Bring out the name tags and awkward small talk because it’s job-recruitment week on Survivor. Following the dramatic two-week two-part merge in which tribes came together, alliances were axed, and Sydney was sent packing, 11 castaways remain. It’s too early to see the finish line for any one player. There is a large and quickly fracturing majority alliance and surprisingly no minority alliance.
Instead, the unmoored Evvie, Xander, and Tiffany are all searching for any anchor to get through another week, even if that means turning on their former Yase tribemates. They’re like college seniors at the last networking event before graduation: having one-on-one conversations, agreeing to just about anything, and pitching their cases ad nauseam.
However, the hiring committee of Heather, Erika, and Deshawn is not accepting applications at this time. As Deshawn tells us, he’d like to see Evvie, Xander, and Tiffany all leave consecutively. This makes sense. The majority alliance is made up of enough people that it’s an easy strategy to take out collective adversaries rather than begin turning on one another. This leaves us with a rather perfunctory episode. We have the usual rounds of Shan running the show, former Yase members scrambling to stay afloat, and Naseer providing sustenance and smiles around camp.
The reward challenge happens in a flash after Evvie completes a final puzzle in just a matter of minutes (seconds?) following a water race. She confesses to an impressed Jeff Probst to having watched and studied this exact puzzle after seeing it on Edge of Extinction. Once again, Evvie proves she knows the game and applies her knowledge extensively, though perhaps a little too soon. More on that in a moment.
We do get a fun scene from Jeff after the reward challenge. He jumps onto the sit-out bench that Xander volunteered to occupy in lieu of Erika. She once again pulled the wrong rock. (Deshawn’s reaction to Xander’s grand gesture sums up the vibe perfectly.) Xander, in his martyr era, missed a hidden advantage placed under the bench. Jeff goes to grab it and shows off his above-the-knee shorts. A mullet, a pair of clean kicks, and style-approved short inseams? Jeff is looking good this season, as he should!
Back at camp, the non-feasters — Shan, Liana, Heather, Tiffany, Naseer, and Xander — are feeling the exhaustion and hunger of life off the grid. Shan and Liana turn their sadness into strategy, deciphering whom to target at tribal. Unsurprisingly, it’s Evvie. She’s playing too good of a game.
Unfortunately for the majority alliance, Evvie wins the immunity challenge. Though — though! — Heather puts up a good fight and comes in second. The challenge is a Survivor classic: Stand on your toes and hold a block in place with your head. This challenge also ended in just a matter of minutes, as several members of the tribe sat out in exchange for rice.
You heard that correctly. We’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned rice negotiation. (Where is queen Angelina Keeley from David vs. Goliath when you need her?) Shan leads the negotiation with Jeff, whittling down his proposed seven sit-outs to five. When only Shan and Naseer step out, Xander offers himself if they negotiate down to four. They do, and Ricard is the last to give up the challenge. (I wonder if Ricard’s play here is to appease Shan. This comes on the heels of a spar earlier this episode over papaya.)
Upon returning from the reward-challenge meal, Ricard samples the Survivor delicacy that Naseer chopped down for those who lost the challenge. Shan is upset with Ricard’s tasting of the papaya and lets him know. Tensions between the two close allies have bubbled since the end of their Ua tribe. It’ll be interesting to see if they can surpass their differences or if it will lead to their downfall.
Because Evvie has won, the majority alliance needs a new target and decides to split votes between Xander and Tiffany in hopes of flushing out Xander’s idol and sending Tiffany home — except Shan’s spearheading of the plan is starting to irk her alliance. Deshawn feels his voice isn’t being heard, while Heather doesn’t appreciate her name being thrown out as an alternative/ploy.
This leads to another live tribal, spearheaded at the last minute by Heather, who feels vulnerable. Live tribals are starting to feel like the default mode, and I’m here for it. With all the advantages, twists, and negotiations, Survivor is no longer a purified game. It’s in its industrialization era, so why not add a little filibustering into the once-straightforward tribal councils?
Unfortunately, it’s largely for naught, as Xander doesn’t play his idol, and Tiffany is sent packing in a close vote, with Heather, Naseer, and Xander all receiving votes.
Jeff announces Tiffany is our first jury member, and I’m happy to hear it. She’s got witty one-liners, proved herself to be a better challenge player than her tribe initially expected, and was a savvy player who didn’t mind putting others in their place. I hope to see her again in an all-stars season.