As the two tribes prepared for the upcoming merge on Survivor, Wednesday's episode was all about alliances. The hour opened with a little bit of handwringing at the Bikal tribe over Matt's elimination last week.
"Tribal Council sucked," Michael admitted. "Matt's been my boy since Day One and now I'm totally on my own."
Not totally, though. Corinne, of course, was intent on saving Michael (her Gay). Phillip, on the other hand, was gunning for Corinne — until Cochran convinced him that it would be a bad move to eliminate one of the "Core Six" before the merge, since it would call into question their loyalty with the other Favorites.
With Tree Mail indicating that the episode's first challenge would rely on strength, everyone in the Bikal camp was understandably worried. ("Tree Mail says you have to be strong in the challenge," Corinne noted. "We're all looking around like, 'That sucks.'") Except for Phillip, that is, who asserted that his upper body strength could single-handedly win the challenge for the team and challenged Cochran to an arm wrestle. "I may be old, but I still have game," Phillip promised.
He may have spoken too soon. Phillip singlehandedly lost the reward challenge, which involved the tribes chasing each other in the water while carrying bags of sand. First, he instructed the team to walk rather than running ("The girls will tire"). Then, as the Gota tribe gained on them, Phillip finally admitted that he was unable to run with the sandbag and promptly fell down in the water.
Though Gota won handily, the loss did result in this gem of a quote from Dawn about the prize of a coffee, pastry and cookie bar on a nearby island: "They're gonna get sick. It's not a big deal. That's a diarrhea fest." Kudos for finding a silver lining, Dawn!
Digestive issues aside, the coffee bar proved to be a great bonding experience for Gota. As Andrea noted, it was the first time the Fans had ever won a reward challenge, and Eddie, Reynold and Sherri made the most of it. "I want to get as close to them as possible before, you know, I vote them out," Andrea admitted frankly.
Their newfound closeness also prompted Malcolm to team up with the other three "alpha males" — Reynold, Eddie and Erik — ahead of the merge. Knowing that they would be the first targets of a single tribe, the four decided to form an alliance. Reynold immediately told Malcolm that he had the immunity idol, but Malcolm, who has the other one, wisely didn't reciprocate. "In a game where you cannot trust anybody ... you have to rely on your instincts," Reynold said. "This will be the one that is the nail in the coffin for me if I'm wrong."
Meanwhile, over at Bikal, Cochran was getting frustrated with Phillip's arrogance, but even more so with the rivalry between Phillip and Corinne. "There's so much fracture and division within the Favorites in this tribe, it's like a death sentence," he said. But he still planned to cast his vote for Julia, with this amaznig explanation: "Julia is such a nonentity out here. I'm tempted to say that she has like a vanilla personality, but I feel like that would be doing a great disservice to the flavor vanilla. I mean, people actively seek out vanilla-flavored products. Children clamor to get a vanilla ice cream cone. Nobody's clamoring for anything Julia-flavored, except for Phillip."
Phillip, once again, was clamoring to form an alliance with Julia and recruiting her to be a "double agent." He briefly succeeded, but Julia quickly fell out of his favor by telling Dawn that she felt "a bit bullied" by Phillip, while knowing it may be in her best interest to align with him. Dawn, noting that Julia "wasn't seeming very aware of the game," obviously took this new information straight to Phillip, who responded (of Julia): "She's an idiot. I specifically told her not to say that to anyone." So much for their alliance.
After another strength-based immunity challenge, Gota won again — but not without a strong effort this time from Bikal. But, back at the camp, Phillip confessed to Cochran that he had intentionally thrown the challenge by failing to accurately throw grappling hooks to retrieve keys from the sand.
"It's complete crap," said Cochran, who was shown barely suppressing a smile as Phillip compared himself to a male lion killing his cubs. "You can't make up this level of delusion, and that's what excites me about playing with Phillip. I think he's actually at this point convinced that he threw the challenge."
Regardless, the Favorites were torn about their strategy heading into Tribal Council. Phillip, Cochran and Dawn wanted to split the vote between Michael and Julia to flush out any immunity idols and then vote Julia out on the re-vote, but Corinne wanted to vote Julia out at the start in order to make Michael feel more comfortable. ("I think it's neat that he's gay," she told Jeff Probst at Tribal Council.)
The former strategy won out, with the team splitting the vote between Michael and Julia and then ultimately snuffing out Julia's torch.
Do you think the tribe made the right decision in sending Julia home? Was Phillip being honest about throwing the challenge? And are you looking forward to next week's merge? Weigh in below!
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by a joint venture between Lionsgate and CBS, which airs Survivor.)