Welcome back Survivateers! I hope you enjoyed your break as much as I did.  The NCAA is great, but we all know what coaches and players we’re interested in from week to week. Basketball coaches don’t inspire as much loathing and lunacy as our own Coach does, and basketball players don’t make secret alliances and stab each other in the back as much as our Survivors do. Let’s get on with Survivor: Tocantins round two!

When pigs fly. Coach monopolizes the bean preparation at Timbira and louses it up for everyone. Not only does he dump dirty river water into the pot, he lets them burn. Sierra leads the charge with the complaints against Coach. Maybe everyone at Timbira is finally seeing Coach’s true colors. It would be poetic justice to see the tribe get fed up to the point of elimination over such a small matter. The figurative straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The cooking of beans goes smoother at Jalapao, and Taj and Steve sew up their alliance whilst swinging on the tribe’s hammock. Taj goes a step further by suggesting they bring JT into Team Secret. IMO, this is a smart move, they can use the extra number come the merge, and JT is a very, very strong player.

At the reward challenge, both tribes build barricades to prevent the opposing tribe from being able to toss ceramic pigs through said barrier. After a tight race, Timbira edges out a victory and sends Joe to exile, and Joe selects Erin to go with him. With two non-Team Secret members at exile there are two threats. One, they will discover the fact that both immunity idols have been found. Two Erin and Joe will start a secret alliance of their own.

Team Secret +1. Timbira enjoys their barbecue reward, piling their delicious hamburgers high before enjoying a swim near a waterfall. Spirits are high, and this might carry Timbira along on their winning streak.

At Exile, Erin gets the clue to the idol, and quickly deduces that the idol is back at camp. Concerns about immunity set aside for a moment, Joe attempts to bond with Erin. She is taken in by his blinding white teeth and rugged charm, dropping clues to the idol’s location. Meanwhile, Stephen and Taj take steps to protect their secrets by fashioning a fake idol for Joe to find. Taj sets the trap, and the question becomes whether or not Joe will take the bait. Ironically, JT discovers the real idol in Taj’s bag. JT confides his discovery to Stephen, a lucky thing for Camp Secret.

Their hand forced, Steve and Taj make the executive decision to let JT in on their alliance. It looks like the secret alliance has stumbled their way into a good move. The interesting thing is that Taj and Steve didn’t choose to let JT know about the Brendan and Sierra component of the deal. This puts Taj and Steve in the driver's seat of this season of Survivor. They are part of the most powerful alliance going, and they can choose to either increase that power by a factor of one, or keep their alliance with JT secret until the most prudent moment, and take the game out of Brendan and Sierra’s hands.

Flipping and flopping. The immunity challenge is underway, a combination of slingshot firing and puzzle solving skills. Tyson and JT are the designated shooters for both tribes. Timbira proves better with the slingshot and uses that edge to solve their puzzle first. Timbira’s streak continues and Jalapao is heading to tribal council.

JT is taking the loss hard, and a previously unportrayed injury to Joe’s leg makes him a target for elimination. Sensing danger, Joe finds the hidden fake idol. I suspect there is a good chance we will see it played tonight. Joe prods the rest of the tribe to vote Taj at council. Maybe we will even see two idols played tonight! Meanwhile, JT and Steve talk about getting rid of Sydney. The two press Joe to vote with them to protect Taj. Unable to sway Joe, Steve and JT consider eliminating Taj and saving the real idol for themselves. So much wheeling and dealing! With three potential directions for votes to go, it looks like there will be a lot of uncertainty at tonight’s vote.

The heavily anticipated council comes, and Jeff discusses the relationships that may or may not have been developed at Exile. Jalapao is on the ropes, and the decision made tonight will shape the alliances that all the players on that team will take into the merge. Despite the fact that there are two idols in play at Jalapao, a fake one and a real one, none are played. After the vote goes down, it appears that Team Secret is intact and Sydney is voted off.

Not only has Team Secret survived this showdown, it has grown stronger. Specifically, Taj and Steve have grown stronger, now that they have JT their back pocket. The previews lead us to believe that the merge will come next episode, and I think it’s about time. After that event, the secret will soon be out and we shall see how far alliances formed while in exile will take you. This may not be the best Survivor in terms of drama, crazy behavior (though that could certainly change,) and backstabbing, but it is a fascinating study in strategy. I think this will be a season that future Survivors take notes on and use to define their own games.

Posted by:Andrew Stubinski