Wardog is the biggest threat and tries to create an alliance with Rick and RON CLARK, the other big threats. Rick thinks no one is scheming but him, but the women of Vata, led by Julie and Lauren prove him wrong by voting his “ally” Wardog out after Rick wins immunity. Will Rick go home this week? Will RON CLARK do something bad? Let’s find out, in this week’s re-cap…
I’M THE PHOENIX
Todd: After voting Wardog out, the remaining Vata members gather back at camp. Julie remarks that Wardog lied too much and had to go. Meanwhile, Rick, the only person not in on the Wardog vote, is certain the he is next. He pulls RON CLARK aside to make sure that they are okay, and RON CLARK, in an attempt to assuage Rick’s fears, gives him the Advantage Menu that he found on Day 1. An advantage menu that, as RON CLARK reminds us, is no longer worth anything. RON CLARK just wants everyone to trust him, but he still plans on voting Rick out. Rick is still worried, but he thinks that with this advantage menu, he can continue being “the phoenix” and rise from the ashes. Oh no, Rick! Also, if you are keeping count at home, this is the first devious RON CLARK move of the episode.
Mary: I’m honestly very irritated with Ron Clark at this point. He’s playing smart, I guess, in trying to trick Rick, but I hate it. It just seems scummy.
COME ON IN, GUYS...AND GET SOME LOOOOOOOVE
Mary: WOW there is a lot of energy going on in this segment. Everyone is emotional as Jeff welcomes the loved ones in individually. Notably, Gavin has a big moment during the introductions; he tells the group that he got married two days before leaving to go on the show, and he’s missed his new wife terribly. He tries to keep a stoic face when Jeff asks if he’s ready, but he breaks down and lets a few tears out.
I think you can really see the emotional toll the show has had on the group. Some people--like Lauren and Victoria--seemed almost deliriously happy to see their loved ones. I will say, I loved Rick and his wife Becca. They seem like a fun couple. I would like to be friends with them.
Todd: Agreed! And it is nice to see the other half of people like Julie or Victoria who have flown under the radar for a lot of the game. Also, always encouraging to see that even villains like RON CLARK have people who care about them!
This also strikes me as a particularly drawn-out loved ones’ visit, though maybe I am just misremembering past seasons. It seems to me like the producers know that many of the remaining survivors are not as well-drawn as someone like Rick or the returning players, and so this is an opportunity to shed some more light on who Aurora, Lauren, Gavin, Victoria, and Julie are. (And just typing that out I am realizing how wildly under-edited this final 7 truly is.)
Mary: That’s a good point. I have NO IDEA who Victoria is, and I feel like this is the first time we got to see the “real” her, and not the cool exterior she puts up for everyone else. Also, WILD to me that Ron is so...normal? That he can have a casual conversation? That being said, he was pretty cattily chatting with his partner, but we’ll get to that in a bit. I just continue to be confused by him.
Todd: Indeed! The challenge was interesting in that the loved ones’ were asked to participate! It consists of the survivors running and getting water out of the ocean in a bucket and then running back and throwing it at their loved ones who are also holding a bucket. The loved ones then have to dump the remaining water into a bucket attached to a flag. First team to raise their flag wins!
During the actual challenge, many people struggle, including Aurora who can’t seem to get any water to her brother Shane, and Rick who basically just ends up drenching his wife in water. When Jeff asks her if she thinks Rick is doing that on purpose, she responds that he definitely is. After one spectacularly bad toss of water, Rick just leans against a post and asks Rebecca how she’s doing, and it is yet another example of how good Rick seems to be at the entertainment aspect of Survivor. Regardless of whether or not he is a smart or strategic player (and at times, he seems to be one while other times he seems too emotional), he is a lot of fun to watch!
Eventually, however, RON CLARK and Lloyd win the challenge, with Lloyd shaking every last drop of water out of his bucket. RON CLARK is ecstatic but then the trouble begins. He picks Julie because she is his closest ally and that is a no-brainer, but then Jeff tells him to pick someone else. Mary, what did you think of this? Did RON CLARK make the right decision here in picking Gavin? Was it even possible for him to make a decision without making someone else feel left out?
Mary: I think that no matter who Ron picked, people were going to hate him for it, and it’s smart that he chose Gavin, really. He has the excuse of giving Gavin a “honeymoon” (which like, a short picnic with Ron Clark is not a honeymoon IMO), and he can win some favor with Gavin himself. Julie seemed like an obvious bet, since Ron seems to be constantly making amends with her for lying to her face at various points. This wasn’t a bad pick, but then again, I wonder what would’ve happened if he’d opted for, say, Lauren or Victoria. They’re the ones that wanted to go after him when they didn’t get picked.
I will say, one of my favorite parts of the episode was Ron telling Lloyd something like, “They’re just so loyal, they’ll believe anything I say,” then turning to them and talking about who they’d like to vote for--which is, of course, Rick. Ron isn’t a dumb player. He’s trying to be strategic, and that’s why it surprises me you dislike him as much as you do! You love strategy.
