. However, in Aubry’s case, all the camp life footage showed Aubry bonding with Debbie and Joe, not the younger crowd. In Julia’s case, the footage only showed her with Brawn, leading us to believe she simply had nothing to contribute this episode because she is, in fact, with the Brawn for the reasons stated.
She’s making her way. She’s surviving. She’s even doing a pretty good job! But she simply won’t “eat that damn cookie.”
Middle of the Road
Cydney barely scraped by with a MOR rating this episode because the very little content she did receive was game focused. She’s the one who correctly identified that Neal has an idol, tipping off Jason, and she got a confessional talking about flushing it out.
The only other scene Cydney was in was when she was lounging with Scot, Jason, and Nick and said, “Who would’ve thought we’d be here?” It was an interesting line to include because all three people she said it to have been shown to be arrogant. Also, Debbie said in a confessional earlier that she “never doubted she would make it.” This reminds us that Cydney lacks the arrogance of the other Brawn as well as Debbie. She’s the laid back, ‘let the game come to me’ kind of player, and that’s why, in an episode of aggressive strategizing, we didn’t see much of her.
Though there was an onslaught of negative SPV (second person visibility) towards Brawn, the camera always panned to Scot and Jason when talked about. This combined with the humility shown above is why Cydney was protected from N tone. She appears to have her head in the game, correctly reading the room, not offending anybody, and holding back while others put targets on themselves. So far, her shot at the title is intact.
It’s funny that Julia is the youngest player this season, Joe the oldest, and they are both in the same boat, though on opposite sides. They both have good game instincts but rely on others to carry out a plan. They both are in the shadows of their alliance. They are both rarely talked about and get minimal screen time.
Joe’s only role this episode was at the very beginning, dealing with the fallout of last tribal council. “That really confused me when you said original plan. It confused me.” He was trying to play off his incorrect vote to Scot as being confused, but we know from last week’s episode that Joe is sharp. Stubborn, but sharp.
Scot thinks Joe’s biggest problem is that “you guys don’t make a decision and stick with it.” We know from last week this also isn’t true about Joe who’s biggest flaw is that he’s too stubborn once he makes a decision, and therefore it says more about Scot than about Joe, which we will address in Scot’s section.
Nevertheless, Scot did say Joe didn’t make the “right decision” since he didn’t vote for Peter, and that puts Joe on the outs. Joe then confirms this in a confessional, “bye-bye Brains. You know, Aubry, she at least changed her vote back to Peter. So, boom-boom, Joe’s done.” This is the second time Joe has pulled the trigger on someone in a confessional, saying they’re doomed. Last week, he said about Peter, “And before you get in a position where, “Oh, my God, I’m in trouble…” (mouths gunshot sound) you take the trouble out.” Unfortunately, Joe’s confessional shots haven’t missed yet.
After the merge, we saw little of Joe. He got a hat tip from Dr. Rupert when Neal was getting medevaced: “I want you to be able to run around and do this when your Joe’s age.” It reminded us that Joe is unusually old for this game and remarkably fit for his age.
When Neal was leaving, Joe said to him, “I feel bad,” and it was subtitled. This was likely more for the sympathy towards Neal having to exit the game that way, but it also shows us that Joe is a sympathetic guy unlike Nick who was smiling when projecting that Neal would be pulled from the game.
In this episode, we see Tai continuing to be the lover of all life and sympathetic to others, and we get to hear what his strategy is going into the merge.
Early in the episode, there’s a scene with Tai playing and fake-bickering with the chicken as if they’re family. Joe even says, “Tai’s relationship with the chicken is a father to a son.” Later on in the episode, before the immunity challenge, Tai is the one who speaks up about Neal’s infections, showing that he’s in touch with what’s going on with the people in his tribe. When Dr. Rupert is off checking on Neal’s infections, Nick says about Neal, “I think he’s out” and displays his signature creepy smile. Tai is subtitled responding, “I hope you’re wrong.” This is a juxtaposition of both these players’ capacity for sympathy and approach to the game. Even with the advantage it brings in this game, Tai wouldn’t wish ill upon another life and hopes that Neal stays.
