The game seemed simple; it was everyone versus Mike… (Dan in confessional telling us that Mike is still there only because he won immunity) …but below the surface, there was so much more:
- Dan won an advantage in the game.
- Both Carolyn and Mike had immunity idols.
Meanwhile, birthday boy Rodney started to self-destruct. (We heard him say that he was pissed off at Mama C.).
Carolyn considered teaming up with Mike. (Carolyn’s interview told us she thought it could be time to join forces).
At the last immunity challenge, Carolyn won her second immunity in a row.
At Tribal Council, Mike played his idol forcing the majority alliance of six to finally turn on each other. In the end, they voted out Tyler. Now Mike is left without any protection.
This recap was not only about Mike like the previous ones. Carolyn’s story was also highlighted yet we didn’t hear that it was her decision to target Tyler, her closest ally. It seems that such a big move would have been recalled to the viewers’ attention if it was going to be part of the winner’s résumé.
As for Rodney, I found it hilarious to see a repeat of the confessional that he gave under a dark cloud. It was as if the rain was pouring only on him. Poor guy!
When Jeff said that six were left, we saw them sitting on their stumps, but Will was left in the dark corner. I know he was the farthest from the fire, but the council area is like a television studio that has been used over and over again. Are we to believe that no one figured how to set the lights properly? It looked like the seating arrangement and the lighting were done to make us forget that Will was even there.
Advantage? What Advantage?
The snake was already lurking and it was going to have a big night.
Mike’s confessional: “Tribal tonight was a whole lot of fun for me because I finally got to break apart the six. Because I played my idol tonight, I could be vulnerable, so to secure my spot, I either need to find another idol or I need to win immunity the rest of the time out.”
In camp, Dan was having problems lighting the fire, so Mike offered his help but Dan continued to try on his own.
Dan’s confessional: “E-VE-RY BO-DY wants Mike gone because Mike has already proven that he is selfish and that he is self-centered and… you know something?… to his credit, he dropped an atomic bomb and he whipped out the immunity idol, but all Mike gets his one free pass. That’s all he’s getting. I have zero interest in working with Mike at this point. Mike, he has to be the hero. It’s the fact that he is so arrogant and he’s so condescending. The hell with Mike, the hell with his idol; at the end of the day, I’m in a position of power because I have an advantage in this game which is an extra vote at a Tribal Council. Besides, I’ve teamed up with Carolyn, Sierra, Will and Rodney and I genuinely hope that the five of us take Mike out of this game.”
Finally, the fire caught and Dan exclaimed: “Ha! I win.” To Mike, he said: “Every now and then, somebody else likes to win a shot, Mike.”
Dan was wrong this time, but will Mike’s run last? If we consider all of Mike’s faults, Dan has a point, but we also see that the mailman is selfish and condescending himself, so should he really be offended by Mike’s behavior?
We then saw Dan telling Carolyn that he was with her and that his word was his bond.
Carolyn’s confessional: “I don’t trust Dan because Dan is the biggest threat other than Mike in this game because Dan’s advantage is a very huge threat in the game. I have my idol so that saves me for one, but that doesn’t get me to the Final Four or the Final Three, so I need Mike to solidify. God forbid something happens with that side, I want options.”
Out by the ocean, Carolyn talked to Mike, telling him Dan had to go and revealing the nature of his advantage.
Mike didn’t understand what she meant by “an extra vote”, so she explained.
Mike’s confessional: “I love my new little angel, Carolyn, because I know what Dan’s advantage is now. I hope that she feels like she can trust me and that we can move forward and work together a little bit to eliminate some bigger threats in this game.”
Is Mike forgetting that his new angel is fast becoming a threat herself? Carolyn wasn’t about to let us forget.
Carolyn’s confessional: “I am smack in the middle. I got stuff working on here and I got stuff working over there. So, of course, I’m going to tell him what he wants to hear, but if Mike doesn’t win immunity: Gotta Go! Ha! Ha!”
Carolyn ended the scene saying: “It could be the turning point of the game.”
The question that we have to answer is the following: Which story is used to distract us from the winner’s story? Did the editors’ focus the season’s story on Mike in order to present Carolyn as a surprise winner? Are they using Carolyn’s smart gameplay to make us question our earlier perception that Mike was our winner? A case could be made for each and I would say that Carolyn is playing a much better game than Mike. However, Mike’s story has been consistent from the start and Carolyn’s big move against Tyler was ignored in the recap and in the opening scene. If we closely analyze Carolyn’s confessional about her options and how Mike has to go if he loses immunity, we see that it follows the trend of highlighting one player after another in their opposition to Mike. She was simply considering her options at the moment and targeting Mike, so the confessional seemed to have been cut short. Carolyn must have talked about her previous decision, given some details about her options and her preferences, but that wasn’t presented. Like Joe, Hali, Jenn, Shirin and Tyler, it seems like Carolyn will fall short as Mike forges ahead.
The Reward Challenge
Of all the cameras that had to be filming the “guys’” entrance, they used the one that was focused on Carolyn’s determined look.
After telling them about the chopper ride and the surf ‘n’ turf, Jeff put salt in Rodney’s wound, pointing out that he was the only one that hadn’t won a reward yet.
Rodney said he wasn’t feeling good, and that he was tired of being on the same beach.
Jeff asked if he really thought someone would give him their reward.
Rodney said he was hoping for it.
Jeff called it entitlement and turned to Mike saying a reward should be earned.
Mike said Rodney was struggling, but that he just had to win. “If you win, you go on it, guaranteed.”
That is Mike’s own recipe to the Final Three. Will he follow it to the end?
The teams were Dan, Sierra and Rodney against Carolyn, Mike and Will.
This challenge started out with a race that proved to be quite unnecessary, yet it showed once more Rodney making a mistake, going to the puzzle board before his team had finished collecting the pieces. It also showed Mike working for the team, helping Carolyn over an obstacle and telling them what to do with the letters.
Once the two teams got to the puzzle board, the challenge died. Sierra figured the word “reward” quickly and we saw Mike and Carolyn looking over at their opponents’ board which Jeff clearly called cheating. Everyone started hiding their pieces so no one made any progress. Sierra figured “fixin’” but forgot the S. Rodney managed to make us laugh by proposing: “A reward that will fix wishin’.”
They reached the one hour mark and I had visions of Becky and Sundra at the fire challenge.
Jeff started giving them hints.
The crew’s break was probably overdue.
Sierra said she didn’t want to listen to Jeff, but Carolyn figured the hints.
As soon as Jeff told them they had won, Carolyn started looking over at Rodney who tried to put a guilt trip on her. She needed time to decide, so Jeff pointed out that Rodney could give her his vote in the end or he could find the energy to win a challenge and get rid of her. Carolyn decided to keep her reward.
I found it strange that Will wasn’t asked if he wanted to give up his reward.
Carolyn’s confessional: “I do feel bad for Rodney that he hasn’t won a reward and I’ve been on every reward except for one. I hope he doesn’t take it too personally, but this is my Survivor experience as well.”
We got to see a bit of the scenery for once.
Mike: “I’ve never been on a helicopter before in my entire life and it was epic.”
Will: “It was absolutely stunning. I am really by a volcano that is steaming right now. It’s going to be etched in my memory forever.”
Mike pointed out that they had one representative from each collar.
Carolyn: “I’ve been blessed to be on a lot of different rewards but the helicopter ride is the greatest reward ever. There is no word to describe how fabulous it really is.”
Mike said: “…There, all the food you want or need to get yourself through the rest of this game.”
Carolyn was on screen when Mike said that so does it apply to her or him? One of them is making it to the end but which?
Mike made a Final Three proposal to Carolyn and Will. Carolyn liked the idea since they would have every collar but Will hesitated. He told Mike that he had thought of a Final Three with Mama C. but not with him since he was public enemy number one.
Carolyn in interview: “Mike brought up the pitch that Mike, me and Will go to the Final Three which was interesting because I could really work with him. It would be a big move but it could be the wrong move.”
Will’s interview: “Mike is scrambling because he knows he’s next on the chopping block. He’s the biggest threat still in the game and you got to get rid of your biggest threats.”
Mike made a plea: “Please, do not let Rodney beat me in this game.”
Even Will said that Rodney was getting on his nerves. Mike said he was the only Survivor who tried to guilt everyone in giving up a reward.
Mike’s request about not letting Rodney win could foreshadow one of three outcomes: Mike and Rodney could make it to the end together and they vote for Mike, making sure Rodney doesn’t beat him; Carolyn could beat Rodney and become Sole Survivor; or the three reward winners eventually work together to eliminate Rodney. Which is it? The last option is very unlikely and could only happen if Will suddenly realizes that he has to do something to present to the jury. If we disregard this option, we are left with the same two alternatives.
Mike’s interview: “I don’t know honestly exactly where Carolyn’s head’s at. I’m hoping that it’s with me, but if she’s not with me and she’s with them, I got to win the immunities to stay in this game.”
There were no hints of a new idol tucked in Mike’s napkin or anywhere else during that reward.
Rodney: “Carolyn screwed me over on my birthday and she went back on her word today. Guess what, Mama C.? Maybe I shouldn’t take this personally, but I am. Once Mike is out of here, you are out of here. Revenge is going to be sweet.”
Dan’s interview: “Everybody is hungry, really hungry, and given the fact that they are on a surf ‘n’ turf helicopter reward, it sure would be nice to find some food.”
We saw Dan prodding around some bushes.
For a moment, I feared that he was going to pull up a new idol.
He found two melons or what looked like melons. Dan wasn’t sure, but he was determined to eat them.
Now I was hoping the fruits would give all three food poisoning and they would have to be taken out of the game. It would have made for a long 2-hour finale, but maybe they would have shown us some hospital scenes!
Rodney: “All of a sudden, Dan-O comes up with two pieces of fruit. That felt like I won a reward. That was the whole enchilada for Rodney…So, Mike, you want to battle with me? Let’s do it. I’m ready to battle. I’ll go toe-to-toe with anybody in this game and in real life. I’m coming at you full force…You better watch out.”
The next challenge would show us exactly what Rodney at full force meant. If it wasn’t for Carolyn, then we’d know for sure that Mike would win in the end because Rodney is certainly no match.
It started with Tree Mail.
Dan’s interview: “If Mike wins the next immunity, once again, the five that are left are going to have to turn on each other. We can’t have that. Mike cannot win the next immunity challenge, period, end of story.”
Before going to the challenge, Mike talked with Sierra, telling her that Dan could only beat Rodney and Will so he wasn’t taking her or Carolyn to the end. Sierra realized the three guys could be top three.
Sierra: “Mike makes a good point: Dan has an advantage, and he may use it to get me out; he may use it to help get me further. You never know what Dan is going to do, but if Mike doesn’t win immunity, he has to go. I don’t want to be sitting next to Mike in the end. That would be shooting myself in the foot. He is bound to lose eventually, so he will be going home.”
The Immunity Challenge
Rodney was hilarious. The guy who wanted to be Tom Brady couldn’t even make a throw. I thought he may hook his own foot instead of his bags. All he could do was encourage everyone else to beat Mike.
Dan was also funny, turning into China’s Denise during the maze portion of the challenge. “I suck at life.”
Jeff said that Mike was very close to the end, but there were still many pitfalls ahead.
That sums up Mike’s game as well as the challenge.
It came down to Mike and Sierra, both manoeuvring their ball into the inner circle. Mike’s ball kept lipping out, but it finally fell in place.
After giving Probst a fist bump, Mike gave an interview: “Inside of me it was like the 4th of July in the middle of Texas, fireworks going off everywhere and music playing loud because this little necklace right here says one of those five is going home tonight, and it’s not me.”
The music that accompanied this confessional sounded heroic. While encouraging for Mike, this could also signal that he peaked too early. The fireworks should be on day 39, not 35.
Dan’s confessional: “Good lord! This guy is unbeatable. Mike lives another day. The alliance always knew that we would have to turn on each other, and in my pecking order, Carolyn was next on the chopping block. She’s kicked ass in challenges, she’s been personable, so she’s got to go.”
Dan checked with Rodney, Will and Sierra and they all agreed. Sierra told Dan that they were using his name as a decoy to the others.
Sierra in confessional: “It looks like it’s Carolyn who is going home tonight but Dan is a huge threat because of his advantage. If we are playing this game like we played it the whole time to get rid of the huge threats, maybe we need to get rid of Dan.”
Sierra doesn’t see that she has no place in Rodney, Will and Dan’s Final Three. Mike and Carolyn were going to do her a huge favor, but will she do anything about it?
Mike and Carolyn came back to camp while Dan went out to get firewood.
Rodney asked Mike and Carolyn if they were good voting for Dan. They agreed.
That chair really looks like Rodney’s throne.
Mike’s confessional: “Their little family is turning on Dan. Everyone is saying: Vote Dan, vote Dan, vote Dan. Well, if they all want Dan gone, it makes me pause and think: What if I get rid of one of them instead? Just to completely mess with their plans and not go along with what they want done.”
Mike walked off to tell Dan that his alliance was gunning for him. He added: “You are going home tonight unless I change something.”
Dan’s confessional: “Mike has the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to look at me and say: I can save you. I have the power to save you…I’m running out of time to use my advantage and I’d rather go out swinging than watching the third strike go by me.”
Dan told Mike that he didn’t believe him.
Mike’s interview: “Dan wasn’t shaken at all. He was uppity; he doesn’t feel like he is going home. The only thing that I can figure out is that Dan wants to take Will and Rodney to the end because those are the only two people that he can beat. If I am right and he’s not going home tonight, then it’s one of the girls.”
Right then, we saw a snake uncoil and catch a little animal. It seemed to be telling us that Mike had caught the alliance’s lie.
We joined Carolyn talking to Sierra saying: “If the boys are telling the truth, which I honestly believe they are, that they are going to vote for Dan…”
Interrupting them by jumping in and scaring Sierra, Mike told Carolyn and Sierra to look in the shelter to see who was sleeping next to each other: Dan and Rodney. He wisely pointed out: “That tells you everything you need to know about Tribal tonight. Who feels safe; who doesn’t. That right there (pointing to Rodney and Dan napping) is the Survivor code for: “I ain’t going nowhere; I don’t need to do nothing. Dan is voting one of you two tonight with the boys; one million percent. (Pointing to Carolyn) I think it’s you tonight.”
When Mike jumped in and scared Sierra, he looked like the snake that had just caught its prey. For me, this scene tipped the scale in favor of Mike over Carolyn. It made him look smart while she unwisely trusted the boys. He figured out Dan’s mood and realized that Carolyn was the real target. This scene lets us say that Mike saved Carolyn who was going to leave with an idol in her pocket if it hadn’t been for his warning. Mike may be psycho and paranoid, but it is working for him.
As soon as he walked out, Carolyn told Sierra: “I think Mike is psycho. I think he’s paranoid. That’s what got him in this position in the first place.”
Shaking her head, Sierra quickly agreed: “I think so.”
Carolyn in confessional: “I want to believe that they are voting for Dan, but what if they don’t vote for Dan? What if Mike is right? It could be Will, Rodney and Dan, Final Three. They could be screwing us over and this is where I am really racking my brain is: Do I trust them? I don’t want to waste my idol, and if I really believe that they are going to vote for Dan, then I can save it for one more vote.”
Shirin was all smiles when she took her seat, probably happy to see that Mike had immunity.
A probing Probst asked Mike if he saw signs that this group trusted each other.
Mike said that a couple people probably didn’t feel they were trusted, but that they had a common enemy in himself. “When you have a common enemy, it’s easy to bond with other people, but tonight one of the alliance is going home.”
Asked about trust, Rodney couldn’t come up with an answer. Blaming fatigue and starvation, he asked the host to repeat his question. He said that it was tough to constantly be with the same people, but he hoped he could trust the people in his alliance.
Carolyn told Jeff that she wanted to trust them but knew her head was on the chopping block. “People are telling you what you want to hear because they are scrambling, so I am very, very nervous tonight.”
Dan agreed with Jeff that Carolyn has proven herself in challenges but that she wasn’t the only one with her head on the chopping block. He pointed out that his advantage was a threat in the game. He knew it was lame to say it, but he wondered if he should make a move or wait.
The camera showed us Tyler right after Dan talked about making a move or not. He has become their definition for hesitation.
Will said he was nervous about Dan’s advantage while Rodney compared it to using strong arm tactics.
Sierra told Jeff that no one wants to walk out the door with something in their bag that they could have played.
Dan said: “Tonight may be an excellent night to use it, but the next Tribal Council may be even better…I’m going back and forth… but I don’t know what the right thing to do is.”
It was time to vote.
When Jeff said he was going to tally the votes, Dan stopped him and said he wanted to use his advantage. Jeff explained that there would be seven votes cast.
Jeff returned with the urn and asked if anyone wanted to play an immunity idol.
Carolyn told him she didn’t want to take any chances, so she took the idol out of her bag and handed it to Jeff.
Mike was smiling, Dan and Rodney were shaking their heads, and Tyler, Shirin and Jenn were enjoying this. Returning to her seat, Carolyn gave Mike a high five.
Mike started clapping as soon as Jeff turned the first vote against Carolyn. His joy as well as Carolyn’s increased with the 4 that followed while Rodney and Dan were stewing.
Carolyn and Shirin exchanged smiles when Dan picked up his torch.
Jeff’s last words: “We started this game with three tribes, and 35 days later, representatives from each tribe are still left in the game. It is anybody’s game to win.”
