Survivor: Gabon shifted into a new gear this week, just in time for what looks like an impending merge of the Fang and Kota tribes. It's no fun to watch defeated and outgunned players marched to the inevitable gallows at the end of an episode. We want to see players blindsided, and if those players have typically behaved like arrogant tools who assumed they are running the game, so much the better.
Yes, it was the end of the line for Ace, who I like to refer to as the Hannibal Lecter of Survivor for the way he and his potentially fake posh accent would calmly sum up the situation at camp, concluding with a coldblooded assertion such as "She will be the next lamb led to the slaughter." He was referring to Crystal, whose mood, never all that sunny, has become almost unbearable even for those who are merely watching her. Crystal's excuse for self-pity this time around was that she kicked over a small amount of precious rice, announced she would sacrifice her day's meal as penance, and then accused Ace and Matty of giving her dirty looks.
The episode's reward challenge isn't worth mentioning at length: yet another in an endless series of Kota victories over the outmatched Fang, who seem barely able to put up the energy to compete anymore. The reward was a chopper ride to a picnic at a scenic crater and a surprise gift of letters from home, which sent Bob into a spasm of ecstasy. I doubt any human being has ever been happier to receive a letter. This is the first indication we've had that stolid old Bob might in fact be crazy -- something to look forward to in future weeks.
It was obvious something unusual was up when the immunity challenge commenced at just 22 minutes into the hour, and Jeff Probst quickly let the players in on the twist: the challenge was for individual immunity since both tribes would go to tribal council. I'm not sure the twists in the game thus far have been all that fair to Kota, who head to the likely merge with a 6-4 advantage even though they lost just one immunity challenge, although keeping it close makes it more interesting for the viewers -- and in the end, we're what really counts here.
The challenge involved logrolling -- is that a Gabon staple? Did this become Survivor: Oregon when no one was looking? It looked like we might get a surprise winner when Bob informed everyone he had won a logrolling competition back in his college days at Poindexter Tech, but the real surprise came when little Sugar, fresh off yet another trip to exile, ended up outlasting him. The final trio of Sugar, Ace, and Marcus battled it out until Marcus managed to put Accent Boy into the water. In addition to immunity, Marcus got to designate one immune player over at Fang, and he chose Sugar, insuring that her individual immunity idol would stay in the game at least one more week.
Or would it? Ace made another request for Sugar to loan him the idol, even though he had numbers on his side with Matty seemingly willing to do his bidding. It turned out that Sugar was not nearly as taken in by Ace's condescension as she had been letting on. Perhaps all that time by herself in exile allowed her to clear her head. Sugar's trust in Ace was weak enough that she was vulnerable to a blindside plan cooked up by Ken, who saw himself trapped with Crystal on the wrong side of a 3-2 tribe split, and figured his one chance was to convince Sugar (that is, lie to her) that Ace was trashing her behind her back.
Ace and Matty, meanwhile, had a simpler goal: get rid of mopey Crystal. The Olympic track star did her part at tribal council, continuing to stew about the rice incident at camp while Ace basked in his false sense of security. But Crystal emitted her first big grin in several weeks when the climactic fifth vote (Sugar's) was revealed to be for Ace. Perhaps things weren't quite as pleasant for these two after all, considering that Sugar wrote something down after the word "Ace" that had to be blurred out. Naughty girl!
Over at Kota, it initially appeared that the too-earnest Dan was an easy pick to go, given concerns that he might realign with Fang after a merger. But Susie, who has been a zero in challenges and not much more that around camp, opened herself up to the wrath of Corinne when she casually mentioned that she had considered voting for her. Corinne did not take this well: "I hate her. I really want to stab her in the face." But even though her new anti-Susie attitude was mostly personal, she did have a good point, which is that weak players still have votes and can flip to the other side as easily as someone like Dan.
In the end, the core group at Kota, which now includes Randy as part of the core "onion alliance" and Bob as the fifth wheel who still thinks he's in the core, decided to split their votes between Dan and Susie in case the former happened to have an individual immunity idol dating from the first week. Dan ended up on the short end of a 4-3 vote, meaning that two strong-ish men left in one week after a long run where the women looked vulnerable.
So that's our final ten: Marcus, who is looking nearly unbeatable; his devoted pal Charlie; nasty old Randy; irritating Corinne; weepy Bob; clueless Susie; clever, if outgunned, Ken; luckless Matty; grumpy Crystal; and well-fed model Sugar.