I'm honestly not sure where to start with this recap blog. Last night was such a weird episode of Survivor with so much chaos happening that I don't even know what to make of it. There was Xander at the reward challenge, the immunity challenge negotiation, Shan being a lunatic, Heather blowing up tribal council, and the weird vote that we didn't totally see explained. It was sort of all over the place but at the end of the day, it was entertaining and kept my attention and I guess that's all you can ask for. The merge episodes so far have definitely been better than the pre-merge. But before we get into full chronological recap, make sure you subscribe to Snuffing Torches on Apple and Spotify.
You can listen to the full recap in the embedded link at the top of the blog. Alright now onto the recap
Post Tribal Council
We start off with the fallout from the previous hectic Tribal Council where Sydney got sent home and all the fireworks that came with it. It's clear the Yase 3 of Xander, Tiffany, and Evvie are no more. It's now an every man/woman for themselves situation now that they're on the bottom and are doing anything to save themselves. It's a tough spot. You can either band together and try to bring over a few people from the bottom of the majority 8. Or you can take the mindset of just "live to see another day" and do whatever you can to save yourself. The latter happened in this situation probably due to how fractured the trust was between these three. Between Deshawn blowing up Evvie exposing Xander's idol to him, and Evvie being mad Tiffany and Xander didn't give her the idol at tribal, it was clear this three wasn't going to last together. But everyone was seeing right through it, especially Deshawn.
The challenge opens with Jeff talking to the audience saying he's hiding a secret advantage underneath the sit out bench for the odd man out who isn't chose in the challenge. Originally, Erika drew the wrong rock and was once again left out. But Xander stepped in and volunteered since Erika had already been screwed over with Exile Island. I have a few thoughts on this move by Xander. In general, I am against any move in Survivor that draws attention to yourself. It's like my #1 strategy. Just blend into the background as much as you can. This was very clearly a move trying to get into people's good graces and I think others saw through that. However, it was smart by him in the sense that it was very opportunistic. He may have thought there'd be an advantage to being the odd man out like there was for Erika. And he was right. But he ultimately just didn't see it. At first, I thought he volunteered because he saw it hidden which would've been awesome, but obviously that was not the case.
I did like his explanation after the challenge though when he said he wanted to be with the losers to bond with them. 5 people were going to eat grilled cheeses. 6 were going to be miserable. And misery loves company. It was a good opportunity for a guy on the bottom to build some much needed bonds. Or maybe he's just lactose intolerant and didn't want the grilled cheese reward. Regardless, Xander is a good player. I probably haven't given him enough credit so far, but he deserves some. People are starting to make comparisons to a younger, more immature Malcolm. I think he certainly has flaws to his game, but he's a big time player. To me though, he doesn't have a winner's edit. He has the lovable underdog 4th/5th place finisher edit (like Spencer or Malcolm for example).
Anyway as the for challenge itself, the team of Evvie, Danny, Erika, Deshawn, and Ricard won because they repeated a puzzle from Season 38 that Evvie memorized and built herself. Kind of a tough look for the producers there but I guess it rewards fans who watch the show with a critical eye. Jeff almost creamed himself.
The winning five enjoyed their grilled cheese and chips, while Shantel, Liana, Heather, Naseer, Tiffany, and Xander had nothing. Shantel was crying for some reason. It's grilled cheese. Calm down. Naseer put it best.
And Naseer then found some papaya for them to eat. The man is the ultimate provider. I think he genuinely cares more about keeping his tribe alive than he does about winning the game. He might not even know there's a game going on. Maybe he's just so confused every time he goes to tribal council and doesn't understand what's happening. But whatever. I love the guy.
When Ricard came over and ate some of the "losers' papaya" Shantel threw a fit. She says it's so selfish of him to do that after eating the reward and she seemed real life mad at him, to the point where it could hurt their alliance. Ricard defended himself in a confessional by saying how it's ridiculous that there's this tribal mindset of if you win a reward, you're not allowed to eat anything else for the rest of the day. When in reality, they're still hungry too since they're on a deserted island. And it's exacerbated by the fact that the same people seemingly keep on winning rewards.
My take is that it's a bad game move by Ricard to eat the papaya. Again, don't draw attention to yourself. And this does exactly that in a negative manner. But Shan has GOT to chill. She has become unbearably annoying. Maybe it's the lack of food and sleep, but she is becoming unhinged. Snapping at people. Her way or the highway. The cracks in her game are definitely showing. More on that with Deshawn later.
The challenge involved standing on a beam and keeping a block balanced on your head. It's a challenge we've seen before. As Jeff eloquently put it in his explanation, "Your feet will get more tired the longer the challenge goes." Uh, no shit Probst. This challenge came with a twist though. If one person chose to sit out, they'd get a single serving of rice for themselves. If multiple people sat out, they'd get a big enough bag of rice to feed the whole tribe for three days. Heather, inquisitive as always, asked "How many is multiple?" and the negotiation began. Shantel started with 2. Jeff countered with 7. They got it to 5 as Shantel annoyingly begged people to step forward. Naseer did because again, he just wants to keep his tribe literally alive. Xander then offered up 4, saying he would do it if someone else did. And Ricard did step up. Leaving 7 people to compete for immunity.
I like this twist. It's a cool change to the old challenge of "Drop out for food the longer the challenge goes." It requires more strategy and the tribe working together. If I'm a player though, I don't think I sit out. I never want to give up a chance at being immune. So basically you're giving up your safety and making your enemies stronger? Pass. The only person it sort of made sense for was Ricard to make amends for Papayagate. And I guess Naseer, Xander, and Shantel do all have idols, but it's not like they wanted to use them. Anyway, many people fell out within seconds. It came down to Evvie and Heather. Who knew Heather was such a challenge beast? But Evvie pulled it out for the much needed immunity necklace. The challenge lasted under 4 minutes which is pretty pathetic considering Spencer won it being up there for an hour and a half.
