On the last episode of Survivor: Kaoh Rong, Aubry might have put the Brains alliance at risk by changing her vote at the last minute to vote out one of her own. But now everything starts fresh with a merge. The Brains and Beauties each have four remaining members and the Brawns have three. It will be exciting to see how things play out so let’s get to it!

On the Bottom at Gondol

The group are coming back after Tribal Council on a rainy night and Scot is mad. He’s mad that Joe showed his true colors by voting for Julia and that Aubry wrote her name down too (even though she did switch it). Aubry and Joe know their days are numbered. They gave away their numbers advantage and now they’re two against three.

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Chan Loh Plans a Blindside

While Neal’s out trying to catch fish with a saw (yes, you read that right) Cydney notices the bulge in his pocket and tells Jason she thinks he has an idol. Jason recognizes the bulge because he too, has an idol. They decide that their next move should be to blindside Neal and flush his idol out from hiding.

Jason’s idol flush plan is foiled when they see a boat approach their beach. They are quickly informed that have five minutes to pack up their things and head to their new home on Gondol beach.

Debbie is confident that she’ll be able to keep her Brains alliance intact, all while keeping her relationships good with the other people. She says that she’s good at pulling people in and she’s extremely confident.

Everybody Say “Merge!”

Everyone’s thrilled to have made it to the merge. It’s a life-long dream come true for super fan Michele. And Scot says it’s time to meet up with his old team mates for the play-offs.

Aubry feels like she and Joe have been blessed with a second chance. She was ready to separate from him if she needed to, but she’s glad instead to be back with her other Brains friends. She explains to Debbie what happened with Dr. Peter, and Debbie tells her not to feel guilty about it. She said she trusted that Aubry did what she had to do.

The new tribe is called Dara and they get rad black merge buffs. Scot and Jason are especially loud and obnoxious (surprise, surprise) at the merge feast. Nick notices their arrogance and he doesn’t think the Brains will want to work with them.

The Brains realize at this point that they need two Beauties to work with them because Nick is right; the Brawns are their main targets. Neal thinks they’re physical threats (true) as well as bullies (also true, for the most part). Debbie thinks she has Nick, and Nick thinks he can pull in Michele. Tai and Julia, on the other hand, seem to be in solid with Scot, so they’ll probably vote with the Brawns.

On the Brawn alliance, Jason believes that he’s running the game. He pulls Nick and Scot aside to talk strategy. He tells them about Neal’s idol and Scot tells them about Tai’s. Nick can’t believe his luck/how stupid the Brawn are. He thinks they must have had too much to drink at the merge feast for their amount of overconfidence.

There’s a hitch in the Brains plan though: Debbie. She’s being very aggressive with her approach tactics with the Beauties, especially Tai. She corners him and strong-arms him into an alliance. He tells us in his confessional that he’s not taking much stock in her handshake. He was completely put off by her attitude and he doesn’t trust a word she says.

Aubry notices Debbie’s desperation too. She and Nick talk about how crazy she’s driving everyone. Neal thinks she might be a hindrance to the Brains as well, so it’s starting to look bad for the Brains.

Neal confides in Aubry that he has an idol. He’s willing to use it too if they can figure out the right person to play it on.

The problem in the Brawns plan is Michele. Jason and Scot talk strategy openly in front of her and she doesn’t care for their personalities. She’s never liked Jason much and she’s never ruled out working with the Brains, despite what Nick tried to tell her last week. And despite what Jason says (that Beauties always pair with the jock, not the nerd) Michele is leaning heavily toward a geek right now.

Balancing Balls

Everyone is scraped up and bruised coming into the first individual immunity challenge. The elements have not been kind to them, but they’re in high spirits at the moment.

For the first challenge, the Survivors have to stand on a log and balance a ball on a wooden disc. As time passes, they’ll have to add more balls (giving Jeff Probst plenty of chances for innuendos) to their discs to make it more difficult. The last person standing wins immunity.

Joe, Debbie and Joe go out in the first round. Julia, Nick and Tai are the last three standing after they have three balls each on their discs. But it’s Nick who sticks around the longest to win.

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Pre-Tribal Scramble

Nick is pleased as punch to be in the middle right now with Michele. He says he’s either going home with the quarterback or with the valedictorian. Either way, he’s the lucky one. Scot and Jason tell Nick that it’s Aubry going home tonight. Scot says they’re going to pick the Brains off one-by-one. Right now Nick admits that he’s leaning toward Brawn, but Scot and Jason are so confident, it’s tempting for him to make a big move while they feel safe.

Joe and Neal make their pitch to Nick. He says that Scot and Jason are going to use the Beauties in their alliance and then pick them off once they’re done using them. Nick says he can approach Michele with that theory and get back to them.

Michele has conversations of her own with Debbie and Aubry. She likes those ladies, but she thinks right now it’s best for her to stick with the Brawn alliance. She and Nick agree that’s their best route.

But uh-oh. Jeff pulls up on the beach with the medic to check out some of the Survivors’ wounds. Tai, Aubry, Scot and Neal are all suffering from bumps and bruises that have become infected. So we get a nice sequence of nasty here on Survivor, and in HD too.

Unfortunately for Neal, he’s the only one with life-threatening injuries. Dr. Rupert tells him the wound on his knee is so infected and so close to the joint, he doesn’t want him to risk staying in the game. And just like that, he pulls Neal to get medical attention.

Neal gets emotional since it’s been a dream of his to play Survivor since it debuted in 2000. He says the show changed him as a person even before he got a chance to play because it encouraged him to seek out more adventure in his life.

As they’re saying their goodbyes, Aubry hopes that her number one ally will throw her a bone and give her the idol. He pulls a Colton Cumbie though, and hangs on to his idol as a souvenir. Aubry’s annoyed, but she knows she’ll have to pave her own way in this game from now on. And at least she’ll probably get Neal’s vote if she makes it to the end. (He will return for a stay at the Ponderosa and be a member of the jury.)

Next episode: Aubry and Debbie keep trying to win over the Beauties. Good luck with that!

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Gina Pusateri

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV