It’s not a hot take to say that a dark cloud has been cast over Survivor. And not just for this current season, but the show as a whole. Last week’s merge episode was ugly. It may very well represent the lowest point in the show’s history. I don’t want to spend too much time on it here, as it was covered extensively in the past week. If you missed anything, check out Rob Cesternino’s multiple podcasts on his “Rob Has A Podcast” platform.
But we can’t simply forgot or ignore last week’s merge episode. A victim, Kellee, came forward with her concerns over the actions of another player, Dan. And what happened? The players protected Dan and voted Kellee out. It’s a depressingly familiar story line to how these instances can play out in the real world. So where does Survivor go from here? Unless something else happens, host Jeff Probst and the rest of production missed their chance to remove Dan from the game. They had their shot and they cowered in the corner.
I’m positive this will remain a topic of conversation for the players. But will that make it to air? I don’t envy CBS, Probst, or the other producers and show runners; they’re in a tough spot. Survivor is supposed to be a fun, light-hearted family show. Leaning into this story deviates from that. But choosing to not air it shows they either don’t care or are trying to sweep it under the carpet in the hopes that fans will forget (spoiler alert: we won’t).
And what about Dan? In re-reading my recap from last week, I realized I was too easy on him. I was caught up in Elizabeth and Missy’s reprehensible actions. But Dan is the perpetrator. (Side note: his silence since last week has been deafening.) I can’t imagine we will see much more of him this season, except for his boot episode (I wrote this section before the episode aired; clearly, and unfortunately – at least for one episode – this was wrong).
And what about us fans? What are we to do? Can we just pick right back up and continue on like nothing’s changed? I don’t see how we can. But does that mean we drop the show completely? Stop watching season 39 and pick back up for 40? Everyone has to make their own choice, and I can the reasoning behind all sides.
Tonight was the first time I can remember where I wasn’t actively looking forward to a new episode. It was different; it felt weird. We’ll see if that passes as we get further from the merge episode, but I’m not banking on it. Not for the rest of this season, at least.
I’m still planning to do these recaps as normal. I’m going to try and keep the same fun, light-hearted, easy going vibes. But we’ll see how that goes. So let’s get to it, I guess?
The “Where does Survivor go from here?” question is answered almost immediately. There is next to no discussion about the previous night’s events, aside from Janet briefly saying how difficult the Tribal Council was.
In act of cruel justice (or further injustice, depending on which player you are) the tribe endures a heavy rainfall overnight, with Elizabeth saying the next morning that it was “Probably the worst night of my life.” You could almost hear Twitter erupt in applause at that moment.
But the big development seems to be how annoyed the rest of the tribe is with Karishma. She doesn’t help out around camp, she’s not grateful for the work that the others do, she’s difficult to work with. The list goes on. And to her credit, she realizes this. Lack of self-awareness can easily be a death sentence in Survivor, so it’s good that she is at least this much aware.
Next, chalk one up for the “Production has an active hand in the game” crowd, as Karishma finds an immunity idol, seemingly completely on accident. After having spent essentially the entire game on the bottom, Karishma might finally have found herself a little bit of power.
Nothing like a boring immunity challenge to get the juices flowing after a divisive episode the week prior. The contestants stand on narrow beam while spinning a ball inside a circular wooden trap, while moving down the beam at regular intervals. Pretty ho-hum. Don’t love it.
But Probst mixes it up on everyone, as the players are divided into two groups. One person from each group wins immunity, and both groups go to Tribal Council to vote someone out separately. In addition, the last person standing out of everyone also wins PB&J sandwiches for their group, plus that group goes to Tribal Council second.
Orange group: Missy, Tommy, Elaine, Elizabeth, Karishma
Purple group: Dean, Dan, Lauren, Aaron, Noura, Janet
In what is perhaps the most Noura moment of the entire season (and that’s saying something), she wins for her group, but immediately celebrates by throwing her spinner up in the air, losing the reward for her group. Shortly after, Elaine wins for the Orange group, outlasting Missy.
In one last minor twist, the Purple group also has to go back to the old Lairo beach before Tribal Council.
Old Lairo Beach
Aaron thinks it’s an easy “two for the price of one” situation, with the chance to get rid of both Janet and Karishma. But Noura tries to rally the troops to vote out Aaron. Having won the first two immunity challenges, he is clearly a big challenge threat. And being separated from Missy and Elizabeth makes him that much more vulnerable at this upcoming vote.
Missy (probably correctly) views Tommy and Lauren as a power duo, so she wants to break them up by voting out Tommy. She thinks that would cause Lauren to become dependent on them, thus giving her alliance another number. And she can see what a threat Tommy is, making it smart to vote him out now while they have the chance.
to at Karishma about the Tommy vote. This was simply an incredible poor social play on Missy’s part. She didn’t present this as a plan that Karishma could have an active part in. Missy was giving Karishma orders, plain and simple. And while I haven’t been impressed with anything Karishma has done from a game perspective this season, big time kudos to her for standing up for herself here.
But in talking to Elaine, Karishma receives the exact opposite treatment. Elaine’s no dummy. She sees how so many others talk to Karishma, how little respect she seems to get. Tommy also gets in on Karishma’s good graces, noting in a confessional that he knows how unkind Missy has treated her, that he views her as a person, not just another number or potential goat.
Aaron is voted out 5-1 in the first vote, follows by Missy being voted out 3-2. Missy’s confused reaction was baffling, however, even asking “Yooooo, who did it?” Um, there were three votes against you. You didn’t vote for yourself and you know Elizabeth didn’t vote for you. You would think that would make the answer to that question pretty obvious, right?
All in all, this was…an episode of Survivor. I’m not quite sure how else to say it. I don’t know if it was more because of the preceding episode, or if this one actually wasn’t all that good, or some combination of the two. But this week didn’t really do it for me. I’m sure there’s a mixture of reasons for that, and we’ll just have to keep going and see what Survivor next week brings us.