I've seen quite a consensus on the internet that people thought that episode 5 was "good", and episode 1 was "okay" but the rest of the pre-merge was awful. I'd just like to list a few reasons why I disagree with this:

  1. Sure, the Allie/Hope boots may have been the cliche minority-alliance-gets-picked-off scenario but I though that the "Cool Kids" was a likable unsucessful early alliance in the game - and I liked Laura outing Reynold's idol at the episode 2 tribal council.
  2. People found Shamar polarizing, but he also had an interesting background and breathed life into the Fans tribe.
  3. Even post-tribe shuffle there was some good quotes such as Cochran's vanilla comment about Julia and Corinne's tubby lunchbox comment about Phillip.
  4. There were several great tribal challenges, some of them being of the popular water-variety.
  5. It's cool to see people on the show that have their own unique style and Matt the beards guy sure was an interesting character.
  6. A lot of people complained that the editing was very uneven in the pre-merge but in defence of this, the storylines of Brenda and Erik are clearly more post-merge orientated.