Long-awaited merge makes for good TV on 'Survivor: Gabon'

Randybailey_survivorgabonearthslast All right! Now things are getting interesting around here! Double blindsides, power swings, and the impending merge have given new life to this previously dull season. Let's hope the rest of Survivor: Gabon lives up to the promise of last week's episode. A clear favorite is yet to emerge and the true natures of some of this season's survivors are still secret. The power vacuum in the old Kota alliance, the extent of Sugar's gamesmanship, and Kenny's ability to rally tribe members to his side are all big question marks. Hopefully, we will have these question marks turn into exclamation points in the coming weeks.

Losers rejoice.
Kota returns to camp after the vote, and Crystal, Susie and Ken are quite proud of the feat they achieved in voting off Marcus. Ken feels firmly in control of his tribe. As Bob dryly points out -- the science teacher may be history. Yes Bob, that is a joke, and don't think that I won't steal it for a recap at some point in the future.

Mount Randy, ready to blow. Matty is pacing his camp like a caged bull. He's eager for a merge to change his fortunes. Tree mail comes and the clues indicate that the upcoming challenge will involve golf balls and sling shots. As the tribes gather for the challenge, Fang sees that Marcus has been voted off. Predictably, Corinne and Charlie take the news very hard. Corinne doesn't think Marcus deserved to be voted off. I'll have to check the Survivor Bill of Rights, but I think her legal point might be contestable.

At stake in the challenge is a cultural reward in the form of a visit to a Gabonese village.  Tribes must fire super-sized golf balls across an improvised course and into holes. The tribe which takes the fewest number of shots to get their ball in the hole, wins the hole. Best two out of three holes wins reward. The tribes are tied up after two holes, and stay close as they both approach the final hole. Kenny over-shoots the hole, opening the door for Fang. Fang couldn't be closer to the hole for their final shot, but that doesn't stop Randy and Matty from arguing about how the shot should be played. After a tense moment, the loggerheads finally knock the ball in and Fang wins a challenge. Even after the win, Randy is still fuming over Matty's perceived poor teamwork.

Fang chooses Bob for the trip to Exile Island. Corinne hopes that he will be able to find an immunity idol there and save himself should Kota go to vote again. Bob's own fate is in his hands, perhaps. That's about the best he could have asked for.

Faux-mmunity.
Fang arrives at an African village for their reward where they are bathed and clothed by the villagers. Matty is enjoying a win after a long string of Fang losses. Charlie and Corinne are still bumming about the departure of Marcus when the villagers lighten the mood by getting everyone up and dancing.

Meanwhile, back at Kota, Ken gets his boat stuck on a branch in the water - I kid you not. Despite his insufficient seamanship, he does manage to bring home three fish for his hungry mates. Ken is feeling pretty strong, and happy about the fact that he is at camp with three women. Frankly, Ken gives the impression that he'd be happy to be with any woman anywhere. I guess there's something to be said for not being too choosy.

Bob searches for an immunity idol, but the clues lead him to a dead end. Apparently, Sugar's idol is the only one in the game. Undeterred, Bob fashions his own idol from found materials. It actually doesn't look that bad, and I'm sure Eliza from last season would be pleased that it isn't JUST A STICK! It should be good fun seeing how he plays it.

Ready, set, merge! Tree mail predicts that a fire-starting contest will determine immunity. Randy predicts that if it's an individual challenge, Crystal is sure to lose. Randy sure as hell does have a beef with this woman. Maybe Jerry Springer can host the reunion show.

At the challenge, tribes are dissolved and merged. New buffs are handed out (Bob makes a snappy bow tie out of his) and the fire-making contest is indeed going to be for individual immunity. Our nine heroes get to work, with Susie and Sugar the first to get their flames going. The race quickly narrows down to the two ladies and the flames start licking at Susie's string first. The string breaks, Susie wins, and she is safe from the vote. Randy believes that either he or Crystal will be the next member of the jury.

A spoonful of Sugar. The new tribe returns to old camp Fang after the merge to find refreshed food supplies and they chow down. Before long, Charlie and Randy set Crystal as their target, and they realize that they need Sugar's vote to get her out. The Kota 4 go to work on Sugar, and she appears to be swayed. Kenny's alliance indentify Charlie and Corinne as the major threats, and Kenny's personal grudge against Charlie dominates the debate. They pitch their alliance to Sugar, who soon believes that she can't trust either side. Well, she certainly shouldn't be trusting Kota 4, but her fortunes don't look that much better with team Kenny. Still, she has the idol.

Charlieherschel_survivorgabonearths At tribal, Jeff probes Randy's behavior at the reward challenge and attitude towards Crystal. Randy blames Crystal for Fang's early losses, and she and GC for introducing a ghetto atmosphere to Fang's first incarnation. IMO, Randy is doing himself no favors with his rants; even Randy's own alliance doesn't appreciate his inflammatory comments. Randy next calls out Kenny as a threat, and Sugar acknowledges that the excessive amount of time she's spent in exile has detached her from either faction. She thinks long and hard before writing a name down. Crystal gets four quick votes, but Charlie's name comes out four times in a row as well. Jeff reads the final name, and Sugar has (for now) allied herself with Ken. Charlie heads home.

Wow, Randy's kind of a dick! Maybe a racist dick, maybe even a sexist dick. We'll just have to see how far his dickitude ranges. Not that I'm a big Crystal fan, but overwhelmingly negative attitudes have a way of being punished on Survivor -- there is little reward for being a dick. On the flipside, dicks are more fun to watch. Dicks make the game interesting and unpredictable. The table has been laid -- Kota 3 on one side and the Super Smash Bros. crew on the other, with Sugar in the middle. Her decision to weaken the alliance with which she has (arguably) the least chance of getting to the final four with was a move in the right direction. Playing them against the other alliance, breaking off pieces of both to form her own alliance would convince me that she does know what she's doing, and that more than luck has got her into the position that she currently enjoys.

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