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It’s easy to confuse the two.Everyone returns from Tribal Council relieved that the plan to boot James was successful, so there is lots of night vision back-patting going on in the pre-credits sequence. The combined effort of getting rid of James has united everyone for a brief time, it appears. They apparently don’t realize that they’re all going to starve to death without James to take care of them, as he was so fond of constantly stating. Prepare to die, albatrosses! If they die, it would sort of be poetic, because with James bitching about all the work they were making for him and how awesome he is as a result, they would only make more work in death when he then digs their graves. Circle of life! And constant bitching!
Denise is all “Could imagine if this hadn’t worked and he came back here? We would all be dead!” Again, you were going to die anyway. Also, what is James, the Juggernaut? He might have been a little pissed at everybody, but he probably wouldn’t have fractured any skulls. Probably.
Credits! I’m not sure I have mentioned this yet, but all of the pre-jury boots got removed the week after the Jaime vote and now it just says “The Merged Tribe” and “The Jury” instead. Whither Chicken, I ask you? WHITHER CHICKEN?
The next day, everyone cuddles in the tiny cave from last week, hoping to avoid the rain. Apparently the shelter is not waterproof. Perhaps they can use James’ unplayed idols to create some sort of thatched roof? They should get some sort of use.
Todd talks about how it’s sort of getting down to the nitty-gritty, and that the people who are left would probably be smart to get rid of him, “not that [he's] going to tell them that.” Yes, the strategic mastermind who viewed Erik as a bigger problem than James believes himself to be the biggest threat remaining.
Reward Challenge! Jeff tells them that they’ll be separated into teams and placed at opposite ends of a maze, blindfolded, and the team that reaches the center first will win reward. And then, he tells Erik that he’ll be paired with…his mom! As I’ve said in the past, the stupid family visits always get to me, and I hate myself for it every year. Peih-Gee gets her dad, and Courtney gets hers too (who is English, WTF?). Denise’s husband Robert comes out, and he looks pretty much like what you think Denise’s husband would. Amanda’s sister Katrina comes out, and her butt is blurred as well in a strange fit of parallelism by the show. I like to think that she wasn’t exposing anything, they just did it to her as an impulse because they’ve had to do it to Amanda so much. Like, they’re watching the show at home together and her sister is like, “What the hell? I was wearing jeans.”
Todd’s cute sister comes out and they share a hug, and then she tells him that their younger sister had a miscarriage, which causes Todd to then have to explain to everyone what happened at Probst’s urging. Wow…uncomfortable!
The challenge begins, and Amanda and her sister immediately start using a variety of birdcalls to help each other out, which seems unhelpful unless you are in the middle already. But whatever, it seems like something that they did growing up in the wilds of…wherever Amanda’s from. Denise gets to the middle first, which allows her to start yelling for her husband, who is then able to just follow her voice to the center, giving them the win. That challenge seemed like mostly luck, I must say.
So, Denise wins! She gets to choose two people to come with her and bring their family members with them for a meal. The family members will also get to go back to camp and spend the evening with the castaways after they’re done eating. Denise chooses Todd and Amanda, so Peih-Gee, Erik and Courtney’s family members will be returning to the abyss from whence they came. On the boat, there is a huge variety of food for them to eat while they catch up, and Todd and Amanda start screeching like sorority girls when they spy a chocolate cake. As part of her reward, Denise gets a phone call from her daughters at home, who cannot stop crying during the phone conversation to the point where it becomes plain from the look on Denise’s face that she is thinking, “Dude. This is pointless if you cannot form syllables.”
Back at camp, Erik broaches the very sensitive subject of Todd’s sister and the miscarriage, which he believes to be maybe, just maybe, a little bit of an acting job. The other two (who you can tell were thinking it but had decided not to say anything) jump on it immediately in agreeance. Courtney even tells them that she thought that Todd was “going for the Oscar” and that it was a big performance. So, there’s yet another thing (besides being a gay Mormon flight attendant) that Todd has in common with Marissa Tomei.
Peih-Gee is plainly very pissed that she wasn’t picked to hang out with her dad, because she took Denise on a “fat reward” last week. The lady has a point, but this should serve as indication of where Denise’s ill-advised loyalties lie. Seriously, has anyone been playing not to win harder than her? Erik drops the Fairplay reference on everyone, and man that was an awesome season. Am I the only one that wanted him to win towards the end for getting himself out of trouble so many times? I mean, I hated him, but he orchestrated so many ridiculously masterful moves that it was hard not to think he was the most deserving. Now he’s an even bigger turd, but I remember then that it was like “Hmm…Sandra, Darrah, Pantsless Lil…looks like I’m rooting for the tiny douche.” What a great season that was. But back to this mediocre one!
