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How’s that for an incendiary headline? It’s actually not very fair to this week’s episode of Survivor, the first truly scheme-tastic installment of the season. Palau continues to be a masterful season, especially now as it transitions from the unbelievable decimation of Ulong to the inevitable cannibalism at Koror. The knives have finally come out, and while I had a hunch as to who would go tonight, I must admit that until the votes were read, I still wasn’t absolutely positive that I would be right (but of course, I was. Mwahahaha). Nevertheless, we’re heading into the final stretch now, and things at Koror are turning shady (and homoerotic). Perfect!The episode began with – what else – a crab in the dark! Yes, the crustacean species had been quietly overlooked recently; so it was nice to see the little critter shuffling around in top form again. I wonder if the crabs all hang out together and brag about their on screen exposure: “Hey, I booked another Survivor gig this week. Yeah, apparently they really liked my whole ‘stand still and then suddenly scamper’ bit. They said it really flowed. So I’m going back.” Wow, did I just do a crab monologue? That’s pretty crazy.
Anyway, Koror returned to their Home Depot furnished beach where Stephenie vented frustration at her team mates for nearly voting her off (skanks a lot, JANU!). Like a dutiful Jersey girl, Steph ran her mouth, guilting Tom and everyone else for turning on her when they’d said that she was in their alliance. In an interview, she explained to us that she was mad and wanted to get to the bottom of all this, but at the same time “hope I don’t shoot myself in the foot.” Oh, surely that wouldn’t happen. It’s not like she’s chastising her teammates. Oh wait…
Ever the gentleman, Tom decided to diffuse the situation by throwing some condescending softballs at Steph. He happily noted that he had won immunity, but at Tribal Council, Steph had been the one to actually earn it. “Somebody earned their own immunity!” he said with the patronizing tone usually reserved for parents of small children. Then Tom actually HANDED her the immunity necklace in a symbolic gesture of fake friendship. Somehow, this did manage to mollify Steph’s temper, although if I were her, I’d be enraged, especially when Tom told her that after Janu’s display at Tribal Council, everyone would have changed their votes anyway. Gee, thanks. The implication was still that Steph’s the outsider. Unfortunately, Steph didn’t seem to have the wherewithal or energy to take on the tribe’s alpha-male, and simply resigned to enjoy the rest of her evening.
The next morning, however, Stephenie was still unnerved. She approached her alliance-member, Katie, and asked “So is the four-strong gone?” Katie simply gave a blank look and replied, “Which four is that?” Uh, so I guess the answer would be YES. Steph immediately knew something was up and sought out more answers, and with a discontented tribemate on the prowl, Tom acted quickly. He called a tribe meeting and told the team not to penalize him for his previous strong performances. “Don’t give me the ‘Tom’s a threat, we gotta get rid of him line,’” he said, adding “Let’s use the ‘Stephenie’s a threat, we gotta get rid of her‘ line instead. That’s not hypocritical, right?” Conveniently, Steph was nowhere to be found during this performance. I don’t know where she could have gone. I imagine Katie had said to her “Hey, can you go get some water? But, you know, from the well that’s like an hour away? THANKS.”
Unfortunately for Tom, his little spiel really rubbed the women the wrong way, and they all decided to band together to oust the boys. With a four to three advantage, this appeared to be a savvy move. All they needed to do was alert Caryn of this master plan. That shouldn’t be too much of an issue, right? Right?
We’ll get back to that later, but for now, we had a Reward Challenge to deal with. “Our Tree Mail came in a little… purse or a, uh, money folder,” explained Tom. Money folder? I think the word you’re looking for is “wallet” or if you want to get really fancy, “Billfold.” I know, me with the crazy vocab again!
Anyway, when money surfaces in the reward challenge, it can only mean one thing: food auction! For some reason, I truly love this event. And apparently so does Caryn. “OH FUN FUN!” she exclaimed upon hearing Jeff Probst introduce the rules. Seriously, she hadn’t been this excited since the time Karen Adler got her front row tix to Tina Turner in ’89. Simply the best, if you will.
