I’m going to pull back the curtain a little: pre-season when deciding which episode to blog about I didn’t have a preference. Whichever choice I made I’d get great Survivor content, I thought. I feel a bit like Colby Donaldson losing out because I made the wrong decision. There isn’t really much to talk about as all the meat is in the Monday episodes. Maybe Evan Francis will be Joe Del Campo’d, and I’ll get to fill in, but until that day comes, I’ll suffer through the job I happily volunteered for. I’m an ungrateful millennial.
Having just voted out Shay it has become a boys club back at Mogoton. The Mogoton boys or as I like to call them the Kiwi four horsemen have regressed to primary school kids. “Boys rule, girls drool!” exclaims Jak. They’re all pleased that their plan went off without a hitch and think that Shay believes Tom is still loyal to his old tribe.
Tom doesn’t get enough credit for his move last week. He’s the only person this season that fully understood how to handle Redemption Island and exploited it to improve his position in the game. Tom voted against Mike which should signal to Shay and new Hermosa that he isn’t fully committed to the boys. It also keeps Tom’s options open so he hasn’t shut the door on working with Avi or Sala moving forward.
The boys’ plan didn’t work as well as they thought it would as Shay is stewing on Redemption Island, eager to get back in the game and take out the four horsemen. Shay has wanted Tom out since day one, and his attempts to appear loyal to her did little to quash her baffling vendetta. I suppose Nick Iadanza from Australian Survivor has done nothing to improve the reputation of teachers in Survivor and Tom has been the victim of the “Nickish” phenomena.
There’s another Redemption Island duel invite. Just once I’d like a tribe or an individual to turn down these invites. These are the type of invites you get in North Korea where there is no real choice involved. Both tribes speculate about the merge, and the new Hermosa members are worried about where Tom and Shannon’s loyalties lie. Avi is concerned about Tom being wooed over to Mike’s side with empty promises and Barb has always had reservations about Shannon. “At this moment in time, I would like to trust Shannon. I think I do but she’s awfully, awfully good at chatting to all sides” says Barb.
Shannon is a very dangerous player to keep around. Not only is she a super duper fan of Survivor, possessing knowledge of the game most of the cast don’t have but she also appears to go wherever the power is. She spent a lot of the pre-merge distancing herself from Nate and Barb so they have more than enough reasons to be skeptical of her. The optimal move in my eyes is to take Shannon out at the first merge vote so she can’t switch sides when it suits her but that’s a move I don’t expect to see in Season 1 of Survivor New Zealand.
Lee, the mastermind that he is, isn’t too worried about the looming merge. No matter what, New Mogoton have the numbers. Mogoton is banking on the fact Georgia will win her way back and that Shannon will stick with them.
Chisholm with his hands firmly on his hips (seriously he’s always in that awkward position) tells everyone that whoever wins the duel will reenter the game to join the merged tribe, Casar. This is the first time in Survivor history (to my knowledge) that the contestants haven’t been able to name the merged tribe themselves. I’m glad we were sparred lame portmanteaus such as “mogomosa” or “hermoton” but there’s a missed opportunity to add to Sala’s #WinnersEdit by letting him name the tribe after one of his children.
This Redemption Island duel is pivotal and could shape how the rest of the game plays out. Both sides have a rooting interest, with Mike’s group needing Georgia to come back to form a solid majority and Sala’s side wanting Shay to return. If Shay wins out it gives Shannon fewer reasons to jump ship as losing her number one ally Georgia will limit her options at the merge.
Georgia and Shay must compete in the House of Cards challenge. Last seen in Survivor: Game Changers being the only thing in Aubry’s edit that didn’t revolve around food. The contestants must build a house of cards with tiles to a certain height. Georgia pouts most of the challenge giving off a Veruca Salt vibe. Shay doesn’t have enough tiles to complete her tower and has to take some out of her structure making it a high stakes game of Jenga for her. Georgia’s tower crumbles one tile away from winning. In frustration, she throws her last tile down and lets out her catchphrase “this sucks.” Shay takes her time, and Georgia can only sit and watch as her Survivor dream collapses much like her stack of tiles. Shay runs into Sala’s arms, and Avi quickly jumps up to join the hug. Come on guys; this is sending a very clear signal to everyone, dial it back a bit.
“Georgia was, without doubt, one of the strongest competitors in this game, and you just knocked her out of this competition, ” says Chisholm. I’m sorry, but I’m probably the only guy in the Survivor community that never saw what was so great about Georgia. There’s this tendency in Survivor circles to give even mildly attractive women far more credit than they probably deserve. Georgia, though bubbly, had no real personality and we saw very little game from her. There have been comparisons made to Phoebe from Australian Survivor but other than a superficial likeness they didn’t have much in common. It would have made for a more dynamic merge if she had won the duel but I’m not that sad to see her go.
