It’s strange that, in this crazily entertaining season of Survivor, this episode is what passes for an average installment. Sure, the vote was a blindside, but it wasn’t an especially interesting one. There weren’t a lot of dramatics. It was just a decent, fun, solid episode of Survivor. We’re spoiled that this is what passes for average this season.

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The strangest part about the episode is probably that it was so relatively drama-free, considering who went home. Abi’s time on Survivor started completely full of drama, with her volatility and unpredictability leading to plenty of onscreen drama—and that unpredictability led to some crazy game outcomes. Once the merge hit, Abi’s personality took a backseat to what was a great run of interesting strategic episodes that were unpredictable not because of her, but because of actual gameplay.

The thing about Abi, though, is that her personality always made her presence on the show like a low hum in the background. In a game with more players and constantly shifting voting blocs, an unpredictable player like Abi is much less of a liability. You can always vote around her by bringing someone else in for one week, or use her unpredictability to your advantage. As the numbers dwindle and alliances get stronger, the only positive of having someone like Abi around is to save her as a goat to go to the end with. You can’t trust her to stay on your side, as Tasha and Spencer both explicitly state. One wrong look, one wrong sentence, and Abi could easily flip her vote and make your carefully built alliance completely worthless.

This is why when the two voting possibilities come down to either Abi or Tasha, it seemed pretty clear Abi would be the one going home. The swing vote here is Spencer, who has the choice to either stick with his more solid alliance of Jeremy, Tasha, and Kimmi and vote out Abi, or forge a new alliance with Keith, Kelley, and Abi and vote out Tasha. Spencer’s new alliance comes from an easy, breezy conversation with Keith and Kelley at their reward together, and between that (and the fact that it hinges on Abi as their fourth member) it always seemed like a fairly tenuous bond.

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Despite Abi’s ouster not being a surprise, there is certainly a lot of enjoyment to be had in this episode. The Reward Challenge is pleasantly fun to watch despite Keith’s total domination, and the reward itself is in the absolutely gorgeous Cambodian temples we saw way back in the premiere. The Immunity Challenge is even impressive for once, ditching the typical “balance some stuff” rut the show has been stuck in all season for a big, physical, water-based challenge that ended with Tasha having to be pulled out of the water by the safety team.

The biggest entertainment of the episode, though, has to be the Tribal Council. It starts out as a typical Tribal, talking about the reward and Tasha’s challenge scare. Suddenly, though, Jeff notices that people are saying “we” a lot. Everything is about “we,” indicating either growing alliances or multiple voting blocs. It starts as a legitimate discussion of what is happening, then slowly everyone is saying “we” so much that the word itself starts to lose all meaning. It’s almost like a competition that no one is willing to back down on, so every time anyone talks, the “we’s” grow and grow. It’s absurd on its face, but the most absurd thing is everyone is so keyed into the conversation that I’m not sure anyone notices just how strange they sound by talking this way. It’s a little bit of farce to cap off a fairly straightforward episode, and for that, I thank Survivor for still managing to surprise, this time in the unlikeliest of places.

Stray observations

  • There was a lot of talk about Keith as a challenge threat and Tasha being worried he voted for her in the previous episode. He can’t be that long for the game.
  • Speaking of Keith, what the heck was he talking about when Probst asked him about picking reward companions? Never ask Keith to give an extemporaneous speech, Probst.
  • That little moment where Kimmi kissed Tasha’s forehead and said “You scared me!” got me. I was a bit overcome.
  • Fishbach’s Tribal Council shirt is glorious. It does a great job of pulling focus from Savage’s dumb hat.
  • Jeremy, re: Joe’s eviction: “I have extreme buyer’s remorse.”
  • Spencer: “Any event in Survivor is the opportunity for change, good or bad.”

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