The last couple of episodes of Survivor: Gabon have seen the show moving in the right direction. Powerful players getting picked off is far more interesting than watching one tribe being slaughtered night in and night out. Also, personalities are emerging.  Randy is abrasive, Kenny is megalomaniacal, Crystal is whiny and Corinne is bitchy — these are the traits that are fun to watch, but might get you voted off. Sugar has a knack for deciding which way the power shifts, Matty plays hard, Susie is guileless and Bob is amiable — these are the traits that might take you all the way, but also make you a target. Now, the show can begin in earnest.

Kota scramble. Randy and Corinne come to the sobering realization that they are no longer in the catbird’s seat at camp. Ken’s successful swaying of Sugar at tribal has taken the wind out of their sails, and they know it’s time to rebuild.

Cookie monster. Bob tells Sugar that he doesn’t have the idol, but that he made a fake one. Taking Sugar into his confidence is a good move for him. Sugar is the type who might well be taken by Bob’s avuncular demeanor. Randy and Corinne wallow in each others misery, and Randy is convinced that he might as well be his usual irritating self. Corinne and Randy decide that Matty seems to have the most credibility of all the remaining survivors, and make plans to try and draw him away from the larger alliance.

It’s the Survivor auction at the reward challenge. The food goes on sale, but also does the right to send someone to Exile island and take their auction money. Kenny wins that privilege, and exiles Bob. Susie wins a bath and a change of clothes. So far as food goes, Randy makes out the best, winning beer, peanuts, an Italian dinner, and cookies for the tribe. He offers one to Sugar, and she refuses. Her enmity for Randy is such that she takes the last cookie, which would have been Randy’s, and gives it to Matty. I may not be sure what game she’s playing, but I am as sure as hell she doesn’t like Randy. The only other bit of strategic advantage to come out of this challenge goes to Corinne. She walks off with a secret inside a bottle, a secret that promises to help her out later in the game.

Matty makes moves.
Cookie distribution is discussed back at camp, and Randy appears to have no interest in letting his feud with Sugar go, and neither does she. Randy and Corinne next work on Matty, trying to convince him that he is at the bottom of the alliance he’s in, and is set for 5th place. They are offering him the opportunity to be final three.

Bob chooses clue at Exile, and is disappointed to find the same map that led him nowhere the last time he was at Exile Island. He elects to go on his own safari with his time in isolation, and takes that opportunity to reflect on his experiences in Africa.

Ken’s alliance discusses the next vote, and the majority want to rid themselves of Randy. Matty speaks up, saying that it would be a better idea to get rid of Bob, naming him as a bigger threat in the challenges than Randy or Corinne. Matty’s new-found activism doesn’t sit well with Sugar.  Ken is already ostensibly in control of that alliance, and Sugar senses his gamesmanship at work. He seems to be successful, though, and has everyone repeating the mantra Bob, Randy, Corinne — the order in which he thinks the other three should be voted out. Is he trying to take control of this alliance, or is he trying to save someone he wants for his own alliance?

Ken takes a tumble. Randy announces to Corinne that he has a plan to keep them in the game. His plan, unsurprisingly, is to spread misery with his attitude, make everyone vote for him, and use Bob’s immunity idol to save himself. His votes nullified, they would target Susie with their own votes. Of course, as we all know, Bob’s idol is a fake!

Randy sets to work, taking shots at Susie, then Matty. This sinks Matty’s thoughts of trying to save Randy for a later vote. Everyone in the alliance of five is now planning on voting for Randy.

The tribe arrives at the immunity challenge, and they are joined by Bob. In the first round, survivors must race across a balance beam while holding puzzle pieces. Winners of this round must assemble the puzzle pieces into a Rube Goldberg-esque domino puzzle which, when assembled in the proper order and knocked over at the proper time, will raise the winner’s flag. Corinne opens her bottle, and the note inside her gives her a pass out of the first round of competition. Ken and Matty win the first round, and Corinne uses her bye. Matty takes an early lead and Kenny gets himself in trouble, knocking his puzzle pieces over early. But, Kenny is the first to test his setup, which fails. Shortly after, all three believe they have their dominoes assembled correctly, and the tipping begins. Corinne’s and Matty’s dominoes don’t all fall, but Kenny’s do, and he wins immunity.

Thou shalt hold no false idols before me.
It’s congratulations all around for Kenny as the Nobag tribe returns to camp. Randy is ready to implement the final phase of his plan and ask Bob for his idol. Sugar gets to Bob first and convinces him to give Randy the fake idol should Randy ask him for it. Bob is willing to do so, and when Corinne asks him on Randy’s behalf, he agrees. Bob soon gives Randy the idol, and Randy is set for the biggest surprise of his life. Bob has just made his best move in this game yet, as Sugar is not a bad friend to have — if she believes she can trust you. Lucky for Bob, he is just the kind of guy that you feel you can trust. And he has veins popping out all over his body — urm, that’s not relevant…

People assemble for tribal, and Jeff brings the cookies up again. Sugar and Bob’s feud is rehashed, and Susie says the she feels sorry for Randy. Randy’s behavior at camp is discussed next, and Crystal talks about the tension at camp. Randy admits to feeling vulnerable at tonight’s vote, and he’s more right that he knows.

Now this is interesting, kids. We know who everyone’s voting for, we know Randy’s going to play the fake idol, and we know he’s really going home. We know everything about what’s going to happen at tribal — and still it’s exciting! Sugar and Crystal’s addresses to the voting booth camera are particularly rewarding. In a Survivor first, Crystal forgoes the traditional whispering and shouts her comments at the camera, letting Randy and the entire tribe know what she thinks of him. Sugar can barely contain herself.

As suspected, Randy plays the idol, and the moment is more than the tribe can take. Both alliances are sporting huge grins as Jeff is informs the group that what Randy has given him is not, indeed, an immunity idol. Randy’s face drops, Sugar and Crystal bust a gut, and Corinne’s smile vanishes. Interestingly, Bob looks a little sad after the revelation. Randy is voted off, and his torch is snuffed. 

That was the best ending to a regular episode of Survivor that I’ve seen in a long time, and this season has officially turned around for me. Hip hip hooray for the merge – as I’d hoped, it brought the schemers head to head. I’ve been on the fence about Sugar for a while, but after tonight I’m convinced — she’s for real. She’s a power player in Ken’s alliance, and has a budding alliance of her own forming with Bob. For these reasons, she’s my early favorite for final two. And regarding the teaser for next week — bring on more immunity idol hijinks! Very interesting to see that Bob chose Corinne to share this information with. Was he experiencing seller’s remorse after fooling Randy tonight?  Should the story about the supposedly lost idol prove to be true, is this part of a plan on Sugar’s behalf to form an alliance to take down Kenny’s five and get herself into the final four? If Bob can bring in Corinne with his idol story (let’s face it, she’s got no better option,) and Sugar can either seduce Kenny away from his own alliance or bring Matty over (he seemed willing enough to side with Bob and Corinne earlier tonight), then Sugar will have made the move that I was hoping she might last recap. Either way, this season promises to be interesting from here on out!

Posted by:Andrew Stubinski