Survivor wastes no time this week, jumping right into the reward challenge. And they do that because we’ve arrived at another pinnacle moment of any Survivor season: the loved ones visit. I’m always so-so on the loved ones visit. The sappiness and the tears just don’t do it for me. That doesn’t mean I blindly hate this challenge, though. No, of course not. Because you know what the Heroes vs Villains loved ones challenge gave us? Only one of the single best moments in the show’s history, that’s what.
Colby Donaldson set the gold standard for what a loved ones challenge can be. But even if the emotional reunions aren’t typically by bag, one aspect of this episode is always good: the strategy.
Riding high off seeing a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or whoever it might be, many Survivor players end up beyond frustrated and angry if they aren’t chosen to partake in the reward. It makes this choice incredibly tough for those in that position. It’s exactly why I would never want to win this challenge if I were ever to play the game and make it this far.
Dalton Ross at EW usually talks about this in his loved ones episode recaps, and I couldn’t be in more agreement. Don’t. Win. This. Challenge. Simple as that. Just like we saw this week, when Janet and Tommy (oh yeah, they won the barely entertaining challenge; a shared theme with the majority of this episode, tbh) picked Dan and Lauren to accompany them on the reward, it signaled to Dean, Elaine, Karishma, and Noura where they stood in the game.
This simple choice gave those four perfect reasoning to band together against Tommy, Janet, Lauren, and Dan. Tommy and Janet – and by extension, Dan and Lauren – receive an extra afternoon of food to go along with the massive targets they painted on their backs themselves. This is probably the only time I would actively advocate for throwing a challenge. There’s too much at risk with too little of a reward.
So one more time, what’s the lesson here, folks? DO NOT WIN THE LOVED ONES CHALLENGE. Got it? Good.
The actual reward-having players don’t do anything of particular interest, so let’s shift the focus to Noura and the Survivor editing team. Back at camp, Noura is one one, ranting and raving in a gloriously edited segment about how little respect she’s been shown, all the wrongs done to her, and how it was time for this group of four to band together.
After Noura’s moment in the sun, the foursome goes idol hunting. Karishma just played her idol, so they know that one at least is back in play. And an idol could do wonders in helping their plan go through. Eventually Elaine finds it.
Another boring moment. The contestants stand on small block of wood while stabilizing a ball against its own small block of wood. Lauren wins. And that’s it. This segment was about as enthralling as the challenge itself. With only two episodes left, let’s hope the show picks it up a notch challenge-wise to close out the season.
The Tommy, Lauren, Janet, and Dean contingent wants to split the vote, 4 on Karishma, 3 on Elaine. The “bottom four” (for lack of a better term) want to put all their votes on Tommy. If the the “top four” believe the split vote is happening, Tommy will be voted out.
They eventually realize Noura and Dean have been missing from camp for a long time, which makes them suspicious. They realize if one person flips, their split vote plan goes to hell in a handbasket. So we go into Tribal not quite sure what to expect.
Nearly immediately (at least as far as the edit is concerned) Dean leans over to Tommy to tell him, “They want you. But I’m not.” And that signaled the beginning of a Noura spotlight. Honestly, I’m not even sure how to describe what happened. So if you’re reading this, you’ve hopefully seen the episode. Because nothing that I can say will come close to doing justice to what we witnessed out Noura after being called out by Dean.
She just went on and on, hilariously rambling incoherently. It was enough to make you think the vote could be changed to Noura. But in the end, Karishma is voted out 5-3, with Noura receiving the other votes. Elaine played her idol, which obviously was wasted. But I can’t really fault her here. There was so much going on, so many moving parts, she almost had to play it, especially considering her name had been thrown out, both previously and at this very Tribal Council.
And while Karishma did need to go (unless she’s in your endgame plans, all she represents is one less open spot at Final Tribal Council) Noura has to go. You want predictability, especially this late in the game. And Noura has shown time and again that she is anything but predictable. You need someone you can rely on and trust. Even if someone is against you, at least you know where that person stands. But with Noura? That can seemingly change with every gust of wind.
And with that, only one more episode until the finale and this bizarre season finally comes to a close. Can the stretch run right the ship? Intuition says no, but we’ll just have to wait and see.