Survivor: David vs Goliath Episode 10 Recap

Tribal Lines are Blurred

Normally in a Survivor season, a double episode would give me reason to worry. They’ve become standard practice as the number of participants in a season has grown. Without them, it would be impossible to make it to the finale on schedule. Because of that, we usually get a very straightforward or boring vote for at least one of the two boots in the double episode.

This week’s double episode did not follow that formula. Of course, given David vs Goliath’s track record, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. If Survivor: Philippines is credited for pulling the show out of its original dark ages, we could look back on this season as doing the same thing 6 years later. It’s been that good.

Given that this double episode gave us a lot of content, I am going to try and formulate my thoughts in a somewhat cohesive manner but you’ll forgive me if it feels like I am jumping all over the place, I just have so many thoughts.

Almost right off the bat, we got confirmation that the Goliaths as a unit were finally broken into pieces, something many of us figured after last week’s vote. Angelina was fuming over being the contingency plan in Kara and Alec’s eyes. It was funny to me that she was so viciously angry over getting votes when in the pre-merge, she voted for Lyrsa to try and scam Natalie out of her jacket and expected Lyrsa to just be okay with it. When the situation turned back on her and Angelina was in the position of getting some votes, it didn’t feel as good. Angelina has been the gift that keeps on giving since Natalie’s exit. They both lack self-awareness though it manifests in different ways.

One would think that given the situation the Goliaths (shattered as they may be) find themselves in, they would be hungry to find an idol. Yet as dawn broke, the only people who seemed interested in finding an idol were two players in power: Nick and Davie. It’s unacceptable to me in modern Survivor that players would not immediately scramble to find idols once they’ve been played. In a post-Ben Driebergen world, players should have idols as priority number one coming back from a tribal council where one was played. I don’t necessarily like it as a fan of the show but as a player in the game, it’s a necessity and Nick and Davie deserve credit for being the hungriest ones on the island.

Post-reward challenge, Alec’s attempt at getting in good with Christian and Gabby felt very transparent. It’s one thing to approach people when you’re in the majority, like Alec once did when he proposed the Strikeforce. Players are more likely to believe you if they don’t think you’re acting in desperation. It’s another thing to do it when you’ve just been blindsided on two consecutive occasions and are now staring down the wrong side of a majority. I understand that Alec and Alison have to scramble and try to find some new landing spots but they had their chance in mingling with the Davids and they blew it. Alison even vocalizes as much after Alec is eventually voted off.

Allow me to flag something that worried me as an unabashed Christian stan. After the group received their letters from home, we got a confessional from Christian that listed his 3 Survivor goals, “finding an idol, winning a feast, and making Probst laugh.” He claimed that all three goals had been completed. This on its own is a completely innocuous comment but is that the editors’ way of telling us Christian has done what he came to do? I certainly hope not because I contend that he would be one of the show’s most fun winners if he can pull it off.

If Survivor wants to keep doing the “idol in the nighttime” shtick, I would much prefer they keep going the Chris Noble route rather than the Jeremy Collins. It’s not exactly fascinating television watching Nick walk over to the other side of the island and just take the idol that’s sitting there… except for Alison waking up in a panic to puke some more of the poisonous wraps she won on reward. Still, good for Nick on securing himself another advantage in the game and good on Davie for knowing about it.

Unless something crazy or noteworthy happens, I tend to skip talking about the challenges. We see what happened with our eyes, we don’t need to read about it too. The first immunity challenge in this week’s episode is one that needs some mention if only for how amazing it ended up being.

In modern Survivor, the show has started to rely heavily on endurance challenges. The unfortunate part is that they aren’t the fun endurance challenges but rather the “how long can you hold this weight up/keep this ball spinning/balance these statues above your head” variation. They are short-burst endurance challenges built to end quickly and favoring people with good balance and strong core muscles.

This week, we got an endurance challenge right out of the old days of Survivor. It had been run in the past (Survivor: San Juan del Sur) and produced some good material but nobody could expect what would get this time when we started the Survivor crucifixions. As a quick aside: I don’t know why they need to have the beam go over their heads to literally make a cross, couldn’t they have a “T” form and save themselves a bit of religious imagery?

The beauty of this challenge is in its simplicity. You don’t need to be strong, agile, smart or anything else. You just have to want it more than everybody else. There was a time when all the endurance challenges Survivor designed were like this (minus the torture that was Survivor: Thailand’s last immunity challenge). Then Survivor: Palau’s final immunity lasted an entire calendar year and production has been reluctant to allow a challenge build that could go on forever.

While this week’s challenge wasn’t as lengthy as the one in Palau, it still went an extremely intense 5h30 and produced some golden material. It was Alec’s last stand if you will and he made the most of it. His dogged determination and fiery spirit was something I love to see in my Survivor players. I remember being very confused when everyone was hating on Brad Culpepper celebrating an emotional immunity win when he was in danger of going home back in Survivor: Game Changers. Alec in this moment was the same thing. He knew what was waiting for him if he failed and he made sure to let everyone know he was going to win it. And it sure looked like he was going to pull it off.

Like a Scooby Doo villain, Alec would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for that damn Christian. After Gabby dropped, only the two men remained, left to compete in a stand-off in the sun. Alec looked very comfortable and unwilling to let go and then… Christian started filibustering. He told Probst about his robot projects, plant literature and Rueben sandwiches. As the minutes turned into hours, Christian just kept talking and Alec became like a tortured prisoner. Suddenly he went from confident to “I don’t feel so good” and you could see it in his face: Alec just didn’t have the juice to keep going.

The realization that his chances to win the challenge, and thus the game, setting upon Alec was beautiful. His plea to Christian, a very genuine reach for mercy, was met with an equally earnest and measured response. I would be lying if seeing Christian become emotional at having a chance at winning immunity didn’t leave me slightly emotional too… I may be too invested in this guy. It had to be heart wrenching for Alec to let go of his cross and a million dollars in the process. I wonder if he said, “fuck it” in his head as he jumped off.

After immunity is where Carl’s ascension really takes place. I didn’t figure the Davids were going to turn on each other immediately after securing the majority for the first time ever but I knew that Carl wasn’t long for this world. Carl’s depiction here as a ham-fisted authoritarian was meant for the audience to know that this wasn’t going to go away in the second hour of the episode. That’s the beauty of a double episode done right: you can set up longer storylines that play out by the time the episode is finished thanks to the extra time allotted by a second hour.

I respect Alec’s fighting spirit. I loved the confessional he gave about not coming to Survivor to be a unanimous vote-off. Coming into the season, many of us had preconceived notions of who Alec was. The TMZ situation certainly did not help matters but I think that no matter what, I would have pegged him as a douche-bro who thinks he’s the second coming of Malcolm. As it turns out, I was completely off-base in my assumptions.

Alec was a great casting choice. He was willing to play the game without confining himself only to his initial alliance. On more than one occasion, he was the catalyst for a big swing in the game because of his eagerness to make big moves. That doesn’t make him an ideal alliance partner or great player but it certainly makes him excellent at creating good television. On top of that, Alec had a genuineness and sense of sincerity that really came across when watching him. It seems like his closest ally by far was Alison, who is not someone you would suspect Alec would be quick to align with.

In fact, most of the people Alec had affinity for were not people you might immediately think Alec was down to hang out with. You wouldn’t be the only person to see Alec as wanting an all-bro alliance with John and Dan. In fact, I expected it. Instead, Alec sought out Alison and Mike as his closest Goliath allies. He reached out to Christian and Gabby when the merge occurred. Alec was not confining himself to what his archetype would suggest he should do and for that, I am grateful.

Should anybody remotely involved in Survivor production come across this, I implore you to reconsider Alec’s blacklisting. I understand that he broke his NDA and that needs to be addressed with some discipline. Supposedly, Alec has been barred from attending the finale which honestly, is fine with me. The reunion show is mostly a vehicle for CBS self-promotion and the myriad of Survivor podcasts have rendered it essentially useless as a means of catching up with the cast. Let Alec stay at home for the reunion. All I ask is that he not be banned from a potential second chance because he is somebody who is always going to deliver the good stuff on television. Just make sure to take away his phone until the show airs next time.

Also, we’ve come a long way from the jurors supposed to being pieces of furniture at tribal council. It all started with Eliza Orlins making faces in Survivor: Micronesia and now we’re at the point where Jon and Dan are the loud people talking over your most recent Marvel cinematic universe flick on opening weekend. Maybe Probst needs to reel them back in a little bit, I thought jury duty is serious business guys.

