Ron Clark with firefighter ally Eric Hafemann on "Survivor: Edge of Extinction."

‘Survivor’ recap: is Ron Clark still the ‘puppet master’?

Originally posted Wednesday, April 3, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

CBS titled this particular episode “I am the puppet master,” which is exactly what Atlanta educator Ron Clark uttered to the cameras at one point. And CBS used that line in its teaser for tonight’s episode. 

As any “Survivor” veteran knows, prominent use of such a comment never bodes well for said person.

On the bright side, Ron survived this particular round. Unfortunately, his Kama Six alliance did not. The result: he lost his closest ally Eric in a classic blindside.

It became too obvious to everyone after the Joe blindside last week that this alliance existed. What’s worse, it became too obvious that Ron and Eric were leading the group for everyone involved. 

A friend of mine from college (hey “Survivor” super fan Erik Swain!) noted that based on previous seasons, alliances from tribes that never go to tribal council pre-merge tend to fall apart after the merge because they haven’t strategized enough and unresolved internal conflicts play out. 

Outsider and returnee David during tribal council noted that there were plenty of Kama tribe members with blank resumés as a result. And that may make them hungry to make a big move to help fill those resumés out. 

In fact, the clues were there for a classic blindside against either Ron or Eric. But neither picked up on it.

Ron had a couple of strategies he thought might help solidify the Kama alliance.. He roped in David and Rick to join Kama and go after their Lesu tribemates Wardog, Lauren and Kelley, who had targeted them in the past.

Ron figured even if he lost Aurora, who was upset she was left out of the Joe blindside last week, he still had the numbers.

“Eric and I are working together to control everybody,” he said. 

He also tried to instill loyalty by noting that the family member visit was coming soon. Why risk a big move now and miss out?

Neither strategy panned out. The family reunion is nice and all but $1 million is nicer. And David was totally game going back with Lesu to try to take out a Kama member. Rick? Not so much. He felt too burned by Kelley voting against him twice and emotionally couldn’t go there. So the Rick/David duo split on votes this time.

Aurora was super offended she was left out of the Kama Six and was totally open to flip.

Bottom line: while it’s great to be a “puppet master” if nobody knows it, it’s terrible when everybody does.

“It’s Ron’s show,” Kelley said to the other Lesu.

Aurora won immunity and Lauren fainted in dramatic fashion. At this point, Wardog planted seeds in Kama 6 members Julia and Gavin’s head about the dangers of Rick and Eric. And it worked! They began talking about making a move and breaking up the alliance, targeting Rick or Eric. Victoria joined in though she thought it might be too early. Eric, who was even more heavy handed about the “family visit” ploy than Ron, ended up being the blindside target. 

At tribal council, Ron was blissfully clueless of what was about to happen. He even said he felt like Kama members should not break up now because they’d be “at the bottom” of a newly configured voting group. But wouldn’t that be the case for any Lesu members joining Kama? “We are open for business to join our alliance,” he said. “We have limited space for a limited time only.”

Even when Aurora hinted that something was afoot, Ron didn’t take it in.

In the end, the Kama 6 split in half. Ron and Eric only had Julie and bitter Lesu member Rick. The other eight voted for Eric. And Ron looked properly chastened. 

So Ron lives on. Now he’s no longer in the driver’s seat and is going to have to scramble to make it much longer. But at least he wasn’t the target of the blindside. And if people are more transactional from here on in rather than emotional. Ron is hardly guaranteed to go home next week. 

By the way, over at Edge of Extinction...

Since “Survivor” producers love Joe, he is seen trying to give himself a pep talk and crying. 

Then Aubry figures out a clue that leads her to a place to practice the return challenge. And she also gives an extra vote to Aurora,  which she can use through top seven. (She did not use it tonight. And neither Lauren nor Kelley used their immunity idols because they knew the Eric blindside was coming.)

So as usual, the returning players get lots of airtime though we finally got to see more of Julia, Gavin and Aurora for the first time. 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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