HOLLYWOOD─At last, we have reached the merge on the latest season of “Survivor: Island of the Idols.” The season has been a mixed bag of sorts. I personally think the ‘Island of Idols’ twist involving “Survivor” greats Sandra Twine-Diaz and Rob Mariano is not as intriguing as producers thought it would be. These characters are great, and based on the spoilers I know about season 40, I’m more eager for that season to get underway because I know fantastic strategy and gameplay is underway.

With that said, we have some major players on this season, and it’s a massive improvement over the dreadful ‘Edge of Extinction,’ but still falls short of the fantastic ‘David vs. Goliath.’ However, the latest episode proves some strategy in contestant Kellee who seamlessly pulled off a blindside without getting her hands dirty, at least that is what she thought. She didn’t think about the ramifications of people wanting to know why Noura would vote out Jack, when they have the numbers? Kellee has plenty of explaining to do, and unless Dean or Noura keep quiet, she’s busted.

Well, we have reached the big merge episode, and it was full of theatrics, as fans were treated to not one episode, but two episodes. Yup, two people were sent packing in dramatic fashion as the Vokai and Lairo tribes united to become one and cue the madness. Strategy, on top of strategy was in full play as threats were exposed and targets were named. Kellee was immediately exposed by Noura, as expected, just as Jamal was aware of the snake in the grass. Lucky for Kellee, she found another idol, which she can use as a trump card when needed. She was already annoying Tommy as they reconvened, who was not happy to hear such news. Lumuwaku, the new tribe had plenty going on, just as Missy and Kellee chatted about Dan and his inappropriate behavior that is seriously becoming a problem at this point in the game. This does not look good, for Dan, Tommy pegged to Lauren how dangerous Kellee is as a player, and her threat level intensified.

Lauren had a heart-to-heart with Missy about being played by Kellee, which left Missy slightly speechless. However, a ripple occurred in the game with the producers having a chat with Dan about his inappropriate touching. This totally changes the game because it seems some players are using Dan’s behavior as a game tool, while pushing a personal agenda at the same time.

The first immunity challenge was all about strength, stability and endurance that saw players dropping left and right. Aaron, Jamal and Elizabeth were left fighting to survive, that end with a battle between Aaron and Jamal, but it was Aaron who edged out everyone. Tommy and Lauren were seriously working to place a target on Kellee, but Jamal, Janet and Noura were considering placing a target on Dan. This is a crazy merge, with Dan, Missy and Kellee all considered targets. However, Elizabeth was not comfortable and suspected Janet was lying, but it was not the case, but Elaine warned Dan, who was speechless about the betrayal.

Kellee was worried and starting searching for a second idol that might be at their new camp, and she has two idols in her back pocket, that is very powerful people. So we get to Tribal Council, and I have to say I just love Lauren; this girl is smart and so genuine and I love it. I could not read what the hell was going to happen with this vote, because so much mystery seemed to be in the air. However, Kellee was concerned and asked Lauren for confirmation. You have two idols, go ahead and burn one of them if you are smart.

Kellee choose not to play her idol and it became a battle between Kellee and Dan, and because she was a bit overconfident, Kellee went home with not one, but two idols in her pocket. That move to take out Jack might have come back to bite her in a major way. I loved it, because Kellee had two idols and had an instinct, but negated it. Janet was not happy with the vote, and felt betrayed, just as Lauren and Tommy tried to repair their relationship.

Janet had a conversation with Dan about his inappropriate touching, and Dan chatted with Missy and Elizabeth about his behavior, and it seemed genuine. Look this issue with Dan is crazy, complicated and just impacting the game way too much. This works for old Lairo who can use Dan to gain the numbers. Janet was livid and had a conversation with Missy and Liz about the Dan debacle, and cue the fireworks. Liz you are busted and exposed and Janet had every right to be upset, and as I noted the players were using something bad as a level of strategy, which is a dirty if you ask me as a player

Janet spotted Missy and Aaron up early in the morning, and Janet decided to follow them. She went searching for an idol and she found one. Yes, I am rooting for Janet because this woman is so genuine and is playing a clean game if you ask me. It’s amazing how many women are finding idols this season compared to the past. Jamal and Karishma stumbled upon something major in the game that takes him to the Island of the Idols.

Once there, he discovered Rob and Sandra, however, Jamal was hoodwinked, he learned that grabbing that note cost him his vote at the next Tribal Council. Now this is a twist, I can totally be behind. Rob and Sandra offered Jamal a test about sabotage, and it was ‘opportunity.’ He could use it as whatever he wanted, and he had to sell it. So what did he do? Wrote a fake legacy advantage and he chose to give it to Dean. This is literally genius gameplay, did I think what he sold was great? Not quite, because he could have been more succinct, and instead raised the target on Jamal’s back.

This episode is just the gift that keeps on giving because the immunity challenge allowed not one person to be safe, but two (the last man and last woman). Jeff amped the stakes right at the beginning. Wow, this challenge didn’t last long, with only 10 minutes in only 5 people are remaining. Aaron won his second immunity challenge, placing a bigger target on his back if you ask me. For the women, it was a battle between Missy and Elizabeth with Missy edging out a victory.

Jamal and Janet were well aware that they were on the bottom and threats to be sent packing. The majority wanted to split the votes between Karishma and Jamal, and Tommy alerted her to vote for Jamal, but Janet sensed something was off. Whoa, this second Tribal Council is fairly early people, I suspect some chaos exploding. Janet stood up for herself and I loved it, but Missy, your arrogance is screaming out and it is not making your likeable. Jamal spoke up and I loved it, so that Janet was not looking like an idiot, and when Dan was asked to address the issue, he wanted to shut it down.

Jeff clarified the situation, and Karishma added to how Dan was being perceived by the women. “Survivor” is looking like it is tackling societal issues in a major way. Dan was adamant that the issue would not be let go, he clashed with Jeff who refused to just sweep the issue under the rug. I get the sense we’re not getting a vote tonight. It was funny that Elizabeth was so quite during this entire conversation. Jeff really summed up the situation in the best possible way.

This had to be the most depressing vote ever. I don’t think I was happy to see how things would turn out. Janet decided to play her hidden immunity idol which left everyone stunned however, the splitting of the votes between Karishma and Jamal sent Jamal packing. Next week looks just as crazy, as we get another double elimination. “Survivor: Island of the Idols” is looking to trim the fat and is not wasting any time in doing it. Until next Wednesday “Survivor” fanatics!