One final note from the Alec tribal council: during tribal, Christian brings up that he will only have one chance to play Survivor so he must be completely selfish and fully embrace the experience… that’s a lie. Probst would put Christian on season 39 right now if he had his way. Probst loves Christian so much that during last night’s episode, Cochran was probably in a darkly light bedroom in his NYC apartment, listening to Marvin’s Room on repeat.

After the vote, everyone gets back to camp and we see precisely why Christian is so dangerous. While most of the Davids are celebrating their move and their ascension to power, Christian immediately takes a sobbing Alison for a walk and discussion along the beach. He soothes her and tells her that he wants to play the game with her. While the other Davids are busy getting a big head like the Goliaths before them, Christian is working his social game and reaching out for the people at the bottom. He must have learned from the mayor of Slamtown to never forget the little people.

I’d also like to note at this point that Kara is getting a suspiciously good edit for someone in her relative position. This entire second hour has a lot of Kara content talking about Carl’s overconfidence and how it will be his demise. And sure, she is part of the contingent that oversees his upheaval but it doesn’t seem to me like she has a lot to do with how it ends up being Carl even if the edit wants us to see it that way. If we learned anything from Survivor: Kaoh Rong, it’s that we should keep an eye of the kind of edit Kara has been receiving.

The next important part to point out is that Davie wasn’t lying. That dunk we were shown during the reward challenge really did look like a Shaq dunk, down to the rattling rim as Davie let himself down. And Carl claims he was dropping finger rolls like George “the Ice Man” Gervin but if you ask me, Nick was the one really showing out with the finesse. Either way, I just want to quickly point out that this was a fun reward challenge and that the challenge team did a very good job this entire episode (except making it possible for a word to be spelled but not be correct in the upcoming immunity challenge).

Not knowing how it feels to be starving on Survivor, I can appreciate how pumped Carl had to be when he finally won a post-merge reward. I understand that he was probably going to overdo it because he has been waiting so long for a chance to partake in some Survivor feasting. I get it. But damn Carl, you have to lay off the beer bruh. We hadn’t seemed someone this wasted since Judd Sergeant puked on some trees back in Survivor; Guatemala (no Guatemala is not just some conspiracy the producers are trying to force out of our memories, it actually aired on television).

It’s hard to quantify just how badly Carl handled his first sip of power (and beer). Even before this moment, he was openly telling Alec’s closest allies that Alec was going to be voted off. He was conspiring against his own alliance member to keep Gabby from knowing about the supposed Alison vote. He was actually beckoning people over to his hammock and telling them what to do. In short, he was doing everything you shouldn’t do when you’re in the majority by attracting all of the heat onto him and generally pissing off the people who had the least to lose on the island. How is telling Kara to vote off Alison going to do anything? Kara knows she’s just going to be next and Carl was giving her the ammunition to shoot him in the face.

By this point, we had seen that Gabby was basically done with Carl. She is not someone you can bluntly tell what to do because she is a sensitive person. Carl doesn’t seem to realize that her personality demands a more cautious approach and that makes him a bad player. Christian fully realizes this and is again the one to soothe her worries, like he had done with Alison days before, and that makes him a good player.

It’s worth mentioning why Gabby suddenly becomes obsolete in Carl’s view of the David alliance: after the Dan vote, Angelina was so spurned by Alec and Kara voting for her that she turned to the David alliance and fully integrated into it. This pushed out Gabby in Carl’s mind and made Angeline a full-fledged David.

This must be brought up: Angelina has played one of the worst post-merge games I have ever seen on the show. Not all of what has happened is solely her fault but every outcome for Angelina has just been brutal. She entered the merge with a solid majority. Proceeded to work her way to the bottom of that majority through various arguments and social faux pas. Then along with her Goliath alliance, she proceeded to squander the majority to the Davids. Immediately, she jumped ship to the new David majority, where she was accepted into their ranks and where they immediately proceeded to lose the majority to a newly formed alliance. So now she’s on the bottom again and by far the biggest goat in the game. Ouch.

Speaking of Angelina, the trend of her asking for things continued this week. This time though, it seemed like a very important situation because the tribe was running out of rice. Since Angelina is a master negotiator who gets discounts at restaurants by talking, she takes it upon herself to barter with Probst for some more rice. Angelina is going to get that rice with her supposed lowball offer of basically the entire camp except a small pot and knife.

