Survivor: Island of the Idols, week six

This week’s episode opens with various Lairo folks yammering to their confessionals and to their tribemates about who they’d like to eliminate next. I think their brain cycles may be better spent talking about how they’re going to start not losing challenges, but nobody asked me.

The Reward Challenge this week wasn’t as entertaining to watch as last week’s, but it did have some in-game reprecussions: when Vokai chooses to sit Elaine out of the challenge, Elaine is immediately whisked off to the Island of the Idols. Vokai wins some chickens to take back to their beach and, for the nonce, things look pretty bad for Elaine. Vokai is split 4/4 after the tribal shuffle, and thoughts on what to do about it were just as evenly split. The old Vokai members agreed they were all fine drawing rocks after a tie vote, while the old Lairo members begain talking about who they might like to flip on.

This is an interesting game state. Going to rocks is bad in this situation, because there is a 50/50 chance your alliance is disadvantaged from here on out. On the other hand, flipping on your own tribe is bad in this situation too, because you either end up 4/3 in a losing position (if your group decides to eat one of their own) or you trade your position at the bottom of a 4-player alliance to be at the bottom of the opposing 5-player aliance (if you’re a lone wolf who decices to betray your allies). I don’t see another way through it, though. Either someone flips or everyone goes to rocks. Or, well, maybe some third thing happens.

Elaine arrives at the Island of the Idols and she’s given what I see as the easiest mission so far: during the next Immunity Challenge, she has to find a hidden advantage somewhere on the challenge track. She’ll only have a few moments to grab it. If she does, she can block someone’s vote at her next Tribal Council. If she doesn’t, she loses her own vote. And to sweeten the pot, she gets to learn basically everything about the challenge before she even shows up. The Idols tell her the stakes are pretty high, and Elaine’s response is “I like stakes, nom nom nom”, and that’s why we love Elaine.

Back at Lairo Jack engages in a bit of mild racism towards Jamal, and there’s a big awkward discussion about it. To their credit they both handled the situation maturely and end up bros by the end, which I like to see. I still didn’t like it eating up screentime, though, and it took me re-watching the scene to really get why. To be clear, Jack’s joke was really insensitive and Jamal’s response was really understandable. Jack’s apology felt sincere and Jamal accepted it just as sincerely. I also don’t think Jack really understood that the joke was racist when he said it. It was a mistake, he owned up to it, Jamal forgave him. The social interaction was fine.

What I didn’t like was this thought: is this going to affect the game at all? If not, then the editors just showed us all a little lesson in woke-ness with a feel-good ending, and no harm done. But it might. Imagine a point down the line where Jack and Jamal have to vote against each other. Can Jack do that and not be villified? What about in the other direction? Do we get a scene four episodes from now where Jamal feels justified in voting out Jack because of what he said? Will some unscrupulous Vokai come in post-merge and stoke the flames back up?

None of those sitautions are fun, none of them are interesting gameplay, and they would all make me feel weird and bad. Like I said, I think both men handled it in a pretty mature way. But there’s a lot of game left. This has potential to end up being a wart on the season, if it goes somewhere nasty. I said last week I don’t like nasty in my Survivor and I still mean it.

Over on Vokai we get our first conversation between players about what happens at the Island of the Idols. Elaine (correctly) susses out that she’ll need a little help to pick up the thing during the Immunity Challenge, so she brings in Elizabeth, who visited the Island in the first episode. Elizabeth (correctly) sees this as a perfect solution to the 4/4 split, so agrees to help Elaine out. The actual challenge involves all the players carrying a big cage across a course. At a few points they have to stop, put the cage down, and spend a few moments untying ropes or digging up puzzle pieces or whatever. Elaine really did only have a couple seconds to grab her advantage before the Vokai cage moved on, dragging her with. But she does grab it, and it turns out to be vitally important, as Lairo finally decides to show up at a challenge for once. Lairo is immune, and Vokai heads off to Tribal Council.

At Tribal, it all comes out again: all of Old Vokai is fine drawing rocks, even though that is the worst thing you could possibly do with your game. Elaine uses her shiny new game piece to block Jason’s vote, and that brings the numbers down to 4/3. What followed was a huge amount of whispering and secret-passing between Old Vokai and Aaron, who had previously given signs of flipping.

All I could think was, why is this legal? I watched Survivor for twenty seasons and never saw cover whispering in Tribal Council. It always struck me as a situation where if you have something to say, you say it in front of everyone. There’s actually a big book of Survivor rules that players have to follow which aren’t obvious to us-at-home. For example, if you find a hidden idol, it belongs to you, and nobody else is allowed to steal it. I suppose I just assumed that hijacking Tribal Council away from the game’s host was against some bylaw somewhere. I wish it were, because it was pretty aggravating.

And it was for nothing, anyway. Aaron didn’t flip, and Jason got sent home after the four Old Lairo voted for him. On the way out he tells his tribemates “Hey, don’t trust Aaron”, which, yeah, duh. Aaron was only going to flip because he didn’t want to draw rocks, and then Elaine came to him with a better solution. Don’t trust someone in another alliance who isn’t forced to make a move against his own self-interest.

I do have to wonder if this will change the perception of the Island of the Idols. Until now players have viewed it as a punishment; it was a place you did not want to go and where you did not want your tribemates to be sent. Now, though, the secret is out: there are game pieces to be had, and those game pieces can ravage the game state. For the Old Vokai still on Vokai, at least, I suspect going to the Island is now a goal to aspire to.

Who’s gonna win?
There was no Karishma this episode, so a winner is me.

My serious pick so far as been Tommy, but he just had his legs cut out by a game token. Of the people who chopped him down I think Elaine is in trouble both because she’s seen as difficult to win against, and because Old Vokay can now gang up on her post merge because she’s the one who flushed Jason. Aaron is in trouble because Old Vokai knows he isn’t reliable and Old Lairo knows (because of Jason’s exit) that he apparently was keen to flip at some point.

So I think Old Vokai over on Lairo are in the best position overall. If they can keep winning challenges they might be in a good position to supply us a winner. Both Kellee and Jamal are over there with Immunity Idols and, of the two of them, I have to go with Jamal. He’s likely a good contender to win individual immunity post-merge, I think it’s fair to say Jack will do whatever he wants as far as voting, and he’s an all-around good dude who isn’t giving off any “but he’s hard to win against!” vibes. I think Jamal got his hard Survivor lesson out of the way early, even without having to be sent to the Island of the Idols.

2 comments to Survivor: Island of the Idols, week six

  • Drathnoxis

    What does ‘drawing rocks’ mean? I can’t fathom what this is supposed to mean in the context.

  • JLee

    RE: whispering at tribal, this has become a somewhat controversial norm since season 34, probably happening at least once every season since then. That particular tribal itself was a bit controversial, where at a time when the game was split into 3 tribes, 2 tribes went to the same tribal to collectively vote out one person without having a chance to meet up beforehand to strategize together. Naturally, this turned into each tribe deciding to vote as a bloc and target one person on the other tribe, but in the hopes of generating confusion, someone got up at tribal to whisper to someone on the other tribe, which caused everyone to get up and start having private whisper conversations with each other. Since then, it’s happened with some regularity, with fans debating whether they think it’s a good thing or not.

    Also, not sure if you had a chance to listen to any of the post-game exit interviews, but the whispering actually had some interesting strategy to it. Apparently Vokai actually intended to target Aaron that night, hoping that Aaron went in intending to vote for Elaine, causing Aaron to be voted out 4-3-1. But when Jason’s vote got blocked, Vokai whispered to each other to switch back to voting for Elaine in the hopes that Aaron would still join them, causing Elaine to be voted out 4-3. Alas, as you mentioned, it was all for nothing.

    Also, nice to see you blogging about Survivor again! Used to read your blog a bit back a few years ago, hadn’t checked back in a while, but was pleasantly surprised to see some Survivor discussion again! If you need some recommendations for the seasons you missed out on, I really enjoyed Cagayan (28), Second Chance (31), Kaoh Rong, (32), Milennials vs Gen X (33), and David vs Goliath (37).

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