The merge episode is always one of the most exciting, pivotal moments of each and every season of Survivor. Quite often, it sends the game down a path that can be traced right back to it. With just 12 players left heading into Wednesday night’s episode, we were down to five Healers, four Heroes and three Hustlers, all of whom were still alive and vying for that million dollar prize. But battle lines were definitely drawn during Episode 7, and it resulted in what was a pretty shocking and eventful Tribal Council.
Please remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s Episode 7 of Survivor: HHH, so if you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add too that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode, this is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap, and is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.
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Things are ramping up, right? There was a lot going on tonight as all 12 players found themselves scrambling and re-assessing their position in the game following the big merge. It basically came down to old Tribal lines, as ultimately the Heroes and Hustlers banded together to vote out one of the Healers, just like Ryan and company had wanted. There was a bit of wavering in there, mainly from Ben, but it appears as if he’s now made his bed. Lauren too, ended up in the majority, even after we saw her run to Healer Dr. Mike early on in the episode with intel from what ended up being her actual alliance. So where do things go from here, and what exactly led us to Jessica getting voted out?
This week’s episode laid the groundwork for what’s to come, but we continue to receive a strong strategic story-line with Chrissy and Ryan. Bonded forever, apparently, from the Super Idol gifting that occurred during Episode 1, these two continue to have things go their way and were shown as pulling the strings on the Jessica vote tonight as well. It was Chrissy who was shown suggesting that they have a back-up plan, in case they got the vibe that Joe was untouchable (should he play a hidden Idol, which he did). It was Ryan who was shown harping on the master plan, for the remaining Hustlers to join forces with the remaining Heroes to take out the majority Healers. Both players look to now have the game in their hands, if they can just navigate the waters long enough.
Jessica of course, was ultimately done in by her close approximation to her show-mance, Cole. The two were inseparable, yes, but a few episodes back we saw that Jessica realized that Cole might not be good for her game, only to change her tune the very next episode. Much like Figgy a few seasons ago, Jessica basically sacrificed her game by letting a handsome boy get in the way of things. It was a great move to target Jessica by the other side, because nobody would have anticipated that vote…and nobody did.
Cole of course, didn’t just ruin Jessica‘s game, but he continues to damage pretty much everybody he’s aligned with as well. He unbelievably blabbed their plans to Joe during the episode, continuing a pattern of just not knowing any better. He fessed up to Ben – finally – about being a hog with all the food at camp, but don’t expect his manners to improve now that Jessica is out of the game. Courtesy of next week’s preview, we already see that Cole is about to become unhinged, desperately digging for Idols and wrestling with Chrissy at camp. Cole is just too much a liability and will need to be dealt with, once Ryan and Chrissy feel like they really have the numbers on their side.
What will be interesting to watch moving forward will be how Lauren fits in to the game’s master plan. She appears loyal to her old Hustler buddies Devon and Ryan, but also has bonded with Ben who is of course in with the Heroes. But we also saw her prancing across enemy lines when she confided some secrets in Dr. Mike. She is playing a lot of angles and is the sort of player that may slip under-the-radar…if only she wasn’t aligned with the cunning Chrissy and Ryan. My guess is that Lauren is going to need to flip on these two – and soon – before she herself gets got.
Episode Take-Away: Now that the “battle lines have been drawn” so to speak, it appears that Joe and Cole are in serious trouble. Joe made a bold move tonight in not only showing his Idol at Tribal, but in playing it. But I say kudos to him for the effort. Joe could have very easily went home, and there’s no way a player as aggressive as Joe would ever chance going home with an Idol in his pocket. Had he somehow had a hunch to play it on Jessica, people would be applauding the move as an all-time great strategic play, so just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean it wasn’t a solid move.
But what’s done is done, and now an Idol-less Joe and Cole will need to somehow figure out a way to stay in the game long enough until the others start picking one another off. Of the four remaining Healers, I think Desi and Dr. Mike are probably not going to be targeted right away, that is unless Desi wins another Immunity Challenge, at which point she could become a target just based on her physicality. Chrissy and Ryan really seem insulated right now, but Chrissy did receive five votes tonight, which means that everybody in this game is pretty aware of how big of a bad-ass she is. But being closely aligned with Ryan, Ben and JP, it’s unlikely anybody is going to be able to take another stab at her anytime soon. If I had to place a wager, I’d say either Joe or Cole are gone next, but there is still a lot of game left to be played…as Probst so brilliantly said at the end of the episode: “It’s not about who goes home, it’s about who survives and the new lines that are drawn.”
Voted out this week: Jessica
Won Immunity: Desi
Vote: Joe played an Idol on himself. 7 – Jessica (Ryan, Devon, Chrissy, Lauren, Ben, Ashley, JP), 5 – Chrissy (Joe, Mike, Cole, Jessica, Desi)
Next Week’s Episode: Things get real, as in real physical, when Cole is shown wrestling with Chrissy as he frantically digs for what appears to be an Idol. Should he come up with one, and if he or Joe could win Immunity? The game may just get even more interesting.
Quick Note! Remember to return right here to Reality Tea for my FilmSurvivor Podcast Thursday, where you can listen to my full exit interview with Jessica. Last but not least, I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews, including my reviews of “Daddy’s Home 2″ and “Murder on the Orient Express” this week. And as always, the easiest way to get all of my Survivor coverage and movie reviews is to follow me on Twitter – @tomsantilli – or on Facebook.
TELL US – SHOULD BEN HAVE TURNED AGAINST CHRISSY OR DID HE MAKE THE RIGHT MOVE FOR HIS GAME? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JOE’S DECISION TO SHOW AND PLAY THE IDOL? AND IS COLE A SITTING DUCK NOW THAT HIS GAL JESSICA IS GONE?
Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira