Matt Liguori analyzes the Survivor: Island of the Idols cast each week to pick out which players make up his top three and bottom two, as well as identifying one player we should keep an eye on.
Survivor: Island of the Idols Week 7
Previously on… Sur54
It’s finally merge time! These pre-merges feel longer and longer, which may have something to do with last season’s pre-merge seemingly never-ending. But here we are on the heels of a merge in a season that has been very fun so far! I’ve had mixed emotions as each episode passes by, but overall I think I’m pointing thumbs up.
As for the twist? It’s always going to be fun for me to see Rob and Sandra, but they’re really not getting a chance to shine in the way they do when they’re actually playing the game. The duo has been living it up in their island palace while enjoying the show at Tribal and messing with the newbies before giving out some advantages. Funny enough, the season is called “Island of the Idols” and we’re entering the merge with zero immunity idols in the game.
Last week’s boot was the young lad of 2019, Jack Nichting. Jack was having a hell of a time on his Survivor experience. It stood out to me in the earlier episodes how much he was enjoying himself, so I’m glad he had a good time despite his game not unfolding in the way he probably would’ve liked. Plus, the guy somehow lucked his way onto the jury. An unexpected Mayor of Ponderosa, Jack will be on our screens for the final few weeks of the season and I’m sure finding that out helped relieve the sting in a big way.
I’m very excited about this week’s blog because for the first time this season (and the first time in a while) I’m not alone! This week to preview the merge, I’ve brought in David vs. Goliath standout and Twitter comedic legend, Gabby Pascuzzi! Gabby knows a thing or two about how to rank players having spent all last season competing against Gordon Holmes in his Power Rankings, so I’m very excited she’s here to share some thoughts on the latest class of Survivor newbies ahead of their big merge.
REMINDER: Rotate your phone sideways to read our thoughts side-by-side!
I can only hope the rest of this season goes as well for Kellee as this week did. Kellee pulled out all the stops with a three-step idol play that ensured Dean’s safety and took out a player who had stronger connections in many other places. As impressive as the move was, the question now becomes “Who will find out Kellee was behind that and how mad will they be?” Luckily the merge brings on wildly new game dynamics and this move could easily be forgotten about as the number of people going to Tribal Council is about to double.
I can’t get over how impressed I am at Kellee for every single step of her plan this week, and I can’t thank the editors enough for telling us the story from the second Kellee thought up the idea mid-confessional through her perfect execution.
Between Janet’s emotional speech on how she’s dealt with gender issues during her life, and the spontaneous tata flashing, I now declare myself a Stanet. It was conservative of her to decide not to play the game: the last time she could use the advantage—final seven—is a long way away, and she may not feel as safe then. But what I like is that Janet is playing her game and recognizes the role she is playing in her tribe: the trustworthy team player. That self-awareness of how you are perceived and how you may be perceived in the future will do you a world of good in the game.
Coming back to camp from voting out Jason, Lauren felt especially betrayed by Missy; Missy went right to work and ensured her that for her own game, Lauren can’t go anywhere. Missy has been all about strong women working together when possible since the day 1 and having that narrative to fall back on was perfect in a spot like this. Later on, Lauren and Tommy threw Dan under the bus to save themselves, but Missy again proved why she’s so good at Survivor having sniffed out their intentions immediately.
Going into the merge, Missy is extremely well-connected. After seven episodes she and Kellee are by far the players I’m most impressed by and this spot in the top 3 is well deserved.
Missy’s reads on people are so good. She put in the work to repair her alliance with Lauren, but correctly identified Lauren and Tommy as a tight pair. She also saw through their ploy to throw Dan under the bus for what it was: a distraction from their duo. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security, but Missy is staying vigilant about people’s ulterior motives. If she is able to wrangle her various alliances together after the merge, she could run a powerful group.
Janet is breaking records this season as the oldest woman to ever make a Survivor merge, so let’s start with a round of internet applause for that. Since the game began, Janet’s sat in a great spot within her tribe. She’s always been trusted by her allies and this week we saw that she realizes how great of a spot she’s been in when she became the only player thus far to decline an offer at the Island of Idols. The advantage was to allow her ensured safety for a round by leaving Tribal Council, but it also meant she wouldn’t get to vote that night. I think Janet made the right call and as we saw from everything that ensued at Tribal, there’s plenty of love for her and she’s likely not in much danger soon anyways.
The merge is about to be filled with some big players taking shots at each other and I think Janet will be able to hide out until the war is over, when she can emerge at the final 7 or 6 with a straight shot to the final 3. If anyone can overcome the recent struggles older women have faced in winning a jury vote, it’s Janet.
Not wanting her idol to go to waste, Kellee devised an ingenious plan to save her new ally Dean, while also puppeteering who went home when he played the idol. And she did that all without having to stick her neck out herself. The question is how much longer her strategic prowess can remain a secret, as both Dean or Noura could spill the beans.
Beyond her excellent strategy, I hope future players take heed of what Kellee explained so eloquently about gender in Survivor: we don’t otherize male behavior the way we do female behavior. We call out women’s alliances, but we don’t call a group of strong men shielding each other a “men’s alliance.” An all-female final three is surprising, yet an all-male final three wouldn’t cause a stir—or less abstractly, observe the recent pattern of the final three consisting of two men and one woman who’s already been deemed a goat, or unable to win.
And to those who are unhappy that Survivor is raising issues like race and gender—I’ve got news for you about the show you’ve been watching for twenty years. It’s a social experiment, and these are social issues that we all navigate daily in the real world. If that’s shocking to you, it’s not a sign that the issues don’t exist, it’s a sign that you’re privileged enough that you’ve never had to notice.
It would be greatly appreciated if Dan would get voted out sometime soon. It’s not very fun having a weekly check-in with the women of the game hearing how uncomfortable this guy has made them. Dan hasn’t appeared in the bottom two every week of this season, but he may as well have with the perception of him not having changed at all since day 1.
The first vote after a merge lately has been somebody that everyone can agree on, regardless of alliances or original tribe, and Dan could fall right into that category.
Dan’s entire story arc revolving around being creepy and disregarding personal space? In this feminist economy? Kellee told Dan early on that his lack of personal space was not sitting well with her, yet halfway into the game, Dan still hasn’t seemed to have internalized that feedback. Now he’s not only made the original Vokai ladies uncomfortable, but everyone on nu-Vokai as well. Not a whole lot of people left to work with.
I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see Tommy down here, because neither did I. This red chicken quickly lost control when Jason was blindsided and now all he has left seems to be Lauren. His relationship with Janet was solid early on, but having only two allies aren’t going to be enough votes if Elaine and Missy can round-up the votes and put their plan to target Tommy into action. He and Lauren went to Missy and friends last week to throw Dan under the bus, but those talks might’ve only reinforced the idea that Tommy is dangerous and needs to go.
With Jack off at Ponderosa, Tommy really needs to make some friends, fast. He’s not the kind of player that will be able to slip on by through an entire post-merge without a strong alliance by his side.
I don’t think Jamal played badly this past week. Sometimes in Survivor, you have to play with the limited information you were given, and that might end up being bad information. It doesn’t mean your move was bad.
Jamal played his idol on Noura based on the information he had, which was that Dean was voting for Noura. If he had been correct, it would have been a solid move, garnering him an ally in Noura. Unfortunately, he was one step behind, and is now vulnerable after losing both his idol and his closest ally at the latest Tribal Council.
Dean is the biggest free agent entering the merge. Having been burned by almost every single player from both tribes these first few weeks, Dean has absolutely nobody he’s expected to be loyal to aside from Kellee. So where does the detective go from here? Will he link back up with his old tribe who technically never wrote his name down? Or does he just follow Kellee’s lead wherever she wants to go? Maybe it ends up being Dean who both tribes agree on being happy to let go of, with Kellee unable to do anything to save him a second time. Lots of reasons to make Dean this week’s one to watch.
Ever notice how in modern Survivor, there’s an early target that gets votes nearly every tribal, then suddenly that person is safe? Karishma went from being on the bottom of her original tribe to being integrated into the nu-Lairo ladies, and no one has brought up her name in a while. It seems she was able to connect better with her new tribemates, or perhaps they just see her strategic value as an outsider. After the merge, people who aren’t challenge threats start looking good to keep around. Karishma may have found new life in the game.