Confession time: I watched the latest episode of Survivor on Friday morning, but before I could write much of the recap, I was sidelined by a wedding (drunkenness) and Yom Kippur (hunger/Jewish guilt). As a result, many of the Survivor details have become somewhat foggy. What I do remember is that Thursday’s episode was a good one, mostly because I was surprised by the final outcome. Maybe it was the intoxicating New York air or maybe it was the lingering affects of the TVgasm cocktail hour in Manhattan (btw, thanks to everyone who showed up), but Mark Burnett pulled a fast one on me. Always nice to know that after twelve seasons, this show can still catch me off guard.The latest episode began at Aitu where the Latinos were still reeling over Billy’s Tribal Council declaration of love for Candice. Not even JP with the extra brainpower harnessed in his giant pectorals could grasp the bizarre turn of events. “If it’s true, it’s true… It’s not true,” he said, his head exploding in the process. Cannot… comprehend… love… at… first… sight…
Over at the Asian tribe of Puka, we found Brad fishing in the waters. Suddenly, the camera got all shaky, and I feared that our intrepid castaway might become victim to some unseen foe, perhaps even the dreaded sting ray, slayer of the deep! But all the chaos was for naught. Brad managed to emerge from the waters with a normal fish on his spear as the scene became instantly anticlimactic. Over on the beach, Cao Boi was busy telling an endless story that was clearly boring everyone, which in turn made it awesome for us at home. Nothing like watching unhappy castaways stuck with a crazy old coot. In between laughing at his own jokes, Cao Boi then told everyone about how the draft was gonna come back and how his friend’s teenage sons will probably be sent to Iraq. This sparked a mild political discussion as pretty much everyone scoffed at Cao Boi’s conspiracy theories. Sadly, we still did not learn what you call a Vietnamese guy with three dogs.
Meanwhile, at Raro, a morsel of tree mail had arrived, and from the sounds of things, it seemed like there was a challenge coming up. Of course, since I occasionally read the two sentence episode description on the Tivo, I knew that this was merely the preamble to an old fashioned Survivor switcheroo and merge. Nevertheless, the tribe members had no idea what was going on, and so everyone prepped for an afternoon of adventure. That pretty much meant that we saw Jonathan on hands and knees, rotating his head all around in what was probably a yoga move but instead looked like some sort of kinky, religious rapture.
“We’re ready to rock and roll. We’re doing great!” Jonathan said, clearly foreshadowing total failure and destruction within the next forty-five minutes.
Anyway, the tribes all filed into Jeff Probst’s tropical nook where he informed them that Billy was the latest person voted out. We then cut to Candice to see her reaction, but lo! NO RESPONSE WHATSOEVER! Perhaps she was so shocked by her lover’s departure that she couldn’t even register it. State of denial!
Well, once Jeff ushered Yul back into the game from Exile Island, he got to work with the business at hand: “Drop your buffs!” he ordered. And just like that, all the racial controversy came to an end. Are we shocked? Not really. Let’s not forget that the old and young tribes only lasted about two days last season. And how about that crazy “two tribes sharing one beach” concept from a few seasons ago? Yeah, the one-episode arc on that was riveting! Point is, as much as Mark Burnett likes to talk about shaking up the game, it always reverts to normal by the third week.
Nevertheless, Jeff’s command to drop buffs still managed to shock Cao Boi, who asked, “Drop our what??” He then added, “YOU’RE NOT SENDING ME TO IRAQ, WHITE MAN! I WILL PULL THE WIND OUT OF YOU!” Okay, he didn’t say that last part. Cao Boi obediently dropped his buff, as did everyone else including Cecilia who seductively peeled her buff down her legs, thus allowing the camera to linger on her pelvic region a bit longer than most CBS shows are allowed (except for Navy NCIS. That show is all about the vag).
Once all the buffs were removed, Jeff split everyone by gender. Ah, so it’ll be battle of the sexes now? Nope. He then had each person pull tiles from a bag, and since Cecilia, Parvati, Brad, and Jonathan all had the special tiles, they became captains in charge of picking. The rules this time around: women had to choose women, men had to choose men. And to determine who’d be picking first, an old fashioned game of rock, paper, scissors. And if you think this is getting slightly convoluted, just hold onto your horses (assuming you have horses to hold onto, in which case, you really shouldn’t be on the internet right now).
Well, Cecilia won the rock, paper, scissors showdown which meant she could pick first. One quick thing though: she could only pick a woman who was not from her tribe. As a result, she picked white girl Jessica, who happily informed her, “You can call me Flicka.” I really feel like she’s trying to push this “Flicka” thing onto everyone, and I’m not sure it’s gonna ever truly catch on.
Parvati, or as Jeff Probst seems to call her, “Poverty,” chose the “cutie in the peach,” a.k.a. Jenny from the Asian block. Now it was Jessica/Flicka’s turn, and she could only pick a woman from either the Asians or the blacks. God, enough with the rules! She picked “the sister on the end,” or as she’s more formally known, Sundra. Jenny, meanwhile, was faced with picking either a Latina or a black, and so she opted for wonder-cop Cristina. To finish things out for the women, Sundra picked Becky (who later picked Candice), and Cristina then picked Rebecca (who later picked Stephanie). Excellent. Now, let’s do it all over again for the men!
In a little bit of sweet revenge for the whole chicken thing from episode one, Brad beat out poultry thief Jonathan in the rock, paper, scissors battle and picked JP first. Jonathan, however, drafted Asian superman Yul, causing Jeff to say, “Two guys that have been to Exile. That’ll be interesting comparing notes!” Uh, not really. I don’t see that being inherently interesting — unless they compare notes while running from a giant, tumbling boulder.
JP’s turn was next, and I thought he would go for Adam on account of his brawniness and stature, but I guess the protruding chin and aura of hating raised shelter floors made JP think otherwise. Instead, he went for Nate, who of course put on an ostentatious display of happiness — that kind that seems to say, “Why yes, I do have a headshot!”
Well, it turns out that JP’s pick of Nate was pretty smart because now the other team had no strong guys to choose from. They couldn’t pick Adam since Jonathan was already taking the resident white-guy spot. And since there were no black guys left, Yul was left with only one option: Ozzy. I mean, it’s not that Ozzy’s a bad contribution or anything. He’s fast and resourceful. But he also kind of sucks, what with his bitchy attitude and idiotic plans to throw competitions.
Anyway, Nate then picked Adam, which meant Ozzy had no one left to choose from except the always helpful Cao Boi. Sounds like a recipe for success! Just when we thought were done with this entire process, Jeff then had the four captains step forward, take an egg, and hold it face out in their palms. He then instructed them to squeeze the eggs “with everything you’ve got.” Does it really require everything you’ve got to squish an egg? Are they reinforced with miniature steel girders?
Well, the captains did as they were told, and sure enough, the eggs popped violently, spraying paint in the process. Some eggs were red, some were blue, and as you can imagine, the red men and the red women joined together to form one tribe, and ditto for the blues. I think it would have been funny if the eggs popped, and inside were just messy yolks, causing Probst to say, “Oh, I just wanted to see you break some eggs. This wasn’t part of the game.”
Ultimately, Brad’s men joined Parvati’s women to become the new Raro tribe while the other two sections became the new Aitu. Everyone then put paint from the eggs on their faces, and the most elaborate reshuffling of all time finally came to a close.
Later, at the Raro tribe, Nate expressed pure happiness, saying “It’s like they took us out of the ghetto and put us in Bel Air.” It seemed like an over-exaggeration, but to be fair, there was a preppy dork named Carlton who kept dancing around the camp.
The group then all sat in a Circle of Tolerance and talked about the initial ethnic segregation. Everyone agreed that it was weird, except for JP who enjoyed the educational benefits of such a bold arrangement. Snore. Stephanie then informed us that ultimately, this was a game about individuals, not races. “You really don’t see color,” she said, clearly ignoring all the dumb paint they’d slathered on their faces. Parvati, meanwhile, took a more idealistic approach, saying that with all the diversity, “We’re back to America!” And as we all know, America is nothing if not a racial utopia devoid of tensions!
Over at Aitu, it didn’t take long to realize that Cao Boi and Flicka would be total kindred spirits. After all, he was a crazy hippie burnout, and she was… well… she had dreads. Isn’t that enough these days? Surprisingly, Cao Boi’s first comments pertained to Cecilia and how she was the ultimate host around camp. “Mi casa es su casa,” he described to us, further elaborating that “They’re Hispanics! Mi casa es su casa!” Settle down, Cao Boi. We figured it out the first time. Not all of us have been sniffing nail salon fumes for the past fifteen years.
