Pre-credit sequence. When we left, Aparri had decided to keep Jeremiah over Alexis. Everybody is very taken aback by Alexis crying after her elimination, though Spencer is feeling OK about the vote and about the cohesion of his six-person tribe. Sarah wants to have two fast targets in case there's a Merge the very next morning and the agreement seems to be that either Trish or Jefra should be the votes. They put their hands together and celebrate Final 6. For a tribe that just lost two straight challenges and that only has a one-person number advantage, there's a lot of smugness. “The best laid plans often end up sprawled out on a murder scene floor,” Kass says colorfully and portentously. For some reason, Kass thinks it's good strategy to tell Sarah that she and Jeremiah are the only people she worries about, loyalty-wise. “People don't like to be called a liar and pretty much I got called a liar without being called a liar,” Sarah grumbles. “When I know that you guys think that I'm teetering, that's going to push me away,” Sarah says. Sarah and Kass shake hands and they agree they're good. Kass points out that Sarah has only voted with her once, so she hasn't proven anything. “Show me blood on your hand from a former tribe mate and then we'll talk,” Kass declares, colorfully again.
And I owe it all to you. Morning arrives. It's quite beautiful. “Day 17 and I'm having the time of my life,” Tony says, but he adds that he's getting bored. Fortunately, Tree-Mail tells them to pack up and head over to Aparri for the next 22 days. “It's an exciting thing and it's a nerve-wracking thing at the same time,” LJ says. He has an Idol, though. Tony also has an Idol, which he thinks will work as an extra member of his alliance. I'd forgotten that Solana had both Idols. Tony is prepared to give away the Idol if he needs to, or at least that's what he says.
Snap. Who's got the power? Aparri gets Tree-Mail saying that they're getting guests. “I think it's a Merge. I hope it's a Merge,” says Spencer, suggesting it might only be a One World situation. Spencer promises nobody will forget the “Us against Them” dynamic. Solana arrives in a fancy rowboat. “It was like that friend that you had in high school who you haven't talked to in years,” says Sarah of the people she hasn't talked to for four or five days after knowing them for maybe 10 days. Aparri comes with extra food. Introductions are exchanged. Jefra's sad that Alexis is gone. “Oh snap. What do we do now?” is Jefra's thought. Another Idol with different powers is hidden near the camp. Ah. This is the famous Tyler Perry Idol? Tony's ready to spend days trying to find that Special Idol. They get black buffs and they go with Solarrion as their new name. Spencer thinks he's in the driver's seat. Ah, cockiness. Tony is a bit less cocky and he thinks he's doomed if Sarah doesn't flip.
Top of the world, Ma. It's yoga time at Solarrion, with Trish's coaching. Tony, LJ and Woo debate the identity of the head-of-the-snake and decide it's The Brains, as a collective head. If they were Brains, they might call it a hydra. They're not. So they don't. As we already knew, this is all about Sarah. “I'm hoping Sarah's the missing link to this,” Tony says, before going to Sarah and asking where she stands. “I'm floating,” Sarah says. Tony makes a predictable case, with the logical big promises. Tony demands Sarah swear on her badge to target either Spencer or Kass. She's not ready to. “It's a Sarah Sandwich. It's perfect,” Sarah gloats. “It truly is a predicament,” Sarah says, figuring she's deciding the fate of the game. The Aparris, specifically Jeremiah, suspect LJ might have an Idol, so that complicates the very first vote. Sarah specifically doesn't want to target Trish, because she's not a threat, but more than that? Sarah doesn't want people disagreeing with her. “The last thing you want to do is piss me off,” she smirks, but tells Kass that she refuses to go along with Trish. “I can do whatever I want,” she says, vowing to vote out anybody who tests her. “I don't trust the cop,” Kass says frankly. “It lets me know she's not in the six, she's in the one,” Kass adds. Interesting. Sarah keeps getting smugger and smugger. “Who made her queen? I can't even look at her. I just want to punch her sometimes,” Kass says.
Hobbitses. Tony and Woo are fishing. Sarah takes a throne and starts complaining about how people are only talking to her because they want her vote. Off to the side, Trish is getting all Gollum as she sees the disagreement and senses the ability to reclaim Sarah as Her Precious. Tasha has to play peacemaker between Sarah and Kass, going so far as to announce, “I can see both sides.” Tasha is good at this, not that the increasingly irrational Kass would know that, as she accuses her fellow brain of taking Sarah's side. Kass is right about Sarah, but she's wrong about every bit of how she's handling this. Kass has now decided that Tasha is against her. It's all weird and entertaining.
Pyramid scheme. There's a brand new Individual Immunity necklace. The challenge requires players to balance on triangular platforms balanced on increasingly precarious footholds in the middle of the water. My instinct is that if ever a challenge were tailored for Yoga Queen Trish, this would be it. And this is exactly the sort of challenge that never benefits men, with wider feet and different centers of gravity. “There's nothing fun about this. A lot of pain,” Tony says. After 30 minutes, they're atop the pyramids. Spencer, Kass, LJ, Sarah, Jefra, Tasha and Trish go out fast. Morgan goes out next. So my theories on this challenge were entirely wrong. It's down to Tony and Woo. Both weeble. Both wobble. But it's Tony who falls down first, yelling “Good luck, Woo!” as he goes out.
Shall we play a game? Bats! Lots of bats, man! I miss monkeys. Where my tarsiers at? Back from challenge, everybody doing the smart thing for health and hydration, namely swigging rum from the bottle. Sarah is still going on and on about this being her choice. As of now, she's sticking with Aparri, because she thinks the other side has stronger competitors and she wants to align with weakness. “I will make the decision on who goes home next,” Sarah announces, declaring herself president. El Presidente and her five minions huddle in the water and Spencer suggests taking out Jefra because he's confident she doesn't have an Idol and nobody would use one on her. Sarah thinks none of them have Idols and she doesn't respect Jefra. She wants either LJ or Tony out. The Solana group is worried about Sarah, but Tony remains convinced he can still sway Sarah. Trish is convinced that she can get Kass, which is just plain silly. “I can guarantee Tony doesn't have an Idol,” Sarah says stupidly and everybody agrees. “I know she's about to destroy the game. If she's going to destroy the game, I want to have the preemptive strike. I want to destroy it,” Kass says. Tony offers Sarah Top 3 and warns her that they'll be able to knock her out after this vote, because they won't need her. “Listen, stupid. I know this. I'm not an idiot. Getting rid of Tony is nothing personal,” Sarah says, calling it a compliment to boot him. Sarah tells Tony that she won't decide until Tribal Council and that he shouldn't worry. Tony vows not to go home with the Idol.
Chaos Kass. Now it's time for Trish to make her pitch to Kass. Trish tells Kass that she's been replaced and that she's bottom-of-the-barrel and all sorts of other stuff. Trish and Kass agree that if they could take anybody out, it would be Sarah. “Maybe they're smarter than I think,” Kass says, suddenly interested. Trish is feeling cocky and goes to her alliance and they all agree that Sarah's their vote. Trish tells Kass about the Sarah vote and vows to take care of her. And Kass has decided that she's the swing vote now, which I guess is true.
Tribal Council. “I feel like I'm in the hottest seat in town right now,” LJ says, declaring himself the biggest threat in the game. “He should be worried,” Tasha agrees. Tony says that you should move forward with an alliance of comfort, not numbers. Spencer is incredulous. LJ talks in circles about how no Idols have appeared, pretending there might not be any. “There's Idols. Cuz I got one,” Tony says. “You wanna pull it out?” Spencer challenges. Tony does, indeed, whip out his Idol and puts it around his neck. Sarah has gone dead in the eyes. “The other one,” Tasha says and the other Aparris agree. “Same!” the Solana members announce. That was fun. Probst is done with talking and he sends everybody off to vote.
The vote. We don't see a single vote and there's a solid chunk of time left in this episode. Tallying time! Will Tony do anything with Idol? Yes. He asks Jeff to validate the Idol and he gives it to LJ. Morgan rolls her eyes. “Let's see if I read these people correctly,” Tony says. But then… HA! “I'd like to cover Tony's ass myself,” LJ says, whipping out an Idol and giving it to Tony. The Solana members love it. Probst tallies: JEFRA! Oh Lordy. That's awesome. Everybody on Solana immediately knows they blew it. Tasha has a huge smile on her face. Sarah. Jefra. Sarah. Jefra. Sarah. Jefra. Sarah. Jefra. Sarah. SARAH. Holy cow. Spencer is astounded. Jefra goes from crying with sadness to crying with happiness in the blink of an eye. “Who flipped?” Sarah asks. And everybody knows it was Kass. “Thank you,” Jefra says. “We lost two Immunity Idols, but we'll get 'em back again,” Tony says. “Zero chance of winning the game,” Spencer snorts. “Long way to go,” Kass replies. “It is clear that this was a shocking vote,” Probst says, superfluously. “I don't know why Kass flipped, but they got me good,” Sarah says.
Bottom Line, I. Really, Sarah? You don't know why Kass flipped? Really? I'm not sure if I've ever seen a blindsided contestant give the “Survivor” editors more footage for the “hubris” edit than Sarah did in this episode. I mean, we're talking a “I'm Homer Simpson, the most powerful food critic in town, who will never get his comeuppance! You hear me? No comeuppance!” level of hubris. Over and over and over again. She may have dubbed herself a smart cop and a great interrogator at the start of the game, but Sarah read Tony poorly and she read Kass even worse. And she was so certain that the vote was 5-and-5-and-1 that she never stopped to consider that she wasn't guaranteed by birthright the position of swing vote. I said this last week and I'll say it again: I don't get why consideration wasn't given to voting Sarah out last week and eliminating this nonsense. I don't know if Alexis would or wouldn't have flipped — she swore to me she wouldn't have, but whatever — but I'm reasonably sure she didn't have that same “I'm the Queen of the World” streak Sarah exhibited.
Bottom Line, II. Speaking of misreading, of course, everybody misread Kass and her insecurity. On one hand, I thought Tasha played Sarah exactly right, but Tasha had to know to secure Kass better and apparently she didn't. Did Tasha have no memory at all of the Garrett vote? You may think Kass is with you, but Kass requires a deceptive amount of ego-stroking and upkeep. I don't know how Tasha and Spencer weren't able to go to Kass and say, “You know we're still the Final 3. We just have to keep Sarah happy for one week and then we can go nuts on her.” That Tribal Council was everything Tasha and Spencer possibly could have hoped for. They had their backup plan firmly in place. Tony showed his hand. Tony misread their intentions. LJ misread their intentions. Solana had three players protected by Idols, but the votes were going to a fourth player. It was flawless. They got rid of a worthless piece on the other side, but they reduced the numbers and flushed two Idols. You can't have a better night than that. But somehow they forgot to reassure Kass that she was properly loved. So Kass flipped. And she flipped for the exact same reasons that Cochran flipped in his ill-fated season. She felt bullied. She found somebody who reassured her that she didn't need to feel bullied. Trish played the Coach role and she didn't have to do nearly as much hand-holding as Coach had to do. Spencer told Kass that she can't win now and, at least on the surface, that seems to be true. Kass had better hope she's got another flip in her, because it feels like she did exactly what Sarah avoided: She flipped to an alliance of stronger people. And realistically, was Kass any worse than third on her Tribe? Without putting her neck on the chopping block voluntarily, there never would have been a reason for anybody to target her. The Brains make a few more eliminations, get to Aparri six and then it would have been easy to target Jeremiah and then to blindside Spencer. And from there? Who knows. But there was no reason for her to think she'd lost any End-Game position to Sarah just because Sarah was Queen for a Day. Dunno.
Bottom Line, III. The season's Evil Genius narrative may have flipped in this episode. It was Evil Genius Tony coming in, but Tony was putting all of his eggs in the Sarah basket. Left to his own devices, he would have been smug and assumed he could use the Idol to escape. Trish pulled Kass. Just as Trish pushed Lindsey out of the game. Just as Trish was the architect of the plan to vote Cliff out, even if Tony was the deciding vote there. But both Trish and Tony can play the “mastermind” card if the other is eliminated. Kass can't beat either of them on a sure-to-be-hostile Jury. So she'd better have an alternative plan. I dislike Trish and find her scary, but credit where credit's due. You see a weakness. You work the weakness. And you capitalize on the weakness. And she did.
Bottom Line, IV. Great Tribal Council. Perhaps an all-time great Tribal Council. It's not Parvati and the Idols or Amanda and the Idol, but it's great. The swing of emotions on Jefra's very expressive face made the entire episode. Tony's smug! LJ's smug! Jefra's crestfallen! Tasha's smug! Sarah's stunned! Jefra's The Most Grateful Girl In The World. I don't remember the last Tribal Council vote that was followed by that much post-elimination chatter. Everybody had something to say. Good times. Well played, “Survivor.”
So who was smart? Who blew it? Did Kass do the right thing?