Survivor gives us a brand new twist with mostly fun results and a mostly predictable ending.
by Jeremy Fogelman
The latest episode of Survivor is called “Lovable Curmudgeon” after Owen’s self-description, which follows up the last episode using the tattoo of Cody. So two descriptive titles so far, but whether or not it means anything is hard to say. Owen’s curmudgeonly ways did become apparent to Ellie at least, who mentions that he’s like a son she has to manage closely and actually literally pats him on the head while condescendingly talking to him.
But our troubled losing team of the first episode does much better here, with a lot of screen time as we look into Gabler and his struggle for a while to recover. There are also a few amusing moments there, like Jeanine asking what game the boys are playing then there’s a cut to the three of the dudes messing around. But then they talk about a potential dude’s alliance if necessary, so maybe there’s game after all. The only backstory flashback comes from Ellie, who suffered from ADHD and dyslexia growing up and struggled to compete.
Despite all of this, and a missed idol moment of amusement, the team does really well in the immunity challenge and comes in first. The second place goes to the Blue Coco tribe, where we really only get two things of note -- Karla discussing potential alliances in her tribe, and Geo giving his own backstory flashback about being kicked out of his home after coming out to his parents. The end tag of that story was the main point though, as he discusses how living his life that way, to survive and thrive, will be how he plays this game too.
Sadly for our Red Vesi tribe, it’s not so great. After a bit of a tease in the challenge where Noelle shouts out that Nneka needs to work harder, it’s ultimately Justine who goes home. She is aware enough to realize that she’s a target too, picking up on some sort of vibes with Jesse, but not enough to truly risk her Do or Die option. Her power duo with Noelle is a threat, but the real threat is to Jesse, who orchestrates the vote out -- and it aligns perfectly with the team Nneka and her ally Cody.
Although I have to say that it actually might really have been that Justine was simply annoying Jesse too much and that made it an easier vote. Voting for “challenge strength” isn’t always a good thing, and there are many ways to do well in challenges besides pure stamina and strength, although those always help.
All that was fun enough, but the real fun was when Cody nearly torpedoes the plan when he uncovers a “Beware” advantage that requires him to gather specific beads from each of his teammates. Jesse smartly mentions that his hat could easily be used as a decoy, and with the combo of Jesse and Nneka peer pressuring the rest of the tribe into giving up their beads, it’s a fait accompli, despite the cute little flashback at tribal.
So why did Justine get voted out? A combination of things, but a big one is that she simply wasn’t in the majority alliance of Jesse/Nneka/Cody, which was able to sway Dwight to their side despite his lack of interest. But the note that Jesse told us early on, that he was in the “driver’s seat”? So far it’s true, despite the foreshadowing alarm.
It was a pretty fun episode, even if it was a shame to see Justine get voted out -- although I wouldn’t have been happy to see Nneka out either. That’s the curse of a well cast season, which thankfully, this season completely manages.