Survivor switches up the game as the immunity challenge finally gives us something new.
by Jeremy Fogelman
The latest episode of Survivor ends with a fairly unusual ending, with a few back and forth moments to make us question the situation, but the outcome was fairly well set up. We see that Jesse initially wants to vote out Noelle because she’s simply too capable and inspiring, which I’m sure would be cold comfort if she got voted out. But he “gives agency” (quite smartly) to Cody to raise his alternate vote out idea of Dwight instead, which would still weaken Noelle’s position in the game.
Cody tells us that the idea is a decent one but he worries it’d be too early to make such a “big” move instead of the safer one against James and his Knowledge is Power advantage situation. James still hasn’t broken the Knowledge is Power curse, but at least he hasn’t misplayed it... yet. I was certainly concerned when he told several people about his advantage, including Cody who visibly looked alarmed at the idea.
I still don’t think it was a great idea for James to tell anyone that wasn’t his closest ally, and even then it’s a huge risk. I think he really just got lucky this time around because Dwight was in the crosshairs and it was easy to bring together a coalition since he had very few allies. One of the issues that the season has had so far is a failure to really give us insight into some of these players -- Dwight was sadly one of them. We never really got any significant idea of his game or even really his personality.
So this vote out (although shown why it happened in this episode) also feels anti-climactic. Last season at this point I felt like there was perhaps just one person I didn’t know, but now there are several -- Dwight, James, Ryan, Cassidy -- that’s four out of twelve. At least I do have a sense for everyone else.
The advantage switcheroo situation was fun enough and it made things more complicated in a slightly confusing way -- I didn’t quite remember what idol or advantage he had when he got voted out, only that it was one of them. Sadly it was poor Jeanine, who was effectively blindsided herself and lost her vote and her ally. A dangerous situation for her, but she’s a fun player to watch certainly.
The new immunity challenge was a fun little change up too, with a set of random pairs leading into a single player final segment so there was immediacy to their alliance situations. We got both the somewhat maudlin but nice moment where everyone helps Noelle, but then the melodramatic and weirdly humorous segment where Gabler goes on and on yet also talks about supporting veterans with PTSD. I suppose it’s one of the odd things about Gabler as a player, he’s a hard competitor with a lot of old school loyalty but not really adept at the strategic dynamics.
I was lucky enough to be at a live show watching this episode, and it’s certainly a trip to watch with a big crowd clapping or gasping at different moments. Certainly enhances a lot of the scenes, making things more entertaining when people applaud for players that are actually in the room (even if maybe they would never be applauding for them otherwise). But sadly their season is still going on so we couldn’t ask for secrets we haven’t seen -- or at least I didn’t ask.
It was still entertaining even considering my enhanced viewing of the episode, with a new interesting immunity twist and some chaotic strategic gameplay -- that’s always fun, even when it targets players you like. At this point Jesse and Karla are the clear strategic narrators, but they may be a hint at what’s to come or a chance to foreshadow a twist that won’t come at all. Either way there are enough interesting players left to keep me invested.
Next time on Survivor, a new storm is coming.