Australian Survivor, week 5. Tatiana Maslany got the Emmy, and Australian Survivor also happened.

I tried to buy gas at three different places today, but the pipeline burst is seriously screwing with me. Fortunately, Australian Survivor is not screwing with me.

This cat is sooooo deaf. Not def. He can't hear stuff.
This cat is sooooo deaf. Not def. Although he is that, too. But also, he can’t hear stuff.

“Episode 12”

I feel like this is gonna be a divisive episode, but I enjoyed it a lot. The conclusion is kind of foregone, but the journey is a ton of fun.

Let’s talk about Vavau first because I want to do a longer speculation on just what the hell is going on with the Saanapu story. Craig and Kate defecting seems not to bother anyone at all. Phoebe not telling Kristie about voting out Kat also seems to bother Kristie not at all. The plan is still to get rid of Phoebe next. Except Phoebe has the idol, which Craig is still looking for. Phoebe also works Conner. He won’t promise to side with her, but he does promise to tell her if she’s the target. Conner, you are supposed to be a superfan, so why don’t you remember how this worked for Joe in Cambodia.

Even weirder, holy shit there’s a lot to talk about with Saanapu, and boy is it weird. First there’s… something involving Kylie sleeping in the wrong place, and then being kind of a jerk about it the day afterward. I’m not going to pretend I understand this stuff, exactly. Then, the bit at Vavau, there’s another segment involving how much of a dick Matt is. Lee is fishing, and the girls are female-gazing, and Matt has a salty comment to Brooke about it, which sets her off. As she sees it, Matt’s jealous because the addition of Sam and Lee has hurt his spot at the top of the alpha male totem pole, and she starts putting the wheels in motion to vote him out with the help of Sam, Lee, and El.

That’s clearly not happening tonight, since Saanapu wins again, so why is this here. My theory: we’re seeing the ground being sewn for Vavau Matsing-ing and being the force that breaks up a fractious Saanapu in the post-merge. Especially given that, after tonight, it’s even less likely Vavau is winning a challenge.

So let’s talk about the actual challenge. It’s a fun mix of elements we’ve seen before – throw an object past a blocker, run across a beam while the other tribe throws sandbags at you – with a connect five at the end added on that I don’t think American Survivor has ever done. This interested me at first because you can’t put the not particularly nimble Nick or Matt on the beam, but it didn’t occur to me that you could just yell advice from the sidelines.

Saanapu is just dominant here, both physically and mentally. Kylie gets across the beam far more than Conner, and the latter ignores the advice his tribe is shouting in ways that are questionable. Another Saanapu victory.

Back at a camp, the consensus it to vote for Phoebe. No talk of a split comes up. This show supposedly has a lot of superfans, but vote splits are strangely absent from it. That may be because, with Phoebe having played Aganoa’s idol, nobody could believe she has Vavau’s idol. Still, it’s just being cautious. This isn’t the 12-person vote from Cambodia, it’s a 2-2-2. Surely, splitting the vote should be on the table.

Anyway, Conner dutifully informs Phoebe she’s going home, and he reports as much back to the tribe. They enlist Kristie to console her in hopes of making Kristie feel more a part of things. And this is where gets fun. Phoebe’s giant shit-eating grin, Kristie’s standard Angelina Jolie-level lack of affect, and the plan that’s going down is one of the most delightful scenes I’ve ever seen on Survivor.

As Phoebe explains it, they have three choices: Conner, who is the most tangential member of the majority; Sue, who is the best liked; and Craig, who is the biggest schemer. But, as Phoebe points out, they need Craig for challenges, so surely it’s not Craig.

Tribal council is pretty rote. LaPaglia grills them on losing, again, they talk about how hard losing is, again. Phoebe has pointed comments about being on the bottom. Let’s get to the vote. Things seem to be coming up Phoebe, but Phoebe also has an idol and several hours time to rehearse the line she uses when she plays it. Faces drop. Four votes for Phoebe/Pheobe come in, then… Craig? Nooo. 2 Craigs? Nooooooooooooo.

While I’m devastated to see Craig gone, overall this was an enjoyable episode. I’s not clear what the path forward for Phoebe is at this point, but fingers crossed there is one.

Discussion points:

  • It’s not clear to me whether Craig got that Phoebe probably had the idol, but, if he did, what’s his move here? I’m going with telling only Kate and having them put two votes on Kristie, then explaining afterwards.
  • Tatiana Maslany got the Emmy, y’all. Don’t care that it has nothing to do with Australian Survivor, it looked like her work was never going to be acknowledged and it’s awesome that it was.

“Episode 13”

So… that happened. I don’t completely know what to say about it, but I guess I have to talk about it.

Let’s get the Sanaapu stuff out of the way so we can get to the meat of the episode. Kylie is still on the outs. She gathers the women so she point out they’re likely to be the majority after the merge, and everyone involved here does a bad job. Kylie screws up by going with this sad, awkward sales pitch instead of the tried-and-true tactic of picking the most likely convert first and going to other people with someone else backing you. But Flick, El, and Brooke also screw up by not immediately saying yes in order to keep Kylie in line. It’s more “fractures in Saanapu” stuff that I’m assuming will pay off in the post-merge.

