Survivor New Zealand 2018

Episode 9 Recap – Big Game Hunting

Chuck Cunningham recaps the latest episode of Survivor New Zealand 2018.

The last couple of weeks have been hard on me. In one episode we lost both JT and Dylan. We missed out on seeing those two superfan strategists really getting to flex their strategic muscle at the merge. Given Dylan’s standing within the game, I don’t think he would have made it much further anyway, but his jury reactions would have knocked the season up a few notches.

Going into Survivor: Australian Outback, the castaways wanted to create a different type of winner than evil mastermind Richard Hatch. The nice guys were going to come out on top. Colby basically lost a million dollars because he’d rather lose to Tina than reward Keith with second place. Coming into season two of Survivor New Zealand, I wanted a different kind of winner than Avi. Congrats to the bloke, but he’s not the type of player I like representing the game.

Everyone involved in the second season of Survivor New Zealand seemed to have the same idea. Casting did a good job finding thinkers, snakes and a couple of d**ks. No one has mentioned a journal of their feelings once this season. The players are all playing in their own way. They are all doing what they think is best for their game at the time (they’re not always right… but they try). Unlike last year, the winner has got to get dirty and earn it.

Last week we lost Arun. It stung a bit for me because he was my winner pick. I saw him as a much-needed step up from Avi. He’s loyal. He will fight tooth and nail for his alliance. He ain’t going to get dragged down by you though. Arun plays the game like Rose from Titanic. He’ll kick you off to stay alive. Arun was neither heroic nor villainous. He lived in that grey area of Survivor. There were times he didn’t want to cross his moral boundaries and other times he took delight in cheating, scheming and destroying dreams. Arun would have made a great winner, but he has to settle for mayor of Ponderosa and first seat on the jury.

At this point, I’m not entirely sure who to root for. Those that are left are either unlikable or invisible. How could anyone get excited about a Tara win? My heart belongs to Chani. I don’t care that the odds are against them. They’re my only hope of a satisfactory season. Having said that, who from Chani would be a good winner? Eve’s edit for the past month has been people stopping their conversations to say “ugh, Eve is coming.” And Renee has been a number for Chani who now has flipped to maybe move one spot higher on the jury. Good job!

That leaves me with Dave. He has shown moments of promise. Not enough to get me excited. The interesting dynamic this season has been his relationship with Matt. A secret alliance he’s had since day one. It will be an amazing story if they can manage to make it to the end together and then fight it out in the final three (final two… which is it this year?). I would be equally pleased if one of them betrayed the other down the stretch.

Photo: TNVZ

Dave is a bit shell-shocked after last week’s vote. The Chani plan failed (as we all knew it would), his best mate is gone, and it’s clear he’s next on the chopping block. Renee is happy with her “big move,” but it was a good move made for the wrong reasons. It’s a smart idea to get in good with Khangkhaw as they have a clear numbers advantage and making inroads with them sooner rather than later will give you at the very least more time in the game. However, her vote seemed more out of spite than strategy. Players like Renee are dangerous because if you get on their bad side it doesn’t matter what alliances or promises you have, she’ll turn on you (even if it hurts her own game in the long run).

In other news, Tess likes tinned salmon on toast. Something I was going to leave out of the recap until I saw the reward challenge.

Dave is a man on an island. No one is talking to him. He is the clear target and nobody wants to be seen in his presence. “This is the lowest I’ve been like all I dunno 24 days I’ve been here. It’s pretty horrific. I feel real isolated and lonely,” says Dave. He saved Matt a couple times and is hoping his buddy can repay the favor now. Matt is going to see how the immunity challenge plays out to see who he can shift the target on to.

Tess and Brad chat on the bank about splitting the next vote between Dave and Eve. Simple. Brad is thinking more about the end game. Who should he and Tess drag with them to the end for them to have a better shot? I know Tess isn’t the biggest Survivor fan but why is Brad even in her end game? He’s the clear head of the alliance and will get more credit. The pair have no intention of letting Matt get to the final three. He’s a threat physically and socially so they plan on getting rid of him once all Chani are gone. Matt interrupts their chat and they change the conversation to getting rid of Dave. Matt picks up on the fact that Brad and Tess are one of the strongest alliances in the game and that he probably doesn’t fit into their plans much longer.

Tess gives a confessional about how lovely Renee is. This is followed by a confessional from Renee saying she wanted to be the first to get close to Khangkhaw and that she’s trying to build trust. Let’s ask Chani about you and trust. I’m certain there’s some out there that mistook this confessional as being part of a #winnersedit. If Evan was writing this blog he would have spun it much more favorably than I. Adam and Tess are the only ones from Khangkhaw and maybe the only ones left in the game that want to work with Renee long term. Chani are bitter she betrayed them and Khangkhaw like her as much as they can like a Chani.

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Photo: Scott McAulay

Reward challenge time. Dave shows up with dreadlocks made out of rope. The boys with long hair have been doing well at challenges so Dave thinks “to beat them you gotta be like them.” To win a big pile of tinned fish (I can think of nothing worse) and all the fixin’s to make tuna melts, the castaways have to throw sandbags into five squares. It’s a bio-strath level product placement for John West. Matt Chisholm even tells us it has omega 3 up the wazoo.

Dave initially leads in the challenge successfully landing four out of five sandbags. But out of nowhere, Brad wins. He gets to share those appetizing tuna melts with one person and he chooses Dave because he almost won. I felt a bit bad for Tess in that moment – her favorite thing ever is fish on bread (seriously, how do people enjoy that?) and he chooses someone they’re going to get rid of next. Maybe Brad wanted to hide how close he was with Tess. He might have had the same idea I did that Chisholm would let him share the reward with more than one person. With his next pick, he humms and hars for a bit before picking Tess (good choice) and with his last pick he chooses Matt. There might be hints of Natalie Anderson with that choice. Butter him up now so he won’t sense a blindside coming.

We watch people eat fish out of a can. It’s just as fun as it sounds. Dave takes the opportunity to plead for his life. His odds of staying were low, his pitch somehow made it worse. Brad and Tess were bored and a little annoyed Dave prattled on. They could have done better at humoring him. If they get their way he’s heading to the jury fairly soon, so send him off with good feelings about you. That could result in a jury vote. Yul won Cook Islands because he humored a castaway, securing him the winning vote.

Dave tells Matt about his idol. I’m usually against castaways sharing that kind of info but in this case, Dave is fine. The idol solidifies their already unbreakable bond. It fills Matt with confidence to take a big swing. He can take a shot at Brad knowing they have a safety net to fall back on.

Photo: Daniel Medini

The immunity challenge is all about endurance. The castaways stretch out their arms and hold a weighted disk with their fingertips. The disks are attached to pots and when the pots fall they’re out of the challenge. Dave is the first one out of the immunity challenge. Nobody bothers to hide their smiles. Once Dave is out Adam drops immediately. He knows he’s safe and there’s no need to waste energy with his target being vulnerable. The castaways drop one by one until it’s a battle between just Matt and Eve. One of the only outcomes that could mess things up for Khangkhaw is Eve winning immunity so, of course, she does.

With Eve immune it puts more attention on Dave. If they pile their votes on Dave he’ll be forced to play his idol. Matt is keen for him to hang onto it a bit longer and thinks now is the perfect time to take out Brad. Omg, I actually like a Khangkhaw member. Please forgive me, Dylan. You got to admit that he’s the least p***kish of the invisible five (at least edit wise) – on a side note can a woman be a p***k?

Brad wants five to vote for Dave and then he and Tara will vote for Renee. He assumes Dave and Eve will also vote Renee after being burned by her last tribal. If Dave plays an idol it will be four votes Renee and she goes home. Brad tries to ensure things go smoothly by talking with Dave to make sure they’re on the same page. He doesn’t outright say “vote Renee” and I’m unsure why he doesn’t. It’s clear who he’s talking about so why not be a big boy and name names. Brad also does a bit of not so subtle jury management. He’s got his spot in the final three reserved so is now making sure everyone he sends home thinks he’s as amazing as he thinks he is.

He then makes it a point to tell Dave that he’s not voting for him. Dave sees through it. He knows it’s a split vote so doesn’t really care that Brad has his hands clean of voting him out. I’m really starting to like both Matt and Dave. Can we come up with some tacky alliance name like we did for Ghost Island. What’s the Wendenick equivalent this season? Mave? Datt?

Renee feels vulnerable. She sees everyone going off to chat and it’s making her nervous. Renee knows that she’ll be getting votes but doesn’t really do anything about it. If Dave has an idol (which he does!) she will be going home. She doesn’t hustle, she doesn’t do anything to shift the target off herself she just hopes things will all work out. The best Survivor players make sure someone else’s name gets written down on that parchment.

Photo: TVNZ

>Matt pulls Lisa (first time I think she’s spoken all episode) and Adam aside to save Dave. Adam is close with Renee from his time on Chani and doesn’t like that her name has been thrown around. Lisa is all about big moves (I’d argue she hasn’t made any yet) and things have fallen into place that people are receptive to keeping Dave around for one more vote. Matt puts in a lot of work to shift the target off Dave’s back and onto Brad’s. If they pull the votes together they can blindside Brad and neutralize his idol. That benefits everyone. It’s a tantalizing proposition but there are fears it will backfire.

Nothing really of note at tribal council. Chisholm drops plenty of hints that there might be a blindside. Tribal runs for hours and they edit the highlights together, so I don’t mind that too much. We’re not at Jeff Probst levels of tribal manipulation yet (“quit Janu!”). Matt says he doesn’t care what the jury think, he’s going to play his way and if they don’t respect it so be it. Dave continues to plead to stay and all I want to do is tell him to shut up. He doesn’t really know how the vote will shake out and I do like that he’s fighting to what he thinks is the bitter end. Tara talks about avoiding a kangaroo on a run. I’m including this because Tara gets as much time in my blogs as she does in the edit. Just a pinch. In the voting confessional Renee votes for Dave and says it’s because he broke the alliance. Do I have to say anything about this? People really are the hero of their own story.

Nobody plays an idol. One way or another an idol is leaving in someone’s pocket. Three votes Dave, one vote Renee with the rest of the votes going to Brad. One more of the invisible five has fallen. Brad didn’t have much of a presence on the show. For the first third of the game, I mistook him for Matt. I saw him as the leader of Khangkhaw. With him and Tess at the top, he thought he had his choice of who to bring with him. Everyone saw the power structure and thought now was a good time to disrupt it. Matt knew he would be one of the first of the Khangkhaw to go so decided to make sure he wasn’t. Lisa and Tara were tired of being on the bottom and did something to improve their shot at winning.


Even Adam played his cards right. He knew what was happening, kept quiet and voted for Dave to preserve his existing relationships. I found it funny that Renee jumped ship last episode so she wouldn’t be on the bottom and at the end of this episode ended up right back there. Interesting to note the first two idols in Survivor New Zealand weren’t effective. One was misplayed and the other went home with Brad. This could be a season where no idol is played properly. Really making me proud.

With Brad’s departure, the game has really opened up. It’s no longer Chani vs. Khangkhaw. From now on the vote will be decided by voting blocs. Different groups of people coming together to vote out a mutually beneficial option. Given the different rivalries, alliances, vendettas and interests, the game is only just starting.

Written by

Chuck Cunningham

Chuck Cunningham hails from the lackluster country known as New Zealand. He was an aspiring writer until the harshness of reality crushed his soul. When he's not picking up the pieces of his shattered dreams, he spends his time far too concerned with the trivial goings on of reality TV. A super duper fan of Survivor that would most likely be the first one voted out for his awkwardness, lack of fitness and being too "real"

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