By Dalton Ross
November 07, 2018 at 09:00 PM EST
There's Gonna Be Tears Shed
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS
S37 E7

Angelina just lost Survivor: David vs. Goliath. It’s over. Done. Finito. Pack up that tent. Tear up that million dollar check into tiny little pieces and then let those pieces float down to the floor dramatically like snowflakes of death. All it took were 10 simple sentences. Ten sentences to forever ruin her chances of winning the game. “So, they’ve thrown your name out there. But I’m the only person. I just wanted to be upfront with you, ‘cause I’ve gotten nothing but amazingness from you. And I tried. I thought I had a different vote. We were locked in on someone, and then I come back and they’ve flipped again. I just would rather tell you than have you be blindsided like that. You have such a big heart. I just respect you enough as a person. And I just figured the more information you have, ‘cause I’d rather see you here tomorrow than some of these people.”

That’s what Angelina told Elizabeth before Tribal Council. I knew exactly what she was trying to do here, and at the same time, I couldn’t believe she was doing it. With Elizabeth now assured of becoming the first jury member, Angelina was trying to curry favor — favor that would then hopefully be returned should Angelina make it to the final three. As soon as those words came out of her mouth, we all knew it would come back to bite her in the butt.

Here’s the thing: Angelina’s idea was very smart, and I applaud her for it. But her execution — and I cannot stress this enough — was TERRIBLE! Yes, if you know someone is on the way out you should do your best to forge a connection with that person. But it’s super tricky. You don’t want that connection to be too close, where they then blame you for lying or backstabbing because you all just shared the most intimate details or your personal life or she found your teeth at the bottom of a swamp before you slit her throat. (See: Brenda/Dawn in Survivor: Caramoan.) That can backfire spectacularly. But you want to make what I would call a “surface connection.” Just have a moment in which you can bond superficially and generically so that when that person leaves the game, you are not one of the people she is angry at.

And here’s another thing you absolutely, positively don’t want to do: not bring a jacket on Survivor. Wait, what? Sorry, I got confused. That was last week. No, the other thing you absolutely, positively don’t want to do is tell someone they are going home next and therefore open yourself up to the risk of them taking that information and using it against you. And that is exactly what happened.

Did Angelina think Elizabeth wouldn’t use any morsel or scrap of info she could to fight and stay in the game? If so, that was a massive miscalculation. Elizabeth went and immediately squealed to Carl and Gabby, who, in turn, suggested they tell the Goliaths and turn it on Angelina. “So let’s just blow it up at Tribal tonight,” agreed Elizabeth. (This, of course, was a mistake by Elizabeth. You don’t wait until Tribal to blow it up. You blow it up 30 minutes before you leave for Tribal. That gives folks time to get significantly pissed off and formulate a new plan. While we have seen votes seemingly change more at Tribal lately, it’s still a hell of a lot harder to change minds once everyone is already sitting on their assigned log and staring at Jeff Probst.)

Anyhoodle, Elizabeth did blow it up at Tribal, and the looks and responses from the other Goliaths told me everything I need to know. Angelina is done. Alison pointed out how it appeared Angelina was already trying to manage the jury for her final Tribal Council, and the vigorous head-nodding from all Davids and Goliaths that accompanied it showed they clearly agreed. And Alison’s comment about how Angelina had already “pocketed a vote” pretty much said it all.

Here’s why this move is a death knell for Angelina. This confirms what I wrote last week about how Angelina’s biggest problem was that people already perceived her as being super sneaky. That means it will be that much harder for her to get to the end. But the problem is bigger than that. Here’s what it ultimately comes down to: The other people both in and out of the game will not trust anything Angelina says. And I’m not talking about strategy and flipping and backstabbing and all that nonsense. I’m talking about any attempt to make what Angelina described as “a raw human moment.”

People in the game will not trust her, and even more devastatingly, anyone out of the game who could be voting either for or against her at Tribal Council as a member of the jury will now view any potential moment of kindness through a cloud of doubt, and wonder if it’s all phony baloney sincerity. It now doesn’t matter if Angelina is sincere in what she says or does because not unlike poor Pig Pen, that cloud will now follow her wherever she goes. Perception is reality in this game, and the perception clearly appears to be that Angelina was not being genuine by trying to get in good with the first jury member before sending her to her torch-snuffing executioner with the dimples. Again, it doesn’t matter if that is true or not. Whether people playing think it is true is all that matters, which is why now Angelina can’t win.

As for whether I think Angelina was being kind or cagey by telling Elizabeth, again, it doesn’t matter. But that won’t stop me from giving my take. I do think Angelina had a jury vote in mind when she went to Elizabeth with that information. But I actually think it was something more than that which was not discussed. I think Angelina was pissed. She was pissed about the way the change in voting plans went down without her and she told her alliance as much. I think that telling Elizabeth was her subconscious version of payback and venting all rolled into one. “You all want to make this decision against my will? Fine. But here is my form of protest. I’m going to tell her you all insisted on it and I didn’t want to do it.”

Yes, I am playing armchair psychologist here, but my take was that more than a coldly calculated jury-baiting move, this was just simply Angelina letting off steam. Just look at her in that scene. She’s still clearly upset and rattled. When you’re upset and rattled you tend to say things you shouldn’t, and my best guess is that it is exactly what happened here. That’s where I think there is a kernel of truth in what Angelina said at Tribal Council when she claimed that “It was not jury management, it was a raw human moment where I just couldn’t lie. I apologize to my tribe. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky.”

Okay, she definitely could lie. Angelina has no qualms with that. She also was being sneaky so that’s a bunch of malarkey as well. But I buy the “raw human moment” element of it. Not the way she’s selling it, of course, but more that she was having a raw human moment and let something slip as a kind of F.U. to her own alliance that she shouldn’t have. As far as her other comment at Tribal that “I am an authentic person and this game is very hard for someone who is trying to be a loving person” — well, I have to admit: I did laugh out loud when I heard that. And I imagine you probably did too.

Regardless, I honestly do believe this is a blow from which Angelina cannot recover — either because she is now deemed too untrustworthy to get to the end, or she is deemed not genuine enough to vote for should she make it there. And that’s too bad because I LOVE Angelina as a player. She may not always play well with others, but she plays big, she plays hard, she’s devious (which I adore), she’s smart, and she’s there to win. Her Achilles’ heel, as I wrote last week, is that she’s simply too obvious in her deception — which showed up again this week. But she is entertaining as hell to watch (whether you love or loathe her) and creates story through pretty much everything she does. I would want an Angelina on every single season and the producers would be crazy not to bring her back again, regardless of how she does here.

By the way, if you missed my merge interview with Angelina, you definitely need to check it out. She reveals a bunch of Jacketgate scenes we didn’t see and has some great thoughts about something I have lamented for a long time in these here recaps: the fact that women don’t find nearly as many hidden immunity idols. Go read it! It’s worth it! And I’m not just saying that to get in good with Angelina in case she ends up on the jury. ZING!!!

Anyway, I wasn’t planning to spend 1,500 words on that, but I suppose you weren’t planning on reading 1,500 words about it either. Let’s hit on a few other notable things from this latest episode, hopefully in far less detail.

Urge for a Merge!
Everyone loves a merge! Viewers love it because it means the biggest shift in the game. Players love it because it means they didn’t get stuck on the sad-sack pre-jury trip. Carl loves it because it means beer! Gabby loves it because it means there is probably a hidden idol clue or advantage sitting around somewhere at the merge feast. She didn’t find one, but her instinct was right on. And that camera certainly did linger a bit on that sign that read “Everything you need for the merge is right here,” didn’t it? Hmmm…

Of course, you can’t have a tribe unless you have a tribe name. Well, I suppose technically you could but it would be supes awkward. So would this season’s merged tribe name come from the name of some kid’s stuffed animal or a cousin twice removed? Nope, apparently, Elizabeth decided to Google some Fijian words — because, I guess, hey, why not? — and stumbled across “Kalokalo”, which, contrary to popular belief, is not a terrible Beach Boys song featuring John Stamos on the bongos from the Tom Cruise vehicle Cocktail.

Everyone seemed cool with it, which honestly was kind of a bummer because I loved the days when someone would get irrationally angry about the merged tribe name because I cannot think of anything stupider in the world to get angry about. Didn’t happen this time, though. DAMMIT! WHY DID THEY HAVE TO GET RID OF NATALIE?!

You know one thing I am not hating on though? That tribe color. Teal! I mean, it’s not particularly intimidating and probably clashes with some of the contestant clothing, but I love it nonetheless. It kind of reminds me of the Carolina Panthers uniforms. And that reminds me that the Panthers mascot is none other than “Sir Purr.” Some basic “Cat Stats” on Sir Purr for you: According to his webpage, Sir Purr apparently has a “league-leading average of 451 hugs per appearance, sometimes delivering more than one hug to the same person!” His belly shake record is 331 times per minute, he averages over seven million smiles annually, and consumes six-and-a-half gallons of milk each day. (I wish I was making this up.) Oh, and apparently he majored in “Purr-Forming Arts” and you are not supposed to ask him about his weight because — wait for it — “That’s Purr-sonal!” I think you get the point. And the point is, I like the teal.

Meet & Greet
My favorite part of any merge are the people that immediately screw up by giving away way too much information. Of course, booze certainly helps in that department, and here was Carl getting sufficiently sloshed and blabbing all to Dan about how Elizabeth should go. Dan didn’t do much better himself, vomiting out the info to Kara that he had a second idol. He even acknowledged it was not the savviest of moves. “I planned on keeping that one to myself,” he admitted. “But I was so excited on seeing her. I can’t help it.”

At least she was part of his alliance. In fact, Dan, Kara, Angelina, and the Mayor of Slamtown were a clear foursome. Alec claimed he was with them as well, but this was all a bunch of Hong Kong Phooey. Instead, Alec was busy putting together what Christian described as “a counter-Goliaths insurgency.” It was actually more of a cross-tribe coalition because Alec’s new alliance featured three Goliaths (himself, Alison, and Mike) and three Davids (Christian, Gabby, and Nick). “I’d kinda call it a strike force,” said Christian. NO! Call it a cross-tribe coalition! We just went over this, for chrissakes! God, can we get on the same page here, please?!

Look, we took Alec to task for getting rid of Natalia a few weeks back, but what he’s doing here is smart. And he’s also being intelligent in not making a move immediately, realizing it is much smarter to dwindle the Davids down by another member or two in case the Davids CROSS TRIBE COALITION decides to flip the script and get control of the numbers. And to make the other Goliaths believe he is still on board, Alec even told Kara and Dan that Elizabeth wanted Dan out. Again, smart.

As for Dan, he was “furious” that the person without a single ally in the game was targeting him. “Why me and not John?” he asked before storming off and leaving Kara and Alec alone, which, in retrospect, does not seem smart on multiple levels. But to answer Dan’s question of “Why me and not John?” I say: Why not? Also: Who cares? Again, she has no power whatsoever. There are much bigger things to get furious about. You know, like the tribe name.

Oh, the other great thing about the merge was this:

Individual Immunity Is Up for Grabs
I’ve been a fan of this season. You all know that. And I was a huge fan of last week’s water wheel immunity challenge. But I wasn’t a fan of this challenge, and I’ll tell you why. The contest involved each player swinging a pendulum through a frame and around a statue. If the pendulum stopped its forward momentum, or the statue moved, or the contestant stepped off their platform, they were out.

Here was my issue. There was no real entry point for viewers. I love endurance challenges where you can watch each of the players and see who looks solid, who is clearly in trouble, and charting when people start to transition from that first category to that second one. But you couldn’t tell any of that from this challenge. You couldn’t gauge the progress of each player or follow any of the action except who eventually faltered swinging their pendulum. People were in, and they were just kinda out. That doesn’t make for particularly exciting television.

