So for real…did that not feel like the best Survivor episode in ages?
Survivor 42 is shaping up to be a great overall season, due to yet another diverse, compelling cast and how evenly split the tribes have been as we have approached the merge. The “merge episode” is always among the very best episodes of each and every season, as we get to finally see all of the contestants interact and play the game together…while the pre-merge is fun, we know that Survivor is an individual sport and it isn’t until the merge where the finish line begins to reveal itself. And while Wednesday’s episode of Survivor 42 wasn’t technically the “merge episode” (they did not officially merge until seconds before the show’s end credits), it was awfully rewarding on several fronts. There was tons of strategy, counter-strategy and last-minute adjustments, some great challenges with unexpected finishes, a surprising boot and – thanks to Rocksroy and him being exiled – some of that old-school Survivor love where we simply got to take a moment and appreciate the little things like food, shelter and the surreal surroundings of the Fijian Islands.
I can’t stress enough how fun the evenly split tribes will make this final stretch run of individual Survivor. It’s a rarity on the show believe it or not, and for all of the slack that Jeff Probst and producers have received in recent years for the flood of new advantages that they’ve been introducing, it finally feels like a giant pay-off to see so many different advantages spread pretty evenly among the warring factors within the game. We saw multiple players refer to their Idols, advantages and amulets as “ammo” or stock in the game, that they had to hang on to in order to have a fighting chance down the road. The equal split of the original tribes has allowed those with these advantages to be seen by their allies as assets, rather than targets whose advantages need to be “flushed out.” And the strategic elements of Survivor are already daunting, to have to then consider extra votes, those with no votes, who has what advantage or what amulet…it’s a good thing that this column lists out and keeps track of everyone’s advantages or we may all go crazy (it’s true, see below!)!
So what exactly sent Lydia packing, just missing the Survivor jury? She was seemingly in a strong position, with an ally in Hai who had just been willing to go to rocks in order to save her. Man, what a difference a week makes (or a few days, I should say, on island). If you saw the ending of the ep, Hai was actually one of the six people that voted for Lydia, probably feeling like his hands were tied and that he didn’t have the votes to save his closest ally. Of all people, it was the vote-less Omar who seemed to go to bat for Jonathan to keep him in the game…and dag-nab-it, somehow it worked.
Jonathan! What can be said about this beast. And what a story it would be if Jonathan could somehow, someway become Sole Survivor. He has dominated like no other has, and I mean that truly: There have been huge athletes or dominant physical presences, but none like Jonathan. What sets him apart even further is just how damn likable he is. Most muscle-bound hulks in past seasons have serious ego problems, and the ones that haven’t (I’m thinking of goliath’s like James Clement) had the brawn but not the brain to go with it. Jonathan seems like the total package, and what else could it speak to other than his social game that he is still alive and kicking? This guy single-handedly has won his team/tribe nearly every single challenge, and they get a chance to vote him out – now in the individual portion of the game – and he remains in the game? Just wow. I personally am rooting for Jonathan to win each and every challenge from here until Finale, and then win by unanimous vote and to a thunderous applause and standing ovation from the jury. We’ve had players string Immunity Challenges together to get to the end and even win, but nobody has gone wire-to-wire. If Jonathan were to do that (and why not?), we would all look back to this single week, this lone opportunity for the collective to have voted him out, and we’d know that his social game was just as strong as his physical game, even though he leaned a bit more heavy on one than the other.
And was there a single person in America who was rooting for Tori over Jonathan during that challenge?
The two-hour run-time of this episode really helped give us several tribal dynamics with the newly “joined” tribes. Jonathan is not only well-liked by his old tribe of Lindsay and Omar (and to some extent, Maryanne), but he made solid bonds with both Rocksroy and Mike. On the flip, Tori absolutely saved her skin by winning a very difficult, intense Immunity Challenge, but she seems like she’s in long-term trouble…although I’ve always learned to NEVER count her out, as she has had her back up against the wall since Day One on the island, and yet she’s still there. It was interesting that Chanelle and Tori voted together (for Jonathan), as Chanelle is the other person who is very much on the outs. I sort of feel bad for Chanelle more so than Tori, because Chanelle is a very cunning player who simply had her tribe turn on her. We saw scenes this episode of each one of her former tribe mates throwing her under the bus and telling others not to work with her, which basically has poisoned the well for her moving forward. She can’t possibly make a new, lasting alliance because of how she’s being perceived, no thanks to her former tribe. And that’s too bad because I don’t think Chanelle is a true “villain” in the way that Tori is being portrayed to be.
Also this episode, we got a great, candid scene between Hai and Romeo…how unstoppable would an alliance between Hai and Romeo be? The two bonded over their LGBTQ+ representation, but seem to be on different sides of the power struggle in the game. Both have shown great strategic and social prowess, and nobody would have suspected they’d work together. A missed opportunity?
You’d have thought that if Romeo and Hai had some sort of alliance, they would have been able to unite together to get rid of someone other than Lydia, but alas. It seems Romeo voted for Maryanne as a contingency plan had Lydia played an Idol? (It’s hard to fathom that Romeo would have voted differently than his closest ally, Drea, without it being a split-vote situation). But the game being the way that it is, the winds could completely shift next week and who knows, perhaps Hai and Romeo two will end up working together. Hai no longer has his right-hand woman, and Romeo will feel desperate to regain control of numbers. At any rate, they’re a duo to watch.
We haven’t even gotten to Rocksroy! Has a first-episode curmudgeon ever blossomed into such a likable fan-favorite like Rocksroy seems to? Watching his grace and his appreciation for this entire opportunity while stuck out on a deserted island for two days and two nights was just inspirational. This guy has yet to crack, and is playing the game his way. While he did seem to have some valid reasons as to why he might NOT smash the hourglass, I mean, come on…this is Survivor. Of course that hourglass is getting smashed. But it’s nearly impossible to watch Survivor and not find yourself rooting for its underdogs, and Rocksroy definitely should have been down and out. He could go far, but unlike the last player to smash an hourglass and reverse Survivor-time, Season 41’s winner Erika Casupanan, I don’t think Rocksroy is as well-liked or respected as she, so Rocksroy still faces an uphill battle at winning.
If anyone is getting that coveted “winner’s edit” thus far, I feel like it could be Hai. He’s strategic, likable and is getting plenty of air-time. He had two very good quotes this week, one about wanting to be a driver instead of a passenger, and the other about how at this point in the game, “Good players fold and great players prevail.” Hai will not instantly be targeted…there are simply way too many other, bigger threats right now, plus it’s perceived that Hai has just been neutered by cutting loose his BFF Lydia. If Hai hangs around, he’s a real good candidate for winner.
Episode Take-Away. I was super-stoked about this week’s episode, maybe more so than in a long, long time! It had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I stopped a few times – in the same way Rocksroy did to enjoy his view of Fiji – to just take in yet another wonderful cast. I didn’t realize it until we got to this individual phase of the game, but I like damn-well-near everybody out there! Then there’s Tori…whom I don’t like but she’s an interesting villain and I love the dynamic and rivalry she is developing with Rocksroy. Everybody is playing the game, there doesn’t seem to be any “dead weight,” and this vote was a total blindside. Best yet, there is not a dominant alliance that will now control its way to the Final Four. This game is wide open. It’s anybody’s game. And while I’m seriously stanning for Jonathan, I just love Drea (I’ve been a devout Drea-head since the Premiere), and how do you not love Mike? There are so many others still in the game that I’d be happy to see win, and some that have just emerged like Omar who keep making the game as unpredictable as ever. For the first time in what seems to be a very long time, I’m excited for what’s to come in this new era of Survivor…and given an hourglass to smash, I’m not sure I’d reverse time and go back to the way things were. Nah, it’s time to move forward, and I’m now convinced that with the right cast and a little bit of luck, this show’s torch may never get snuffed out.
I feel like there’s so much more to talk about that was packed into this episode. Hopefully we can discuss some of what I didn’t cover in the comments below!
Erik Reichenbach DabuDoodles Art. 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: Lydia
Won Immunity: Tori (1)
Vote: No advantages or Idols played. 6 – Lydia (Hai, Jonathan, Lindsay, Mike, Drea, Maryanne), 2 – Jonathan (Tori, Chanelle), 2 – Maryanne (Romeo, Lydia), 1 – Lindsay (Rocksroy).
Current Advantage List:
- Drea – 1 Immunity Idol, 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)
- Hai – Amulet (current power: 1 extra vote if all three are played)
- Maryanne – 1 Immunity Idol, 1 Extra Vote
- Mike – 1 Immunity Idol
Next Week’s Episode: We’re now officially post-merge, and it looks like complete and utter chaos…just the way we like it!
Quick Note! I appreciate that you are reading this recap! Those that have followed me also know that I am also a RottenTomatoes-approved film critic and I encourage you to check out my past movie reviews and my movie show (episodes are also available online at the website, www.MovieShowPlus.com.) 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 DO YOU THINK OF THIS EPISODE? DO YOU THINK JONATHAN CAN WIN SURVIVOR? AND WHICH PLAYERS DO YOU FEEL ARE IN THE BEST/WORST POSITION AT THIS POINT?
[Photo Credit: CBS/Monty Brinton/Robert Voets/Timothy Kuratek/Jeffrey Neira/Michele Crowe/David M. Russell]