With 13 left, the merge is looming, and Harry has to make a season-altering decision….
Episode 13 (Assistant Dragon Slayer)
We get the first #Mokuta-tent in what seems like forever owing to the Pagonging of Vakama and the intense focus on David and Phoebe in the latter’s boot episode. Tarzan and Jacqui are bickering like a long-married couple, much to everyone’s amusement. You fools, don’t you know that showmances need to get broken up right away?!? Vote out Jacqui next!!!
At Vakama, people are trying to suss out what the nature of Harry’s advantage is. He takes his no. 1 ally Shonee aside to explain what it is, and it seems like he has to play it before the votes are read (as opposed to during the read; I think there was some question about this last week). Harry wants to pass it to Nick if Mokuta wins the immunity challenge, much like Henry slipped an expiring idol to Mat earlier this season.
Nick is in a tough spot, game-wise. The original Mokutas (Nick, Lee, and Sharn) plus Phoebe took a shot at Moana and missed, and now Phoebe’s gone. Similarly, David took a shot at Nick (in the vote that sent Phoebe to a fire challenge) and missed, and now he wants to finish the job. But being David, he can’t simply leverage a 5-3 numbers advantage, he has to make it three-dimensional chess, so he proposes a sub-alliance to Nick as a trap.
The reward challenge is a water-based obstacle course/puzzle. Both tribes get stuck on a log climb reminiscent of the tree the Coach famously failed to shimmy up in Heroes vs. Villains. By the way, has the Tower of Terror made an appearance yet this season? Mokuta wins by a mile, and take Brooke and Shonee, ostensibly because they will eat the least. Shonee notes that even though her tribe lost, she gets to eat and pass information to her allies on Mokuta: minimal effort for maximum return. Truly, Shonee is one of us.
Both Brooke and Shonee are put off by how intensely they’re getting grilled for information with none offered in exchange. Shonee notes that Moana is the godmother, which I guess wouldn’t be apparent from the perspective on the other tribe. Nick is being surveilled and doesn’t really get a chance to talk to Shonee.
The immunity challenge is the stack-stuff-on-a-wobbly-table challenge, which is usually an individual immunity challenge. It typically takes a long time for even one person to finish, and in this iteration all five tribe members have to. This could take forever. Not only that, but the way the challenge is constructed, the tribe members are squeezed closer together than is typical for this challenge. It seems like there’s lots of potential for bumping into each other and stepping on each other’s ropes. Moreover, they’re stacking rectangular prisms rather than cubes–fewer in number but even more unstable. On top of everything else, once you finish you have to hold the table in place without dropping your stack until everyone’s finished.
Sure enough, tensions and frustrations mount, notably Zach toward Jacqui. Shonee needs a few more tries than the other Vakamas to finish, but Mokuta can’t catch up. Vakama wins, and it’s decision-time for Harry. He asks Lee who’s going home and gets a non-committal response. He then huddles up with the other Vakamas and reveals what the advantage really is. Locky urges him not to play it and Harry decides to hold onto it. This surprised me at first but it makes sense given that throughout the game, Harry has been trying to lower his threat level. Yes, he could rescue Nick but it would alienate both sides, making it difficult if not impossible to build on his tight three after the merge. Additionally, holding onto the advantage means one fewer Mokuta at the merge, even if it’s Nick that goes. Even without Nick, there are still Mokutas that could switch sides after the merge, like Lee and Sharn. Indeed, one of David’s reasons for targeting Nick is that he wants to be Vakama’s lifeline. Plus, what happens if Nick halts the vote, they don’t merge, and Vakama loses the next immunity challenge? Harry goes home, probably. All that said, Harry is certainly taking a risk in allowing the Little Rascals to get broken up.
David is itching to blindside Nick, but he’s also pushing for a 7-1 vote. This makes no sense unless David’s definition of blindside is the same as Jeff Probst’s. David tells Nick the vote is on Jacqui because of what happened at the challenge, but Nick isn’t buying it. He wants to not only save his own skin but flush the idol that David flashed at the previous tribal council for no good reason. Nick goes to Lee and Sharn and reiterates that they’re a tight three, then pitches pulling in Tarzan and Jacqui and splitting their five votes between David and Zach. Jacqui seems to bite, in part because of the way Zach treated her at the challenge.
At tribal council, Jonathan immediately brings up David’s flashing the idol last time. David, of all people, preaches tribal unity and going into the merge as a tight-knit seven. Zach has heard his name thrown around but seems complacent. Both Sharn and Jacqui are non-committal about the possibility of a blindside. Everyone basically says they trust the people they’ve allied with, which doesn’t really answer the question of who exactly has allied with whom. We see Nick vote Zach and David vote Nick (while wearing the idol) and no other votes. David doesn’t play his idol. Alas, it’s a unanimous vote for Nick. So on the eve of the merge, both tribes choose unity.
Episode 14 (Kemper Boyd)
We being with Sharn explaining why she voted out Nick and yet another David confessional, about merge, about his bonds and about his two idols. He is going to go Makuta strong. The whole tribe then meets to discuss tactics, David saying they should play that he is pulling in Zach in and Sharn and Lee will be fake (or real) swing votes.
We get to a reward (??) challenge. Vakama see Nick isn’t there and I assume Harry is kicking himself. It’s not a tribe reward challenge it’s the merge! The new buffs look sick. AK is pretty happy he made merge. So is Mo, the $500k would change her family’s life. It’s a good reminder that although Mo was a professional athlete unlike Mat she didn’t make any money. Her family story is intense, she is one of 14 kids, raised in social housing and she and her wife care for her disabled sister full time. The individual reward challenge is holding a big clay pot on a rope attached way in front of them for an immunity advantage. It looks really hard. Brooke talks to David about if he was safe and he gives her some bullshit lines about him thinking it was him at any of the tribals he went to. David tells AK he is with the Vakama 5. After an hour they go to one hand, which seems like a big disadvantage to Sharn who is small so has small hands. Lee wins the advantage in the challenge!
Post Merge feast, we have Mo telling us how strong her alliance is and how everything goes through her. She and Sharn sell Brooke on Mo not liking David. It seems insane that you let a strong player with an idol and an insane ego be the double agent. I am enjoying no nonsense villain Mo Hope as a strategic player.
Shonee talks all about needing to flip two to turn the game on it’s head. She goes to work on Zach. Apparently Zach is really into birds, he has an aviary of rescued birds. Brooke uses it to start building relationships. I am fascinated that Zach is basically Deena from Superstore!
I think we got way too many David confessionals, sure it’s a bit interesting that they are pretending to flip only to go back and just vote with his original tribe. But hearing him scream about how it’s a huge move over and over is just grating. It’s really not wild strategy to have people pretend to flip to keep the minority comfortable. But we could have heard from Zach about how he felt being obviously played about Cockatoos; or from AK and Harry about if they believe it’s happening. But we got a lot of David, Locky and Shonee instead (but I’m not complaining about a lot of Shonee).
Individual immunity is a block stacking challenge but on a seesaw. Shonee and Sharn both start very quickly but it shows it gets much harder once you have a taller tower. The tables the blocks need to be stacked on seen to be adjusted by height and are set up for right and left handers. The challenge is won by challenge beast Shonee. Take that Makuta, they voted her out for strength and she got rid of Abbey, Lydia and John because of it and now she is safe at the first vote of the merge. #shontent!
Post Immunity, Sharn under Mo Hope’s instruction tells AK that it’s him who is the Makuta target, to make them nervous and if there is an immunity idol have it played wrong. AK buys it completely. David tells us he’s the power position, and he is in a great spot, he’s playing double agent, he’s powerful on both sides. Tarzan is worried about it, like he should be, he has a great analogy about fire being dangerous but if you take care of it and manage it it can be your best friend. Unfortunately for Tarzan David is the kind of guy who can get out of control and burn your game down.
Kudos to the editors, right before we go to tribal Locky gets a confessional about how great blindsides are and how you get to watch the face of your victim and say “yep, that was me” and after this tribal either he’ll have his hand up saying “yep that was me” or we are going to see his face fall as he realises it’s him.
At Tribal it’s the usual stuff, Harry says there is nuance, AK is asked about the difference between pre-merge and post-merge tribal, David plays his role well, he gives answers that works for both sides to believes he’s speaking about voting with them. Harry points out that whoever is voted out will be on the jury and the job now is to convince everyone you deserve to win. David says you have to get there first. It made me think of Russell Hantz, David has the touch of the Russell about him, maybe he can be the Russell who wins. Eventually Zach says “whoever is on that side with them” JLP digs in saying he said “that side” as though it wasn’t clear he meant the side who loses a player. Zach then waffles a bit but I think the editors wanted us to think he made a big mistake. Locky says when he’s on the jury he’ll only vote for someone who makes big moves. David rolls his eyes and Mo calls Locky out about how safe his game has been so far with who he voted out. Mo says she’ll be thinking of the full game not the last 20 days, she says “you don’t need to play a loud game to play a good game” which might as well be the motto of Australian Survivor.
The votes are read, no idols are played and 5 votes Sharn, then we see Locky’s name pulled and his face drops just the way he gleefully described pre-tribal, 5 votes Locky. The final two votes are Locky and it is a lovely comeuppance.
Locky won’t be sad for too long but Brooke might be, as he was announced today as the next lead in Bachelor Australia, sorry John.
Episode 15 (Assistant Dragon Slayer)
Before starting the recap proper, I want to flag something from the previous episode. Mokuta’s camp is the merge camp, and AK (who was on Vakama the entire pre-merge) marveled at how luxurious it is. If you recall way back in the premiere, the first reward challenge was for a prefab camp. There’s been some grumbling in the comments about the direction this season is taking (which I think is both justified and a bit premature), but it would genuinely suck if Mokuta simply mowed down Vakama post-merge with their numbers advantage, a direct result of the “have and have not” camp situation from Survivor: Fiji, a huge mistake that never should have happened on US Survivor but at least only happened once.
We open with a confessional from David (shocker, I know). He’s caught some kind of cold. This must be his boot episode. Moana is happy to have avenged Mat by blindsiding Locky. I’m really disappointed that Brooke doesn’t seem to understand that losing Locky, while not good numbers-wise, lowers her threat level dramatically. Harry isn’t surprised that David played Vakama, but he is surprised that Zach did (wait til he finds out about the flamenco dancing).
And now for some #Shontent
Now David is gunning for Harry because if he gets Harry out this round and makes it to the end, David will break Harry’s record for consecutive days played. “Consecutive” does not mean what David thinks it means. Harry wants to remove a pawn (of whom there are too many in this post merge, another worrying factor) and vote out Jacqui, pulling over Lee and Zach.
The conventional move here is to find the people on the bottom of the majority alliance and offer them a chance to use the minority alliance’s votes to make Big Movez™. It’s tricky in this case because there are two power centers on Mokuta so it’s possible that none of the pawns thinks they’re really on the bottom.
The immunity challenge is a repeat of the final immunity challenge from last season, where you hold onto sandbags with your hands upraised, via a rope-and-pulley mechanism, all while standing on pegs. Harry notes that while he lost the challenge he lasted almost seven hours. The weight is doubled from last time, however, so it’s not going to last that long. By 1.5 hours, it’s down to bum-shouldered Lee, Brooke, and Harry. I’m super-impressed by Brooke, given her (probable) relative lack of upper body strength, forcing her to rely more than the others on sheer grip strength. After Harry drops out, his neighbor in the challenge Shonee whispers that they need to save themselves by sacrificing AK and Brooke—a post-merge Intentional Matsing. This is pretty shocking, and must mean that the Mokuta pawns aren’t cracking. Finally Lee gives up and Brooke wins immunity. They have to go straight to tribal because of the lateness of the hour (this must have been intentional given the nature of the challenge and how late in the day they started). This has to be very bad for Harry. He’s still banking on getting Lee and Zach to flip.
Sharn says Mokuta plans to split the vote, five on Harry and two on AK, which is not going to work if Harry has an idol, unless they think Vakama will splinter. This time Shonee and Brooke make the pitch to Lee and Zach, and it turns out Lee wants to make a move, given that a weak resume is why he thinks he lost his first season. Zach also says he sees the potential for moving up to the top of the food chain. I’m not buying any of this.
Once again tribal council is fairly rote, since everybody seems to be clear-eyed about what the stakes are, who’s in the cross-hairs, and whose votes are in play (if any). Brooke hates what Locky’s done to his beard, which was apparently to hack away at it with his eyes closed (wait til she finds out he’s the next Australian Bachelor). Before Jonathan reads the votes, Harry reaches into his bag and reveals… a banana stash that he bequeaths to Brooke. The votes come in five on Harry (including David’s vote for “Herry”), four on Jacqui, two on AK. Inevitable, particularly since Vakama had no clue about the vote split (both because it didn’t make sense and because neither Lee or Zach told them about it, and neither of them said in confessional that it would only take one vote to swing it). Harry’s torch is snuffed, the toothpick goes into the fire, and the ratio of pawns to players gets even higher.
Maybe I’m grasping at straws here, but at least this episode makes clear that Lee and Zach know what they have to do, they just (correctly) decided this wasn’t the time for it yet.
The AU Team is Kemper Boyd, Assistant Dragon Slayer, Blurry Denzel, and Barbara Anderson, who are joined by special guest and genuine Australian Something Quirky. Everything about Australian Survivor is big, including the team needed to cover it.