If this is because of stacking boxes, I’ll never hear the end of it.
“No, this vote is because of like a hundred other things you’ll never hear the end of.” -Dabu
My Final First Opinion
Last hindsight bias I claimed that this episode would probably set the table for the future better than the merge episode would. It would go one of two ways- a beauty female gets picked off leaving a 5-3-3 merge that could team up against Chan Loh, or Chan Loh’s originals even the numbers via a Peter or Joebry vote-out and make it a much more dangerous game, that relies on swap bonds rather than original bonds. Because of Aubry’s beautiful last minute decision, Peter was sent packing right under Joe’s nose. So, yes, we do have relatively even tribes going into the merge, but tension and dissention rule the ranks. Michelle is not fond of Nick’s incurable case of mansplaining. Joe found Aubry flip-floppy and she eventually cut Peter by his recommendations but only after talking him down. The To Tang trio seems song but I definitely get the sense that it will be far easier to split the original tribes into two new groups altogether, rather than stacking tribes on top of tribes for temporary moments.
As for this episode itself, it was a refreshing change of pace. Someone seemed to directly reverse the confessional count from top to bottom. People scraping by for minimal airtime like the Beauty girls, Joe, Aubry, and Nick of all fricking people, whereas Tai and Debbie got marginal numbers and Jason and Neal were nowhere to be found. Some of this was revealing and helped developed largely sidelined characters- Julia was shown to be quite perceptive and Michele as independent despite challenge mishaps, where she swallowed Nick’s complete condescension while stating outright she didn’t need to be carried and coddled like he believed. Aubry’s status as the ultimate HBIC come swap has been a bit of a surprise after a quirky bio and an emotional Episode One, but I love it. She’s a gangster in a LARPer suit, and it’s awesome that everything went through her. Everything. And really, her last vote and the change on it, that’s iconic right there.
Hell, so far Kaoh Rong’s entire pre-merge has had a lot of iconic moments and characters. I’ve listened to Snakes, Rats, and Goats, a pretty great podcast by Ryan Elder and Scott Chernoff. If I may give them a shout-out, their whole premise is that they’re two pretty dedicated Survivor fans who work in comedy. They bring a largely uneducated comedian friend on to watch an episode and this season’s been rife with moments that have made them all go holy crap. The earbug in Episode one seems to get discussed every time, and Jennifer’s freakout was also a complete surprise. The triple heat stroke was one of the biggest moments in Survivor history, and Debbie’s changing occupations have made her a pretty unforgettable character. Add to that the Alecia conflict opening massive conversations, and now Aubry being the first person to change a vote completely by her own volition, and Kaoh Rong is a season built on the backs of some fascinating moments that even newcomers have reacted strongly to. You can describe what happens this season and people can get hooked, even if it does struggle for a forward narrative at times.
I give this pre-merge a solid 8.25/10. To Tang as a whole had an unfortunate boot order and the Anna boot was as sleepy as any other swap episode, but other than that the contestants have delivered, and the show has given us a lot to remember. I’d say, though, that a lot of more recent disappointing seasons have taken a bit of the nosedive once we get to the merge. Worlds Apart went from morally questionable yet engaging to a moral disaster with little redeeming. Cambodia had a lot of emotionally compelling content pre-merge but then was hijacked by an alliance of straight up gamebots while the unique characters were completely driven away. Kaoh Rong is starting off on a better foot than both those seasons but I would be lying if I said I was convinced it’d go perfectly. We still have Jason wandering around with an idol and Nick wandering around with his mouth perfectly able to make words. A lot of bad can happen, but the setup has been great so far. With this episode, I think we kick off the end of the first half with a fabulous downfall and start the next half on a leg of chaos that I don’t know if anyone can predict.
I have half a mind to just link you to CBS.com for Episodes 3-6, because I think the moment he started saying words in Episode three you could figure out how he’d lose whether he bit it in Episode 4 or episode 14. Never has someone been so bloody cocky in the face of such negative amounts of success. After his and Liz’s plan turned around on him he seemed to learn nothing, instead opting to sulk and whine about how unfair it was that he was outdone and how stupid it was to vote out the near-dead cast member over someone like Neal because Neal miiiiight flip. Then, instead, Peter tried to flip until he got interrogated by an angry seventy-two year old, which made Peter flee up a tree in horror and cancel all plans.
However, being made docile ruined him because he might have already drafted up concrete plans to flip that he suddenly tried and failed to do take-backsies on. Scot caught on, and the beauties went to rat on Peter to Aubry. Despite Joe wanting Peter out earlier, Aubry instructed him to make amends until she learned her name had also been floated by him, making her retract her statement in a kind of hilariously blatant self-interested way. Still, Aubry was the boss and she made the call, opting to spare Julia by the skin of her teeth, blatantly crossing her name out and voting out Pete. I’m surprised instead of the voting music Gangsta Gangsta wasn’t played instead.
Rarely does a character get two thoroughly humiliating downfalls in one season, especially a pre-merge boot. Peter was Joaquin turned up to eleven. His first downfall was him cockily thinking he had everything in his hand until Debbie freaking Wanner neutered him in the Episode 3 Tribal Council (see this is why you don’t align with someone who has thirty to forty cats), and then his second was being the neutered cat scared up a tree by the quiet FBI agent under the slightest bit of scrutinization and being too scared to get down even as Lumberjill Aubry was taking a buzzsaw to it. Then, just to top off the Nimrod Tree of douchiness, he whined about how he’d never give up his morals and word for a million dollars when he said from the top of the episode he’d sell them out for a million dollars. I’m just saying, don’t cry for Pete, Argentina.
Peter was never winning just by attitude and ignorance alone, but once Debbie added tranquilizer onto her list of careers and shot her dart into Peter’s ass, he laid down for Chan Loh like a jilted lover and the second he tried to get up Aubry shot again, and this time, it was a headshot. It didn’t help that, quite like with the Anna vote, the Beauties and Scot would much rather oust someone arrogant and flip-floppy like Peter than someone more solid than giant bricks like Joe or more tolerable and cooperative like Aubry. Peter set off the wrong first impression from the beginning and he was just one of those players who was never winning.
I’d give Peter an intro shot as a farewell, but… lol Peter, this shot will forever make my life.
Pity the Living
Neal- Told you he wasn’t winning. INV1 after the world’s least worthwhile idol hunt? Yeah, pare it back guys.
I think the only thing more hilarious than Debbie’s continue assertion of all of these careers and paths of life she takes and brags about is that so many of them are actually true. I mean, Coach and his own self-absorbed lie detector test is more a statement on one’s own sanity than on what actually happened, but people keep backing up Debbie’s careers are true, if not overblown. This is a journeywoman the likes of which has rarely been seen before.
More bafflingly, the thing about Debbie is that people seem to genuinely like and trust her. To some extent, Nick thinks he’s manipulating her as much as he is every frond and coconut he crosses, but Michele expressed a liking for her behavior, and Jason/Cydney also seem to get along with her. Even with all the ego and the toppery and the bluntness, she’s got a lot of fans that you could actually see voting her a million dollars, and if that isn’t freaking crazy as shit I don’t know what is.
Joe- If they aired any of his secret scene, which can be found here, he’d just scrape into intro shot territory. This confessional is actually rather lovely where he talks quietly and fondly of this vacation with maybe just a hint of Debbie’s cockiness, but mostly a peaceful observation of this life out here for him. Knowing what Joe has done even as late as his sixties, I can see why he’d see this as a vacation. However, on-show, his purpose as a foil to Aubry, the mouse scaring off the cat in his blunt interrogation at Peter, and him taking another stupid production health decision to the head like it was nothing make him a solid B+ character on-screen as well. I like Joe and hope we see more of him. He’s funny.
Some of my friends have argued that between his argument with Liz and his condemnation of Aubry’s switcheroo as being neurotic, that Joe might have a bit of a sexist lean to him. I don’t really blame people for thinking that as in general Joe is a grouch and I really don’t know if he handled Liz well at all. However, considering how blatantly Aubry blew off his concerns until she was named as the target, I don’t blame him for thinking Aubry was overreacting and being neurotic since she basically accused him of needing to man up when he was being targeted by Peter. It’s good TV, good conflict, and I can’t say I’m not at least a little on his side here. As it stands, though, I don’t think Joe’s future holds him looking like a good guy, just good TV.
For all I’ve gushed over her I’m not sure if Aubry pulled this off the right way. Making it known she was about to vote Julia might not be the best look, and she also pulled this over Joe who wanted to do this in the first place, which makes him look like a jackass. She said it herself, she was screwed either way. However… I don’t really give a damn and a quarter about what makes the best strategic TV. She gave me a crossed-out vote that doomed the biggest douchebag in the game without looking like she gave the slightest solitary shite about it and I am happy that moment exists. Aubry isn’t messing around with no one.
Julia- She’s not the best TV ever but she’s pretty dope. She handled herself well upon returning, far better integrating herself and keeping her head down than Anna Khait. I’m still impressed at how well she’s doing for her age socially and physically and even strategically, and I hope she begins giving herself more credit. She deserves it.
Look, everything Tai does is freaking adorable and you’re just gonna have to deal with the fact that an Earth angel lives among us. I like the idea that he literally is sticking around for the sake of the chicken- who’d have thought in Season 32 the very first strategic idea, BB and Ramona considering hiding the water well location to extend their longevity, would actually be a reason to keep someone around. Freaking aces, Tai. I also enjoy his secret scene about the picnic reward, where he calls Jeff very generous for giving them so much to eat. Earth. Angel.
Nick- Weekly confirmation Nick is an absolute douche beyond the realm of caricature. Yet I still rooted for him over Scot in the basketball challenge.
Last week I was pretty hard on Michele’s chances to win. I felt people were taking very minimal content and jumping the gun. I hope that I made it clear, however, that I was looking for an episode like this to justify the hype. Otherwise you can basically go fully Bobby Singer and declare me a complete idjit because… yeah, here we are, now I can see it. Tap into the girl power theme a la Debbie? Yep. Telling a condescending male wannabe strategist in confessional he can’t chain her down or carry her while playing stupid in his eyes? Nice bonus points. I get Michele’s strategy way more now and for someone who hasn’t gone to TC yet, I very much get better vibes from her than before.
Pet peeve, though, and this is gonna sound weird coming from me, but is anyone else kind of over the unironic usage of “Strong Independent Woman”? I like the meaning and connotation of it, but I think the writer in me is just kind of sick of the cliche. Plus it often comes off as an excuse to define a female character without defining her, basically just making her “good at things” and not much else. Like a Kim Spradlin, essentially. I hope we get better affirmation of Michele as a character than “she’s strong and female isn’t that a freaking rarity?!” Wishing her luck!
Scot- “What are you doing?” “Winning.”
Bold talk from the Celtic Cheerleader, but I have to say that had his Alecia-related content not basically eliminated him from contention- and it has, don’t even mistake that fact- he probably has the best content. As it stands, I think he’s playing exceptionally well in Kaoh Rong and has a lot of great assets, and wasted all of his flat out nastiness on the one person that couldn’t do jack about it. Him never being targeted and always having sway around things, keeping a calm head and having good interactions with the others, and flat out forcing the challenge with his Original Plan moment at TC? Good signs. I just don’t think they’d have buried him the way they have in a post Worlds-Apart season. It’d be TV suicide. Jeff seems incredibly cautious of ever having another Worlds Apart situation hit TV without the utmost caution and I still stand by it being far too easy to vilify Alecia completely rather than give her the freaking Ciera Eastin music.
Cydney- Daaaamn, Debbie, at it again with the suicide jokes. Surprised she went absolutely nowhere ahead after such a solid episode, but still think she’s a solid contender.
Jason- Finally did something I could get behind- going the fuck away.
My Final First Thoughts
Peter being voted out is change I can believe in. A 5-3-3 Chan Loh majority/minority was itching to be too predictable and I’d rather Peter be the one dropped than getting the drop on the other Chan Lohs. A lot of possibilities for the future have been set up, and I do love a good 11 person merge. Just enough people to monitor, a pleasing odd number for potential 6-5 votes, and a lot of room to shift. I also love how this episode filled in the blanks with many characters that we’d been missing and I look forward to seeing what this cast of eleven, which now feel like eleven distinct people. There’s a lot of possibilities and that always makes a good merge, and I think we’re so far on the right track a season. Here’s hoping we progress, not regress.