The Survivor Gods giveth. Then they taketh away. Just last week, we experienced the demise of the somewhat polarizing Gabby Pascuzzi. Many fans cheered. This week we witnessed a shocking exit that most likely made you scream at your TV, stomp away in anger and throw your Survivor notepad to the floor in disgust. Or was that just me?Yes, this week’s penultimate episode is sure to have whipped the whole of the Survivor-verse into a furious frenzy. But if one thing was made clear by the episode’s end: This season, it’s anybody’s game.
As I do at the beginning of every recap, please heed the following: Remember that this recap assumes that you have already seen this week’s Episode 13 of Survivor: David vs. Goliath. If you have not and don’t want to be spoiled, please come back later! It’s important to add that while we WILL hit on all of the important developments of the episode, this is not a linear “blow-by-blow” recap. It is more of a discussion and reaction of what we just witnessed together.
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No not Christian! Everybody’s (I’m assuming?) favorite uber-nerd was not able to calculate or reason his way out of tonight’s Tribal Council. He became the latest member of the Survivor jury, just one week after his season-long sidekick, Gabby, was sent packing. Christian had been seemingly invincible this season. Many others have tried but failed to get rid of him.
It took Mike, with an Immunity Necklace around his neck and a newfound sense of strategic confidence, to spring forth and devise a plan that finally was powerful enough to match the amazing game-play we’ve seen all season from Davie and Christian. If Davie’s maneuvers last week were a punch to the gut, then this week’s move by Mike was a successful counter-punch that leaves Davie up against the ropes. Who is primed to be knocked out? Who will emerge from the ring battered but victorious next week?
We’ll get to next week in a minute. But first another word about Christian. He was definitely a stand-out All-Star Survivor in a season that will forever be known for its amazing overall cast. As I wrote earlier in the season, this guy was so geeky he makes Survivor: Caramoan winner John Cochran look like James Dean. Christian supplied us viewers with weekly doses of entertainment, personality, and strategy. He is easily the most popular contestant to play the game maybe since Rupert. He did receive a total of 15 votes this season.
The record, by the way, is held by Laura Morett, during Season 27 Blood vs. Water, who had a total of 19 votes cast against her throughout the season. Unlike many past contestants with high vote counts, he was incredibly well-liked by his tribemates. Usually threats as big as Christian don’t get the high vote totals because they are unable to last very long in the game. Christian was as surprised as anyone to know that he was considered THE biggest threat to win this season, a sentiment he echoed in his goodbye message tonight.
Now as I’ve written here many times this season, Christian‘s “greatness” may be a bit exaggerated. Davie‘s great game-play kept him alive several times. But if I had to bet my Survivor ugly holiday sweater (yes, I ordered it from the CBS store) on one contestant from this season getting the chance to play again, it is hands-down Christian.
Christian officially misses out on making the Finale Episode (next week, people!). As we saw tonight and throughout this entire season, we are watching such an impressive level of high game-play. It just makes me all tingly inside. That could also be the RumChata I put in my coffee tonight, but I’m pretty sure it’s the high-level of game-play. Fans of Survivor take note: If you’re ever wondering whether or not you are watching some expert-level Survivor-play, listen for the word “voting bloc” to come up. If you hear it, you know that you are experiencing A+ stuff. Savvy Survivor fans will remember that this term was coined on the show by Stephen Fishbach during Season 31, Survivor: Cambodia.
It refers to a player’s willingness to be able to align with anyone, for one vote, and the flexibility to then re-align upon the next vote. This was not a brand-new concept to the game in Season 31. If you look back throughout Survivor history at players who approached the game using the voting bloc concept, you will find that it was rare for more than one or two players in a season to adhere to it. Season 31 stood out because it was a CAST full of players who understood and executed the strategy.
A “high-level of game-play” does not imply that mistakes are not being made…it’s actually quite the contrary. When you are playing at the level these David vs. Goliath contestants are playing at, you’re going to see several mistakes…high reward often equals high risk. Look no further than Gabby‘s big “swing-and-miss” just last week for evidence. Tonight, it was Nick who was firing on all cylinders, and even though he ultimately misplayed his real Idol, it was go big or go home time.
I just LOVED the fact that he thought up the idea to not just create a fake Idol (something that has been done MANY times before), but to then discover his own fake Idol and pass it off as a real one? Absolutely brilliant. What was even more impressive though, is that Davie was on to him! He thought that Nick might have “re-found” his actual Idol, but still. It’s impressive enough that Nick came up with this idea, but it’s “next level” game-play that Davie was able to imagine that Nick was even capable of such treachery.