In a twist from previous years, every item – not just a few select ones – was covered, making the entire auction feel very Let’s Make a Deal. Jenn took a risk on the first item up for bid and wound up winning a big ice cream sundae that had her trembling with joy. Steph and Caryn split the next lot, but when they went up to retrieve their food, Probst pulled out a second covered plate and told them they had five seconds to choose which one they wanted. Oh so tricky, Probst! No wonder why you have that devilish grin! The ladies eventually selected the newer dish, and when our host revealed that the first item was cheese and crackers, Ian let out a groan from the stands. Turns out he loves cheese and crackers, which makes sense since he appears to be as thin as a saltine and as foul smelling as rotten cheddar. Nevertheless, Jeff revealed plate number two which turned out to be a savory cheeseburger. The women went ballistic, and Caryn even did a little dance previously not seen since, well, Tina Turner ’89. Meanwhile, Katie scowled bitterly in the corner. Somebody feed her, STAT!
Next up was yet another cloaked dish, and this time Ian DEFINITELY wanted in. With a twenty dollar boost from Gregg, our favorite dolphin trainer won the lot, but once again Jeff provided temptation by offering up the contents of a mysterious crate. Ian stuck to his original purchase; so with great glee, Jeff revealed what was in the crate. It was… a glass jar of crabs! Everyone recoiled in disgust, and while it did seem appalling at first, after a few moments, it just looked funny. I mean, what an odd turn of events for those crabs. And what a strange thing for Probst to pull out of nowhere — a crab jar. Anyway, because Ian held his own, he therefore won a spaghetti and meatball meal, complete with garlic bread and everything. In his excitement, Ian embraced a visibly unhappy Jeff Probst and gave him a big ole hug.
“Wow, you smell Ian,” said Jeff. “Wow, you reek.” Poor Probst. I’ve said in previous posts that you can smell Ian through the TV, and so I was particularly pleased that Jeff could verify this. Seriously, how much do you want to bet that Ian reeks normally? You just know he’s the type to never wear deodorant. That’s probably how he trains the dolphins. If they don’t do what he wants, they just get a whole snout full of armpit. Gross…
Probst discovers the true meaning of “ripe”
Anyway, Probst then pulled out a special satchel, and we just knew things would be getting real sentimental, real fast. Sure enough, he had letters from home, all up for auction. Quivering chins were had all around, especially Tom, who was so choked up, he had to resort to “Hail Hitler!” gestures to place his bids. He eventually purchased his letter, and because Probst is such a solid gold champ, he told everyone else they could buy their letters for the same price. You know, Ian may smell, but at least he didn’t devolve into a bluthering mess. Meanwhile, everyone else was a disaster area. With the letters all distributed, Jeff banged his Probst Gavel and ended the auction, causing Jenn to yell out in protest, “No cheese and crackers???” She then tilted her head, made a droopy-lipped face, and opened her eyes wide. Aw, how can anyone resist that pucker? Everyone pet Jenn!
Actually, she didn’t do any of that (although, she did ask for the cheese), but she did quietly mock Ian later in the day when he resolved to wash himself after Probst’s derision. “Today is bath day,” proclaimed Ian. Uh, shouldn’t every day be bath day? Anyway, Ian ambled over to the ocean with a soap caddy and began scrubbing. Unfortunately, his lanky limbs could only reach so far, and so Gregg had to be called in for sponge bath duty. In one of the more homoerotic moments of the season, Gregg washed down his buddy’s dirt-encrusted back, much to the amusement of the gals on the beach. It was a fairly odd image, if only because it looked like Gregg were scrubbing a pile of talking string beans. Nevertheless, rejoicing was had by all as Ian finally emerged from the surf clean and un-stinky. Well, see you in another four years, bath!
Later, Tom and Caryn went off for a walk where he pulled the old “You look out for me and I’ll look out for you” gambit. It’s the oldest trick in the book — making someone feel safe and needed — and it worked like a charm. You know, I do actually enjoy Caryn’s presence in a weird way, but I expected her to be a bit shrewder. Instead, she fell for Tom’s flattery, and because he was the first person to approach her (way to drop the ball, Stephenie and Katie), we could see her instantly joining his cause. Don’t know why though. It’s not like he promised her much. Tom literally said that she’d be part of the “strong six.” But there are only SEVEN PEOPLE LEFT! Way to bring her into the inside loop!
Anyway, it was time for the immunity challenge, and this time around, the survivors had to stand on a platform a few feet away from a grid of ceramic tiles. Each player had five color-coded tiles. The first person to break all five of his or her own tiles by lobbing coconuts would win immunity. Any tiles accidentally broken by other players would count. So basically, this was an accuracy test.
