Up until this point, Survivor SA has done an excellent job managing their advantages with a cast that’s bold enough to make the most of every opportunity. The success of Immunity Island has been a shining achievement of the season, an element that has been treated as an additional strategic tool, rather than an obstacle to discard. Producers struck gold with the titular twist of the season and were likely hoping for the same with Tied Destinies.
Unfortunately, an unlucky draw at a crucial point in the game failed to deliver the same impact, and a group of fluid players defaulted to more conservative gameplay as a result.
With 10 players left, Tied Destinies was meant to shake up the tribal lines that have defined the post-merge. Instead, the twist had the opposite effect, only creating a deeper divide between Vuna and Zamba. When one half of the Zamba alliance became immune, Amy and Renier’s fate was sealed, with little fighting chance to turn the tides. This twist doesn’t ruin an otherwise stellar season, but it definitely sped up the Pagonging of OG Zamba. However, as I’ll explain later on, just because this pair missed out on the power shift doesn’t mean we won’t be getting one soon.
At the final 10, the alliance hierarchy on Osindile is incredibly apparent to everyone. Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah are a tight three, OG Zamba is on the bottom and without the numbers, and Anesu, Santoni, and Chappies are wavering between the two groups. There is still an idol somewhere on Immunity Island—a fact that Anesu and Chappies plan to take advantage of. The pair scheme to throw the upcoming immunity challenge to a Zamba member, who will send one of their own to Immunity Island to retrieve the idol. Their hope is that by doing so, they can break up Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah while still maintaining trust with them. It’s an excellent plan, one that would’ve been great to see play out. Then, just as these schemes can begin to take life, Tied Destinies puts all of that on hold.
The Tied Destinies twist is exactly what it sounds like. For this round, everyone will be linked to another player and they will meet the same fate as their partner. If your partner wins immunity, so do you. If an idol or other advantage is played on your partner, it will also be played for you. Most importantly, if your partner is voted out of the game, so are you.
This throws players for a loop, and for good reason. They have never had a twist like this in Survivor SA history, and it has the potential to completely upend a player’s standing in the game. This time that didn’t happen. Not even a random rock draw could unite original Vuna and Zamba, as the pairs are Anela and Nicole, Anesu and Kiran, Chappies and Santoni, Tyson and Wardah, Renier and Amy. In an uneventful surprise, everyone is paired with one of their closest allies.
There is potential in the Tied Destinies twist; we just don’t get to see it here. The random rock draw ends up giving us pairs that are all closely connected with one another. This is great for Vuna, terrible for Zamba, and the worst for Amy and Renier once Nicole and Anela win immunity. What if we had mixed Vuna and Zamba pairs? What if known enemies were forced to protect each other? What if you went from a comfortable position in a majority alliance to being tied to the biggest threat in the game? These are all dilemmas that we could have seen played out in Tied Destinies but didn’t. Does it go against the expected structure of Survivor? Perhaps, but I’d still argue that this is a fascinating opportunity that fell short on its first try.
Instead of any of these more intriguing dilemmas, players are scrambling to take out two enemies at once. Tyson and Wardah are on the chopping block for the Zamba people, with the hope that the temptation of taking out two of a trio will sway Anesu, Chappies, and Santoni. Not everyone is on board with this plan. After being confronted by Amy about wanting to take out another Zamba player next, Santoni is committed to having Amy and Renier go here. With both sides hoping to do some serious damage moving forward, the Immunity challenge and its aftermath crushed any hope Zamba may have had.
Signing the Death Warrants
Tied Destinies drops one more bombshell on the cast at the immunity challenge. There is no Immunity Island this round, meaning the idol is off the table as well. Zamba gets a bit of a break when Nicole goes on to win immunity for herself and her partner Anela. While her win means that half of their alliance is safe no matter what, Nicole signs Amy and Renier’s death warrant in the game as the only vulnerable Zamba pair left. She does them no further favors when she picks them to join her and Anela on the reward to Wild Waves Water Park, a choice that only Nicole seems to be happy with.
