Erik Cardona decided against playing his Hidden Immunity Idol at the first post-merge Tribal Council, and now he won't ever have an opportunity to use it.

The 28-year-old bartender from Ontario, CA was blindsided and became the ninth castaway eliminated from Survivor: Samoa during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.

"Wow. I'm disappointed, but I said playing Survivor would be looking into a mirror and I'm pretty proud of the face I see," said Erik after his ouster.

"I don't regret going home with the idol because you can't defend against something that's invisible -- and this blindside was invisible to me. But I gave 100% of my heart and I can hang my hat on that."

Survivor: Samoa's eighth episode began on Night 18 following the elimination of Elizabeth Kim, meaning Foa Foa was now outnumbered by Galu 8 to 4.

"We're in a horribly inferior position," opined Jaison Robinson, a 28-year-old law student from Chicago, IL. "We've got to struggle to get to the merge and then divide and conquer, otherwise we're all screwed."

Russell Hantz, a 36-year-old oil company owner from Dayton, TX, was expecting the merge soon, and he said once the two tribes combined it would be "game on." 

He thought that if he, Jaison, Mick Trimming, a 33-year-old doctor from Boise, ID who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, and Natalie White, a 26-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative from Van Buren, AR, could work together to find Galu's tribal cracks, they'd have a shot.

"Foa Foa needs a merge. We have some strong ideas once we get over there," he said. "We plan on working as a team, talking to different people."

Mick suggested that their best option might be approaching Laura Morett, a 39-year-old office manager from Salem, OR, and forming a "solid block" with her.

"There's segregation in their tribe, in our tribe -- Foa Foa -- there's unity," said Russell.

"We are working as a team. So I'm not really nervous about my numbers. I'm too good for this game. I'm too sly. Now, I've got to make sure my seed is planted in all these dumbasses' heads so once we do merge we can stir them up over there."
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The next morning at Galu, tribal leader Shannon "Shambo" Waters, a 45-year-old sales representative from Renton, WA, and Laura bickered about a missing canteen -- however the other Galu members knew the dispute was about a larger issue between the two because neither likes each other.

"To be honest, we know Shambo's crazy. So if you get in a fight with Shambo, who's the one who looks bad? You look bad," commented Erik. "If you fight with Shambo, that means you're just as crazy as her only you're not crazy, you're just being crazy."

The two tribes then received Tree Mail that hinted at a merge. Before leaving, Russell grabbed the Hidden Immunity Idol he previously found and took it with him.

Both tribes arrived on a beach and were met by a treasure chest, which contained a note confirming it was time to merge and they'd all be living at the old Galu camp. They all received new buffs and shared a feast to get to know each other.

Russell quickly noticed that the Foa Foa members were chatting with the Galu members, integrating themselves and forming new bonds.

"Things are about to change totally in this game. The other tribe, I don't think they even realize it right now," he said in a confessional.

"I'm looking around Foa Foa and everybody is taking that step to do exactly what we said to do in camp: Get with these people, bring them under your wing, and connect with them. We're steps ahead of them. We already have our plan down. The ones I know I can trust, they're doing exactly like I want them to do, and it's going to get stronger as we go along. I can already see I'm going to rule in this kingdom."

The merged tribe then arrived at the old Galu camp and discussed a new tribal name.  Brett Clouser, a 23-year-old T-shirt designer from Salem, OR who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, suggested "Aiga," which means "extended family" in Samoan. The tribe agreed that's a good name and Brett, Shambo and Erik began painting a new flag.

"Foa Foa, the only thing they have going for them is they have a new beach and they have new people to talk to," boasted Erik in a confessional.

"They're starting over. They're on Day 2, I'm on Day 19. I have the Hidden Immunity Idol, it's in my pocket, and that's power in this game. They think that they're going to strategize and make friends and la, la, la we're extended family -- like they name of our tribe, Aiga. Extended family? What's Samoan for get the hell off my island?"

Similar to the way he was "very aggressive" on Day 1 at Foa Foa when he basically approached everyone about forming an alliance with him, Russell decided to take the same approach at Aiga. He showed the Hidden Immunity Idol to Laura and told her if she took him to the Top 7 he would give it to her.

"Does anybody know you have it?" asked Laura.

"Nobody," said Russell -- which was a lie, as Jaison, Mick and Natalie all knew he had it.

While she played it cool, Laura later expressed shock he showed he the idol.

"Desperate people do desperate things," she explained in a confessional. "I don't believe that he would give that to me but just knowing that he has it is huge, which means when we do get rid of him it's going to have to be a big blindside."

