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It’s about time we got a good episode, right? This one did so many of the things I love about Survivor that I’m almost willing to forgive CBS for bringing us the Shamar, Phillip, and Brandon show for almost seven weeks straight. We got a tribal merge, a gross food challenge (the first one in a LONG time), good old-fashioned scheming, great gameplay, good and poor decision-making, and an awesome blindside. This is truly what Survivor is about. Caramoan has been a disappointing season thus far, mainly due to the poor gameplay by the original Gota (Fans) tribe, but the merge has really put a reset button on the season, and my hopes are high from here on out.
The episode starts out rather innocuously, and then all of a sudden a boat shows up at the Gota beach. The Gotas gear up and head out – we’ve got a merge! The two tribes come together, have a nice lunch of deli meats, cheese, and bread (No drunken wine scenes? For shame!) and discuss their merging. Erik, a comic book artist in real life, creates what must certainly be the best merged tribe flag of all time. They name the tribe Enil Edam, which Malcolm says means togetherness or new beginnings or some such nonsense, but which is actually his mother’s name, Madeline, spelled backwards. Boston Rob and Murlonio did this much better a few seasons back on Redemption Island.
The first immunity challenge is a classic gross food challenge. This one used to be a staple of every Survivor season, going back to year one back in 2000. I haven’t seen it in ages, however. I have to say that I’m glad it’s back, and it is great tv watching these people chow down on live grubs, balut, pig brains, and most disgustingly, ship worms. Sure enough, a few castaways have trouble choking down this great stuff, and the final consists of golden boy Malcolm and skinny dude Cochran, with Cochran pulling off the ultimate upset and winning immunity for the first time ever. Cochran’s win is just so damn underdog that it’s hard not to root for the guy. I have to note that I loved that Erik, despite losing the challenge, chowed down and swallowed his gross food anyway – protein is protein, I guess!
This is where the episode gets really good, with dual factions sprouting up and scheming to pull off a blindside. On one side, we have Corinne, Malcolm, Michael, Reynold, and Eddie. On the other side we have Phillip, Andrea, Dawn, Cochran, and Sherri. Brenda and Erik seem to be in the middle, thought it looks like Brenda will be siding with Phillip, et al and Erik is left as the dreaded swing vote. Erik and Brenda have gotten an editing short-shrift this season, and it is unfortunate we don’t get to see too much of what they’re thinking. It does create drama and uncertainty for tribal council, however.
At tribal council, things don’t get as explosive as they potentially could have. Reynold makes the comment that he doesn’t think the vote will be as shocking as future votes, and he’s almost immediately both right and terribly wrong. The jury is still out on whether or not Reynold is a good player, and I’ve been his biggest defender, but even I have to scoff at how dumb he can be. The castaways make their votes, and Sherri receives the bulk of them, much to Corinne’s delighted amusement. The tables turn, however, as Jeff can barely contain himself as he reads Corinne’s name off six times in a row, cementing her blindside. This is why we watch Survivor. Where Caramoan goes from here is anyone’s guess, but things are certainly heating up.