How much fun is the merge? All the alliances and enmities that have been brewing for 21 days are suddenly unleashed. Benry wants Alina out. Alina wants Marty out. Marty wants Jane out. Jane wants Marty out. Brenda wants Alina out, but is worried about how much Marty wants Jane out. Fabio wants NaOnka out. And NaOnka wants her fair share of the food – which is apparently all of it.
In an episode that saw enough plots and counter-plots to fill an Agatha Christie novel, ultimately it was grade A dirt squirrel Alina who got the boot. And for orchestrating her ouster, keeping his allies safe, and maintaining his word to Marty, Sash wins this week's Fishy award.
Let's start with the big question. Has NaOnka gone crazy? Just as the votes seem to be lining up against Alina, NaOnka decides to steal the tribe's food. Why? Because Fabio ate too big a piece of the pancake?
Stealing food in a survival situation should be the ultimate sin. But even more surprising than NaOnka's actions is the tribe's response. Only Marty and Fabio get indignant. The rest of the tribe merely shrugs.
The episode highlights an evolution in the game of Survivor. At one point in distant Survivor history, contestants at least pretended to care about who "deserved" to be in the game. Keeping a weak player or a jury goat is a long-established strategy, but normally it would at least be met with disapproval.
This season is all about game. NaOnka stole food – and the contestants hardly blink. "You would think that having done what she did, would be like – you're gone," Marty says. "But anybody that's on the chopping block can be valuable to somebody else."
Maybe this is Russell's enduring legacy. The game's most celebrated player lied about being in Katrina and burned people's socks. Suddenly any action becomes just a part of an elaborate series of feints.
What sets Sash apart is how he takes advantage of those feints. NaOnka's disgrace makes her the perfect ally. "[This] pretty much guarantees her that she's not going to receive any million dollar votes," he says.
Sash tells the rest of the tribe to keep their distance from NaOnka, but then personally draws her closer. "You're my number one girl here," he tells her.
Sash again uses his influence for his own advantage when he saves Marty. When Jane's crusade against Marty looks like it might actually work, Sash steps in and tells his allies to spare Marty one vote. "I gave [Marty] my word," Sash says. "I don't want to start to break promises."
Basically, Sash is arguing that they should keep Marty around so that he can lock up Marty's jury vote. If anybody else was seriously thinking about the end game, alarms would be going off. Sash just gave you the perfect reason to vote Marty off. But nobody has both the will and the insight to stand up to Sash.
At Tribal Council, Marty makes one last ditch effort to get himself voted out by going on a long anti-Jane invective. But the votes are already stacked. "It's either you or me, tonight," Alina says in her voting confessional. "So let the best argument win."
But this season of Survivor isn't about arguments or reason. Right now, it's all about Sash.
Tell Us: Did Libertad make the right choice? And what is a "dirt squirrel"?