The other big mistake tonight was made by Alison, who was told specifically by Kara and the others to NOT involve Angelina or Mike in their plan to blindside Nick. Alison’s attempt to show her loyalty to Mike (?) led her to spill the beans on that plan. Just like Kara and co. anticipated, it mucked everything up. To Mike’s credit, he could have easily gone along with the rest of the tribe in voting out Alison, but why would he do so? Getting Christian out of the game at this point truly opens up the possibilities for someone else like (gasp!) Mike to actually win Survivor.
A side note on the challenges: If there is one Achilles Heel to an otherwise stellar season, it has got to be the lame Immunity Challenges we’ve been given down the stretch. Is it just me, or did tonight’s “ball balance” challenge seem like the 100th straight balance/concentration challenge they’ve held? Where are the obstacle courses? The “break someone else’s plates” challenges? The ocean in general? I love a concentration challenge when it comes down to the finals. At that point you’re asking, “How much do you want this?” and you’re asking the players to dig deep mentally. But come on now…this was just too much tonight. Close-ups of wobbly, sandy feet do not make good TV.
Episode Take-away: Another great episode, in line with what the rest of this season has been about: The idea that this is as unpredictable a season as we’ve seen. We are now on the verge of the Finale! It’s next week everyone! Next Wednesday, it’s the two-hour Finale and a Live Reunion Show. We are down to six: Mike, Alison, Angelina, Davie, Nick and Kara. So who will win Survivor?
If there is any “sure thing,” it’s that Angelina has no shot of winning the jury vote (but what about the rice I won???). That being said, she has nearly a 100% chance of making it to the Final Vote…or at least to the Final Four, where we will once again see that new “fire-making challenge” tie-breaker. For those that need a refresher, the Immunity winner at Final Four will get to pick one other player to sit next to at the end, leaving the remaining two players to have to build fire in order to make the Final Three and face the jury.
RELATED: Exclusive Interview: Survivor: David vs. Goliath’s Gabby: “If You Think I Didn’t Know About His Girlfriend… You’re An Idiot”
This new twist makes it almost impossible to predict the final outcome. Here’s hoping that we are at least done with hidden Idols this season. If we are, that means all remaining six are on equal footing. Davie‘s game suddenly looks like it is in severe jeopardy. He’ll likely be a target right away next week. But there is also the ongoing threat of Alison. It was foreshadowed tonight just how good she is physically in the game. If she doesn’t Wigglesworth her way to the end, she too, might see an early demise. And if it comes down to Mike, Nick, Angelina and Kara, you’d have to think that Nick would be making fire in almost any of those scenarios right?
Like, who wants to sit next to or take Nick to the end? He, to me, is the front-runner. As hard as it is to believe, I think Mike actually is a dark horse. Kara doesn’t strike me as someone who can win the game either. She’s been great socially. However, she’ll have an uphill battle in convincing the jury that she was a major player this season.
But what do I know? As they pointed out at Tribal tonight: This game is truly a free for all right now. And I for one can’t wait for next Wednesday night!
Voted out this week: Christian Hubicki
Won Immunity: Mike White
Vote: Davie played an Idol on himself. Nick played a fake idol and then a real Idol on himself. 3 – Christian (Kara, Nick, Angelina), 2 – Alison (Davie, Christian), 2 – Davie (nullified by Idol, Mike, Alison)
Next Week’s Episode: Are you not paying attention? It’s the Finale!!! You are not going to want to miss my full Finale Recap next week, where I’ll also provide a break-down of the Live Reunion Show, as well as a preview of Season 38! Hard to believe! And next week’s Podcast will be a mega-sized, season-ending one, that will feature interviews with all SIX of the remaining cast-aways, including the Sole Survivor of David vs. Goliath. But that’s not all: Coming soon after, like I have in the past, I’ll be releasing my updated “Survivor Winners” and “Most Memorable Seasons” rankings by the end of next week. Let the debates begin!
Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! But all season long, remember to return right here to Reality Tea for my FilmSurvivor Podcast on Thursday, where you can listen to my full exit interview with the eliminated contestants. This week I will be chatting exclusively with Christian Hubicki. Those that have followed me also know that I am a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic, and I encourage you to check out my weekly movie reviews as I am also the national film critic for AXS.com and am a movie critic/TV personality in the Detroit area. 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 – WHAT DID YOU THINK OF TONIGHT’S SURVIVOR EPISODE? WHO ARE YOU ROOTING FOR TO WIN SURVIVOR? AND WILL YOU EVEN KEEP WATCHING SURVIVOR NOW THAT CHRISTIAN IS GONE?
Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell