The moment Survivor: Extinction Island has been promising all season was more of a twist than anyone could have guessed.
Immediately last week's nerve-racking joint tribal council between Manu and Lesu, Wednesday's all-new episode of the CBS reality show started with a twist host Jeff Probst said would immediately go down in Survivor history.
The moment he announced the merge and the players dropped their individual buffs, they were shocked with a reveal that would explain the season's entire theme, when the six players eliminated so far returned from Extinction Island to challenge one another for a spot back in the game.
Having spent varying times at the brink of starvation and hopelessness on the remote island, Rick Devens, Chris Underwood, Keith Sowell, Reem Daly, Aubry Bracco and Wendy Diaz all had a different level of energy going into the puzzle-filled challenge, which was a nail-biter all the way to the end, when Rick narrowly edged his way back into the game over Chris.
"If I can win my way back into the game, what the hell am I scared of?" he told the cameras after winning his second chance in the game, earning a fresh slate in the newly-merged tribe.
Things seemed to be at the end of the road for the other five residents of Extinction Island, that is until Probst dropped another bomb on the devastated castaways — they could have yet another chance to make it back in the game.
All five immediately agreed to head back to the bleak island they had called their home and await yet another opportunity to make it back in the game, all behind the backs of everyone else they could be competing against. That number quickly dropped to three, however, when Keith and Wendy decided to raise the white flag and return home as soon as they faced the reality of Extinction Island.
Back at the merge feast, Rick's presence was a mixed bag, with his former tribe members Kelley Wentworth and Lauren O'Connell fearing he would be gunning for them after they sent him to Extinction Island in the first place.
Selling him and David Wright as a "safe vote" to the former members of Kama and Manu, the two former Lesu's callousness towards their own tribe ended up putting a target on their back.
"Just from a moral standpoint, I don't know how you could do that to someone," Julie Rosenberg said of sending Rick back to Extinction Island immediately after his return. "Kelley and Lauren seem so brutal, maybe one of them should be sent her merry way to the Edge of Extinction."
Rick had another thing on his side in the form of a two-person immunity idol, which would act as a full idol after the first merge tribal council if he and another player each took half and weren't voted out. Giving the other half to his close ally, David, it seemed unclear if the idol would ever get to recognize its full power.
In a backbreaking individual immunity challenge, Julie added a bit more power to her game, sheltering her from one of the most unpredictable votes of the game and allowing her to target Kelley as a powerful player.
Joe Anglim was also a possible target of the Kama 6, as dominant returning player was finally without the protection of an immunity win after the merge.
It was anyone's game leading into the tribal, but Joe was right in suspecting the merge would be his downfall, leaving for Extinction Island with five votes to David's three, Kelley's two and Rick's two.
"Worst thing they could have done," he said, walking towards the boat that would lead him to Extinction Island and a second chance at victory.0comments
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
Photo credit: CBS