It appears that we're heading towards a Merge on Wednesday (Nov. 3) night's "Survivor: Nicaragua." The tribal reshuffling last month altered the game permanently, throwing that Old vs. Young nonsense out the window. What will a Merge do? Click through...
 
Pre-credit sequence. In case you're forgetting, last week's Eliminated Castaway Who Wasn't Marty was, in fact, Jill. Will Jill's absence impact La Flor? Let's see! The birds are circling and something really nasty -- a tortoise? -- has washed up on the beach. Marty is incredulous that he's gone from all-powerful to  no-power. But Uncle Fabio has found some tree-mail, containing a key. The message tells them to pack up their belongings and follow a map to their new camp. Marty thinks that in a merged tribe, the La Flors will devour each other. "I'm ecstatic," he says, adding cockily, "I'm back in the saddle again."
 
G.I. Jane is an Army of One. The Espada castaways find a box. It's locked. They're told not to open it until they have the key. But wait. La Flor had a KEY! Coincidence? I think not. With the Merge coming, Benry is all ready to turn on Alina. But Alina has different plans. She wants to form a new Espada Alliance, going to the Final 6 as a revised tribe, turning on Marty first. "Alina's in this plan by herself," NaOnka tells us. There's amazingly little enthusiasm for this suggestion. And why would there be?
 
Rum Tummy Tugger. The Espadas are surprised when La Flor arrives at their camp and Jill is missing. Marty's still nattering about his new lease on life as they open the chest and discover ample foodstuffs, as well as snazzy new red buffs. Marty names the new tribe Libertad and everybody agrees. Then again, they'd agree to nearly anything, since they're discovering cookies and chocolate and rum. "That food was yummy to my tummy," says NaOnka, who was hiding nuts in her undergarments. NaOnka is so happy she's even hugging Fabio. And Brenda's gleeful to be reunited with NaOnka. It's hard to fathom anybody being that happy to see NaOnka. Brenda's extensive truth-telling includes the revelation that Sash now has Marty's Idol. 
 
Crime. The sun rises in Libertad, where Jane and Chase are gathering water and exchanging promises of future hospitalities. "She's just a good-ol' lady," Chase says of his fellow Tar-heal. Meanwhile, Jane is still going on about how under-appreciated she was in her old tribe. They're fully bonded, if anybody cares. The next morning, NaOnka is making fry-bread for the tribe. She cooks for everybody, but ends up with the smallest of what she's calling tortillas. NaOnka retaliates by taking the flour and walking off. "Why did she just take the flour?" wonders Holly, the only person to see NaOnka's thievery. But the purloining of food goes on, as NaOnka takes fruit and supplies and wanders off and deposits them in the brush. She's feeling full and cocky. NaOnka is so confident that she even tells Alina that she's down with the Espada Alliance. NaOnka tells Alina that she's strong, but warns her "friend" that she needs to win Immunity to save herself. Confusingly, NaOnka lets Alina in on her hidden trove of food. Is a twist coming? NaOnka explains that she wants to guarantee that she has Alina's vote on the jury. Meanwhile, the two women devour oranges and a mango.
 
Guilt. The tribe begins to notice that things are missing. The bowl is gone. The frying pan is gone. Then Marty notices that the flour is gone and Holly at least knows where that went. She puts NaOnka on the spot, but NaOnka insists that she put the flour in her bag, but didn't take it. Even Fabio doesn't understand her logic. Alina recognizes that she's now a co-conspirator in the food theft. With Chase's help, Alina confronts NaOnka and they try to convince her that it's OK to tell the truth, on the ground that everybody lies in "Survivor." NaOnka's truth-telling is even weirder than her lie, as she claims she was trying to portion the flour out to the benefit of the tribe. Marty is outraged, but wonders if he can make use of NaOnka. "She lied and she stole," Marty muses. "How easy is that? It should be simple. But this game is never simple."
 
Reprecussions. Now they're struggling for food at Libertad. Brenda knows that what NaOnka did was crazy, but Alina was even crazier for going along with the plan. Sash, Chase and Brenda agree to each other that Alina is still their vote, but they have to distance themselves from NaOnka, temporarily. "You're my No. 1 girl here," Sash tells NaOnka. As the youngsters relax and scheming, Jane is delivering fish to the tribe. Jane has been a provider, but Marty sees Jane's capabilities and her alliance with Chase as a threat. "Her story is the saddest story ever on Earth," Marty tells Brenda, warning Jane that nobody could win against Jane with a jury. Brenda isn't at all convinced by Marty's argument, but suddenly she begins to view Marty as dangerous. Well duh, Brenda.
 
