After all the craziness of the infamous fake merge episode, it was time for Survivor 42 to get down to business. With eleven castaways left and the jury about to start, the three tribes officially became one and it didn’t take long for the scheming to start. However, unlike many past seasons, this season seemed to have several clear outcasts among the tribe.

The three tribes seemed more willing than the usual Survivor contestants to compare notes, and it didn’t take long for the outcasts to emerge. Chanelle was on the chopping block because of her general scheming and alliance with Daniel. Tori was an outcast because of her shadiness and general attitude problems. Maryanne’s loopiness and lack of filter made her the Taku outcast, but it didn’t seem like there was as much momentum to get rid of her as the others.

And then there was Romeo, who emerged as a major player the previous episode and didn’t look to be going away any time soon. While he wasn’t really in the loop, he also wasn’t really seen as a target – until he started worrying about who the target was, and started making himself more of a threat. It’s a pretty clear-cut example of how sometimes, the worst thing you can do in Survivor is get paranoid before you have to.

While most of the pre-merge Survivor 42 episodes didn’t have any, I was glad to see reward challenges make their return post-merge. Much like Survivor 41, this challenge had ten spots and one enforced sit-out where someone wouldn’t get to compete for the impressive reward of…PB&J. Maryanne drew the unlucky rock, but Drea immediately jumped up to volunteer since she doesn’t like the reward. It seemed suspicious, and sure enough she immediately started searching the sit-out bench and found the Knowledge is Power Advantage, which gives her the right to potentially steal an idol. Combined with her amulet, extra vote, and idol, this might just make Drea the most powerful player in Survivor history – if she knows when to use it.

Amid all this scheming and advantage-hunting, there were some chances for genuinely affecting moments, like Mike and Omar’s friendship as the older Jersey guy took advantage of the opportunity to learn about Islam. It’s a great example of how casting more diverse contestants can really create great TV. Of course, it helped that the entire tribe had pretty much agreed Tori had to go, so there was relatively little drama.

And then came immunity, a balancing competition involving balancing a buoy on two rods while on a balance beam. The tribe negotiated for rice with Jeff, resulting in four contestants – Drea, Lindsay, Maryanne, and Omar – sitting out. In the end, it came down to Tori and Jonathan with Tori winning for the second time and sending the entire tribe spiraling into chaos.

From there, it was a classic Survivor scheming frenzy. Romeo’s paranoia increased, as he reacted very strongly to Chanelle being told his name as a decoy. He was convinced this meant he was actually a target, demanding a split vote to protect him. The result was Omar starting to worry if he was too much of a wild card to keep around. While Omar pushed for switching the vote to Romeo, Mike was convinced Chanelle needed to go – mostly for personal reasons, as he was still nursing a grudge over her trying to blindside him during Daniel’s elimination. It was a messy buildup to the vote, but in the end there was one clear target – and while Romeo got votes from Maryanne, Omar, and Chanelle, and Romeo randomly voted for Hai, it was Chanelle who became the first member of the jury.

Chanelle’s boot was a good example of how trust is a fragile currency in this game. Her alliance with Daniel and her decision to risk her vote still loomed large in people’s minds, and they decided to get rid of her even over a larger threat and bigger wild card.

With ten left in the game, who’s on the chopping block next week? Based on the commercials, it’s going to be a double boot and possibly a split tribal, so who knows what the divisions will be? Below, the power rankings for week eight of Survivor 42 – as best as I can figure them out.

  1. Mike – With his biggest arch-enemy gone, Mike seems to have good relations with just about everyone in the cast. He should have no problem surviving a split tribal.
  2. Drea – Split tribals are chaotic – which means if she smells even the slightest whiff of danger, she’ll pull her idol.
  3. Hai – He’s been on the right side of both votes so far and seems to be part of the dominant alliance, so he should be able to talk his way out of any danger.
  4. Omar – Similar to Hai, he’s in a strategist position and has lot of allies. The odds are good he’ll have two people who want to protect him in any split tribal.
  5. Lindsay – Her connections aren’t quite as strong as Omar, but her threat level is moderate and she’s in a tight alliance.
  6. Jonathan – He’s a bigger target than his fellow alliance-mates, sure, but he’ll have a bigger chance to win immunity here and his alliance should have a majority at the vote.
  7. Maryanne – Of all the “outcasts”, she’s the most well-liked, but a split tribal means there could be relatively little place to hide.
  8. Rocksroy – I don’t know what to make of this guy’s game yet. He’s very isolated, and while he’s not a threat, he could easily wind up on the wrong side of the numbers.
  9. Romeo – His paranoia is bad enough in a group of ten – imagine it in a group of five.
  10. Tori – Third verse, same as the first. As soon as she loses immunity, she’s gone.
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