There’s a merge feast waiting back at camp. Kebabs, fruit, french fries, and chicken (damn!). I spent the majority of the merge feast looking at napkins and plates to see if there was an idol clue hidden. Unfortunately, it looks like there will be no idols this season. The producers are trying not to over do it in their first season with twist after twist. An idol is a good way to make great TV and prevent Pagongings so production shouldn’t have been too quick to dismiss this potential wrinkle into the game.
Mike is in a tough spot. He was hoping the other half of his showmance would join Casar and give him the numbers to take control. “Her stack falling like it, did, I kinda saw my game falling as well, ” says Mike.
Shannon wants to reconnect with the boys and make them feel she’s 100% on board with them. They need her as a number, and she happily fills them with false hope slagging off her swap tribe. Eventually, Shannon will have to choose a side and in doing so lose jury votes in the process. If both sides really thought about it, they’d see Shannon is playing them and get rid of her. She isn’t in any of their end games so take her out now. Shannon goes wherever the wind blows, and that’s dangerous in this game where you need to rely on people.
Jak is underrated as a player. He comes off as a goofy character and too immature to be a threat. I feel that he is the brains behind the four horsemen. Together with Tom, they devise a pitch to sway Avi over. They propose a final four of Avi, Shannon, Jak and Tom which would probably best satisfy Avi and Shannon the two people they need for the merge vote. Jak and Tom have no intention of sticking to the plan (heh heh heh) and Jak keeps Mike informed. It’s a great move to be transparent with Mike as it wouldn’t be a good look if information got back to him and he was unaware of the scheme.
Jak pulls Avi and Shannon aside and lets them know about his proposal. He’s convincing, making valid arguments about why it’s the best path for all of them and is open about not trusting Shay. Shannon plays along (possibly considering it) but Avi has no poker face whatsoever. He’s standoffish and obviously resistant to the suggestion. Avi ends the conversation with the non-committal statement “good to get this dialogue started.” Avi is disappointed with Tom and his trust in him wanes. He can’t understand how Tom could side with the boys. “I wish Tom had come back to Hermosa camp and been like ‘I’m with you I’m with Sala the old arrangement is still in.’ But I’m struggling with the fact Tom might be potentially on the other side” says Avi.
Can you really blame Tom though? Every tribal council Shay campaigned to send him home, and he was always on the bottom of the Mogoton tribe. Sala, Shay, and Avi were a tight three and Tom was nothing more than Avi’s tag along. Tom is right to be weary of Shay as she’s tried sending him home multiple times and even in this episode brought his name up as someone to get rid of. Avi should recognize Shay’s desire to take out Tom (having witnessed it countless times pre-merge) and be sympathetic to Tom’s situation. “The old arrangement” isn’t in Tom’s interest as the best case scenario is a fire making challenge at four. Why is Tom expected to be in an alliance that doesn’t benefit him with people that want to vote him out (Sala and Shay) and be grateful to get fourth place?
I get excited for a second when I mistake the reward challenge for an immunity challenge. The castaways are playing for chocolate cake in a memory challenge. Mike ends up winning and has to pick two people to join him. I thought he’d choose Lee and Jak but he wants the runners up to come enjoy it. Smart move on his part but my boy Nate knows Mike’s playing it safe. This makes Mike’s target even bigger as he’s proven himself not only a physical threat but also a threat mentally as well.
“Mike taking out that challenge and making it look easy just solidifies and affirms how much of a threat he really is,” says Sala. I was just beginning to think we wouldn’t get more fuel for Sala’s #WinnersEdit this episode but Nate pipes up and says he’s “gutted” he didn’t win as he wanted to celebrate Sala’s boy’s birthday with him. The editors of Survivor New Zealand must have been given guidelines stating they have to remind the audience Sala has a family to make us care about him every episode.
Random tangent time. New Zealand didn’t get a version of Survivor until 2017. Until this year we had to be satisfied with a show called “Treasure Island.” It was the same basic premise of castaways on an island with an interesting made up pirate mythology. Basically a Kiwi version of Pearl Islands. The show lasted for many years and eventually went the way of The Apprentice filling the cast with C grade Kiwi celebrities. Why bring this up now you ask?
On Treasure Island: Extreme – a season made up of army veterans – one challenge was eating a chocolate cake (boy that’s extreme!). You may laugh at the absurdity of a chocolate cake eating challenge but ex-British Army Sergeant Paul almost choked to death, and even the eventual winner “Horse” struggled to complete the task. Horse would later go on to choke on a crayfish dinner in the all-star version of Treasure Island adding to his legend. I just find it amusing that a show that was a pale imitation of Survivor would years later be referenced in Survivor New Zealand. That’s either an incredible coincidence or a nod to the fans such as myself that would get a chuckle out of it.