Survivor Fiji: Episode 9

When the producers of Survivor: Fiji devised their latest twist, I bet they weren’t counting on one of the season’s most likable players — who wasn’t even a target beforehand — being eliminated as a result.

At the beginning of the episode, both teams were told to take their personal belongings (and nothing else) with them to Exile Island. There, they received new buffs and merged into a new tribe, which they later named Bula Bula (Fijian for "hello hello").

The tribes headed back to Moto’s beach, which had been totally gutted in their absence. Instead of a bed and couch, all that remained in the cave was a pot, a machete, and some fishing gear.

The stinky men of Ravu — who were still covered in body paint from the Reward Challenge several days earlier — were especially miffed that they wouldn’t get to use Moto’s shower. In fact, Mookie, who had been on Ravu since the beginning of the season, never even got to see Moto beach in all its luxurious glory.

But the Ravu men had work to do. Dreamz confirmed that Cassandra was still on his side, Alex did the same with Stacy, and Mookie talked to Yau-Man. Boo, who had no real alliance with anyone, was universally agreed upon as the next person to vote out.

In a foolish burst of honesty, Mookie tried to cement the bond between Ravu’s "Four Horsemen" by telling Dreamz that he possessed one of the Immunity Idols. All that did was make Dreamz miffed that he hadn’t been told sooner — and make Alex and Edgardo question Mookie’s intelligence.

There was no way that Dreamz was going to be able to keep that secret from his best pal, Cassandra.

So Alex and Edgardo amended the voting plan. Instead of voting off Stacy right after Boo, they’d keep her around and make an alliance of five, voting Dreamz off if necessary.

At that point, Mookie and Dreamz realized that they needed to get rid of Stacy, or else Alex and Edgardo would likely keep her (because she hasn’t seemed like a challenge threat) instead of them into the final three. Plus, Dreamz didn’t even like Stacy, after how rudely she’d treated him and Cassandra during their days on the original Moto tribe.

Before everyone could cement their voting strategies, it was time for the Immunity Challenge. When the tribe arrived, Jeff Probst instructed everyone to reach into a bag and grab a colored rock. The orange and green rocks split the tribe into two temporary tribes of five members each.

During the challenge, the two mini-tribes would be competing against one another. The winning tribe won Immunity and a steak dinner. The losing tribe would head straight to Tribal Council, without any time to talk strategy.

The mini-tribes were:
Green — Michelle, Mookie, Dreamz, Stacy, Alex
Orange — Edgardo, Boo, Earl, Yau-Man, Cassandra

This tribe setup meant trouble for Michelle, should her team lose. Though she hadn’t even been mentioned as a target earlier, she was suddenly on her own with three of the "Four Horsemen" and their pal, Stacy.

Both tribes paddled to three buoys and collected bags of puzzle pieces. Then they paddled back to the beach to assemble the puzzle according to a pattern they’d memorized earlier.

The Green team fell behind early, and even a late surge once they’d gotten to shore couldn’t save them. The Orange team went to dinner, and the Green team went to Tribal Council.

The contestants gave non-committal answers to Jeff Probst’s questions about how they planned to vote, until Alex said he didn’t have any reason to get rid of Stacy, Mookie, or Dreamz. In other words, he was voting for Michelle, and he was letting the others know for whom they should vote.

At that point, Dreamz said he’d really come to trust Alex. (The only question was whether that trust in Alex stronger than Dreamz’s hate for Stacy…)

When they finally voted, Alex and Stacy wrote down Michelle’s name, and Michelle voted for Stacy.

It looked like Michelle had a shot at staying when Mookie — thinking about his earlier conversation with Dreamz, and not his loyalty to Alex — voted for Stacy as well.

Unfortunately, Dreamz was on his own wavelength. His trust in Alex (or, more likely, his not sussing out how Mookie planned to vote) won out, and he wrote down "Mechelle."

As Jeff Probst read the final vote, Michelle (who probably expected to go) looked calm. Dreamz and Mookie, on the other hand, started to panic.

Dreamz evidently hadn’t figured that both Michelle and Mookie would be voting for Stacy, and he was frustrated at having missed the opportunity to vote off his nemesis. And Mookie realized that he’d put too much faith in Dreamz. Now Mookie had showed himself to be disloyal to the "Four Horsemen."

I found the twist to be totally unnecessary, and absolutely awful to endure. It was impossible not to empathize for Michelle who, through no fault of her own, wound up on a tribe that was sure to get rid of her.

For one episode, the "temporary tribe" twist rendered all the strategies and interpersonal dealings of the previous twentysomething days moot. It’s not fun for the viewer to feel that sad and frustrated for someone like Michelle, so I hope that the producers avoid this particular twist in future seasons.

Michelle, for her part, remained upbeat. At this stage in the game, most people are voted off through deception, and at least she had time to prepare herself. "I think I’ve just affirmed that I know what kind of person I am and that I know what I’m capable of, and that I’m…just as strong as I thought. Hee hee."

Next time, Mookie confronts Dreamz about his vote and gets annoyed with Cassandra. And Dreamz does the thinkable and tells Cassandra and Earl about Mookie’s Immunity Idol.