“I’ve been a little flighty throughout the game.”
“That kid’s been shifty.”
—Benry on Sash
We kind of knew last week how this episode would shape up, and if we didn’t, the “Previously on…” made sure we did: Sash was going to be the pivotal swing vote between one established alliance of Chase, Holly, and Jane and the loose collective of Benry, JudFabio, and Dan. Sash had seen his own alliance—with Brenda, NaOnka, Purple Kelly, and at times Chase—collapse over the last few episodes, and with his help (in voting Brenda off). Still, he held a lot of power. Each alliance knew they needed Sash, and with the Hidden Immunity Idol, he was pretty much the only person we knew wouldn’t be voted off last night.
With that in mind, he gathered Chase, Benry, and JudFabio to tell them that he was going to play the idol at the next Tribal Council to get any target off his back and be a “free agent” between alliances, which was a refreshingly candid way to put it. He didn’t attempt to pretend that he had lasting ties with either side, something Dan comically tried to call him out on later in the episode by acting surprised Sash would be shopping himself around to BOTH alliances. Dan also says at one point that he doesn’t trust Sash after what he did to Brenda and Marty;* it’s true that Sash can’t be trusted, but who is trustworthy by now in the game? And as we’d find out, Dan was pretty much the pot calling the kettle black here.
*Really? What he did to Marty? That was shrewd.
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Meanwhile, JudFabio was in his yellow jacket for that conversation with Sash, which led to the astonishing realization that Purple Kelly had been wearing his jacket like ALL season! And she wasn’t even allied to him! What a guy! How did he not get in her pants?
Sash also pulled Chase aside independently to talk more about the latter’s alliance. Sash wanted to know if Chase would take him to the finals—regardless whether it were two or three—and Chase agreed, saying he knew he couldn’t beat Jane. Chase threw in that Sash is definitely in line for a reward, if behind Holly (who sacrificed hers last episode). I hadn’t realized that Sash hadn’t been on a reward in a while, and that he was becoming frighteningly thin. I mean, I can see more of his ribs than Courtney’s last season, and she weighed like 64 pounds.
The Reward Challenge was an aggregate of old challenges broken into three rounds. The first was to crawl in mud under a rope ceiling, dig through hay for a ball, and then bounce the ball off a shield and into a barrel. Chase, Jane, Benry, and Holly advanced through this stage, with JudFabio repeatedly failing to bounce the ball into the barrel. The second round involved taking a key off a coil with a stick, using the key to unlock a chest that contained four sandbags, and tossing the sandbags onto a barrel. Chase and Benry easily moved on, with Jane and Holly struggling to uncoil the key. The final round was to use a paddle to dig through sand, find three rope rings, and then toss the rings onto hooks. Chase won in a runaway, landing all three of his rings before Benry even found his three. It was a Colby-like performance.
The reward was to spend the night at a private resort, complete with a big meal, showers, and a real bed. Chase, of course, had the chance to bring TWO castaways along with him. He first picked Holly, because she sacrificed reward last time and she’s a part of Chase’s alliance. So the last selection came down to Jane or Sash, the latter of whom was pumping his fist when Probst told Chase he could pick two people. And Chase, as anyone who’s watched this season could’ve guessed, picked Jane instead.
It was universally touted as a very dumb decision. By Sash, who felt betrayed. By JudFabio, who said Chase took the “two least strategic people” he could have. By Holly, who told Chase he messed up and should’ve brought Sash. And by Chase himself, who once again was shaking his head at his own stupidity and issuing the understatement of the season with his “I’ve been a little flighty throughout the game.”
Let’s consider how “flighty” Chase has been. He has sided, at various times, with Shannon and Benry, with Brenda and Sash, with NaOnka and Holly, and now with Holly and Jane. At no point, though, has he been subtle or decisive about this. He has been called-out for playing both sides on multiple occasions—by Shannon as early as Day 6 and by just about every castaway two episodes ago.
