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Well, that was fun! This was a week of big changes on Survivor: Redemption Island, with one player returning from Redemption Island, as well as a tribal merge to shake up the game. Despite all of the changes, however, something stayed decidedly the same: This game is Boston Rob’s world, and everyone else is just along for the ride.


Seriously, though, in a season full of masterful performances from Rob, tonight’s successful scheme may have been the best of them all. Surely, Matt’s conscience and inability or unwillingness to deceive probably played a part (post-elimination quote: “And apparently I’m just not very good at this game of Survivor”), but none of it would have been possible without Rob engineering it at almost every level. The fact that he does it all with a sense of humor and a wickedly devious grin doesn’t hurt.

As soon as the episode started, it was easy to see we were in for a good one, as it finally came time for the Redemption Island player to re-enter the game and for the tribes to then merge. Things got even more interesting when Probst revealed that Redemption Island wasn’t, in fact, over: After the next elimination, that player would return to Redemption Island so we can start the whole shebang over again. I don’t know how this is going to play out—and I must admit to being skeptical about returning yet another player so far into the game—but the Redemption Island twist has been fairly innocuous so far, so it should be at least mildly amusing to watch. Also, if Matt makes it back in, he might actually be delirious enough to believe he is God by that point and go on some sort of divine rampage of retribution.

In the duel itself, Sarita challenged Matt in an endurance battle, and Matt’s win streak continued. Everyone rejoices but Rob, because Rob knows Matt might be ready to exact some revenge for his torch snuffing. The tribes come together in the typical “too many people in one place” manner. The highlight of the merge sequence is when the contestants are attempting to create a new tribe name, and Rob volunteers the oh-so-common Spanish word Murlonio, which he says means “from the sea united.” In reality, however, it’s actually the name of one of Amber’s stuffed animals. It’s the little things like this that make him so damn entertaining. Also, “from the sea united”? Every single one of them deserved to be tricked with a Balderdash definition like that one.

After Natalie won the immunity challenge, which features balancing and far more ball talk than should be allowed in the family hour, things really started to get compelling. Matt is Zapatera’s golden child, a chance for them to regain the numbers they lost and somehow get an upper hand on Ometepe, and so the tribe's former members give him the hard sell. Mike approaches Matt with a plan: He assumes he will be the one from Zapatera voted out, so they will all vote for Grant, and Ralph will use his immunity idol to negate all of Ometepe’s votes for Mike, taking Rob’s right hand man down in the process. It’s not a bad plan at all, but what Zapatera hasn’t learned yet is the wily nature of Boston Rob Mariano (and also not to trust people who believe they were placed on a reality show by a higher power to keep their mouths shut).

Matt seems to go along with the plan, but his guilt begins to get the best of him, and he decides to stick with Ometepe. His mistake was assuming Rob would understand all of his flip-flopping, and explaining his entire journey since the merge to Rob in detail, including the part where he was going to try to vote Rob out in like two years. Of course, this makes it certain Rob will never trust him again, and Rob begins to set the wheels in motion to vote out Matt. The one kink in the system might be Andrea: Will she be willing to vote out her closest ally yet again?

At Tribal, Zapatera got a good glimpse of just how insane Phillip can be, and Ralph played his immunity idol, thinking Mike was still the target. Unfortunately for him, the only people receiving votes were Grant, Steven and Matt, with Matt being sent to Redemption Island once again. Matt was honestly blindsided for a second time, which was far more amusing than it probably had any right to be. My one lingering question: Who voted for whom? I did some thinking, and here’s how I think the votes went down: Rob, Grant, Natalie, Ashley, Phillip, and Andrea voted for Matt; Matt voted for Steve; Mike, Ralph, Steve, David, and Julie voted for Grant.

The Zapatera members left Tribal still reeling from the blindside, and a little bit in awe of what Rob managed to do. If he didn’t have a target on his back from them before, I do believe he might just have one now. To that I say: Bring it on, because Rob with his back against the wall can only lead to more immensely entertaining episodes like this one.

Stray observations:

  • Matt truly believes he is on Survivor to honor God and that God’s master plan was for him to survive Redemption Island. I hope God planned for a return trip as well.
  • “This game respects big moves, and this is a huge move.”
  • “Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. So, about the same time as Survivor?”
  • “Any time a group of individuals likes the same thing, I don’t like that. It could be romantic comedies, it could be Oreo cookies. If they’re all liking it together, I want that broken up.”
  • “Genius is what that was.”
  • “What the hell, guys?”