It would seem that Dan’s advantage cost him the game. It’s likely that he didn’t bid on any food items and paid $480 only to get voted out. First, it’s certain that he was seen as a threat ONLY because of that advantage. If it wasn’t for it, then it’s probable that Rodney would have been eliminated in his place. But it’s also possible that Carolyn played her idol only because Dan stopped Jeff and went to the voting booth a second time. The editors want us to believe that it was Mike that alerted her to the danger she faced, but it didn’t seem to be enough. Carolyn thought Mike was being paranoid and she still wanted to keep her idol for the next TC. From her perspective, Dan had already been a target, so she had reasons to believe Rodney. Dan even said that he didn’t want to see the third strike go by without playing his advantage, something that must have reminded Carolyn of all the players that left with an idol in their pocket.
Will: The forgotten one regularly sits on the throne to Rodney’s right, but he looks more like a bench warmer than a real player. At this stage of the game, Will should realize that he isn’t anyone’s target for a reason, but I bet he’s still worried about making it to the end. If he sees through the fogs of war, he should realize that his problem isn’t getting there but what to say when the big moment comes. He’d need someone to knock some sense into him, but his allies are happy with his docility and he isn’t about to listen to Mike. At this late stage, his only chance to have a case to present to the jury is to flip on Rodney or to beat Mike in a challenge. Neither seems likely.
Rodney: With Dan’s elimination, Rodney lost the goat that he needed to have a real shot at the title. As the leader of the “Three Stooges” he would have received the majority of the votes even if no one would have been happy with that result. It’s evident that Mike’s success is deeply troubling him because Rodney couldn’t even make a decent throw in the challenge or give Jeff a simple answer. In a macabre way, it’s interesting to observe the deconstruction of this once proud player. Now, in addition to Mike, he also has to deal with Carolyn who stands in his way. Will he be so angry with her that he switches target? The jury’s reaction, including Shirin’s, must have told him that Carolyn is a huge threat to win.
Sierra: The events worked marvellously for Sierra, even if she had no idea of what was going on. A seat opened up in Rodney’s Final Three, and he will need her vote if they are going to get rid of both Mike and Carolyn. The problem for Sierra is that one of Mike and Carolyn will assuredly be there at Final Four, and while her latest challenge performance was encouraging, she hasn’t shown that she can beat either yet.
Carolyn: As I noted above, Carolyn is definitely playing the best game down the stretch just like Natalie last season. It could be enough to earn her the title of Sole Survivor, but we don’t seem to be following her story as closely as we usually do with winners, even the late surging Natalie. We didn’t hear her thoughts on Tyler’s elimination and we only heard that she has options. The details are being left out of her confessionals, so they sound like they are used only for the moment, for the episode’s suspense, and not for the long term story.
Mike: The main question remains: Can Mike win his way to the end if he doesn’t find anyone to work with him? Eliminating Dan meant that he also lost any chances of getting Sierra to make a move since she is now firmly in the alliance’s top three. Rodney has been repeatedly humiliated in challenges, so he is well past the point where he could think that he should join him since he can’t beat him. Will is a lost cause because his only concern is making it to the end even if he should be the least concerned about it.
However unlikely it seems, Mike only needs to win two more challenges and this episode gave us hints that he may do it. More than just Dan saying: “He is unbeatable” we have to look at the presentation to realize that Mike is shown “Outwitting” his opposition. If he wins his way to the end, many viewers will say that he was simply lucky, that he wasn’t a smart player at all but that his opposition was so pathetic that he waltzed into the Final Three. To counter that, Mike was presented as the snake that caught the prey when he realized that the alliance was lying to him. His quick reaction and his knowledge of the game saved Carolyn who was walking blindly into the alliance’s trap. That is, if we limit ourselves to the edited story.
There’s also the possibility that the alliance will suddenly figure that Carolyn is the biggest threat. It would be interesting to see what happens if neither Mike or Carolyn wins immunity. It seems obvious that Mike would be voted out, but even Shirin said “Wow” when Jeff was turning all those votes against Carolyn, the ones that humiliated Rodney even more. She could suddenly become public enemy number one. I’d like to see Mike turn to Rodney and say something like: “Everyone on the jury thinks I’m going psycho-crazy, but Carolyn is very personable. She should be your first concern.” Maybe it would be better to use Shirin’s tactic and tell everyone that Carolyn has his vote once he is voted out, adding that everyone was very impressed with her.