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After last week’s monumental meltdown from Brandon, it’s good to get back to some good old fashioned Survivor game play. The biggest knock against this season thus far is that the crazies (namely, Brandon, Phillip, and Shamar) have dominated too much of the air time. Now that two of the three of them are gone, the show just feels better to me, like something out of a much better Survivor season. The Bikal tribe also goes back to a much more harmonious state, and the Gota tribe is feeling better about their chances for the future. Unfortunately for everyone, a tribal shake-up is in order, and instead of the supposed reward challenge, the Bikal and Gota tribes are forced to randomly swap sides.
Introduced way back in season 3 (Africa), the tribal swap has seen mixed success. I like it overall, but there is a tendency for it to not work out as intended. In Caramoan, just as it was on One World, the tribal swap doesn’t seem to work out so well for everyone involved. Malcolm, Erik, Brenda, and Andrea end up joining Reynold, Eddie, and Sherri on the new Gota tribe, squarely placing the alpha males and strong, competitive females in one camp together. The new Bikal tribe consists of Phillip (who is a challenge hound but also considerably older than everyone else), Dawn, Cochran, Matt, Michael, and Julia. It is quite apparent from moment one that the new Gota tribe is going to dominated any kind of physical immunity challenge, and that is exactly what happens.
The challenge itself is a mixture of brains and brawn, with brawn still being the main element. Contestants must run out to giant crates, two at a time, and push a color-coded crate back to their base. Once their crates have been collected, the tribe must place them in a pyramid formation that correctly spells out “Fans vs. Favorites.” The Gota tribe jumps to an early lead, and never relents. Not even tricky editing can save what appears to be the biggest blow-out of the season. The Bikal tribe is outmatched at every point, be in brute strength (Phillip does his best but he’s not superhuman) or in the puzzle portion, where Julia steps up to only immediately fail (not that she had much of a chance anyway). Bikal loses, and heads back to camp to prepare for the inevitable tribal council.
This is where the editing of the episode gets a bit tricky. Phillip begins to conspire with Julia, reckoning that he can get her on their side. Corinne immediately takes offense to this, chiding Phillip behind his back to Dawn. Matt and Michael, who are in full-on scramble mode, immediately pledge their loyalty to Phillip, Dawn, and Corinne. The four Favorites mull their decision over, seemingly landing on Julia as the obvious choice to go home. Cochran then wisely surmises that it would be best to break up the Matt/Michael two-person alliance instead of voting off Julia. This is exactly what happens, as a rather dull tribal council ends with Matt voted out.
I was somewhat surprised to see Matt go, as I had taken quite a liking to him. When the season first began, I guessed that Matt would have been one of the first three or so boots in the game. He wholly proved me wrong, ending up a pretty good guy with some natural inclination for playing the game. Matt was a sacrifice of the new Bikal tribe, an unfortunate casualty of the tribal swap. Like I wrote earlier, sometimes tribal swaps just don’t work out for everyone involved. I never thought Matt was a contender to win the game, but I at least figured he’d be around until the merge.