We entered the merge with a whirlwind as two hours of Survivor: Island of the Idols episode 8 action brought us many downs and a few ups for the 13 players.
Before we even arrived at tonight’s episode, we had already arrived at the jury. The only thing left to do was to take us to the merge, with Lairo and Vokai gathering their parties to venture forth into a new dimension for Survivor: Island of the Idols. Before that, we had some issues with what happened with the vote, as Noura threw Kellee under the bus. This forced her to lie about what Noura said, which worked on Janet but not Jamal.
With two idols played in one Tribal Council, the hunt was on at Lairo for another Hidden Immunity Idol. Kellee earned her first idol through a test but managed to find her second idol out on the beach under a log just before treemail came to send Lairo and Vokai to the merge. It was suspiciously timed, but who are the producers to interrupt a player finding as many idols as possible?
The merge feast was short but packed with gameplay. Tommy and Dan wanted to get the Vokai 2.0 tribe together, as well as Kellee and Janet, in order to secure a strong nine and coast for … four more Tribal Councils. Kellee was quick to shut down plans that only helped the Lairo minority and wanted to target Missy instead, which was a cause for concern for Tommy, who wanted to blend tribal lines.
After our first commercial break, we started to learn why Dan Spilo’s Twitter account went private before the season began. Missy and Kellee talked about several incidents where Dan inappropriately or unwantedly touched them, with Survivor providing cuts of several moments where he did act inappropriately, including touching Kellee’s face after asking him not to do so.
It became a sincere bonding moment between Kellee and Missy that would quickly dissolve into one of the grossest talking points in the history of Survivor, especially relating to gameplay. Tommy and Lauren were concerned about Kellee’s closeness with Missy after talking for two hours, which demonstrated just how aware Tommy is of the game around him.
After Janet expressed concern and protectiveness for Kellee and the young women near Dan, Missy and Elizabeth hatched a devious plan to intensify how much they were concerned about Dan’s touching to Kellee, Janet, and others, although Elizabeth conceded she didn’t feel that way. Missy did describe unwanted touching, but the two amping it up to turn it into strategy illustrates the messy intertwining of real-life and gameplay, even if Kellee wanted to separate the two and vote out Missy.
To break up the two, Lauren spoke truth to the fact that Kellee was planning on voting out Missy to Missy herself, all while positing it as a ploy of their discussions as gameplay. Though Lauren had no idea what they were talking about, that paranoia led into Missy’s paranoia to flip the script on Kellee, setting up a convoluted first merge boot.
That’s when a warning of white text on a black screen showed the severity in which Survivor producers took the issue, speaking to the players about personal boundaries as a group and officially warning Dan privately. Their discussions led to them continue the game with Dan involved and increased monitoring, but for many reasons that became clear later, I feel it was a terrible decision.
Back to the game, the Immunity Challenge combined dexterity and endurance, as players had to hold three balls on a platform while standing in a precarious position. As you go higher, it locks the bar at a higher, more difficult position. Go too low, and a peg from underneath will knock one of three balls out. The last person with at least one ball on their platform wins immunity.
Many players found out quickly just how difficult it was to hold the bar and balance. Just two or so minutes into the challenge, Elizabeth, Jamal, Missy had two balls each while Karishma, Tommy and Missy had three. Sweat took Tommy’s last two balls rather quickly, and Karishma quickly fell apart, as well.
Just four players remained for 15 minutes, with Missy dropping rather suddenly. That left Aaron and Jamal with two balls each as Elizabeth stumbled and dropped out quickly after Missy. Those two were like sweaty statues trying to hold it all together, as they moved like nothing for 25 minutes.
However, just like any difficult endurance challenge where pain is involved, all it takes is one last moment where everything shuts down, as Jamal fell, and Aaron secured the first individual immunity of the season. Karishma was quick to run to his side, which should be telling about where some of the tribal lines lie at this stage of the game.
Lauren and Tommy got to work immediately, further separating Kellee from a power position and putting themselves at the top. They reassured Missy she’s not the target and even tried to get Dean and Elaine on board, with Dean considering flipping on the one person who saved him in this game.
Though there were two names brought up for the greater game, Jamal and Noura had other plans that brought the episode’s storyline together so far. Jamal personally didn’t want Dan because he was targeted by him, but Noura brought in both his aggressive behavior and overstepping boundaries as legitimate concerns to vote him out.
Jamal’s plan in pulling off this move had unintended consequences when he said he had the votes to pull it off. That was all that Janet need to go into Mamma Bear mode, telling Elizabeth they have the votes to take out Dan and to get the Lairo women to vote him out for making them feel uncomfortable.
Because of the way Missy was let into the plan to vote her out, as well as Elizabeth saying Dan didn’t cross the line with her in a confessional (despite saying otherwise within the game), it seemed like Missy and Elizabeth were more content in telling Dan and working with him, despite the awareness of the meeting on boundaries and how it was about Dan.
Kellee didn’t feel safe knowing that Dan felt comfortable, so she did what any person with a Hidden Immunity Idol would do; she searched for another one. She even found it seconds before heading into Tribal Council, giving her two necklaces and the protection she thought she had to pull the trigger.
Of all people to talk about trust and deception, Dan started out Tribal Council talking about truth and deception in a game where the two are weapons to wield. Just like perception, the truth for some is different for others, as Tommy talked about how just easy it was for Vokai and Lairo to vote down tribal lines. However, Missy was more emphatic about how this vote was a gut check, with whoever went home being truly outplayed and not as good of a player as they thought.
It seemed to go down to either Dan or Kellee, which shows the power of two people’s plans to change the outcome based on their own confidence and conviction. Without a doubt giving the worst possible result, Kellee received eight votes to Dan’s five to send her home with two idols in her pocket. We even heard Dan mutter, “Yeah, put that torch down.” What a great hour of television!
It did not end at Tribal Council. Janet felt betrayed by not only her tribe but what she was told by Missy and Elizabeth, confronting Dan about concerns brought up to her by women in the game and the reason why she felt like she had to step in and vote Dan out for the betterment of their security. She talked to Dan in a way that was sympathetic to the perception of the situation and Dan’s situation as the accused.
What did she get for it? Immediate gaslighting and ostracizing by Missy and Elizabeth, with the latter saying Dan’s aggressive behavior was “jokes” that “snowballed into something way bigger than it ever should have been.” They told Dan that the other side was trying to find ways to delegitimize him, yet when Janet comes back and hears from Dan that the same women she stood up for (against her initial plans) were saying the opposite, it was like pulling teeth to get Elizabeth to confirm she said what she said.
Clearly, standing up for what’s right in the face of injustice at great personal risk has become the ongoing theme of Survivor: Island of the Idols and Janet represented herself and the show proudly. That made her finding a Hidden Immunity Idol on the beach the next morning extremely amazing as she continued to be the shining light in a night of television darkness.
When Karishma and Jamal went for a walk, Jamal grabbed a piece of paper dangling from a tree that saw him whisked away to the Island of the Idols. Somehow in an episode that saw Janet thrown under the bus for doing what’s right, it was Jamal who was screwed the most because he found a trinket in the jungle, and it meant that he lost his vote before he could even read the parchment.
Boston Rob even chided him by saying, “There are no free lunches in Survivor,” yet that’s what Island of the Idols, Hidden Immunity Idols, and other found advantages are; free lunches! He did get the opportunity to use a pencil and a blank piece of paper to commit sabotage on somebody else, giving Dean a fake Legacy Advantage, but all it could really do is make Jamal a bigger target.
The second Immunity Challenge brought a bunch of pain and a bunch of classic Survivor challenge memories with the “hang onto a bar behind your back as you dangle increasingly closer to the water below” test of endurance. Jeff even cranked up the difficulty immediately, taking out a slew of players. At the very least, one woman and one man would become safe this round.
Those people who won immunity were Aaron (for his second) and Missy, meaning all the vulnerable people (Jamal, Karishma, Janet) had the votes split on them. It wasn’t even a question to the point that we were at Tribal Council minutes after the post-Immunity commercial, with only Janet’s idol being played a question of would she do what Kellee couldn’t.
What followed at Tribal Council was a goddamn travesty, especially in the way Aaron, Missy, and others buried Janet. Everyone seemed to dance around the topic at hand being Dan’s indiscretions, yet those two were quick to put the burden on Janet, with Aaron saying she was playing the victim and saying it was a Survivor play.
Jamal then reflected upon the male ally viewpoint, bringing up that it doesn’t matter if they don’t see it; acts of transgression can be real if experienced without a declaration, and it’s up to men to hear, listen, and believe women when it’s their time, on their terms, to share their stories.
The opposing counterpoints were seemingly innocuous out of context, with Aaron needing to rely on having a mom, two sisters, and women clients at his gym to contextualize the stories while also showing sympathy for Dan’s character being attacked. Dan reiterated his previous apologies and added how it doesn’t matter what he feels, but the truth to power experienced by the potential people he made feel uncomfortable.
The problem with this dialogue is that Janet was still being admonished and even apologized for defending women that felt uncomfortable and for getting involved when she had great respect for Dan and personally liked him. It doesn’t get rid of the fact that Kellee cried in a private confessional that the experiences shared by five women legitimized her discomfort, and a producer even said, on the record, it was not okay.
With Janet using her idol to remove her two votes, Karishma receiving three and Jamal receiving six votes, in the span of two hours, we saw video proof and discussions of unwanted touching from Dan come to the forefront and become an important bonding moment only for the primary victim to be voted out, a motherly figure thrown under the bus and the season’s male champion of women’s issues, Jamal, voted out. All while the majority alliance is aware of the discomfort surrounding Dan and choosing to continue to work with him.
Before the season began, the Survivor: Island of the Idols castaways tweeted out to don’t sleep on 39. After this disastrous merge, I’m ready to hibernate until season 40 arrives.