During the merge feast, we got a simple, straightforward strategy confessional from Tai. He first narrates the situation with the numbers — 4 Brains and Beauty, 3 Brawn — and then states his plan. “How are we going to line up? In Survivor, I have to trust somebody. So Scot is my only ally I know and he’s the most logical, since he know about the idol.” It’s simple, and it’s his singular focus. He wants one person he can trust, which he reiterates to Debbie later, “well first of all I have to go in an alliance with somebody.” He explains why Scot is a logical ally for him since he knows about Tai’s idol. Tai received a MOR rating this episode instead of CP because this content was more of a narration of the situation. The only added strategy we got was that he wants to trust one person, and it’s not a very complex strategy just yet. We don’t know how why he wants just one ally and how he’s going to use his one ally to navigate the numbers situation he summarized.
He was also part of a scene with Debbie where she treated Tai like a pawn. We got to see his reaction to this in a confessional, that it was too aggressive. He said, “I’m not buying her story. I’m not a fool! I see right through Debbie.” In one fell swoop, this confessional shows us that Debbie lacks emotional intelligence, not able to build a connection with Tai such that he’s able to see right through her intentions with him. And we are reminded that Tai is all about emotional intelligence, reading people and requiring a connection to join up with them.
Now we get into highly speculative territory. This could be a reach, but it’s an interesting possibility to explore. During the merge feast, we hear Jason, playing off of Debbie’s obsession with Nick, jokingly saying about Tai, “I’m taking him” (subtitled) and “arrr, me gon’ get him!” (subtitled), all the while Scot is blocking Tai saying “back off” and “I’ll save you from the scary pirate.” We also hear Jason tell a story about how he and Cydney woke up one night and saw a giant rat on Scot’s shoulder, and during this scene, Tai is sitting at Scot’s shoulder. Is this foreshadowing about the downfall of these relationships? Will Jason see Tai as a rat in his relationship with Scot and come after him? The fact that those lines were subtitled makes this stand out as a possibility.
Scot’s story this episode was one of returning to power. We now have a complete picture of the Scot show. When he perceives himself to be on the outs such as at the swap, his game play matches the empathetic style: connect with people, lay low, let the game come to him. When he perceives himself to be in power, such as at the beginning of the game on the Brawn tribe or after Peter was voted out or at the merge, he switches back to the aggressive, overconfident game style. Putting people off and missing some of the more subtle game play happening around him.
We see this right away at the start of the episode when Scot speaks aggressively to Joe and Aubry about how they blew it. He went from Tai’s new bromance partner teddy bear to the NBA bully we’ve seen once before with Alecia. Scot says to Joe that his biggest problem is, “you guys don’t make a decision and stick with it.” However, we know from last week this isn’t right about Joe, whose flaw is the opposite, that he’s too stubborn once he makes a decision. Even Julia called it last week when she said Joe wouldn’t flop. This is a reminder to us that Scot is charging ahead without fully understanding the people he’s dealing with and what’s going on.
He then goes on to say he’ll “absolutely” pick off the Brain tribe now, and describes writing both their names down and “just crossing them out until I decide which one I want to go first.” This shows that he assumes from here on out, things will go whichever way he wants them to go. Scot also talks about how Julia will vote with him in the future because he “saved her.” He didn’t play an idol for her. Nothing about his game was ever at risk. Yet his attitude is that Julia owes him. To think people are indebted to you in this game because of one vote is a shallow and arrogant way to view the game. It doesn’t bode well for his chances.
