After seven long weeks, the merge finally arrived this week on “Survivor: Island of the Idols.” With 13 castaways still in the running to win the $1 million prize, the original Vokai tribe (Lauren Beck, Janet Carbin, Kellee Kim, Noura Salman, Tommy Sheehan, Jamal Shipman and Dan Spilo) had a slight seven-to-six numbers advantage over their original Lairo counterparts (Elizabeth Beisel, Missy Byrd, Dean Kowalski, Aaron Meredith, Karishma Patel and Elaine Stott). Despite those numbers, Gold Derby readers predicted Dan would be the one most likely to get his torch snuffed at the merge. Were they correct?
Below, check out our minute-by-minute “Survivor: Island of the Idols” recap of Season 39, Episodes 8 & 9, titled “We Made It to the Merge,” to find out what happened Wednesday, November 13 at 8/7c. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite castaways on CBS’s reality TV show and who you think will ultimately join the “Survivor” winners list. Keep refreshing/reloading this live blog for the most recent updates.
8:00 p.m. – “Previously on ‘Survivor’!” In the seventh episode, Jack Nichting became the victim in Kellee’s master plan to save Dean, whom she shares a mutual friend with in the real world. Kellee secretly gave her hidden immunity idol to Dean, who used it at tribal council. Jamal then wasted his idol by playing it for Noura, risking his own game in the process. In the end, Jack was eliminated with only two votes and he was sent to Ponderosa. Who will become the next two members of the jury?
8:01 p.m. – Jamal wanted to know who the other vote for Jack was and so he pressed Noura after she confessed to being asked to reveal who pressured her. Noura named Kellee in front of everyone who quickly wanted to shut the conversation down and then pulled Jamal and Janet to the beach for a private conversation. In that private conversation she denied it and tried to make her “allies” believe Noura was lying. But Jamal wasn’t necessarily buying it.
8:03 p.m. – The next morning everyone was scattered across the island looking for the replacement idol. And the lucky player to find it might have been the one most in need of it: Kellee!
8:04 p.m. – Shortly after that the Lairo tribe read tree mail that notified them of the merge and directed them toward the Vokai camp for the merge feast! Conversations at the feast quickly turned toward which direction players would be voting and whether old or new tribes would be sticking together.
8:07 p.m. – Tommy offered Janet and Kellee an alliance of 9 called Vokai 2.0, but she shut that down knowing that it would put them on the bottom of an old Lairo alliance. But Tommy was put off by how demanding they were being and so he decided privately to serve himself and to not go in either direction.
8:11 p.m. – Later in the day Missy and Kellee “bonded” over Dan’s inappropriate behavior. They shared stories about how touchy he was with the women on both tribes, all without consent. The women acknowledged the toughness with standing up to that kind of behavior both in real life and within the context of the game. But that they realized it was happening to five different women shows a pattern, but Kellee told a producer that she believes it will stop and that no action needs to be taken at the time.
8:14 p.m. – While all of this went down Tommy was pulling Lauren aside for a chat to throw Kellee under the bus as a major strategist that needs to go. That put Lauren in an awkward position because she trusts both of them.
8:17 p.m. – Elsewhere Missy and Elizabeth devised a plan to play up the anti-Dan card in order to get the women to band together in order to vote him out. For them that would mean evening the numbers to 6-6 between original tribal lines and negating the old Vokai advantage. But Kellee knew that it would be dumb to make a game decision based on her comfort levels and could ruin her game so she was happy to keep him as a decoy vote. Lauren knew of this and told Missy that she was their actual target.
8:20 p.m. – Before the commercial break we were informed that producers met with everyone together that night and reminded them about personal conduct on set and that they later met with Dan privately to issue him a direct warning. No action was taken at this point and the game continued as-is.
8:23 p.m. – Jeff gathered the players for their first individual immunity challenge of the season: an endurance challenge requiring them to hold a table top at an angle with three balls barely hanging on in pegs with the last player to have a ball standing would win. Noura was the first to lose all three of her balls followed quickly by Kellee.
8:26 p.m. – Dean was the third to drop out, Janet fourth, Elaine fifth, Lauren sixth and Dan seventh. With six people left standing Karishma went from having three balls left to having none and then Tommy went straight after her. After 15 minutes Elizabeth, Missy, Aaron and Jamal were the only players still competing, but then Missy fell out. Elizabeth was the third to drop, leaving Aaron vs. Jamal both with two balls still on their platform. Both guys were still in it at the 25 minute mark, but after a last look at Aaron and seeing how strong he was Jamal decided to drop his platform and gave Aaron the win he knew he’d take anyway!