A little later on, Cecilia asked the question that had been on everyone’s mind. No, not “Does Jeff Probst kind of smell?” I’m talking about asking Candice whether she loved the ejected Billy as much as he loved her. Basically, Cecilia informed Candice (or Candy, as I’ve decided to call her) that she was the target of obsessed, heavy metal love. And Candice’s reaction? Incredulity. She couldn’t even believe what she was hearing. Granted, she kind of always looks semi-dumbfounded, but we could tell she sincerely was caught off guard by this one. Well, just as we had suspected, Candice’s love was merely platonic. She explained how she had said “We love you” in a supportive way, not a romantic, marriage proposal sort of way, and after a few giggles and googly eyes, the entire subject came to a close. But who knows? Maybe now that the idea’s been planted, Candy’s been lured into the dreamy paragon of masculinity that is Billy. We’ll find out on the reunion show!
Back at Raro, we saw our weekly dose of hermit crabs ambling around, which were not unlike the tribe’s men who were presently gathering heavy rocks for no good reason beyond strutting their masculinity and working their glutes. Sensing the rampant testosterone in the air, Poverty, I mean, Parvati explained that her best strategy was to flirt her way to the top. She’d already worked her feminine wiles on JP and Adam (no such love for Brad — obvious reasons), and now she was setting her sights on Nathan. Honestly, all she needed to do was say she was a casting director, and he’d be hooked.
Meanwhile, at Aitu, grim music on the soundtrack let us know that the joy and fun of a tribal reshuffling was coming to an end. Candice and Becky traded notes about Jonathan and Yul. Candy trusted Jonathan. Becky trusted Yul. And so the first big alliance of the season was formed. The two girls agreed that they should make a foursome, and if they did that, they’d only need to pull in a temporary fifth to secure power. But who? Well, we then saw an empty canoe, which as we all know, is the universal sign for “mischief is afoot!” Sure enough, Jonathan was working his smarmy charm on Flicka, trying to bring her into the fold. She said okay, but if there’s anything we know about reality stars with dreads, it’s that they’re flaky and prone to emotional impulses. That’s why I was hardly surprised when Flicka told us in an interview that she just wasn’t sure if she wanted to be with Jonathan. Ah, the glory of watching an alliance implode before it’s even made its first move.
Elsewhere on the beach, Yul — who looked suddenly like he’d aged ten years — confided in Becky that he had found the immunity idol. I’m sure he thought it was a brilliant plan and took their trust to a new level, but I think it’s safe to say it was an idiotic move. It’s too early to play that card, Yul. Even worse, he basically said that he’d use it to save Becky if need be. Again, too early. You need to hold onto that bad boy for a few more weeks. Last season, Terry was too stingy with his idol. This season, Yul’s too liberal with it. Can’t we find someone with proper idol strategies?
Over at Raro, the guys were about to find themselves in a sticky situation (imagine me winking really blatantly towards the camera). Nate decided to go out in the ocean to do some casual fishing when what would happen to cross his path? Oh, just the most feared creature of all the deep: the dreaded kraken! And by “kraken,” I mean an irascible octopus. Yes, one unlucky octopus swam entirely too close to Nathan, who flung his spear out like a mighty phallus of death. What resulted next was a battle of man vs. beast as the two battled for supremacy. With the camera shaking for maximum effect, Nathan and the octopus battled for their lives. Well, actually, it was more like the octopus was battling for its life. Nathan just didn’t want to be the douchebag who lost the spear. Sensing that no man alone could take down his testy foe, Nathan called for backup: “HELP! I’ve got an octopus!” he bellowed, most likely for the first and last time in his life. Luckily, JP and Brad were in earshot, and the two guys swam to his aid in the ocean. Of course, to hear Nate tell it, you’d think he was holding a glock to the octopus’s head. “I was like ‘What, octopus? What you got now?’” he said. Yes, nothing is more manly than talking shit to an octopus.
Anyway, the guys all helped Nate out, and soon, the octopus had full-on latched onto Brad with its tentacles. I know it was supposed to be a defense mechanism, but darnit if it didn’t look like Mr. Octopus was trying to give him a big, slimy hug! Ultimately, the men proved to be victorious over this sea monster, and they brought it triumphantly back to camp as if they had somehow fulfilled Captain Ahab’s legacy. As Nate held the octopus out for all to see and admire, Parvati took the opportunity to work in some extra flirting. “That’s a lot of meat… You need it. You could probably eat that whole thing yourself,” she said, adding, “Does it turn you on when I talk about octopus meat? I think it’s incredibly hot.”
We then suddenly saw what appeared to be a giant tsunami along with a humpback whale basking in the ocean. Alas, neither tsunami nor whale wound up crashing into the camps. They were merely predecessors to this week’s immunity challenge, which was startlingly similar to a competition staged during the Pulau season. Basically, members of each tribe were clipped together by a rope, and each person was saddled with a fifteen pound sandbag. The tribes would then be placed on opposite ends of a loop (and in case we couldn’t grasp that concept, Mark Burnett even provided us with arrows — a rarity!) and would have to race through knee-deep water to catch up with each other. If carrying the fifteen pound sandbag was too much, people could bail out of the challenge, but they’d have to give their bag(s) to someone else on the tribe. Here’s where it was different from three seasons ago: the first tribe to catch up to another and tackle a rival tribe member would win. Needless to say, before anything had even begun, we knew Raro would win. I mean, Nate, JP, Adam, and Brad vs. fat Jonathan, elderly Cao Boi, slight Ozzy, and admittedly jacked Yul? No contest. And let’s not forget the Raro guys had spent the past few days wrestling octopi and gathering boulders.
Anyway, before the challenge began, Jeff revealed that he had another note in an itsy bitsy envelope (so nice of him to write missives so delicately), and then finally, it was time to race! No sooner had the tribes begun pacing the track than Aitu dropped down to five members. Yes, nearly all the girls dropped out at once. I think the strategy was to maximize the guys’ abilities while they still had most of their strength, but that of course assumed that there was any strength to begin with. Need I mention Cao Boi’s presence again? It didn’t make matters any better than Aitu was chasing a team of veritable He-Men.
Well, the two teams continued to trek through the ocean, and as women from both tribes bowed out, the men had to carry more and more weight — up to forty-five pounds (psssh. This would be nothing for those crazy Exile kids on Fresh Meat). Eventually, Rebecca was the only woman left in the challenge, but even she had to drop out. This left four guys on each squad, and no surprise here, Raro was closing in on Aitu at a rapid pace. After a while, it was obvious that Aitu would be unable to escape Raro’s clutches, and so Yul turned around and prepared for war. He spread his arms out as if he could somehow contain all four of these giants, and as they descended on him, I kind of felt like I was watching Johnny Depp going head to head with the aforementioned Kraken. Needless to say, Yul was in over his head, but while he was ready for battle, the Raro guys didn’t seem to really care about him. They simply went around him, and with the lightest touch, they managed to knock Cao Boi down into the water. And just like that, the challenge was over. Raro wins immunity!
As for that cute widdle note? It wasn’t anything special. Jeff merely announced that this time, the winning tribe would get to send someone from the losing team to Exile Island. The catch here was that the person going to Exile Island would not be going to Tribal Council. So who to send? Well, Raro selected… Candice? I automatically assumed it would be Cao Boi, but I guess they wanted her to reflect on the love she could have shared with Billy.
Turns out that with Candice heading for a fruitless night at Exile Island (no more Immunity Idol, sorry!), the whole Yul/Becky/Jonathan/Candice alliance was sort of, you know, ruined. Even worse, Ozzy and Cao Boi were now making a deal to watch each other’s backs, which then precipitated a group decision amongst Ozzy, Flicka, Sundra, and Cecilia to get rid of Becky. This was exactly why Yul should never have mentioned the immunity idol. If he winds up using it just three weeks into the season, it would be the biggest waste of all.
Anyway, Flicka informed Jonathan that Becky would be going home, but unfortunately, he didn’t exactly love this plan on account of Becky being part of his already fizzling alliance. He asked Flicka if she’d vote for someone else, but she said it was unlikely. She said she didn’t have a good vibe about Becky, and as we all know, it’s the players who follow vibes that truly succeed in Survivor.
In an effort to counteract the anti-Becky movement, Jonathan scrambled and tried to sway the group against Cecilia instead. It was all he could do, and if he failed to save Becky, then he noted, “all bets are off, and it’s gonna be a whole different kettle of fish.” Is that a saying? Isn’t it “a whole new ballgame”? Or am I just behind on my seafaring/cauldron references?
Anyway, the first (and only) plan of attack for the ailing alliance was to target Cao Boi and Flicka. Yul and Jonathan both cornered each player and listed a hundred different reasons why they’d be better off voting out Cecilia. Nowhere in any of this, mind you, did Becky even try to save her own hide. I don’t even know where she was — probably drinking a mojito under a palm frond or something. Personally, I thought it was noble of them to rally behind Becky, but they probably should have just cut their losses and joined the rest of the tribe in voting her out (although, that would be considerably less interesting TV).
After an afternoon of intense strategizing, Cao Boi and Jessica found themselves confused by the options. Of course, they’d be confused by tic-tac-toe; so this really wasn’t much of a surprise. Nevertheless, both of them were grappling between voting off someone they had a bad vibe about (Becky) or someone that might be a better strategical move (Cecilia). Jonathan then told us, “There’s two ways to play the game: ‘I like you so I’m not going to vote for you.’ Or ‘Sorry, I like you, but I got to vote for you if I want to go further.’” His tone of voice implied that he was of the Option B camp, but if you really think about it, he was playing Option A. After all, he was jumping through hoops to save Becky, a girl who he’d allied with for no reason other than friendship.
Nevertheless, the gang all headed up to Tribal Council where Jeff Probst peppered them with all sorts of uninteresting questions. At one point, he singled out Sundra by saying, “As the only person from one tribe…” Translation: “As the only BLACK PERSON here!” It’s okay, Jeff. You can say “Black.” Heck, if you don’t feel comfortable with that, I’m sure “African American” would do just fine too.
Anyway, there was more talk about this and that (I honestly don’t remember what they babbled about), and at one point, Jessica did the whole “I’m an innocent soul” thing by saying how overwhelmed she was by all the manipulation. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Survivor‘s been on for twelve seasons. You should know what you’re getting into by now.
Finally, it was time to vote (oh, and Jeff did reveal the rules of the hidden immunity idol, which were the same as last time. If the idol is used, the person with the second highest number of votes goes home). Nevertheless, we got to see many of the votes cast tonight, which meant it was gonna be a close one. Yul voted to send Cecilia home, and in return, Cecilia voted to send Becky home. Sundra also voted against Becky, and Becky, of course, voted against Cecilia. For those of you keeping track, that’s 2-2. At this point, I didn’t expect to see any more votes cast, but Mark Burnett decided to go crazy and show us more. Next was Ozzy, who unsurprisingly voted against Becky, but unlike everyone else who said things along the lines of “Sorry, you seem really nice. This was purely strategic,” he complained, “You didn’t make any effort to try to connect to me, get to me at all.” Oh shut up. Stop being such a baby. I didn’t realize that your soul was an open book yearning to be read.
Cao Boi voted next, but unfortunately, we didn’t see what he had written down. Jonathan, however, scrawled down Cecilia’s name, which made it 3-3 for both girls. It was official: battle lines had been drawn. Who would go home? Well, obviously, we didn’t see how Flicka voted, but I had a feeling it was gonna be curtains for Becky. Jonathan and Yul had done an impressive job with the campaigning, but it all seemed like typical Mark Burnett misdirection. C’mon, old man. We know better!
Well, Jeff read the votes out loud, and by the time he had reached the tie of 3-3, the tension was palpable in the air. And now… the seventh vote… and it went to… Cecilia! Oh shit! And same with the last one! Cao Boi and Flicka had actually changed their minds! Cecilia: third person voted off! I did not see that coming — especially since the show didn’t really spend any time with Cecilia this episode. Usually, if someone’s on the way out, they get a few key scenes. Oh, Mark Burnett. You crafty devil! You got me good!
And so, before we ever got to know Cecilia, she was sent packing. I’ll tell you one thing: Ozzy did not look happy about it. Looks like somebody’s gonna be bitchy back at camp! What did you think about this episode?