Another week gone by, another historic moment brought to us by the fantastic Survivor SA team. With the merge episode being held in such high regard, it seemed impossible for anything to match it. Now it finally has some fierce competition. Here a story is weaved together using plotlines rarely seen onscreen. There’s stolen food, flint being held hostage, and rice being used as a last-minute bargaining chip. Most of the episode is dedicated to explaining the build-up, but the real intrigue is with the Tribal Council that ties everything together.
Emotions ran high as almost everyone entered Tribal guns blazing, calling each other out for cutting corners, breaking rules, and other deceptive behaviors. The lines have been drawn, and players refused to hold back their feelings in a game that often encourages you to do just that. This Tribal gave us the war that’s been brewing for some time; even host Nico Panagio had to extend his hosting duties to include both judge and disciplinary. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and the most formidable trio of the season is now down a member, with Wardah being idoled out of the game.
More than anything, this couldn’t be done without the determination and relentlessness of their cast, who continue to give their all right until the bitter end. Viewers can easily pick apart either side’s arguments and conclude that one is more ‘correct’ than the other, but that’s not what I’m here to do. The best way to consider this episode is to recognize it for what it truly is, evidence of a strong cast that is willing to give their all to a game of emotional, physical, and mental exertion.
A benefit to losing such a strong contender to win is that the original tribal lines are officially dissolved, or at the very least blurred. The discussion of targets this week revolves around Vuna members, while Anela and Nicole both receive some more luck and opportunities to advance their games.
Anesu’s blindside, the first blow against the original Vuna, takes a toll on everyone, but especially Chappies, who considered Anesu his closest ally. The one positive for him is that she bequeathed her Tribal Council Pass to him, which is only good for the next Tribal. Whether he plays it for himself or someone else, he’s determined to use it in a way that will force his old tribemates to turn on one another.
Meanwhile, Santoni is feeling on the outs again for a myriad of reasons. She and Wardah are at odds, and she had no idea that Anesu was even a consideration for going home. She tries to cover up that she knew about the Tyson vote, but no one is convinced. In return, she doesn’t buy that they are actually sad about Anesu leaving since they were the ones voting her out and has no plans to show them the idol she found.
Now that Santoni and Chappies both have safety nets this upcoming round, the duo is prepared for the battle ahead. This is war, and Santoni is determined to vote for Wardah until one of them is out of the game.
Worth Paying For?
The much-anticipated Survivor Auction is back and ready to shake up the game, quite possibly in ways that surpass anyone’s expectations. With an envelope full of “Nicos” (the official Survivor SA currency), Kiran goes into the auction determined to keep any advantages away from Chappies. As a result, he buys himself out of the auction, leaving the rest of his money to Wardah. Luckily, his ally Tyson does buy the advantage, while Chappies spends his money on a sugar feast.
Other standouts during the auction include Santoni buying her family letter and Wardah choosing to swap her food reward for rice for the tribe. While the Survivor Auctions do not technically have a winner, Nicole definitely wins out here. She wins the “Beggar’s Plate,” meaning she can ask anyone for a piece of their reward, a bath, and some champagne to go with it. Game-wise, she also comes out on top when she buys the Immunity Island ticket, meaning she gets to choose who goes to Immunity Island no matter who wins immunity. Even better, in this instance, she is also able to send herself.
Nicole might have left the auction happy, but she also may be the only one. Santoni is upset that Kiran gave his auction money to Wardah, even though she was the one that started with less than everyone else. I have to sadly admit that for all of Kiran’s exemplary decisions in the game, this is a misstep on his part. This solidifies to Santoni that she is on the outs of her alliance, and she has a greater incentive than ever to seek revenge with Chappies.
On the other side of the aisle, Tyson is equally ready to strike against Santoni and Chappies, especially after they tried to vote him out last round. His top priority is taking both of them out, but he and his alliance have a massive obstacle in front of them. The tools of the game are currently protecting his greatest adversaries, so right now, his options to reach his goal are limited.
Technically, Tyson shouldn’t even know that Chappies has an advantage, but thanks to some incredible flexibility with the game rules, both factions toe the lines of Survivor etiquette. This is where you can begin to sense that the pressures of the game will escalate and where they may possibly lead.
After a light reprieve from the usual shenanigans, Chappies’ hijinks have come back full-force, serving as the focal point to almost all of the conflict that arises. As it turns out, he has been stealing rice on a regular basis, just a little at a time, so no one will notice. He has also been hiding the flint in his bag and some sweets from the auction, which Nico specifically said they were not allowed to take back to camp. When Tyson brings up that Chappies hides the flint, he and Anela search through his bag. They find the flint, the sweets, and the Tribal Council Pass, unexpectedly clueing them in on just how much Chappies has been keeping from them.