8:36 p.m. – Following the challenge Missy knew her back was against the wall because she’s Kellee’s number one target, but everything hinged on Lauren and Tommy who could just as easily turn on Kellee. Lauren approached Dean to vote out Kellee, the one person Dean has a connection with and who saved him from a number of votes after the switch.
8:38 p.m. – Elsewhere Jamal was making moves to get Dan out. He approached an ecstatic Noura who was personally ready to get him out because of his behavior around camp. The alliance between Jamal and Noura is unexpected, but it seems like Jamal knows that it is and is likely playing the long game to drag the “unlikeable” Noura to the finals with him. He later went to Janet with the plan who was also relieved by the idea.
8:40 p.m. – Janet went to Elizabeth to tell her that she was protecting the girls and that there was a plan in motion to get rid of Dan, but Elizabeth considered it a lie to cover up that they’d be voting Missy instead. Elizabeth didn’t personally feel uncomfortable by Dan’s behavior so she was willing to tell Elaine about the plan who decided to tell Dan in order to get him to side with them against his original tribe. That was shocking news to Dan who found the move by Janet “reprehensible.”
8:42 p.m. – Later in the day Kellee realized that Dan was feeling too comfortable and so she was concerned that someone tipped him off. She knew she already had an idol and could save herself with it if need be, but she also suspected that there would be a new idol on the merge beach and so she went looking for that one as well. Sure enough…. she found it. She’s got two! At the same time Jamal went to Tommy with the plan against Dan which was music to his ears because it meant he was in the power seat tonight and could decide which way the vote would go.
8:48 p.m. – At tribal Jack arrived as the first member of the jury as the players still in the game began discussing trust and deception. Karishma made the case that trust comes from getting to know each other on a deeper level which complicates alliances and how must trust you can put in old and new alliances.
8:51 p.m. – For Tommy it was ideal that the old Vokai members would stick together with their numbers advantage, but Janet said that tribal lines are definitely blurred at this point. Dean backed that statement up by reminding old Lairo how they’d placed him on the outside of their original tribe multiple times and so he was using the night to find out who he can trust now.
8:58 p.m. – After ballots were cast Jeff asked if anyone would play an idol to which Kellee, the only player in the game with an idol (two!), sat silently. Jeff read the votes: Dan, Kellee, Dan, Kellee, Dan, Kellee, Dan, Kellee, Dan, Kellee, Kellee, Kellee. YYYYYYIIIIIIIIIIIKES. Two idols in her pocket. Two. TWO.
9:01 p.m. – Back at camp Janet was among the shocked five that had voted Dan out instead. She believed the vote to be about standing up for what is right and so she felt betrayed by the girls who she thought she was acting on behalf of. When Lauren and Tommy tried to calm her down while also admitting that they voted Kellee out. For Lauren she wasn’t comfortable voting Dan out for other people’s needs and believed that the vote should come down to strategy first. Janet later told Dan that the young women came to her about how uncomfortable they found him and that’s why votes her cast against him. The two of them decided that the younger girls must have been playing the game rather than being truly uncomfortable. Dan seemed a bit shocked and offered an awkward apology to Missy and Elizabeth who told him that if they “truly” felt that way they would have voted him out, basically turning it against Janet.
9:07 p.m. – So essentially Missy, Elaine and Elizabeth are all turning this back around on Janet and further cementing Dan against her. It’s a very odd switch in the narrative of an episode that was originally about how reprehensible Dan’s behavior with the women had been. I can’t help but feel like Elizabeth, Elaine, Missy and even Lauren are acting terribly by using such a serious topic to their advantage in this way.
9:09 p.m. – To set the record straight Janet called Missy and Elizabeth together to discuss the whole thing openly with Dan. Elizabeth admitted to telling Janet that she was glad Janet was around because of Dan, but also told Dan that they’re okay and that everything is fine and she “said what needed to be said.” Rightly so, Janet declared to the camera that she believes the sexual conduct discussion has no place in the playing of the game and people should be taking it seriously. She was disgusted by the way the young women were handling it.
9:12 p.m. – The next morning Janet went searching for an idol and found it! If that’s not karma doing karma’s job then I don’t know what it is!
9:17 p.m. – Left out of the previous vote, Karishma and Jamal went for a walk to discuss their options going forward only to find a note hanging from a tree. Jamal grabbed it and was sent to Island of the Idols because of it. There he met Sandra Diaz-Twine and Rob Mariano for his first time. With them he read the rest of the note which taught him the lesson of “too good to be true,” meaning he automatically lost his vote at the next tribal council. But Rob’s test for him was to understand sabotage, offering him a blank parchment and a pencil for him to write whatever he wants on it in order to sabotage another player.
9:22 p.m. – When he returned to camp he said he risked his vote in a 50/50 chance that offered him an advantage that he must give to someone else. Because it was Dean’s birthday he decided to give his fake advantage to Dean as an “olive branch” and present. He told everyone that he had to write it himself, but Dean was curious about the validity of it causing everyone in the tribe to speculate about both Jamal and Dean’s places in the tribe.
9:28 p.m. – At the second immunity challenge of the night Jeff had the players hold on to a handle while hanging over the water, slowly lowering them closer to the water at regular intervals. For this challenge the last man and last woman standing would both with immunity!
9:30 p.m. – After whining from the jump, Lauren voluntarily jumped quickly into the competition and then Dan just kind of gave up as well, leaving 10 still hanging on. Jamal and Elaine both dropped next after a bit of shimmying in their positions. At that point Jeff cranked them down lower and it was too much for Karishma, Janet and Dean in succession. Five minutes later Jeff cranked Elizabeth, Missy, Aaron, Tommy and Noura lower… twice. That was too much for Noura who dropped and then Tommy, giving Aaron a second immunity and leaving Elizabeth and Missy to fight for the other one. When it became too much of a struggle for Elizabeth, Missy earned herself safety!
9:39 p.m. – Without a vote of his own and on the bottom of the tribe, Jamal was especially nervous about tribal council. He and Janet took themselves to privacy to lament that they could go before Karishma and Noura, two players they figured less deserving of being there than them. While they were away the 8-person alliance decided to split the vote against Karishma and Jamal.
9:41 p.m. – Tommy spoke to Janet later, telling her that she’s safe and asking her to vote for Jamal with the rest of the tribe. That made her unsure of whether he was lying and would need to play her idol for herself as everyone made their way to tribal council.
9:42 p.m. – At tribal Jeff wanted to know the reactions to the previous vote. Janet made it clear that her previous vote was about morality and that other people were playing a hard game. She clarified that she was told everyone was voting for Dan, which made Missy want Janet to admit that she was the original target.
9:44 p.m. – Once again the topic of Dan’s conduct came up and Aaron was defending Missy’s position which was that it was a game vote, and had nothing to do with anyone feeling uncomfortable. Jamal stuck up for what’s right, that men can’t act like if they knew they’d stand up to it all the time. Karishma defended Janet and said she doesn’t think Janet is trying to spin this against Dan or anyone else.
9:50 p.m. – Clearly shook by the topic still being brought up, Dan offered up an emotional and blanket apology for his behavior that may have made anyone uncomfortable. Janet got emotional about it and told Jeff that it was making her feel like she might not want to stay in the game, but everyone told her that they love her and that she did nothing wrong. It’s really weird to me that this turned on Janet feeling ostracized when so many of the players on the other alliance are using all of these real feelings against other players, like Janet, for game purposes. What a weird and kind of awful episode 🙁
9:54 p.m. – Once again Jeff asked if anyone would like to play an idol, and feeling on edge Janet understandably played hers for herself. Jeff read the votes: Janet, Janet, Karishma, Karishma, Karishma, Jamal, Jamal, Jamal, Jamal, Jamal. And that does it.
NEXT WEEK: Jeff breaks it to the players that two people will be going home at the next tribal. Scrambling ensues.
Here are the answers to Gold Derby’s contest questions for “Survivor” Season 39, Episodes 8 & 9:
Who will be voted out at tribal council? Kellee Kim, Jamal Shipman
Who will win Reward? No one
Who will win Immunity? Aaron Meredith, Missy Byrd
Will a hidden idol be played? Yes
Will anybody quit or be medevaced? No
SEE exclusive predictions: Who will win ‘Survivor’?
Be sure to make your predictions to influence our reality TV racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs on CBS. You’ll compete to win a spot on our Season 39 leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.