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Survivor Recap: Ken Stages Blindside, Becomes Power Player

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Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

The tide turned once again on Survivor: Gabon as the long-awaited merger finally happened, buying some folks peace of mind for another week and sending others to the jungle in search of new strategies and old alliances. And it appears that the professional game player has turned power player as Ken orchestrated yet another blindside. This time the target was Charlie Herschel, 29, a lawyer from New York. — Carrie Bell

Slingshot at Reward Kota, especially Ken, was flying high after kicking Marcus out, although it left Bob friendless and assuming, “I’m toast if we lose another. If we’re not merged, I’m history even though I teach science.” Speaking of bad jokes, life at Fang was miserable without rice or fire and Matty felt the most endangered as no merger news came with the first tree mail.

As the teams lined up for the reward challenge — a game of slingshot golf in which the best par on two of three holes would win a field trip to a nearby village — Charlie and Corinne‘s expressions alternated between devastation and anger as they realized Marcus was gone. Charlie couldn’t contain his disappointment. “I know it’s a game but a lot of have been playing a lot and Marcus never did that. He was enjoying everyday out here.” Corinne added: “He earned his right to be here longer.”

The folks responsible felt burnt by the statements, arguing that they all deserved to be there and it wasn’t personal. Kota took the first point with Bob employing his physics knowledge, but Matty’s strong arm helped Fang earn the second point. Ken overshot the third hole on the third attempt while Matty’s ball sat cozily on the edge of the sand pit, looking as if it would be an easy victory for Fang. Unfortunately, Randy started backseat putting and nipping at Charlie, leaving everyone stressed out and bickering. Even after they easily dropped the ball in for a win, Randy still critiqued Matty’s technique. Sugar stepped in, “Randy chill out. We won. God.”

Dance Dance Revelations Fang got some much-needed food but only after they were pelted with wet leaves for a ceremonial cleansing and redressed in the latest Gabonese fashions. Matty proclaimed that he was glad that Marcus was gone because if he had been there, they probably would have lost out on the reward. Charlie confessed to the camera privately that Marcus’s ousting was his “lowest moment in the game.” And in some ironic foreshadowing, he added, “Who do we turn to now? He did a lot of the thinking for us.” The whole tribe let loose on the dirt dance floor. Randy thought one of the natives was the first woman to come on to him in about 20 years. “I hate to dance, my knee hurts and I just ate about four pounds of food but, hell, I danced with her.”

Exile Ingenuity The winning tribe sent Bob to Exile Island stating that they hoped he would find the Idol. Bob chose clues over comfort while exiled because he was “in deep doodoo back at camp.” He solved all the riddles but found no Idol because (obviously) Sugar already has it. But Bob being resourceful Bob made an immunity necklace (and a pretty realistic-looking one at that) to pull the wool over his team’s eyes.

Playing With Fire The challenge tree mail made it sound like they would be playing for individual immunity and talk of a merger started all over again. Randy was very wary of rejoining his nemesis Sasquatch/T. Rex (Crystal). “I hated Crystal from the beginning. I still hold a major grudge,” he said.

Their suspicions were correct as the individual immunity necklace was revealed, the tribes merged, and new blue buffs handed out. The first individual challenge required the players to make a fire using flint, steel and a box of wood and husks. Susie was the first to get a flame. Matty was the first to cut himself. Sugar was the only other person to even spark a flame, but Susie’s fire was the first to burn through the rope above her station, securing her a one-in-eight shot at a million bucks. Wonder Bob certainly let us down with his sparkless attempt.

Genghis Ken While Bob was at exile, Ken took it upon himself to be the team’s provider. After a several false starts rowing the canoe in circles, he came back with three fish and declared, “I know for a fact that I can win this game.” He has improved a lot lately, making some bold moves and having them pay off, but just minutes before he was canoeing in a circle. Counting chickens before they’re hatched, are we?

After the challenge and rechristening themselves Nobag (Gabon backwards), Sugar found herself as the coveted swing vote once again. Corinne realized how hard being a strategist can be in another classic underestimation of Sugar: “Not only do I have to act like I’m interested in what Sugar is saying, I have to act like I care about her. I’ve been nasty to her for 25 days and I was nice to her for one and she’s sold. But she buys it because she’s such a moron.”

The original Fang tribe met under the cover of the jungle to discuss the importance of breaking up Corinne and Charlie. Just as it seemed like Corinne would be their target for her bad attitude, Ken, who still holds a grudge against Charlie for making him share the feast immunity clue with the group, offered up a plan to blindside Charlie, claiming that he was the brains behind the Kota operation. “I will trade that idol for his life,” he said. “I’m like a little rat. You mess with me and you’re gone in this game.” Ken immediately ran to Sugar to pull her to their side. She played along but later admitted in her confession that she doesn’t trust Ken or Crystal after the Ace debacle. Unfortunately, she doesn’t trust anyone else either.

Sorry Charlie Charlie grinned from ear to ear as his wannabeau Marcus, looking as hot as he was at the game’s start, took his seat on the jury bleachers. It was quite a cantankerous meeting with Crystal and Randy firing verbal arrows back and forth at each other and Jeff asking Charlie and Randy if had changed in the over the course of the show. Randy made a very astute observation: “Kenny. He’s not a little kid anymore. He’s grown up. That’s not the Kenny I saw weeks ago.” Not that Sugar listened as she cast the deciding vote to send Charlie home, which appeared to catch him and Corinne completely off guard.

Jeff’s final thought as Charlie exited: “The merge has made an impact on this game and it should make for a crazy finish.”

Tell Us: Did Sugar make the right decision to follow Ken? Or should she have sided with Charlie and Corinne? Can Ken take the prize? Or is he over confident?Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS