The season takes another grim turn, this time not literally or figuratively.
Episode 16 (Assistant Dragon Slayer)
The situation for the former Vakamas is more dire than ever following the eliminations of Locky and Harry. Shonee puts her social game into overdrive and finally forges a connection with Tarzan, having been born in the town where he lives.
Tarzan and Lee go to the water well. They talk about how the finish line is just starting to come into sight, with Tarzan noting that he’s lasted three times as long in the game as his first time. We get a confessional from Lee talking about making it to the end his first time, and a flashback to that final tribal council, when Lee and Kristy’s families were brought out. I’m semi-spoiled for this episode, and this just fills me with dread.
There’s not much to note about the reward challenge except for Sharn’s no-look backwards-throw basket.
The Green team wins easily, giving Brooke some time to try and bond with the other side. She’s going on reward with pawns Zach and Sharn, but also David and Moana, so she won’t have much room to maneuver. In fact, the completely self-interested move for Brooke here might actually be to flip.
At the reward, they get BBQ and Bundaberg soda, but also letters from home. Moana’s is particularly touching. So is David’s, and dadgummit Adam, I think I’m coming around just a little bit on Zach.
Back at camp, a producer pulls Lee aside, and we see him on a phone, distraught. His mom has had a major stroke and the prognosis is grim. This is heartbreaking, but to be perfectly honest, the way the flashback held on the shots of Lee’s kids I was bracing myself for even worse news. Tarzan narrates these developments and however inert his game is, he does so with grace. We raise a glass to Lee and his mother, Elizabeth May.
We come back from commercial at the challenge mat. Jonathan briefly asks how the tribe is doing, but says that the game must go on. When he asks them “are you ready to get to today’s immunity challenge?”, there’s a long pause before they start saying, unenthusiastically and unconvincingly, that they are. Look, I know Network 10 has a schedule to fill and it would have been impossible to get a full-length episode out of what’s happened so far, but this seems a bit tone-deaf to me. Not to mention that losing two contestants in this episode puts them at least one and possibly two eliminations ahead of schedule (because Harry didn’t use his stop-the-vote advantage).
The immunity challenge is keeping a ball from falling from an overhead chute, but in the ocean while treading water. The former Mokutas all drop out relatively quickly except for Sharn and David. AK does not appear to use his time on the bench to whisper to Jacqui. Eventually it’s a duel between David and Shonee (!). AK beckons Brooke to his side of the bench and they conspire to not help Shonee win by warning her when her ball is in danger of dropping (because if Shonee wins, one of them goes). After an incredible two hours, five minutes (third-place Brooke dropped out at 55 minutes), Shonee wins immunity!!! It turns out that she works out most days by doggy-paddling in a pool and chatting with her friends.
Without Lee, the majority’s plan is straightforward: three votes on AK, three on Brooke. The minority pitches a flip to Sharn, who is the most pliable, but that also makes her completely unreliable. AK scrambles, but for self-preservation rather than to flip someone from other side (i.e., he throws Brooke under the bus). Brooke does the same, and it seems like she has Shonee’s vote, for a majority vote of five AK, four (at most) Brooke.
It’s another rote tribal council, where no one (including Jonathan) can crack the majority six. But then Jonathan says that “tonight, things are going to be a little different”. The top three vote-getters will be going to Exile Beach. The same thing will happen at the next tribal, and then those six will compete to get back in the game. Everybody asks for clarification, and the Exile Beach challenges will eliminate one player and bring the other five back. This is brilliant. It disrupts the Pagonging, gets the season back on track in terms of the number of eliminations (once two people go home on Wednesday), and gives the former Vakama more time to try and crack the Mokuta majority, both at camp and on Exile Beach.
Nobody gets up to whisper before the vote (I assume they were told not to). AK and Brooke get votes, as expected, but Moana got three votes and the three head to Exile Beach. I’m surprised. I thought the most likely outcome was nobody changing their vote (what would happen in that scenario is unclear), followed by David getting exiled, followed by complete chaos with votes going in every direction.
There’s a strong case to be made that this is an excessive, maybe even game-breaking, level of production interference, and that it’s hypocritical to be excited by this twist if you would also riot if production stepped in to break up a Pagonging being orchestrated by, say, Nick and Phoebe. Counterpoint: Who cares?
Episode 17 (Blurry Denzel)
We start the episode over on Exile Beach with AK, Brooke and Moana. Brooke shows flashes of optimism as she knows her life in the game may be extended. Mo on the other hand is understandably silent. Her standing in this game came crashing down and there is a chance she doesn’t return from the post Exile tribal. The morning comes and there is nothing to do besides looking forward to the challenges that are to come. This twist sucks.
Three more people are going to be voted onto Exile Beach and David doesn’t want one of those people to be him. Shonee, barring another immunity, is a lock to go to Exile. Now there are two other spots up for grabs. Tarzan is quickly out of the mix as people don’t want to depart with a number they can beat. David hustles to make sure he is not one of the two gone. He approaches Zach about having Zach volunteer to go to Exile. He sells it as a hero move for Zach. He can conquer the minority alliance and flaunt that in front of a jury. This probably wasn’t that hard of a sell job as Zach is the exact type of player with the exact kind of ego that would jump at this. I don’t think this is a good move to willingly go to Exile and increase your odds of losing without the equal increase of winning the game but it doesn’t really matter what Zach does in the grand scheme of things.
The next step of David’s plan is to win immunity and take himself off the table of options to even go to Exile in the first place. This does not go as well as the Zach move did. The challenge involved balancing three balls on a block while standing back far enough to touch a line. Sharn accomplishes this first and wins immunity. she and not David is now in a power position. Sharn wants to blindside David and from her current perspective while there is a chance David wins his way back, to cut him now puts her at a great spot to win the game but more on that later.
David wants Jacqui to go to Exile. Jacqui doesn’t want to go and has Sharn’s support. Those two tell Tarzan the plan and that is what bites them as Tarzan tells David the plan immediately. For all the unnecessary moves and need for attention, I will give David credit for the relationships he does form in the game. He puts a lot of work into relationships and they do pay dividends when he needs them to.
At tribal, JLP explains how the next phase of the game will go. There will be two competitions on Exile and then at the next Tribal only the people who don’t win their way back will be up for elimination. This kills any chance of blindsiding David as he can just use his idol if he doesn’t succeed on Exile. Also more than half the tribe will be immune at the next tribal, which will be interesting to track. Players either get too comfortable and not make major moves when safe or will feel emboldened and go for a bold move with the lack of immediate consequences. I would bet on David being in that latter category. A running story line for me in these recaps is my waiting for the glorious downfall of David. I’m increasingly thinking that won’t happen. David is in a great spot.
Shonee, Zach and Jacqui are three selected to go to Exile with their games on the line. While I hate this twist, I can’t lie, I’m rooting for Shonee, AK and Brooke to all be safe after next episode. We’ll see what happens when this convoluted mess plays out tomorrow.
- Sharn, David and Tarzan hang out just the 3 of them. David shouts about the fact Sharn talked about blindsiding him. But she didn’t blindside him. David then also says he needs the meat shields in Zach and Moana.
- Jacqui is annoyed by Zach on Exile. She doesn’t like David and knows Zach is a goat.
- Shonee goes to work on Jacqui as she’s the bottom of her alliance.
- Ok, we get to the first challenge and I realise I have no idea how this exile business works.
- So the 5 who get back in will all be immune at the next tribal? or just the first two?
- Mo and Brooke win their place back in the game on the first challenge. Very close for the second spot.
- Brooke is being left alone at camp.
- Shonee continues to shower Jacqui with attention and love.
- The second challenge is all strength so Shonee and AK don’t do well then Jacqui beats Zach which must kill his misogynistic arse.
- David decides to put the votes on Shonee.
- Shonee gets to work with Jacqui but Jacqui is only one person.
- Jacqui wants to flip but won’t do it without telling Mo and Tarzan. Mo is told, she decides she would like to remove Zach to remove Dave’s slave. Mo and Sharn decide that the move has to be Jacqui’s. If they split the vote three 3 then Jacqui can flip and vote out Zach.
- Jacqui actually flips and votes out Zach. David is pissed and Sharn and Mo pretend to be very upset. I like this move because Zach is a prick who adds nothing to the game and losing Shonee would have broken me.
- On the way out of tribal Mo winks at the jury and mimes a bomb.
- Zach’s last words are so embaressing, this man is 40.
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.