I thought Probst was nice here. He could have striped that camp bare when Angelina’s “lowball” offer is most of what the tribe owns. He could have countered with some devastating demands because at the end of the day, the tribe needs to eat more than anything else. Instead, he simply demanded that somebody sit out for the challenge. I’ll give full credit to Angelina for being the one to sit out since she was the one to attempt to trade with Probst but I don’t know about her reasoning for wanting to sit out.

The thinking behind her choice to sit out makes sense. People should feel grateful that Angelina took the risk to get her tribe some food. And it’s likely that they genuinely were but that kind of thing doesn’t help you in Survivor. It’s going to make everyone else think that she is making a good case for the jury by ingratiating herself with future jury members by feeding them.

One can simply think back to Survivor: Caramoan when Brenda Lowe was voted off immediately after offering up her (and a sobbing Dawn Meehan’s) family visit so that the entire cast could enjoy time with their family. Brenda was heartbroken over giving up time to see her dad but figured it would buy her some appreciation with her fellow players. And it did, so much so that they decided they had to vote her off at the very next chance because she made everyone way too happy to let her get to the end. Selfless acts are great in real-life, they don’t work on Survivor.

While there was debate between Alison and Carl heading into tribal council, I never felt truly like it was going to be Alison. There hadn’t been much piled on as a reason for her to leave in this episode while the entire two hours had been a highlight reel of Carl being bad at Survivor. The editors tried to insert some doubt with Mike leaning one way or the other but realistically, why would Mike vote off the person he seems closest to, just to join an alliance that features a bunch of Davids and the one Goliath who is spurned to the rest of her tribe? By this point, Mike feels very much like the 5th or 6th boot that we are going to yadda yadda over in the first 15 minutes of the finale. It’s clear that Mike is a foot soldier and not a power broker on this season and that’s fine, every season needs people like him. Besides, while Mike isn’t running the game, he’s still been a fun character presence, which is far more than can be said about other players who have been saddled with his edit in the past.

The vote may not have been shocking to us, but it was likely shocking to Nick and Davie (and Angelina whose blindside face tonight was priceless). I wonder how they are going to react to these events. Nick and Christian were depicted as being a very tight pair but we haven’t seen them interact much in the last few episodes. Nick seems to have drifted more towards Davie as they’ve been gallivanting about the island claiming advantage after advantage together. Will this cause a rift between Nick and Christian that makes their working relationship null and void?

I felt as though Christian had a tour de force episode right until the end. He got a lot of great content, he won an immunity challenge, got a letter from home, and was shown comforting multiple people. He was a huge power broker in the Carl vote off, depicted as the one to help Mike choose which side to vote on. I’m just not sure that this was great for his game. Now he’s left himself in a supposed alliance with three Goliaths to two Davids. Like he mentioned himself, a good way to keep the target of Christian is to leave other threats in the game. With Alec leaving and then Carl (who somehow became this huge threat after two months of being a solid background character), Christian is decidedly one of the most obvious threats left.

Top that off with the knowledge that Nick is likely going to be pretty upset at being blindsided by an ally he’s supposed to be close with and that seems like a dangerous cocktail for Christian. He still has an idol and that could help mitigate the situation a little bit but again, the Davids know that Christian has an idol and can work around it if it comes to that.

What worked best in this episode is what has worked all season long. Before we had even gotten to the second immunity challenge, we had seen some important moments for every single player left in the game. Everybody got a chance to talk about their situation and how they feel about what is going on around them. Usually a double episode is the place to vote off an under-edited character but this season, no one fits that description. That means that no matter who leaves, the audience has gotten to know them and the attachment is deeper. Imagine that.

As for potential winners, that’s another beautiful thing about this season. I still have too many potential candidates to choose from. Nick seems like a solid choice still. He had a fairly quiet episode but that’s likely a good thing considering his side of the David alliance was shown as overconfident and power hungry and none of that blame was thrown onto him. I wouldn’t count out Davie or Christian either. Kara’s hair alone deserves a winner’s edit, let alone her entire personality (which is fantastic) and I’m certainly not writing her off. I could see a universe in which Gabby and Alison pull out a win but those seem less likely than the previous 4. Mike and Angelina are the only ones I’ve fully crossed out at this point.

This has been the season that keeps on giving. I don’t remember a time where I was this anxious to get to next Wednesday but it’s been refreshing. Here’s to hoping as the endgame approaches very quickly, we can keep that kind of momentum going so that by the end, we can say this season is the best ever and that despite that, you may @ me.