The Lord and Lady of the Ring, bar none. Individual Immunity is up for grabs. It's an endurance/strength challenge, holding up a bar with two metal rings. It's dull, but there's a plate to shatter at the bottom and there's nothing the challenge designers love more than breaking plates. A twist: There are two Idols, one for the male who holds the bar up longest and another for the last woman out. Purple Kelly and Dan go out almost immediately, followed by Alina. Down goes Brenda. Down goes Benry. Down goes Sash. Down goes NaOnka. "This is about wanting it," Jeff Probst tells us helpfully, as Holly goes out and gives female Immunity to Jane. Although she has Immunity, Jane refuses to go out. Marty goes down. Chase drops his bar next and Fabio wins Immunity for the men. That means that Jane and Fabio, who were both probably safe anyway, are safe at Tribal Council.
 
The [recovered] pot gets stirred. Immunity probably didn't change much for Libertad. Jane calls her women over and tells them that her only goal was to beat Marty and that Marty is her only target for the vote. Kelly Purple and Alina agree with Jane that Marty can be taken out, if they lay low. Chase is OK with Marty going out first, provided Alina goes out next. The only people not part of the debate are Brenda and Sash. But Sash is concerned: He promised he'd give Marty the idol if he were in trouble at the next Tribal Council. He's willing to vote Marty out, but he wants to wait a week. Jane wants none of this. Jane thinks Marty is the biggest threat in the game and she won't write Alina's name. Dan muddies the water by coming to Marty and telling him that he's going to be blindsided. Marty approaches Sash, who denies this is happening. Marty goes around ranting about the state of affairs. He demands a South Dakota World of Honor from Holly that she won't be voting for him. But Alina won't quit her campaigning against Marty, lobbying even to Fabio, who warns her that this kind of campaigning is why people want her out. Alina says she's just trying to save her rear. Fabio indicates he understands, but doesn't want to vote his buddy Marty out. This Tribal Council could be a real mess.
 
Tribal Council. Marty thinks that big moves are coming and that you have to seize the opportunity to make those big moves. He attempts to cut off one big move by addressing Jane's feelings of disrespect, insulting her poor alliances and warning them all that if Jane makes it to the Final 3, not only will she win, but he'll vote for her. Marty says that it isn't a personal vendetta, that he just wants to take out the person who could take the million dollars. I don't get this. Jane absolutely, positively *can't* go home. This looks great for Alina. But Dan has a point to make: He outs NaOnka and Alina for taking the food. To her credit, NaOnka makes it clear that Alina didn't steal, that it was her. NaOnka, smirking, says that her punishment was nobody talking to her. Alina takes a little responsibility, but positions herself as a pawn, as a swing-vote.
 
The Vote. Jane votes for Marty. Alina votes for Marty. Benry calls Alina a "dirt squirrel" and votes for her. It looks like Sash votes for Alina as well. Nobody plays an Immunity Idol. Jeff reads the votes. Marty. Marty. Alina. Alina. Alina. Alina. Alina. Alina. And that's it for... ALINA. Several people are dissatisfied with the vote, but Dan pats Marty on the rear. Alina doesn't understand why the Tribal chose to keep Marty instead of her and she predicts that their decision will bite them in the butt.
 
Bottom Line: In our chat last week, Jill told me that part of why she was voted out before Marty was because she was a bigger physical threat than the Fake Grandmaster. Maybe other people see Marty's physical weakness as well. Maybe that's why nobody sees the guy as the threat that this season's editing has made him seem to be. For now, he's a mad genius spinning his own wheels without any sort of alliance other than, apparently, Dan. If that's all he is, he's not a threat. Alina was clearly prepared to float for as long as anybody would let her and some people interpreted that as being dangerous, even though she has no real point of strength. The most interesting aspect of the episode was NaOnka's alliance willingly keeping her around without current punishment despite a crime that far exceeded things that have gotten contestants voted out in earlier seasons. What NaOnka did was confusing, slightly irrational and will only reenforce the myriad fans who hate her. Unless this was all a nefarious back-room way of throwing Alina under the bus by making her a co-conspirator and then letting her be voted out? In any case, this episode produced a weird amount of confusion considering that at the start of the episode, I'd have guessed either Alina or Marty would be going home and, indeed, one of them did. Motivations are weird. Also, "Dirt Squirrel"? 
 
What'd you think of this week's episode and of the vote?