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What a fantastic episode of Survivor. This season has hovered in the “excellent” realm, and after last night’s dense installment of scheming, drama, tears, betrayal, and lying, I am going on the record to say that Survivor: Palau officially rocks. Any reality show that can keep us on the edge of our seat from the very first minutes of the hour deserves special accolade. This has been a bizarre season, but it’s worked out well, even if some of my favorite players have been sidelined. Three cheers for Mark Burnett! (and you too Jeff. Just for being a swell guy).Tonight’s hour began with the mandatory stock footage of animals, but this time, it was rats gorging on a coconut and hopping around. Apparently CBS is in negotiations with the crab population — they want more money for their perfunctory scampering. Anyway, Jenn was shocked by Gregg’s ouster, but when her team asked how she was faring, she simply brushed the incident off and chirped, “I was shocked for like two seconds.” Two very long, bitter seconds. Ian, meanwhile, became very concerned that the three girls would join together in an alliance and turn on him and Tom. Yes, the all-female alliance: a mythical beast that threatens to raise its head every season, but always disappears with the light of day. Amy Cusack came closest to realizing this dream, but like a UFO or Bigfoot, we’ll have to see it to believe it.
But maybe I’m talking too soon. After all, if this season of Survivor has proven anything, it’s that anything can happen (CBS, you can pay me later). Further cementing that notion was the incredibly intense scheming going down at camp. Katie, Jenn, and Ian held a little powwow and all agreed that they wanted Caryn out. But then Jenn quietly began asserting that maybe Tom should go. After all, he’s your biggest competition, she said to Ian. Look at sneaky Jenn quietly slip in her own agenda! She wants revenge, and she wants it to be cute.
Meanwhile, Caryn and Tom talked strategy, ultimately agreeing that they’d take each other to the final two. I guess we knew something was up when the camera cut away to a random scorpion happily making its way across the beach. You know, that’s pretty cool and all, but I’d really like to see some crabs.
Anyway, after her discussion with Tom, Caryn told us, “I’m guardedly optimistic about my chance to make it to the final three.” Optimistic? Well, that’s a near death sentence on Survivor. She should know better by now.
Later, Tom and Ian fetched the Tree Mail which had yet another coy clue about the reward challenge, and before heading back to the tribe, the two guys held back to discuss strategy. We knew they were up to no good because we suddenly cut away to a crocodile yawning. Seriously, this is very unsavory wildlife: rats, scorpions, crocodiles? What’s next? A fire-breathing dragon? Anyway, Tom and Ian agreed that if either of them won the reward, and they had the option of choosing someone to share it with, they would not pick each other. Wouldn’t want to make the same mistake as Gregg. Okay, simple enough. That’s a smart move. Or was it? While the guys deliberated on who they’d bring along on the reward (that they hadn’t even won yet), we then saw footage of even more wildlife, this time two red bugs slurping a snail out of its shell. Yes, yes, the nature imagery has metaphorical undertones, WE GET IT! (Although, the snail ambush was a nice change from the standard butterfly-caught-in-the-spider-web saga).
Well, it was time for the reward challenge, and guess what? It was the car episode! Yes, as the penultimate installment of the season, it was time to give away a vehicle, and this time around, the lucky winner would nab a bright red Corvette. That’s a sizable improvement over the standard Aztec or sedan. Later, we learned that whoever won the car would then drive it to a mansion where he or she would spend the night (with a guest, of course). As for the actual challenge, it was a typically convoluted mishmash of rafting, collecting, and guesswork. Rather than describe this mess, I’ll let CBS:
“Survivors would race into the lagoon on bamboo rafts and collect a series of mileage markers. Once all the markers were collected, they must be placed under the sign marker designating the distance from Palau to various big cities. The first player to place all the markers correctly would win.” Wow, CBS really makes it sound so simple.
Anyway, Ian and Tom took an immediate lead while Caryn and Katie languished far behind. Then after about five minutes of watching these fools float around on their bamboo rafts, the fun times came to an end as Ian won the reward (Uh oh. Curse of the car, but never mind that for now). Well, it came time for Ian to choose a friend to join him at the mansion, and after some hemming and hawing he chose… Katie? No. Caryn? No. Jenn? No. Tom? YES. Huh?? What the hell? What about that whole conversation before? Did he not see what just happened to Gregg? Whatever. Ian was now officially an idiot.
