Survivor San Juan Del Sur

A Look Back at Blood versus Water II

Since Jeff was busy talking to the live audience, I thought I’d make my own summary of the season.  It would be a substitute; a quick one, while he’s away.  Assemble the cast:

Previously, on a beach near Burnit’s personal resort, 18 castaways faced the challenge of a lifetime: Spend 39 days with a Loved One. Most were happy that it didn’t come to that; their loved ones got eliminated one after the other before they could play together.  The first boot was Natalie’s twinnie, Nadiya. She was a victim of a guys’ alliance which wasn’t much of a surprise since the men had a numbers advantage on both tribes even before the game started.

Flashback to Brunette’s office before the season started:   “Jiffy, you’ve done a good job lately.  We’ve had some good, strong male winners the last couple of years but I think casting did a bad job this time.  We have a few good men but I fear that they will all get voted out early.  What can you do?”

“Well,” Probe said, “we could have our doctor look at the players again.  I think we have a pair of women that don’t look too healthy, if you know what I mean:  We scratch two women from the competition; it should give the men all the advantage they need.”

“I like it,” said Survivor’s deity.  “We can even get some mileage out of it:  Survivor isn’t like Big Brother; you need to be fit to play this game.  Call the promo department and make a press release:  Two women had to be scratched before the season started because they couldn’t make it.”

Probe hesitated for a second: “Shouldn’t we have the doctor make the exams first?”

Back on the island, Nadiya tried to get Josh to join the girls but he wasn’t exactly a ladies’ man!  Instead, he “connedvinced” Baylor to let the women hang high and dry.  She voted with the guys even if she had told the women they should vote for what’s-his-name, the old geezer.

Coyote lost the second Immunity Challenge and, as predicted, another strong woman left: Jeremy’s wife, Val.

Even if he didn’t care enough to actually work on the show anymore, Brunette was still curious about his experiment.  He ordered Jiffy to his manor and asked for an update.

Probe looked distressed: “Oh! My god, I have bad news for you.  This season is looking like crap.  The players are dumb like rocks.”

Brunette sighed: “I knew this was going to happen.  I think it’s time for some drama.”

Probe knew what his master meant: “You think it’s already time for the special tree mail?  We promised him immunity.”

Brunette didn’t care: “This is Survivor:  We all lie.”

The next morning, Jeremy was told to go collect tree mail for his Honeypooh tribe.  Inside, he found an old Sports Illustrated magazine.  It wasn’t the swimwear edition…

Before getting to the challenge arena, Jiffy told his crew: “Get some popcorn; this should be fun.”

He wasn’t talking about the challenge which involved some ropes, balls and hoops but about the reactions afterwards.  It was the all-out attack on Jon “Off-His-Rocker” that followed the challenge that delighted Jiffy.  Sure, this was going to cause trouble for one of the alpha males but it was the only way to save this sinking ship.

Back at Coyote, “Off-His-Rocker” was fuming and demanded to talk to someone in charge.  In a discussion that never made it on the air, John unleashed his anger: “I told you guys that I wanted the same deal that the returning players got on Big Brother: I’m not a starter and I never enter a game before the 9th inning so you were going to give me immunity until the 9th episode.  Instead, you threw me under the bus.  What happened?”

“We sent you on Exile Island with an African American woman, we put a gay guy in your alliance and what do you do?  Instead of giving us good material, you get along with them.  The deal’s off.”

Having lost his protectors, John was knocked off his rocker and sent packing.

Everything seemed to be back on track during the next cycle, Honeypooh lost immunity and the guys immediately started campaigning against Kelly and Julie but suddenly, the winds changed… The women “connedsulted” with Jeremy and got him to side with them to vote out Drew.

“This is catastrophic” thought Jiffy and, sure enough, he was convened to his majesty’s residence.

Brunette was fuming: “Why are you letting these women make fools of us all.  You need to get your bag of tricks out and randomly redistribute the players so that we have one team of men and one of women.  Then we can set up a weightlifting challenge to send one of these…women to Loser Lodge.”

Jiffy knew his next comment could get him in even more trouble: “Our fans are starting to question our “random” draws.  We have to be a bit more subtle than that.”

“Our fans are dumb.  Anyway, if they are complaining that means they are watching.  That’s all that matters.”

“I know, my liege but we really only have three or four guys that are worth saving so what if we put them together on one tribe and make that tribe practically invincible.  The riff-raff can just eliminate each other on the other tribe.  They’ll be so scared to lose a challenge that they will keep all the able-bodied men that we throw on that side.”

