Tonight, “Survivor” blew in like a breath of fresh air. Given the emotions and the craziness of the past two days, there was nothing we wanted to see more than an opportunity to dive into some escapism courtesy of one of our favorite shows. Also, it’s merge time! Isn’t this typically one of the best times for the show? We do like to think so.
Here’s the problem: Trying to match the utter insanity of Jay blindsiding Michaela was going to be tough. Even if merge episodes are awesome, we’re talking about one of the best blindside reactions in 33 seasons of the show.
Starting over – Tonight began with Hannah secretly plotting her revenge against the Ikabula tribe over the elimination of her friend, and she played this absolutely perfectly. Be upset over what’s going on in the confessional room, but smile and put on a good face. The next morning, her tribe and Takali got the news that they would be heading over to Vanua, where all thirteen people (only the second time the show’s ever merged at this many people) got a chance to mingle and celebrate.
Almost immediately, a few people took advantage of the chance to strategize. For Zeke, he was able to round up Hannah and Adam for a bit of a “Survivor” nerd alliance. They all were on separate tribes, and therefore were able to share some valuable intel. From here, they were able to label one of their biggest targets almost right away: Jay. He’s super-charming, athletic, and he was giving us cocky confessionals calling himself the “Kingpin.” That, to reference “Survivor: Cagayan,” is like Sarah Lacina calling herself the President thinking that she had all of the power.
Enter the Jerk Advantage – Adam, being the amazing “Survivor” fan that he is, knew that there are often immunity idols that are hidden at around this time. Therefore, he went out looking for something and came back with what is a secret advantage in the game. He was able to find what is a new advantage in the game for his efforts: A chance to take someone’s reward after they’ve already won it. We are therefore calling this the Jerk Advantage, since you’d have to be a total jerk to use this since nobody’s going to like you for it. We probably wouldn’t use this for anything unless there was an advantage challenge at the final four.
Here’s where Adam made a mistake: Thinking that he could get Taylor on his side through a late-night bonding session after blindsiding Figgy. Maybe if it was a different person, confiding in this advantage would work. Maybe the credit here goes to Taylor, who’s doing a good job of concealing his desire to blindside Adam, than the blame goes to Adam for not reading into it properly.
While Adam’s got no problem with Taylor, here’s the problem for him: Bret is, since he saw him stealing some of the merge-feast food in the middle of the night. The Gen X crew was ready to target him, which we contend is at least a decent move since nobody’s really going to miss him all that much other than maybe a Jay or a Michelle, but they are on the outside of the numbers you want to work with anyway.
Eventually, Taylor went and clued in Jay on what Adam was planning for the week: Blindsiding Will of all people, and getting rid of Jay’s right-hand man. Adam clearly didn’t put enough stock in the Jay – Taylor relationship; at this point in the episode, it felt like he was in danger, but he was a smart-enough guy to emerge on the other side.
Prior to the challenge, it was almost impossible to figure out who’d be voted out — and that was part of the fun! Great start to a merge episode with several different targets.
Immunity Challenge – It’s a “tougher” version of a classic challenge, which we also translate to mean “Jeff Probst does’t want to stand around for that long.” Everyone had to grasp onto a bar with two hands, and if you move to match, you’ll pour water on your head. Like we said, classic challenge.
Kudos to Jessica, Adam, David, and Will for sticking around for so long — they weren’t on paper the sort of people you’d assume to dominate here, but they really fought for it. Knowing that he was in danger, Will called his shot in confessional before going into this — and he won! Jessica and Will stayed out there the longest, and they managed an hour and a half. Crazy. So much for this challenge being over quickly!
Now, the strategizing – As we noted before the challenge, Adam’s Nerd Herd (this is a “Chuck” reference, not “Big Brother 6”!) was able to figure out that Taylor blabbed to Will about the target. Therefore, there was an opportunity for some scrambling.
First, Adam went to the Gen Xers in hopes of getting them to go after someone on the Millennials — really, anyone named Michelle, Taylor, or Jay. He was incredibly aggressive, and this move proved to be a very bad one. He basically went so overboard with talking to various people that even Zeke started to think about voting him out. Going into Tribal Council, all of a sudden it looked like his only move was to play the immunity idol. That certainly wasn’t what we expected going into tonight!
Tribal Council – The only ending we saw to this episode going into this part of the episode was an Adam idol play; the predictability there was somewhat boring on paper, but there was still some fun in not knowing precisely who he was going to vote for. If Adam didn’t realize that he needed to play the idol before going, he certainly should have by the way Taylor was acting. Adam made mistakes throughout the episode, but Taylor was TERRIBLE here. We take away any credit we gave him previously.
Yet, Adam didn’t play the idol! He took the gamble on his allies, and we quickly saw a battle break out in the votes between him and Michelle, someone the Gen Xers were convinced would not have an idol or have one played on her. That was enough, and she went home.
Great job by the editors in faking us out here — we lost a great player, and they sold us COMPLETELY on the idea that Adam had to play the idol and he didn’t need to. We say Michelle is a great player, granted, based on one move in the Mari vote — we didn’t see much of her after that.
Overall – Yet another very-strong merge episode and the perfect escapism we needed. It wasn’t the best merge episode in the history of the show, but there was plenty of entertainment to go around. Grade: B+.
Next time on … “Survivor” – You can head over here to read up about what is coming up! (Photo: CBS.)