What a shocker (not); the women's alliance folded after a single vote. After spending so much time weighing Scot's options after Nick's vote out, I was really dissappointed to see him go with one that I hadn't even considered--the temper tantrum. But there was more than enough to talk about in this episode, so let's get into it.
Bullies Turned Babies.
After last vote, it was clear to the boys that Cydney had turned on them, leading an all-girls (plus Joe) alliance which left Tai/Scot/Jason at the bottom. Instead of choosing any of their rational, level-headed moves, they took a page straight out of the Russell Hantz playbook and decided to hide the machete to starve out the women. When the resourceful, optimistic women didn't let that get them down, Scot decided to escalate his plan straight into crazy town with an upgrade from Russell to Brandon Hantz as he poured out an entire tank of water onto the fire in front of everyone.
If the alliance against the men hadn't been solidified yet, this seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. At the reward challenge, Jeff picked up on this tension and allowed them to choose their teams. Joe agreed to be the one to sit out, betting on the women to win the challenge. Tai, Jason, and Scot needed one of the women to come to their team. Julia volunteered, leading many of the other women to speculate about her loyalty to the women. The men (unsurprisingly) won the challenge. Back at camp, Aubry and Cydney hatched a scheme to blindside Julia, hoping to flush at least one idol and eliminate the woman most likely to play both sides. Plans were foiled when Julia managed to pull out a win in the immunity challenge, forcing them to switch their target onto Debbie after she proved too stubborn in wanting to vote Jason out of the game. At tribal council Jason, Scot, and Tai put on a skit showing off their two idols, forming them into a super idol, and leaving it in Tai's possession. Debbie was sent home and the idols remain in the game.
MVP Scot: The Ethically Questionable Power Player.
Honestly, I don't want to name anyone an MVP of this episode. While many players were clearly playing and playing hard, none of them were really playing very smart. I was close to awarding MVP to Aubry, but she made a bad call as soon as Julia won immunity (more on this later). I hate having to name Scot as MVP because he picked such a horrible plan, but--just like everything else so far in this season--his random, rough-around-the-edges plan has worked out surprisingly well for him. For a professional athlete, he sure seems to be a poor sport. He has so many options coming out of this vote (for more on that, read my post from last week here), but instead of choosing one which will keep him in a strong, positive alliance he and Jason returned to their tendencies from the beginning of brawn tribe. It seems to be a strange power play, a show of outward aggression and bullying as a method to gain power. It kind of worked (on Julia at least) but while this might be a short term successful plan, it's never going to get them the money at the end. They're doing a surprisingly good job of setting themselves up for others wanting to bring them to the end, but that would take a nice person choosing to work with clearly despicable players when one of the big lessons of this season is players value trust and loyalty.
Julia: Filling the Nick Void.
We really haven't seen much out of Julia yet. She had no character establishment and virtually no screen time all the way into the tribe swap. She had the chance to get a bit of air time when she was stuck in the unfortunate position of being solo on brawn beach for a few days. I was definitely impressed with the way in which Julia was able to really hit the ground running when she joined Gondol. Everyone wanted to work with her and no one really saw her as a threat. What makes me nervous is that I see a familiar narrative emerging. Peter plots about voting out Joe in front of everyone at Gondol (while still trying to play as the majority brains alliance) and then gets voted out. Nick gets overconfident, playing both sides by staying in the majority alliance while telling Aubry about how the majority will be voting that night, then gets blindsided. Julia seems to be stepping into the void left by the pompous, overconfident majority members--playing multiple sides out in the open before they get blindsided when their loyalty comes into question. This is what spells out danger for Julia to me--this season's players seem to be all about getting rid of "untrustworthy" players which suggests that even if she gets to the end, she might not be able to pull votes.
Aubry: So Close, Yet So Far.
There was no doubt that Neal's exit (along with his idol) left Aubry in a difficult place; however, she's done a great job of pulling herself out of a sticky situation, fighting for her place in this game. Things were looking great for her after the all girls vote last week. At the start of this episode she seemed to be progressing well, making a series of great decisions. I loved her choice to align closely to Cydney, realizing she needs to stick close to someone she trusts (even if that means moving a bit away from her original brains alliance). Further proving she's willing to consider options outside of the expected, Aubry had the ballsy but great idea to vote out Julia. The girls probably thought (before seeing for sure at this week's tribal) that there's at least one idol and that the boys might be using this as an opportunity to play it. It made sense to consider booting Julia after she was so obviously playing both sides and in the process potentially flush an idol; however, I did not agree with her decision to off Debbie. The boy's idols are scaring them, but the longer the girls wait to force the boys to play their idols, the more likely they'll wait too long and lose the majority. If Julia IS planning on going with the guys, Aubry and Cydney's choice to cut Debbie makes it that much easier for Julia and the guys to overthrow Aubry and Cydney. I understand Cydney not wanting to change the plan (as it seems pretty obvious that the guys would be gunning for her if they chose to play their idol), but Aubry doesn't have nearly as much to lose. She'd off Cydney (meaning she could get rid of one of her biggest strategic threats without it even seeming like Aubry was responsible for the vote) AND eliminate both of the idols, probably making the idea of going with the guys less appealing to Julia too. Poor form, Aubry. I don't see this working out well for you.
Debbie: Done In By Her Inflexibility.
This week, we lost a real character. Debbie was kooky and unlike anyone we've ever seen, really. She easily lasted longer than most kooky older women (who often don't survive even the very first tribal). She was physically strong, a little strange, and smart as a whip...in some respects. What eventually did her in was a lack of willingness to entertain plans that didn't align with her own, a kiss of death in an ever-changing game like survivor. If she'd lasted through this vote, chances are she would have gotten offed sooner rather than later. Alliances never last as long as you'd like them do and so being willing to consider how to make the best moves in the moment which will keep you in the majority vote is an important skill that Debbie must not have picked up in her colorful menagerie of jobs. Debbie, you will be missed, but I KNOW we haven't seen the last of you.