The merge is here! As Cochran says, this is "always the part of the game I'm most excited about." Now that everyone is together, they can really get down to business -- making strategic moves, forming new alliances, and blindsiding other players.
And this merge did not disappoint. Just when it seemed like the favorites would mindlessly vote out one of the fans, Dawn -- Dawn! Of all people! -- makes a key decision to rat out Corinne, leading to her demise at tribal council. It comes as a total shock, of course, since Corinne thought she had control of the game. But as she herself said at tribal, everyone's got a plan ... until they get punched in the face.
Two become one
At Bikal, Dawn's having a cry (again) because the game is at the point when things went awry for her on "South Pacific." In that season, after the merge, Cochran flipped on his tribe and Dawn let it happen. This time around, she wants to play smarter and be a decision-maker.
Over at Gota, a big boat pulls up to camp, which can mean only one thing: It's time for the merge! They hop on and cruise over to Bikal, where they're welcomed with a lot of happiness and relief. The whole group enjoys a big feast, but the one-big-happy-family feeling doesn't last long. Phillip takes Andrea aside to firm up their alliance of four with Cochran and Dawn.
Meanwhile, Corinne and Malcolm plot a big move against Phillip for the following vote -- they've got Eddie, Reynold, Michael, and Erik. With six votes, they can take control of the game. "I haven't liked this passive, plodding-along game I've been playing with the favorites," Malcolm says.
The immunity challenge is a "Survivor" classic: eating gross stuff. Eddie apparently is worried that it might ruin his dating prospects, but Cochran thinks it might help his. "It might make me seem more dangerous," he muses. "I think this is exactly what my love life needs." (LOL.)
At the challenge, several of the players look like they might vomit when the first item is revealed -- still-squirming beetle larvae. Eeewwww! It comes down to Malcolm, the "golden god of the tribe," and Cochran. And shockingly, it's Cochran who prevails!
Back at camp, the scrambling starts. Phillip tells Corinne they should split the vote between Eddie and Reynold, but she argues that it'd be easier to vote out Sherri because her fellow fans don't like her, either.
Malcolm and Corinne firm up their secret alliance with Eddie and Reynold. And Corinne makes a big mistake and talks to Dawn. She tells her that after voting out Sherri, she wants to get rid of Phillip.
But Dawn has vowed to deal with a flipper differently this time, so she instantly goes to Cochran to rat out Corinne. They realize that if they vote out Sherri, Corinne will have the numbers next week to start taking out all the other faves. "It's a sobering situation," Cochran says.
[Related: Where Are 'Survivor' Winners Now?]
They need to get rid of Corinne, but how? With Brenda, they've only got five votes. Cochran brings in Andrea, who suggests trying to get Sherri and wishy-washy Erik on board. When Phillip finds out what's going on, he tells Sherri that if she wants to stay alive in the game, she should vote for Corinne.
Andrea approaches Erik and signals that they're all voting for Corinne. But Malcolm tells him to vote for Sherri. The laidback player, who doesn't have a strategic bone in his body, realizes he's a swing vote. "I'm suddenly becoming a valuable player, which is so cool," he says.
At tribal council, Jeff Probst asks whether they can assume that a fan is leaving. With a knowing smile, Sherri says yes. Andrea talks about how good they all are at lying. And Corinne starts talking about how every person has a plan -- until they get punched in the face.
They vote, and as Jeff reads out the names, Corinne looks shocked as her own comes up. When it comes down to the last vote -- it's for Corinne.
And with that, the game's first blindside happens!
Check out reactions on Twitter, then sound off with your own thoughts in the comments below!
LOL Corinne wanted to be part of a blindside. HAHAHAHA be careful what you wish for!!! #Survivor
— Jonathan Reid (@JawnReid) April 4, 2013
I love that #Survivor brought back the food challenge. I've missed it.
— Dustin L (@DJBullwinkle) April 4, 2013
Thinking back on it, Corinne should have organized a Phillip blindside after the tribe switch. #Survivor
— Orrin Shawl (@Orrin_Shawl) April 4, 2013
Watch a preview of next week's episode:
"Survivor" airs Wednesdays at 8 PM on CBS.