Survivor: Island of the Idols, week eleven


Ahem. I get ahead of myself.

This week was the big Friends’n’Family Jamboree, where each contestant is joined on the island by a loved one for ten seconds, then whichever contestant wins the ensuing Reward Challenge gets to eat lunch with them. Every season I’ve seen this happen there’s lots of talk about how the loved ones have an energizing effect, and now they’re ready to go the distance, or whatever-the-heck, but in actual practice it usually doesn’t have much bearing on the gamestate. Tommy and Janet win the challenge, and they choose Dan and Lauren to come along with them on their picnic.

After the challenge, as Karishma watches her husband shuttled away after his seventeen minutes on Fiji, she says something about “putting a wrecking ball to somebody else’s head”. I have no idea what this meant and evidently no one else out there did either.

What actually ended up influencing the game state was the actual division of the players. Lauren and Tommy et al. excuse themselves from the picnic long enough to float the idea of gunning Elaine next, because obviously.

Back at actual camp, though? With an audience of a clearly dumbfounded Karishma, Elaine and Dean? Noura went bananas. Noura identifies that she now realizes she’s at the very bottom of the Lauren/Tommy alliance. She correctly notes that her place in the game involves being dragged along by Lauren/Tommy as a useful idiot vote. Her actual quote, in front of God and Karishma and everybody, is: “In a way I’m the Karishma, but I’m actually enjoyable to be around.” Which, first of all, is absolutely true, and second of all, LOL!

Noura’s rant goes on so long they actually finish playing this season and start filming the next one, and we all turn 50 and survive nuclear war, and long after the colonization of the Superior Galacto-bot Overlords, some say you can still hear her out there carrying on to this very day, amen.

Eventually they decide, screw it. Let’s go looking for immunity idols. So they do that, and Elaine finds one, and she shoves it down in her “redneck pocket.” Which, as a phrase, I’m just going to leave dangling there. Enjoy the mental image if you haven’t scene the episode.

The Immunity Challenge is another endurance test, which quickly dwindled down to Lauren vs. Elaine, and was edited so strongly to look like Lauren would drop out that I figured there was no way she ever would. That is indeed the case, and Lauren is immune. This is bad for Noura’s newly-formed alliance, because they wanted Lauren out next. But okay, no problem, shift gears to Tommy and full steam ahead.

At this point you have Lauren/Tommy/Janet/Dan on one hand, who thinks everyone is still going to fall in line against Karishma. Their plan: split the vote between Karishma and Elaine. They still think they have Noura with them, and of course, Noura promptly goes over to the other side and rats them all out.

(Side note: it seems like they flopped back onto Karishma from Elaine pretty quickly, considering their picnic discussion. I expect what happened was, at the actual picnic, they probably weighed the pros and cons of voting out each of the opposing four, and the editors just picked the Elaine line out of the bucket because they knew she’d find an idol this episode.)

This gives tremendous power to Noura’s alliance. Because the others think they’re splitting their vote, they don’t have to overthink this much; they can literally pick anyone they want, and as long as they all four write down the same name, boom bam done.

Noura overthinks it.

In what has to be the most comical montage I’ve ever seen on Survivor, Dean is desperately trying to explain to Noura how idols and votes work, at one point literally drawing a diagram in the sand. She’s so paranoid that Dean and Elaine begin to fear their advantage in the game is about to fall apart, and laments that being forced to rely on Noura really, really sucks.

Meanwhile, Dean is gone so long trying to explain simple math to Noura that Tommy and his gang start to notice. They also lament at how much it sucks to have to rely on Noura. A lot hinges on what Noura decides to do, and Elaine confides in her confessional that she’s going to be playing her idol.

Noura explode again.

I have never seen a Tribal Council like this before. I honestly and truly thought that this kind of Tribal Council was strictly against Survivor rules.

While Probst is asking Janet some fluff questions about the picnic, Dean leans over to Tommy and whispers, “they want you.” They, in this case, meaning Noura, Karishma and Elaine. I think this is a brilliant move. Everyone came to this Tribal Council worried about what Noura might do, and Dean has already seen her explode once. From his perspective, whatever happens next, he can only benefit.

