By Dalton Ross
October 17, 2018 at 09:00 PM EDT
Robert Voets/CBS
S37 E4
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“If I go home tonight with guns blazing, I’m happy.” — Natalia

I mean, you didn’t look happy. There was the stare down at Alec after he flipped sides and joined the Davids to vote you out. There was the beginning of the talk back with, “I knew it. I knew I couldn’t trust you.” There was the rebuttal after Alec apologized with “Don’t be sorry. Shut up” — hilariously followed with the torch placement query of “Where do I put this?”

There was the exasperated final comment of “Why are you smiling? Oh my God, I can’t handle you right now!” There was even an awkward stumble out of Tribal Council. And then, a few minutes later, your final words ended with “I’m pissed. I want to hurt him so bad.” So this wasn’t exactly a Bobby McFerrin concert is what I’m getting at.

But we, as viewers, were amply able to follow the don’t worry, be happy mantra. Not that we were happy to see Natalia go. Natalia is the sort of type-A paranoid control freak we love to watch in this game. It’s actually a shame to lose her this early. But it made for a hell of a Tribal Council. We longtime Survivor viewers always like to sound as if we’re 518 years old and talk about how much better the show was back in our day and how we walked through 18 feet of snow just to get to the television set and you kids today have no idea how lucky you are!!! But one of the best things about the evolution of Survivor is the fact that votes actually do now seem to change right at Tribal Council. As much as the show tried to make you believe this was happening back in the day, it was all kind of a ruse — clever editing and misdirections to keep the result in doubt.

But that has changed. Not for every Tribal, mind you. And not even most of them. But a few times a season now, you will see a player — or players — move to a different plan in the moment, and it is exhilarating to watch. I have no idea what made Alec change his vote. Maybe Elizabeth constantly talking about his “balls” finally got to him. I also don’t see how this was a smart move for him. With Carl now entering the tribe, the Goliaths just went from a 3-2 majority to a 3-2 minority. True, Davie and Elizabeth don’t seem particularly close, but do you want to bank on the three Davids not ganging up on you should they lose the next challenge? I wouldn’t.

Plus, in terms of resume building, pre-merge moves count far less than post-merge ones, so I’m not sure how much of a benefit you really get for that alleged big move. And, if anything, I would be more likely to credit Davie or Elizabeth, because the person finding a crack in an alliance and exploiting it is inherently more impressive than the person who was merely exploited. So I don’t know what the hell Alec was thinking. (Yes, I get he didn’t trust Natalia but can you trust Davie and Elizabeth — who were both trying to get rid of each other — any more?) My hunch is that this was not a smart move. But damn it was fun to watch.

And while I kid about Natalia obviously not being happy over her ouster, contrary to her statement before the vote, I love the fire she showed on her exit. She did go out guns blazing, as promised. It was a thought echoed by Jeff Probst as he noted the philosophy once espoused by Neil Young: “If I go down, I want to burn out, rather than fade away.” (I am relatively confident Probst was paraphrasing from Young’s “My My, Hey Hey”, although every fiber of my being is hoping I am wrong about that and it was actually a nod to Def Leppard’s seminal metal anthem “Rock of Ages.” If he just could have thrown in a little “Gunter glieben glauchen globen” as well then my life would truly be complete.)

Okay, so much else to get to, and there ain’t nothing to it but to do it. We begin the episode at a beach that appears to be set up for a challenge. Psych! It’s a tribe swap! But before that, Bi has an announcement to make. “I actually have to make a really sad announcement. I sprained my MCL yesterday, and I’m an athlete so I have made the decision to leave the game.” Listen carefully to what she said there because the semantics are important: “I have made the decision to leave the game.”

That means Bi is not being medically evacuated. She is leaving on her own volition. That is quickly confirmed in the language Probst uses to describe all the trouble the David tribe has endured. “It’s not the Goliaths that have somebody medically evacuated,” says Probst, referencing Pat. “It’s not the Goliaths that have somebody quit,” then referencing Bi. And then, in case there was any doubt, he officially announces: “Bi has made her decision. Bi is quitting the game.”

So what exactly happened here? We saw Bi’s injury in the last challenge. We then went back to the David camp even though they won the challenge (for her to tell us that she has sprained her MCL) which I pointed out last week was highly unusual and probably done as a seed planted for her to be medically evacuated from the game. But I was wrong. She was not medically evacuated. In this case, it appears Dr. Joe and the medical team told her she was okay to continue in the game and she made the decision to quit rather than risk further injury.