“OK, that doesn’t sound too bad.  For your sake, it better work.”

Over the course of the next two cycles, things did settle down: Kelly and the old geezer were voted out.  The problem was that it was time for the merger and the best male players had not exactly formed an alliance.  Even with a 7-5 advantage, it looked like either Jeremy or Josh would be leaving next.  Since Jeremy had been “connedpromised” by the women, production was willing to let him go in order to have an all-male Final 5 which would be Brunette’s ultimate dream season.  To make sure that reality would match the script, Jeff boarded his boat and went to have a little chat with one of Jeremy’s allies.

“Julie” he said, “you don’t have a snowball’s chance in Brunette’s manor of winning this game so what do you want to do?  You could spend the next 3 weeks on jury duty listening to all the crap that is said at Tribal Council, forced to make it look like you are fascinated by all the inanities that these players utter or you can spend those three week in a five-star resort with your boyfriend, all expenses paid by SeeBS.”

Julie had to sit down when she heard that: “What would I have to do?”

“Just tell me that you want to quit and I’ll take care of everything.”

“But I’m not a quitter” objected the plastic doll.

“The weatherman tells me that we are due for five days of rain.”

“Will it be raining where you send John and me?”

After that, it seemed like it would be smooth sailing from here on out but, instead, one man after the other left the game.  When the dust settled, we were down to Natalie, Missy, Baylor, Jaclyn and Keith.  Mark Burnit had long lost interest in the season, too depressed to even hear the recaps after each cycle.  Jeff knew he’d have to promise the audience that the next season would be great because, with only the 2-hour finale left to present, this one was going to suck big time.  Imagine: You had a mother-daughter pair that represented the last connection to the Blood versus Water theme but they were just an ordinary suburban housewife with a teenaged brat.  The ex-Miss Michigan showed everyone that she didn’t win that title because of her personality.  The ex-Amazing Race participant was certainly not amazing.  In fact she was much less entertaining on her own than she was when she competed with her twin.   The only male representative was about the sorriest example of the gender possible, unable to do much more than spit and scratch his ass.    These players had actually cooperated through most of the season when they should have been at each other’s throats and one of them was about to be crowned Sole Survivor.  Yes, I’m serious: One of them was going to win a million dollars for “outwitting” this competition.

The Farmer’s Almanac

Night 35

We had the expected fight between Jon’s fiancée and his executioner.  Jaclyn was saying that Natalie didn’t know Jon in real life while Natalie was saying she knew Jon in the game.

I wish Natalie would have simply said that Jon was the dumbass who thought he had this game won.  Since that was pretty much what Jaclyn had said about Jon just last week. It would have taken care of real life Jon and Survivor Jon.  If Jaclyn doesn’t like hearing anyone saying bad things about Jon, she should never visit the Survivor Sucks board!!

Natalie gave us a confessional to prepare us for her victory when she said you have to do a lot of hard work to win the game.

Day 36

The audience had received many hints that Missy could fall on her sword for her daughter over the course of the season, but we heard that the two women were still planning on going to the end together.

Then it was off to the Reward Challenge.  Often, the finale is so packed with interesting events, having to cover two Immunity Challenges and three Tribal Councils that we rarely have time for a reward but not this season.  This season has featured the challenges to a level never seen before.

The Reward was for an advantage in the next immunity and it was designed for Keith.  We’ve known since the premiere that Keith is a baseball fan so it easy to figure out that he’d have the best throwing arm.

Keith easily defeated Natalie, Jaclyn and Baylor.  He chose to send Jaclyn to Exile Island.

Natalie told us that it was hard for the ego to be beaten by a 53-year-old man but that she’d have to do it in the next challenge even if he had an advantage.

What she didn’t know is that she’d have to beat Keith and the producers…

Before the break, Jiffy talked to a girl who was probably ten and he “promised” her a part on the show someday which means he plans on doing at least 16 more seasons.

Please, God, Nooooooooo! I imagine that it will probably be something like: Survivor: Cuba – Fine Diners versus Fast Food Eaters versus Vegans.

Back from break, we had a glimpse of Miss Michigan in Exile reading the clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol that Jon had found ages ago.  She didn’t bother looking.

If Keith had somehow lost the challenge and been sent on Exile I would be ready to bet that the producers would have “hidden” a new idol directly in the urn.