At Vavau, everyone is gunning for Phoebe, whose only ally at this point is Kristie, who reminds us she’s completely insane by skulking in a tree trying to catch fish. Also, she is catching fish with Rohan’s discarded underwear. (Australia is one of those countries wear ‘pants’ means ‘underwear,’ right?) While Kristie is working on her Gollum impression, suspicion is also mounting about how much Kristie knew about Phoebe’s idol, which Phoebe is happy to stoke.

We have a reward challenge, and it’s a replay of the memory challenge Mike struggled to throw in Worlds Apart. Saanapu wins because it’s a challenge. They get a feast, Vavua eats snails, then back to Saanapu for some body horror stuff. There’s not a lot going on in the middle of this episode.

Then it’s on to immunity. Four people from each tribe row out as far as they can while the other tribe’s remaining player has to untie a not, haul them back in, then run back to shore to solve a puzzle. At first I’m wondering why Vavau has Kate in the point position, but then I remember they don’t exactly have options since Phoebe decided getting rid of Craig was a good idea. It doesn’t matter because Nick blazes through the puzzle and Vavau is going to tribal council again.

In a weird twist, Saanapu gets to send someone to tribal council to observe. I’m generally pretty meh on this as a tactical advantage, since it only ever seems to amount to a preview of who’s not going to be at the merge feast.

At camp, Phoebe goes into overdrive. She comes up with a complicated scheme that involves throwing Kristie under the bus by claiming she had full knowledge of the idol, while also roping in Conner to lie to Kristie about voting off Sue. It seems waaay too complicated to work, but the episode doesn’t really present an alternate target.

So off to tribal council. Brooke is the chosen observer. There’s some peremptory stuff where Jonathan LaPaglia seems really eager to blow up Phoebe’s spot, like waaaay too eager. Then, Kristie, who looks like sometimes she still wakes up in the dark and hears the screaming of the lambs, gets laid into. Kristie gives a defense that while technically solid is too halting to really be convincing, and everyone says they know who they’re voting for.

But we haven’t had a twist in like 3 episodes, so time for a twist! Instead of voting someone out, Vavau is going to lose a member to Saanapu and Brooke is picking who. After initially considering Phoebe, she settles on Sue, and now the tribes are 10-4.

I’m really exhausted with Saanapu’s dominance, and I think it was the result of a poorly constructed swap. Letting the tribe that just won a challenge scoop up the other tribes’ best players was a bad idea, and it’s not surprising it led to this result. Now it’s even more imbalanced, and, since it’s mathematically impossible for Saanapu not to sit out the same people in back-to-back challenges now, she’s not even a challenge liability. At this point I’m praying for a merge.

Despite that, I do think this was a good episode. But what made it a good episode is that this is a good cast. This is further proof that, when you combine the Survivor formula with good casting, bells and whistles are unnecessary.

Discussion points:

  • Am I laying it on too think with the “Kristie is crazy” stuff, or not thick enough?
  • Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany still has her Emmy.

“Episode 14”

Thanks god it’s a merge next episode. I’m not down on this episode because of how it ends, although, it goes without saying, I’m not happy about that part, but I’m just exhausted with this phase of the game and ready for something new.

I think the show knows this, too. The pre-challenge stuff is perfunctory, to the point where I was stunned when that challenge was for immunity. We learn that Sue is basically fitting in with Saanapu with the exception of Nick, who goes through the same teeth-sucking “you voted me out routine” with Sue that he did with Jennah-Louise. Only in front of the entire tribe because…. that’s smart. Sue doesn’t seems to care, but Nick thinks it went really well. Guys, I don’t think Nick is going to win this game.

Anyway, this challenge ends in a puzzle, so… you know how that goes. Vavau gets off to a decent start in the “make yourself dizzy then do an obstacle course” section, but Saanapu catches up, and then it’s a replay of Kate vs. Matt on basically the same puzzle we saw Kate struggle with yesterday. Vavau is going to tribal council again, with 25 minutes left in the episode. Sure five of that will be spent on Saanapu stuffing their face with grody hamburgers, but that leaves the final 20 to cover this slow-motion dumpster fire.

Back at Vavau, the plan is still to vote out Kristie. But Phoebe feels it’s important to comfort her weird island little sister before she cuts her throat, so she spins an elaborate plan about how they need to vote out Kate. And this is where things get dumb. Kristie wants to talk to Kate, and Phoebe shuts the idea down with an aggressiveness that can only say, “I am hiding something from you.”

So Kristie talks to Kate, who spills the beans on all of Phoebe’s machinations over the past few days. Kristie ropes in Conner, and soon plans have changed. The episode makes it so obvious that Phoebe is about to go down that going to tribal becomes almost unnecessary.

It’s a fairly boring tribal council. LaPaglia is a willing to let Kristie stay nothing at all as he was to draw out Phoebe last time. The growing pains of his position as host are becoming clearer and clearer. So let’s get to the vote. We don’t see anyone’s vote, but it’s… 3-1 for Phoebe. And that’s it. America’s Australian sweetheart gets her torch snuffed.

The preview tells us next week is the for-real merge, and I couldn’t be more relieved. This slog can’t end soon enough; let’s hope what comes next is more fun.

Discussion points:

  • Is there anything Phoebe could have done differently here to make this work for her? Did she just work herself into too much of a hole?
  • Seriously, what the hell was with LaPaglia get away with Kristie saying nothing at all at tribal council?