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Survivor

Coming on the heels of last week’s tremendously awesome double-episode that ended in a emotional rock draw, it would be asking a lot of Survivor to give us an episode with the same level of intensity the very next week. Well, it sure did its damnedest. This season continues to bring the heat, as every single one of the remaining players has clearly come to play. Now, nobody said come to play “good,” as mistakes and poor strategic game-play has driven much of the drama these past few episodes. But it was once again riveting. Survivor shows no signs of stopping as it barrels its way towards the finale in a couple weeks.

Last night’s episode was the famed “loved ones” episode, which is a milestone for most contestants playing the game to make it to this point. Let’s dive in, trying not to get stuck in the sand. The recap is forthcoming, following your normal “turn back, this is your last spoiler warning” warning.

CLICK THE CONTINUE READING BUTTON FOR MORE, AND THIS IS YOUR LAST *SPOILER* WARNING!

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So boom went the dynamite! Zeke went from fan-favorite and future All-Star status, to despised by many as recently as last week, to out of the game. Even within the game, Zeke transformed from goofy outsider on his tribe, to the man that was clearly running the show out there. That’s never a good position to be in, and when everybody is commenting as to how you are poised to win the game should you make it to the end, things are bound to blow up in your face at some point.

Yes, Zeke was bound to get ousted eventually given his reputation in the game, especially when you are talking about a group of contestants that are playing as hard as these ones are. If it wasn’t clear before last week, it certainly was after, as the Zeke vs. David battle caused serious damage for both sides of the equation. On one hand, David’s Army clearly lost the battle when Jessica ended up picking the black rock, but Zeke’s game was aired out for all to see. It’s now fair to say that David may have lost that initial battle, but he has won the war. That’s part of why I love Survivor so much…after last week, who in their right mind would have predicted that not only would Zeke not outlast David, but that he’d be the next one to go?

Last night’s episode though was all about Adam. What an emotional episode for the young Millennial. When Probst announced at the Reward Challenge that it was the “loved ones” Challenge, every single person about lost it. Adam though, getting to hug and reunite with his brother, had even more at stake. His mom was sick at home battling cancer when he was cast on the show, and we have seen throughout this season just how much his mom is on his mind. Meeting up with his brother, he was able to get an update on her condition after 31 days in the game. Remember, too, that Adam possessed a game advantage that allowed him to steal another person’s Reward. In an effort that was from the heart, but also had to be partly strategic, Adam announced to everyone that he had no intention whatsoever to use his power to steal a loved one out of the arms of any of the others. A classy move. More on Adam in a bit.

Jay would go on to win the Reward Challenge, winning a BBQ feast for him and his loved one, his sister. Because Probst likes messing with people’s heads, Jay was able to pick three other players and their loved ones – picking them one at a time – to join him. He first picked Will and his mom, and then Sunday and her husband. Lastly, he chose Adam and his brother, because he admired that Adam could have stolen Jay’s reward but didn’t. Karma returned to Adam in a good way in that regard.

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Stepping away from the game for a brief moment, it brings me no pleasure to report that despite getting an update from his brother that his mom was still battling cancer, since the show was taped, Adam‘s mother Susie has passed away…just two days following the Final Tribal Council of this season. That’s roughly two weeks after the events of this episode. I personally would like to send Adam and his family my condolences, but if you are looking to help, Adam has started a Memorial Fund to raise awareness for lung cancer, which is what his mom succumbed to. The #LiveLikeSusie Memorial Fund for Lung Cancer Research has so far received $35,000 towards its goal of $50,000.

I thought that was important to share, but let’s get back to the episode and the game. After last week, we knew that we had a clear 5-4 split moving forward. The majority alliance was made up of Zeke‘s army: Zeke, Bret, Sunday, Jay and Will. The minority was now David, Ken, Hannah and Adam. So these next few votes should be predictable right? Ah, not this season.

Will – who has been portrayed as somewhat of a follower and as a fairly quiet player thus far – burst onto the scene in a big way this week. Will decided he wanted to flip and vote Zeke out, in an effort to bolster his Survivor resume. It was a good thought, because who would ever vote for Will to win the game at this point? Acting as a double-agent, he learned that Zeke’s army was poised to vote out Ken, fearing that David may have another Idol. Will showed his loyalty to his new group by telling Ken that he was the one the others were gunning for.

But dammit Ken! Everybody’s favorite gentle, polite male model showed an utter lack of game knowledge with what could be considered one of the most boneheaded moves of the season. After Will told him that the other side was gunning for him, and after lecturing Will on the importance of integrity and trust, Ken – unwittingly I’m guessing – decided to blow up Will’s game completely. Ken approached Jay and told him that he heard he was the target from Will, and all hell broke loose. Why Ken why? As a fan of the show, this move definitely added some drama and some story, but it was unneeded and unnecessary drama. As a chain of events, had Ken not said anything, Adam would not have had to use his Idol and Ken’s alliance would be in a better spot.

