The previous episode’s double Tribal Council was supposed to unite the two respective tribes. Instead, the divisions are more exposed than ever. If these were truly decisions made for the sake of unity, they failed miserably. People are at odds with one another, as well as the opposing tribe. Zamba is aggravated at Vuna for rubbing their rewards in their faces, while Wardah and Tyson both feel like they’re at the bottom of the pecking order. They need a second life in the game, something that can get them out of their current situations. Thankfully for them, if there was ever a season where you can depend on change, it’s this one.
I would argue that morale isn’t particularly high on both tribes, but this is especially true for Zamba 2.0. They haven’t won a challenge and have been to every possible Tribal Council they could have attended. On the other hand, Vuna has the comfort of only having voted out one person, plus the benefits of every reward they’ve won (or raided). To make matters worse, it’s just more of the same at the reward challenge when Zamba loses once again after a particularly strenuous swimming leg.
There are two bright spots in this particularly soul-crushing loss for Zamba. One is that Chappies shines after helping Anela and Santoni in the water and then swims three legs himself. Then, Vuna extends to them a gesture of good faith by offering a portion of their reward to them. It’s a small win, but a win nonetheless, and even a tribe at their wits end like Zamba can achieve some form of unity from it. After Marisha delivers them pastries, tea bags, and the machete that they desperately need, you can’t help but hold out some hope that this could be Zamba’s second life in the game.
With six people now voted out, it only makes sense that players can feel the merge in their grasps. Naturally, everyone’s thinking about how their connections on their first and second tribes will help them in the next phase… if they get there. The OG Vuna members are worried about OG Zamba uniting once the merge hits, and it’s mentioned several times throughout this episode in particular. At this point, I’m not exactly sure what to expect once merge hits, whenever it hits, because it doesn’t seem like this pre-merge is ending soon.
Nico does, in fact, tell the players to drop their buffs at the immunity challenge. In a blindside that the players (and the viewers) don’t see coming, we have yet another tribe swap. After a random draw, Zamba 3.0 has Tyson, Dino, Kiran, Qiean, Santoni, Wardah, and Anela, leaving Vuna 3.0 with Marisha, Amy, Anesu, Shaun, Renier, Chappies, and Nicole. For those hoping this would mean the Zamba tribe will finally get a win, there’s always the next episode. Zamba loses immunity yet again, and I’m officially considering the possibility that the green tribe is in fact cursed.
The newest version of Vuna gets the bare minimum edit, only possible for a mid-episode swap. Despite Chappies being happy to be back in orange, he and Anesu have uphill battles ahead of them. The majority of OG Zamba is on this tribe, and things are looking up for Renier, particularly now that he is reunited with his secret partner, Amy. There’s a lot I can say about the possibilities for the newest edition of Vuna, but the real action is with the losing tribe.
Wardah and Tyson are finally getting that second life they’ve been waiting for. With Kiran also on their side, the former outsiders are finally in a safe position with the latest swap. To top it all off, Santoni explains how she was responsible for getting Tyson the idol clue. With Tyson knowing where the idol was hidden on Vunaa, it leads them to believe that Zamba’s idol would be found in a similar place. This assumption turns out to be correct, leading Tyson to find his second idol of the game.
For now, the idol find is being treated as a blessing to Tyson, and it should be. However, since Kiran and Santoni were both present when Tyson found the idol, this could spell trouble for him in the future. Santoni is gaining a reputation for playing the middle and is demoted from the decision-maker to a potential liability for the future. This gets her into some trouble here, where circumstances lead to the vote coming down to her or Dino.
Anela is sent to Immunity Island, losing the challenge and his vote at the next Tribal. Even though he’s without a vote, it was still the right call choosing to Stay & Play because he desperately needed that immunity. Wardah is out for blood after the last Tribal, and Anela’s one of the unlucky few to be a part of Carla’s blindside. She now has a Hit List, and she’s made it her mission to vote out everyone that voted for Carla. And since Anela is no longer an option, she has her sights set on Santoni.
Now more than ever, the merge is encroaching on the game and having a larger impact on the players’ decisions. Wardah’s preference is to vote out Santoni, but it seems more due to the past than the present. Kiran and Tyson initially seem to be okay with this plan but then have a change of heart after looking at the numbers in their tribe. Once Anela is back in the picture (they’re assuming he has his vote), there will be 3 original Zamba vs. 3 original Vuna if they vote out Santoni. If they vote out Dino, then the odds are more likely to be in their favor, even if Santoni flips again.
There is one more factor in all of this, and that’s Santoni’s idol that’s hidden at Tribal. Dino has chosen to lay low this round in hopes that the target is directed to Santoni. Tyson plays off of this by telling Santoni that while Dino’s the target, Dino himself thinks that it’s actually Santoni. Naturally, she doesn’t appreciate her name being the decoy, and the paranoia begins to set in. Should she play the idol and guarantee her safety, or should she take a risk and hope that Tyson is telling her the truth?
At Tribal, the future of the game is discussed, and the merge is once again acknowledged. Kiran has a brilliant line about how he is not determining the flow of the game but rather making suggestions for how the flow should go. It’s a perfect way to describe Kiran’s game, and I have a feeling we’ll see him reap the rewards of his “suggestions” in the merge. With Anela back from Immunity Island, he and Wardah go back and forth about who is at fault for Carla going home. But Wardah can’t vote for Anela, and Anela doesn’t have a vote at all, so that’s a feud that will have to be addressed another day.
The paranoia of the game wins the day for Santoni. When it’s time for the votes to be read, she decides to play her idol. While a safer bet, the play was not needed, as only Dino and Qiean voted for her. Everyone else voted for Dino, and one of the biggest stars of the early game gets his torch snuffed. It’s always impactful when a big character is no longer in the game, but this is especially so here. Dino was an early fan favorite that brought a lot of charisma and positivity to the pre-merge. Losing him at this stage is a hard hit, but it’s clear we are at the stage of the game where we are saying goodbye to the more established characters.
Based on the previews, we will have at least one more pre-merge round unless the editors blindside us again. One particularly interesting highlight from the preview is that Chappies finally acknowledges his diplomatic immunity, and I’m excited to see if the advantage goes anywhere. Combined with Anesu’s Tribal Council Pass, the third edition of Vuna may have to turn on each other, which is exactly the type of difficult decision-making I’ve been waiting for. This could be me getting ahead of myself, but I guess we’ll have to see for ourselves next Thursday.