The merge is all the time some extent of pleasure within the Survivor season. It’s a milestone for the gamers, allowing them to loosen a few of the shackles that prohibit daring gameplay for worry of going residence early. It’s thrilling for the viewer, as all the pre-merge build-up crashes collectively onto one – usually chaotic – seashore. It marks a definite turning level, too, as the principles of the game shift significantly to put the onus on the castaways to play for themselves and never the opposite people sporting the identical coloured buffs.
With the Edge of Extinction lastly offering its six outcasts their alternative to get again into the sport and the primary elevating of the sail, the merge episode felt like much more of a touchstone moment for the season. Though a few of those castaways hold surviving, it’s a bookend to the primary arc of season 38, and with crazy and questionable decisions made by the newly minted Vata tribe, it’s an entire new beginning.
BACK FROM THE BRINK
With out even wasting a valuable minute for a Previously On…, the episode launched straight into the merge and the shock reveal of the six pre-merge cast-offs marching again in for what they believed to be their last shot at getting again within the recreation. I’m unsure if it was the instantly iconic second Jeff predicted, but that doesn’t uninteresting the luster of the sequence. The freshly merged tribe was a mixture of shock, pleasure and dread (the latter predominantly the four Lesu, already outnumbered, who had probably the most to worry given Extinction had been virtually exclusive to the ghosts of their past), and the Extinction outcasts had a willpower in their step.
Despite exclamations of wanting revenge prior to now, the Extinction 6 had none of the vindictive “Die Jerks” power of the Outcasts from Pearl Islands, the closest analogue to this second in Survivor’s long historical past. Whereas the Outcasts needed to work together to beat their previous tribes to get the prospect to vote somebody again in, Extinction guaranteed a merge buff to at least one player – the winner of an individual challenge. While it may need excised the drama of vengeance, there was poetry to it. Different individuals took the sport away from you by voting you out, and now it’s solely as much as you to right it.
The problem was nothing iconic in and of itself. We’ve seen these obstacles before, although including the Jail Break was definitely a pleasant nod to the unarguably iconic Pearl Islands Outcasts, and the snake “maze” is one in every of my favorite exams of talent from current seasons. However, it was higher than a protracted endurance problem, with the race to the end and a last stage that would ship a participant from the result in the again of the pack right away including a mounting pressure that appeared palpable even to the merge tribe peanut gallery watching from the sidelines.
It was a hard-fought and close challenge. Aubry’s experience showed as she breezed by way of the Jail Break, however even the knot drawback looming over Chris didn’t cease him from almost making good on his status as the goliath wonderboy. The large shock was Wendy, who’s shown herself to be a beast in the water challenges however who demonstrated astounding willpower here, preventing by way of an onslaught of her physical Tourette’s tics to place her inside inches of victory – however finally a heartbreaking loss. The final pink buff as an alternative went to Rick, who eagerly joined his new tribe a brand new man cast within the hearth of Extinction, however apologetic to the five companions he beat out and now left behind.
As the merged tribe headed off to their celebratory feast, Jeff took a second to mirror on Extinction with the remaining 5. Reem, Keith, Chris, Aubry and Wendy have been brutally trustworthy as they tearfully spoke of how a lot this recreation meant to them, how arduous they’d pushed themselves to rise from the ashes, and even reflecting on how they’d been capable of prop one another up via the problem of survival on Extinction. Within the second, they believed that this might be the place their journey would end – the precedent set by the Outcasts and afterward Redemption Island. You lose the challenge, and your story ends here. However not so this season, as Jeff provided each of the 5 the chance to keep preventing another day. Within the rush of the second, with the adrenaline pumping, the cry was a powerful sure.
But whenever you come down off the high, it’s a unique story. Standing throughout from the merged tribe, Jeff, and a colourful problem set, you are feeling close to the sport. Back on Extinction, gray, lonely and remoted, the game you lengthy for is distant and a near impossibility, and for Keith and Wendy, it was time to shut this chapter. Whereas I want we’d had time on this overstuffed episode to hear somewhat more about their choice to boost the sail, it’s not one thing I can fault them for. Each lived the Survivor expertise, so why extend the suffering for little achieve.
Keith seemed probably the most tempted to boost the sail in previous episodes, however he held on, wanting in the direction of this re-entry challenge as his horizon. He wasn’t anticipating anything past that, and given challenges aren’t his forte, why wrestle for who is aware of how many days only to lose once more. As an alternative, exit now when you can feel pleased with your accomplishments. I feel Wendy fell into the same category, regardless of solely spending one night time on Extinction. She was voted out of the game with a smile on her face and made a robust displaying at the problem that she could possibly be pleased with – she wanted no validation by struggling on. And who’s to say how lengthy that wrestle would final for yet one more probability at a challenge which may not even be in their wheelhouse.
While it’s straightforward to view Keith & Wendy (and any sail-raisers to return) as quitters, I feel that does a disservice to them. They performed the sport, fought exhausting and lost once they have been voted out, but fought their approach ahead just a little longer till it was time to let go and settle for it. As Chris stated, Extinction could be a little like therapy, and Keith and Wendy accepted their destiny on this season of Survivor, walking out with their heads high.
The choice by Reem, Chris, and Aubry to remain on, though, is definitely applaudable. Aubry’s ardour for Survivor is something to behold, however Chris and Reem too have that burning hearth to reside out their dream. Maybe it’s that they don’t feel like their story is over yet and there’s unfinished business to resolve. It’ll be a slim probability of victory – even earlier than Joey Superb confirmed up – however their tenacity and starvation also earned them a seat on the Jury. At the very least, briefly.
Whereas I used to be glad to see Survivor right its Redemption Island mistake and be sure that everyone still within the recreation is present at each Tribal, I’m unsure how I feel about these pre-merge gamers having a say on the Remaining Tribal Council. Positive, they’ll have earned their approach deep by means of sheer survival, but can Reem, voted out on Day 3, really adjudicate the most effective recreation from an all-Kama Remaining Three of people she’s by no means met? It’s not unprecedented – Prepare dinner Islands and different seasons within the center ages flirted with pre-merge Jurors – and it’s not that far removed from players voted out in 13th place at the merge in current seasons, but there’s still one thing that feels off about it.
Also, I discover it curious that Keith & Wendy, regardless of choosing to return to Extinction after the problem, lost out on a Jury seat by two days of simply waiting on an Island. It does make me marvel if the Jury seats held by Reem, Chris and Aubry (and maybe even the Extinction residents to return) are conditional ones, dependent on both returning to the sport or a minimum of lasting till the final re-entry problem. Maybe in the event that they have been to boost the sail, they’re also forfeiting their seat on the Jury. But that’s enough speak about these on the fringes of the game – let’s get right again into the primary event.
Coming into the merge, I had no concept how it was going to play out. The Kama majority loomed giant, however with two Idols in Lesu arms and the unknown issue of the Extinction returnee, there was enough uncertainty to have me questioning how this is able to unfold. Yet nothing might put together me for a way fractured this Vata tribe can be. From the couch, I had assumed that Rick coming again into the game can be the absolute best thing for Lesu. His boot episode was a somber lamentation reiterating how reluctantly they have been to turn on each other, and certainly now he can be a staunch ally compared to a scorned Reem, Keith, or Chris, or a wildcard like Aubry or Wendy. However even within the episode the place his torch was first snuffed, the Lesu camaraderie seemed to return out of nowhere after the growing divide between David & Rick and Kelley & her posse, and maybe now, with Rick again in the recreation, it’s clear that was largely theatre. The Dad Bod had barely returned before Kelley, Lauren and by extension, Wardog have been kicking him straight back to the curb.
It was a dumbfounding move. While I can see that they might have been concerned by the resurrection of David’s number one ally, there have been greater problems on the horizon and now was not the time to cannibalise themselves. They have been vastly outnumbered – 5 to eight – however all it will take can be two individuals to flip to work with them to make a new majority. Kelley seemed to entertain this notion, chatting with Joe who voiced his concern of being on the surface of the Kama core alliance, and name-checking Aurora as somebody he might trust. These two votes appeared ripe for the choosing, and perhaps it was finally that Joe & Aurora determined to not flip, thereby sealing the dissolution of Lesu.
However it appeared that Kelley’s conversation with Joe, summoning the spectre of their shared time on Cambodia, was more of an try and build in-roads within the weeks ahead and shore up an ally ostensibly within the majority. In any case, the apocryphal canon is that Joe was the one who slipped up and gave Kelley the knowledge she wanted for her historic Idol play towards Andrew Savage. Neither Kelley nor Joe seemed notably fascinated with shaking up the sport at this moment – proper now they have been fixated on a simple and straightforward vote.
For Lauren and Kelley, this was sending Rick straight back to Extinction. It’s not a terrible concept on paper – he’s already an outsider, and given Kelley, Lauren & Wardog have been the votes to ship him out in the first place, they had to have been concerned about burned bridges. Once more, it’s not with out precedent – Matt Elrod suffered this actual fate by the hands of his unique tribe in Redemption Island. The excellence there’s that Boston Rob and Ometepe nonetheless had the bulk even without Matt – a luxurious not afforded to Lesu. Kelley & Lauren pitched their plan to go for the perceived straightforward vote to the women of Kama, and it was taken on board, but by additionally pitching it as a cut up vote between David & Rick, they implicitly revealed a divide within the minority alliance.
A crack in the majority is a chance for the underdogs, however so too is a fracture in the minority alliance. If the large weapons are confident that the minority gained’t be capable of work collectively to mount an rebellion, it provides the majority even more energy. They’re effectively unopposed. With Kelley’s expertise, I’m stunned she walked into this lure, however Kama performed it completely right here.
Julie has been a continued presence via the first half of the season, and last week we noticed her begin to placed on her recreation face. On the merge, it came out in full drive. With out even a Tribal beneath her belt, she started working for her individual benefit. She instantly reached out to Rick, providing him a life raft if he needed to jump ship from the tribe that voted him out, and though it might partly have been borne from pity and never eager to see Rick sent straight back to a hellish purgatory, constructing social connections with outsiders is a crucial a part of the sport.
Thus, when Kelley and Lauren revealed their betrayal of Rick and David, Julie was armed with intel and funnelled the knowledge to Rick and by extension David, further driving a wedge between the Lesus and drawing them into a conspiracy to work collectively. In a sense, Kelley & Lauren’s fears that Rick & David would flip turned a self-started, self-fulfilling prophecy.
Rick, naturally, gravitated in the direction of whoever might make him really feel secure. As the blinking neon goal and a stranger in the social landscape of a gaggle of individuals he’d never met, he wanted assurance. Julie was capable of present that, to the point of with the ability to withhold the identify of Kama’s goal till the top which speaks to only how a lot Rick wanted an ally. Thankfully, Rick knew he had at the least one different man in his nook in his trusted ride-or-die David. This relationship turned even more beneficial when Rick discovered an Immunity Idol in his bag – albeit one with terms and circumstances.
I’d questioned if Extinction would revisit the Outcasts’ automated Immunity for the returning gamers at the merge Tribal, but that felt too overpowered. This Idol, however, was a cheerful medium. The Idol wasn’t an Idol but (cue the Ghost Island maturation jokes), however quite two halves of a complete. One half had to be given to a different player before the merge Tribal, and it was provided that both players survived the vote that the Idol might be reforged. It’s a clever twist, giving the returnee from Extinction a bargaining chip to work their approach again into the game – one might see a participant providing the Idol to a participant in energy if they stored them around by means of the subsequent vote, or even utilizing it as a bluff at Tribal. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a positive factor, and that retains it fascinating.
Rick, nevertheless, had the great fortune to have a trusted ally in David to collaborate with the two-part Idol – although it is going to be intriguing to see how the aftermath plays out next episode when David has the temptation to keep his half and deprive Rick of the Idol – for a time, or permanently. Don’t overlook, the final time an Idol had two halves, Lauren Rimmer gave one half to Mike Zahalsky, and he threw it in the hearth, shortly earlier than Lauren herself obtained Idolled out of the sport. Energy is a fickle thing.
The primary a part of Julie’s scheme was in effect – she knew Lesu was divided, and she or he had the ear of each side, but a potential number in Rick. Thus, she set her sights on an enormous fish: taking out Kelley Wentworth. It was definitely a palatable concept to David & Rick, who’d handed on their alternative to take her out pre-merge, and it was an aggressive move by Julie, who had established herself as somebody wanting to play arduous. Kelley was satisfied of the straightforward vote towards Rick, she can be blindsided if they might pull this off.
Julie’s Kama alliance seemed on board. Victoria was enthusiastic, also setting her sights on eliminating targets that have been threatening to her recreation (some extent she tried to articulate at Tribal, however that set off alarms from Joe – and certain others). The others, too, appeared amenable. The hiccup got here with Julie’s personal triumph. She gained Immunity – a unbelievable feat, but one which obliterated her personal schemes. Critically, and unfortunately for her, profitable Immunity additionally meant protecting it out of Joe’s palms.