Russell also showed the idol to Monica Padilla, a 25-year-old law student from San Diego, CA, and made the same promise with her as he did with Laura -- however he was less sure he could count on Monica's allegiance.

"Monica didn't mean a word she said over there on the rocks.  I see it in her eyes, but she might start meaning what she tells me if I get rid of her boss," said Russell.  "If I get rid of Laura, she comes a running."

Russell also showed the idol to John Fincher, a 25-year-old rocket scientist from Los Angeles, CA.

"I think [he showed it to me] because Russell's an aggressive player and he realizes that maybe having a relationship with someone like me is something that can be very, very beneficial in this game," said John in a confessional.

The two discussed the possibility of ousting Laura to eliminate the threat of the girls and agreed it was a "manageable risk."

"Me and John could be a good team I believe," said a pleased Russell. "He's smart enough to know what's going on, so things are going to get crazy tomorrow."

Early the next morning, Russell discussed the idea of ousting Laura with Shambo and quickly realized it wouldn't be a hard sell.

"Shambo hates Laura.  She hates her," said Russell in a confessional.  "So I know that at any point she'll vote Laura's name."

Shambo said she "trusts Russell implicitly" and told him to bring Mick, Jaison and Natalie into the loop about Laura and it should be easy to oust her.

"It was easy to control these minds, way easier than I thought," boasted Russell.  "John's on board and I have Shambo in my pocket, so if we can get rid of Laura, this whole game might change."

The Aiga tribe then arrived for the first individual Immunity Challenge, and host Jeff Probst explained it was a Survivor version of tee ball.

One at a time, each castaway would place their ball on the tee and take a swing.  The numbered section that the ball landed in would earn the player that many points.  The highest score would win immunity.  In addition, Jeff said that two people would win immunity -- as the men and women would compete on separate teams and the winner of each team would receive it.

John was able to score five points as the last male batter to take immunity, while Laura scored four points as the last female batter to also win immunity -- throwing a kink in the plan to boot her.

"When I saw Laura win immunity, I got a gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach," opined Shambo.  "We were gonna write down Laura's name tonight and now we can't. So that sucked because I really wanted her gone."

Back at camp, several of the old Galu members were confident somebody from Foa Foa would be booted first.  Russell spoke with Shambo and told her he wanted Monica out to "get rid of the girl thing," however Shambo quickly told him "that ain't gonna happen."

"The problem is, Erik and Laura, they will decide who will go today," she explained to him. "If that means we lose a number from your tribe, we lose a number."

That comment didn't sit well with Russell and he knew he was being targeted, so he thought about the possibility of playing the Hidden Immunity Idol.

"I don't want to have to play the idol, but if I'm feeling antsy about tonight, I might have to go that route," he said in a confessional.

Laura then told Erik that Russell has the Hidden Immunity Idol.

"He thinks he's going to go first, so I bet he's going to play it tonight," responded Erik.  "So we should say Russ..."

"And then flush it out?" said Laura.

"Yeah," answered Erik. "And vote Jaison. He's like worthless to the tribe."

"Perfect," said Laura.

Erik then told John that Russell had the idol -- which he already knew but didn't divulge. John countered by telling Erik that Monica had to go to weaken Laura.

"Some members of Galu, they just want to go down the line: Foa Foa, Foa Foa, Foa Foa. It's like they're playing really junior varsity Survivor right now," said John in a confessional.

"There are tons of inherent risks with breaking up the team that we've worked this far to develop at Galu. But it's a risk I'm comfortable with because I still believe that it's in our best interest to get rid of Monica."

John told Erik it was "fine" if he voted with Laura to oust Jaison as a rouse while Monica would be the actual target.

"At first I didn't like the idea," said Erik in a confessional. "However allowing me to vote with Laura, when she gets spooked after Tribal Council, she'll have nobody to turn to but me and I can go ahead and gain her trust, which could be good for me down the road."

John explained to Erik that all four Foa Foa members would be voting for Monica, and Erik approached Brett and David Ball, a 38-year-old fitness instructor from Los Angeles, CA, about securing their votes for Monica. He said even without brining Shambo onboard, they should have the votes to oust Monica.

"Erik, he wanted to vote Monica, which is crazy," said Dave. "The plan should be vote Foa Foa and shoot them down... So there may be something going on in Erik's head that he's not letting on because he's a crafty, craft dude -- and that makes me a little nervous."

Erik then approached Mick, Jaison and Natalie about voting to boot Monica without telling Russell that way they can flush out the Hidden Immunity Idol. However he did so in a very condescending manner, which didn't endear him to Jaison.

"I feel like Erik is talking to me like I'm a f--king child," said Jaison to Mick and Natalie.

"We're screwed anyway. And I think what we should do is, we should tell them, 'Yeah, sure, we'll vote the way you want us to vote and flush out the idol.' And then we go get Erik."

Natalie put the plan in motion by telling Laura that Erik was gunning for Monica.

"Why can't we get him out first?" asked Natalie.

"Because there's no way to pull it together," replied Laura. 

Laura and Natalie then pitched the plan to oust Erik to Kelly Sharbaugh, a 25-year-old hairstylist from Wilmington, DE who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. 

"Kelly and Laura, I just basically let them know that Erik needed to go next," said Natalie. "We have four people, they have eight -- it's not a big deal if they lose one."

Laura and Kelly then told Monica that Erik was going after her, and she was surprised but agreed that he needed to go. They then told Dave about the plan -- and he was also agreeable to it. Dave then approached Shambo with the plan.

"Kelly said the plan's changed, tonight Erik goes," he said.

"Who's Erik?" asked Shambo.

"Erik!" reiterated Dave.

"Our Erik?!" said a confused Shambo.

"Yes," responded Dave.

Natalie saw Galu scrambling and whispering and was confident she had convinced them to vote for Erik, however Russell was skeptical.

"I don't think you talked them into it," he told Natalie -- apparently under the impression that he's the only one with any strategic gameplay.  "I think you think you did."

Jaison then asked Russell if he planned to play the idol -- informing him this could hust be a "game" to flush it out.

"This is the first time that I don't know nothing," said Russell in a confessional. 

"All of a sudden, all hell breaks lose. All the girls want to vote Erik out now. I don't know what they're thinking. They could possibly be saying, 'Hey let's say vote Erik that way Russell will feel way comfortable, won't use his idol and we'll vote him out.' Then they get me and the idol."

Erik said he was also "concerned."

"It seems almost too easy right now," he said in a confessional. "That makes me uncomfortable. Fortunately, I've got my idol in my pocket and I'll use it if I need to use it."

Tribal Council then commenced, and Jaison expressed frustration at the lack of control Foa Foa has on the situation since they're outnumbered.

"To me, I struggle to see anything that Foa Foa has to offer Galu," boasted Erik. "Let's just say that they were able to get a Galu member to turn in a very cohesive team, I would be floored if I saw them get one -- let alone two or three that they would need to actually spin this game."

Erik added he wasn't "being cocky or confident" but simply stating the fact that Foa Foa is "in the hole." The comments didn't sit well with Russell, who said he "doesn't like pity" and Foa Foa has "a lot to offer."

"Can you see why somebody who's down in numbers -- like Foa Foa -- would do anything to try to stay alive?" Jeff asked Erik.

"I think one way to look at it is how is it that they reacted to the merge and living with us," responded Erik.
"I'll tell you right now, Russ goes out there and scrambles -- he's been at everybody's ear. Mick comes in, does his thing, takes it on the chin, says the numbers are what they are. Natalie doesn't want to step on anybody's toes. And Jaison is just an enigma because you see this intelligence and you see his physical prowess and his athleticism, but you don't really see it come together."

Jaison said Erik can take a look at his resume and is being "strategic" in his own way.

"The personal attacks on me in which somebody says I can't put it together, they just eat at me," added Jaison.

"For 28 years, I've been fighting to do things, to accomplish things -- and I feel like people have doubted me the entire way. I've had to push through roadblocks I couldn't go around or under or over. So I think maybe it just take me back to those days. I've tried to play this game hard, but not take it too seriously -- but sometimes something just kicks in."

"Well I like that in a player," responded Erik. "If I was your coach I would say that's what I like to hear."

"I guess the point is that I don't care what you like," snapped Jaison.

Russell said he was confident Foa Foa "could still make this happen."  Erik said he "respects" the fact Russell won't quit, but added his competitiveness is "misaligned" and needs to be "focused."

"In other words, just roll over and get voted out quietly," translated Russell. "Well that ain't gonna happen."

The castaways then cast their votes and before Jeff revealed the results, Russell played his Hidden Immunity Idol.

"If I have the idol I mine as well play it," said Russell.

However it was Erik who should have played his Hidden Immunity Idol -- as almost everyone voted to oust him while he voted with Shambo to boot Jaison.  Erik was eliminated by a 10-2 vote.

Survivor: Samoa's next episode will air Thursday, November 12 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.