Ian was first up, and he immediately connected, shattering his red tile on the first shot. Wow. That was actually pretty impressive. I probably would have missed the board altogether. Moments later, Caryn got up and… missed the board altogether. Okay, I just made myself sound as athletically skilled as a middle-age woman. That’s very sad. Anyway, there was more coconut tossing, and everyone seemed to be doing well except Steph – a.k.a. “Jersey” as Jeff anointed her. Ian had high accuracy marks, going three for three at the outset. How is he so good at this? Did he play varsity bocce? Amateur league shuffleboard? Professional horseshoes? Olympic tiddlywinks? Okay, that last one didn’t really fit, but I wouldn’t discount it. Well, whatever it was that gave Ian such good aim payed off because he won immunity, thus opening up the Tribal Council for a Steph / Tom showdown.
Upon return to the camp, the survivors met with a random rainstorm, causing Tom to muse about how it would be great if the sun would come out and everyone would go running out individually and talk and… I don’t know. He wasn’t really making any sense. When the rain did eventually stop, Katie announced that she was going to find snails with Caryn, a benign statement that nonetheless felt very disturbing to me. Once away from the group, Katie informed Caryn of the all-girls alliance, but we could tell our tough little cookie wasn’t totally thrilled with the idea. That’s most likely because Tom got to her first, and what a good move it was on his part. Caryn immediately came running to him with information that the girls were all banding against him. He became suddenly paranoid and questioned why Caryn would share information that would be beneficial to her (don’t you see, Caryn? Even Tom thinks you should do the female alliance!). Well, Caryn quickly realized that she may have played all her cards too quickly, and as she babbled to us in her random cloak, I was fairly disappointed to realize that she was not the gamer I thought she’d be. But hey, at least she can rock the cape. As for Tom, he simply contributed to the semi homoerotic nature of this episode by announcing “I gotta get off with Ian.” Gross!
Speaking of Ian, his bath seemed to have had no effect as we gazed upon his back which seemed to be freshly coated with a thick layer of dirt. Where the hell does he sleep? Mud piles? This is ridiculous! Anyway, scuttlebutt about a girls alliance travelled around camp, and soon Ian wanted to talk to Katie about it. She quickly denied the all-female alliance and accused Caryn of making it up. I’ve made fun of Katie many times — sometimes more harshly than she probably deserves — but this was a very smart move. Even more impressive was her next move: after assuring Ian that the original alliance was still strong and resilient, she then pulled a little “Although, if you think about it, maybe we should get rid of Tom?” Brilliant! That quick-witted strategy improvisation wins big points in my book. I mean, she basically covered her own ass, hung Caryn out to dry, and then managed to assert her agenda after all. Now that’s what you call some good scheming. Katie – you’re on the road to TVgasm redemption!
Unfortunately for me and the other fans of Stephenie, there was one major player missing from all this plotting: Stephenie. As much as I love her, she was entirely too hands off with the scheming (at least as far as we could tell). By having Katie act as her deputy, Stephenie made a grave miscalculation, especially considering how dubious Katie had been earlier in the episode. Still, it was hard to say just who exactly would be voted off this evening. There certainly was a strong chance of a Tom upset, but then again, Gregg seemed pretty adamant about Steph. Plus now Caryn had entered the pool as the dangerous floater. Even though I was leaning towards a Stephenie ouster, it was clear that anything could happen.
Anyway, it was eventually time for Tribal Council where our persnickety Probst greeted the castaways yet again. Despite his efforts to punch up the proceedings, it was a fairly ho-hum evening. JUST GET TO THE VOTING, DAMMIT! Well, the magical moment finally arrived, and as everyone placed their votes, we were deprived of seeing which names some of them had scrawled down. Hmmm… that usually means a landslide vote. This could be very bad for Stephenie. Further fueling my theory was the fact that Katie didn’t cry when writing down her vote (previously she had said that she would cry when she wrote down Tom’s name). So clearly she wasn’t voting for Tom. Sure enough, when the final tally was read, Caryn received one vote and the rest were for Stephenie. And just like that, Stephenie’s wonderful reign came to an end. Way to go, Caryn. You made the final six!
During the exit interview, Stephenie was surprisingly chipper as she said, “I’m proud of myself.” You know, considering the odds that she faced this season, she has every right to feel that way. Good job Steph. We’re proud of you too. Aww, a tender TVgasm moment.
What do you think? Did Caryn screw up? Should the tribe have voted out Tom? Will Stephenie marry me?