Lesson One: Do not try to steal Amanda’s boyfriend. She will make you pay.We begin tonight right after the last Tribal Council, and James is getting his finger looked at by medical. They unwrap the bandage, and when I say it is gross, I am being less descriptive than I have ever been, and as you all know, I am one wordy bastard. The Survivor doctor tells him that he has until tomorrow morning, and if the infection doesn’t clear up they might have to remove him from the game because he will need surgery. While I am no fan of James, no one deserves to be forced out, so I feel for him.
The next morning, we also discovered that Alexis has sustained injury as well. She tells us that she was walking through the jungle and she just “bit it”, which is exactly how I would get injured were I on this show, so I feel her. I have several friends who are the exact same way. Shout out to the one with a broken coccyx! Cirie tells us that while the injuries are bad, that’s two less people that she will have to compete with for the win. Well, that’s certainly pragmatic of her. You know the saying: When Life Gives the People Around You Lemons, You Secretly Relish Their Pain in Hopes of Besting Them in Competition. I have that saying cross-stitched in a little frame right above my kitchen table.
Reward Challenge! The setup includes little statues that look like the remaining players, replete with giant fake hairdos. Erik, of course, looks the most ridiculous, even in doll form, because he basically is a giant doll. This is the requisite “Answer this survey and then guess what the majority answered” challenge that they do every season, because it worked so well in Marquesas and during All-Stars to shake up the game. They’re combining it with the “chop other peoples ropes” thing they also do, and this time when you lose all three of your ropes, a GIANT SPIKE rises up from the ground and shatters your mini-me into a million pieces. I love that they’ve designed so many ways to do this challenge that they’ve run out of ideas and were like “Screw it, let’s just spike them in the face.”
Someone totally earned their merit badge for Bitch Whittling.
And the reward this time is family! I usually love this part and look forward to it, but this year I wasn’t particularly moved. That’s probably because (at this point) I felt no favor towards any of these people. But now, Amanda FTW! Parvati’s mom Gayle comes out, and if I’m right her dad was here last time, so that’s new. Erik’s brother Kurt comes out, and says “You look so funny!” to him. Erik responds with “I know, I’ve got a beard!” like Kurt WASN’T talking about the fact that you look like a member of that Muppet Band that Animal was in with your hair like that. Then Erik’s like “Jeff Probst is RIGHT THERE! OMG!” and he sounds, and I’m serious about this, just like Jimmy Stewart. And although I can appreciate his enthusiasm at being on Survivor, it’s…Jeff Probst. It’s not like Brad Pitt hosts the show or anything, so quit with the annoying childlike wonder already. Natalie’s mom Rocky is there, and they hug and Natalie shows her the hairy armpits she’s acquired. I bet she was watching at home totally loving that moment in a room full of people. Alexis’ brother Nathan is there, and he looks just like Jason from Big Brother 3. Amanda’s sister from last time is there, and she tells her she smells better than last time. And then: James’ dad. He’s dressed like it’s time for work, and he looks just like James but twenty years older. After they exchange hugs, Jeff introduces Cirie’s husband, who you will remember was totally rad the last time he was on the show. The reward is a trip to “Jellyfish Lake” which was the one reward that Ulong won last time this show filmed here. Remember, they got Pringles? Poor Bobby Jon and Steph; they finally win a reward after the other team spends weeks getting a custom-built shelter and feasts, and it’s like “Here are your Pringles! Enjoy!”
Time for surveys! Who does the most for the tribe? Everyone but James answers James, who answers Erik. Wow, he really does think no one appreciates him! Interesting. After the first round, everyone has one rope gone but Alexis and Cirie. Who never shuts up? Parvati, although there are some Alexis answers there too. Who mistakenly thinks that they are in control of the game? The answer is Parvati, which everyone gets except her and Alexis, who guess Cirie. Yeah, except Parvati is pretty much in total control right now, and that’s been okay with everyone because there’s no way in hell she’s winning. And Cirie is a total ninja, so fear her. Cirie knocks Parvati out, and she is the first one to take a spike to the avatar. It’s really awesome, and James laughs his ass off while Parvati gapes open mouthed.
Who is the most honest? Correct answer: Alexis, although it’s all over the place with their responses. Cirie takes out Erik. Who are you least likely to invite to a family dinner? James is the most popular answer, and think about this: How unpleasant must he be to beat out Parvati and Natalie? It must be way worse than we see. Alexis knocks out James while his dad curses Alexis under his breath. James gets to knock someone out on his way out, and he chooses Cirie. Amanda very cutely exclaims excitedly about how violent this whole affair is while holding her hands to her head. Amanda then grins as she knocks out Natalie, who takes a spike to the face for…probably not the first time.
Cirie gets to hit, and she basically gets to decide who wins between Amanda and Alexis, and for some reason, she chooses to knock out Amanda, so Alexis wins reward. Alexis can pick two others to come with her, so she chooses Cirie and Natalie. She also gets to send someone to Exile, and Amanda actually volunteers, which I thought was very smart of her.
Back from the commercial, the medical team is looking at James’ finger again. The doctor tells James that it’s gotten worse and that he’s going to need surgery. James doesn’t even get the choice, because doctor said he has to go, so he gets to go back to the tribe and say goodbye before he’s medically evacuated. And with that: James is gone. Not that he wasn’t likely the next one to go, but that sucks and no one wants to go out like that, freaking thirty days in.
Meanwhile, the reward must have been pretty boring (I mean, more boring than usual), because we don’t get to see very much of it at all. Everyone gets all swimmy with the jellyfish. Cirie tells us that she’s no longer scared of nature, and haven’t we already done this? I’m really glad the reward wasn’t swimming with the infamous Micronesian Carnivorous Leaves, or she would have gone apeshit.
Over at Exile Island, Amanda is determined to get the idol so that she can stay safe. She begins her scavenger hunt, and they’ve really gone all-out with the clues this time, because one is underwater, one is right underneath the little tower. Amanda even has to dig in the sand for the last one, and she ends up digging a ridiculously large area before she finds it. That’s some determination, right there. Good for her. The final clue tells her that the idol is buried back at camp under the flag, which was a nice thing for the producers to do because you can just sort of leave it buried until you need it so no one can find it. Nicely done, show!
Do the producers beat you until you dig them irrigation channels when you go to Exile?
Back at camp, the reward winners return to find that James has been evacuated. Cirie quickly realizes that if Erik wins immunity, the girls are going to have to start eating each other a little sooner than they had realized. Alexis and her knee aren’t doing too well either, and Parvati asks after it. Alexis tells them that it’s bad, but that she should be fine to continue with the game. “Do you want us to vote you out?” Parvati asks rather forwardly. Wow, bad move. Alexis looks very alarmed, like it’s a surprise that Parvati’s playing to win this time or something. Alexis decides to change the subject, so they start talking about who might be a problem for them in the final three. Natalie quickly fingers Amanda, saying that she’d have a big problem with Amanda if she made the final three. Well Natalie, you’d have a big problem against anybody, but Amanda does have a lot of friends on the jury. Parvati displays (some) loyalty by telling the other three girls that she has been loyal to Amanda up until this point, and she can’t really participate in a plan to vote her out because she feels like she shouldn’t. You will notice that she does not necessarily discourage it, she just states that she can’t participate, which is very shrewd of her. She has to know that she can’t beat Amanda, so I’m sure she views this as her best option.
Immunity Challenge! Basically there is a giant gun, and each person gets three targets that they have to hit, with the fastest winning immunity. There’s not a lot to it, just some shooting and whatnot. Erik pretty much runs away with it and no one else really comes close, which is odd because it’s clearly been designed to level the playing field, strength wise. By the way, I have decided that given Erik’s wide-eyed enthusiasm for everything and how annoying it is, that he’s going to say “Jeepers” anytime I quote him. Sort of like this:
“Golly, I’m shooting a gun on TV! JEEPERS!”
Wow, fastest challenge recap ever! I rule.
Back at camp, Amanda stands in front of everyone and empties her sack to prove that she doesn’t have the idol. She knows they’re sneaky bastards and no one’s bag is safe. Natalie is airport security! After this, the pity party for Amanda begins almost immediately, with everyone treating her like her ouster is a foregone conclusion. Amanda puts on a fairly good show, but if they stopped for even a minute to think about why anyone would go this far to prove that they didn’t have the idol, they’d figure it out pretty quickly. Meanwhile, Amanda takes Parvati off into the woods to explain the situation to her, telling her that the idol is hidden under the flag right under their noses. Since they pretty much get to decide who goes home, they begin to discuss the relative merits of getting rid of Natalie or Alexis. It’s a stimulating discussion. “Natalie is a total skank, but Alexis is almost invisible! Which should we get rid of?” The smart move is to use this opportunity to get rid of Cirie, because she will cut you. Well, the smart move would be to tell everyone you have the idol, and then tell them that you’re going to use it so they’d better come up with a Plan B, and then don’t use it and guarantee yourself Final Four, but that’s way, way too risky in this season of idol holders getting voted off. This seems like a good compromise for Amanda.
