March 30, 2011 at 10:46 PM ET
By Andy Dehnart, TODAY.com contributor
Probably the biggest, most unexpected development on "Survivor: Redemption Island" came at the end of the episode, during the preview. (Or seconds earlier on Twitter, if you were following host Jeff Probst as he tweeted what was about to happen on the show three seconds later.) The news was that the tribes would merge next week after the final Redemption Island duel.
At this week's duel, Matt won again, beating Stephanie in a game of memory because God wanted him to stick around. ("I told God that I'm going to stay out here as long as he wants me to be out here," Matt told us.) So if he wins one more duel -- the sixth -- he will have swept the Redemption Island challenges.
That's an impressive feat, but he'll face an even bigger one next week: strategically finding his way back into a game that he was voted out of the second week.
I'm not sure what I think about the duels ending all ready. Is it a pretty fair point for Matt -- er, the likely winner next week -- to re-enter the game because everyone will be scrambling and they'll all be on the same basic level? Or is he an easy first vote because the two tribes can delay any actual strategy or flipping by just dumping him?
But back to this week, Zapatera lost again, after a pretty awesome and pretty close challenge. But Grant's skill with balls helped Ometepe recover after it fell behind thanks to Phillip and, it seemed, Rob's difficulty retrieving bags of balls. The obstacle course was awesome -- I loved the hay, the maze and brick wall. And we had the best challenge visual of the season when Julie slammed her body into the bricks and absolutely nothing happened.
While David seemed like the likely target because he was being annoying around camp and split with the tribe last week, they actually turned on Sarita, who is a weaker link but arguably makes their tribe weaker. Or maybe that's just what the editing suggested to give us a little twist ending.
What this also means is that the Phillip versus Rob showdown will happen in a merged tribe, where Phillip will presumably have more anti-Rob allies.
Phillip's argument about Rob's controlling nature and the tribe's absolute deference to him is actually pretty accurate. Rob is getting cockier, taking the idol clue in front of everyone at the reward and then brazenly tossing it into the volcano. (It was awesome.) And Phillip is, of course, a jerk, getting into unnecessary fights and not endearing himself to the tribe.
Keep reading at realityblurred.com for more on Phillip versus Rob, and Phillip's love of the crispy.