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In the spirit of baseball season, I think it’s safe to say that with the Red Sox now the reigning world champions, some other team has inherited the Curse of the Bambino. You’d think it would stay self-contained in baseball, but amazingly, The Curse has jumped ship and sought out fame and fortune on reality TV. Maybe that would explain how Team Ulong from Survivor: Palau has been unable to win any immunity challenges whatsoever. Somewhere a few weeks ago, this tribe set a Survivor record by becoming the losing-est team in franchise history. For sure the bloodletting would end this week, right? Well, don’t get too excited there. If you thought the well-oiled machine of Koror was gonna break down anytime soon, you’d be sadly mistaken (although, we do fully anticipate some sort of chaos this coming week. I mean, law of averages, right?). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think Mark Burnett has been brilliant to hold off on any merges or tribal swaps. Watching this sad, depleted team slowly shrink has been an exercise in television schadenfreude. We sort of hate to see them lose over and over again, and yet we’re totally fascinated. How much torture can these people possibly take? Can they ever dig themselves out of this hole? Will they ever shake The Curse?The episode began with Stephenie, Ibrehem, and Bobby Jon reeling from yet another Tribal Council. Man, that’s some tough shit. Too much Jeff Probst for the ordinary man. Steph informed us that she was embarrassed, totally embarrassed. Don’t worry, so are we. Meanwhile, we knew the end was near for the team when for the first time all season, literally, we saw Ibrehem having an actual conversation with someone. Now, I know I like to joke about how quiet he is, but literally, pretty much the only time we’ve ever heard him say anything substantial has been during interviews or Tribal Council. Hearing him shoot the shit was as jarring as that time from last season when Scout and Chris made out. Ewww.
The newly chatty Ibrehem tried to keep a positive outlook on the whole tribal situation, saying, “Maybe in some weird way this is gonna pan out and work out in a good way for us.” Um, yeah. That’s not gonna happen.
Over at Koror, Tom greeted the morning with some casual crunches, which is good. He looked like he had been packing on the pounds with that steady diet of coconuts, clams, and starvation. Speaking of clams (somewhere, Rachel and Veronica perked up when I wrote that), Ian headed out to sea to find some wayward crustaceans or possible some barnacles. Much to his luck, he returned with a sizable clam that the tribe all pried open with gooey delight. Katie remarked that the clam was so big, it could have been like Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”. Well, yeah, if Venus was born from an old, crusty, slimy clam. More like the Birth of Francine, the Hobo from Newark.
Well, just when Ian was feeling all proud of himself for providing the ingredients for an old fashioned clambake, Tom just had to go out and one-up him. The blood from the clam (man, a bloody clam? That is DISGUSTING) attracted a shark, and much to no one’s surprise, madman Tom jumped into the surf with a machete and slain him some shark meat. With blood dripping down his shoulder and a maniacal laugh to boot, Tom once again proved to be the fearless leader keeping this tribe strong. Later, he remarked that the cat was out of the bag that he’s strong. Uh, yeah, that cat left the bag after you single handedly carried the team through its first two immunity challenges. Ian, meanwhile, was bitter that his clam tomfoolery had been one upped. He joked that he’d have to go out and catch a humpback whale now. Yeah, but if Ian reeled in a whale, you just know that two seconds later, Tom would come to shore hauling an anchor, and attached to it would be a barge full of steak, lobster, and chocolate. I’m telling you, he’s Superman.
Later that day, teams received tree mail that their reward challenge would involve making a distress signal. Ah yes. An oldie but goodie. Well, not really even a goodie. Sort of just like an okay-ie. I kind of felt badly as Ulong tore apart their shelter and bathroom for their help signal. They just wanted to win so badly. They’d even sacrifice their own shabby shelter for the reward, even if it was just another can of Pringles. “We’re gonna see if work can overtake smartness right now,” explained smartness expert Bobby Jon. You know, they burned their shelter. That’s got to count for something in the distress signal world.
Well, a plane carrying Jeff Probst and some other guy passed over Ulong’s camp, causing the three beleaguered members to cry out for their lives. Ibrehem stood quietly by the ocean and waved a flag gently, but in his world, that’s pretty much the equivalent of him yelling “HELP US! GOOD GOD HELP US!!!!” Bobby Jon however flailed his limbs about as he raced after the plane, eventually tumbling into the ocean like a spastic pelican. Unfortunately for them, Koror managed to form a larger, more creative distress message that was set farther down the beach than Ulong’s, therefore placing it in open view. As the plane flew overhead, Gregg, Caryn, and Katie jumped around and tried to make a scene as best they could. For her part, Caryn danced around as if she were at Joyce Berkowitz’s Bat Mitzvah. I half expected her to start a Hora right there. Man, I love Caryn. Oh, and if you think I’m being anti-Semitic, I’ll have you know that I too am a Member of the Tribe (and no, I don’t mean Koror).
Nevertheless, Koror won the challenge, causing Caryn to yell “I’M SO HAPPY!!!” You’d think they’d be used to winning things by now. Honestly, with all their rewards and their spiffy shelter, you’d think they were at one of those rustic resorts by now. I half expected the latest Real World cast to paddle in with their STA Travel bags. But no, they didn’t show up, and neither did Ulong, who by now must have been praying for a merge. Alas, as the plane flew over their camp with nary a consolation prize to give away, the Little Team That Couldn’t had their hearts broken once again. Okay people, you know the drill. Sit in the outrigger and hang your heads low. There we go. That’s the Ulong we know and love!
Over at Koror, Mark Burnett was funneling in the tom tom music, which meant someone was doing something stupid. Sure enough Gregg and Jenn were canoodling around, showering each other with sweet nothings and forgotten kisses. Don’t really know what brought them together. I’ll wager to say it’s because they’re the two most attractive people on Koror. That, or they both really dug the double letters at the end of their names. “Hey, maybe your nn and my gg can go out on a date sometime,” is how I imagine Gregg kicked off this romance. Later, Gregg expressed concern that his constant need to play the game was making him a bad date. He asked Jenn what she thought about their relationship, saying “Do you have any thoughts on that?” Actually, Jenn, do you have any thoughts on ANYTHING? As Jenn babbled about something in an interview, I thought man, she’s really cute. You know, like Nermal the world’s cutest kitten cute. You can probably just touch her stomach and she’ll giggle like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
As romantic tension cut through Koror like a dull spoon, Ulong found reasons to celebrate. Bobby Jon had caught a fish! Granted, it appeared to be the size of an iPod, but hey, a fish is a fish! Maybe this was a good omen? Sure enough, moments later, Ulong received some tree mail. It basically said that the upcoming immunity challenge would be a puzzle and if teams were smart, they’d work out a strategy beforehand. Hmmm… I suppose the important phrase there was if teams were smart. According to Bobby Jon, Ulong was a little short in the smartness department. Well, to give you a sense of what type of challenge they’d be facing, the tribes had to do one of those slider puzzles where you have fifteen pieces and one free space to maneuver everything into the right order. Now, when I was younger, I had one of those on my computer, and honestly, there’s a simple pattern to the whole thing that anyone who has forty five minutes to spare can master. So as Ulong sat down with their sample puzzle, I felt optimistic that they might actually pull this one off. And then I remembered that they were Ulong. As we watched the threesome furrow their eyebrows over the little puzzle, I felt a sense of dread, especially when Bobby Jon announced his strategy: “Keep sliding them around!”
After an ample amount of practice time, both teams descended on the immunity challenge which had them coming face to face with an ill and hoarse Jeff Probst. Too much bloody clam? You know, that didn’t even make sense, but for some reason, I feel the need to vomit now. Ulong proudly announced that they had caught a fish, but their spirits were soon dampened by Koror who announced that they had caught a shark. If these two tribes had to be portrayed in an amiable but forgettable movie, Ulong would be Ben Stiller and Koror would be Owen Wilson.
