On April 6, “Survivor” released a fantastic episode, jam-packed with moments that were both entertaining and crucial for the rest of the season. As the last episode before the tribes merge into one, the setup of this week’s episode will pay off very soon.
At the beginning of the episode, we learned that Tori is done with her Ika tribemates. She (shockingly) dislikes Rocksroy the most, but is generally just ready to turn on them for a new group of people. It also became apparent that there will be no tribe swap this season, as some fans might have expected. In the vast majority of “Survivor” seasons, the merge has been preceded by a swap, in which the tribe structure is maintained or a new tribe is added, with the players switching between them by blindly grabbing a buff from Jeff Probst. However, it seems that “Survivor’s” shift last season to smaller tribes and a shorter game length has made swaps a thing of the past.
At Vatu beach, Mike debated whether or not he would activate his idol (which allows him to nullify all votes for himself or somebody else before the votes are read) if the other two phrases were said. He cleverly reasoned that since he would get the idol at the merge regardless, it might make more sense to keep the other two idol-holders from knowing he had it. After all, information is currency in “Survivor.” However, once Drea found Ika’s idol and said her phrase at the immunity challenge, he caved in and decided to activate his after all.
Surprisingly, Taku struggled in this challenge after a few weeks of dominance. Omar had been great at puzzles up to this point, but fell short in this one, leading to a huge initial deficit. During this time, Ika was able to secure victory. However, Jonathan did what he always does, and single-handedly willed Taku past Vati for second, keeping them from Tribal Council.
By this point, Jonathan has cemented himself not only as the biggest threat in this game, but also as one of the biggest challenge threats in “Survivor” history. Colby Donaldson (season 2), Tom Westman (10), Terry Dietz (12), Ozzy Lusth (13), Mike Holloway (30), Joe Anglim (31) and Brad Culpepper (34) are all tied for the lead in single-season individual immunity (post-merge) wins with five. For Jonathan to win this game at his insane threat level, he’d likely need to break that record. With his performance so far, though, it’s hard to bet against him.
Along with his physical dominance, Jonathan is also a solid social player. Back at Taku beach, he was noticeably annoyed by Maryanne’s constant talking and screaming, but didn’t let that turn into an emotional response. (Other guys on that list, particularly Colby and Culpepper, likely couldn’t have done the same.) Instead, Jonathan went spear-fishing with some of the equipment he won for the tribe, and caught a haul. He removed himself from the situation and actually improved his social standing by doing it: an impressive feat.
Daniel’s spear-fishing foray produced fewer benefits. As one would expect, he wasn’t quite as adept at it as Jonathan, and didn’t end up catching any fish. He had also been sitting out of swimming challenges due to the shoulder he dislocated on the first day, so going swimming for hours was a bad look. His tribe mates had just worked hard in a losing effort without his assistance, so it was understandable that this angered them. Daniel has made a series of bad decisions that have continually hurt his social standing in the tribe.
When it came to the vote at Tribal, it was pretty much immediately down to Chanelle and Daniel. Mike’s decision to activate his idol ended up being yet another good move by him, as it gave him his vote back, resulting in a 3-2 majority for him, Hai, and Lydia. Right after the challenge, Lydia was tasked with venturing to Shipwheel island with Rocksroy to face the same two-person prisoner’s dilemma as before. Rocksroy (shockingly) didn’t make a great first impression on Lydia, and neither of them trusted the other, so they both chose to protect their vote. This ensured that the 3-2 majority would hold — and also that either Chanelle or Daniel would leave after the vote. In the end, Daniel’s repeated missteps caught up with him, and he became the last castaway to be voted out before the merge.
Next episode’s preview revealed that we’ll be seeing the merge next week, which is fantastic news. The merge episode is typically the second most important of the entire season behind the finale, so next week will shape the way the whole rest of the game goes. The tribes are split evenly at four members each, allowing for endless rearrangement possibilities. My prediction is that Ika and Vati will ally in fear of Jonathan and Taku by proxy, but it could go a million ways. April 13 can’t come fast enough!