This is a tough one. What was Bi told by Survivor medical in terms of her injury? How would staying out there and playing as opposed to leaving and properly rehabbing impact her career as an MMA fighter? Did she use the injury as an excuse because her best buddy Jessica was blindsided a few days prior? I have no clue. But I asked Jeff Probst about it in this week’s Q&A and look forward to asking Bi when we talk Thursday morning. Regardless, the distinction was clearly made and for those keeping score, BI’s exit will not go down as a medical evacuation.

But did Bi’s exit impact the game in another way? Because this tribe swap — with three tribes of five folks each and one person sent to Exile Island — appears clearly designed for 16 players. But had Bi not quit, there would have been 17 at this juncture. That tells me that the tribe swap was originally planned for episode 5 but then had to be moved up an episode after she left the game to make the numbers work. At least that’s what I assumed. To see if I was correct in this assumption, you’ll have to check out my weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst. (SPOILER ALERT! I was not correct, but Jeff lets us in on a little secret that you did not see in the episode. Ooooh, intrigue!)

So, yeah, tribe swap! Let’s meet our new teams:

Vuku (Orange)
Natalia, Davie, Elizabeth, Kara, Alec

Jabeni (Purple)
Natalie, Mike, Lyrsa, Nick, Angelina

Tiva (Green)
John, Christian, Gabby, Dan, Alison

The big takeaway is that Goliath controls a 3-2 majority in every single tribe and there is absolutely, positively no way the Davids can break that up. Also, Carl gets sent to Exile and will later join the losing tribe after somebody is voted out. Here’s a brief assessment of what goes down at each of the new tribe camps.

Davie is an odd dude, and I say that as a compliment. “I’m ashamed to say I haven’t befriended too many Caucasians,” he informs us. He also informs us that he feels he can befriend them because he drives a PT Cruiser, “a car that white people like.” I believe Davie is getting his tenses confused here because I’m pretty sure the proper word, in this case, would be liked, not like. To be clear, I’m not going around polling people about their feelings regarding PT Cruisers. That would be weird, even for me. But you’re not likely to see a whole lot of them on the road these days unless you are, like, on the set of a ZZ Top music video or something. And if you are on the set of a ZZ Top music video and you are not taking a picture surrounded by giant beards then you are doing it wrong in life.

But the real action is happening among the women‚ as Elizabeth tries her darndest to fit in with the Goliath gals (which sounds like the name of a professional wrestling tag-team duo that may or may not reside in Slamtown). Kara and Elizabeth both bond over religion! Kara and Elizabeth also bond over horses and the fact that they ride saddle seat! You know who is not bonding? Natalia. She’s now starting to feel like a third wheel, which never sounds like much fun unless you have plans to go kill yourself while off-roading on an all-terrain vehicle. But the Goliaths pow-wow to make sure they are all on the same page.

“I would never ever flip. What would be the point of that?” asks Natalia.

“It would just not make sense,” agrees Alec.

“We have a fool-proof plan and screwing this up would be dumb,” concurs Kara, and you can already start guessing which one of the three is about to get blindsided.

Look, I gotta be honest: I could have pulled this charade off for the entire recap, but I need to come clean about something. This isn’t actually me writing this recap. You may have noticed that already. Sure, it was fine and all, but something seemed a bit off. You couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but you knew something was amiss. It was a certain je ne sais quoi. But you could tell it wasn’t me. I mean, I am actually the one typing out the keys on my laptop, but I am merely writing out whatever Natalie orders me to say. She is sitting on a tree stump behind me telling me exactly what to do and when to do it. In fact, she’s the one who told me to reveal the ruse. I guess she wanted credit or something? (She didn’t tell me to say that. I’ve gone off-script. GOOD LORD, PLEASE DON’T LET HER CATCH ME!)

Anyway, now she wants me to tell you all about her tribe, Jabeni. Sooooooo, this doesn’t appear to necessarily be the strongest of tribes. Put more bluntly by Mike of Enlightened fame, this new fivesome is “the Davids of the Davids of the Davids” because they would be the last five people selected in a schoolyard pick ’em. Anyway, this tribe seems to be getting along splendidly thanks to the firm unwavering leadership of Natalie. Three cheers for Natalie, everyone! Clearly her success off the island has translated seamlessly on it, and clearly, nobody is forcing me to write this sentence against my will. Natalie: Is there anything she can’t do?

There is one thing Nick can’t do, and that is go a single day without trying to come up with a terrible alliance name. First, we had the Thoroughbreds. Then, the Mason–Dixon alliance. And now, the Rock Stars. (And those are just the ones that made the final edit! Think about it. We only see a minute or two of Nick every three days. That means 99% of the stuff he is doing out there — which appears to be naming alliances and that’s pretty much it — we don’t even see.)

I guess we need to talk about the Rock Stars. First off, why Rock Stars? Mike White just got done talking about what dorks they all were and now they have been magically transformed into rock stars? I guess maybe Nick is going for some sort of School of Rock vibe, however, Ned Schneebly was not exactly a poster child for heavy metal thunder. But even worse than the nickname is the mini-riff guitar motion Nick insists on them doing to solidify their new bond. Now, gee, where have I seen that before…

You could see the pain on poor Mike White’s face as he played along with the Bill & Ted’s guitar riff. “God, I can’t believe this guy is making me repeatedly play air guitar on national television. This is so humiliating. Quick, how do I get out of doing that again? I know! I’ll tell him something to distract him. Ooh, like that Dan has an idol! That should do the trick.”

Anyway, that’s Jabeni for you.

Hey, remember Vine, everyone? It was a social media platform where you could create simply hilarious videos for no apparent reason. Back during Survivor: Cambodia I created a little masterpiece I titled “Juxtaposition.” Vine no longer exists, but thanks to the magic of Twitter, my handiwork still lives on.

And it also lives on in the form of this week’s Survivor, as we get a similar edit that showcases the stylistic differences between John and Christian chopping bamboo. But hold on a second, everyone, because in a twist of Odd Couple-esque proportions, these two crazy kids may just get along after all! It’s like Paula Abdul and rapping animated feline MC Skat Cat once opined through the power of song — opposites do attract!

Christian brings on the Charmpocalypse to forge bonds with the Shaman of Sexy, and it works because Johnny Mundo says that he too is socially awkward… which I do not believe for even a nano-second. That’s like my mom constantly claiming she’s an introvert even though she will needlessly talk the ear off of any consumer sales rep she happens to come into even the most remote form of contact with.

Whatever, Ab-raham Lincoln seems like a cool guy, as does Christian, so I’m down with their friendship. Less happy with the situation is Gabby, who breaks down crying because she feels like she’s on the outs and is having high-school flashbacks about asking to sit at the cool kids’ lunch table. I really like Gabby and I think there’s more to her than what we’re seeing. Which is why it bums me out that all we’re seeing this season is her crying to Christian about not fitting it or feeling like she needs him to protect her. And I imagine it bums her out too. I really hope Gabby has a long run in this game and we get to see other aspects of her personality. I think there is strength there. And humor. And intelligence. I don’t know why I think these things, but I do. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I get a good vibe off her and hope the edit moving forward will back that up.

Exile Island
I’m kind of fascinated by what happens here with Carl. He gets to Exile Island and finds a note there — with a world record for number of ellipses — telling him about something falling, rolling, and about to be taken out to sea. He figures out it must be a coconut with something hidden inside. Good for him!

But here’s what I’m trying to figure out. Did producers put the advantage coconut on the sand by the edge of the water and he just had to go get it before the tide came in and washed it out, or did they throw it into the shallow part of the water? And did they throw those other coconuts out in the water as well to make the right one more difficult to locate or were those naturally there? My guess — insert shot of advantage coconut in the water notwithstanding (since that was most likely filmed at a different time) — is that the coconut was placed up on the beach a bit where we saw Carl locate it. That certainly would be safer than asking Carl to swim out by the rocks with waves crashing into him, as he did anyway.

Whatever, I’m obsessing over stupid details that nobody else cares about again. WHY DO I HAVE TO BE SO SOCIALLY AWKWARD LIKE JOHN MORRISON?!? So Carl opens his coconut and learns he is now the proud owner of an Idol Nullifier. What does this Idol Nullifier do, you ask? (Just pretend you asked.) Carl can play it in secret at Tribal Council and write the name of the person he wants to block from using an idol. If that person does play one at that Tribal Council, it’s blocked. If that person doesn’t, then the Idol Nullifier will never be revealed.

We have actually seen an idol canceling twist before but in Australian Survivor. In that case, the holder was able to use it on anyone after an idol was played. So I guess you could call that one the Tyler Perry Idol Nullifier. Personally, I like this way much better because it requires a lot more guesswork and strategy. First, you have to know who has the idol. Then you have to guess who he/she will play it for. And then you have to guess when that person will play it. That’s a lot of guesswork, but I’d rather have someone have to struggle to figure all that out and weigh the pros and cons of when and whom to play it on than have it just act as a get out jail free card. This Idol Nullifier has power, but not too much power, so props to the producers for finding the right balance on this one. Me likey!

Another thing I like is when contestants are blindfolded for a challenge. Unfortunately, the way this next contest is set-up, there is very little chance of repeated painful crotch shots, and frankly, I blame that on producers. For shame, Survivor producers! Shame indeed. Instead, one person acts as the caller and sits on a driving wheel while two blindfolded members push them through obstacles, collecting a ball (sorry, Elizabeth — not one of Alec’s) along the way. Then the caller must direct two other blindfolded members to get not-Alec’s-ball through a table maze.

Remember when I said I wanted to see other aspects of Gabby’s game? My wish is the show’s command! Gabby does a stellar job as caller for Tiva tribe. Instead of screaming like a lunatic, she sounds soft, calm, and reassuring. In fact, all the women callers (Gabby, Angelina, and Kara) do well. So often we have seen people panic in this role, but these three performed admirably.

Gabby and Tiva win easily (scoring pastries and coffee as well), and even though Jabeni is in last place by a country mile, they come back to take second place after Vuku’s ball falls off the table maze. That means it’s back to Vuku beach, or, as it is now known: Scramble City. Population: 5. And it starts with a literal scramble as Elizabeth and Davie run to go find an idol that does not exist because Davie already has it. He has it, but he doesn’t want to use it, so he spills the proverbial beans on Elizabeth — telling the Goliaths how she was idol hunting and that she wants Natalia out. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is talking to Alec about his balls — I’m not making this up — and also says they can just vote out Davie and that’s okey-dokey by her.

But while the Davids are turning on each other, the Goliaths are doing the SAME DAMN THING! Alec says Natalia’s bossiness is “pissing me off” and that he doesn’t trust her. He then attempts to make some sort of surfing analogy, but I don’t surf because I saw Jaws so I have no idea what he is even talking about.

We go to Tribal Council where all the players…. Wait, what’s that smell? Does anyone else smell that? Oh, Jesus. Did Elizabeth poop her pants again? DAMMIT! If I told her once I told her a thousand times to embrace the time-honored tradition of the aqua dump. But the real chaos kicks in when Alec all of a sudden gets up and starts whispering to Elizabeth (about his balls or her poop, we cannot be sure). Natalia doesn’t like that at all. I know this because Natalia says, “I don’t like that at all.”

Natalia wants to know what is happening, but Kara trusts it because the man she will later be splashed across social media and TMZ with is saying it. Then Alec whispers to Kara and Kara whispers to Natalia, but time can never mend the careless whispers of a good friend. And do you know why? Because guilty feet have got no rhythm. That’s why!

Finally, the whispering stops as Natalia asks Kara straight up “Are you voting me out?” To which a shocked Kara responds, “NO! It’s the same thing. You know what he’s voting.” This is fantastic. And we, as viewers, are just as in the dark as Natalia. Is it Elizabeth? Is it Davie? Or is it Natalia? God, I love this show.

In the end, it’s Natalia. Sucks for her. Maybe she was too bossy. Maybe she was too high-strung. Maybe she wasn’t trustworthy. I have no idea. All I do know is that getting eliminated from the game before Natalie has to be KILLING her. On the bright side, your skin is gorgeous, darling. So you got that going for you, which is nice.

So how are we feeling about this season so far? I’m feeling pretty good, mostly because I think the show has done a terrific job of introducing most of the characters. Yes, Alison has turned into a bit of a ghost — which is particularly troublesome for me since she was my episode 1 pick to win it all — but she’s the only one where you’re kinda like, “Wait, who is that?” It also seems like a generally likable group. These are people you want to watch play.

Speaking of things you should want to watch: make sure to check out our exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode that we have for you right here. And there’s also my weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeffrey Probst. And my exit interviews with Bi and Natalia will kick off at 9:30 a.m. ET Thursday on EW Morning Live (SiriusXM, channel 105) and you can read them right now Here’s our chat with Bi, and here is our interview with Natalia. Those goodies are all almost as nice as Jeremey and Natalia’s skin. Maybe not as nice as Christian, who seems like the nicest, but nice enough. You can also follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss if social media is your thing.

And now it’s your turn, What do you think about Bi’s decision to leave the game? And the new Idol Nullifier? And Davie and Elizabeth convincing Alec to switch sides? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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