Survivor: David vs Goliath Episode 7 Recap

There’s Gonna Be Tears Shed

Despite what the editors are trying to tell us with the season being named Survivor: David vs Goliath, the season’s real theme so far has been acute lack of self-awareness. First it was Natalie, then Jeremy, then Natalie again. You can now throw in Angelina’s name with that bunch after another topnotch episode of Survivor.

You can almost always count on the merge episode to be terrific. In many occasions, it’s the peak of the season (like in Survivor: Ghost Island, you’re not topping that Chris Noble vote). Everybody comes together and barring any weird Survivor: Game Changers twists, it’s usually the biggest, speaking in number of people involved, vote of the season. There are so many new bonds to explore. Coming off a swap, you get to see people reunite and how their relationships evolved in the time they’ve been separated. There’s usually a question of tribal lines versus individual alliances. All of it combines to make a potent Survivor cocktail.

This week, it was Angelina who provided most of the ingredients for a tasty dish. Strictly speaking in terms of game theory, Angelina was 100% right in what she wanted to do. It’s probably crystal clear to everybody on that beach that Christian is a far more threatening player than Elisabeth. Christian has strong bonds on both original tribes. He’s proven to be an elite puzzle solver, which makes him dangerous in immunity challenges because many of the late individual challenges involve puzzles as the closing leg. He speaks eloquently and has a way of charming everybody.

Elisabeth? She has none of that. She’s a decent physical competitor but has not stood out among the field. Her closest ally was just voted off right before the merge. Most of her own original tribe is annoyed with her. She’s no dunce but she’s also not adept at communicating in the way that Christian is. She just hasn’t connected with people.

So given the chance to take out one of them, who would you choose? It’s got to be Christian right? On paper, it would be on every single occasion. In practice, it works differently because of everything I just said above. Christian has gotten the time to make bonds and charm people and they enjoy his company. In their heads, his threat is minimized and they rationalize that he can be taken out later. In thinking that way, they are much more open to booting the person nobody gets along with to keep the guy everybody loves. It’s the same way that J.T kept surviving votes in the early Survivor: Tocantins merge. People kept looking other directions because you could always take him out later and he was fun to be around. That’s the kind of innate charm Survivor winners can throw out. And that is probably the first time Christian has been compared to J.T.

Now, given that Angelina was right, doesn’t that mean she was also right in pushing her view to her alliance? No, and this is where she went completely wrong. You never want to be the person who openly voices a dissenting opinion to a large group of people. Ideally, you would rather incept your idea into a few of your allies’ heads so that they bring it up. Unilaterally trying to force an alliance to change their target to the person you, and solely you, has brought up is only going to create a gap with your allies.

It’s exactly what happened. Dan was already inflicted with a huge case of Survivor paranoia because Alec alerted him to Elisabeth wanting to target him. When Angelina proposes sparing Elisabeth for later, that immediately sets off Dan. It’s hard to really understand the heat of knowing someone is coming after you but choosing to look elsewhere. It’s easy for Angelina to rather target Christian because it doesn’t hurt her later. For Dan, he’s taking a risk in leaving Elisabeth three more days, literally a lifetime on Survivor, where she can maybe gather up the numbers to take a shot at him.

Did Dan react correctly to Angelina’s proposition? Also no. By gathering everyone else in his alliance and flipping the vote back to Elisabeth, he was doing the exact same thing Angelina did to him. I understand Angelina’s reaction of anger to being told the vote had flipped back. Nobody consulted her about it and she was told what to do. The irony, of course, is that she was so angry over this when she had done the exact same thing to her alliance moments before.

I’ve said it time and time again, bad gameplay creates more excitement on this show than good gameplay. We’ll never really know what compelled Angelina to talk to Elisabeth, but I firmly believe that it was Angelina playing emotionally. She wants to talk about how she thinks strategy first and second but in that moment, she was pissed at her allies and she wanted to hurt them somehow. Talking to Elisabeth was the easiest way. I never even considered the possibility of Angelina trying to get a jury vote in the moment. It’s not impossible considering Angelina has also tried to get a jacket out of a vote out but in this scene, it never even crept into my mind.

Speaking of the scene between Elisabeth and Angelina, allow me to gush about how it was put together for a second. It was so beautifully shot that for a second, I thought it was staged like the time Boston Rob passed out in Survivor: Heroes vs Villains. It might have been my favorite edited scene this season, which speaks highly of it considering the quality of the editing. The cut to commercial with Angelina solemnly crying and trying to hype herself up gave me chills.

Tribal council was wonderfully explosive and a perfect example for how it basically represents the stage for these players. Everything going on at tribal was smoke and mirrors. The Davids never had any intention of saving Elisabeth and the Goliaths were not going to flip and vote out Angelina at the first opportunity. There were too many factors going against Elisabeth for her to survive this vote.

While the drama may have been manufactured, it also will have a lasting impact. The Goliaths were never going to vote Angelina on that vote but Elisabeth blowing up her game at tribal council is still going to hurt her down the line. Angelina’s credibility with her allies took a massive hit at tribal. She is going to have to work really hard to bounce back from the hole she dug for herself.

The biggest winners of this vote are the Goliath members of the Strikeforce: Alec, Allison, and Mike. They managed to hide their alliance from the other Goliaths by voting out a David. They got the David members of the Strikeforce to agree to vote out a David. Nobody suspects they might exist and they are well set up to blindside someone like a Dan after they vote out another David in the next round… if all goes according to plan.

The biggest losers of this vote are the two people who might have been the most eager to vote out Elisabeth: Carl and Davie. If the plan is truly to vote out another David in the next vote, they are in major trouble. We have five Davids left in the game, three of them are in the Strikeforce, leaving only Carl and Davie behind. Carl may have even been the cause of Elisabeth’s demise by being the first to throw out her name but he could just as easily follow her out the door.

I’m starting to worry about Davie’s chances to win too. This is strictly speaking from what the edit is telling me but he was nowhere to be seen in the merge episode. That isn’t always an indication that Davie isn’t a likely winner but it doesn’t help either. Consider last season when Wendell played a role in trying to be the peacemaker between Chris and Domenick. He had a prominent role in the episode. Davie got nothing but a few close-ups here and there, he may as well have been Purple Chelsea.

The other person whose odds are starting to worry me is Allison. Her edit has certainly ramped up in the last two episodes but a lot of its content seems dooming. On many occasions, the editors have made sure to showcase her losing/being wrong. Obviously, she lost the initial challenge to Christian’s insane puzzle skills. They’ve also shown her tell Probst she was only lending him the idol and then the Goliaths proceeded to lose. She also voiced that Natalie was good at puzzles and would be solving with her and Natalie proceeded to biff the challenge. Tonight, the editors felt it necessary to leave Christian correcting her word choice at tribal. Character moment for Christian or another instance of the editing telling us that Allison gets things wrong? I’ll let you decide.

We were all mostly down on Alec’s move of blindsiding Angelina, and in a vacuum, it will always be stupid, but he seemed to get no real blowback from it. In fact, one could argue that it opened a line of communication with other Davids who felt like they could trust him more since he had already flipped once. It’s interesting to note that the Strikeforce consists of every David except the ones Alec shared a tribe with pre-merge. What does that say about the bonds he made with Carl and Davie? Doesn’t seem promising for them.

Honestly, Alec impressed me the most in this episode. He was proactive in securing bonds outside of the traditional “our side versus your side” way of playing. He recognized that he did not want to go down to the end with guys like John and Dan. He created an alliance that seems willing to work together. When the vote flipped on one of new alliance members, Alec subtly flipped it back without catching any of the criticism for it. By empowering Dan through paranoia, Dan got all of the heat from the flip back to Elisabeth while Alec can take credit for it in the long run. I would have never expected to write this, but Alec had a terrific hour of Survivor and I am excited to see what he can do further down the line.

Where this goes from here is hard to say. Angelina seems to be in a very tight spot but the Goliaths aren’t completely secure in their majority. Will they stave off voting her out to target another David? Surely Angelina realizes not everyone in her alliance is going to want her around long term anymore, does that push her to flip to the people who exposed her the previous round? I’m interested in seeing how everything plays out now that we’ve hit the individual portion of this game. It seems like it’s only going to keep getting better from here.