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A Tale of Two Merges

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Knock, knock, it’s the merge, shall we hold hands and play and be? (Well, nobody does that because that would make for a boring Survivor.) But yes, all signs are pointing to the merge, which some of the tribes desperately need. Of course, Survivor has teased a merge before and then not delivered on it, so I’m not going to get my hopes up. (Like, could Yanu get down to two tribe members? That would be insane.) Let’s find out.

Before we get into that, just a reminder that all season long I’ll be recapping every episode of Survivor 46. Make sure you subscribe to the Parting Shot podcast and my newsletter For the Culture for all things Survivor-related. (And everything else entertainment related.)

OK, so for a full breakdown of last week’s episode, read this, but in a nutshell, Yanu finally caught a break and got a win. (They had lost every single episode before last week, so they needed it.) This put Siga in the bottom. They voted out Jem in a not surprising turn of events. (She did leave with an Idol in her pocket, which honestly is so fun.)

So now we meet Siga as they return to their beach after voting Jem out. Moriah is feeling bad about being on the wrong side of the vote. She voted Ben because she wasn’t part of the move on Jem, and Ben doesn’t really seem to mind. The rest of the tribe tries to reassure her she’s a valuable tribe member. She’s feeling it to a degree—nobody wrote her name down, after all—but still, her guard is up. “Otherwise, I got a Shot in the Dark burning a hole in my pocket,” she says, referring to the advantage she can use at Tirbal Council to try and save herself.

Will she need it? We’ll see.

Survivor 46: Ep. 6
Pictured (L-R): Jeff Probst. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS

Yanu

Yanu might be down to three, but after their challenge win, they’re feeling pretty good. Before they can get too comfortable, they get news that every Survivor fan loves to see: it’s time for the merge.

The merge is one of those moments during a Survivor season I love to watch, because for me it’s when the game really starts. No longer separated by different tribes, the game suddenly becomes an individual game, and because of that, it gets more exciting. And for a tribe like Yanu, considering their numbers, they need this merge to happen like yesterday.

Siga

After Siga gets the news of the merge, they all start getting ready for the move. Moriah is ecstatic, because now she doesn’t have to worry about being at the bottom of the Siga tribe. But Tim says in a confessional that even though all the players will be together at this point, he still thinks Moriah is at the bottom.

Nami

Like the other tribes, Nami—who thus far is the only tribe not to have been to Tribal Council—is happy about the merge. For Hunter though, he needs to get to work, because he has a Beware Advantage he needs to find before the merge begins. He rushes to the first clue and it tells him the clue is near the steps at their beach. He’s coy as he digs so that others won’t see him. As Soda and Venus fight about something, he finds the key to the box. It appears he only has minutes before the boat arrives, so he rushes to unlock the box so that he can get his hidden Immunity Idol. (Oy, that was stressful.)

The Merge

Survivor 46: Ep. 6
Pictured (L-R): Hunter McKnight, Maria Gonzalez, Soda Thompson, Moriah Gaynor, Tim Spicer, and Ben Katzman. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS

Siga and Yanu arrive at their new home, the Yanu beach. They’re impressed by the state of Yanu. Thanks to MacGyver Hunter, Yanu is like a hotel, with shelter and beds. (It’s kind of insane.)

But they also know technically this isn’t the merge because they had to drop their buffs—the bandana indicating their tribe—and haven’t received new ones yet. So outside of having a clear direction, they all start to bond. (Which on Survivor is another word for plot.)

Nami’s Venus immediately goes and tries to connect with Yanu’s Tiffany and Kenzie. In fact, she’s doing a lot of talking, trying to form any kind of alliance she can. But while she’s doing that, Tevin reveals to Q that they should watch out for Venus.

Meanwhile Q had an agreement with Siga’s Tim and Nami’s Hunter to form an alliance of six, each one of them pulling in another member from their tribe: Q had Tiffany, Hunter had Tevin, and Tim had Maria. But Q is recognizing that Tim hasn’t held up his end of the bargain and informs Maria, causing Q to distrust Tim. But Tim realizes he’s in a good position with all of his alliances, and just kind of brushes it off.

Meanwhile people are catching on to Venus’ hard game plays. Moriah and Charlie chat about it, and then Charlie goes to Tim. It’s clear Venus may be playing a little too hard.

Another person playing hard is Q. First, he went for Tim, and now he’s going for Moriah. He feels she’s sneaky and should not be trusted. Meanwhile, Moriah was just sharing the information she received from Venus. I feel like Q is misreading Moriah, but that’s the fun of the merge. First perceptions can make or break your game, and right now Moriah and Venus aren’t making very good impressions.

Survivor 45 Ep. 6
Pictured (L-R): Q Burdette, Ben Katzman, Charlie Davis, Venus Vafa, Moriah Gaynor, Kenzie Veurink, Maria Gonzalez, and Liz Wilcox. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS

Immunity Challenge

Jeff starts things off by stating the obvious: they’ve got no buffs and are in Survivor limbo and they’re just going to have to stay that way for a little while longer.

Today’s challenge involves dividing the players randomly into two groups. Each group will then have to dive under a muddy net which leads to a cart. They’ll push that cart along while collecting very heavy sandbags. They’ll then use those sandbags to get them to the top of a tower. Once everyone is up top, they’ll get a bag of keys. From there they’ll slide down to the other side. But wait, there’s more! (It is Survivor after all.) From there they’ll have to climb up a massive boulder to a tower where there’s a chest waiting for them filled with puzzle pieces. Each one contains the pieces to construct one section of a three-section puzzle that contains an image of dueling dragons.

I’m exhausted from just writing all of that.

Survivor 46 Ep. 6
Pictured (L-R): Jeff Probst, Hunter McKnight, Q Burdette, Tevin Davis, Charlie Davis, Tim Spicer, Venus Vafa, Ben Katzman, Soda Thompson, Tiffany Ervin, and Moriah Gaynor. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS

The first group to finish earns their merge buff, a merge meal and immunity at Tribal Council. (However, those with immunity will still be able to cast a vote at Tribal Council.) The losing group will receive no buff, no meal, and no immunity.

In the Orange group is Charlie, Moriah, Soda, Maria, Venus and Liz. In the Purple group is Q, Ben, Kenzie, Hunter, Tim, Tiffany and Tevin.

Both teams get through the mud and push their cart at roughly the same time. Purple gets people to the tower long before Orange and begins the path up the boulder. This leads them to start the puzzle first. Eventually Orange gets up the boulder and starts the puzzle, but they’re behind Purple. Can they pull it out?

Well, plot twist, Purple catches up on the puzzle. It’s neck-and-neck in the end, with Purple bringing out the big guns: Hunter and Q. Charlie and Venus try and bring it home for Orange, but it’s not enough to overtake Purple’s comeback from behind. Purple wins immunity, their merge buff and, of course, that meal.

Purple might have won, but they all go back to camp together. While they’re safe from being voted out at Tribal Council, they’ll still be part of the camp strategy for the upcoming Tribal Council, because they all have a vote.

While the Orange teams is still in that merge limbo, creating a tale of two merges, if you will. For the winners it’s a great day, but for those on the precipice of a merge, they’re so close they can taste it. (While the Purple literally can taste it, because of their meal. Survivor is just evil.)

But this is why I love the merge so much, because it sets up exciting scenarios like this.

Pre-Tribal

Moriah and Venus are in the hot seats. The Q faction wants Moriah out, but Tim wants Venus out. Charlie and Tim plot to find a way to save Moriah, but Charlie is concerned it might backfire and he’s willing to vote Moriah if it means he’s in the clear.

The Q side of the new tribe tells Venus she needs to vote Moriah tonight if she wants to say. It’s Q, Tiffany, Liz and Venus strategizing to take Moriah out, but Venus quickly recognizes that it might not work. She figures if everybody is gunning for Moriah or her, split the vote and take out a man: Charlie. (Didn’t see this one coming.) She starts her campaign.

Survivor 46: Ep. 6
Pictured (L-R): Charlie Davis and Tevin Davis. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Voets/CBS

She goes to Soda and Kenzie and drops the Charlie bomb. But Kenzie isn’t on board and goes to Q and Tevin to drop this information. It surprises them, and Q changes course because he feels like Venus went against him and his plan to take out Moriah. So now he’s team vote out Venus.

Can Venus survive this? Let’s find out.

Tribal Council

It’s a big one now that everybody gets to go to Tribal Council. (As I said before, this is when it gets good baby.)

Venus makes it clear from the get-go that she wants to play a women vs men game. She calls some of the male players, “the kings of the castle,” openly challenging them. Hunter tries to make sense of the strategy, but honestly it kind of feels all over the place. Moriah makes it clear that she knows she’s at the bottom of her old tribe and knows she can’t rely on them for votes. Q challenges her and the two of them seem to get to a good place.

The vibe becomes that Yanu will be the decision maker: will they align with Siga or with Nami? It’s interesting because Yanu was on the bottom for so long, so for them to be in a position of power is exciting. (All three members, Q, Tiffany and Kenzie, have immunity tonight.)

Right after everyone votes, Moriah decides to play her Shot in the Dark advantage. Unfortunately, it’s “Not Safe,” meaning all votes against her will be counted. When Jeff starts reading the votes, it seems like it’s going to be an overwhelming vote for Moriah, and in the end, it turns out to be an overwhelming vote for Moriah. (See what I did there? You thought I was going to go in a different direction. Oh Survivor, such fun.)

Jeff hands the players without immunity their buffs and now everyone is officially merged.

Like I said, merge episodes are always fun because it’s really when the game starts. It’s also when you start to see new alliances form which can dictate the direction of the game. That said, was this the best merge episode in Survivor history? No. But it certainly wasn’t bad. I’m hoping some of the frictions between Venus and the men shape out more, because if it does devolve into a women vs men game, well, that’s just good TV.

Who Needs to Get Snuffed?

See now, this puts me in a tough spot, because now I want a few of them to leave. Like I wouldn’t be mad at Q leaving—like Venus, I’m not sure I support his game play—but I also wouldn’t mind Venus leaving. I’m torn.

Who Should be the Sole Survivor?

There’s something about the way Charlie is strategizing that has me excited. I’m intrigued to see where he goes with this his game play.

Watch Survivor every Wednesday on CBS or anytime on Paramount+ to follow along as I react to every episode this season.