The tribes merge, thank goodness, giving the Top 12 things to talk about other than how much Corinne and Phillip hate each other. Dawn is finding herself very nervous (i.e. weepy) because this is the point in her original season where Cochran flipped, she didn't do anything about it, and her game was doomed as a result.
As soon as the merged tribe is formed (named Enil Edam by Malcolm, slyly slipping his mom's name -- backwards -- into the game), Corinne bolts directly to Malcolm to bitch about Phillip. Luckily, he's already formed his little Dude Alliance, and Corinne has formed a bond with Michael based on how she demeaningly reduces him to an object on her gay charm bracelet while he kind of laughs nervously as she does so. Malcolm is really itching to get into the driver's seat of this game, so forming a new alliance and flipping on Stealth R Us sounds pretty good to him.
After the return of the Gross Food Immunity Challenge is won (with great, surprised fanfare) by Cochran, it's time for the real strategy to begin. Malcolm and Corinne figure they have a solid 5 (with Eddie, Reynold, and Michael) and that Erik is persuadable. But at 6 people, they want to wait for the tribe to be at 11 members before they make their move. To get to that point, they think they can sell Sherri as an "easy" vote to the Favorites' alliance this week. Except Phillip wants to get rid of a big dog, like Reynold or Eddie. (He also wants to split the vote between those guys, to flush out any idols, which should have been all the opening Corinne needed to stage a 5-4-3 blindside -- without even having to involve, say, Erik -- and vote Phillip out, but she completely fails to recognize the opportunity.) Corinne tries to make her case for Sherri to the group and then tries to sell Dawn on joining the plan to oust Phillip next time.
Dawn (with history weighing on her mind) gets nervous about upsetting the applecart and tattles on Corinne to Cochran, who then takes it upon himself and Andrea to save the Favorites' bacon. So they tell Phillip, get Sherri on their side to vote out Corinne, and then send Andrea over to bat her eyes at Erik and tell him to vote for Corinne as well. Later, Malcolm wants Erik to vote for Sherri, and so Erik is the swing vote.
At Tribal, Sherri says flat-out that she doesn't see a scenario where a Fan can win, which sets my Ironic Foreshadowing alarms off at full volume. Reynold, massive preening dummy that he is, basically flat-out reveals that this week's vote will go according to plan but next week, they'll flip. Finally, the tribe votes, and although the first five votes are for Sherri, the next seven go to Corinne, who had a decent plan, was too blind to see an even better one, and ended up getting felled by DAWN, of all people. Here's hoping she finds plenty of gay men to infantilize at Ponderosa.
Previously: the tribes swapped, leaving not nearly enough buffer zone between Phillip and Corinne for anyone's comfort. Chafing under the thumb of Stealth R Us, Corinne looked at Michael, decided he was a precious little ceramic figurine of homosexuality that she wanted for her very own, and began to make backup plans. This led to conflict when it came to last Tribal Council, where Julia was revealed to have been merely a ghost spotted by the fire one night, and when the tribe spoke her name in unison, she disappeared into thin air. Oh, and at some point after losing the immunity challenge, Phillip informed Cochran that he meant to do that.
Currently: the Bikal tribe returns from TC and takes turns congratulating Michael for not being the Fan they decided to cut loose. Corinne takes credit, in her interview, for making sure Michael stayed around. "I made sure I got The Gay," she says, because she's apparently reeeeeally committed to making this "I love dehumanized stereotypical traits way more than actual people" thing happen. Beyond this wildly offensive BS, I also have to deal with the fact that Corinne looks like Bethenny Frankel from Real Housewives, and I like Bethenny Frankel, but I am also having far too easy a time imagining Bethenny saying this same kind of "I love nothing better than A Gay" stuff, which is really crossing my wires and making me think bummer thoughts. ANYWAY, enough about Corinne and her one-woman, faceless Pride parade. Phillip pulls Corinne and Dawn aside ("like an ADD kid," Corinne interviews) to make sure that they know that losing that immunity challenge was completely on purpose, an ingenious plot he came up with once the challenge had begun. He also manages, in that very Phillip way of his, to make it sound like Corinne was an idiot for not realizing it while it was happening. He's so very much the worst of humanity. In her interview, Corinne's eyes are practically in her interviewer's lap, is how much she's bugging about this happy horseshit. After Phillip leaves them, Corinne and Dawn look at each other and are like, "...Why even is he?" Corinne interviews that this kind of instability, right here, is a prime reason why Phillip needs to go.
After the break, it's the next morning, and Bikal takes advantage of some Michael-free time to chat. Corinne opines that none of the Fans besides Michael have a brain, which she knows because ... how? Not saying she's not right, necessarily, but she's flying blind here. Even Phillip manages to say that they won't know until they talk to them firsthand. But Phillip says that once the merge happens, they all have to be "hyper-viligant" [sic] and avoid "one-off" conversations with the Fans, since they'll be looking to make deals. This speaks to Dawn's particular insecurity, as she interviews that it was right at this stage of the game in South Pacific that Cochran turned on their alliance. It doesn't seem like Dawn's obsessing on this because she fears Cochran will flip again, but rather that last time, she knew about it and didn't tell anyone, and it ended up spelling her doom. She's emotional to the point of weepy at the thought of things falling apart again. Dawn's done this a lot this season, the crying, and it's naturally going to rub people the wrong way. It can't help but come across as disingenuous to ruthlessly slash your way through the game and then make a big show of feeling so sad about it afterwards. But I do feel bad for Dawn. I think she's a crier and can't really help that, and I think she comes by her empathy honestly. Part of it, of course, is that she's dealing with both wanting to win and wanting to be liked at the same time, and at some point, the best Survivor players realize that that only happens if you don't beg for it. Anyway. Dawn. She's come too far and needs the money for her family (six kids!) too much to repeat her mistakes of the past. "Last time I let my game go to heck," she says. Oh man. If she really is "playing the mom" here, she's playing it to perfection.