Todd: That was a great moment. Here’s my problem with RON CLARK: at the end of the day, he wants to be a king more than he wants to be a strategic leader. His main strategy for the first half of the game was to get out returning players, which is barely a strategy, and since the merge his “strategy” has mostly consisted of stabbing people in the back and lying for no reason. Ultimately, RON CLARK strikes me as much meaner than he needs to be to achieve his goals. If we look at someone like Todd from Survivor: China, who is one of my favorite players in Survivor history, he came into the game knowing he would have to be devious in order to win, and he did that, but he also knew how to talk to people in a way that wasn’t condescending or bossy. He let people feel like they were making the decisions while he wasn’t quietly pulling the strings. Anyway, RON CLARK saying that he is in control of the game is the first clue of the night that maybe he didn’t make the right decision after all.
SURVIVOR’S A GRIND, AND I’M GRINDING
Mary: Back at camp, Rick returns to find Aurora digging through his bag. He says, pretty calmly, that it’s an awkward situation getting caught going through someone’s bag, and she says, “Nope, not awkward at all.” YET SHE KEEPS BRINGING IT UP, saying it’s not awkward at all. Aurora explains that she thought that he might have an idol and they had to know.
Rick posits that if they think he has the idol, he might as well go look for it, so he does--and shockingly, he FINDS A CLUE. The clue says that the idol is hidden above their shelter, and upon returning to camp he sees it immediately. In a funny scene, we see Rick climbing the shelter in the middle of the night, creaking on the bamboo roof and waking everyone up in the process. Not seeing anything, they just sort of go back to sleep--I guess there are a lot of noises in Fiji at night, including noises that sound like a grown man walking on your shelter. Rick gets the idol and settles back in to sleep.
COME ON IN, AGAIN, GUYS!
Todd: This immunity challenge looks hard! The survivors have to stand on very tiny footholds and hold themselves up with their forearms. Basically, everyone is a broken shell of their former selves after this challenge. When Julie drops out she is not even able to walk, so RON CLARK, like a true ally and friend, picks her up and takes her over to the sit-out bench.
Also, at the beginning of the challenge, Rick makes a joke about how if everyone drops out they can all be his Final 3. In response, Lauren rolls her eyes so hard that they nearly pop out of her head. Jeff, sensing a moment, asks Lauren what she thinks of Rick’s words, and she says, “It sounds like Devens can’t do math,” to which Rick responds, “She’s not wrong.”
After 50 minutes, Lauren and Gavin are the last people standing(?), but nothing can last forever, and Lauren drops. Gavin, having a pretty good episode, wins his 2nd individual immunity challenge. On the way out of the challenge, RON CLARK says he is happy about how the challenge went because it means that now he can vote Rick out.
A VILLAIN IN OUR MIDST?
Mary: It’s painfully obvious that everyone wants to vote Rick back once everyone returns to camp. Everyone sits in absolute SILENCE, while Rick says, “So I guess no one wants to work with me?”
Todd: There have been a lot of awkward afternoons this season!
Mary: And this episode! Later, Rick asks Ron (who has Julie in tow) if the advantage menu is indeed real. Ron says, yes of course it is! He’s not a dumb-dumb. As they walk away, Julie says, “I feel so bad lying to him!” Ron insists it’s part of the game. Ron seems really happy about the way things are going, and he heads off confident about what will happen at tribal.
Todd: Meanwhile, Victoria and Lauren are walking along the beach and Victoria says that she isn’t comfortable, on the off chance that Rick has an idol, letting him decide who goes home. Lauren is in total agreement and they hatch a Plan B to vote out RON CLARK(!). Aurora walks up to them and lets them know that not only does she have an extra vote, but tonight is the last night it can be played. Sensing a plan coming together, they decide to tell Gavin about the extra vote, and Aurora, who knows that if there is a tie and her name comes up she won’t be able to use the extra vote, decides to give it to Gavin. The math of this is all a little wonky, because she could just use the extra vote twice to vote for RON CLARK, thus ensuring that Rick’s single vote wouldn’t lead to a tie, but no matter. The side-plan is hatched: Aurora and Victoria vote with RON CLARK and Julie to get out Rick, while Lauren and Gavin (hopefully) vote for RON CLARK.
Lauren goes to talk to Gavin, who seems hesitant. He talks about how RON CLARK let him come on the reward with his wife, and this is where my love for my Tennessee boy began to wane. Gavin has shown himself capable of thinking with his head and not his heart throughout this game (most notably when he voted out his Day-1 ally Eric), but the editors really wanted us to think that Gavin was waffling on whether or not to vote out RON CLARK. I was worried headed into tribal council.
Mary: Honestly, this decision to give Gavin the advantage makes no sense to me, especially since Ron Clark has been trying to win favor with him by inviting him on the reward picnic. I also wasn’t entirely sure what they were trying to accomplish here. It’s just kind of boggling, but I’m sure it made sense in the moment, in their food deprived minds!
BECAUSE IN THIS GAME FIRE REPRESENTS YOUR LIFE
Mary: Ooowee, what a tribal. There’s some tense conversation about the Aurora-bag incident; she still insists it’s not awkward, but guess what--it still is! Rick knows people want him to go home, and he says he could end the speculation of if he has the idol or not--but he won’t just yet.
Ron tries to run damage control on people he knows dislike him. He says that he felt bad about not picking Victoria and Lauren, because they clearly wanted more time with their dads, but he frames it in a way that makes it sound like he was really trying to give Gavin something special since he’d just gotten married before coming on the show. It sounds nice, but Lauren and Victoria don’t fall for it, and Lauren gives one of her classic eye rolls.
Todd: It was not a great moment for RON CLARK. A question I have heard other Survivor fans ask this season is whether people are voting out big threats too early to try to build a “résumé” or whether these people are just bad at repairing alliances once they make those big moves. Julia and Wardog both became too infatuated with their own narrative and then got sent home without even realizing what was coming. This is all encapsulated when Jeff says, throwing yet another analogy out there for this season, that it has felt like a pinball machine, which Julie agrees with, saying that she has had an alliance with basically everyone left in the game at some point.
Rick compares his game right now to being out in the field as a reporter when the newscaster throws to you and then immediately comes back to the studio without letting you say anything. Victoria points out that Rick is right: no one wants to sit with him at the final 3, so no one really has anything to say to him.
Mary: They don’t want to sit with him at the final three because RICK IS THE BEST.
Todd: Agreed! He would pretty handily win the season at this point.
Mary: Everyone goes to vote, pretty sure about what the outcome will be. When they return to their seats, Jeff does the typical, “Does anyone have an immunity idol they’d like to play?” bit and Rick stands up. Keep in mind here that I was on the edge of my seat, wanting desperately for Rick to make a smart move and not the dumb move he was about to make. Rick stands up, says he has an advantage menu, and Jeff solemnly tells him, this is expired. Rick walks back to his seat, gets the real immunity idol and returns. On the way, Rick calls Ron and Julie villains and then, disdainfully, “gems.” This is one of my favorite insults. Everyone is shocked, but not as shocked as they could be, I guess.
Todd: This is a really good moment and accomplishes a couple things at the same time: 1) Obviously, keeps Rick safe and gets someone else voted out; and 2) Gives Rick, at least in the mind of the jury I am guessing, almost all responsibility for getting RON CLARK out, despite the fact that Rick voted for Aurora!
Mary: I think these are good points. It also, as you have said, helps build a résumé. I still don’t fully get that term and don’t like it, but Rick has shown that he’s had to overcome things and has been a target.
Todd: No one that has played Survivor over the last 10 or so seasons has ever built a résumé in real life. That is just a fact. Or to put it in other words, “I don’t think that term means what you think it means.”
AND WHEN YOUR FIRE’S GONE, SO ARE YOU...OR ARE YOU?
Todd: The votes are read. Multiple votes for Rick, one vote for Aurora, and three votes for RON CLARK. The jury is shook! RON CLARK is gracious in his defeat, complimenting the remaining Vata members on a job well done. Lauren says what we were all thinking, “That felt good.”
At the Edge of Extinction Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Post, RON CLARK says, “Here we go” as he picks up the torch and heads to The Edge. He says he got duped, and Reem, as has become her custom, gets the last word: “I’ve heard a lot of lovely things about you. I really have. Everybody loves you.” I can’t tell if this is sarcasm or not, but it works either way. Farewell, RON CLARK, your attempts at villainy will be missed, even if you will not be.
Todd: We spent no time at all on “The Edge” this week, which makes me think we might be getting close to another Edge advantage or challenge. Also, that the producers knew Wardog had no chance of winning his way back into the game, so why show him on the island.
Mary: I definitely agree, but I hate that we didn’t get to see any of The Edge this week. Still, we got Reem wrapping up in her shawl like an old grandma at tribal, which is all I really needed.
Todd: During the reward, Gavin has a confessional where he talks about his wife and gets choked up, and honestly this episode had a lot of moments like that, and it was all very touching!
Mary: I think this episode did have a lot of good emotional moments, but for some reason I didn’t feel that much for Gavin. It was his choice to go on Survivor, and it’s not that long? Missing someone, yes! Of course! But like...you did this to yourself, dude.
Todd: Yeah, that’s totally fair. What did you think of Rick’s pre-tribal newscaster-ing?
Mary: At this point it’s clear I stan Rick. He’s my favorite, and one of the things I find really endearing is these little moments of his fake newscasting, both during challenges and before tribal in this ep. He does his own music, has his own catchphrases. This time, he said, “What will happen in tribal? Redemption for Ron, or a villain in our midst?!” We see how that turned out.
Todd: Truly, a happy ending for all!
Mary: BUT I’m excited to see what happens to Ron on THE EDGE. We saw just a tiny tiny clip of him arriving, and it seems like everyone was happy to see him. I think he’ll fit in nicely.
That’s it for this week on...