Later that night, Chappies also helps himself to a midnight snack with his stolen rice, adding some muscles, crab, and onion to the mix (honestly, it sounds delicious). The whole segment is played for laughs, but the contestants who find the remains of his meal the next morning are far from laughing. As if he wasn’t already a big enough threat, the stealing of food cements Chappies as target number one moving forward.
The hope is that Tyson’s advantage will do some good towards the immunity challenge, but Chappies pulls out the win for the second time in a row.
Double (Agent) Trouble
With Chappies immune, Nicole decides to send herself to immunity island, securing herself the fire idol Santoni tried to win last round. With both of them off of the table, the trio of Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah, with their latest addition in Anela, commiserate about their limited options. Everyone is still angry about Chappies stealing food, especially now that he’s won safety on top of it. Their best bet is to convince Santoni not to play her idol. Given how little trust she has in any of them, this plan is a longshot in itself. That being said, their best bet to get any information out of their rivals is Kiran.
Kiran has taken over double agent duties now that Anesu is gone. Despite not agreeing with how Santoni and Chappies are playing the game, he has worked hard to establish good faith. Santoni and Chappies don’t have many options for additional allies either, so they hope to pull Kiran to their side with their advantages. He knows that Chappies plans to use the Tribal Council Pass on Anela, meaning there is still a chance Santoni could not play their idol. She already misplayed one, so she has a legitimate fear of history repeating itself. Kiran is hoping to capitalize on this concern to give his primary alliance a fighting chance.
I may be jumping ahead here, but Kiran’s subtle moves are paying off with interest now that we are reaching the end game. By taking out his biggest threat in Anesu, he has solidified himself in the position she was hoping to have. He is at the center of every game decision but is avoiding any backlash coming from these discussions. Despite being considered a part of a tight three, I don’t believe anyone wants him to go soon. I hope this momentum continues because his position right now is incredibly impressive with so few people left.
Despite his best efforts, the likelihood of Santoni not playing her idol is very slim. At their limits, Tyson and Wardah each have a plan going into the vote. Tyson declares that he will call Chappies out for stealing food and breaking the rules to give himself an unfair advantage. Wardah decides to keep the rice she won in the auction and use it as a bargaining chip to keep her in the game. Little does she know, Chappies finds out about this plan and swaps the rice out for a bag of sand. Safe to say, things are getting heated for everyone, and they’re heading into Tribal with all cylinders firing.
Lines are Drawn
Tyson said earlier in the episode that the lines were drawn in the game, but that feels like an understatement after this vote. Chappies is overjoyed to win immunity again, saying that he wanted to do it for Anesu. Immediately following this, Tyson accuses him of cheating, explaining to Nico and the jury that he broke the rules when stealing sweets from the auction. The logic is that by breaking the rules, he got an unfair advantage in the challenge. Wardah adds that Chappies stole the rice from her bag, which she won in the auction for the tribe.
From there, it doesn’t take long for the revelation about Chappies stealing rice and hoarding the flint to come up, which also angers Nicole. Chappies holds his own and fights back, admitting to stealing food, but then reveals that the group also took food from the braai reward to bring back to the others just one round prior. There’s no coming back to any sense of normalcy after this, and no one is holding back. Well, Anela and Kiran don’t say much, but it’s probably for the better.
With the arguments going round in circles, someone has to settle everyone down and make the final call. By process of elimination, that job is left to Nico. For one, the rice that Wardah took belongs to the tribe, so Chappies didn’t steal anything of hers. Second, since everyone either took food or ate stolen food, everyone’s guilty, so now it’s an even playing field. Finally, after everything, it is time to vote.
Chappies takes a risk by playing his Tribal Council Pass for Anela, excusing him from the vote. With now only five viable votes, the original Vuna members vote how one would expect. Chappies and Santoni vote for Wardah (complete with Chappies giving an exuberant shout-out to Anesu), and Wardah, Tyson, and Kiran vote for Santoni. This time, Santoni gets it right and plays her idol, nullifying the 3 votes against her and sending Wardah packing.
This Tribal will go down in Survivor history as one of the most explosive and unforgettable ever. Rarely do we see conflicts regarding production rules, but these players deliver in setting new standards for the show. This episode was intense throughout, but the Tribal was where it truly hit home. Rather than pass judgment on any of the players, I choose to accept this as evidence the show picked a well-rounded group of players doing everything in their power to stay another day.
Besides, there is more drama ahead now that the game has reached the final 6. This is the last round advantages can be used, and Nicole still has her fire idol that she can play if she chooses. Immunity Island may have one more idol or advantage, but the major focus will likely be on the fire idol. Nicole hasn’t had much of a chance to shine yet (outside of her numerous challenge wins), so I eagerly await to see if that changes next episode.
Will this brand-new advantage be played? Will a major winner contender be taken out by fire? At this point, anything is possible, and we’d be foolish to discard any scenario.