His selection of Jane should have been all Sash needed to know about his potential position if he sided with Chase’s alliance. In a situation where it made eminent strategic and physical sense to bring Sash on the reward, Chase simply couldn’t say no to Jane. He simply likes her too much to not do everything he can for her, which is why it’s difficult to imagine him voting her off, even if it costs him $1 million. When Chase went to Sash afterward and tried to apologize about it and reiterate that he wanted Sash with him in the finals, I mean, it was like Jack Crowley telling Marge he did not torch Skinner’s car.*
*Apologies for referencing a subpar, late-enough-season episode of The Simpsons.
Of course, the other alliance doesn’t offer much either. The problem, as I posited a long time ago and now get to have retroactively kind of proved albeit in different circumstances and contexts than the original supposition, is that no one among Benry, JudFabio, or Dan made a strong enough play for Sash. All any of them had to say to Sash was that there was no way Chase would take him over Jane to the finals. He couldn’t even take him over Jane on a reward. They didn’t have to want to bring Sash to the final three—can you imagine a final three of Benry, JudFabio, and Dan?–but they all should have lied to him individually. Sash knows their alliance wasn’t exactly foreseen; it ‘s been more thrown together than anything else. So if I were B, JF, or D, I would have pulled Sash aside and said, “Look, man, you know better than anyone else that I’m not fully tight with these guys and don’t completely trust them. But the four of us have one thing in common, and that’s that we’re smart enough to know we can’t beat Jane in the finals and Chase isn’t going to get rid of her in time. If it’s up to me, I’m going to take to the finals whoever helped me get there the most, and if you help here, I mean, who else can it be?”
What did they do instead? JudFabio and Dan apparently did nothing. Benry hilariously played both sides with a case of paranoia, essentially saying he’d vote for anyone as long as he didn’t go home. In a game of people you can’t trust, Benry might be tops on the list for this season. Oh, the four of them did eat the last chicken—whom they decided to call Kelly-Nay after their quitting competitors (“’cuz they were chicken,” said Benry)—which moved Jane (bless her soul) to tears when she returned. Another empty, tearjerking moment in this season of Survivor, behind Chase’s numerous mentions of his late father and Alina’s inexplicable crying at the last Tribal Council.
The Immunity Challenge had each castaway tied to a hitching rail that they had to maneuver around to loosen enough rope to run to a bag of puzzle pieces. JudFabio, Benry, and Sash did this rather anticlimactically to move to the final round, where they had to use the puzzle pieces to complete a puzzle of gold coins. It’s remarkably our first puzzle since the opening episode of the season, and a reminder that THE PUZZLE IS THE GREAT EQUALIZER! Benry all but gave up after a few minutes—if this episode did nothing else, it really soured the viewer completely on Benry—and Sash beat out JudFabio to claim the necklace. That meant he didn’t even have to use his hidden idol at this Tribal, saving it for next episode, when I think he and Chase both have to play theirs.
The win also restored all of Sash’s bravado, as he now thinks he can win the million pretty easily. He also admits that he’s been sandbagging a little in challenges so people don’t think he’s a physical threat, which I’ve always considered a wise strategy that truly competitive people just have a really hard time adhering to.* There’s some scrambling, as JudFabio is concerned he’s on the chopping block, so he approaches Sash and asks him to fill him in if his name is brought up. I’ve always thought this was a weird thing to say: “Hey man, if y’all are gonna vote for me, just let me know.” What’s the motivation to tell you if you’re being voted out, and what’s your recourse for when they do? Plead your case? You should do that anyway. JF also said that Sash was closer to him than to anyone else left playing, which is kind of funny until you realize it might be true. Who is Sash close to that’s left?
*Just ask Laurel from RW/RR, am I right?
Benry keeps talking up voting off JudFabio to save his own skin, and that seems to be the consensus at camp, with Benry telling JF they’re voting Holly instead. Two things I thought were weird toward the end of the episode here: 1. Benry insisting that JF is more likely to believe they’re voting Holly off and not Jane, which made no sense. When told Holly, JF’s reaction was, “Why not Jane?” 2. They showed a scene of Sash calling Jane his “second mom” and saying he “had her back” and all. It seemed completely devoid of context and had no bearing on last night’s episode at all. Which means it HAS to be foreshadowing for some kind of betrayal, right? For Sash to use his hidden idol to protect JF or Dan next week and then blindside Jane, perhaps?
At Tribal, the focus of the conversation was on physical threats. It’s funny how physical threats are defined in the game, because they’re almost never results-based. For instance, Chase, Benry, and JudFabio were considered the three prime physical threats left. Combined, they have won a single Immunity Challenge (when JF won one of the two necklaces in the first individual immunity). Jane, meanwhile, has won two challenges, and Sash had won the most recent one. But they’re not considered threats at all. Furthermore, I think getting rid of a physical threat is far less important when there’s a final three than when there’s a final two. In a final two, a physical threat can win the last immunity and guarantee him a spot in the finals AND the lone vote at the penultimate Tribal. He holds all the cards. In a final three, though, the person who wins the last immunity doesn’t have quite the same amount of power to determine who goes to the finals. And besides, it’s not like sitting next to Benry or JudFabio or Chase in the finals would be such a bad thing. They’re not Tom Westman.
On to the voting: The first went to Holly (from JudFabio, obvs), with the next two being for JF. The fourth, though, was for Benry, which seemed odd at the time. It became less odd, however, when the next three votes also came for Benry, sending him to the jury. Chase’s alliance, including Sash, all voted for Benry instead of JudFabio, because…umm…they consider him more of a physical threat? Because he’s sneakier? Because he throws anyone under the bus? Whichever it is, I was happier to see him go than JudFabio.
That leaves six left in the hierarchy:
THIRD ESTATE: Dan, JudFabio
SECOND ESTATE: Jane
FIRST ESTATE: Chase, Holly
THE STATE: Sash
FINAL THREE: Sash, Chase, Dan
I think Sash has it in him to maneuver Jane out of the game before the Final Three, and I may or may not be basing this entirely off that thrown-in scene that so obviously portends a betrayal. I think next episode is the last time a hidden idol can be played (that’s how it was last season), and I’m intrigued to see how it plays out. Sash can use it to save himself, which likely won’t be necessary, or to blindside someone and set up the final episode the way he wants. If he does what I mentioned supra, and appears to go along with Chase to vote JF out and then gives JF the idol, with he, JF, and Dan voting off Jane, you get a much more wide-open final five. Furthermore, Chase doesn’t want to use his hidden idol at all, and I doubt he’d be able to see that kind of betrayal coming in time to save Jane (although I’ve always wanted to see what happens when two idols are used and no votes count). If he’s able to get Jane out next episode, Sash will lose some jury votes. He’d alienate Jane, Chase, and Holly. But if he’s in the finals against a combo of Chase, Dan, and JudFabio, isn’t he the favorite? Who that has already been voted out (aside from Na) is going to vote for Chase? Marty’s the only one who will vote for Dan, and JudFabio would only get vengeance votes.
However, if the status remains quo next week and they get rid of JudFabio (provided he doesn’t win immunity), it becomes slightly less interesting. The question then becomes how long you string Dan along, considering his inability to win a challenge or get jury votes. Do you keep him around longer than Jane? And will Chase have the cojones to vote Jane off?
My Final Three is based off the idea that Chase won’t have the final say in that. After JudFabio goes next week, Jane is voted off at the start of the finale, with Holly leading the charge. Sash then wins an immunity challenge that’s less about physical strength than focus, and he decides to vote Holly off and bring Chase and Dan to the finals, which he would likely win. (Or, Chase wins the immunity and wants to punish Holly for voting off Jane. This part of the episode consists of Chase going back-and-forth between his options, crying profusely over his late father, and eventually abstaining from the vote, with Holly going home anyway.)
Sounds like goooood watchin’.