Early Survivor fan-favorite Maryanne Oketch showed up at this week’s Immunity Challenge a bit disappointed. When she was able to get her first look at the other tribes, Maryanne noticed that her secret crush, Zach Wurtenberger, was not there, having been voted out last week. Jeff Probst teased her a bit, and Maryanne gave us yet another charming moment (through only two episodes, she’s already given us several) as she waxed poetic about her fantasy outcome of meeting up with Zach after a tribe-swap and dating him after the game was over. She had it all planned out. Jeff – the eternal optimist – ended it by encouraging her. “Keep hope alive!” he told her. And as Maryanne ended up surviving her first Tribal Council (not before nearly dropping her unlit torch in the fire), for her at least, hope is indeed alive.
The same cannot be said for stay-at-home mom Marya Sherron, whose game was cut way too short when she was voted out unanimously by her fellow orange tribemates. Echoing Jackson Fox last week, we just got to know Marya and learned her incredible backstory before she was forcefully and somewhat unexpectedly sent out of the game. Of course, Jackson was removed for not disclosing a prescription drug, lithium, to producers, so not exactly the same. But in a similar way, I feel like I really would have loved to see more of Marya’s story unfold within the game.
And what a heart-shattering story it was. Marya revealed this week that her brother died in March of 2020, to COVID-19, and had been a front-line nurse at the very beginning of the pandemic. The show respectfully added a graphic at the end of the episode thanking all front-line workers who so bravely risk their lives for the sake of everyone else. You know, thanking these selfless heroes can be done weekly if they really wanted to, even without this sort of content existing within the show, but that’s another topic. Marya was not only playing for her brother and to come to some sort of terms with his death, but as a stay-at-home mom, this game was a major leap in the direction of “let’s do something for myself for a change.”
But the monster that is the game of Survivor does not discriminate…it knows not whether a person is “good” or “bad,” interesting or boring. Marya was a compelling character, but she also seemed subdued at camp and in the game…not exactly “up to speed’ with how savvy this generation of Survivor player can be. We saw that she found Maryanne annoying (blasphemy!), and even though the others might have seen where she was coming from, Marya was not shown presenting a strong case as to why Maryanne needed to go and why Marya should stay.
The unlikely alliance of Jonathan and Omar was the real strategic development this ep (adding in, to a lesser degree, Lindsay, who may be just as close as the two “bros” but wasn’t shown as being so this episode). Jonathan, the muscle-bound Christian and Omar, the self-proclaimed 30-year-old virgin and practicing Muslim. The unlikeliest of allies, these two are a really interesting pair to watch. Add in Lindsay’s strong social skills and this threesome can be incredibly formidable if they can stick together. You may remember, there was talk in the Premiere Episode about how one needs to be a “complete player” in order to win Survivor…that you must be amazing in the physical, mental and social aspects of the game. Will the trio of Jonathan (brawn), Omar (brains) and Lindsay (social) become a holy trinity of Survivor awesomeness? Was the “complete player” line a bit of Survivor foreshadowing? It’ll be fun to find out.
Beyond these developments – all of which happened within the orange tribe – the rest of the episode seemed mild, and gave us some more opportunities to get to know some of the players. Another fan-favorite stand-out is Mike Turner, who had a few funny one-liners but also who found a hidden “Beware Advantage”…before proceeding to forget where he hid it. Since we all saw Season 41, we’re aware of how this new advantage works: There is one of these planted at each tribe’s camp, and all three of these become Immunity Idols if and only if all three players publicly state some kind of silly line at a Challenge. Until this happens though, the person with the “Beware Advantage” cannot vote at Tribal Council, which is sort of a big deal (Mike’s line by the way was, “There is such grace in the game of soccer, it makes me cry.” This was made even funnier when Mike revealed he had previously told a football team that he once coached that he didn’t even consider soccer to be a sport).
This is a solid game twist, made even trickier by having the person lose their vote in the interim. Not having a vote made Mike tell his close ally Jenny about it, and he also decided to tell Daniel, the latter of which looks as if it might have been a big mistake. Daniel immediately consorts with Chanelle and they decide that they may need to vote Mike out…and they even concoct a way to make him NOT say his phrase publicly. This was a small moment in the episode for Daniel, but a big one for the bigger picture of the game.
Another small moment that could have long-lasting impact came at the very beginning of the episode, in the aftermath of the Zach vote out. Tori originally seemed like she was the next obvious target, having nearly been voted out instead of Zach at Tribal. However when Drea decided to show her cards to the other women on her tribe (Tori and Swati) and revealed that she has an extra vote, the women immediately target Drea as a threat. Drea is playing hard thus far, and that is either an incredible winning strategy if she is able to thread the needle and go the distance, but it’s an awful risky way to come out of the gates. We’ve seen many, many players crash-and-burn while trying to “play hard,” so even though Drea has this extra vote (as well as one of the “amulets”), she may have just given Tori enough fuel to survive yet another Tribal should they return soon. The move is especially daring because Drea seems to be good with the other side of camp, being aligned with both Rocksroy and Romeo. So had she just been patient and stayed chill for a while, she would have been the furthest person from other people’s radars (of course if she goes on to win then this was all brilliant maneuvering!).
Episode Take-Away: I always love watching the chaotic “blindfold” challenge, but this one was made particularly hilarious by Daniel‘s addition of the line, “You’ve got to protect your balls, Rocksroy.” The line delivery was top-notch, with a hint of frustration mixed with a swath of sympathy after watching Rocksroy take a direct hit. I’m still liking this cast, although – Maryanne excluded – they all seem to be sapped of energy already. Speaking of Maryanne, will her exuberant personality end up being a major detriment to her game? Will people be able to stand her energy for the length of the game? My wife told me that she was going to stop watching Survivor if they voted out Maryanne, so I’m incredibly thankful they didn’t, but this really could become a problem for her.
Another moment that speaks to the sacrifices players are willing to take, we got to see Hai struggle with his Vegan lifestyle, having been put in a situation where he may need to break a few of his incredibly important rules in order to sustain himself and last in this game. He makes the decision to eat crab, having no real choice ultimately. Is this foreshadowing deeper struggles ahead for Hai?
Beyond that, I was bit sad to see Marya go, after hearing her story and wanting to see more of her Survivor journey. But as Jonathan so bluntly stated, there is this idea that we like everybody out there, but on the other hand they’re playing a game. “It’s as simple as that?” Probst asked. Yes. I concur with Jonathan. It’s as simple as that.
Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. Loved Erik’s artwork from last week! For those that followed this column the past few seasons, you also know that this page is the EXCLUSIVE home to new artwork from none other than two-time Survivor contestant and legend, Erik Reichenbach. Each week, Erik contributes a brand-new, original piece of artwork relating to the new week’s episode. It will appear here usually in the days after the show’s airing, so if it does not appear here now, check back usually by the weekend following an episode and give this page a refresh. All of Erik’s work as well as past works can be found and purchased on his site, DabuDoodles.com, and I urge you to support this amazingly talented former Survivor player!
Out This Week: Marya
Won Immunity: Green Tribe (Jenny, Chanelle, Lydia, Mike, Daniel, Hai), Blue Tribe (Drea, Tori, Swati, Rocksroy, Romeo)
Vote : Marya used her “shot in the dark” but it failed, no idols/advantages played. 4 – Marya (Maryanne, Jonathan, Omar, Lindsay). Marya voted out unanimously (Marya had no vote due to using “shot in the dark”).
Current Advantage List:
- Drea – 1 Extra Vote, also has Amulet (current power: 1 extra vote if all three are played)
- Lindsay – Amulet (current power: 1 extra vote if all three are played)
- Romeo – Amulet (current power: 1 extra vote if all three are played)
- Maryanne – 1 Extra Vote
- Mike – Beware Advantage (currently cannot vote until three-way Idol is activated)
Next Week’s Episode: Mike loses his Idol…again, and this time maybe for good? Meanwhile we are about to witness another “Survivor First,” as it looks like Jeff Probst will stop a challenge midway through for safety reasons, when it appears that Rocksroy has an in-the-water emergency.
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TELL US – WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS EPISODE? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MARYA’S EXIT? AND WHICH PLAYERS ARE YOU ROOTING FOR/AGAINST?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]