Scot’s primary theme this episode was that of arrogance. The words readily used and accepted to describe him and Jason were, “bullies,” “arrogant,” “idiots,” “overconfidence,” “controlling.” Funny enough, many of these same words were used to describe Peter, including by Scot himself. It’s as if we’re going to see a repeat of the Peter path. Scot was also reckless with valuable information, telling Nick that Neal and Tai both have idols. Nick himself blasts Scot for revealing this, saying, “You gotta wonder if Scot and Jason had too much rum at the merge feast” because they “welcomed right away” without getting to know him at all first. Scot is giving up all the goods too quickly, too aggressively, arrogantly assuming Nick is 100% with them, similarly to how Debbie approached Tai. Most telling of all, Nick said about Scot and Jason, “They’re never going to suspect a blindside on them.” Given all the times Scot has been shown to be wrong about people and the game this season (see previous edgic posts), and given that Nick was correct in nearly everything he said this episode, we have every reason to believe Scot will be blindsided.
When Scot’s infection was looked at, Dr. Rupert said, “Out here small cuts turn nasty very quickly,” and this was subtitled. It seems eerily close to Scot’s style of game play. Scot is cutting people, as he cut Aubry and Joe at the start of the episode, and those cuts in this game can turn nasty very quickly. Does this foreshadow Aubry and Joe getting Scot before he can get them?
There was a moment at the merge feast when Jason was joking that he would snuggle with Tai, and Scot blocked Tai, jokingly, and said, “I’ll save you from the scary pirate.” It continued a thin thread from last episode that Scot has been saving Tai, e.g., by telling him not to play his idol. Is this buildup for another such moment where Scot “saves” Tai in some way? Perhaps it just refers to Scot protecting Tai from Jason by bringing them together in an alliance. Tai confirmed in his own confessional that Scot was his one real ally, and he’d be sticking with him.
Scot was a MOR rating this episode because, while he did have a lot of game relevant commentary, it was all straightforward narrative of what was happening. We heard that he has plans but didn’t listen to what they were. We heard that he wants to pick off the brains one by one, and that if Neal plays an idol, Aubry will still go home. Scot was a significant presence in this episode, but it wasn’t complex.
Over the Top
Debbie’s fall from grace. She started the season out as the crazy person, then turned into the crazy person who could run a vote. This episode, she became the crazy person who was drunk on power from her first tribal council, and not only put people off of her personally, but repelled the swing votes away from her entire alliance.
Game-wise, she started the episode out by saying she “never doubted that would make the merge,” despite it being a “particularly tough” season, showing arrogance. She went on to say, “I take the offense, pull people in, because people want to be pulled in.” This confirms what we’ve already seen from her for the last several weeks, that she will be aggressive and try to force the game in a specific direction that she wants it to go in.
Sure enough, it’s how she approached people at the merge, from a place of aggression and arrogance. She basically tells Tai they’re in an alliance without getting his opinion on it first. Though he hesitates to shake her hand and even says, “Debbie…it’s coming in as such a shock,” Debbie ploughs ahead. “What’s your strategy here on out?” Tai responds that he has to go in an alliance with somebody and Debbie cuts him off, “You just did,” again, declaring his alliance for him. Then she says to Joe, right in front of Tai, as if she just hunted down an animal, as if he’s not right there, “He’s in. We got him.” During this time, Aubry looks flabbergasted, and Tai has a confessional confirming that Debbie’s pitch is as misguided as it appears.
She then keeps going, like a bulldozer, this time on to Nick. “So Nick are you with us?” And he, too, looks uncomfortable. When he asks if she’s talking about Neal and her, she responds, “And probably Michele, too.” This is especially crazy because Nick already told us earlier that Michele is his number one ally (and everything else he told us this episode was true, so we can believe him), so Debbie is telling Michele’s closest ally which direction Michele will go in, as if she would know better than him. The shot cuts to Neal whispering to Aubry, “So Debbie thinks she has Michele,” and shakes his head no, validating that Michele is not with Debbie. Perhaps the worst line for Debbie is when she tells Nick, “Don’t worry about going home, because you’re not.” This is the ultimate display of arrogance in this game, thinking you’re in control and can grant immunity to whomever you choose. Then after soliciting Nick for an alliance, we see Debbie say to him, subtitled, “and zip it!” telling him how to behave. The goal of this entire scene was clearly to show the discomfort Debbie is causing, the arrogance she’s displaying, and exactly why people don’t want to work with her.
People only had negative things to say about Debbie in confessionals and outside her presence. “She’s not being very finesse-y about this whole thing,” “needs to cool her jets,” “trying too hard,” “double and triple teaming people,” “showing desperation,” “pretty aggressive. I’m not buying her story. I’m not a fool! I see right through Debbie,” “off her rocker,” “goes off the handle,” “people are irritated by Debbie,” and “Debbie’s awful.”
Even outside of strategy talk, we see Debbie being offputting in her regular conversations with people. She says to Nick, in front of everyone, that she wanted to cuddle with him just once and makes a “rrrrrrrr” tiger come on sound. Everyone is laughing…at her. Nick says, “too much wine,” but the viewer sees this as consistent with her personality even when there hasn’t been booze. In other words, her bedside manner is that of someone who’s drunk.
When Aubry asks her if she and Neal are still good, she says, “absolutely. Tighter than ever. Salt and pepper. Ebony and ivory. Toilet paper and toilets.” Not only is this answer over the top, but these things aren’t similar. They are literal opposites. Ebony is the exact opposite of ivory. People flush toilet paper down toilets. This brings us to question whether she’s reading the relationship correctly, and sure enough, this was said right before Debbie flushes all her relationships down the toilet.
Debbie’s OTTN rating this episode is as straightforward as it gets. She was loud, crazy, off-putting, one-dimensional. At the end of the episode, during infection inspections, Debbie says, “A little thing blows up into a huge deal” in this game. All these little things have blown up into a huge deal for Debbie, and she has to hope that somebody else’s little thing blows up into a huge deal to swing things back her way.
Jason was depicted as the head of the Brawn alliance and took the brunt of the negative tone tossed their way. Right from the get-go, when Cydney lets him know about Neal’s idol, Jason says, “I kind of hold all the power.” He’s starting the episode off with an arrogant statement and it’s just more of the same from here on out. During the merge feast, when Nick says, “It’s obvious the Brawn are going to be arrogant, like they’re in charge and nobody can stop them,” the camera keeps cutting to Jason telling a story about a rat crawling on Scot while he slept, being loud, talking over everybody. While it’s hard to say from a few drunken merge feast scenes, Nick’s words are clear about the negative behavior is, “it’s obvious.”
As we mentioned for Scot, the words people used to describe Jason and Scot were, “bullies,” “arrogant,” “idiots,” “overconfidence,” “controlling,” and “will never see a blindside coming.” Jason had a confessional saying he was “literally unstoppable” now that he knows about Tai’s idol. Jason later also says, “Beauty always goes with the jock, always,” dismissing the possibility of Michele and Nick siding with the Brains, despite the fact that we see that they are, in fact, considering going with the Brains.
Jason’s first plan for the vote is, “I think Neal has an idol…split it,” and Scot confirms, “Split the vote.” However, even if Brawn get all the Beauty, it’s 7-4, and 7 isn’t enough to split the vote and beat the 4 Brains. Jason and Scot are shown to be unable to do basic math initially, confirming Nick’s statement that he can “beat them in puzzles (snaps finger) just like that. They’re just idiots.” Later on, Jason says, “So we take out someone that they never see coming, Aubry,” then later to the Beauties says, “We’re just going left field in getting Aubry out ’cause they’ll never suspect it.” However, in a confessional, Neal says, “I could save myself or maybe pass it on to Aubry,” indicating that he does realize they could be coming for Aubry. Between the other contestants’ comments about Scot and Jason and their own confessionals, we are being painted a consistent picture about these two. Nick wonders “if Scot and Jason had too much rum at the merge feast,” but the edit was clear. They weren’t drunk on rum; they were drunk on power.
At the immunity challenge, we hear Jason talking about the conditions of the season. “It hasn’t been easy but we’ve all soldiered on, dealt with it, embraced the suck and kept going.” Perhaps it’s just a setup for the imminent medevac. But it does make us wonder, will he be left in the game after a blindside to his alliance and have to just soldier on?
Michele’s depiction was that of a quiet force in this episode. She’s accurately reading what’s happening in the game. People are vying for her vote, but most of them appear to be doing so through Nick. She’s shown in the major camp scenes with both the Brains and the Brawn, strategizing with both sides.
She’s the first person shown to spot the merge boat, as if she’s the one hanging back and observing the situation with the clearest view. We get a confessional about how making the merge was a dream of hers as a kid, reminding us she’s a fan of this game, then immediately jumps back to discussing her strategic position and how it changes with the merge. She’s shown sitting in the shelter observing Jason and Julia gab about the naive brains, then we cut to a confessional where she says Jason is the naive one. “Jason probably thinks that he’s on top.” She says she hasn’t counted out working with Brains, and then later in the episode we see her in the water with Debbie and Aubry. Her impressions of them are positive but she’s “not sure strategically it’s best option.” She’s always shown weighing the options based on what’s best for her game.
Later we see her talking to Nick actually doing the weighing. She describes that she doesn’t think anybody would vote for Jason or Scot to win the game in the end, and therefore it’s better to go with that side. Everything she has said about the status of the game and her position in it was backed up by camp scenes and other people talking about her. The Brains kept saying they need Nick and Michele, and the Brawn showed desperation in pulling Nick to their side, giving away valuable idol information, and Nick himself said that Michele is his “true alliance.”
Michele also says in this episode, “I think I have to just kind of assess the relationships more,” reminding us that she’s playing based on relationships and her gut rather than the aggressive numbers-only style of play that we see from Debbie, Jason, and Scot.
As soon as the merge feast began, the majority of the story was told through Nick’s lens. His confessional during the merge feast set us up for his edit this episode. “During the merge feast, people were getting a little tipsy, but I’m just listening left and right, seeing who’s getting along, seeing what information is out there.” Most people are living in the moment, enjoying the feast, showing their true nature, but Nick is sizing everyone up. He labels the Brawn arrogant and the Brains “in the shadows” and “opposite of the Brawn,” and these labels are validated throughout the episode by others and by camp scenes.
Nick also says, “Slow it down, read the people, let them keep bringing you information,” and for the rest of the episode, we see people approaching him and bringing him info while he reveals little himself. Neal was shown pitching him on working with the Brains, and it validated Nick’s confessional saying that the Brains wouldn’t want to work with the Brawn. We see Scot reveal to him that Neal and Tai both have idols, which is valuable information in this game. Nick has firmly rooted himself in the “let the game come to you” style of play in this episode, which we see rewarded him.
Most of the episode is more of the same for Nick. We hear his strategy. We see him carry it out successfully. He explains every scene and every decision he makes, and it’s all validated by others. He says Michele is his true ally, and we see her ultimately confiding with him and going with him. We know exactly why he chooses to side with the Brawn over the Brains despite liking Aubry and not liking Brawn. Even though Jason and Scot propose Aubry all episode long, they are depicted as arrogant and missing the real game that’s going on around them. So it is Nick who gets credit for calling the shot: “This is my thinking: we’re going with Brawn.”
There were a few bad signs for Nick this episode. Despite criticizing others’ arrogance all episode long, he said, “I don’t want anybody having more power than I do in this game,” implying that he thinks he’s in the power position. While that’s true today, it may not last, and we’ve been shown all season long that humility is what keeps people on their toes and aware of others’ subversions in the game (like when Aubry acknowledged that Scot, Tai, and Anna could have forced a tie in Episode 5 whereas Peter, in his arrogance, dismissed the notion). Furthermore, Nick says, “We are in the swing position. It’s all we can do.” Acknowledging that he’s in the swing position confirms that he thinks he’s in power, and rather than acknowledging the danger of being seen as a swing, he says they’re helpless to the potential negative side effects, “it’s all we can do.”
When Dr Rupert was off with Neal looking at his infections. Nick says to Tai, “I think he’s out,” and bust out his infamous creepy smile. Tai responds, subtitled, “I hope you’re wrong.” Nick seemed cold and calculating, and Tai seemed human and sympathetic. This goes back to emotional connections and shows that, despite the strategic ground Nick gained this episode, he doesn’t have the emotional depth to carry him through to the end.
Nick’s footing in and approach to this game in this episode was all positive for the upcoming vote. There were just some lingering questions about his longevity given signs of arrogance and his continued lack of emotional awareness.
This episode was the story of Aubry breaking away from the Brains and paving her own way as a free agent in this game. Her strength in reading people and finesse in approaching them will propel her forward.
Aubry is depicted as reading people and the game perfectly. She told us that no matter which way she voted at the last tribal council, she would be screwed. This was validated at the top of the episode with Scot reverting to his power-drunk status and making it clear to Aubry and Joe that they would be voted out next. “Future of the Brains tribe, we’re done, I think that’s it.” As we know, by the end of the episode, the Brains tribe doesn’t have the numbers and loses Neal and his idol. Later on, when Neal asks Aubry, “Do you think Nick is running away?” Aubry’s response is, “I talked to Nick and I think he’s, yeah, I do.” She is the only Brain to be shown correctly making the call that the Beauties are not with them. Aubry then goes right into this question, “Do you have the idol?” as if she knew that he did, picking up on unseen cues.
We also saw a lot of Aubry’s game style this episode. She continued to approach the game from a subtle stance, trying to bond with people before jumping into strategy talk. She criticized Debbie’s game approach as not very “finnesse-y,” and that to win people over, you “have to show confidence. And right now we’re showing desperation,” always focusing on how to approach people as humans, not as numbers. Her opening line to Nick is, “So I feel like I’ve never talked to you before,” and he responds, “Not one on one.” This makes it clear to Nick, he’s not just part of a group or a number to her. She values one on one interactions with people. We then immediately hear her say in a confessional, “Someone is going to have to get their head out of their butt and start talking to people like a normal human being.” This does two things simultaneously for Aubry’s edit: 1) it’s the classic CP edit of somebody getting to explain all of their actions. She gets to comment on everything she does, and her mindset throughout the episode. 2) It validates what we’ve been saying since episode 3 about Aubry’s game play, that it’s incredibly subtle, but she is playing the game. These conversations are intentional, game-motivated ones. She’s just doing it “talking to people like a normal human being” instead of talking about numbers.
Furthermore, this episode validated that Aubry’s game style is working well for her. Neal confides in her about his idol because of her approach and because the relationship she built with him was solid. He even says, “I haven’t told anyone,” except now Aubry. After her conversation with Nick, Nick says, “I like Aubry. I would hang out with Aubry more than any of the girls here.” When Neal is leaving the game, she says, “it’s on the tip of my tongue, “What about the idol?” And I’m just hoping he would give me the idol,” but she doesn’t ruin his moment to ask him for it. She knows “it took everything within Neal not to get upset,” and her emotional intelligence trumps her game need. And even though Aubry is frustrated that Neal didn’t leave her his idol, she’s still crying for him “because he wants to play so badly.” She shows sympathy just as Tai did, and unlike Nick. The crying, positive music, and Nick’s positive words about Aubry all lead to her P tone for this episode.
The irony in Aubry’s edit this episode is that she foretold her own downfall. She said that she’d be screwed after last episode, and in this episode she was screwed. Here is a summary of Aubry’s “rollercoaster” using her own words:
•Come back from tribal council: “we’re done.”
•Tribes merged: “saved.”
•Debbie’s aggressive game play: “we’re screwed.”
•Neal & his idol: “The game is on. Let’s go.”
•Medevac of Neal & his idol: “Left me hanging.”
The edit made it appear as if she were the boot target, and only if Neal played his idol for her would she be saved. The edit itself literally tells us, using Nick (the swing vote) as its voice, “Aubry was going home, and thanks to some lucky medical evacuation, she lives for maybe another day or two.” It wasn’t the merge that saved Aubry from her self-prophesied doom; it was a lucky medical evacuation. On the surface, it appears as if it hurt her game that Neal was evacuated and kept his idol. But we also hear it described as “lucky” for Aubry, a guaranteed stay of execution. He also says it’s only bought her “maybe another day or two,” but Aubry then says, “Survivor is a path. You pave your way by yourself…You have to pave your own way.” Aubry’s words came after Nick’s, trumping his, and she had positive music swelling in the background, validating her words and giving her hope.
The conclusion to Neal’s story is that he was the big threat with an idol who was suddenly and surpisingly medevaced.
The beginning of the episode was all about Cydney noticing a bulge in Neal’s pocket and telling Jason that Neal had the idol. From that point onward, news spread and everyone knew Neal had it. “I believe Neal has an idol so Neal is the main focus,” and he was the main focus of all strategy talk from the Brawn side. It’s possible that the bulge in Neal’s pocket wasn’t actually the idol — the edit never told us, nor did it question it. As we the audience know, Neal had an idol, and so Cydney was depicted as being correct in making the call.
When the merge boat arrived to Gondol beach, Neal yelled, “We’re saved.” This would later turn out to be ironic because he was the opposite of saved: he was doomed. After the merge feast, Aubry and Debbie reunite and talk. At different points during their talk, Nick is shown working on the shelter, and Neal was shown lying down. Winners are rarely shown lying down and resting/sleeping, unless being shown eavesdropping on others, in other words, an active state of lying down. It’s a clue that the player is out of the game in some way or other. Note that before Peter was voted out, there were many shots of him lying on the hammock while others were talking game around him.
Neal was the person who ascribed the “bullies” label to the Brawn, once in a confessional and once to Nick. It was readily accepted by everyone and the edit validated it by slamming the Brawn with lots of related negative terms, “arrogant,” “controlling,” words that go hand in hand with bullying.
We’ve gone with a CP rating for Neal this episode because he was always shown explaining his thoughts and position on the game, and we got to hear his plans for how to move forward. For example, during his talk with Aubry where he told her about his idol, the scene cut to a confessional of him reiterating what Aubry just said about Debbie pushing people away, “We know that we have to get at least two of the Beauties on board, but people are so turned off by Debbie. It’s bad. We’re in a bad situation.” When Nick and Neal were discussing who they should vote for, Nick asked if it mattered which person they chose, and Neal said, “Preferably one without an idol.” It made Nick seem a little careless about who to vote for while Neal came off as more logical, thinking through the different scenarios. It also reminded us that Neal has an idol so he’s aware of the very real dangers they pose.
The Brawn side, knowing about Neal’s idol, devised a plan to vote out Aubry in order to flush Neal’s idol, and they naively keep saying that the Brain will never see it coming. However, Neal is shown saying in a confessional, “I could save myself or maybe pass it on to Aubry,” indicating that he may sense their plan and is ready for anything. It once again shows that Neal is thinking logically. On the flip side, we also are unsure of Neal’s pulse on the game because in back to back confessionals, Nick says, “Right now, I’m leaning towards Brawn and voting out one of the Brains right away,” and Neal says, “Nick, I believe, wants to go with us.” He’s given an out in this confessional though by once again saying, “in a moment of desperation” all he has to do is “grab out the idol,” once again thinking through all scenarios. All of this adds up to showing Neal as a calculated player who has a plan and thinks through all the options but perhaps isn’t always reading people correctly. This harkens back to episode one when he was devising plans to vote out the older people but ultimately became closer with them and sided with them to vote out Liz.
Things started taking a turn for Neal in the episode when he says to Aubry one morning, “Want to see something disgusting? Looks like I’m dying.” Aubry responds, “My firemen!” (Subtitled.) Neal was the fire man on the Brains tribe, the guy who provided life, and now it looks like he’s dying — and in this game, he is. We then see Neal tell Aubry about his idol, giving them life in this game, fire. He’s still Aubry’s fireman, but he’ll need to pass on the torch. At the challenge Jeff asks everyone about medical issues. Tai is specifically shown saying Neal has a couple infections, and Neal calls it his “volcano” and “Mount Saint Neal.” All of this lent credibility to his own line earlier that it looks like he’s dying.
The rest of the episode was fairly straightforward in terms of Neal getting medevaced. Dr. Rupert and Jeff are shown coming to camp, unusually so, before tribal council, and we heard from Scot, “Immediately, red flags went up. Jeff doesn’t do this. The doctors don’t do this. At least one of us is in serious enough condition that they would come to us,” strongly indicating someone would be medevaced. Neal talked a lot about feeling good and being able to push through, but Jeff made it clear it wasn’t his choice and against his will, he’d be pulled from the game. Sympathetic music swelled. Neal started crying. Probst spoke highly of him, saying he “fought hard.” Neal told a story about how he “didn’t love life” but he changed along with Survivor and grew, and he ended with a positive note about it all, “It’s been a great 19 days.” On his way out, he received a lot of sympathy from others, “I feel bad,” “I know you don’t want this ,” etc. All of this gets Neal the P tone for the episode.
The episode also used Neal to set up Aubry’s path in the game. He was her “fireman.” She even says, “With Neal gone, there is no way the Beauties join the Brains,” indicating she needed him in the game. He had told her about the idol and considered passing it to her earlier. Would he now pass the torch now that he was exiting the game? It’s Aubry who tells us: “The idol went home with Neal…That son of a bitch. Really, Neal left me hanging.” In this episode, Aubry was depicted as needing Neal for life in this game, but he and his idol left, leaving her hanging. We are left to wonder why Neal didn’t leave the idol for her. Aubry is the audience’s voice in this moment: “that son of a bitch.” As the likable underdogs of the episode, the edit led us to root for them, but we are left feeling like Neal has ruined it for both of them. However, Aubry continues on, and it smooths things over and paints things in a different light. “Survivor is a path. You pave your way by yourself…you have to pave your own way.” The onus was never on Neal to give her life.
Neal’s overall season rating is MOR. He started out the season as a strategic force, then fell to the shadows a bit as the “facts” guy. He was shown as smart, great at puzzles, strategy-oriented. He found an idol but never got to play it due to an unfortunate medevac. That’s a sort of parallel to Neal’s game this season: he had valuable skills, but we didn’t get to see him play much.
Main Stories in Play
•Mother Nature – She has now claimed two victims in Caleb and Neal. The extreme elements plus the demands of the game continue to be a dominating aspect of this season.
•Emotional Intelligence – those able to read people on an emotional level will have more success. Players such as Aubry and Michele are main representatives of this theme.
•Proactive versus Reactive – two battling styles of strategy have become the main gameplay theme this season. Those playing aggressively and arrogantly (Debbie, Jason, and welcome back to this group, Scot) versus those playing passively and relaxed (Aubry, Michele).
•Walk the Walk – those that can put their money where their mouth is will succeed. Those who make big claims but don’t back it up will fail.
Top: Michele, Aubry, Cydney
Long shot: Nick
That is it for Survivor: Kaôh Rōng Edgic for Episode 6. Let us know your thoughts and/or anything interesting that we missed in the comments below.