Tuesday was a lot to get through. I don’t care who you voted for (well, I do, but that’s for a different time), but I think everyone can at least agree that they’re glad this long, grueling, contentious, nightmarish election is finally over. Fitting then, that later on the very same day that the election ended, that the theme of the Survivor episode would be unity and trust: Yes, it was all about merging together…learning to live as one…assimilation. Everybody needs a reason and a chance to unify right now. Can’t we all just get along?
Well, mirroring real life, there is probably a pretty slim chance of that happening. Despite the image of just being one tribe, with 13 players left in the game, as Chris said at Tribal Council, there are 13 different strategies and agendas to get to the end. To win. But even still, until they reach the end, they have to figure out how to make their little community work, despite their beliefs, their gender, their religious background, their sexual orientation, or especially on Survivor, their differences stemming from the generational gap that divides them. There will be no more filibustering here, let’s get to the recap of this all-important #merge episode.
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So dang! What a good episode! The merge episode is usually one of the better ones of each season, and this time around there were no disappointments.
Poor Michelle got caught in the cross-fire between two bigger guns, with Adam and Zeke on one side and Jay and Taylor on the other. Michelle seemed likable enough and seemed to be in a good position, and she was, but she just was aligned with the wrong people. It was supposed to be Will, who was seen as Jay’s right-hand man, even though the word “seen” and “Will” are not commonly used in the same sentence, being that we have hardly seen or heard from Will all season. We did learn a good deal about Will tonight, that he is uber-loyal to Jay (and probably impressionable, being a high schooler and the youngest Survivor player in history), and he will be a formidable combatant at challenges the rest of the way out, as he won and outlasted everyone else tonight during the first individual #ImmunityChallenge. As he said out loud, he needed it, and he was right. Michelle was the next person on the list of Jay’s loyal followers, and ironically and sadly for Michelle, she was shown as being the least on-board with turning on Adam. But all of this begs the question: If they are trying to get to Jay and hurt Jay’s game…why not just vote out Jay?
The answer to that question, of course, is that there are several Immunity Idols in play, and of those three, the opposition felt like it was most likely that Jay had an Idol (he does). So to weaken Jay without risking him playing an Idol, they took out someone that they perceived to be close to him. Michelle has become the first person on this year’s jury, and with 12 players left in the game now, the math points to a Final 3, with a 10 person jury. Doing math for a little longer, that means 9 more players will have to leave the game, and with a likely 5 episodes remaining this season, that would mean that we’ll enter Finale with eight players still in the game…that’s a lot, but not uncommon. It could also mean that we’re in for a double-elimination ep (more rare) or a medical evac somewhere along the line. And one last number for those keeping score at home: With Michelle gone we now have six Millennials and six Gen-Xers left in the game.
Oh yes, and I’m contractually obligated to at least mention the new Tribe name once, and the merged tribe is called “Vinaka.” There, it has been recorded.
But the episode spent little time pre-merge, other than showing us that Hannah is also now seeking long-term revenge after her closest ally, Michaela, was voted out last week. Taylor already is seeking revenge, and tried to get it tonight by not only targeting Adam, but leaking a bunch of secret information that Adam had asked Taylor to keep secret. There was a lot going on in that scene.
First, from Taylor‘s perspective, it’s pretty clear that he’s not the most strategically savvy player, but he does have a reason not to trust Adam, as Adam was the main reason Figgy was sent home. Adam on the other hand, said it himself tonight: He is beginning to play the game too hard. By divulging information to Taylor – including Adam’s newfound power to be able steal someone’s Reward after they’ve won it, a #SurvivorFirst – he was hoping to build trust with Taylor.
But this thought pattern had a major flaw, and that was that Adam should know that Taylor is going to still be mad at him. Adding to the bone-headedness of this, is that if Adam’s target is Jay, and he knows Taylor is close with Jay, why would he ever risk telling Taylor anything of importance? Adam already has a bunch of other allies, so trying to reel in Taylor was just selfish and not well thought-out. Luckily for Adam, it all worked out in the end, and he was ultimately able to pump the brakes a bit. And at least he held on to his hidden Idol and didn’t let the paranoia get the best of him.
We witnessed tonight that the Gen-Xers are definitely more tightly bonded than the Millennials, but there is still a lot of game to play. But it seems like Zeke is now firmly aligned with his new Gen-X friends. You have Zeke, David, Chris, Brett, Sunday, Jessica and Ken (you still gotta love Ken, although I don’t feel like he’s getting a winning edit). Seven is now the majority, leaving five others on the outside: Taylor, Jay, Will, Hannah and Adam. I put Adam on the outside because even Zeke and his closest allies saw his true colors this week and now have eyes on Adam.
Hannah also had an interesting episode for her, but being a Millennial, even though she voted along with Zeke and the others I feel like she and Adam are most likely on the bottom of that alliance. However, Zeke did refer to himself, Adam, and Hannah as the “nerd voting bloc” so maybe there is something more there. Zeke remember, is also tight with David and Chris…if he can orchestrate all of this without people noticing, he has a good chance to go to the end, despite his Millennial roots. The fun news for viewers, is that two hidden Idols exist within these minority alliance members. So there is a lot of Survivor still to be played.
It should also be mentioned that this week showed Taylor stealing and hoarding community food. Ugh. I hate crap like that, and even after owning up to it, Taylor still was not voted out. If this would have happened in the old days of Survivor, this would have been an automatic vote-out. Yes, the game has changed, and even when you steal from the tribe, there are often bigger fish to fry.
Episode Take-Away: Zeke really emerged as a power-player tonight..I knew he was likable but he really was the catalyst for a lot that went on. The Gen-Xers are in a better position, but Jay, Will and Taylor are perhaps the game’s biggest remaining physical threats (and you too, Chris), so it won’t be as easy as the Gen-Xers want to get rid of them that easy. And it occurred to me tonight also that Hannah may have a really good shot at going far…she finally showed some strategic fortitude, and who in the heck is worried about Hannah at this point? There’s a lot of battles to be fought and bombs that will drop, and when the smoke clears, we just might see a bunch of nerds standing tall. It would be good medicine after watching a bully win on Tuesday night.
Strategic Move of the Week: The opposite of everything Adam did this week.
Voted out this week: Michelle
Vote: 9 – Michelle (Adam, Zeke, Hannah, Chris, Brett, Sunday, Jessica, Ken, David), 4 – Adam (Jay, Michelle, Taylor, Will)
Next Week’s Episode: Probst teases that battle lines have been drawn, and we see that Taylor is still quite awful at keeping a secret, and this game in general. Join us back here next week, won’t you?
TELL US – ARE YOU HAPPY WITH TONIGHT’S RESULT? WHO IS IN THE BEST POSITION TO GO FAR? DO YOU THINK ADAM IS PLAYING TOO HARD OR PLAYING THINGS JUST RIGHT? AND WHO IS IN TROUBLE NEXT WEEK?
Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets