This article contains spoilers for Season 42 of “Survivor.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen merge episodes more disastrous than the heinous two-hour special CBS unleashed upon Survivor fans last Wednesday. And as someone who’s seen nearly every season of Survivor, that’s a weighty statement.
I’ll admit the episode as a whole was not entirely awful. There were some iconic moments as all the tribes joined together – Romeo and Hai bonding over being gay, Chanelle saying Jonathan “is the golden boy, but he’s not golden to me,” Drea being the smartest girlboss to ever girlboss everytime she strategized with her allies. But ultimately, this merge was awful, for the gays and for me especially.
The great twist of this season’s merge is (big shocker) the exact same merge twist from Survivor 41. Though last season introduced many new twists and advantages into the game, the big surprise announced for 42’s merge – dubbed the “Hourglass Twist” – was definitely the most controversial.
Here’s how it goes: The tribes drop their buffs. Before the tribes are officially merged, the remaining players split into two groups of five at random to compete in a combined reward and immunity challenge against each other. Two people, also randomly selected, are left out of these groups. Whichever tribe wins the challenge gets the reward of a merge feast and immunity for the whole group. They also get to decide which of the two left out players gets to join in the reward and immunity, sending the remaining player to Exile Island where they’ll have the chance to make a “game-changing decision.” Since we’ve already seen 41, we know that the decision is whether to reverse the original immunity win. This means the immunity would switch from the initial winners to the team that lost, including the excluded player (i.e., a no-brainer kind of choice). But the 42 players don’t know that, as the seasons are shot back-to-back.
But don’t worry, guys. If you thought this twist was stupid and downright unfair last season, Jeff Probst breaks the fourth wall to let you know that they’re changing it up a little bit this season. Thank God, right? No. The big change to the twist this season is… the merge feast is Applebee’s!!!!!
“That’s big,” Jeff Probst says (about fucking Applebee’s of all things). “That’s emotional; that’s home; that’s hard to turn down.”
The far more important change to the merge twist is the opportunity for the winning group to choose one of their own to take the place of the player who will be sent to Exile Island. But this change gets glossed over in favor of Applebee’s. It ends up not mattering anyway because the winning group idiotically chooses not to take this opportunity.
Jonathan, Lydia, Maryanne, Tori and Hai win the challenge (obviously, the man built like a tank is on their team) and choose to extend reward and immunity to Lindsay and send Rocksroy to Exile Island. This makes the other challenge group members, Chanelle, Romeo, Drea, Mike and Omar, vulnerable. At least, supposedly.
I’ll be honest: I skipped all of Rocksroy’s scenes on Exile to get to the merged tribe bonding. It looked like a great alliance of players was forming with Drea, Hai, Mike, Omar, Lindsay, Jonathan, Rocksroy and Lydia potentially coming together to target either Tori or Chanelle. This sounds great, because I can’t stand Tori and like half the people in that alliance, but knowing that the immunity twist would screw everything up, I could hardly look at my screen.
Worse comes to worst when Rocksroy obviously chooses to reverse the immunity challenge results. Jonathan, Lydia, Maryanne, Tori, Hai and Lindsay compete for individual immunity, and Tori of all people wins. Code red.
This leaves the two potential vote targets, Chanelle and Tori, both immune (thanks, Rocksroy). Now all my faves have to scramble to figure out who to send home instead. Romeo wants to vote out Jonathan. #Mood. I want Jonathan gone because I’m so over hearing about how hard it is to be a 6’4 buff white man with dreads. Hai would rather vote for Maryanne, and that’s also fine by me.
Unfortunately, Omar gets involved in the strategy and decides to make Lydia a target, as Maryanne and Jonathan are his allies. Shut up, Omar! I don’t care if this is a good strategy on Omar’s part; I like Lydia. I picked her as my Survivor crush and I see him going after her as a personal attack on me.
Given how few confessionals Lydia had, I knew his strategy would work. I accepted her fate and watched resentfully as Jeff snuffed her torch. Even Hai voted for her in the end, although he was willing to go to rocks for her a few episodes ago.
WTF do I do now? I guess I root for my other faves. I would say who those faves are, but after last week I’m afraid that putting that into writing would jinx it and they would get voted out immediately. All I’ll say is Jonathan is definitively not on that last. Blah.