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A word on Ken: I like the dude as much as the next person (OK, some of you clearly like him way more than I ever can), but he proved to me that he has an absolute zero chance of winning the game. You can add Hannah to this category as well. Both of these players are flailing their respective ways through the game, and Ken’s blunder is surely a strike on his resume. In a season where everyone is playing balls-to-the-wall, a player like Ken is not going to win the game, not when he shows such a lack of in-game awareness. The thing about Ken is that he is so likable, that even though he can’t win, nobody is going to want to sit next to him in the end simply because he is such a good guy, so he will likely be taken out before that point. Hannah on the other hand, with each passing vote where she remains in the game, is becoming a stronger and stronger candidate for Survivor Goat.

Last week’s episode was so epic, that I did forget to mention (and so I am now) that Ken now possesses the “Legacy Advantage,” willed to him by Jessica, which we will find out more about in the coming weeks. And what a great moment when Hannah’s crush on Ken grew to include his brother too, when he came out for the loved ones challenge and she blushed, “Oh my God they’re both so handsome!”

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Adam ended up winning the #ImmunityChallenge and it all came down to Will: Would he “stick to the plan” and try to earn his “big move” by voting out Zeke, or would he vote out Ken, who just threw him under the bus, whether he intended to or not? Zeke knew that something was up when he saw the minority acting a bit too calm leading up to Tribal. And at Tribal, all was laid bare. Fearing that Will sided with Zeke’s alliance, Adam shocked the world by playing his hidden Immunity Idol on Hannah, and it worked…kind of. It negated four votes against her, but if Will had sided with Zeke, there should have been five votes. Yep, that means that Will ended up voting out Zeke after all, his big move realized. You can call this a “wasted Idol,” but it was clear that at that point in the game, nobody except Will knew exactly what Will was going to do. That still might be the case moving forward.

Will, you have to remember, is the youngest player to ever play Survivor, and with that inexperience comes the inevitability that mistakes will be made. Just like a great leader never should refer to himself as a great leader, a Survivor resume should speak for itself. By Will drawing attention to his desire to “make big moves” and to be “calling the shots,” he is actually doing his game a disservice. But give the kid credit at the same time, because his intuition served him right: He had no shot at winning the game had he just sat back and let others dictate the game for him. He had to do something. So kudos to Will, and hey who knows, he’s still in the game and as we’ve seen thus far through 12 episodes: Anything in Survivor is possible.

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Episode Take-Away: I could see it coming that Zeke was going to face a tough road to get to the end, but never did I imagine he’d be voted out now. I’m still loving how this cast is playing fast and loose with their Idols, and how every single one of them seems fearless when it comes to making big moves. We are now down to eight players vying for the million bucks and title of Sole Survivor. Ironically with Zeke out of the game, it’s now David who I think people are going to look at and say, “There’s no way we let David make it to the end, because David wins if he’s sitting there.”

Elsewhere, it continues to amaze me how Jay has been able to stay alive in this game against all odds. Part of the dying “bro alliance” with Taylor just a few weeks back, not only is nobody talking about Jay as a target, but he is quietly beginning to dominate challenges…add to that, that even a guy on an opposing alliance – Adam – thinks enough of him to just give him his Reward-Steal advantage…not to mention he has the game’s only current remaining hidden Idol. He’s tight with Bret and Sunday, and clearly has a bond with Adam, and so if the others aren’t careful, Jay may just wind up winning this thing. He’s definitely in the best position in my estimate…but as we saw with Zeke this week, that could mean absolutely nothing in a week’s time.

Strategic Move of the Week: Definitely not anything Ken did. I have to say that I think it was in Adam‘s best interest to play his Idol on Hannah not knowing what Will was going to do, but if you think about it, Will definitely made the strategic move of the week. Sure, telling Ken he was the target backfired and may end up costing Will his game in the long-run, but by voting out Zeke he definitely made a big move…and as things went down, he actually ended up drawing out Adam’s Idol to boot. That could be seen later as a great strategic move depending on what Will’s end-game is, but I think he really had no choice other than to vote Zeke out…he truly was at the bottom of his alliance and was not being valued, so he had to do something.

Voted out this week: Zeke

Won Immunity: Adam

Vote: Adam played an Idol on Hannah.  4 votes (voided by Adam’s Idol) for Hannah (Zeke, Bret, Sunday, Jay), 5 votes for Zeke (Will, David, Ken, Adam, Hannah)

Next Week’s Episode: Will tries to take charge, but Adam has other ideas. Will has now marked himself as a flip-flopper and someone the others might be able to rally behind to vote out, simply because his vote cannot be trusted moving forward. Nothing this season though, has been what it seems. Join me next week as we reset and get ready for another episode of Survivor!  See you all then and remember to leave your comments below! And lastly, remember to cast your vote for the Survivor Hall of Fame Class of 2016 by Dec 2!

TELL US – WHO IS IN THE BEST POSITION TO WIN SURVIVOR? DO YOU THINK VOTING OUT ZEKE WAS A SUCCESSFUL MOVE FOR WILL OR WILL IT END UP HURTING HIS GAME?  WHO SHOULD I INCLUDE ON MY SURVIVOR HALL OF FAME BALLOT?

Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets