Photo: Robert Voets/CBS
There’s some brilliant Schadenfreude to watch SurvivorThe silly twists of fall flat. It’s like the universe is sending a direct message to Jeff Probst: “Survivor it’s good like this. Many of these modern twists only serve to disrupt the natural flow of play and, at worst, actively discourage risky play and ward off drama. It almost happens in this episode as the Do or Die twist makes its unwanted return; fortunately the Survivor the gods had other plans.
As with last season, the Do or Die twist claims no casualties. Lindsay is the unfortunate participant in the deadly game of chance this time around. Besides Jonathan, she is the only other person who chooses to participate in the immunity challenge, knowing that she will be forced to play the Do or Die if she falls first. It’s a decision she instantly regrets the moment she falls from her perch and her toes touch the sand. She was in no danger of going home; there was no reason to participate in the challenge. However, as she herself admits, the competitor in her has taken over. So she heads to Tribal Council with her fate in Jeff’s mysterious vaults.
What’s so terrible about this twist is that it prioritizes the fleeting tension of a game of chance over the more intriguing and impactful social and strategic dynamics. And there are juicy projects going on at the Kula Kula camp. Mike begins by floating Romeo around like a decoy boot – an easy task as Romeo’s stealing rations hasn’t really endeared himself to the tribe. But Mike’s real target is Drea; she is a powerful player with strong chances to win all season. So if he can get her comfortable with the Romeo plan, she won’t see it coming.
As always, perpetual brewer Omar has his own ideas. He thinks Mike is getting too confident after the vote against Hai. “Mike is on a Hai high,” he says (personally, I would have gone with “Mike is on his Hai horse”). Omar acknowledges that Mike plays harder than he lets on, and that’s dangerous. In an ideal world, Omar would like to punch Mike now, but he knows it’s too risky with Mike having an idol in his back pocket. If Mike were to play his idol, the whole plan would explode and Omar’s carefully managed gameplay would be exposed. What if there was a way to take this idol away from Mike?
Drea has been hanging on to a whole tote bag of perks for a while at this point. One of these perks is Knowledge Is Power, which allows him to ask someone if they have an idol – if they have one, they can’t lie and must hand it over to them. As it has become a recurring theme of the season, Drea decides to tell Omar about her power. It’s such a pointless and disappointing game because, in the moment, Drea’s instinct is right. She senses that the tribe is coming for her and might actually take Mike’s idol from the tribe and protect themselves. Nobody else needs to know. But the moment she tells Omar, it opens up a whole new list of possibilities because, as Perk warns, knowledge is power.
Omar informs Lindsay about Drea’s power, and the pair discuss the best game for them in the future. They might let Drea steal Mike’s idol and reject Mike. Or they could warn Mike, pass the idol on to Omar to keep, and thereby “neutralize” Drea’s advantage (of course, the vet would use the term “neutralize”). That would leave Drea open to a vote. There is also a third option. Omar could warn Mike, take the idol to negate Drea’s power, but vote against Mike, thus fully possessing the idol himself. All of the storylines are endlessly compelling – and yet, it could all be pointless if Lindsay were to return home simply because she picked the wrong box. The fact that the series puts itself in this position is quite confusing.
Fortunately, Lindsay avoids the Monty Hall problem. Surprisingly, this plays out the same way it did for Deshawn in Survivor 41. Lindsay makes her choice and sticks to it, even if Jeff offers her the chance to trade. She chooses correctly. Not only does this mean a skilled player isn’t eliminated in a stupid game of chance, but we can also see this fascinating voting play out. And the Survivor 41 deja vu continues as Drea asks Mike if he has an idol to be hit with a definite “no”. This exact situation happened last season with Liana and Alex after a nifty tribal forward idol transfer. Here, a flashback reveals that Mike passed his idol to Omar. So it’s two for two on the twists missed for this episode.
Drea has no choice but to laugh as the votes roll in to send her off. Just like Hai last week, she takes her elimination in good spirits. In fact, she might be the most relaxed Drea we’ve seen all season, almost as if a weight has been lifted and she can finally let her guard down. After a playful fight with Mike about using her extra vote on him, she gives some insight into her fellow tribesmen. She says she supports Lindsay, tells Maryanne to keep being herself, reveals she never targeted Jonathan, that Mike will win if he makes it to the end, and that Omar was the only one who knew his secret power. As a sign of respect for Drea’s high game, Jeff even lets her recite the famous words, “The tribe has spoken.”
It was a great Tribal Council that could have been a complete dud if the Do or Die had worked out the way the producer surely intended. Hopefully this is the last we see of these twists, especially the Do or Die, which adds absolutely nothing of value to the show. Survivor doesn’t need fabricated drama, not when you have a cast like this bringing in the goods every week.
• While Lindsay’s choice to play in the challenge was debatable, it was definitely the right decision for Jonathan. He was a strong candidate to go home if he didn’t get immunity, especially with his “starving” behavior rubbing people the wrong way.
• With all the twists and turns in play, it might be time to take stock of the current situation. As of this episode, Maryanne has an idol and an additional vote, Lindsay’s amulet has now become an idol, and Omar is in possession of Mike’s idol.
• Line of the Week once again goes to Lindsay, this time during the scene where Maryanne revealed that she loses her pinky fingernail two to three times a year. “It doesn’t happen to most people, and you have a yearly count,” says Lindsay.