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Survivor

Two more have fallen and the table has now been set for next week’s two-hour Survivor finale. Yes, unlucky Episode 13 spelled the end for two of the remaining eight players vying for the million and the title of Sole Survivor. It was a bit of a rushed episode, but heck, that’s going to happen when you cram two Tribal Councils into one hour. And this group of players is so focused, so “in the game” that there is little in the way of unnecessary drama down the stretch thus far, as each player tries to carve out their own end-game with surgical precision.

Let’s walk through what went down, but first by law I must warn you of potential spoilers, should you not have seen the episode (and if you didn’t, then what are you doing reading a recap? I mean, I appreciate it and all, but go watch the episode and then come back here, silly!)

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

So while many of you might be dreaming of shopping sprees, X-Boxes, toys, or other goodies this Christmas, the best thing Santa can bring this Survivor fan would be the gift of a Final Three consisting of David, Jay, and Adam. Nothing against Bret, Hannah, or Ken, the other three remaining players, but if you take a step back and look at this season as a whole, doesn’t it HAVE to come down to David, Jay, or Adam as the game’s winner?

Now, I am RARELY accurate with bold predictions, but I had wrote after the premiere episode that Adam seemed to get the “winner’s edit” right out of the gate, and his story has been an emotional one. Playing for the love of his mom, Adam has played a bold game that has been far from perfect, but it’s been hard-fought. Jay, too, has been on the losing side of many battles, but by dominating physical challenges down the stretch, he’s put himself in the mix to win this whole thing. And that’s not to disregard Jay’s social game, which has been strong too from the get-go.

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Then there is David, who as Adam said it best, has transformed before all of our eyes.  He has been out in front the entire game, has played loudly and aggressively and despite the fact that everybody thinks he can win the game and is a major threat, he remains standing at final six. Yes, in different ways, all three of these guys would be satisfying, deserving winners of a season that was unpredictable, fast-paced, and imperfect, but wholly entertaining…which is the same that can be said of this group of players.

Now if Bret, Hannah, or Ken were to win? The good news is that these three are all likable in their own ways. And to call them “likable” isn’t to dismiss their game-play, it’s just that they haven’t been as sharp or as impactful as the previous three I’ve mentioned. Bret has had his own journey, and had one of the best moments of the season when he came out as gay to Zeke at a Reward Challenge.

Hannah has been fun to watch…OK, frustrating to watch at times, but she’s been a great character on the show and finally made a big strategic move this past episode (more on that later).

Then there is Ken, who seems to be such a good, genuine guy that I don’t think many fans would complain if Ken became a millionaire. He has shown to be not as savvy as other players when it comes to strategy, but everybody seems to like Ken, and he’s still kicking, which must say a lot about his social game. Yes no one would complain too hard if Bret, Hannah, or Ken were to win, but I feel like there would be an air of disappointment as to the finish of this season if that were to actually happen.

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Of course, that brings us to tonight’s episode, and the two that were left out:  Will and Sunday. Poor Will’s inexperience and age was bound to shine through at some point, but at least Will had a big, memorable moment last week when he flipped the game and blindsided Zeke. Will was getting cocky and thought he was running the show, which as we know as viewers is almost always the kiss of death. Producers just can’t wait for someone to make the comment “I’m running this game” or “I feel very comfortable right now” and they almost always are sure to include these comments in the episodes. The pride before the fall.

Will is an example of what has been known as “playing the game too hard,” but Sunday‘s game might be the opposite.  Sunday, as I’ve mentioned here before, is a very cunning player who really just suffered from being on a season with way too many larger personalities. We never really got to know Sunday, but she had her moments as well, like tricking Hannah at Tribal Council a few episodes back. You could just tell by Sunday’s lack of air-time though all season long, that she was not going to factor into things too heavily in the end…and she didn’t. But of the eight remaining players heading into tonight’s episode, if I had to rank them in order of deserving winners, Sunday and Will would have been seventh and eighth, so it was only right that they were the two that were shed first.

Of course the big “two Tribal Council” episode began in the wake of the Zeke #blindside. Bret, who was reeling, was still playing hard. He approached Adam and convinced him that the next three that need to leave were Jay, Will, and David. I loved this opening scene because here is Bret, who again would probably rank “sixth” out of the six remaining players as far as who is playing a good game, here he is fighting to the very end. It’s as if the cast this season finally understands the separation between Survivor “business” and what’s personal. Oh, you lied and blindsided me? No worries, how can we help each other today? This, my friends, is what fans have been clamoring for for a long time. And my ultimate hope is that this business-like crew turns into the rarest of Survivor rarities: An un-bitter jury. This crew really seems capable of crowning a deserving winner.