Ron has appeared to waiver by means of the pre-merge between wanting to target Joe at the first opportunity to wanting to hold onto him if he didn’t have to let him go, if merely for provision and expertise round camp. But together with his first Tribal looming, Ron’s competitive edge pushed to the forefront. As Joe – surprisingly unflapped, and in hindsight, terribly blasé before his first vote of the season – sat within the shelter portray the tribe flag, Ron approached him to discuss the vote and Joe responded with obscure statements, seemingly non-committal. For Ron, this was all the rationale he wanted to mount an attack. Joe was weak and, with an outstanding monitor document in particular person challenges, there was no guarantee when this opportunity would current itself again. So as half the tribe chased chickens via the underbrush, Ron turned the plan round. Kelley later. Joe now.
The Kama 6 appeared conflicted between the 2 – and for good purpose. There have been advantages to both strategies. Each have been dangerous returning gamers in their very own proper, and each seemed confident within the plans they believed have been in place. Joe virtually definitely didn’t have an Idol, making him a sitting duck, however he was also going together with the Kama Robust mantra. Kelley won’t have the chew, being from the minority alliance, but she might still have the sting of an Idol or another sneaky plan. However despite the uncertainty inside the alliance, their biggest asset was that their opponents have been divided. Six into 13 doesn’t make a majority – apart from this vote. The Kama 6 had complete management.
And yet, they played it poorly. Even excusing Ron’s awful Tribal performance the place he praised his Kama tribe to the heavens and brazenly bragged concerning the safety of a majority alliance, the execution of the vote seemed problematic. Voting out Joe has its flaws – specifically, sending him to Extinction where he can preserve his power for his probability to re-enter while buttering up a potential Jury who he hasn’t wronged, as an alternative of sporting him out by means of Immunity challenges and forcing him to be complicit in voting out the Jury – however it’s not an inherently dangerous concept. Wonderboy Chris lost the Extinction problem, and Joe lost the Immunity that very day. It’s no certainty he’ll come back in, and the chance was there, in order that they took it.
Nevertheless, even if Extinction wasn’t a factor, I don’t assume the Kama 6 performed it nicely, as their transfer utterly ostracised the opposite half of the tribe. Aurora was utterly discarded by her previous tribemates. Kelley, Lauren and Wardog have been left on the altar. Rick and David, completely happy to flip and vote out Kelley, have been disregarded within the chilly. They will’t even clarify to Rick & David that they have been the contingency cut up vote – the opposite Lesu votes tallied three on David, in comparison with their two towards Wentworth. This fractured minority might have all voted for one another, deepening the divide between them, however none of them have any cause to trust the Kama 6 shifting ahead. If Lesu can put down their weapons and draw in Aurora, that’s 6. That’s a rock draw. That’s (unknown to Kama) three Idols in the opposition. There is a clear line within the sand, and those on the outs can be sensible to take advantage of it, and if they do, then it’s those preaching Kama Robust that shall be in the firing line.
And what of Joey Superb? I was optimistic last week to see Joe utilise calculated technique to woo his fellow Kama to his aspect, and notably his pitch to Julia, labelling her a menace. However, not wholly in contrast to Aubry within the pre-merge, he grew complacent in a cushty majority. Nevertheless, the place Aubry thought she had a lifeline by means of Victoria, Joe knew he and Aurora have been on the bottom and yet he appeared to make little effort to show that round. Perhaps it was just that he noticed Lesu imploding and needed to keep his distance. Perhaps he needed to maintain his head down and hope for better luck at the next Immunity. However whatever his reasoning, Joe selected the fallacious time to take a break from enjoying the game.
The merge can typically be a simple, consensus vote – but if there’s even slightly tingler, you must ensure that the no-brainer vote isn’t going to be you. Fortunately for Joe, he lands within the Ozzy spot at Extinction – the odds-on favorite to return in a problem, and a perfect opportunity to curry favour with the outcasts who now sit on the Jury.
So now another week to see how this all resolves. This week’s episode felt far too brief for the amount of content – the Extinction challenge, the first resignation by sail, a sophisticated Idol advantage, an Immunity challenge, and a convoluted 6-3-2-2 Tribal Council. However, it feels as if this season has begun anew as Kama lastly faces the music of Tribal and the minority is anything however an alliance. This is the place the game truly begins.