Many of us predicted that with only two original Zamba members left, this would be the point where we would finally see an original Vuna member go. To see this prediction come true is not surprising. If anything, it was expected. What is surprising is that Anesu went out, someone who appeared to be in the most secure position as a middle player. Vuna’s cracks were amplified this episode as both factions decided to turn on one another at the exact same time. The Three-Headed Snake vs. The Destiny Three, with the remaining Zamba pair faced firmly in the middle.
In some ways, this episode was straightforward. Two sides are in a cold war, and the swing votes will decide who comes out on top. However, in a spin to this typical Survivor dilemma, the primary focus of this episode isn’t on the swing votes. Rather, the attention is aimed at what both sides are doing to convince them that their side is the best way to go. Even when the decision lies with the Zamba members, it’s Vuna that’s driving the narrative of the season.
One undeniable truth within this game is that Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah have been a force together, a seemingly unbreakable trio that have managed to maintain consistent power post-merge. This episode, we see why. Thanks to their varying talents and nuanced social strategy, the power trio remained in power again, and Anesu, a winner’s pick for many, found herself on the wrong end of a blindside. Their power was hard-earned, and their rival faction of Anesu, Chappies, and Santoni gave them a run for their money, but The Destiny Three held back too much against a side that’s known to go all in.
The Three-Headed Snake
After escaping elimination yet again, Tyson is feeling more powerful than ever. He’s established himself to be one of the largest presences in the game, and rightfully so with the resume he’s building. He’s found and successfully played two idols, overcome being swapped into the minority, and has played a key role in almost every Tribal he’s attended. Of course, none of this would be possible without his core alliance of Wardah and Kiran, a group he proclaims is more powerful than any other combination that one could come up with on the island.
It’s a bold claim, but it’s one he’s been able to back up until this point. Now, his latest adversaries come in the form of The Destiny Three. Anesu, Chappies, and Santoni are ready to make their move and take out Tyson, the Kingpin of what they repeatedly call the “three-headed snake.” After going several rounds taking out original Zamba, they have finally reached a point where Vuna has a comfortable majority, thanks to Tied Destinies.
Now, it’s time to take out one of their own, and who else than the person who’s been known to take the biggest risks? After several rounds of laying the groundwork to the endgame, it’s time to take out their most significant obstacles to the finale, while they still have swing votes to turn to.
Vuna’s Gambit Part II
Anesu and Chappies have been working tirelessly to prepare for the right time to strike against their original tribemates, and at the final 8, they’re hoping to be one step ahead of everyone. They set to work roping in Santoni, a fairly easy task after Tyson’s decision not to pick Santoni for the braai reward reveals where she stands in their pecking order. A huge mistake on Tyson’s part for not taking into account how Santoni would react to his choice, but his loss is their gain. Thus, The Destiny Three is solidified.
With all three onboard to turn on their own, they create a plan similar to the one made at the first merge vote. The “eat or play” option is in effect at the immunity challenge, but it isn’t really the dilemma Nico was hoping for. Given that it was a swimming challenge, everyone but Chappies and Nicole decides to eat, essentially handing Chappies, aka “Aquaman,” the win. This is where Chappies’ role in the plan comes into play, as he sends Santoni to Immunity Island.
As we know from two episodes prior, there is an idol hidden on Immunity Island that players can only search for if they choose to Stay & Play. At the expense of her vote, Santoni does just that and plays to win a Fire Idol (meaning the highest vote-getters will go to fire). Bad news, Santoni loses the challenge and half of her money for the Survivor Auction. Good news (besides the fact that we are getting an auction), she’s safe for this round and is able to look for the immunity idol.
Pity to those who doubted the Queen of Idols herself, because of course she finds it. Just like that, everyone in The Destiny Three has something to keep them safe. Chappies has immunity, Santoni has immunity and an idol, and Anesu has the Tribal Council pass. However, now that Santoni is without a vote, they need to secure the numbers elsewhere.
The Zamba Factor
Safety is great, as are advantages, but if either side wants to cement any long-term plans, they are going to need the votes above all else. At the center of the inevitable breakup of Vuna are the two remaining Zamba members. After weeks of seeing their ride-or-dies go out one after another, no one is safer in this moment than Anela and Nicole. Now that Vuna is finally ready to turn on one another, everyone’s primary mission is to pull in the duo without the other side learning about it.
While the original Vuna members have been driving the narrative of the post-merge season, it was still great to see Nicole and Anela have some decision-making power. Up until this point, we haven’t seen much depth to either of their strategies outside of their original allegiances. Now that they have no one else to turn to but each other, they have to decide which path to take. No pressure on them, but their decision will define the course that the endgame takes.
To make matters more suspenseful, Nicole and Anela appear to have different opinions about which way they should go. Nicole wants to side with Anesu, Chappies, and Santoni, largely because she feels a stronger connection to Anesu. I never thought I’d see the day that Anela would want to pick a side with Wardah in it, but his friendship with Tyson and Kiran seems to be steering him that way.
They do appear to be thinking long-term when deciding which way to go for this round. Nicole believes that she has a better chance in the final 3 if she’s sitting next to Chappies and Santoni, as opposed to players like Tyson, Kiran, or Wardah. On the other hand, Anela believes that the only way he will get to the final 3 is with Tyson and Kiran, who have told him that he is their priority over Wardah. Not to mention, if he joins in the vote against Tyson, Anesu will be the one to get credit for the move, whereas he’ll receive credit for taking out Anesu if he votes for her instead.
Nicole and Anela make some valuable points here for players we haven’t received too much strategic insight from. In Anela’s case, his consideration about who receives credit for each move is a valid concern. As much as the discussion about Survivor resumes is generally overdone, it is important to have tangible moments and decisions to reference when making a case at the end.
For Nicole’s part, she’s one of the few that recognizes how big of a threat Kiran actually is. She even suggests voting him out over Tyson and Wardah, only to get immediately dismissed because they’re a stronger duo. Considering the results of this round, perhaps they should have listened to Nicole here.
But Wait, There’s More!
Despite The Destiny Three’s attempts to keep their agenda hidden, Kiran knows exactly what they’re up to. He doesn’t buy their pitch about Anela being the obvious vote. In actuality, this is the obvious time to flip on each other while they have the leeway to do so. Kiran recognizes that he and Anesu are similar players with the same level of skill in what they do. Their greatest strength is their ability to unite players to work together, no matter their differences. Game recognizes game, and for that reason, Anesu becomes his target early on in the episode.
We’re finally getting the chance to see the smaller details in Kiran’s gameplay out here. In an effort to establish trust with Anela, he makes sure to inform him of Anesu being the vote even before the immunity challenge. He even goes as far as to tell him that Wardah will be targeted out in the next round or two in order to further push the narrative that himself, Anela, and Tyson are the true final 3.
While the other side was hoping to take a big risk with a large impact, it seems like Kiran’s more subtle approach could pay off more. Leading into the vote, there’s still so much that can go wrong for them. Worst case scenario, Anesu uses her Tribal Council pass, or just as bad, Anela and Nicole decide to go with The Destiny Three. In order for the plan to work, it has to be executed with absolute precision. With that, the stage is set for the final standoff that is Tribal Council.
The Tribal Council Cold War
With Kiran and Anesu at the helm, the dueling sides both believe they have secured Zamba’s votes to blindside the other half. Sometimes, a Tribal can be used to sway player’s decisions, to make their case one last time. Here and now, everyone’s just hoping they don’t give away their big surprise. Anesu has her Tribal pass if she feels the others have caught on to her plan. Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah need to convince their opponents that they’re still Vuna strong, and Nicole and Anela need to convince each side that they are with them.
Each player is trying to not show their cards for a different reason. As a result, Tribal is one big performance where everyone has the script but a different ending in mind. I could go on and on about this Tribal, a brilliant display of the castaways at their most cutthroat. Everyone is trying to give the impression that they want to stay Vuna strong, even though that couldn’t be less true. The jury looks thoroughly annoyed at the idea of another Zamba going, but they’re really just spectators to the show.
The main event comes when the questioning and pointless arguing is done. It’s finally time to vote, at which point it’s clear that Anesu decided to keep her Tribal pass. Two votes for Tyson come in, and then one by one, the five votes for Anesu are read. With that, one of the most probable winner picks is voted out of the game, but not without her giving Chappies her Tribal pass.
The Destiny Three is no more, and Kiran, Tyson, and Wardah come out on top again. It’s quite a feat for such a strong group of three to make it this far, but it’s an accomplishment that has been well-earned. They’ve survived a divided merge, Tied Destinies, and the cannibalization of Vuna. The next challenge for them will be their most difficult yet… can they survive Santoni’s idol and Chappies’ Tribal pass?
It goes without saying that this episode will be remembered for Anesu, perhaps the strongest contender for the win, going out at an unexpected time. However, it should also be remembered for less excitable nuances that have defined the strategy of the season. Kiran and Anesu’s respective strategies, Tyson’s friendship with Anela, Nicole’s recognizing that Kiran is the biggest threat, Santoni’s keen ability to fight the hierarchy. These are the details that I’m sure will come into play in the final 7 and beyond, and they are what have made the season so great thus far.