With Evvie now safe, that left just Xander and Tiffany on the bottom (with Xander having an idol). The plan looked like it would be to split the votes on them. Naseer said he feels safe because he trusts Ricard and Shantel and has an idol. "I'm not going home today." That quote is usually a kiss of death for Survivor players. And it looked like it might be for Naseer. Danny and Deshawn bring up a plan to target Naseer. They know he has an idol and feel like it's smart to target him now before he feels like he's in danger. Kind of a smart plan. Ideally, you get Xander to play his idol and then you vote out Naseer with an idol in his pocket.
But Shantel was NOT having it. She shuts it down immediately in a manner that felt like she didn't care what her alliance members had to say. Not the first time she's had this problem. Think back to the extra vote fiasco with Ricard. Deshawn is particuarly very annoyed with how Shantel is treating him and feels like he's not being listened to. But it's Shantel's way or the highway. Because in her words, she's the "social player who moves the needle." It's pretty obvious that Shantel is a real shitty alliance member. She is too stubborn and stuck in her ways. She doesn't take advice or input from her allies and shuts them down in a brash manner. She thinks she knows all, and that will come back to bite her. At first, it seemed like she had a winner's edit. But now, it looks more like a narrative arc of her crashing and burning is building. The winner's edit is still there somewhat and it wouldn't shock me if she wins, but overall her stock has crashed dramatically.
Anyway, Naseer is upset to hear his name is being thrown out even as a decoy and wants it changed. Good move by him. You never want your name being written down for any purposes. Especially in a season like this where there's so many twists and advantages, you could maybe end up going home with like two votes. So then the decoy vote moves to ……. Heather! And Heather isn't having it either! And ladies and gentlemen, it finally happened……. HEATHER HAD A CONFESSIONAL.
And it was a pretty good one Heather! She made good points about how she also didn't want to be the decoy vote, and that Shantel is calling too many shots and thinks she runs the show. Way to go Heather! Looks like she is capable of speaking after all. (Although as someone who had her in our Snuffing Torches Survivor Survivor pool, I was a little worried this was building up to her exit episode and that's why she was finally getting air time).
For the most part, it seemed like a pretty normal tribal council. Shantel says she sacrificed herself at the challenge because her "pastoral instincts" came out or some shit like that. Naseer said he could've won the challenge but loves the tribe too much. What a guy. The Yase 3 are clearly in shambles, although Danny wonders if it's all an act. (It's not). So it seems like it's time to vote…… but then Heather happened!
She said, "Wait can't we all talk to each other?" It's like she thought all tribals were supposed to be live and wanted to have her moment. She tells Tiffany, "Sit here. Be calm. And trust me." She gets up and starts whispering that she wants to change the vote to Naseer?????? I don't know where the fuck that came from. Maybe just because she wanted to make sure she herself wasn't getting any decoy votes? It was a crazy, stupid move by her. And it almost backfired because people then said, "Wait should we just vote out this lunatic?"
But Deshawn put his foot down to Shan and said he didn't want to do it, and she once again wasn't listening to him. But then she snapped back at him saying she won't baby him. So it seems pretty obvious that this alliance won't be lasting. But I guess Deshawn's objections worked well enough because it ended up being Tiffany that got sent home. Some people think this was all a plan to cause chaos and get Xander to waste his idol? Ricard kept telling Xander to play his idol in an obvious attempt to flush it, but Xander wisely didn't listen. But I think this was just Heather being dumb.
I do wonder what the original vote plan was though because the votes were very confusing.
Deshawn, Erika, Heather, Liana, Ricard, and Shan voted for Tiffany.
Danny and Naseer voted for Xander.
Tiffany and Evvie voted Heather.
Xander voted for Naseer.
I have no idea how that all happened. There was no real explanation in the edit as to how this plan was hatched. My thinking is the plan was to vote Tiffany and try to flush Xander's idol. And all the tribal council chaos led to Tiffany and Evvie hoping the vote switched to Heather? And Xander thinking the vote was Naseer?
It's not fun when the audience leaves tribal council very confused. I like to understand how the vote happened and see the strategy and gameplay that set it up. That didn't happen either. Maybe it's just because they're not very good players and there's too much chaos to set anything up clearly? No clue. Still an entertaining episode though.
Wanted to give a quick shoutout to Tiffany by the way, our Long Island Queen. She was a better player than people expected. She got a tough draw at the merge ending up in the minority, but the potential was there. She was not your typical "mom" player who gets dragged along. She was a very social player who thought strategically. If she ever comes back for another season, I think she'd fare well. She is the first member of the jury though, so we'll still be seeing some of her. I expect some great facial expressions from her. Also, this likely means a 3 person finale with a jury of 8. Or maybe less likely a 2 person finale with a jury of 9.
This is getting very hard. It feels like someone is going to accidentally win this season. I definitely don't think it's obvious anymore. But I like Deshawn's chances the most for sure. Liana still is a good dark horse. Shantel's stock is falling, but a winner edit is still in there somewhere.
7. Xander (again good player, but more underdog edit than winner edit to me)
Heather Tier (I almost put this at the top in honor of her big episode)
And that's a wrap for the week. Subscribe to Snuffing Torches on Apple and Spotify and listen to our recap to hear more, plus updates on our fantasy teams, Survivor pool eliminations, and more.