Anyway, the actual immunity challenge required the teams to do the slider puzzle, except now the grid was floating in the water. Two people would swim along and move pieces back and forth while one person would call from a pontoon overlooking the puzzle. Coby took the job of caller for Koror, and immediately he busted out some gestures not seen since my last flight on Delta Airlines. He may have been telling Janu to move a piece over, but he may have well been alerting her to the emergency exits. Sadly, Bobby Jon was the caller for Ulong, and unfortunately his maintained his strategy of moving pieces in random order until finally they all finally popped into place. Needless to say, it was a mess. After half an hour (about the amount of time that it should have taken the teams to complete this elementary task), Bobby Jon swapped out for Steph, and with some careful editing and several shots of Janu apparently dying in the water, Mark Burnett tried to have us believe that Ulong was catching up. Sadly, they didn’t even have a shot, and Koror won their sixth straight immunity. Later, on the Early Show, I learned it took about ninety minutes for this challenge to run its course. Honestly, what is wrong with these people? Has it ever taken anyone that long to do this puzzle? Granted, I know you’ve got to account for the time it takes to swim and move the giant tiles, but still, this is ridiculous.
Back at camp, Ibrehem noted that their losing streak had to be a record. Yeah… um, I hate to break it to you, but you actually broke that record a few weeks ago. Yes, your team is that pathetic. Bobby Jon meanwhile weighed his options. Even though he had made a promise to Steph last week, he now found himself having to sever the unspoken alliance (is there ever any other type with Ib?) he had with his buddy. “Ib and I have a trust thing,” explained BJ. “We’re from the same state.” He also noted they were both humans, had hair, and enjoyed not dying. Thicker than blood. Thicker than blood…
Unfortunately, Bobby Jon’s waffling with Steph made her quite uncomfortable. She tried some subtle guilt on him (“So you’re going back on your word?”) but then wised up and approached Ibrehem about voting off Bobby Jon. After all, she reasoned, why should he have all the power to decide their fates? Wow, finally some scheming. And not only scheming, smart scheming. Well, smart in theory. Stephenie unfortunately didn’t have the confidence to really sell Ib on the whole idea, and as we headed off to Tribal Council, I had a feeling their interaction was merely just a tentative diversion. Still, I was a bit perplexed as to who would be going home. Logic tells me Ibrehem, but then again, logic also tell me Steph. And then hopeful dreaming tells me Bobby Jon (I like BJ, but I like shakeups even more). Probst was noticeably less prickly this evening, most likely due to his Joan Rivers-ish voice (don’t worry, he apologized for it).
As the trio discussed their possible demises, Tribal Council seemed sad and depressing. It was as if these three had surrendered to the gods of fate and were only waiting to see which one would be sent packing. No one was actually fighting for their lives. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Steph did mention several times that she wasn’t ready to go. Bobby Jon meanwhile became über-modest, as he’s wont to do at TC, and proclaimed, “I might be the hex!!!” Eventually, it came time to vote, and I realized that with any luck, we’d have a three way tie. Imagine it: Steph votes for Bobby Jon. Bobby Jon votes for Ib. Ib votes for Steph. And Probst votes for Khaki. That would be wonderful. In the end though, we had a Steph/Ib split which was eventually broken by Bobby Jon who sided with his overt alliance instead of his ‘Bama Bond with the big man.
In his exit interview, Ibrehem said that he was shocked and didn’t expect to be voted off. Okay Ib. Last chance for some emotion. What do you say? Show some anger? Please? Pretty please? Nope. I guess we’ll just have to relive his sudden explosion of rage during the sumo match. Ah yes. That was fun.
You’d think that would be it, but no. There was one juicy nugget left. The next morning, Ibrehem Rahmen made his customary appearance on the Early Show where the ever awkward Julie Chen opened the interview with “Love your noodles!” Wah wah wah, Julie. If that wasn’t awkward enough, she then actually explained to the audience what her stupid joke meant. Later, at the end of the second segment, Julie actually made a callback, chuckling, “Well you’ll have to teach me how to make those noodles!” Hey, are those dancers coming down the aisles? Because for a moment I thought we were on Showtime At The Apollo!
Ah the Chenbot. Only a few more months until Big Brother!