Coming off the back of a fantastic episode, last night’s Survivor built some momentum. This was another stellar episode for a season that may have come out of the gates a little slowly but has quickly turned into a very good showing. Hopefully we can keep it going, ramping up into an intense finish.

While the episode itself was fantastic; it may have come at the price of some terrible decision by multiple players on this cast. Sometimes, we like to see good moves pay off on screen. Other times, terrible gameplay can be even more entertaining. Last night was part of the latter category. Let’s go through some of these players’ nights and see where they might have gone wrong.

The biggest factor of the episode had to be Ryan’s decision between Roark and Chrissy. Ultimately, I agree with the decision he ended up making. Here’s my caveat: he never should have found himself needing to make a decision. The road to becoming a swing vote could have, and should have, been avoided at all costs by Mr. Turtleneck.

As far as we know, Ryan and Ali share a close bond from their Hustler beginnings. They voted together on two separate occasions. Both times, they showed the ability to get together, discuss possible scenarios and agree on a target. Why couldn’t Ryan do the same thing last night? He should have looped Ali into his plan. Blindsiding a close ally is something you should never do on Survivor. How is Ali supposed to trust Ryan going forward? This was a bad call on his part.

Besides, with Ali and Chrissy, Ryan had two solid allies on one tribe. Why didn’t he ever try to bring them together to form a triad? Were the relations between Chrissy and Ali so bad that he didn’t think they could work together? Did he even try to bring them together? This seems like a big piece of the puzzle missing because it would have been the most logical decision possible.

There’s a caveat to my caveat though: if Ryan felt like Ali was going to blow his cover, then I agree with not telling her about the plan. Call it the Laura Boneham corollary, you never let someone know they are going to go home. If Ali was going to spoil Ryan’s plan to Roark, giving Roark a chance to fight for her life, Ryan made the right decision. Knowing how easily swayed J.P. can be, Roark could have somehow made a play to swing him the other way by convincing him Chrissy had lied to him about the women’s alliance.

If Ryan feels like he’s closer to Chrissy than he is to Ali, it isn’t so bad. Especially because of what is happening on Levu. Without all the information, Ryan sees Alan was voted out. He doesn’t know Devon didn’t have a vote so he has to figure that Devon sided with Joe and Desi. In his mind, Devon is in a solid majority, he can link up with him at the merge, and they should both have allies from different sides. Chrissy has also probably let Ryan know that she is close with Ben. On the opposite end of the Heroes spectrum, Chrissy wasn’t close to Alan or Ashley so she won’t be upset if Devon didn’t side with them.

Say Ryan has thought this all through, he’s not in a bad spot. That said, if this is the road Ryan wants to go down, he needs to have his tribe throw the next challenge. This is his chance to dispose of Ali without any consequences. It’s very likely that we have one episode, two at the most, before the merge. If Ryan lets Ali get to the merge, he’s letting someone he’s antagonized reach new potential allies and that would be disastrous.

For her part, Roark did not have a solid showing either. I will give her points for locking down ally as a lockstep ally. That was a good start. Maybe she took it for granted that Ali had Ryan with him and didn’t feel the need to work on that relationship. Maybe she did work on the relationship and we just weren’t shown. All we saw was that Roark got Ali and then felt comfortable.

When Chrissy came to talk to her after losing the challenge, Roark should have sold it much better. She was very transparent in the fact that she was not listening to a single thing Chrissy was saying. Yes, it’s bad game from Chrissy’s part to be so obvious about her scrambling but in Roark’s position, you always need to placate. “Yes that’s a great idea!”, “alright, I’m totally on board with you”, those kind of words. Much like the Laura Boneham corollary, you should never give anyone the indication that you aren’t with them. Especially when that person is your target.

Now I’ve been very high on Ali this entire season but last night was a bad episode for her too. First of all, was she not listening to what Roark was selling her? “We are six Healers, you can join us and we can take out the Heroes”. Okay but what about when the Heroes are all gone? Why isn’t Ali asking herself this? Roark was basically telling Ali that she was 7th in an alliance of six and Ali didn’t even question it. It should be a knock on Roark as she exits the game but this didn’t even come into play for her downfall.

Also, the same criticism I leveled at Ryan applies to Ali. If they are so close, why didn’t they discuss their decision with each other more thoroughly? This may be more on Ryan than Ali, because Ryan placated Ali every time she brought up booting Chrissy but after spending so much time with him, she should have noticed he was being a little weird.

Finally, Chrissy. Oh Chrissy… she had been playing so well up to this week. Last night, the other shoe fell for her and it wasn’t pretty. She was pretty brutal at the immunity challenge and very obvious with her scheming once they had lost the challenge. Roark was able to see right through Chrissy the minute they started talking. If you’re going to be that transparent, why bother even trying to talk to the opposition at all? All it does is give them some ammo for when they fire back at you.

All of that wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for tribal council. She had an abysmal performance in front of Jeff that showcased her inability to think on her feet. This is the part where Roark had a good night. She went into tribal on the offensive and never let Chrissy get comfortable. It was a landslide victory for Roark in that sense, she won the battle but lost the war.

What I liked the least from Chrissy last night was the air of cockiness emanating from her. We saw how she reacts to people who play the game kind of like her, and it wasn’t good. Her voting confessional was pretty telling as well. All in all, this was a tough night for someone who had been doing so well. Maybe she can bounce back from this but right now, I don’t like her chances.

Through all this bad gameplay, we did get a few people playing well. Namely, Devon and Ashley. Levu is in a gridlock with two people on each side. What we saw last night was Devon approaching Ashley and confirming his allegiance to her. This is massive in such a situation. He was confirming to her that he was never swaying and that he would force rocks if need be. When you’re in a tight spot, you need to know that your partner has your back unequivocally and that’s what Devon told Ashley.

Now, they can go to Desi with the full confidence that they are together no matter what. They can lay it on the table for Desi: switch with us or we’re forcing rocks. They’re going to be voting for Joe so if Desi doesn’t agree to flip, she has a 50/50 chance of going home. Are you really going to lay your life on the line for Joe in that spot? I probably wouldn’t.

Over at Yawa, we got an amazing scene with Ben. It was the highlight of the episode for me. The time given to Ben’s life as a marine, how he copes with PTSD, and his battle to show that soldiers can come back from such a tough spot was inspiring. That the show took time out from strategy talk to show it was amazing in itself. This was a scene you would have had on an old-school season of Survivor. It doesn’t really change the game’s dynamics but it helps you learn about these characters as actual human beings.

We also got to see Dr. Mike finding an idol. Good on him for doing that! My only worry is that Jessica knows about it and even if she’s aware of Cole’s inability to keep secrets, I don’t think she will be able to keep this from him. The entire cast may know that Mike has an idol by the time they hit the merge simply because he trusts Jessica who trusts Cole.

Speaking of Cole… man, this guy is bad at Survivor. His social game is so inept that it’s almost funny. Who would have thought spending months at a time in isolation might impact how you interact with other humans? On paper, Cole should be a powerhouse. In theory, he might end up being a perfect goat to drag along to the end. I’ve said this before but if Cole weren’t attractive, he would have been a great first boot candidate.

Can I say about this week’s immunity challenge… that was fun! I loved the way they set up the maze to be different. It was a new wrinkle on an old type of challenge. I also enjoyed seeing people stab bags of rice. If Jonny Fairplay ends up being found dead of stab wounds, I think we may be able to pin Joe for murder. Homie was looking mighty comfortable with that knife in his hands.

The biggest suspense going into next week will be how this plays out. Can Ryan rope Ali back onto his side? If not, Ali doesn’t have a lot of room to play with. If her tribe chooses to throw the challenge, she’s in some serious peril. Hopefully for her, she sees the light at the end of the tunnel, plays nice to avoid being thrown under the bus and tries to make a break for it when they make the merge. I guess only time will tell.

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