'Survivor' contestant survives with history-making gameplay, and fans are loving it

Cast members were shocked when one of them used a history-making shot-in-the-dark advantage to save himself from elimination.
Contestants were shocked when one among them used a history-making shot-in-the-dark advantage to save himself from elimination. (CBS)

The “merge” episode of Survivor is usually an exciting one every season, but after a historic event went down during this week’s tribal council the night became even more memorable.

A shot-in-the-dark advantage was played this week, which was first introduced in season 41 and is given to every player at the beginning of the game. It provides a one-in-six chance of safety when played in exchange for someone’s vote at tribal council.

But not since its introduction to the franchise has the shot-in-the-dark advantage had a more game-altering impact — or really any impact for that matter — than during Wednesday’s show, now in season 45.

Here’s a look at how the historic moment played out.

The lead-up

Now that the castaways are 12 days into the competition, it was time to combine three small tribes into one bigger one. And it was contestant Kaleb Gebrewold who quickly made use of his social skills trying to get on the good side of as many new tribe members as possible.

“I need a group to work with, you can’t run through this game by yourself like a vigilante,” Kaleb said in a confessional. “I'm not Batman, you know? I’m Kaleb. I’m the Canadian.”

Of course a move like that isn't always looked upon favorably by other players — especially when your social game is clearly as good as Kaleb’s — and he quickly became a target given the physical threat he also presents.

Before the merge could officially happen though, an immunity challenge needed to take place and then someone had to be voted off before things could become official.

A random draw pitted two teams against each other in a muddy obstacle course that had a puzzle at the end. When the randomly drawn red team consisting of Kaleb, Kellie, Dee, J, Jake and Emily lost the challenge, it meant one of them would be going home.

Tribal council

Sensing he was in trouble heading into tribal council, Kaleb potentially made matters worse by trying to pull another name, J. Maya, into the conversation as a different target to vote off. So he wisely decided to play his shot-in-the-dark advantage when it was his turn to go in and vote.

Kaleb announced his intentions to host Jeff Probst with the line, “I”m gonna buy a lotto ticket if this works, so, fingers crossed.”

Then the host and executive producer Probst opened the scroll that contained Kaleb’s fate, which in this case read: SAFE. Tribe members reacted with shock, awe, disbelief and — for Kaleb especially — excitement.

After that Probst read off the 11 remaining votes which all had Kaleb’s name written down and, therefore, didn’t count. That meant a re-vote was needed and with Kaleb being safe, it was the very person he had brought up earlier, J, that was the sixth person voted out of Survivor this season.

The history

This marked the tenth time a shot-in-the dark was played on Survivor and just the second time it read SAFE. The first time was Jaime Lynn Ruiz in season 44, but she wasn’t being voted out and didn’t need it.

And not only was this the first game-altering shot-in-the-dark that has been played, it was the most impactful all-around advantage played on the show ever, after voiding a total of 11 votes. The previous high was nine votes voided by an idol played by Kelley Wentworth in season 31.

The reaction

While the feelings at tribal council surrounding Kaleb’s moment were a fairly mixed bag for obvious reasons, viewers reacting on social media were loving the historic moment and really just loving Kaleb in general as an all-time Survivor player.

Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.