Back in camp, Keith walked off to read his private message.  It told him that he’d have all day to practice on the Immunity Challenge…

…And we got to see him while he practiced!  What excitement for this Final Episode.  I mean, this is Survivor’s “Super Bowl” night but instead of showing us the wheeling and dealings, we get to see a practice session and not a very good one at thatExplaining that he was close to the point of “flashover” when firemen have to exit a burning building, Keith kept on practicing until he almost knocked himself silly.  Slapping myself in the face was what I wanted to do at that point.

Before the challenge, Baylor was sharing some good moments with Natalie, unaware that Natalie wasn’t sure if she really wanted to go with Baylor and Missy.  The Ex-Racer was considering going to the end with Jaclyn and Keith.

It’s nice to have a whole herd of domesticated goats.

The Immunity Challenge

The challenge involved balancing balls on small paddles and it’s funny how often that skill has been used this season.  We’ve already had two challenges where balls were balanced on paddles and Keith won them both.  Was anyone surprised that we’d see something like this a third time?  The funniest thing was that Jiffy had the nerve to say that you only get the right touch by practicing again and again.

Keith won the challenge.

Back in camp, Keith, Missy, and Baylor were all confident that Jaclyn would be joining the jury at the end of the upcoming Council.

It’s funny that no one got suspicious when Natalie went off to take a dip in the ocean with Jaclyn.

Natalie just wanted one more day and she promised Natalie that she wouldn’t vote her out at the next TC.

Natalie asked if Jaclyn would vote for Baylor.  Jaclyn said she preferred going after Missy.

Back in camp, Baylor was reassuring Natalie that they weren’t voting for her so that maybe she could play her idol for her mom.

Now that was a weird request.

In confessional, Natalie said that big moves win the game but she didn’t think that her moves had enough impact.  She considered getting rid of Missy or Baylor even if it meant taking a riskier road to the end.  She knew that voting out Jaclyn was the safest option.

Tribal Council

Keith thanked Jiffy for providing him with a front row seat for the cat fight between Natalie and Jaclyn.

Missy told Jeff that she wasn’t worried about the idol because she knew where it was.

The fool!

Missy was a little more worried about being the last pair standing but she trusted her alliance.

Natalie said that Keith’s immunity made things more complicated, adding that Jaclyn talked to her.

Jaclyn said the vote was supposed to be between herself and Keith so it sucked that he had immunity.

Missy didn’t think Jaclyn could do anything, that she should just say to herself: “This is my time.”

It was their time to vote.

Jeff did not even let Baylor say a word at her last Council.  I wonder if she took it personally.

As expected, Natalie took her twinnie out of her bag and presented it to Jeff.  What wasn’t expected is that she turned to Jaclyn and asked if she wrote the name they had discussed.  When Jaclyn said she did, Natalie told Jeff that she was playing the idol for Jaclyn.

That really got Jon’s attention. He even said he liked Natalie.  Jaclyn was smiling while Missy thought she was going home.  Keith gave her a pat on the knee, Missy and Baylor said they loved each other and held hands.  Jaclyn hugged Natalie.  Missy gave a death stare to Natalie.

The first three votes were for Jaclyn but then the guillotine fell: Baylor was voted out.

While it was very flashy, that move served no purpose.  In fact, it was so pointless that it makes me wonder if it wasn’t staged.  We heard that the five’s original plan was to have Baylor and Jaclyn volunteer to go to the jury to favor their Loved One’s candidacy and it is easy to imagine that production would have been horrified by that idea.  Did they stage it this way to make it acceptable or did Natalie, Baylor and Missy find a way around production’s wishes?  All I know is that Missy and Baylor didn’t really look surprised while Natalie looked despondent instead of delighted after the move.

Back in camp, Natalie explained that she felt it would be too dangerous to keep two family members together,

That is a reasonable explanation…if we forget that Keith was still the most dangerous jury threat out there.

Natalie added that Keith would want to get rid of Missy instead of her.

That makes no senseIf Keith had won F4 immunity, Natalie was going to the jury for certainThen again, Keith isn’t very smart.

In confessional, Missy made the point of telling us that she felt relieved knowing she wouldn’t have to write Baylor’s name down.

Those words confirm that the idea of sending Baylor to the jury had been discussed.

Natalie and Jaclyn discussed the next step which was very simple: Don’t let Keith win.

Production would see to that!  They had kept the funny guy as long as needed but the plan wasn’t to let him win it all.  After serving him a challenge that he could easily handle, it was time to confront him with a puzzle!  The structure did include a fireman’s pole though which could have been a way to tell him they were thinking of him when they arranged his final defeat.

It was nice of production to install a small bench at the top of the structure so that Missy could observe the action.  They didn’t have time to install an elevator though! 

When Jeff described the puzzle, I wondered if the players really needed to complete it or if they could go for the numbers as soon as they figured out the three shapes they needed.  If I had been lucky to start on the top half, I would have gone for the numbers without finishing the whole bottom half.

Natalie and Jaclyn were very nice to Keith.Neither used Rafe’s tactic of blocking him out of a particular section so it remained tight throughout the physical portion of the challenge.  Still, Natalie had a big lead when she started the puzzle because Keith hadn’t yet started up the 57 steps. Jaclyn finished a distant third and looked exhausted but Jeff’s words and the constant images of Miss Michigan gave us an idea of what was going to happen next.  Keith wasn’t the only one that had trouble with the puzzle.

While the players were struggling with the puzzle, Jeff said: “All Missy can do is watch and hope that someone will take her to the end.”

A quote like that would have been appreciated earlier on, Jiffy!

In her excitement of finishing the puzzle first, Jaclyn forgot to take a good grip of the fireman’s pole and crashed hard on the platform.  Jeff had to check on her but she managed to get back up.

Even if it must have been hard to concentrate with Jeff screaming in her ears, Jaclyn had the right combination and she released her flag, signaling victory.  She got hugs from Missy and Natalie which pretty much told us how the next vote would go.

In confessional, Keith told us he was in trouble.

No shit, Sherlock!

Back in camp, Jaclyn was beaming, already thinking of Jon’s look when he’d see her wearing the necklace.  She said she was going to wear it for the whole day.  Conscious that she could be making a million dollar decision or a million dollar mistake, Jaclyn wanted to talk to everyone.

Yes, it was going to be a million dollar decision: Do you give the money to Keith or to Natalie?  If a season needed a Final 2, this was it.

Keith was the first to plead his case.  He said that Missy would get the sympathy vote because of her ankle.

I can’t understand why Keith didn’t pitch eliminating Natalie?  When he talked of eliminating Missy, Natalie was standing next to Jaclyn but he could have found a time to talk about eliminating the other big jury threat.

At least Natalie saw that Keith was the one that had to go over Missy so she used subtle persuasion to get Jaclyn to see it.  She started by telling Jaclyn that she didn’t give a (shit) about Missy but that Keith was scarier.

Missy told Jaclyn that it was a toss up between Keith and Natalie.  It made Jaclyn realize that Nat had the moves to convince the jury.  Her gut was telling her that Keith would get the guys’ votes but she thought Jon would want her to eliminate Natalie.

The vote would have been closer if she had eliminated Natalie but it’s doubtful that Jaclyn could have won. 

Tribal Council

Jaclyn told Jeff that she was happy to have immunity but that the decision was tough.

Natalie said it would be a nice gesture if Jaclyn saved her this time but she wasn’t expecting anything in return.

Jaclyn didn’t feel that she owed Natalie anything because of Jon’s elimination.

Keith thought it was going to be either him or Missy.

Missy didn’t think that Natalie was assured a spot in the Final 3.

Natalie said Keith had to go because everybody loves a fireman.

Keith said Natalie had a lot of votes because of her game play.

Jeff apparently wanted to throw Natalie under the bus because he got her to admit she had a good shot of winning it.

On his jury seat, Alec looked like he wanted to swallow all the flies in Nicaragua.

It was time to vote and we didn’t get blindsided when Keith saw his torch snuffed.

Jon’s expression told us that he knew the million had just been handed to Natalie.  It was clear he was hoping that Jaclyn would have gone after Natalie.

Keith had the funniest line of the evening:  “I can barely handle one woman at the house, much less three of them here.”

Day 39

While Natalie and Jaclyn went to collect the Final Three breakfast feast, Missy told us that she was ready to dive right in and give it her best shot.

Natalie told us she learned a lot about herself by playing without Nadiya.  It made her proud.  She wanted to force the jury to give her the title of Sole Survivor.

Jaclyn said everyone underestimated her.  She said the money would enable her to start a family with Jon but that the title would inspire all the girls in her situation.

If they hadn’t wasted time on Keith’s practice we could have had them burn the camp and go on the “rites of passage” journey but who cares for the pre-merge characters these days?–certainly not Jeff as we would once again witness during the “reunion”.   

Final Council

Missy spoke first and she said that she understood the roles could easily be reversed.  The jury’s decision was going to affect the rest of her life.  She spoke of her loyalty and that she got rid of those that didn’t trust her.  She said that voting Jon out was the biggest and the hardest decision.  She added that breaking her foot was the hardest day but she wasn’t going to quit.

Jaclyn said she deserved it because she went through a lot of ups and down in the game just like in her life.  She said she felt alone from Day One on her tribe. (Alec was still looking for more flies to swallow.)  Then, she mentioned how the swap put her in the middle which enabled her to switch from the Josh-Reed alliance to the Missy-Baylor alliance.  She added that these other two women wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for that decision.  Jon’s elimination forced her to step up her game and that was why she was in the top three.  She then drew a parallel to her condition which seemed to bore the jury.

Natalie said that she did a better job of Outwitting, Outplaying and Outlasting the other two ladies.  She said she made smart, risky and even scary moves by herself.  She also said she did well in every challenge and volunteered to go to Exile Island twice and no one ever called her lazy.  She said that Nadiya’s elimination forced her to change the way she was going to play the game from just surviving one cycle at a time to doing everything with a purpose.  She felt proud to be sitting there especially considering that she should have been voted out at the previous council instead of Keith.

You have to like that kind of attitude!

The jury’s questions were rather innocuous starting with Jon’s soft toss to Jaclyn, asking for a big move that she made on her own.  She said it was voting out Josh since it swung the entire game.

Keith was a little more incisive.  He asked Natalie how she felt about the lie she told him at the end.  Natalie felt bad but felt the vote was between him and her.  Keith said he hated the constant lying.

Alec asked Nat about her biggest move and he was thrilled to hear her say that it was voting him out.  Jon was the only one surprised by this revelation.  Alec also asked Missy about her role as the mother of the tribe.  Missy told him it was about positioning herself in the middle of the tribe.  It was clear that Reed wasn’t buying her answer.

(She would have been better served by giving examples instead of stating it bluntly.)

Baylor was happy to see three women in the finals.  She told her mom that the game put them through the ringer just like real life.  Baylor said it was incredible that her mom made it to the end on one foot. (Jeff was probably half asleep by now).  Missy called it the best hug she ever had.

Josh was next and he threw the first hard fastball of the evening, asking Jaclyn if she made it the Final 3 on her own merit or because she was carried by better players.  She said she was part of every decision with Jon.

(Somehow, I don’t think Josh meant Jon when he talked about the “better players” that carried Jaclyn.)

Wes simply asked how they felt about playing with their Loved Ones, wasting his valuable airtime once more.  At least Missy was able to use that opening to mention that she loved playing with Wes’ dad and that he helped her a lot.  Natalie almost cried when mentioning Nadiya but she did manage to say that it made her proud to do this on her own.

Calling himself a student of the game, Jeremy took on the role of the jury’s conscience, telling everyone that Nat played the best game and deserved the title: “Nat balled out so give her the credit.”

(That caused Alec to open his mouth once again, letting more flies in.)

Then came Reed and the actor wanted the stage to himself: “Nat, I loved watching you play the game. It was dynamic, at times a little spastic…I just wanted to say congrats. Jaclyn, you were another person I got to enjoy getting to know out here…It was nice playing with you…Missy, you cast yourself as the motherly figure; however…your true character was… the wicked step-mother of the tribe.  It’s the eccentric woman who comes in and makes demands on everyone to the things she feels entitled.  She spoils her children…she takes things she isn’t entitled to or didn’t earn herself which was evidenced by the fact you got more gimmies in this game than anyone and performed the worst out of anyone at the challenges…You made the quintessential wicked step-mother move… when you made it clear to the minority alliance…that they weren’t coming to the Ball which is this Final Tribal Council.  That feels to me like the fatal flaw in your plan because, unlike life, in the game of Survivor, the outcasts are the one that get the final say.  So, in a sweeping moment of poetic justice the people to which you were so rude to… are going to decide your fate this evening.  This is why I love fairy tales because they always have a happy ending and the wicked step-mother never wins.”

While this was the highlight of the jury session, it’s funny that it came from Reed, the one that everyone on Hunahpu said created much of the drama and the one who stole from Keith’s bag.  The members of Hunahpu told us that Reed was the evil step-son.  The funniest thing is that, after all that grandstanding, Reed didn’t even vote for Natalie, going for the one he enjoyed getting to know!  Usually, the cameras show us an equal number of votes for each finalist but this time we saw 1 vote for Missy and Natalie but two for Jaclyn, including Reed’s, the only somewhat uncertain vote shown.   His vote showed that he was bitter about being outplayed and put his tirade in perspective. 

The Story and What I Got Right

The pre-merge had three important foreshadowing moments:

  • In episode 3, Jeremy told the women of Coyopa that they were strong and shouldn’t let the men roll all over them. Only one woman was voted out between that moment and Baylor’s eviction at Final 5.
  • In episode 4, the women turned the tables on Drew, forcing Jon to say that they made a good game play. From that moment on, all the key moves were made by the women.
  • Hunahpu was the tribe of interest. Even if Coyopa spent all that time in Tribal Council, we never left the drama in Hunahpu.

Those moments told me that a woman would win this season so I was never side-tracked by the good roles that Josh, Jeremy and Jon received and while I could never eliminate Keith for certain, I felt that his edit was all wrong for a winner.  A woman from the original Hunahpu tribe did win, just not the one I expected…

What I missed

I’m sure some of you are wondering about the title of this summary.  I titled it “The Farmer’s Almanac” for a simple reason:  Dale, the farmer, told us how the season would play out if only we had listened to him.  In the premiere, what he said about Nadiya should have clued us in on Natalie’s game: “Nadiya’s been on The Amazing Race. She’s shown she can backstab somebody.  I’d rather backstab them before they backstab me.”  While Coyopa took care of their devious twinnie, Hunahpu let the other enter into their main alliance and, after Jeremy was voted out, she did backstab them all.

Dale also said that Missy was a bitch and I should have listened.  Instead of thinking that the rice monitor didn’t matter since he wasn’t on the jury, Dale expressed succinctly what Reed would use as his final scene.

If that wasn’t enough, we can even go back to the sumo at sea challenge when Dale’s daughter, Kelly, faced off against Jaclyn.  Dale told Jeff that he had to root for Jaclyn even if it killed him.  Likewise, I think that most of the viewers who wanted to see Jon crowned as Sole Survivor were reduced to rooting for Jaclyn even if they didn’t really want to see her win.

The season was about women power and I should have listened to Dale to figure out which one was the most dangerous.

It was also interesting to look back at the premiere and see that Jeff talked to two players on Hunahpu after their win in the first Immunity Challenge, asking them how it felt to win a challenge and put their Loved One in danger.  Both Missy and Natalie told Jeff that it hurt but that their Loved One could take care of themselves.  Natalie was the first Loved One eliminated while Baylor was the last member of a pair voted out.  It was a very interesting contrast and the most fascinating aspect of it is probably the fact that Natalie used Nadiya’s elimination as motivation while Missy’s game was hindered by Baylor’s presence.

Josh told us early on that it was important to be the go-to guy in the tribe and Missy was shown being that person in Hunahpu.   Everyone trusted her and talked with Missy when it came time to make a decision. It made me fall for Missy’s role but it was mostly part a journey story since she was a member of the last pair standing and part tribute for enduring an injury that caused others to quit.  While I was still expecting something from her even this late, something like blindsiding Natalie, Missy’s story never showed us the strategic player.  Under Jeff’s editing style, the winners always give us strategic confessionals down the stretch.

Natalie’s story reminded me too much of other late-surging players.  We’ve seen it often, starting with Elisabeth in season 2.  A marginal pre-merge character starts playing the game after the merger and many viewers fall for that distraction edit.  Neleh had it in Marquesas while Matt in The Amazon was probably the best example of that editing tactic. The funniest example probably came from another Natalie, the one in Micronesia. She and her Airai “sister” Alexis had sort of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde story. While the somewhat nice Alexis had some good moments in the pre-merge, the “stone-cold bitch” Natalie took over the post merge and had that late surge even if no one fell for it.

While Natalie’s story was weak before the merger, she still had a presence but it could have been only because she was a minor reality TV star.  Her story arc was very similar to Hayden’s in the first Blood versus Water season.  The editors probably learned from the fans’ reaction to some of the previous late surges.  Some of those players became fan favorites and so did Natalie.  The audience reacted favorably to her game play and its unpredictability saved a season that many felt was going to be boring.

The idea that the late surge can be more than just a distraction creates a problem for people like me who strives to make their prediction at the merger.  The first three or four episodes can still be used to predict the impact players, the ones that will shape the post-merge story but the official pick will have to be delayed even if it isn’t as much fun.  We’ll see what next season brings.

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