I’m not sure there’s been a season of Survivor with this many broken alliances this early in the game. It’s essentially become the de facto theme of the season — Survivor 42: Fickle Friends. Perhaps it’s because of the sped-up 26-day game and the nowhere-to-hide small tribes with no swap in sight. Everyone is on edge — and I’m not talking about that “celebrity” Survivor rip-off that airs after the show on CBS. These season 42 castaways are in self-preservation mode already, leading to fragile relationships that fracture easily under the pressure of tribal council.
Following last week’s messy breakup between Chanelle and Daniel, this time, it’s Swati and Tori’s turn to attend a relationship counseling session with Jeff Probst. The two women had previously plotted to take down Drea, an idea proposed by Swati, who was fearful of Drea having an extra vote. In this episode, Swati continues down that path, looking for a way to secure a power position in a tribe where she feels at the bottom. Of course, former pageant queen Tori clamps onto the plan like it’s a Miss Universe crown. Tori’s been on the chopping block already, so she’s eager for any move that takes the target off of her, even if it means following Swati’s suggestion of working with Rocksroy, the tribe’s resident bossy-boots.
Despite Tori’s reservations toward Rocksroy and what she refers to as his “narcissistic tendencies,” she extends an olive branch by revealing to him that Drea has an extra vote. This is news to Rocksroy, but it does little to sway him towards Tori. You see, Rocksroy is a very old-school-style player — you could throw him alongside B.B. Anderson on the first season and he’d fit right in. His narrow focus of the game is all about working hard at camp, winning challenges, and voting out the sneaky people. And as far as Rocksroy is concerned, Tori is the sneakiest player on the Ika beach and needs to be stopped sooner rather than later. So he tells Drea about Tori’s secret scheme, blowing up Swati’s plan in the process.
However, after Ika loses their second immunity challenge, the reality of the situation begins to rise to the surface. While Rocksroy wants to keep things simple and vote out Tori, a new target emerges after Drea, Tori, and Romeo compare notes. They suddenly realize that Swati has been double-dipping, playing both sides against the other. What follows is a funny montage of Swati separately promising Romeo, Drea, and Tori that they’re her “No. 1.” Seriously, Swati’s been handing out No. 1’s like she’s Billboard and her tribemates are Mariah Carey. “She’s not just some innocent 20-year-old here for the adventure,” says Romeo as it dawns on him that the shy and reserved Swati is the real agent of chaos at camp.
To Swati’s credit, she has enough self-awareness to recognize something is up. The vibe at camp is uneasy, and she can sense that uneasiness is aimed at her. She talks to Drea and attempts to push all the blame onto Tori, a tactic she carries through into tribal council. “I think the headline changed,” Swati tells Jeff as she details how Tori was the one that plotted the coup on Drea but now, all of a sudden, she is the one in the firing line. This once seemingly tight pair is now in a tense game of “he said, she said,” pointing the finger at one another while the rest of their tribemates try and make sense of the situation.
Unfortunately for Swati, her conflicting promises catch up to her, and she’s voted out three to one after playing her Shot in the Dark advantage to no avail. Rocksroy sighs and bows his head, disappointed that his tribemates didn’t take the chance to vote out Tori as he suggested. For Swati, she goes out smiling, taking some solace in the fact she gained newfound confidence in her short time on the island. As for Tori, she lives to fight another day and is proving to be quite the scrappy Survivor player.
The shattered alliances are not restricted to the Ika beach. Over at the Vati camp, the tribe is picking up the pieces after their tumultuous tribal council. Daniel tries to go into “do not disturb” mode and recommends holding off discussions until the morning. That doesn’t fly with Chanelle, who was the target of Daniel’s erratic meltdown last week. She’s confused why her supposed No. 1 ally threw her under the bus, even if she does admit in private that the plan to vote out Lydia was hers. In the midst of all this, Chanelle lets slip that Daniel told her about Mike’s idol, which obviously irks the ex-firefighter. “You weren’t my No. 1,” Daniel tells Mike in defense. “But you told me I was,” Mike replies. Are you sensing a theme? Enough with promising people they’re your No. 1!
If Ika and Vati are the broken, bickering families that keep the neighborhood up all night, then Taku is the harmonious family who lives in the big house at the top of the hill with the trimmed hedges and white picket fence — the kind of family that wears matching outfits to church. Or, in other words, Ika and Vati are the Gallaghers and Taku are the Waltons. That sense of wholesome camaraderie between the Taku foursome is evident in the challenges, where they easily snatch victory in both reward and immunity. They’re so tight that Jonathan openly speaks of their bond in front of the other two tribes, which raises a few eyebrows.
It’s ironic then that Jonathan’s talk of tribe unity could be what causes the first cracks in Taku. Maryanne tells Omar that she’s annoyed that Jonathan blurted tribe intel in public, as it paints a bigger target on the Taku players come a swap or merge. “My main man is a bit of a slop,” Omar so eloquently puts it. However, Jonathan is well aware of his faux pas and admits that he’s ticked off at himself for what he said at the challenge. It’s the kind of thing he needs to be careful about, as he’s already becoming a juicy target for his challenge performances alone. If members of the other tribe call you “Goliath” and “Thor,” you best believe they’ll want your head on their trophy wall. But hey, at least he hasn’t promised anyone they’re his No. 1, yet!
• Line of the week. Mike: “There’s no more kumbaya. It’s more like holy crapbaya.”
• Even though Maryanne might be frustrated that the other tribes are slacking when it comes to reciting their idol phrases, I’m pleased about the lack of idols and advantages in this episode. The more time focused on the players and their relationships, the better.