Survivor: One World, Ep. 24.07, “The Beauty in a Merge”: Predictable battle lines are drawn

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Survivor: One World Review, Season 24, Episode 7,
“The Beauty in a Merge”
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

The first post-merge episode usually ranks among the most interesting in every Survivor season. There are rampant possibilities for what can happen, especially since the numbers are even. When there is a tribe switch before the merge, it opens up even more different combinations. Will the players return to their original alliances or vote based on the new bonds made after the change? Sadly, this week’s episode provides one of the least interesting possible options. By voting out Jonas, the new Salani members seem determined to wipe out the remaining Manono group. He’s arguably the strongest member of that tribe (which isn’t saying a lot), so less-threatening players like Alicia and Tarzan will likely remain for a while. The Salani tribe’s motives are understandable, but it doesn’t make for a fascinating outcome.

Most this week’s fireworks come from Tarzan, who seems intent on irritating as many people as possible. When Jonas rightfully points out that he shouldn’t give away their plans to Michael, Tarzan throws a fit and threatens to quit the tribe. Since they’re now merged, this seems like a difficult plan. The way this season is going, nothing would be shocking. At Tribal Council, Jonas makes a last-ditch effort to save himself, which also raises the ire of the indignant Tarzan. His behavior is starting to feel a lot like Phillip Sheppard, but with less self-awareness. There is some good entertainment when he apparently washes his “poopy” underwear in the pot with Chelsea’s clothes. While Tarzan insists it’s just dirt, his claims fall on deaf ears. Another Survivor first! Although this behavior irritates everyone, going for the more capable player is the right strategy. Once they start praising Jonas at Tribal Council, it’s obvious he’s the first member of the Jury.

The reward challenge splits the new Tikiano tribe (meaning “year of the god” according to Troyzan) into two random groups. The winners receive pizza and special no-label beer. Players must dig a hole to crawl under an obstacle and then retrieve a bag of puzzle pieces. Leif goes first and gets stuck, which places his group in big trouble. They nearly catch up, but amazingly choose Tarzan and Jonas for the puzzle. Predictably, Christina and Troyzan finish first and join Jay, Alicia, Sabrina, and Chelsea as the winners. They also receive a “secret note” that reveals a second “hidden” immunity idol at camp. Troyzan wakes up early the next day and finds the idol without a problem. A note to future players: The idols are always placed inside holes in trees. Amazingly, Troyzan keeps this information to himself, which makes him a lot smarter than most players on this show. This kid could go far.

After Jeff reminds the players that individual immunity is what they crave, it’s time for the challenge. Each person holds a wooden disk and must balance a ball on it while standing on a perch. They add two more balls at a certain point until there are three on the disk. Predictably, Tarzan is basically out before the challenge begins. Jeff utters many unintentionally crude statements about balls, and it eventually comes down to a jittery Troyzan versus a motionless Kat. When she falters and steps off the perch, he wins immunity and is sitting pretty. Following the challenge, Jay makes good points about taking out the stronger Manono players, and Jonas is his target. The editing suggests that Tarzan might go because of the nasty shorts, but that seems unlikely. It will take little convincing to vote him out at any point in the future. It’s interesting to note who appears to hold the most power. Kim lies on a log like the queen of the beach, but her confidence may be short-lived. Jay and Chelsea seem to have bonded, and that duo may eventually want to blindside Kim because of her idol. It’s never wise to be at the top of an alliance (and possibly two) this early.

This episode again reveals the subtle ability of Michael to stir the pot while keeping his hands clean. After Tarzan gives away his plans, all it takes is a quick conversation with Jonas to induce chaos. Michael created a similar mess in the third episode by telling Colton about Leif’s deception. That move started a chain reaction that caused the guys to give up immunity and go to Tribal Council. He might not be a top contender, but Michael’s proving to be a more effective villain without all the histrionics. The editing isn’t really focusing on him, so it’s hard to say how that relates to his long-term prospects. After looking shaky early in the men’s tribe, Michael isn’t facing much danger unless the women band together. That’s always a possibility, so his strength could quickly become a liability in that situation.

Looking ahead, there are two likely scenarios that could play out. The most predictable route involves the Salani members picking off the remaining four Manono players. While this might happen, it would also leave a bunch of strong players in the final seven. That situation rarely occurs, and the powerful figures on Salani will probably keep the stragglers for a longer time. That puts the target on Jay, Troyzan, and Michael, especially if the six women decide to vote as a bloc. In that case, it’s going to require major strategy and a deft use of Troyzan’s idol to avoid their demise. The game could still go many different ways, but this episode raises some concerns about a more predictable finish.

Dan Heaton

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