Meanwhile, Alexis and Natalie tell Erik and Cirie that they’re going to vote for Amanda, and soon there are four votes for Amanda. Amanda does some campwork with Erik, basically goading him into disclosing the fact that he’s voting for her that evening. To his credit, he does cop to it. Amanda sort of throws a mini-tantrum that I can’t figure out is real or strategy, telling Erik that she saved his ass and got rid of Ami, so he sort of owes her one. I don’t know what Erik’s thinking strategically by agreeing to align with Alexis and Natalie, since he has to know he’s screwed that way. It’s probably something as deep and well thought out as, “Gee, I get to vote people out! There’s the urn, right there! JEEPERS!”
Amanda takes Cirie out into the forest to talk to her as well, and Cirie does an excellent marketing job by explaining to Amanda that she doesn’t want to risk some sort of tie-breaker and then going home herself. You see, she has no choice! She simply must! Cirie is awesome, and you have to admire this approach and how nuanced it is. You will recall that Cirie went home on a tie last time, so this is very shrewd on her part, but she’s obviously feeding Amanda some bullshit. Wouldn’t you think that if Cirie wanted to get rid of someone besides Amanda, she would make it happen?
Strategic nose-picking. Now I’ve seen it all.
So Amanda, hopeless except for the fact that she knows exactly where the idol is buried, begins digging around the flag. It is very tense, and I will admit that I sort of thought Amanda might not find it, given how spacey she’s been this season to date. Well, she somehow managed to lose to Todd and Courtney last time, so I don’t know what I’m thinking.
Tribal Council! James comes in with an IV bag attached to him. Is it really that important to have him at this particular tribal council, like he is going to glean some information that will eventually allow him to come to the informed decision that we all know his is undoubtedly going to make? Let the man lie down! At least Bruce got to poop and skip one. Of course, Jeff makes James a big hero and lets him tell everyone what’s going on while he lays a garland of calla lilies at his feet. Yeah, sucks about your finger, but I think it’s safe to assume you’re okay when producers let you go to tribal council. Amanda puts on what is actually quite an awesome performance, beginning by throwing what is either a real or totally fake tantrum about Erik betraying her and being a big stinky butthead, which is basically what she calls him. Everyone keeps acting like it’s a foregone conclusion that Amanda’s going home, to the point that Parvati calls Amanda “her little sister”, which is not only condescending to Amanda but makes it seems as if Parvati has somehow taken Amanda under her wing. Yeah, all Amanda did was get to final three last time, while you…refused to believe that Yul had the idol, threw a bunch of tantrums about getting played by Jonathan, and then got your ass voted off. Or does being on an older season automatically make you the elder person in the incestual Survivor family tree?
Amanda continues to whine about her inevitable ouster, to the point that I’m starting to believe that maybe she didn’t find it. Everyone is all condescending to Amanda about how they totally love her and wish her nothing but the best, which is bullshit because they just want to stay in the game. Amanda plays along while they talk about what a big jury threat she is and whatever, whining and crying totally rad crocodile Sheila tears.
Everyone goes to cast their votes, and Jeff returns with them asking whether anyone would like to play the idol. Amanda is totally awesomely like, “Um, yeah. About that!” and then presents Jeff with the immunity idol while everyone squirms and the jury celebrates. Amanda tells them that she really didn’t lie, and “at the time” she totally didn’t have the idol. The part that is unsaid, but clearly heard: “But now? In your face, bitches!”
It continues to be totally awesome as Jeff reads four votes for Amanda, right in order, all of which do not count. Question: Do they rearrange the votes after someone plays an idol to make it more dramatic? Because then we wouldn’t have known who Parvati and Amanda voted for, in this configuration. But we know now, because it’s Alexis, who is visibly disgusted. She gets both of the other votes from Parvati and Amanda, who exchange totally deserved glances. Well, Amanda’s is deserved, but Parvati played her part.
The jury is clearly happy as Alexis’ torch is snuffed. It’s not that they dislike Alexis, I think it’s that everyone there really does like Amanda a lot. Also, Amanda has to be pretty happy that she got to engineer the downfall of Alexis. That’s what you get for trying to steal her boyfriend!