Survivor: Kaoh Rong

Episode 7 – We Need Nick!

Previously on Survivor

This season has been a test of will.

With perseverance, Neal, Tai and Jason each found an idol but Scot knew about Tai and Jason’s.

Scot: “If you put them together, it becomes super-idol.”

At the Chan Loh tribe, Beauty was making allies with Brains…

Michele: “Debbie is my best option.”

…and Brawn.

The camera showed Jason and Nick bonding.

But they were torn on which way to go.

Michele was heard telling Nick they should go with Debbie, but Nick didn’t like the idea.

At the last immunity challenge, “Debbie has it. Chan Loh wins!” Gondol lost.

Facing Tribal Council, Tai, Julia and Scot had a plan to get rid of Peter and tried to convince Aubry to go along, but Aubry was conflicted.

Aubry said that whatever she did it would come back to bite her.

At Tribal Council, Aubry was still so uncertain about the vote that she changed hers at the last second and now everything is up in the air.

The recap really made it look like Michele and Nick were running the show in Chan Loh and that Tai, Scot, and Julia had things much more under control than what was shown from Gondol last week.

It’s interesting to note that the merge didn’t affect Nick and Michele’s position at all.  It takes some skills to keep your game plan hidden that long when you’re dancing between two opposing factions.  Remember Dolly! Of course, it helps that they’ve avoided Tribal Council.  Taking the information from this recap and adding it to the end of this episode, we see that Michele is almost as indecisive as Aubry was pre-merge.  Debbie was her best option but later she would want to side with Brawn.  What will Michele do next week?  Will she continue to side with Nick or will she go her own way?  And which way would that be? 

This week, however, it was all about:   


We Need Nick!

Gondol Night 16

 Thunder and lightning greeted the tribe back to camp. 

Joe was telling Scot that he was confused about the original plan.  Scot said they couldn’t make a decision and stick with it.

Scot in an interview: “I am absolutely going to be picking off the Brain tribe now because of that– because of that indecision, because I can’t trust them.”

Aubry told Scot that she didn’t vote for Julia, but Scot told her that she did it in a way that doesn’t build trust.

Aubry’s thoughts: “Peter went home which is what I thought was going to happen, but I went up there, wrote Julia, crossed it out, and wrote Peter, and I ended up putting a target on my back and Joe’s.  So, the future of the Brains Tribe?  We’re done.  I think that’s it and I think it’s every man for himself.”

Scot’s next comments: “If I have to go to another Tribal, I am absolutely going to write down:  Aubry; Joe; Aubry; Joe and I’ll just cross them out until I decide which one I want to go first.”

The Oriental chant that we heard fitted well with Brains’ lament but the thunder and lightning were pictured as if hanging over Scot’s head. 


The clouds were like a giant mushroom spreading quickly over his location.  I think things won’t work out too well for the guy that has that big black cloud over his head.  It would be quite ironic to see Scot voted out because of a decision to split the vote between Joe and Aubry, something that could happen if they think Neal gave Aubry his idol.

Gondol Day 17

The storm had passed.

The chicken was unhappy about being on a leash that was preventing him from getting to the food.  It jumped twice on Tai’s lap.  For a rare occasion, the gardener showed his temper.

Joe’s point of view: “Tai’s relationship with the chicken is a father to a son, I think.  He does everything with the damn bird.  He probably likes it better than us.  After Tribal, Aubry and I, we are on the chopping block and now, Tai and Scot and Julia: they got a threesome and they got two Brains and they’ll go bye-bye, Brains.  You know Aubry, she, at least, changed her vote back to Peter, so boom, boom!  Joe’s gone because I broke ranks.  At this point of the game, the chicken is doing better than me.”

I’m not sure of the intent of this scene.  Joe’s words put more doubts on the chances of the Brains tribe, but Joe was primarily worried about himself so that confessional doesn’t help Aubry’s story much and since Joe doesn’t really have a story…  It showed us that Tai can get irritated at times but what does that accomplish?  Maybe it was supposed to be a funny moment because it only seemed to build the chicken’s character! 

Chan Loh Day 17

Neal was looking for seafood, but he was being observed by Cydney.