The whisperng goes from Tommy to Lauren to Dan to Janet, and before long half the tribe is having a rude conversation interrupting all of poor Probst’s probing questions. As I’m sitting there waiting for Probst to break it up, or at least call attention to it, Noura goes pineapple-banana smoothie with ginko biloba supplement. She shouts at Dean, she outs Elaine’s idol, she airs out everyone’s dirty laundry. Immediately, she is painted as a liar in front of The Tommy Gang, and why not? She told them they had their vote, and then they didn’t. From the Idol Bungalow, even Boston Rob and Sandra agree, how many times do you let someone lie to you? Just once. That’s it.

Noura tries to divert focus back to Dean, the actual catalyst of this weird and wonderful moment, but the damage is already done. Dean has had to scrape and scrimp to get this far in the game. He’s had to lie to people, to betray alliances. And, indeed, he’s the one who betrayed Noura just now! Like two minutes ago! But he plays it cool and quiet and none of the arrows hit him. Before long, everyone is arguing and shouting and mostly acting like children. Confusion sets in as Noura’s alliance crumbles. Elaine and Karishma wedge her firmly under the bus. At one point the camera pulls in real close on Dan, who has just been told it has to be Noura, and he responds, “Next? Or tonight?”

Needless to say, Elaine plays her idol. I’m actually a little surprised Noura didn’t reach down and try to strangle somebody with it.

Some votes do land on Noura, but in the end, the biggest pile ends up on Karishma. I typically don’t watch the votes come in because they show that part after scenes for the next episode, and I’d rather not see the teaser. But I imagine Noura put a desperate vote on Karishma, and Elaine and Dean also immediately fell in line.

Then I remembered: Dean has wanted Karishma gone this whole time. After her Hail Mary idol last episode, her head wasn’t even on the block tonight! He pulled a fast one and got exactly what he wanted, and I’m not gonna lie, I think I fell a little bit in love with the guy. In the coming months I expect I’ll read a lot of in-depth play-by-play analyses of every individual move made this season. I don’t know if Dean’s three magic words are going to make a Top 5 Best Plays of All Time listicle. I do know, after Karishma exited, Tommy thanked Dean for saving him.

Kellee, from the juy box, was heard to opine, “These are the dumbest moves!” She’s right, you know. Bringing mopey but easily-controlled Karishma along to the end isn’t any fun, but it’s a safe way to win, and a Tommy/Lauren/Karishma final three was certainly their best bet. Now they have to go back to camp with Janet and Elaine — still everyone’s best friends — and Noura, who is prone to blowing a gasket.

I will give props where they’re due: Karishma’s exit was quick and classy. No bellyaching, no tears, certainly no wrecking balls. Just a quick wave. That’s how I like to see folks leave the game. Maybe someday she’ll get a chance to improve my opinion of her in a comeback season.

Who’s gonna win?
Seven remain in the game. Seven is a crucial spot because it’s one of the last chances to shed someone you really don’t want to sit next to in the finals. You can’t do it at six or four, because of the risk of going to a tie. So Tommy and Lauren have exactly two chances to remove two players who almost certainly beat them at the end: Elaine and Janet.

But they can’t let Noura survive another vote… can they? If she’s not immune you kind of have to take the shot. She will blow everything up given every opportunity. I think a lot of how the game plays out from here hinges on whether Noura wins immunity next episode.

IF NOURA WINS, Tommy and Lauren have a big problem. In this situation they don’t have to worry about Noura’s vote, because they still have four. They have to vote out Janet or Elaine here, hidden idols notwithstanding. But whatever the plans, the disruptive whirlwind of Noura looms large. Dean, in this position, doesn’t have the votes shored up to win the game, but he can move and shake with whichever of Janet or Elaine are still around, and maybe Dan too, to take out Tommy and Lauren and sit final three. If it goes this way I think Elaine is out first, nobody has time to get rid of Janet before the end, and Janet wins hands down.

IF NOURA LOSES, Tommy and Lauren have a big problem. There will be a lot of pressure to cut Noura next, which means they have to let either Elaine or Janet skate by. In this case I don’t think Dean has to do much of anything; final four comes down to Tommy/Lauren/Dean/Dan, Dean makes a play at four with Dan and whichever of Tommy or Lauren isn’t immune, then goes to the finals. I think Dean would rather take Tommy to the end than Lauren, and Tommy wins in this situation.

But there’s still a lot of game left. Maybe Noura sweeps immunity. Maybe she evolves into her final Nourazilla form and eats all the parts of the island that are vegan. Should be fun!

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