The President got impeached.
As pretty much everyone on the show predicted, this week’s episode opened up with news that it was time for the merge – in this case, it was Solana who received the instructions to pack up whatever accoutrements they considered themselves likely to need for the next 22 days and head over to Aparri’s beach. As the boat containing the ex-Solanas approached Aparri’s camp, the existing residents were pretty excited – not because of the merge, particularly, or the prospect of getting to know the handful of people they hadn’t been on a tribe with yet, but mostly because the merge means FOOD. Sure enough, Solana brought a giant breakfast extravaganza with them and everyone sat down and broke bread together and everyone had a lovely party and they all lived happily ever after.
WRONG! [/judgejudyvoice] Before they’d even finished digesting the celebratory meal, everyone started to discuss the stability of their alliances and it immediately occurred to Sarah that she was in a position of power, because Solana came as a unit of five, and Aparri had a unit of five, and she was the swing vote in the middle. Obviously Sarah’s loyalties have had a sizeable question mark hanging over them for some time, as we all saw her form the Cops R Us alliance with Tony back at the beginning of the season, and it seemed entirely possible that Sarah would reunite with him at the merge – except he started shouting “TOP FIVE!” to his Solana-mates after their victory in last week’s immunity challenge, which left Sarah wondering about her place in that alliance, and whether she might be better of sticking with Aparri.
So far, so sane, and if Sarah had considered the gravity of her status as the swing vote a little more carefully, this could all have ended very differently, but instead she got totally drunk on the power right from the off, and overestimating your own importance to the game is one of the biggest mistakes you can make on this show. The biggest signal that Sarah was about to vastly overplay her hand was when she gave a confessional in which she informed us that she had complete control over the fate of all of the other players, and entirely without irony compared herself to the President.
It’s not that Sarah was particularly wrong to recognise herself as being in a position of power, because both alliances did spend a fair amount of time courting her vote, since whoever secures the numbers at this point potentially secures themselves control for the rest of the game. Sarah promised the Aparri that she would stay loyal and vote with them, but really wanted to use her leverage to get them to vote the way she wanted to, and her main aim was to really ding Solana by taking out a power player like Tony or LJ. It’s not a terrible idea in essence, but the rest of Aparri raised a fairly potent objection: there’s a good chance that one or both of those two might have an idol, and if they end up with all their votes getting cancelled out, then Solana will be able to take one of Aparri out and even out the numbers. Sarah, annoyed that anyone would dare to question the will of the President, spat at the utter ridiculousness of this idea and assured them all that there was no way that Tony or LJ had an idol. (Note: both Tony and LJ have idols.) The rest of Aparri suggested voting for Jefra instead, on the grounds that she was a) unlikely to have an idol of her own, and b) unlikely to have someone else play an idol for her, and that she’d be an easy boot for this week at least, because they could hopefully flush an idol out in the process and secure themselves a strong numbers advantage. Sarah, however, kept petitioning to target Tony or LJ, and Kass in particular was bristling at Sarah giving it the big.i.am (who I believe is will.i.am’s cousin). Tasha, as the leader of the alliance, attempted to broker peace between the two of them, as Sarah sniffled that she didn’t think Kass liked her very much, and Tasha responded with an impressively brutal piece of Survivor logic which basically amounted to “you don’t have to like each other, you just need to vote with each other”. Unfortunately, Kass didn’t read this as a transparent act of placating a wavering voter, and took it to mean that Tasha was all in with Sarah and didn’t care about Kass at all. Even more unfortunately, Tasha didn’t spot how unhappy Kass was, and so a minor dispute that could easily have been solved by quickly grabbing Kass one-on-one afterwards and saying “you know I didn’t mean any of that, right?” was allowed to fester. But more on that later.
The first individual immunity challenge was a familiar one – it involved the contestants balancing on an a-frame in the water, and having to move up the slats on the sides at regular intervals until they were balanced on the top. We saw this one recently in Survivor: Caramoan, except this time Jeff wasn’t offering incentives to get people to quit. Everyone managed fairly well at balancing themselves on the side slats, but it was balancing on the top of the frame that caused people to struggle – everyone was dropping like flies at that point, and the two left fighting for survival were Tony and Woo. Eventually, Tony took a tumble and Woo scored the first individual immunity. “Woo!” cried Woo.
With immunity sorted, it was time for the serious strategising to begin. Tony convinced his alliance that he could convince Sarah to join them. Trish, meanwhile, had overheard Kass grousing back at camp about Sarah’s bossiness, and put forward the idea that she might be able to talk Kass into flipping. King Tony, however, insisted that she should hold back until he’d had a chance to speak to Sarah. Tony’s strategy to win Sarah over essentially boiled down to “you know they’re just using you for numbers, you’ll be the first one to go home when they don’t need you any more”. While it’s arguably a valid point, it’s also an argument that could be made just as easily against Tony’s alliance, so while Sarah was tempted to flip, she wasn’t wholly convinced. Trish decided not to bother waiting for Tony to get back and instead went straight to Kass, gently pointing out that if she was feeling unappreciated in her current alliance, there was room for her in theirs and that they’d all be voting for Sarah, so all she needed to do was flip and Sarah would be gone. Now that is how you tempt someone to abandon their current connections and join you. Who would’ve predicted a couple of episodes ago (or indeed last week) that Trish had the capacity for subtle social gameplay?
Interestingly, Tribal Council turned out surprisingly short: all Probst had to do was ask about immunity idols, and Tony whipped his right out and asked Jeff to verify that it was real. Jeff did so, and Tony announced that he would be playing his that night – but not necessarily for him. This caused a big stir in the ex-Aparri alliance, as they started openly discussing right there and then who they would vote for, ended with Spencer announcing a little too loudly that they would vote for “the other one”. Probst was practically rubbing his hands with glee at this point and decided not to bother with the rest of the discussion and just get straight to the vote. Everybody voted, and once the votes were cast, Tony announced that he was going to play his idol for LJ, bragging loudly that he couldn’t wait to see if he’d read these guys correctly. Just as Probst was about to read the votes, LJ pulled out his own idol and played it for Tony. Probst then read the votes, and it turned out that “the other one” was in fact Jefra, and that Tony and LJ had not received a single vote each, and as such had essentially wasted their idols. However, Trish’s sweet-talking work and Kass flipped, meaning that Sarah was voted out 6-5 and became the first member of the jury. Sarah was most definitely blindsided, and didn’t seem to entirely know what she’d done to earn herself the boot. Tony pulled out a giant shit-eating grin because he’d got his way, even though he’d read the other alliance’s plans entirely incorrectly. Everyone immediately worked out that Kass had abandoned them, and Spencer had a very loud snit that Kass had just blown her chances of winning because nobody in that alliance would be giving her their vote at Final Tribal Council now. Kass just giggled and referred to herself as “Chaos Kass”, not for the first time that episode.
So it looks like the rest of the season could be quite interesting, because if Kass has flipped for good, then the ex-Solana alliance now have the numbers, and ex-Aparri are in serious trouble. But where exactly do Kass’s loyalties lie? I genuinely couldn’t tell you at this point.
Next week: unsurprisingly, Spencer REALLY hates Kass. Although we all found that out on Twitter weeks ago, so…