This season has been brutal so far in terms of scarce food, harsh living conditions, and especially when it comes to epic blindsides. Having control of one tribal council doesn’t mean the game is necessarily going your way, which Dante proved last tribal by becoming the second jury member. Stakes are mounting higher with each passing day, alliances are constantly reshuffling and adapting, and no one knows where they genuinely stand until the votes are cast. This episode demonstrates how unless you have immunity, you can get cut by even your most trusted ally.
On day 24, the Salan tribe members are reminiscing about Dante but establishing that, in Survivor, the game comes first. Killarney and Shane discuss their need to start shaking up the game in their favour and decide to target Steffi and Meryl next, with Shane saying that Meryl’s social game is so far ahead of everyone else’s that “even the devil would vote for her.” Phil separately agrees that Meryl is quite dangerous and that he’s keeping an eye on her.
At the challenge, the Salan tribe competes for individual immunity, tapas and wine, and a brand-new Mahindra XUV300 W8. With all these incredible incentives on the line, an elimination process ensues throughout the challenge, concluding with Dino taking the overall win. As ecstatic as I felt with Dino winning his first individual immunity, it was heartbreaking to see Tejan being a second behind, with Nico voicing this sentiment too. Tejan remarks that he’s especially devastated as he lost winning a car too back in his original season at the Survivor auction.
Tejan pleads to Dino on his knees to take him to the reward, with Phil jokingly following his lead. Dino laughs at the situation and shares that he feels blessed to have won not only immunity as a fan but also the car after going through economic struggles in the past. Nico placing the immunity necklace around Dino almost feels like a full circle moment for him, and the joy on his face can be felt even through the screen. Dino then decides to take Phil, Meryl, and Steffi on reward, leaving the rest behind to draw rocks for an opportunity to go to the Outpost, with Marian being the lucky drawer.
Back at camp, Tejan laments that he lost the challenge and that Dino didn’t take him to the reward. Marian conspicuously smiles and says she’s glad Tejan stayed behind since he’s a challenge beast and doesn’t need him to increase his strength. As Dino is now safe, the tribe starts plotting who is the next target. Meryl’s name comes up again as a social threat, this time by Marian, who, even though she is friends with her, recognises that “friendship will not buy her a house, but two million rand will.” And she’s not wrong.
Tension starts to mount over things like cooking the rice. Felix, who has repeatedly stated he doesn’t even know what is happening around him (albeit as a strategy that has worked for him thus far), says to Marian that even the most minor thing could cause a blindside. Felix continues to show that by taking a more passive strategy, for now, he’s been able to move around the game stealthily and between two alliances without gathering any suspicion, making his way to the end that much more likely. Not bad for a former pre-merge boot.
Dino, Phil, Meryl, and Steffi are happily enjoying the reward, as they set on targeting Tejan, mostly for his current inability to adapt to this newer version of the game. Meryl has other plans in mind, however, as she’s been trying to separate herself from the Breakfast Club alliance and would rather pull the trigger first on Steffi and Marian. Killarney and Marian are talking about Meryl just as the group is trekking back to camp, and as they arrive, the food discussion continues to escalate, particularly between Tejan and Killarney.
Steffi (in what turned out to be a colossal mistake) proceeds to say that she doesn’t consider Felix a threat, while Felix correctly points out that Steffi is getting too comfortable. Felix hurries to talk to Phil and Dino about voting out Steffi instead of Meryl. While intrigued, Phil hilariously remarks that he’s worried about Felix’s plan (firstly because of the plan itself and secondly, because it’s coming from Felix.)
Marian arrives at the Outpost and has to decide between taking a bag full of rice for the tribe or getting a clue for a hidden immunity idol. Though she wants to take the clue, she goes for the rice to win favour within her tribe. As Phil points out as comical irony, Meryl is the one to comfort Marian as Marian mopes, not knowing Marian has been pushing for her elimination. Not bowing down from her mission, Marian continues to steer the ship towards Meryl’s blindside as soon as she walks away.
Unbeknownst to Marian and Steffi, Felix informs Meryl while she’s trying to take a nap that “her group” is coming for her and that she needs to be ready to play for her life. Phil and Dino then inform Tejan that he’s the swing vote, and Meryl promises her reward steal token to Tejan if he votes with her. Tejan almost looks like a cartoon as he widens his eyes in disbelief at her offer.
As tribal council begins, Nico jokingly opens the conversation with, “Who’s getting blindsided tonight?” He might be joking, but he ended up being right. With Nico prodding about blindsides, gut feelings and blind faith are terms thrown out to describe how people know when one is coming. Steffi specifies that she’s not comfortable, but she still fails to play her idol before the votes are read, as Steffi cannot detect that she is at risk. Steffi becomes the third jury member with a vote of 5-4, leaving Marian, Shane, and Killarney as the minority within Salan.
Steffi’s elimination is painful, to say the least, as no one can deny that her game could have given her the title of Sole Survivor had she made it to the end. But that goes to show how quickly the game can turn, especially when players get complacent. The chaos that ensued throughout the episode demonstrated as well that one should never underestimate other players, as even the most inconspicuous of the lot can come up with a plan that sends a likely winner home.