So here we are, already at the final episode of the pre-merge of Survivor UK. It doesn’t feel too long ago that these players were all jumping off the boat at the marooning. So far, there have been ups and downs, with some really questionable gameplay (or lack of, in many cases) and some production decisions that really make it difficult to feel like you are actually watching Survivor.
But, on the other hand, there have been some really interesting human moments and glimpses of some exciting strategy starting to shine through, and episode 8 really seems to capture the pros and cons of what we can expect from Survivor UK. So, let’s get into it and see what went down.
We start the episode hearing from Christopher, who previously had tried to throw the immunity challenge. We listen to him in confessional say that it was amazing that La Nena avoided going to tribal council the night before, which is strange seeing that his whole storyline in the previous episode was trying to go to tribal so that they could vote out the old Caleton members.
As we know, Christopher’s attempt to throw the challenge didn’t go to plan, but that is not the end of his problems. Christopher decides to talk with Ashleigh, Hannah, and Lee, looping everyone into his plan to throw the challenge, which immediately gets a strong reaction from Lee. Until this point, Lee has had some less-than-likable moments, but despite snapping at Christopher and being quite blunt, I have to say that he is completely in the right.
Lee makes it clear that if they were going to throw the challenge, then this should have been a decision they were all in on so that they could have worked together to do so. Christopher bites back at Lee but ultimately comes off looking pretty immature, and he seems to be really opposed to having his decisions questioned. As much as Christopher is a fun character, he will need to bite his tongue when he gets feedback he doesn’t like if he wants to win.
This tricky conversation throws the original La Nena group’s perceived safety into question. If just one of the four of them feels like they want to jump ship, they could easily switch things up by voting with the three old Caleton members.
Now that the players have reached day 17, they are reflecting on how difficult it is for them to be away from loved ones for so long, with Leilani finding it really difficult to be away from her partner, friends, and family for so long.
After hearing Leilani talk about how much she misses home, we conveniently then move on to what must be the most over-the-top, drawn-out letters from home segment ever seen. Now, opinion has always been divided regarding how people feel towards letters from home and family visits, and personally, I have always been okay with them. They offer us a chance to learn about the players’ lives and motivations and can offer up situations where we see players compete and fight to have a moment of love from home. And we can see players wrestle with complex emotional decisions they may have to make regarding who gets a letter or loved ones visit.
However, instead, what we saw was that every player in the game just got handed their letter from home without having to earn it in any way, which did feel pretty underwhelming. We then spend over 15 minutes just watching player-by-player talk about how hard it is to be away from home, how much they want to take home the win, and how they’re motivated by their letter again and again and again.
The whole segment played out to endless soppy pop songs, and to be honest, the entire sequence felt so out of place for an episode of Survivor I forgot that I was actually watching an episode of the show, which is a real shame. I must say, though, that within this segment, we did have some really moving words from Ashleigh and Lee, who both shared some very emotional and vulnerable moments with their tribemates.
Next up, it’s the immunity challenge, and we see the tribes come together for the first time since Jess was voted out of Caleton. This means that the five men on Caleton voted out the one woman, and this brings out some big reactions from La Nena. Tinkue expresses disappointment, and Leilani makes it clear that she is very unhappy with the decision, saying that Jess provided strength in ways beyond pure physicality. Laurence pipes up and claims that the decision was not one rooted in misogyny, but Leilani makes it clear that she disagrees.
It has been disappointing to see such a consistent pattern of the male players avoiding the boot episode after episode. Still, beyond the players’ decisions, this season’s focusing so heavily on challenges that require a specific type of abilities has fed into this pattern of women being targeted. Thus far, we have seen such a focus on brute strength that it does seem like the bigger athletic guys have an unfair advantage.
Moving on to the immunity challenge, we have a Survivor classic on our hands. It’s a battle of endurance, with the ‘hold your hand up so the bucket of water doesn’t fall on your head’ challenge taking place. Now, over the years, we have seen some absolutely epic versions of this challenge, with players enduring for hours to pull off an immunity win, and if you were expecting to see that here… well… you weren’t getting it.
In what seemed like a matter of seconds, one by one, the guys on Caleton fell off their perch, and in less than three minutes, La Nena had secured immunity. It was kind of deflating to see such an iconic challenge just come and go so quickly, and I was also confused as to why this challenge was being played in the tribal part of the game rather than as an individual challenge. Moments like this make proceedings on this season feel a bit off.
Never the one to pass on the opportunity to make a great TV moment, Leilani gleefully boasts that Jess would have outlasted every one of the guys on Caleton if she were still around for the challenge, and she loves every second of getting to rub the win in their faces.
When back at camp, Nathan finds himself in a better position than he previously was. Despite being left out of the Jess vote, he now sees that he can place himself as the swing vote between Doug/Pegleg and Laurence/Shai. Like many people have this season, he points out that Shai is difficult to work with and calls him conniving, backstabbing, dishonest, and disloyal.
We have seen person after person echo this sentiment about Shai… but in the episodes, we haven’t seen a single moment of him doing anything particularly problematic at any point. I’m not sure if there was some lost footage, but as a viewer, it’s annoying to be told things about a contestant’s character when we haven’t actually seen anything to back it up.
Meanwhile, it looks like Shai and Laurence are down to target Nathan, meaning that Pegleg and Doug (whose immunity idol has now expired, #JusticeForRen) have managed to avoid becoming targets and, in fact, are actually the two who hold the power in tonight’s vote. Do they eliminate social pariah Shai or take out physical threat Nathan?
In the end, as Joel reads the votes, it turns out that Peg and Doug made good on their word with Nathan, as the three of them vote out Shai, meaning that we may never see a glimpse of his alleged villainy. Now we are down to 11 players, and brace yourselves for next week… it’s the merge!