Three-time U.S. Olympian Elizabeth Beisel is part of the cast of the 39th season of CBS’s reality TV show ‘Survivor.’ We’ll be recapping her game weekly… as long as she survives. ‘Survivor‘ is, of course, an edited, pared-down television program that condenses roughly three full days of on-island time into a one-hour program. There’s always more context to what we see, but our commentary is merely to have fun with what we’re shown, not to drag on any specific contestants.
There was a ton of ugliness last episode, and everyone is dealing with the fallout. Lifeguard instructor Janet (kind of a swimming-adjacent player and a bit of a surrogate favorite for SwimSwam fans souring on Beisel after last week) considers herself a free agent after burning her immunity idol, and the tribe endures a brutal night of storms. Beisel is struggling hard, but reiterates that she’s not willing to quit due to the elements.
Another tribe member, though, Karishma, is struggling harder, and failing to contribute around camp. That’s rubbing a lot of players the wrong way. And Karishma herself says she’s being viewed as a “goat” – in Survivor, that’s a player who isn’t very well-liked, and is generally fairly easy to beat in the final vote.
Karishma finds a hidden immunity idol, which is going to throw a wrench into some plans.
Challenge & A Split-Tribal Twist
The challenge is straightforward enough – a mix of balance and endurance. But host Jeff Probst drops a big twist: the tribe is being divided into two groups, who will compete for separate immunities and will each vote out a player separately. These kinds of twists really shake up the game when there’s a clear-cut majority, making the margins a lot thinner. They can also lead to some unpredictable votes.
(Conspiracy theory: this twist feels like a good way to get Dan booted, if production is concerned about their own liability as long as he remains on the island.)
— SURVIVOR (@survivorcbs) November 21, 2019
Things divide up very well for Beisel. She gets randomly drawn into a group with arguably her two closest allies: Air Force vet Missy and factory worker Elaine. That trio is the clear majority in the five-person mix. They’ve got a working relationship with Tommy, and a very easy boot candidate in Karishma.
Janet is probably the most likely vote in her own group. She and Noura are roughly on the outs, though Noura seems to have better connections with the majority. The four-person Dan/Lauren/Aaron/Dean bloc appears to be the majority here.
Beisel is the second one out in a challenge that doesn’t really play to her skillset. Her ally Elaine wins immunity and a PB&J meal reward for the group. Still, with Karishma likely playing an idol, Beisel now basicaly has a one-in-three shot at going home tonight.
Noura wins immunity on the other side, but gives up on the PB&J reward because she didn’t pay good enough attention to Jeff’s instructions. Swimming comparison: a team that does a set entirely in full butterfly because they were talking when the coach said they could substitute one-arm fly.
The two groups are split between two beaches, so they can’t compare notes before Tribal Council. Janet’s group is kicking around some counterplans – most notably to vote out strong physical threat Aaron. That’s not great for Beisel for two reasons: (1) Aaron is a longtime ally and (2) a shift to voting out physical threats can’t be good for the known Olympian of the bunch.
Missy tries to enact some sort of master plan to vote out Tommy, saving Karishma. But Missy’s complete lack of social tact turns what should have been the easiest conversation with Karishma in the world (“Hey, we want to keep you in the game” would have sufficed) into a confrontation.
Karishma and Elaine hatch a counterplan to boot Missy. And Beisel is left out of the plan. Missy has long been a volatile ally for Beisel – they’re both young and competitive, but their strength has made them overly aggressive and prone to mistakes. They try to swing Karishma later, but it seems like they don’t do a great job making her feel comfortable.
Tribal Council #1
This is the Janet group. They talk a lot about voting out Janet, then turn around and boot Aaron, the powerplayer who hadn’t lost immunity yet since the merge. Good news for Janet, but bad news for Beisel, who loses an ally and moves up the threat list, at least as a challenge competitor.
Tribal Council #2
Beisel is immediately shook to see Aaron on the jury. You can almost see the game unraveling for Beisel and Missy, who have generally stayed in good position strategically most of the way to this point. Missy complains about being labeled a bully, insinuating that it’s fair to vote someone out for game reasons, but making things personal is a step too far. There’s certainly some level of irony there after last week, when it was Missy and Beisel effectively portraying Dan as a creep for what they later characterized as gameplay reasons.
Karishma holds onto her immunity idol, now essentially the swing vote between two plans. She votes out Missy, who seems to take the loss pretty hard. Beisel looks completely lost. Her two best allies were knocked out in total blindsides, and she’s now clearly an outsider from the majority powers. She also gets a mandate from Missy: that Beisel take revenge on Elaine. There’s going to be plenty of targets for revenge… just not many potential co-conspirators with just nine players remaining.