Jessica Johnston, Ashley Nolan, and Desiree Williams (Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc.)

Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

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  • The other tribes are worried about the merge for strategic reasons, but Levu is mostly worried that they are slowly starving to death. The producers make the most of it, turning their tale into a cinematic, soaring bit of misery. It’s the most entertaining bit of depression, and a good lead up to the inevitable merge sequence.
  • Sorry, the rest of this episode was a commercial for Outback Steakhouse so we can wrap this up. Goodnight!
  • Jessica has an idea to bring her current Yawa tribemates and the old Healers together to create a newer, stronger alliance, and she’s sure her team will prevail. “As long as no one tries to break away from the alliance, we’re good.” The foreshadowing is strong.
  • The merge means the return of old alliances like Ryan and Devon, or Ben and Chrissy. Ben and Chrissy reuniting is interesting, especially because Ben is still very adamant they work together in secret if possible. I love a good secret alliance, so I want this to work out.
  • The editors pointing out the idol clue that Cole so obviously missed is the best subtle shade.
  • Things quickly start to solidify into Ryan and Devon trying to get out either Cole or Joe, while Mike tries his hardest to make sure it doesn’t happen.This means Jessica’s sacred, strong alliance is already potentially in shambles because her Yawa tribemate Ben is the one who brings the idea to Mike to turn against Cole.
  • The first individual immunity challenge is balance adjacent, but the addition of the circular hot wheels track of death is at least a variation on the expected.
  • The Healers’ (plus Lauren) plan to counterattack is to all vote Chrissy, and the big question now is which way Ben will go.
  • Meanwhile, Chrissy’s alliance is so in fear of Joe and/or Cole having an idol that they shift their target to third in line: Jessica. That foreshadowing rears its ugly head again.
  • In the midst of a fairly calm Tribal, Joe pulls out his idol and proudly puts it around his neck as a weird show of trust wrapped in a show of mild aggression.
  • Joe ultimately winds up using the idol on himself, but the votes reveal he didn’t need to play it at all because all the non-Chrissy votes go to Jessica. I often get annoyed with idol paranoia, but that was perfectly played by the Chrissy/Ryan/Devon conglomerate.
  • After the monotony of the last few episodes, the shifting and sprawling gameplay of the merge was a more than welcome change. Let’s finally kick this season into gear.

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