Who doesn't love merge episodes and the big moves, drama and chaos that goes with them? This week our Kiwi Ozlet Nook (spelled incorrectly to convey the Kiwi accent and their pronunciation of vowels) rounds up the best of the best merge episodes as we get ready to witness this weeks merge episode of San Juan Del Sur! So much drama, so much strategy and on first watch, many of these keep you guessing right until the very last vote is read out. So which will be number 1? Let us know what your all time favourite merge episodes are with a comment below!
It isn’t a surprise that the merge episodes is one of the most interesting of a Survivor season. The meeting of two tribes often results in fireworks and is the start of the key strategic endgame. Some merge episodes are notable for great strategy, others for comedy. But there are plenty of entertaining moments. In fact, it is very hard to come up with a list of only ten, and some really good ones missed my cut. But these merge episodes, both old and new represent the best moments of the merge throughout Survivor history.
10. Redemption Island – Ep.8 ‘This Game Respects Big Moves’
Even in this turd of a season, there are some moments worth watching. The merge episode was the last decent moment of the season, but it was very interesting and highlights exactly why Rob deserved to win. Faced with the return of the one player able to ruin his game in Matt, Rob was in a precarious position. If Matt could have talked Andrea into flipping and joining Zapatera, Rob’s chances of finally coming away with a win would have dropped significantly. But Matt made an horrific error and told Rob all of his plans. The rest is history – Rob convinced the Ometepes to vote Matt off, giving them a 6-5 advantage that he would ride all the way to the end. But the episode has so much more than just an epic and hilarious finish. The shelter building and general “us vs. them” mentality of Ometepe was funny to watch, along with a great challenge (anything with “balls” is sure to amuse those of us with low standards in humour). But my favourite touch of the episode is how the editors displayed the tribe voting – with the Ometepe tribe morphing into one another, and the same with Zapatera to visually show the two voting blocks so clearly. So even if the rest of the season isn’t to your taste (and who could blame you), the merge episode is still well worth a watch.
9. Micronesia – Ep.9 ‘I’m in Such a Hot Pickle’
Yes, of course this will forever be the “f’ing stick” episode, and that in itself is enough to warrant it on the list. Eliza’s eventual demise is made all the more entertaining by Jason actually thinking a stick with a face on it is a real idol. Its comedy gold and most fans will rightfully consider it one of Survivors funniest moments. The showdown on the beach is one of the dumbest things to ever happen on the show, and only hasn’t got its due credit because it was overshadowed by Erik’s dumb move later on in the season. This episode is also fun for seeing everyone reunited and back on the favourite’s beach. The challenge is also cool, as we see the return of one of the more iconic challenges, with players having to float under a grate whilst the tide rises and slowly deprives them of breathing space. Its still gives me the creeps to watch this one, and the showdown between Ozzy and Jason is epic. Ozzy looks like he nearly died trying to stay in the challenge. So whilst the vote off is pretty well known throughout the episode, the journey getting there is fun and ultimately makes this episode interesting on a number of levels.
8. Amazon – Ep.7 ‘Girls Gone Wilder’
The merge episode of the Amazon is one of the most odd, funny and cold hearted all at the same time. With anew alliance formed and confirmed, Roger’s demise is again known well ahead of time. However, the dominant alliance can hardly contain their glee and pretty much mock Roger relentlessly throughout the episode. Rob delivers some of his best one liners in this episode, and some of the most iconic (his voting confessional probably remains the greatest of all time). Speaking of iconic moments, did someone mention chocolate and peanut butter? Yes, who can forget Jenna and Heidi’s deal this episode. I’m sure the guys out there still remember it well. The episode also has double confessionals – Jenna and Heidi have one as well as Matt and Alex. This was unexpected and hasn’t been done since. There were also some aspects that make a good merge episode here – one being a new location and a new shelter being built (often makes for increased conflict), and a good old merge feast. Basically this merge episode had it all, except a truly great blindside. Everyone except Roger, Butch and Dave knew it was coming well ahead of time, so there was little suspense. Also, the mocking of Roger did become a bit much and quite uncomfortable. So, entertaining? Yes. Pleasant to watch? Not always. Worth watching again? You bet.