Cydney’s observations: “Neal was walking around with a big bulge in his pocket and I was like: hum! I know what an idol looks like.  So, when I saw the imprint in Neal’s pocket, I looked at Jason and said: ‘We have to flush that idol out.’”

Jason’s comments: “Neal has a bulge in his cargo pocket and the reason I think it looks so much like the idol is because I have a matching one.  Now, the target is really on him because that makes him a threat to everybody, but you know, I got to wait.  I got to plant the seeds and wait for the perfect time to let it sprout up.  I’m as pleased as punch right now: I got a hold of all the power.”

That’s when Michele spotted a boat coming towards their beach.

Was it a pirate ship? No, simply some local fishermen bringing them news.   What if they had been pirates?! 

The percussions were announcing a very important moment as the entire group went to greet the sailors.

Jason’s interview: “You know, I was sitting there on Chan Loh beach, feeling pretty good, getting ready to blindside Neal then this boat shows up.”

They realized that they had 5 minutes to pack everything they needed and get on the boat.

Michele’s confessional: “I made the Survivor merge!  That’s crazy.  It’s like my dream as a kid.  Fortunately, I was in a good position at Chan Loh, but now everything has shifted.  I don’t know what is going on on the other side and that’s a scary thought.”

Right then, Debbie was heard saying: “I got it! I got it!  I got it!”

I got It! I got It! “I Got It! I Got It!”[/caption]

Yes, she was talking about the tarp but what if her words also applied to the game?  Once again, Michele and Debbie’s approaches to the game were compared in successive interviews.

Debbie’s confessional: “This season has been particularly tough so making the merge is huge, but I made it.  I never doubted that I would make it, however.  You know the game has switched up again and it’s really going to be insane out there.  I love change; I love mixing it up.  I take the offense: pull people in because people want to be pulled in.  Everybody is dangling.  I’ll pull them in, lock them down.”

Just like last week, we see diametrically opposite views of the game from Michele and Debbie:  The bartender is scared about the prospects of change while the chemist/waitress embraces it.  In this episode, it will certainly look like Michele’s approach will work better, but what about the long run?  

Merged Tribe

The fishing boat approached the Gondol coast, creating a lot of excitement for the beachcombers.

Scot’s interview: “I made the merge!  I made it to the merge on Survivor!  That is awesome.  It is such a huge deal and as soon as I saw Jason and Cydney, I just thought: Man! We’re back together like we’re in the playoffs.  It’s time to start over, refocus.  Hopefully, my team is strong and ready to get a championship.”

3Right then, Jason didn’t look that strong!

Aubry’s comments: “And just like that, Joe and I have been saved.  After the last tribal, I felt like total crap so much so that I was telling myself that I’m a free agent.  I’m separating from Joe, like that’s it– and then to see Neal and Debbie!  I was so relieved.  It was like being separated from your wacky family and then seeing them again.”

When they got to the feast, one of the first images we had was of Jason speaking with his mouth full and spewing out some crumbs. 

Tai’s impressions: “With Brain, Beauty and Brawn all together finally, we’re thinking numbers: Four Beauty, Four Brain, and three Brawn.  How are we going to line up?  In Survivor, I have to trust somebody, so Scot is my only ally right now and he’s the most logical because he knows about the idol.”

Debbie confessed something to Nick in front of everyone:  She wanted to cuddle with him only once.  She was happily married but he was a good looking guy.  She even growled!  That made Aubry laugh and it seemed to make Nick blush a little bit!  Then Jason growled at Tai, threatening to take him away from Scot who told him to back off.  Like Nick said:  Too much wine!

Nick’s point of view: “During the merge feast, people are getting a little tipsy but I’m just listening left and right, seeing who is getting along, seeing what information is out there and it’s obvious that the Brawn are going to be arrogant like they are in charge and nobody can stop them.  The Brains are not going to want to work with that type of person because they’re the exact opposite.  They want to be in the shadows.  Right now, my true alliance is with Michele.  We’re in a great spot within these two tribes but I’ve learned: slow it down, read the people.  Let them keep bringing you information and then you just slice them up.”

During Nick’s confessional, the camera showed that his read was accurate: Jason was the loudest and Scot and Cydney were laughing at all his jokes while the Brain tribe members were very quiet, observing and maybe even feeling a bit uncomfortable seeing Brawn’s exuberance and lack of class.  Nick’s game plan would soon be rewarded because he would receive a lot if useful information, but I don’t think he’ll be able to use it to “slice ‘em up” because, right after he used those words, he was shown trying to cut bamboo with a machete and barely making a dent.  

I can't slice this log but I'll slice 'em up!

“I can’t slice this log but I’ll slice ’em up!”

Interestingly, Scot was also trying to cut some bamboo with a saw but we didn’t actually see him slicing it up.  Will the two guys be able to slice ‘em up?  That seems to be the question that the aborted Tribal Council left up in the air.  Nick and Michele have broken a record by still being Tribal Council virgins one cycle after the merger!  

After the feast, Aubry told Debbie that Peter went insane.  Debbie told her not to worry because she had her back and that she was tighter than ever with Neal.  They were like…toilet paper and toilets?!?

Wait. What

“Wait… What?”

Like Aubry, I didn’t know how to react to that weird comment.

Debbie’s interview: “Aubry is a little upset about the way things panned out and feels guilty.  She has no need to do that.  I know the four Brains: myself, Aubry, Neal and Joe, we’re still strong.”

Even if we saw blue skies, a sound like thunder was heard right after Debbie mentioned Neal’s name, warning us that the Brains won’t be as strong as they appear.

Right after that, the camera showed us a water buffalo.  We then followed Nick, Aubry and Neal in the jungle to hear their thoughts.   Nick was saying that the Brawn looked super-tight.  Neal told them that they will always stick together.

Neal’s comments: “The Brawn are going to be an ongoing physical threat plus they are kind of bullies so it makes sense to go with the Beauty and Brains alliance.”

I noted that the camera didn’t disassociate Cydney from Scot and Jason when Neal talked about the Brawn being kind of bullies. 

The Bullies

The Bullies

The camera could have shown us only the two guys.

Nick told Neal and Aubry that he was getting the vibe that Tai was super tight with Scot, and that Julia was saved by Scot, so she’d be loyal to him, but he was confident that Michele would stick with him.

So Nick can also give out information.  It must be noted that it didn’t take long for him to figure Tai’s loyalties.  It’s interesting to note that we didn’t see Michele and Julia talking alone at all during the whole episode.

Nick’s interview: “Neal and Aubry pitched the fact that:  “Hey! We just need two more of your Beauty.  Nick, can you get in Michele?”  Yeah! I can probably get in Michele so they wanted to be the Brains versus the Brawn just like I thought.  It makes sense to go with the Brains but if you corner yourself, you put yourself in a position where your back is against the wall; that’s not good Survivor.”

Back in camp, Scot confirmed everything that Nick suspected.

Jason’s thoughts: “It’s merge time and the Brawn, we got to get back on tribe so we were open with Nick because we want him to feel comfortable.  Right now, we need him for the numbers and I believe that Neal has an idol so Neal is the main focus.”

Jason told Scot and Nick about his suspicion concerning Neal’s idol and the need to split the votes.

Nick’s reaction in interview: “You got to wonder if Scot and Jason had too much rum at the merge feast.  Scot welcomed me right away.  Jason says Neal has an idol.  Thank you for bringing me into your alliance.  You’re such sweethearts both of you.”

Nick would soon get more information: Scot told the two of them in confidence that Tai had an idol.  Nick was surprised to hear that.

Jason’s reaction: “Holy crap! This is unreal: Tai has a hidden immunity idol.  This is amazing because when you take two separate idols, mine and his, and you link them together, now we have a super-idol that we can play after the votes have been read which means we are literally unstoppable.”

I wonder about possession of the idol though.  The original super-idol had to be in the possession of the player using it before Tribal Council.  You couldn’t give it to someone else after the votes were read.  That isn’t a clause that was transposed to the ordinary idols.  It would make this super-idol disproportionately powerful if it can be handed out to someone else after Jeff reads the votes.

Scot told Jason and Nick that he let them know only because they were tight.

Just at that moment, the camera showed Nick stopping to pick up a piece of wood.  That action separated them from the two others, suggesting that they weren’t as tight as Scot felt.

Nick confirmed the impression in his next interview: “I don’t like Scot and Jason’s overconfidence.  They are like “Screw everybody else.  This is our game.”  But, as much as it annoys me, that is a great thing for me.  It really is because they are never going to suspect the blindside on them.  They are never going to see it coming.”

Dara Day 18

The merged tribe name used to be important but we’ve sunk to an all-time low:  We don’t know who found it, why they chose it and what it means.  It’s like those contestants that never get any airtime, so it was quite fitting that the merge buff was purple!

Neal showed Aubry the cyst that was on his left knee.

Right then, Debbie sat down next to Tai, said she really liked him and offered him an alliance deal.  He said okay but didn’t look sure about anything.

Debbie, now the civil air patrol captain, gave us her comments: “I seem to be one of the few people here that play offense.  I know I need six to have the numbers over Brawn.  It’s a battle for power and I’m playing to win.”

Deal or no Deal!

Deal or No Deal!

She offered her hand to seal the deal and Tai shook it after some hesitations.  He even told her: “It’s coming as such a shock.”   With Joe and Aubry listening, he asked Debbie about her strategy.  She only told him that they just made an alliance.

Tai’s reaction: “I woke up this morning and I just sit down.  Debbie, two seconds behind me, she say: “Hey! I really like you.  You are going to be in our alliance.  It was pretty impressive.  I’m not buying her story.  I’m not a fool.  I see right through Debbie.”

Right before we heard Tai say that he wasn’t buying Debbie’s story, we saw Debbie looking at him and telling Joe: “He’s in.  We got him.”

Debbie certainly misread that situation…for the time being.  Before the tribe was scheduled to go to Tribal Council, Debbie would be making a play to get Michele on board so it wasn’t as if she was only counting on Tai.  Offering Tai a deal is a good way of testing him.  We didn’t see Tai talking with Debbie after the Immunity Challenge so if he really didn’t ask about her voting decision then she will know that he lied to her when he shook her hand.  It will give her a great reason to eliminate Tai.

With Neal and Aubry listening, we then saw Debbie asking Nick if she could count on him and Michele.  Nick never gave her a definite answer.

Neal looked at Aubry asking: “So, Debbie thinks she has Michele?”  Both showed that they believed Debbie was wrong.  Aubry even added: “She is not being very finesse-y about this whole thing.”

 Aubry’s interview: “Deb needs to cool her jets.  She is trying too hard.  Double and triple teaming people isn’t the way to go when you are trying to get the numbers.  You have to show confidence and right now we are showing desperation.”

Jason, Scot, and Cydney were triple-teaming Julia and Michele, saying that Brawn and Beauty would be one family and figure it out from there.

Jason’s interview: “Beauty always goes with the jock.  Always!  It’s just the way of the world.  The beauties don’t date the brainiacs; they’re at the dance with us and we’re just shoving geeks in lockers right now.  Sorry, Brains.  We want to get after Neal, but we believe he is holding an idol, so we take out someone that they never see coming: Aubry.”

Jason shocked the girls by telling them that Neal had an idol so that they had to target Aubry who wouldn’t see it coming.

Michele’s interview: “I think Jason probably thinks that he’s on top.  He’s the one that is constantly going: “Hey! This is what is going on. This is what this person said. This is where we’re going.  So, it looks like Brawn and Beauty are together but Brawn is way too controlling and I never counted out working with Brains.”

Jason showed his confidence, but we have to wonder if his approach is much better than Debbie’s.

Aubry took a walk with Nick.

First, we heard an interview from Aubry to set up their conversation: “I’m on board with the Brains sticking together but someone is going to have to take their head out of their butt and start talking to people like a normal human being.  I think it’s pretty obvious that people are irritated by Debbie and if we don’t think the Beauty is on our side, the Brains are screwed.”

Nick told Aubry that Debbie was going off her rocker.  Aubry said she wanted to work with him, but Nick answered: “But the thing is, Debbie, I’m telling you, Debbie’s awful.”


Nick’s comments: “I’m still open to working with the Brains tribe but Debbie is aggravating me at this point.  She almost takes strategy in her own hands for the Brains tribe and I don’t want anybody having more power than I do in this game.”

It must be said that Debbie must be doing something right if Nick felt threatened by her power.  It could get her voted out, but it can’t be said that her play has gone unnoticed!  One of Nick and Debbie will blindside the other and I’ll always put my money on the one that has received the more substantial story. 

Taking a walk to the ocean, Aubry told Neal that Debbie’s actions were screwing them, that she was pushing Nick away.  She felt that Nick would prefer to fly by the seat of his pants than having to deal with Debbie.

Neal’s thoughts: “We know we have to get two Beauties on board, but people are so turned off by Debbie that we’re in a bad situation.”

Neal told Aubry that he had the idol from their first camp and that no one knows about it.

Aubry told him they’d have to learn who was getting the votes.

Aubry’s reaction: “I’m getting a good rollercoaster from Survivor, man!  I was thinking:  We’re screwed, but now it turns out that Neal has a hidden immunity idol.  This is what we needed to start doing things.  The game is on!  Let’s go!”

Aubry’s ride is far from over and she was about to take another big downhill ride.  I think that we will soon see that everything that comes down must go up!

Day 19: The Immunity Challenge

Neal showed Jeff the “volcano” that had popped up on his knee. He added that he felt fine.

Aubry and Tai showed their infections.

Is it worth noting that Scot said he had an infection, but that we didn’t get to see it?  They didn’t show Joe’s either and we know he had one since before the swap.  It can’t be a good sign that Scot was as unimportant as Joe in regards to their medical situation.

Jeff said that it was almost as if the players weren’t worthy if they didn’t have medical issues.

Debbie was heard laughing at that.

Jason told Jeff that they all embraced the suck.

At first, I thought we were being told that Debbie wasn’t worthy, but she was the first person that needed medical intervention during that tough challenge.  I’d say that qualified her as someone who embraced the “suck”.

Like in every challenge we’ve ever had involving balls, big logs or ropes, Jeff gave us plenty of sexual innuendos.  Maybe he should grow up, but the audience still laughs.

To keep in the memory banks in case we have other challenges involving balance: Joe, Debbie and Jason didn’t make it to the 2nd round.

At the start of the 2nd round Michele, Neal, Scot, Cydney and Aubry quickly fell out leaving three original Beauty members; Julia, Tai, and Nick.  They all made it to the 3rd round, earning a round of applause from the peanut gallery.

Jeff gave Scot the excuse of having big feet making it tough to balance on the little perch but Nick, the second biggest guy, beat Tai and Julia, two of the smallest out there.

To my ear, it seemed that the groan was quite amplified when Tai dropped a ball.  It was as if the sound editor was telling us that we should be disappointed to see the gardener lose to Nick just like sitcom sound editors tell us when we should laugh with their recorded laughter.

Before leaving the challenge arena, we had an interview with Neal:  “Tonight at Tribal Council, it will be the four Brains going up against the bullies, against the Brawn.  Fortunately, we have the idol and if I feel I need to play it, I’ll play it.  I could save myself or pass it on to Aubry.  Hopefully, we will take control of this game.”

The Brains were in a bad situation with Neal and his idol in the game so now that both have left, many will think they are screwed but the way this episode was presented leads me to believe they will still find a way to take control of the game.

The Purple Tribe Scrambling

Some might think that this segment isn’t worth reporting since none of it will mean much when we get to the next cycle.  However, I think the way the players were portrayed will mean a lot and that those who seemed in control will lose it before the next Tribal Council.  In other words:  Whatever is shown this week will be make a complete 180(?) before the next Tribal Council.

Nick’s interview:  “Tonight is the first Tribal Council after the merge and pretty much everything is at stake of where the dominos will fall or so I believe.  It’s Brawn versus Brains and I’m in the middle along with Beauty for the most part.  We’re like the pretty girl at the dance:  You’re either going with the quarterback (Scot pictured) or the valedictorian (Aubry is shown sitting next to Neal).  It’s a fun position to be in; it’s fun being the pretty girl!  I’ve never felt like a pretty girl before…It feels great!”

(Funny how the word “like” changes the whole sentence!)

At the well, Jason told Scot and Nick that they were all voting for Aubry.

Scot’s interview: “The Brains are screwed.  We are just going to pick them off one by one until they are gone.  The best case scenario is Neal plays an idol because he’s paranoid, but Aubry goes home anyway.  I feel confident in our alliance of Beauty and Brawn right now because everybody seems to feel comfortable going: ‘Hey! Why not?’  We’ll just take the Brains out and then, once we get to seven, we’ll figure it out even though Jason and I have it already figured out.  Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

Maybe it’s his long years of playing basketball where you are taught to envision success but, in a strategic game, it’s very important to consider the worst case scenario, something Scot appears to have neglected.

Nick’s next interview: “Right now, I am leaning towards the Brawn and voting out one of the Brains right away but Scot and Jason are always going to be overconfident and when everybody feels safe is when you do your damage.”

Neal talked with Nick, saying that the three Brawn are going to be physical threats and that they were only using the Beauties’ votes.

Neal’s interview: “Nick, I believe, wants to go with us. Now we have to convince Michele to come on board.  We need to have six but, in a moment of desperation, all I have to do is reach into the family jewels and grab out the idol.”

Debbie and Aubry were already working on Michele, talking to her in the ocean.

Michele was saying that no one approached her to make a deal so Debbie said that the three of them should make one in order to play this game.  She told Michele her target was Jason or Scot.

Aubry’s interview: “To gain power in this game, the Brains need Nick, the Brains need Michele.  I want a Brawn gone and we got to start making things happen.  If the Brains don’t get Nick and Michele, Neal and I are playing the idol.”

To Michele, Aubry said that Jason and Scot were tight and wanted to run the show while there would be more opportunities for Brains and Beauty to meld since they are not as concrete.  Michele agreed with that.

During that conversation, we had an image of Michele going underwater

Taking the Plunge

Taking the Plunge

It looked like a sign that she was escaping from Debbie and Aubry’s grasp…or that she was plunging in with them. Her subsequent comments only added to the uncertainty.

Michele’s comments: “You know, I would love to work with Aubry and Debbie but I’m not sure if, strategically, it’s my best option.  So, I think that I have to test the relationship more.  I could go whichever way I want right now so it’s all figuring out what is best for me.”

Nick and Michele figured it would be a good time to talk about the future.

Michele reasoned that Jason and Scot would not get votes in the end because one angered too many people while the other has a lot of money already.  The two agreed to go with Brawn and eliminate Aubry.

Nick’s thoughts: “It makes sense to go with Brawn right now because I believe I can manipulate them just like that and beat them in puzzles just like that.  They’re just idiots.  I like Aubry.  I would hang out with Aubry more than any other girls here but, unfortunately at Tribal Council tonight, Aubry is going home.  I know how big of a decision this is. I think I am making the right decision.  I’ll see when the game ends if it is or isn’t.”

The editing has been very consistent in this episode:  The merge feast and the talks that immediately followed ignored Joe, Julia and Cydney and, in addition to Tai, those same three players were also ignored in this scrambling segment.  I will quote Nick and say that everything is at stake as to where the dominos will fall, but not only in regards to this cycle, but as far as the whole game is concerned.  The winner will have been shown taking a role in these two segments.  The two that clearly stood out by their rational approach to the situation were Michele and Aubry.  All the others were much too confident, but they will still play an important part in the game.

That’s when the boat carrying Jeff and the doctor arrived.  Scot realized that one of them was in trouble because Jeff doesn’t usually do this.

The doctor examined Tai whose scrapes were healing nicely.  Scot’s infections worried the doctor much more so he would keep an eye on them but he let Scot return to the group. Aubry was next and the doctor decided to put her on antibiotics.

Debbie’s interview: “It’s brutal out here.  If I lose Aubry to an injury, it changes the whole ball game here.”

The doctor didn’t like the infection that Neal had on his knee at all.  They started by pulling him aside and ended up pulling him from the game despite his protests.

Aubry’s interview: “I know it took everything for Neal not to get upset because he wants to play so badly and he told us how lucky we were to be here and he’s right, but really?  My number one ally…gone.  So Neal is going and it’s on the tip of my tongue: What about the idol?  I’m just hoping he would give me the idol.”

Nick’s interview: “Aubry was going home and thanks to some lucky medical evacuation, she lives for another day or two.”

Aubry had the last interview of the evening: “I didn’t think I would be crying this much on Survivor but there has been so many ups and down and right when I thought we were going to get some traction under us, my biggest ally is out of the game. I got a nice little bulge on my leg that everyone got to see and I’m thinking, with Neal gone, there is no way the Beauties join the Brains and the idol went home with Neal.  That son of a bitch!  Really, Neal left me hanging but Survivor is a test.  You pave your way by yourself…It’s like going on the Oregon Trail:  You have to cross the rivers… climb the hills, and sometimes, you have dysentery and die.  You have to pave your own way.”

The Story

This episode reminded me of the merge episode in San Juan del Sur where Julie’s decision to quit was used to confuse the issue so I took a look back at that episode.  Before Jeff told the group that Julie had quit Jeremy and Josh were both trying to get Jon and Jaclyn to vote with their alliance just like Brawn and Beauty competed for Nick and Michele.  Josh’s side appeared to have won the battle because Jon said he wanted to go with the couples’ train and Jaclyn agreed.  In the end, Josh said that Jeremy was on borrowed time.  Here, it was Nick who said something similar about Aubry.  That episode was like an hour preview for the following week where everything we had seen was used as misdirection for the next vote.

It would follow that this week’s episode was also used to confuse the issue and that the Brains will eventually come out on top.  One can also wonder if the obvious comparison made between Michele and Debbie’s style of play will also have a different result.  In this episode, Michele clearly had the better approach, but what if Debbie’s offense overtakes Michele’s defense in the long run?  No one will ever be able to say that Debbie was indecisive!  The final vote will tell us which approach is best.  Then again, the jury could reward someone that used the middle approach instead, someone that wasn’t as offensive as Debbie but someone who still reached out to create bonds.  That could only be Aubry.  This episode had two main themes:  First, everyone needed Nick on their side, and second, the world was collapsing around Aubry.  Once Nick, and by ricochet Michele, choose their side, their story could come to an end but if Aubry survives this big challenge and manages to pave her own way to the end then she will be our winner.

It is quite interesting to note that despite this season’s four consecutive votes against women, they now find themselves in equal numbers with the men.  Only two males have been voted out but we have reached the critical portion of the game and, considering that Joe will always vote with Debbie and Aubry, the women have the numbers.  Yet, the men appear to be in complete control!  Everyone should expect to see their fall soon.

On another train of thoughts, a cynic would certainly realize the great timing of Neal’s medical evacuation.  There was the danger that Scot or Jason could get eliminated by an idol bounce if Neal had the audacity to give his idol to Aubry, but more importantly, a new idol will now have to be put in play on a beach where there are already two.  That idol twist required the removal of one player with an idol, so the timing of Neal’s evacuation is troubling.  I don’t doubt the doctor’s integrity, just that he may have been more cautious than what was normally required.  Would anyone want to bet against Tai, Jason, or Scot finding that new idol?

The Characters

The Extras

Joe, Julia and Cydney:  In itself, it is troubling that three potential allies for Debbie and Aubry are relegated to the back of the stage.  It must be noted,  however, that all three have been presented positively.  Production has shown us these players in such a way that they wouldn’t upset the audience if they find themselves in the dominating alliance but none are sufficiently connected with the viewers to take away the spotlight from the true stars of the show.

Tai:  He didn’t have much of a role to play in this episode but his segment after the merge showed us that Debbie misread his intentions.  It’s possible that the scene was only shown to explain why she will turn on him at some point down the road.  As for his own game, Tai was always the distraction, the one to amuse the audience, not the player to watch.  It will be interesting to see how he plays his idol and what he says about the remaining players.  For now, he likes Scot and Jason a lot more than Debbie, but can they keep his affection?  It would be surprising to see such a gentle man staying close to the two bullies.  Something’s got to give.

The Confident Ones:

Jason:  He is presented as the bully who wants to shove geeks in lockers, someone who didn’t have any class during the feast and who has it all figured out.  Yet, he may soon find himself with a super-idol.   Could it be that he plays it to save himself over Scot?  After hearing the NBA’s comments about Jason using the idol for him, it would be quite fitting to see Jason save himself but to see Scot’s torch get snuffed as a result.  I’m not sure how Jason can get voted out, but it will certainly be fun to watch.

Scot: If he doesn’t get bounced by Jason’s idol, he could be in trouble down the road with the medical staff.  If his infection gets any worse, the doctor may not have a choice.  His interview was shown right before the doctor’s arrival so he could eventually be the one that’s in trouble.  Compared to Jason, Scot had a much better episode with interviews placed at all the critical moments.  However, we saw that he gave away too much information to Nick so that could be the way a split vote plan is set up to target them both.

Nick:  It took a while but we finally see Nick’s story and hear his thoughts on the game.  His style does fit better when a vote is pending so Beauty’s success kept him off our screens for the most part but a story would still have been built around him if he was to continue to shine all the way to the end.  So much focus is put on his decision that his story could end right after he chooses a side.  He even said that he wasn’t sure of making the right decision and that we will have to wait until the game ends to see.   Like Jon in SJDS, he will probably get blindsided by his new allies.

The Contenders

Michele:  Like Nick, she was in high demand in this episode but she didn’t show the same arrogance which means her chances of making it to the end are much better than his.  Like Nick, her chances of winning and her story could come to an end when she chooses a side.  She probably won’t come to a crashing end like Nick but she could fizzle out like Jaclyn.  Her story could certainly merit a victory, but her presentation over the course of the season has been seriously lacking.  She didn’t get an interview during the season’s opening segment.  When we finally heard from her, it was mostly to express her crush on Nick and then we saw her running around like a chicken without a head while chasing those chickens.  Over the course of the following episodes, she became a sidekick in the Beauties’ female alliance in which Anna was clearly identified as the driving force.  Michele’s impressive showing in the last two episodes does make her an appealing candidate and her relaxed approach to playing the game is constantly compared to Debbie’s.  The reason for that contrast could be to explain why Michele gets the most votes in the end but it seems that she is too indecisive.  By staying between two groups for so long, she may create bitterness in the side she abandons.   It will be interesting to see if she chooses the same side as Nick or if she rebels against him.  The episode before the merge certainly made it look like she’d go against her bro but the two seemed to get along just fine in this one.  But since this one was all about misdirection…!

Debbie: What a wonderfully weird episode for the season’s self-proclaimed mastermind.  Her offensive game play irritated everyone including two of her closest allies.  Even Tai, the guy who loves everything and everyone, didn’t like her approach.  If Tai was being used as the audience’s conscience then Debbie cannot win.  His subsequent interview revealed an interesting comment, however:  Tai said that Debbie’s approach was “pretty impressive”.  He didn’t believe her, but he was still impressed.  Even Nick, despite saying she was off her rocker, admitted that Debbie was a threat to his own power in the game.  Of the three women contenders, Debbie is the only one with an interview in the season’s opening segment and she has received a very consistent story, being quite visible in each episode.  Others will certainly dismiss her, but I think she can still turn things around.

Aubry:  This episode was really difficult for Aubry.  Her rollercoaster ride went downhill right at the start when her actions at the previous Tribal Council opened a gigantic hole under her feet.  The merge offered her a reprieve and, despite the twists and turns that Debbie imposed to the Brains’ train, Aubry resurfaced and even reached a nice plateau when Nick said he’d like to work with her and that Neal could play his idol to save her.  That was only to set the stage for the next big downhill when the doctor removed her sane ally from the game.  It now seems that Aubry cannot possibly make it to the end of the game and that is precisely why she should make it there!  So much was made of Aubry being in grave danger that it has to be misdirection.  It also has to be noted that we couldn’t really say that Aubry was lucky to win, that she won only because Tribal Council was cancelled.  That luck factor was certainly outweighed by Neal’s decision to keep his idol.

Can Aubry be our winner?  Like Michele, it’s troubling that her pre-merge presentation was indifferent.  Like the Beauty, we didn’t hear from her in the opening segment of the season but her premiere was much more solid.  We saw her episode of heat exhaustion, and we also heard Jeff’s compliments during the first challenge.  Let’s not forget that both scenes were manipulated to make Aubry look even better.  Let’s remember also that she never committed to Neal and Peter’s youngsters’ alliance and she never said anything against Joe and Debbie during that premiere.  In fact, she bonded nicely with them during her crisis.

I usually like to pick my candidate for Sole Survivor right after the merger but I cannot decide at this time.  We didn’t get a vote after the merger and since the vote is the only truth in the game, these players haven’t told me their truths yet.  Next week should help us decipher the season more clearly.

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