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Survivor: “This Is Where We Build Trust”

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Now that was an entertaining bit of Survivor insanity. It’s always fun to watch a tricky plan come together, but sometimes it’s even more fun to watch a tricky plan fall apart. This is especially true if the plan falls apart spectacularly in the midst of Tribal Council like it does here. When the frantic whispers start, you know you’re in for a good time.

Let’s start with the plan, because it’s a doozy: Reed knows his alliance is in trouble, so he cooks up a plan to trick the other alliance into splitting their votes so his alliance can then vote for Jon and get him out of the game. It’s a good plan—and a fun plan—if it works, and going into Tribal Council it really seems like it is going to work. The biggest supporter of Reed’s plan turns out to be Missy, who fully believes Reed is willing to sell out what used to be his alliance for no reason. She even mollifies a skeptical Jon, who doesn’t really understand why Reed would vote with them but ends up believing it anyway. Alec even helps, assuring Missy and Jon that he is 100 percent voting with the majority alliance (and Alec is the worst liar ever, so Jon and Missy really wanted to believe this lie).

It’s all going splendidly until Tribal, when talk turns to how no idol has been played in the game yet and the suspicious nature of all the people who felt safe enough to step down in the Immunity challenge. Reed—who has calibrated things pretty darn smoothly up until this point—makes the point that he doesn’t quite understand why Wes stepped down so readily, and wonders if Keith and Wes are sharing an idol. This would be classic misdirection, if Keith could read between the lines at all and see it as that. Instead, Keith takes it as a challenge to his own game and blurts out “Stick to the plan!”

Up until this point the episode had been very strong, full of scheming, decent challenges, a fun reward, and even some humor, but this is the point the episode went from good to great. The second Keith makes this mistake, you can see Reed’s entire life in Survivor flashing before his eyes, because he knows he’s sunk. Reed immediately starts whispering to the other alliance to assuage their questions. Jaclyn starts whispering, asking her alliance if they trust Reed. It’s gorgeous, gorgeous chaos, the kind of thing that keeps Survivor such a vital reality format even after so many seasons.

Still, at this point there seems to be hope for Reed’s plan, as a last-minute whisper indicates everyone is sticking to their original votes. It’s Natalie’s suggestion to Jon he play his idol that changes everything, and wisely, Jon takes her advice. (Jon tends to take the advice of the last person that talks to him every time, which is becoming a valid game strategy at this point for him.) Knowing he’s sunk if none of the votes for Jon count, Keith plays his idol—but first, he sort of halfheartedly offers it to Wes in his place. Wes refuses, and thus Wes is voted out. It’s a wacky, fun time—just look at the faces of Reed and Jeremy in the jury, they can hardly contain their glee—and it all essentially happens because Keith isn’t very good at the strategy part of the game. Reed gives an all-time great facial expression performance at this moment, as you can see his hope of turning the game around drain from his face in one quick moment. It is great television.

But the biggest play of the episode might belong to Natalie, who gets blindsided by the vote going against her yet again but can read the room enough to suggest to Jon that he use his idol. Without this, Jon goes home with an idol in his pocket and the game is completely different. For someone who wanted to get Jon out in the next vote anyway, this is a pretty bold thing for her to do. Or is it stupid? If she says nothing in that moment, Jon could go home and she could try to instead rework her strategy from there. Instead, she kept the acknowledged alpha male in the game, in the hope she can get him out in the future. It’s a good thing she has that idol in her pocket, because I have a feeling she’s going to need it.


Stray observations:

  • Is Reed officially the first person to ever be bestowed an Immunity necklace while doing a split?
  • I liked both challenges this week, and I especially appreciated that they had the food temptations to break up the monotony of those boring “stand in one place” Immunity challenges. Jon needs to aim higher, though, because the majority of that candy was like jellybeans. Hold out for more chocolate, dude.
  • Natalie is the only person left with an idol, and as far as we know Baylor (and probably Missy, I guess) is the only person who knows about it. Interesting.
  • I am not sure we needed a report on the status of Jaclyn’s reproductive system, but that segment sort of cemented for me that either Jon or Jaclyn is making it all the way to the end.
  • Wes was on fire tonight. Between “I ate 58 chicken nuggets in five minutes in an eating contest once,” “You gotta risk it to get the biscuit,” and reminiscing with Probst about his naked appearance on Two And A Half Men, at least he went out on an entertaining note.