First I was shocked when L.J. didn't play his immunity idol facing elimination in tribal council. Then I was shocked when Tony flipped his vote and took out the strongest member of Solara, Cliff.
But the blindside was just punctuation to a thoroughly entertaining episode.
Right off the bat, the three tribes headed to a reward challenge that quickly took on a new complexity as the tribes merged into two.
In an epic battle of strength that was completely dominated by Cliff of Solara, a tribe made up of five members of Brawn plus L.J. and Jefra, took home an assortment of delicious-looking doughnuts, cookies and other items.
Essentially, one contestant from each tribe had to hold onto a large pole while two opposing players tried to tear them off and carry them across a line in the sand.
Tasha won for Aparri but Cliff won twice for Solara, sending them home victorious.
After each tribe tangled and twisted together, the immunity challenge showcased, surprisingly, former members of the sluggish Brains tribe who were paired with three from the Beauty tribe.
In the maze part of the challenge, Tasha used great vocal leadership skills to help Aparri navigate to a rare win for the tribe, sending Solara to its first tribal council.
Prior to their date with Jeff, members of the losing tribe, namely Jefra and L.J., who held an immunity idol, rallied to break apart the five-way Brawn alliance to keep the duo alive heading onward.
In a surprising twist of fate, L.J. hung on to his immunity as Tony switched his vote, sending former NBA star Cliff, arguably the strongest player in the entire game, packing.
Survivor Power Rankings, Week 5
- L.J.: No idea how he pulled this one off. He joined a brand new tribe. He kept his immunity idol in his pocket. And, he managed to keep its existence a secret while surviving another three days. (Last week: 5)
- Spencer: A former Brains leader, Spencer helped his new tribe win immunity and resculpted the power structure in the Aparri camp, with the three Brains on top. (Last week: 3)
- Tony: He continues to show his strength, not in challenges but socially. He swapped his vote and led the blindside of Cliff. And he has an idol. (Last week: 4)
- Tasha: She continues to show how a sly social game and smart approach to challenges can dominate the game of "Survivor." (Last week: 6)
- Jefra: The Beauty and former Miss Kentucky hung on by the skin of her teeth in the new Solara tribe, but her alliance with powerhouse L.J. could be an asset going forward. (Last week: not ranked)
- Jeremiah and Cass: Neither of the two did much in this most recent episode, but each is a leader and looking strong in the new Solara tribe. (Last week: 1, 6)
Follow Metro Philadelphia sports editor Evan Macy on twitter @Evan_Macy