Merica, we roll along.
Broing Solo: After the blindsiding of Joaquin, Escameca returned to their beach where Joe was good-humoured about his near-miss. (Joe seems to be good-humoured in everything, in kind of a bland way. I feel like he might still be the winner of this season, but he sure is dull right now. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course, but I feel like a drama-heavy season like this probably deserves a more vibrant winner.) Meanwhile, Rodney was silently stewing about being left out in the cold, and so – having hopefully learned a few lessons from their clear mishandling of Sierra after the Lindsey vote, Mike asks Rodney to go for a walk with him so they could smooth things out. Mike did his best to explain that they weren’t targeting Rodney and that the only reason they didn’t tell Rodney about the plan to vote Joaquin out was that they were worried it would get back to him. Every word of this is horseshit, and even Rodney wasn’t stupid enough to fall for it. Still, at least we did get a sullen confessional from Rodney about how he didn’t even care that much about his bromance anyway, and it wasn’t going to stop him winning. The only things missing were his PJs and a half-eaten tub of Cherry Garcia.
A More Perfect Union: With that out of the way, Treemail arrived to deliver the inevitable news that the merge was happening. Everyone turned up at the designated meeting point (and dear god I hope each tribe had a self-appointed leader marching ahead and brandishing an umbrella) expecting a challenge, only to find no challenge and no Jeff. Talk about win-win, right? Instead there was just a picnic hamper full of vittles, so everyone sat down to literally break bread, and while there was no obvious sizing up of their new peers, it was clear that things were about to get messy. Also, while this was going on, the production team took down their shelter, forcing them to build a new one, apparently just for the evulz.
And we weren’t short of examples: after the excising of Lindsey, Max and Joaquin, Carolyn had spotted that being in an obvious pair in this game puts a big target on your back, so stated in a confessional that she would need to keep her alliance with Tyler on the downlow. Fortunately, Tyler came to her to say much the same thing. Meanwhile, Jenn and Hali’s double act was going unnoticed (OR WAS IT) and Jenn was keen to pull in the former White Collars to vote alongside the former No Collars and take out the Blue Collars, because the Blues had a seemingly tight alliance of five. Indeed, the remaining Blue Collars were planning to stick together, but Rodney had a secret plan (revenge on his mind!) to pull over Will and Tyler and Kelly, and then once they’d culled the No Collars, he could use his new acolytes to take out Mike and Dan and get to the final four. That’s one hell of a specific long game to be playing in the merge episode, guy. And that’s without even getting into the idiocy of thinking you can use Kelly to stab Mike, considering how obvious their alliance was just last week. Elsewhere, Shirin was planning to be loyal to her new No Collar friends, and Jenn and Hali were willing to put up with Shirin’s more annoying tendencies because they believed she’d be loyal due to her general lack of other options. Meanwhile, Mike and Kelly renewed their commitment to each other, which didn’t go unnoticed by Jenn. Essentially, there were a whole lot of divided loyalties at play here, and the only things anyone was certain of was that there was a definite Blue Collar voting bloc and a definite No Collar voting bloc, and an unspecified number of floating voters in the middle that definitely included Tyler and Carolyn, and maybe also Will, who’d expressed to Rodney that he’d be willing to flip on his former tribemates.
The Name Shame: Oh, and of course they had to come up with a name for their merged tribe, and Mike decided on Merica. Yes, as in “America”, but without the A. As in, the way people pronounce it when they’re making fun of jingoistic rednecks. It’s awful and embarrasing, but it was all totally worth it for Shirin’s absolute horror at being lumbered with what she deemed to be the worst tribe name in the entire history of Survivor. She made a valid case, although I’d argue that Nobag, Ying Yang and Murlonio at least give it a run for its money. (I’m tempted to add Enil Edam from Caramoan, but at least that had the advantage of being Malcolm basically punking everyone else to give his mother a shoutout.) Anyway, Shirin’s lengthy (and hoo boy, I do mean lengthy) confessional where she made her distaste for this name very, very clear was hilarious, and if that’s the role that she’ll be playing going forward, I’m totally fine with that.
Pole Dancing: This week’s immunity challenge was the classic “grab on to a pole for as long as you can without touching the ground” version, and obviously short, heavy types like Dan and Will fell out of the running quickly, although the early exit of spindly Sierra was slightly more of a surprise. Midway through the challenge Jenn let out a piercing yell, and it turned out she’d been stung – though she did an impressive job of clinging on with one hand while she worked her way through the pain. It was quite funny to watch her quite obviously holding her hand over her inner thigh, right at the top, only for Probst to ask Jenn where she’d been stung and Jenn to yell back “where my hand is, Jeff!” Despite the sting, Jenn clung on until top three alongside Joe and Carolyn before dropping out. It was raining hard by this point and Carolyn was starting to slip, though Joe was impressively monkey-like in his ability to clutch the top of the pole and not let go. Eventually Carolyn couldn’t hold on any longer, and Joe clinched the first individual immunity of the season. (RIP the Mr Peanut trophy. We hardly knew ye.)
Divide And Conquer: This clearly came as a blow to the ex-Blue Collar alliance, who had clearly had their eyes on booting Joe ASAP. With that option off the table, Mike identified Jenn and Hali as the next power couple that needed to be separated. Rodney was keen to bring Will over to vote with them, but Mike was unsure whether Will was trustworthy. As a result, he agreed to let Will into the alliance but on the proviso that he would tell Will to vote for Hali while everyone else would vote for Jenn, so if a vote popped up with Hali’s name on it at the end, it would prove Will was trustworthy. (Of course, it would prove exactly the opposite about Mike to Will, but I guess that’s a problem for next week.) Mike then went off to court Tyler, who made it very clear that he had a degree of power as one of the swing votes, so Mike was going to need to make him a good offer regarding his future in the game if he wanted to secure Tyler’s vote. Meanwhile, things were eerily quiet among the ex-No Collars, leading Jenn to speculate that she and Hali would be targeted. Revealing to Hali that she had an idol, she explained that she just needed to know which of them was in the firing line so she could use the idol correctly. Meanwhile, Jenn, Hali, Joe and Shirin had their eye on Kelly, because they felt she was a core part of the ex-Blue Collar alliance, and generally felt she couldn’t be trusted.
All Together Now: As Merica (sigh) went for their first Tribal Council as a whole unit, Jeff was keen to know where the lines were drawn post-merge. Again, it was made clear that the ex-Blue Collar and No Collar alliances were strong, and it was just a case of how the former White Collars chose to vote. There were a few outliers here though, as Will was secretly plotting to flake on his former tribe, and Shirin spoke up to make it clear that she was definitely not a swing vote. I like that she did that, actually – I don’t know if it was necessarily the best gameplay move long-term, but I think she’s got a spot in the ex-No Collar alliance for as long as she wants it now. Also, there were a lot of bloodthirsty metaphors about the repercussions of this first vote, involving things like chainsaws and icepicks. It felt a bit like people talking how they think people on Survivor talk, rather than talking like actual people, so it got tiresome quite quickly.
We weren’t shown any of the votes this time, which is usually an indicator that something unpredictable and/or awesome is about to happen. In this case, it was Jenn deciding to play her idol for herself, saying that she didn’t want to go home tonight. Jeff started counting the votes, and when Will’s vote for Hali got pulled out first, Jenn cursed, briefly convinced she’d read the situation wrong. But then vote after vote after vote for Jenn poured out, all of them invalidated by the idol, and Jenn, Joe, Hali and Shirin started cackling righteously as Kelly went home with four votes out of 12. Damn, that was close. I was not ready to lose Jenn yet. But Rodney’s blurred-out mouth cursing when the vote doesn’t go his way will never not be funny.
Thoughts For Next Week:
– It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out, because while Jenn, Joe, Hali and Shirin have a clear numbers disadvantage, their bond seems far stronger than all of the mini alliances on the other side that could implode at any moment.
– Will has a right to be pissed that his alliance lied to him. Whether he will actually be, is another matter.
– Hopefully this is enough to convince Sierra to abandon those Escameca losers for good now, since they can’t even control a vote properly.
– Per the trailer for next week, Rodney and Will are more than ready to flip on Mike, and the hunt for an idol seems to cause Mike to slide into a k-hole. This should be fun.