Courtney tells us in confessional that stupid Probst overheard their interaction and made it public, and then she does an awesome derogatory impression of him that earns her several points from me. Points that are immediately taken away for putting her foot in her mouth so hard throughout this whole episode that she has Athlete’s Neck, but still.
The winners of reward return to camp with chocolate on their fingers from the cake, and the losers then proceed to basically lick it off. It’s vaguely sexual, in this gross, gross way. In the water later, Todd and Amanda talk with their sisters about the miscarriage. Todd talks about how everyone probably thinks that he’s terrible and a liar for bringing that up, but that it’s not a lie. Which is unfortunate, on many levels.
Denise talks to her husband about how her plan is just to sort of stick with Todd and Amanda and hope that it all works out, which is the most passive, ridiculous plan I can think of. In a nice juxtaposition, we go back to Todd and Amanda, who are telling their sisters all about how they’re going to ditch Denise at four. Todd is worried that she has a sad background story (what with the lunchlady gig and the mullet and all), and they think that a jury will favor her. But if I were Todd, you know who I’d be worried about? Amanda. And Courtney. Amanda because she’s a badass and will snake the shit out of you, and Courtney because if she gets into an endurance competition (like the final one always is), she is going to dominate, especially if it involves balance. Also Peih-Gee, because the jury really likes her. Really, I’d worry about everyone but Denise, because she is the Cassandra of this situation, in that it would be really easy to sit next to her at the end from a strategic standpoint, since she hasn’t done anything besides have awesome hair. Juries do not tend to vote from a need-based perspective.
The next morning, it’s time for the family members to say goodbye. Denise and her husband exchange a tender moment which he abruptly interrupts by telling her that she stinks. It’s that kind of heartfelt honesty that real couples have where you can both share a laugh over someone’s unfortunate situation, so it’s actually kind of endearing. I bet she smells like the Miami Dolphins, though.
Great, now Joey Porter is going to come to my house.
After everyone leaves, Peih-Gee mopes in the shelter with the lower half of her body entirely blurred. What, does she have an R rated tattoo I didn’t know about or something? Denise wanders over and tries to smooth over the damage, angling for a jury vote very plainly. Peih-Gee is not placated, but she does appreciate the effort. Wait, did they just resolve their conflict like adults? That is not protocol for Reality TV! Someone tell them to go poop on the floor.
Immunity Challenge! Today they will be attached to ropes and will be weaving through a pit of mud and around various obstacles to reach the other side. On the far end there are quiz questions with two options, each with a key. Choosing the correct key will unlock a box back at the starting line with three locks. The first person to unlock their box will win immunity. So, basically, you’re going to have to do at least three circuits, and more if you get any of the questions wrong.
People start slogging through the mud, and this does not look fun, even a little. It looks like it would be very tiring and dirty, as a matter of fact. Peih-Gee and Todd pull out to an early lead (probably because they’re the only ones trying), and Erik falls preposterously behind, which is odd because he should be busting his hump. Todd gets his third key to the box a little before Peih-Gee, but he gets the question wrong and she gets it right, which allows her to win the challenge. I had no idea that I was rooting for her, but it looks like I was. Probst does not lavish her with Ozzy-like praise, even though she’s now won several immunities. Maybe it’s edited out?
Back from commercials, Todd tells us that he’s facing a pretty easy vote, since there were only two options and one has immunity. Erik and Peih-Gee are doing their best to keep Erik from going home. Erik goes to Amanda and voices a desire to get rid of Todd, which may not be the best option but it probably his only one. She remains ambivalent about it, as she probably should given her standing as a virtual lock for any permutation of a final three at this point. Peih-Gee works Denise, trying to convince her that it would be in her best interests to get rid of Todd because she’ll have a better shot at a final three with Peih-Gee and Erik, which is the truth.
Tribal Council! Jeff asks a bunch of boring questions with stupid answers. Erik and Peih-Gee spend each opportunity to speak fairly wisely, pointing out that Denise’s odds are better at a final three if she forces a tie tonight. Unfortunately, the prospect of a tie is not exactly the most enticing, especially if the candidate that Denise doesn’t vote for wins the tiebreaker. Then she’s flipped alliances and nothing’s come of it, which would be bad. She’s not in danger here, necessarily, but she is one more Peih-Gee immunity win from getting her ass booted. It would be a tough call for her, with no right answer. Making a move at five would be much wiser, but also it might be too late. But, I’m wagering that someone who’s had the same hairstyle since the 1980s is not a risk taker. Just a shot in the dark, you know.
And thus, there is voting, and Erik is ejected from the game. And that’s the story of how a boring dude met a boring end.