Well folks, we made it to another Survivor merge. This is typically one of each season’s strongest episodes. So with an already good-so-far season, expectations are pretty high for this week. But more than that, the merge offers a major turning point in the game. Alliances still stand, but with tribal lines becoming even more blurred, now’s a prime time for the game to get flipped on its head. With that, let’s preview what might be in store for Island of the Idols the rest of the way.
Who’s still in the game?
Aaron (Original tribe Lairo; Swap tribe: Vokai)
Dan (Vokai; Vokai)
Dean (Lairo; Lairo)
Elaine (Lairo; Vokai)
Elizabeth (Lairo; Vokai)
Jamal (Vokai; Lairo)
Janet (Vokai; Lairo)
Karishma (Lairo; Lairo)
Kellee (Vokai; Lairo)
Lauren (Vokai; Vokai)
Missy (Lairo; Vokai)
Noura (Vokai; Lairo)
Tommy (Vokai; Vokai)
From strictly a tribe standpoint, this merge group is as equal as you can get. We have six original Lairo with seven original Vokai; and also six new Lairo with seven new Vokai. There’s also very few players who have been together for the entire game. Dan, Lauren, and Tommy have been on Vokai together from day one. Lauren and Tommy have a close relationship, but don’t seem to be too keen on working with Dan. Dean and Karishma have been Lairo tribe mates all along, but you don’t sense there’s much, if any, love lost between those two.
What this hopefully will set up is lots of criss-crossing gameplay and shifting alliances. The post-merge stretch is typically the stronger part of the season. But what can derail it is when a majority alliance controls the game for the entire back half. Thankfully though, this group feels like it’s setting up a competitive end to the season. Anything can happen, of course. But I think we’ll have lots of weeks from here on out where there won’t be an obvious boot.
Island of the Idols
Five of the six players who have visited Island of the Idols remain in the game. Showing these players talking and comparing their experiences hasn’t been a major part of the show so far, but with all of them together now, maybe that changes. Or maybe there’s more general talk around camp by the other players. It could make for some fun and interesting drama if IoI becomes a focal point of conversation.
But the bigger question surrounding IoI is whether or not its function stays the same now that we’ve reached the merge. It feels pretty clear that it will. There isn’t any obvious reason why the show would change course now. I just hope the lessons and challenges become more varied than they have been. Aside from Elizabeth, as the first visitor, every new challenge there has felt like a variation on the same general concept.
The merge boot
If we’re looking at the prototypical merge threat (male, perceived physical threat) every guy left is at risk, with maybe Dan as an exception. This cast has proven to be intelligent and strategic, so I don’t think they’re that likely to simply choose the biggest vulnerable physical threat. That being said, it still could come down to “Who does everyone like the least?” Especially with this large of a tribe, it can be hard to make the first vote completely strategic.
If there’s someone who’s getting on everyone’s nerves and doesn’t have anybody fighting for them to stay, that person makes for an easy vote. And if that’s how the tribe decides to go, that person would be Dan. Most of his screen time has revolved around how uncomfortable he makes his female tribemates. And just last episode included a brief clip of him invading others’ personal space in the shelter. Nothing came from it, so it left me wondering why it would be included at all. But if it’s to set up Dan’s downfall, then it makes a little more sense.
Then there’s the option of voting out whoever has the least and/or weakest personal ties or relationships. Thinking this way would point to Karishma. You could make an argument for Noura too, but she at least is involved in her alliance, even though nobody seems to feel particularly close to her. Karishma though, doesn’t really have anybody. The fact that nobody views her as any sort of threat could extend her life in the game. But she’s also someone that wouldn’t be missed. Voting out Karishma could be an easy, stress-free decision.
Good players will also consider voting out other strong strategic threats. That might be tough this season, as there are many strong players, but none that stand out above the rest. The case could be made for about half the players left to be the biggest strategic threat remaining. That’s interesting though, as this train of thought presents lots of possible targets. And shifting targets often make for fun pre-tribal sequences.
So with all that, who is ultimately eliminated Wednesday night? I’m predicting Dan. He can fit into all three boxes. He’s already done a lot to annoy multiple players, it doesn’t seem like he has any particularly strong alliances or relationships, and he’s shown to have some strategic chops. If someone needs more convincing of Dan, the case can be made on a number of fronts
So who’s winning this thing?
Tommy was my official winner pick, so I’m sticking with him. And I think he’s in a pretty good position right now. But what about everybody else?
It should be self-explanatory for these two. Nothing they’ve done so far indicates they have any chance. The odds are great that one of these two will make the Final Three. But, even as entertaining as it would/will be to see Noura plead her case as a deserving winner, their place there would be nothing more than the “zero vote goat.”
No one in this group has necessarily played an objectively bad game, though the argument could be made that Dan has. But they haven’t done anything to really set themselves apart yet, aside from Janet’s excellent impromptu speech at last week’s Tribal Council and Elaine being so incredibly likable. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see someone from this group win, but they would need to catch some big breaks.
One thing that makes me very excited for the post-merge stretch is that none of these players have done anything to separate themselves from the pack as the biggest threat in the game. I can’t wait to see what this group does in attempts to take control of the game. How they handle the first couple merge votes is critical to extending their life in the game.
If I had to pick one player from this group who could find themselves in early trouble, I’d have to say Missy. She’s teetered on the edge of playing too hard. And while that isn’t as much a bad thing this late in the game, it’s still something she needs to keep in check.
But overall I like where all five stand right now. They all need to stay calm, and not let the merge excitement cloud their vision. They shouldn’t be in any immediate danger, so if they can sit back and let the game come to them, they should only strengthen their position in the game. However, we all know how Survivor works. “Easier said than done” might as well be the game’s motto. But whatever happens, it’s sure going to be fun to watch.