7. All-Stars – Ep.10 ‘Anger, Tears and Chaos’
Much like Redemption Island, this season starring Boston Rob is not the most fun to watch. But the merge episode is compelling, if not for the same reasons. The argument between Rob and Lex is one of the most iconic moments in the show’s history and regardless of who you think was right or wrong, its hard not to watch and be enthralled. The merge was also a long time coming this season and so was hotly anticipated. Lex made a comment about this being where the game really starts, but unfortunately for him, he wouldn’t be around long enough to enjoy it. The immunity challenge is another intense one here, with a male and female winner having to race along an underwater ladder releasing buoys. Lex came pretty close to winning immunity, which would have made things really interesting. The actual fight between Lex and Rob has been analysed to death, but still remains compelling viewing, with real intensity and emotions clear throughout the exchange. And Kathy’s desire to give Lex her necklace capped off an emotional episode. The rain at tribal council really summed up a miserable, difficult but captivating episode well.
6. Cagayan – Ep.6 – ‘Head of the Snake’
One of the most consistently entertaining seasons ever, the merge episode in Cagayan acts as a perfect transition from the tribal aspect to the individual game and all the complexities that comes along with that. The episode centres on Sarah and her decision to either join back up with Tony and his alliance, or stick with her newly formed Aparri team. The point of contention throughout the episode is of course Sarah’s relationship with Kass. Regardless of what you think of Kass, you have an opinion of her, I know you have one and that is what makes her so great. But first we have the reveal of the information that there is a super powered idol, which becomes important later in the season. We also get the return of the doghouse immunity challenge that featured in Caramoan, which I enjoy. But the clash between Sarah and Kass is the focus of the episode, with Sarah so focussed on her role as the swing vote, she doesn’t realise Kass dislikes her so much she is willing to flip, and in fact does to vote the supposed swing vote out, giving Tony’s “Top 5 Baby” alliance control which would ultimately see him win the game. What I love about Kass’ move was that everyone had an opinion on if it was a good move or not, and I am always happy when we get a moment that creates such healthy debate amongst fans. Like Cochran’s flip, Kass gave us all something to talk about and for that, she makes a great merge episode.
5. Marquesas – Ep.7 ‘True Lies’
There must be something about having Boston Rob around that makes for a good merge episode. Not only is he at the centre of attention here, but this episode is actually all about his and ends with his demise. Early seasons put a lot of effort into an entertaining merge, and the summit of representatives first seen in Borneo is back here, and nothing makes good TV like Boston Rob and Kathy drinking beer. These two were the stars of the season and seeing them together here for what would really be their only real interaction together is an absolute joy. Once they bring Paschal and Neleh back to camp (and get the pink buffs on), Rob goes to work trying to keep his game from ending. The scene with Rob, Kathy and Zoe is great in being both awkward and funny, and of course the fight between Rob, Sean and John is full of anger and intensity. Even the challenge is fun in a goofy kind of way that only Marquesas could deliver, with Rob falling out after playfully splashing people. That pretty much summed up his game in season 4. Rob’s eventual elimination is not a shock, but the damage he did would reverberate further into the game and eventually lead to the Rotu 4’s elimination and Vee’s win.
4. Philippines – Ep.7 – ‘Not the Only Actor on this Island’
The number of dynamics going on in the merge episode of season 25 make it worth a re-watch, just to try and figure out exactly what is going on. And with Tandang successfully avoiding tribal council for the entire pre-merge section of the game, fireworks were always bound to happen here. The conflict between RC and Abi reaches breaking point, and now they know they will be going to tribal council so the mad scramble begins. But this merge episode is really a collection of a large amount of small stories that do a lot of setup for later on. We see Lisa stumbling across Malcolm’s idol, Penner telling Lisa he knows who she is but won’t blow her cover and Jeff’s ongoing issues with veteran players. We also see Skupin and Penner connect over their status as returning players and Jeff try and talk strategy with Carter (always amusing). The key scene though is when Pete pulls in Jeff and they discuss splitting votes between Penner and RC, which is what eventually happens. The challenge was also fresh and new, and finding new ways to torture players with endurance challenges is always fun. The tribal council was great too, and Penner successfully played his idol to remain safe but send RC home. This episode was a clear indicator of the craziness that was to follow this season, as one of the best and most surprising post-merge games played out.
