On March 30, “Survivor” followed the previous week’s all-time great episode with a less thrilling, yet still solid experience. The voting results might not have been earth-shattering, but several plot points were set up that might pay off in exciting ways down the line.
The episode began with the aftermath of the Jenny vote-out. The vitriol toward Daniel was exceedingly apparent. It’s going to be hard for him to shake the “snake” label throughout the rest of the game, and it looks like he’s going to be the next target if they return to Tribal Council. In a good move, Hai pulled Mike in, adding him to his alliance with Lydia. In just one day, those two went from a minority position to having all the power in Vati. This was also an impressive show of flexibility by Mike, who could’ve chosen to go down with the sinking ship of Daniel and (somewhat) Chanelle.
In the reward challenge, Taku won again through another dominant performance by Jonathan. Their group of four is incredibly strong, but Jonathan’s persistent heroics are already making him a threat to others in the game. In “Survivor,” the tribes merge when around 40 percent of the initial players are gone. Once this happens, immunity becomes individual instead of tribal, meaning that only one person wears the immunity necklace at Tribal Council that protects them from being voted out. Historically, players who pose massive threats are often targeted at the merge for this reason. Only two of these sort of players (Ben Driebergen in Season 35 and Mike Holloway in season 30) have ever been able to make it to the end, so Jonathan’s odds of winning aren’t looking great. To make matters worse, Jonathan unwittingly remarked in front of everyone after the challenge that the “Taku Four” was in fact strong. This makes all of them a target during the tribe swap (when the tribes are randomly reshuffled pre-merge), because other tribes will fear that they will dominate the post-merge game together. Although Taku earned some massive fish to satiate their hunger, the reward challenge was likely a net negative for them.
At Ika, Rocksroy continued to be a nuisance to his fellow tribe members with his patronizing bossiness. Best described as a curmudgeon, he’s even disliked by his alliance of Romeo and Drea, who are keeping him around just to maintain a majority. Since his chances of swaying a jury toward voting for him to win at the end of the season are almost zero, look out for him getting dragged to the end as a “goat” — if people know he’ll be a zero-vote finalist, they’ll work to make sure he’s sitting next to them to boost their own odds.
Earlier in the season, Drea proposed a girls’ alliance between Tori, Swathi, and herself, but neither of the two younger Ika members trusted Drea. This episode, the two of them schemed up a way to turn the tables and blindside Drea. I didn’t think the idea was great, because Drea was their best bet at gaining a majority in the tribe. The execution was even worse, as Tori decided to pitch the idea to Rocksroy, using Drea’s secret — that she had an extra vote that she kept from him — to sway him. The issue was that Rocksroy was more loyal to Drea than he was to Tori, and simply didn’t believe her. He never even considered the proposition, immediately running to Drea instead, who promptly lied to him about the extra vote and began gunning for Tori.
In the immunity challenge, Taku dominated again, with Vati barely beating Ika for second place. The blame for Tori and Swathi’s plan ended up boomeranging back to Swathi, who had initially managed to escape the blame. The vote came down to the two of them, and they knew it. Each threw the other under the bus as much as they could. In the end, Swathi became the fourth player to be voted out. Tori is left in a precarious position and seems like the obvious next boot if they return to Tribal.
This was a solid episode of “Survivor” that could have serious repercussions down the line. Jonathan will have to maintain his insane pace to avoid elimination, and Rocksroy will have to gain social skills to have any modicum of winning equity. Daniel will have to do serious work to regain his footing in this game, and the Taku Four is just waiting for rougher tides: as we know in Survivor, nothing stays easy for long. With a potential tribe swap looming, the game is in a fascinating spot.