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Wounds, Not Tensions, Erupt On Survivor

It's merge time, but the scheming is upstaged by the fact that nearly everyone has some sort of throbbing, pus-filled infection. Presented in thrilling HD!

He's Not Just Happy To See You

Scot is on the warpath. His next mission: vote out all the original Brains, since they voted out Julia. When Aubry tries to argue that she actually did vote Peter -- and, in fact, that her vote was the one that sent him home -- Scot says that writing down Julia, crossing it out, and then voting for Peter still constitutes writing down Julia's name. He can't abide that kind of indecision. Joe feels like he's in the most trouble because he didn't break ranks.

On Blue Tribe, Neal walks mournfully along the beach by himself, sporting a big bulge in his shorts. Cydney knows what that usually means on this show. No, the other thing: an idol. Jason confirms: that's an idol-shaped bulge, which he should know, since he's got one of his own. He's going to bide his time, though, and wait to make his big move. But before he has too much time to bide, a random guy in a boat rolls up and hands over marching orders: it's merge time. Some are excited and proud of themselves for making it this far; others have big plans. You know, like every Survivor merge ever.

I Double Dara You

Blue Tribe floats up to Yellow Tribe Beach, thus announcing the merge to Yellow Tribe. Let the feasting begin! Scot likens making the merge to making the playoffs, since pretty much all of Scot's confessionals begin with a producer prompting him to tie things in to his previous career as an NBA player. (The new tribe name, by the way, is "Dara," the meaning of which is not explained, but on a show where tribes have been named after World of Warcraft terminology, stuffed animals, and completely made-up words, I'm guessing its origins are not terribly relevant to the story.)

Tai's only ally is Scot; Nick and Michelle are a pair; Aubry's happy to reunite with Neal and Debbie. Neal would very much like to target a Brain, and Nick takes it all in, then chortles that it's all just as he suspected: the Brains are thinking hard about getting rid of people who might be Brawny in challenges.

The ex-Brawns also want to talk strategy with Nick, and Jason reveals immediately that he suspects Neal's got an idol. In turn, Scot reveals that Tai also has an idol, meaning they can combine idols, form Superidol, and control the upcoming vote. Nick rolls with it, because he figures their overconfidence will make it easier to blindside them down the road.

Socializing, Scheming, Etc.

The next morning, at roughly the crack of dawn, Tai has just barely emerged from the shelter before Debbie approaches him with an alliance offer. As soon as he stammers out a "sure," Debbie pounces on Nick. In confessionals, Aubry points out that her aggression is making them all seem desperate.

Jason's not worried about the ex-Brains' overtures, since "the beauties always stick with the jocks. It's the way of the world. We're just shoving geeks into lockers here." As far as he's concerned, he's got the four remaining ex-Beauty Tribe members hooking up with his three remaining ex-Brawns and it's a done deal.

Aubry runs some damage control with Nick, who says he'd love to work with ex-Brains, but Debbie's aggressive gameplay is making him gun-shy. Aubry and Neal ponder taking out Debbie, then they ponder using Neal's idol.

In other words, it's 8:30 and all we've done so far is bumble around talking strategy. I almost always advocate for skipping the challenges, but at this point I'd do anything to see one, just to break up all of this "he said you said I said" and "if you get this person to vote with us then I'll get this person to vote with you." The possibilities for a decent payoff are myriad, but too much buildup can leave one frustrated.

Balls And Boils

Oh, wait. Except it's THIS challenge. For immunity, Survivors will have to outlast their competitors at balancing one or more balls on a large disc, which is an old favorite of Jeff Probst's -- even more so than your average garden-variety challenge involving balls -- but really, it's every endurance challenge ever. Lots of grimacing, lots of dropping down from perches with a look of chagrin. We don't even get any truly epic ball jokes. What are they even paying you for if you're not gonna make ball jokes, Probst?

Before the challenge begins, Jeff inquires after everyone's health. Everyone says they feel fine despite a few oozing infections here and there. The majority of the tribe has at least one swollen, seeping wound, which, if that's your thing, you're going to be glad you sprang for that HDTV. Otherwise, all you need to know is that practically everyone's got a big puffy wound on the verge of going septic. Oh, and Nickbot 3000's cybernetic arms enable him to maintain perfect equilibrium throughout the challenge, thereby securing immunity. (Since he is made of synthetic polymers, he himself is apparently impervious to infections.)

The Walking Wounded

Nick and Michelle weigh their options. After pondering the prospect of blindsiding a hyperconfident Scot or Jason, Nick concludes that they should go with Brawn and vote out Aubry. He likes Aubry, but Jason and Scot will be much easier to beat in puzzles, and also much easier to beat at the end.

Before Tribal can happen, though, Jeff and the medical team roll up to the beach. Apparently, he was so put off by the parade of festering wounds at the challenge that he needed to bring a doctor out to share the pain of witnessing them. Several people require examination, but only Neal, who insists he feels completely fine, is in serious danger. A big, pus-filled bump on his knee, which he recently dubbed "Mount St. Neal," has recently popped, but the infection still has the potential to spread quickly, says the doc. They can't risk crippling him for life over a stupid game, so they're pulling him. Neal, a fan from Day 1, is devastated by this news, but so is Aubry, who's just lost her #1 ally AND his idol (which he does not pass to her on his way out).

Tribal council's cancelled; Neal's the first member of the jury; truly, there is no joy in Kaoh Rong this night.

Verdict

So much talking. So many wounds. Just pretend there was March Madness or something and pick it back up next week. Unless you like wounds, I guess. But even then, you don't even get to see Mount St. Neal erupt, so you might have a better time watching some boil-lancing videos on YouTube.

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