3. Borneo – Ep.7 – ‘The Merger’
The first merge episode still has a lot to recommend. One thing that makes it quite unusual is how well telegraphed the merge is. The players know it will happen, and aren’t surprised when a representative is requested meet at a “summit” on the sand spit to negotiate a merge. Sean and Jenna are chosen and despite the producers’ best efforts to make a romantic moment, it doesn’t happen. However, it’s still a fun scene, and great when it’s juxtaposed with Gretchen back at Pagong beach getting angry that they could be building a new shelter by now. When the merge happens, its fascinating watching these players interact, with Greg and Richard being the best. Unlike current seasons all about strategy, this merge is about personalities and seeing how this next phase of the game would play out. The young Pagong players were all about the adventure but the Tagi players were focussed on the task at hand. The tribal council votes play out in a way that will never be repeated, with no less than 8 players receiving at least a vote, and unbelievably it takes only the votes of the Tagi 4 to remove Gretchen. This came as a shock to the Pagongs and it’s the moment they realise they are in over their head.
2. Heroes vs Villains – Ep.10 ‘Going Down in Flames’
Although this episode is remembered for the crazy double idol play and JT being voted out by his own idol, there is so much more to this stellar merge episode. Following on from JT giving his idol to Russell, the tribes merge at 5-5, and this set up a tense episode with neither tribe knowing what will happen. Russell easily sells his lies to JT, but Rupert proves to be an unsuspected voice of reason. Suddenly things start to go crazy, and at this point, the heroes should have easily spotted that all was not right with the Villains and capitalised. How they didn’t is anyone’s guess. Sandra spilled the beans to Rupert and this should have seen them easily scoop up her vote and take control of the game, but this being the Heroes, they were unable to trust each other. Following the immunity challenge, Russell gave his idol to Parvati, and then the crucial scene occurs. This is where Amanda does a poor job of selling her lie to Parvati, who quickly sees through it and seems to know what to do. And then tribal council happens, and the conclusion of a mini story arc for JT, as the idol he gave away to Russell comes back to bite him in the most spectacular fashion. Regardless of if you think Parvati’s move was as strategically brilliant as it has been made out to be, you have to admire her boldness and love the moment for being particularly entertaining TV. How this group of Heroes didn’t realise they were being played is hard to understand, but for it to end in such a comical way is great to watch. A great episode ends in a spectacular way.
1. Australian Outback – Ep.7 ‘The Merge’
Much like the Borneo merge, the Outback players knew it was coming, but didn’t expect it to happen how it did. This episode shows very clearly why Tina and Colby deserved to get to the end, with an effective double team to outsmart Kucha and take control of the game. The merge sequence is fun, with the Ogakor men and Kucha women swapping places, with the assumption being to decide where the merged tribe would live. This threw up some fun moments in itself (Keith taking the matches with him), but also didn’t have a payoff as the tribe moved to an all new location. So all of this was pure character development, something we don’t get a lot of these days. Of course the decision to camp in a dry creek bed comes back to bite the tribe later and we get lets of ominous foreshadowing of this. Then comes the challenge. This was a classic challenge requiring players to simply stand on a log for as long as they could. Tina desperately wanted to win but realised that she needed to protect Keith, who had previous votes and was at risk if the likely tied vote occurred. So she stood down to protect her long term interests – an underrated and genius move. Colby then does his bit by being uncharacteristically obnoxious and drawing Kucha’s votes onto him. Ultimately it was all about who had prior votes, as the resulting tribal council was deadlocked. Tina’s prior knowledge of Jeff’s vote (gained in an off-camera moment and another awesome move by her) allowed Ogakor to gain an advantage they wouldn’t give up, and eventually led to Tina winning. This merge episode encapsulates how subtle and clever both Tina and Colby were, and explains their success so well. Yes, Kucha were unlucky to lose Skupin to a medical evacuation, but they also were unfortunate to be up against two unassuming but brilliant players who went all the way to the end due to their actions in this episode.
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!
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