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The other big development tonight, of course, was that Jay was forced to play his Idol, which ended up being unnecessary. The scene between Adam and Jay – #yinyang – was the culmination of what this season has stood for. Here are two mortal enemies in the game, who actually like and respect each other as people and have way more in common than they even knew. In Survivor seasons’ past, a player having an emotional moment describing his mother’s illness would have been met with jeers, and a stink-eye…like, what are trying to do, gain some sympathy votes? It would have been seen as solely strategic. I don’t think that was what was happening here. Jay framed a comment as if Jay needs this win more than Adam, and Adam responded by sharing what was on his mind. It was a real emotional moment, and instead of reacting strategically, Jay shared in the emotion. It was Brutus if he were to have tried to explain to Caesar why he just stabbed him in the back. Adam needed Jay to play his Idol, period. Jay understood, and respected Adam for his forwardness. Game on.

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With Jay winning the episode’s first Immunity Challenge, it was Ken who won the second, but he was helped by Adam who just knew that Jay couldn’t be allowed to win. And for those keeping score at home, here was one more knock on the studly Ken…the dude might not know how to spell, as it took him quite a time to get “millennial” right. Even Probst gave him a “Celebrity Jeopardy”-level-of-difficulty hint, by saying, “They are who you have been playing with this whole season.” Ken finally laughed at his own inability, pointing out that apparently after 35 days of starvation, one just simply forgets how to spell. Fair point!

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Elsewhere this episode, Hannah was quietly in a power position for both Tribals, although she might not even have realized it. For the first vote, Hannah ultimately decided to vote out Will over David, since David had just used an Idol on her and they have been aligned for quite some time now. Then, it was Hannah’s plan to vote out Sunday and break-up her alliance with Bret. Although David is a major, major threat, he is all alone in the game, but the two-some of Bret and Sunday would grow all the more powerful the longer they were to be left in the game. David, not being good at challenges, could be sent home later.  t was a smart move, and even more impressively, her voting bloc listened to her and followed through with her plan. As she even said, and I para-phrase: “Persuasive players win Survivor.” Hannah just made the case that she shouldn’t be counted out just yet.

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Everything of course worked according to plan: Jay felt threatened enough that he played and wasted the game’s last remaining Immunity Idol. Sunday was blindsided and sent home. Unless you count Ken‘s “Legacy Advantage,” which you must, we go into Finale Night with all six players on equal ground. Bret will most likely cling to Jay. Ken has already shown his undying loyalty to David. That could leave Adam and…yes…Hannah, in the power position. Is it just dawning on me now, that Hannah…gulp…could actually win this thing? Could Hannah be the one to clean-up the rest of the game, finally rid us of David and Jay, two of the game’s strongest competitors? Might Hannah be in position to turn on Adam, leaving her to sit in the Final Three along with Ken and Bret? And if that was the case, would Hannah not be the Sole Survivor? Dang! It could happen. We’ve only got to wait for one more week before this season wraps up next Wednesday to find out.

Episode Take-Away: I made a realization from the beginning of this recap to now that Hannah actually could be a threat to win this thing. Add to this that Hannah is unlikely to be the target of anyone else as there are bigger fish to fry with David and Jay still in the game. I know that I’m pumped and excited to see what happens next week, in a finale that Probst calls “one of our very best.” And as he also said tonight, “In order to win this season, you must be seen.” Sorry Ken, sorry Bret. This is a four-horse race. I for one, can’t wait to watch them come down the stretch…and here’s hoping for a photo-finish.

Strategic Move of the Week: I like Hannah‘s plea to vote out Sunday, which I feel was the smarter move not only for her game, but for the others in her voting bwww.

Voted out this week: Will and Sunday

Won Immunity: Jay and Ken

Vote #1:  No Idol played.  6 – Will (David, Bret, Sunday, Hannah, Ken, Adam), 2 – David (Will, Jay).

Vote #2: Jay plays Idol on himself. 1 (voided by Idol) – Jay (Sunday), 4 – Sunday (David, Ken, Hannah, Adam), 2 – David (Bret, Jay)

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Next Week’s Episode: It’s the Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X Finale Episode! It’s two-hours long beginning at 8pm EST, followed by the one-hour-long Live Reunion Show. Let’s hope Sia doesn’t ruin things this year. As a reminder, join me back here early Wednesday for a Preview of the Finale, where I’ll place some odds on all remaining six players. Then of course, later that night I’ll be back with my final Recap of the season, discussing how the season went down, the winner, and also talking about what we learned from the Live Reunion Show…we’ll also discuss the new inductees to the “Survivor Hall of Fame” which will be revealed next week leading up to Finale. Then to cap off this season, next Thursday I’ll post my updated “All-Time Survivor Winners” and “Most Memorable Survivor Seasons” list.

It’s been a blast recapping Survivor this season, my first as part of Reality Tea. Thanks in advance for sticking with it this season and for all of your comments! If you’ve enjoyed my writing be sure to let this site know and leave your feedback! We’ll see you back here next week!

TELL US – DO YOU THINK HANNAH HAS ANY SHOT OF WINNING? ARE BRET AND KEN SITTING DUCKS OR CAN THEY WIN? AND OF THE REMAINING SIX, WHAT FINAL THREE COMBINATION DO YOU HOPE FOR THE MOST?

Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets