Nice......although will probably be slated on here.
I'm looking to replace mine soon but have decided to wait until the 2010 bikes come out. Shortlist is Zesty, Fuel EX8 & Stumpjumper.
Might end up with the Stumpjumper though anyway as I can probably get one at a large discount through my brothers father-in-law who works in a shop. If I ride them all & there's little difference between them, then if I can get the stumpjumper for hundreds less, then it'll be hard to go for something else.
The FSR elite seems to be the best choice in terms of components/value - I like the fact that it doesn't have Spesh suspension bits on it.
I am tempted to agree with you on the bike for the Merida....probably best to get the Spesh properly set-up, make sure it's all put together right before you take it on a longer ride.