Don’t get me wrong: I could watch an entire hour of Dan telling himself how awesome he is, and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the emotion of Alison talking about thinking how her parents would be watching her winning immunity on TV “and how proud they’re going to be of me.” That was cool. But the challenge itself? Not my favorite.

My Way or the Highway
The key in Survivor is to impose your will without anyone even realizing you are imposing it. You do this by first asking who other people want to get rid of. After a name is mentioned, you immediately agree as to why that name totally makes sense. Then, almost matter of factly, you present another option just to, you know, talk it out and make sure you’ve covered all your bases and considered everything. You see if it takes. You try to steer the conversation the way you want it to go, but you don’t push too hard. Angelina pushed too hard.

While the Goliaths were all discussing making Elizabeth the first one out post-merge, Angelina argued that she was only a medium threat with no allies at all and that instead “Christian needs to go tonight. He could beat us all.” Here’s the thing: SHE’S RIGHT! I’m Team Angelina on this all the way. As a viewer, I never want Christian to go away. And I mean ever. He can just stand next to Probst for season 38 onward for all I care. He can be like that dude on the mat in the traditional cultural garb that stands next to Phil Keoghan on the Amazing Race and says “Welcome to [insert name of foreign country here].” I don’t care. Just keep him around. But that’s if I’m a viewer. If I’m a player, then get him the hell out of there. Because he’s decent, likable, charming, and great at puzzles, all the things that could win him a million dollars. Angelina is totally right on this one.

But she came off too bossy. Even in her confessional interview she slipped up and said, “Right now I am counting on six different Goliaths to execute my vision… our vision.” This seemingly annoyed just about everyone in her alliance, which, in turn, then annoyed Angelina when they flipped the vote without her, which then, in turn, annoyed Elizabeth when she was told she was going home, which then, in turn, annoyed Angelina when Elizabeth sold her out at Tribal Council. Do you see what an insidious cycle this was? And it all could have been avoided with a little diplomacy.

By the way, I’m not sure why Dan was so annoyed by Angelina using military terms even though she is not in the military (her husband is). I actually thought her point of why they should not target Elizabeth because “In military warfare, you never want your enemy to know where you are going to hit… they know it is Elizabeth” was a really strong one. Misdirection is key in this game. To not embrace it is folly. Also, if players aren’t allowed to make military metaphors on this show then Dan should probably be beating Christian to a bloody pulp right about now. Anyway, by the end of it, Dan was pissed at Angelina (“She’s not the queen bee here”), Angelina was pissed at Dan (calling him “super f—ing condescending”) and I was eating it all up like popcorn.

We all know (and have already covered) what happened next. One other thing worth pointing out, though. After Elizabeth revealed what Angelina had done at Tribal, Angelina responded, “This is just bad strategy.” But there is no such thing as bad strategy if you are assuredly going home within the hour unless you take a big swing. If Elizabeth’s only card to play was ratting out Angelina, then she had no choice but to rat out Angelina. “I came here to win Survivor,” said Elizabeth. “I did not come here to let some bitch beat me.” While I’m certainly not a fan of her deploying the B-bomb (NOT Ben Bomb, by the way), I get the overall point, which is that you should never lay down and die. Do whatever you can to stay in the game, and once your torch is snuffed, say “No hard feelings,” and move on. Angelina called Elizabeth’s actions “poor form,” and she’s not wrong, but I would hope and expect Angelina to do the same exact thing if that was her best option in terms of sticking around.

So, alas, one of the thoroughbreds has been put out of her sleeping-awkwardly-on-bamboo misery. Elizabeth was a fun character to watch. She was never a threat to win, but went down swinging, which I respect. Just another example of the stellar casting this season.

Speaking of stellar, make sure to check out this week’s Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. And watch an exclusive deleted scene from this week’s episode right here. And tune into EW Morning Live (SiriusXM, channel 105) at 9:40amET to hear the first exit interview with Elizabeth, which is also now available to read right here. Finally, for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

And now it’s your turn. What do you make of Angelina’s comments to Elizabeth? Are you sorry to see Elizabeth go? And who’s in the best spot to win the game? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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