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Survivor Had Its Best Episode Of The Season With Double Blindsides, Setting Up For A Great Finish

Just a magnificent episode of Survivor last night. This season has been a bit of a slow burn so far, but this episode really stood above the rest and has set us up for a fantastic finish to this season. While I'm not always the biggest fan of the new school twists and changes to the game, I do think the double tribal is something that has worked well. It gave us double the strategy last night and also makes the votes a bit easier to follow. Huge tribals with 12 people when half have an advantage and you're not sure who's aligned with who can be a bit convoluted. Instead, we had two clear tribals with some high-level gameplay and blindsides. Great stuff all around. Let's get into the recap. But first....

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Alright now onto the written recap...

Immunity Challenge

-We will start with the challenge since it started at like 8:04 and there wasn't much happening beforehand. The 10 remaining contestants were split up into two "tribes" of five, with one immunity winner from each side. Jesse, Cassidy, Ryan, Gabler, and Cody were in red. Noelle, James, Karla, Owen, and Sami were in blue. 

-The challenge was endurance based, holding a handle to keep a ball balanced basically. Karla surprisingly won it from her tribe. It came down to Cody and Ryan for the other side, with Cody just outlasting him to also earn PB&Js for his tribe. They looked downright delicious and made my mouth water for some peanut butter and jelly. 

Blue Pre-Tribal

-This group was up for tribal first and it became evident pretty quickly that it would be either Owen or James going home. They were fighting like cats and dogs. Owen was upset that James blatantly lied to him before the previous tribal and told him to vote Ryan when the plan was actually Jeanine. James was mad that Owen had voted for him at an earlier tribal council. It led to them getting in a public shouting match in front of the rest of the tribe. I think they were both in the wrong. Anytime you're arguing like that in Survivor you're playing poorly on both sides. I think James was acting too arrogant and bossy. I also think Owen was acting too whiney and butt hurt. I thought it was a bad look for both. Noelle handled it well by offering up papaya and giving some Jim Halpert looks to the camera. 

-The original plan seemed to be that everyone would vote Owen. But James acting like the Godfather rubbed everyone the wrong way. Noelle concocted a plan to take him out. She would use her steal-a-vote to take Owen's vote. This was to ensure James didn't get suspicious she was against him, because if he was then he'd use his Knowledge Is Power advantage to take the steal-a-vote from her. Her two votes would go against James, along with Sami's, and that would take James out. It was a very smart plan by Noelle. Probably the best strategic move of the season, not that that's saying too much. 

-The plan seemed set until Sami told Karla about it. At first, I thought this was a highly questionable and downright dumb move. Karla and James were a tight duo. If Karla alerted James about this, he'd use his KIP advantage against Noelle or maybe Karla would use her idol on James. It felt too risky. Sami's thinking though was that he wanted to be in good with Karla and didn't want her blindsided by the move. It was a way to gain trust with her.

Blue Tribal Council

-Everything pretty much went according to plan. Noelle stole Owen's vote, and James wasn't suspicious so he kept his KIP in his pocket. He was then promptly eliminated with a 4-1 vote. Karla voted for him too, which means that Sami ended up making a brilliant move. He even whispered to Karla at tribal asking "what should we do?" to hammer home "Hey we're this together, what's the plan?" He was able to eliminate Karla's #1 ally and then become her new #1 ally. And nobody was the wiser. This was a great display of interpersonal skills by Sami. Excellent social gameplay to convince Karla she should take her out closest confidant. Very impressive all around from Sami. 

-James was NOT happy to be voted out. As he shouldn't be. It was nice to finally see someone get eliminated and be pissed about it instead of just the fake smile bullshit of "Still love you guys!" I do think it's weird when he said "See how far you get without me." Didn't really make any sense. I think that overall James' game really fizzled out pretty quickly. Heading into the merge, he seemed to be a really solid player with a chance to go deep and even win. But he got way too cocky and just kind of became an unlikable asshole. And that's never a good way to convince people they should keep you on a deserted island with them. 

-Has to be a great feeling for Owen to get James out who had been his biggest adversary and a borderline bully to him at points. Something finally went his way.

Red Pre-Tribal

-Similar to the other tribe, the options here were clear too. We had two enemies going at each other and one would go home. This time it was Ryan and Cassidy who have resented each other since their early days at Coco. Cody and Jesse were left as the swing votes with Gabler presumably doing whatever they tell him to do. 

-The pros to voting out Ryan were that he was a physical threat who could win challenges. And also voting out Cassidy could lose trust with Karla and James (who they thought was still in the game). The pros to voting out Cassidy were that she was a bigger social and strategic threat. 

-I thought this was an incredibly easy decision. If I'm Jesse and Cody, I would've voted out Cassidy every single time here. Ryan is a big dummy who doesn't present ANY threat to you strategically or socially. Jesse and Cody probably could've convinced Ryan and Gabler probably they should all stick together in an alpha alliance and then duke it out at the Final Four. They probably would've ate that up. Then you have at worst a 4-4 split with 8 left. And seeing that James was gone should've made that decision even easier since it became clear that the Coco alliance was falling apart. 

Red Tribal Council

-They must have disagreed with me because instead Ryan was blindsided with a 4-1 vote. I think that Jesse and Cody need to start getting more credit for how quietly they've been controlling this game. They're always on the right side of the votes and are often the decision makers behind it all without ever seeming like they're playing too hard or putting themselves on the chopping block. But I believe this was their first true mistake, and judging by the scenes for next week, it might catch up with them soon. They could end up being a Hai, Ricard, or Omar from 41 and 42. The strategic leaders who get voted out in that 6th to 8th place range. Or maybe they can finish the job and join the likes of JT and Stephen or Wendell and Dom as dominant Survivor duos. 

-Overall, I loved this episode and am very excited for the end of the season. It truly is anyone's ball game besides Gabler. There's no clear big alliances anymore. It's every man and woman for themselves. There's still advantages floating around too which could add to the drama. Hopefully things do indeed finish strong and make up for a lackluster start to the season. 

Winner Rankings

This is a ranking of the players I think are most likely to WIN. This is not necessarily who I think is safest in the game. Don’t look at the person ranked last as the person most likely to go home next. Look at them as the person with the least chance to win. That person could very easily get dragged to FTC as a goat, but won’t win. This is ranking people based on their chance to actually win the game.

Tier 1

1. Karla - I've had her at the top for awhile now and don't see a reason to change. She did lose James, but seemingly replaced him with Sami. She's consistently been on the right side of the votes and had influence on them, while never becoming a target herself. While players like Jesse and Cody might peak too early, she could pull the Goldilocks and peak at just the right time. 

2. Jesse - In my opinion, he is playing the best game. He's controlling everything while everyone is blind to it. He's armed with one or two idols (depending on if he gave Cody that one back yet) and seems to have the trust of many people. If he gets to the end, he'll win. I think he'd beat Cody if they are there together since he can play the "I was the mastermind behind it all while Cody was just the fun-loving guy who went along with it." I don't think that's totally the truth, but it's certainly a believable narrative. 

3. Cassidy - She's the clear under the radar winner pick. If we're getting an Erika type winner, it's her. She's quietly played well and shouldn't be a big target going forward. But if she's at the end with stronger, more flashy players she'll have a harder time making her case.

Tier 2

4. Cody - I guess I have to start giving Cody some more respect. Early on, I do think he was doing way too much and probably rubbing some people the wrong way. But he's clearly calmed down either as a strategy or because he's just tired and hungry. Regardless, he's playing well. Him and Jesse are running the show, as I've said. That being said, I do still think he has an uphill battle to winning. People eventually will target him as he is an obvious threat. And I do think Jesse would have an edge over him at FTC. 

5. Sami - He's similar to Cody. Playing really well. Probably playing the most underrated game of anyone on the season to be honest. The Karla/James play I spoke about above was superb gameplay. He seems to have strong 1 on 1 relationships with a lot of people which is critical. But there is a chance he's viewed like Xander in Season 41. A fan favorite but the other players just view as him some young, dumb kid. He 's also someone I imagine will be targeted soon. 

Tier 3

6. Owen - Owen's resume is pretty awful. He hasn't really done anything. I think he's getting the underdog edit who finishes in 4th or 5th way more than he's getting a winner's edit. That being said, it wouldn't totally stun me to see him using the James elimination gain momentum late in the game and eventually sell a convincing underdog story to the jury. I just don't it as very likely. 

7. Noelle - The only reason I have her this low is because she's so impressive. I've said all season how she'll have a tough time getting to the end just because her story is so inspiring that nobody will want to sit next to her. But now with the move last night, she also has legitimate gameplay on her resume. A good player with a good story is not someone who will get taken to the end if these people have been any brains. That being said, if she gets there she'll win. 

Gabler

8. Gabler - Gabler. 

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