By selecting Amy and Renier as her ‘obvious’ choice for the reward, Nicole makes it clear to everyone that the remaining OG Zamba members are still a tight group. In a round where two people are going, this is a terrible fact to highlight. It takes valuable time away from Amy and Renier to make their case to the players that were considering blindsiding the power trio. Players like Chappies, Anesu, and to a lesser extent, Santoni, are worried about losing their upper hand if they vote out two Vuna at once. By this reward playing out how it did, these fears are now amplified, severely damaging the chances of a power shift actually happening here.
The one good thing about all of Zamba going on a reward together is that it gives them time to lay out a plan. They’re hoping to plant some seeds of distrust with the other side, with the pair of Tyson and Wardah as their primary targets. They immediately get to work once they return to camp, but it’s difficult to tell whether their arguments make any difference. Amy, Renier, and Anela all put in their best efforts with various groups, but unfortunately for them, the decision is out of their hands.
For an episode all about pairs, the real stars of the episode are a duo that wasn’t even linked together this round, Anesu and Chappies. After spending much of their time together maneuvering this vote, Anesu feels close enough with Chappies to reveal her Tribal Council Pass to him, something that she has kept a secret from everyone else. She will not play the pass tonight, but she described the advantage to him as insurance that will benefit both of them moving forward.
This vote is Anesu and Chappies’ D-Day (or Decision Day) for how they want to define their endgames. Whether they take out Renier and Amy or Tyson and Wardah, they are taking a huge risk. In the classic dilemma of playing the middle, they need to decide which is the better path for them to take to make it to the end.
On the one hand, keeping a trio like Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah around for this long is incredibly dangerous, especially with Immunity Island in play. On the other hand, they sacrifice a lot of power by voting out Tyson and Wardah, which would even out the number of Vuna and Zamba players left. They could end up being Renier and Amy’s saviors if they saved them here, but is it worth killing the lead that they worked for?
Renier, the superfan that he is, wants to make sure that he does everything he can to ensure his safety at tonight’s vote. He’s putting in the work at camp like Amy and Anela are, but he is genuinely fighting until the bitter end. Turns out we don’t need Shaun for fiery Tribals, because Renier has it covered this round. After a lot of back and forth between Amy and Wardah about the alliance hierarchy at camp, Renier announces that he has an idol, and if people don’t want to jeopardize their games, they will vote for Santoni and Chappies. It’s a valiant effort, but it’s immediately shut down by Santoni and Kiran, who call him on his bluff by demanding to see the idol.
Renier pushes back, but it’s not good enough for anyone to take a real risk in going against Vuna. The OG Zamba players vote for Tyson, everyone else votes for Renier, and the driftwood he had pretended was his idol wasn’t good enough to save him. Even worse, because of Tied Destinies, Amy’s torch is also snuffed without receiving a single vote against her all game. Now original Zamba is down to its last two members, the trio is still intact, and Tied Destinies has come to an end.
Pagonging or a Power Shift?
Tied Destinies was an original twist that had some potential but fell short in execution. It’s impossible to predict a random rock draw ahead of time. Still, these results forced our more fluid players to fall back on a more reserved decision so as not to completely upend all the hard work Vuna has done to maintain their majority. This makes sense for them, though it’s devasting to see such solid players like Amy and Renier go out this way. It’s hard to tell if this is the only time we will see Tied Destinies in Survivor SA. There is definitely potential in this kind of twist, but some things just come down to the luck of the draw.
Originally, I was fairly confident that we wouldn’t have a Pagonging post-merge this season, but Tied Destinies sped up the process to only two Zamba remaining. While the odds are against Anela and Nicole, it’s no surprise that the next episode preview focuses on Anela making the case for a power shift. With 8 players left, there’s only so many rounds left for those playing the middle to make a move against Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah, and they should be expecting a blindside soon. We still have Immunity Island, an idol, and a Tribal Council Pass that, without a doubt, will contribute to the game. For many reasons, Anela has been by far the luckiest player this season, so we will have to wait and see if perhaps luck will be on his side once again.