Well, as expected, Katie, the resident tart, became very bitter about the situation as she smarted from Ian’s betrayal. Apparently they had made a deal to take each other along if either of them won the reward challenge. Now Katie was mad and happy to jump ship. At camp, all the women compared notes. Katie revealed that she had a deal with Tom and Ian to go to the final three. Well, guess what, so did Caryn, although she was a bit reluctant to admit it. “I don’t really have a deal with Tom,” Caryn said. “He told me he’d take me to the final two.” Uh, I think that’s a deal. Caryn later noted “I really haven’t made any deals. I mean, I’ve verbally assented to mutually beneficial agreements, but I wouldn’t really call that a deal. Hey, have you guys ever tried steak? I’ve never had it before. I mean, I’ve chewed and swallowed it, but never really eaten it.”
Meanwhile, Jenn registered complete shock that Katie had a deal with Ian and Tom. Why was she shocked? Wasn’t Jenn originally part of the “strong five”? Either way, since shock apparently lasts only two seconds for Jenn, she quietly receded to the background, wisely realizing that the Caryn and Katie situation could only be beneficial for her. And sure enough, by the end of the afternoon, all the women allied together and agreed to vote off Tom or Ian, depending on the immunity situation.
As usual though, the all-women alliance showed signs of weakness from the very getgo as Caryn nearly tackled the two guys upon their return the next morning. She very directly cornered Ian, asking “Is it going to be you, Tom, and me or you, Tom and Katie?” Bold move, sister. Well, Ian responded with the firm reply that surely would put her at ease. “Uh… it’s going to be you, me, and Katie- I mean, you, me, and Tom.” Sensing a lack of commitment, Caryn continued to press Ian for answers, but he merely stuttered, waivered, and (smacking forehead), said he didn’t know who he’d vote off until the next night. As Caryn walked off angrily, Tom shook his head and said “You just screwed up.” He then added, “I still love you though. Let’s go spoon.”
Back at camp, Ian knew he had to firm up Katie’s vote now that Caryn was disgruntled. The only problem: Katie wasn’t talking to Ian. She was still pissed off about the reward challenge. Another good sign for the all-women’s alliance! A common hatred of Tom and Ian!
After a morning of hatred from Katie, Ian finally got five minutes of alone time with the woman and explained his actions. “I swear on this that there’s no vote that will ever go against you. Ever,” he explained. What exactly was he swearing on? A shark tooth necklace? Lots of significance that has. Oh wait, it’s a cross. Damn, I hate lost opportunities for snarkiness.
Well, Katie put on quite the show as she let loose a torrent of tears and melodramatic platitudes: “I lost my best friend!”, “I was embarrassed!”, “I’m carrying your baby!”. Okay, maybe she didn’t say that last one. Either way, I couldn’t be sure, but I was fairly certain that Katie was pulling yet another brilliant ploy. At the beginning of this episode, I thought Caryn was the swing vote. Now it looks to be Katie. Can one episode handle two swing votes? And what does that say about the women’s alliance? Not so sturdy, eh?
Finally, Ian countered with his own cheesy line, saying, “I’m gonna try to be your friend for the rest of my life. If you don’t want it, that’s fine.” (I was particularly entertained by Ian’s random southern inflection on the word “Fine”, which he pronounced “faaaahn.”). Well, the two crybabies eventually cooled down and shared a forgiving hug. I instantly felt sorry for Katie as her nose came perilously close to Ian’s armpits. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy (although, I would wish it on Veronica and Tina from Road Rules).
Meanwhile, Tom worked to secure Caryn’s trust again. The two debated whether or not Katie’s anger at Ian was just an act. Caryn shrugged her shoulders and said that Katie was a good actress. She then proceeded to cough up half a lung on camera in one of her more unattractive moments. Caryn + phlegm = unpleasant.
The next morning, Tom bullied Katie to rejoin his ranks, causing her to immediately complain to the camera that he was being a jerk. You know, if this were Survivor: Amazon, Rob Cesterino would have simply said, “Hey, maybe we should vote off Katie?” Sadly, his scheming prowess was absent from this group, but that’s not to say the plot wasn’t thickening. Ian said his heart told him to vote off Caryn, but his head told him to target Tom. “It’s Survivor, not Parcheesi,” he reminded us. It’s not Parcheesi? Damn. I really have to get my board game knowledge in order.
Anyway, with the plotting getting out of hand, the only one not entangled in the mess is… Jenn. That’s odd. Coming into this episode, she was the only without an alliance, and yet, by staying out of the fray, she’s completely become an afterthought for these people. Something tells me that she might just be the smartest one on this island.
Soon it was time for the immunity challenge which had castaways crossing an obstacle course to look at a pattern. After taking however long they wanted to observe the order of the tiles, contestants then had to return through the obstacle course and reassemble the pattern. The first one to accurately match the pattern would win. Well, with all the scheming going on this hour, this immunity challenge proved to be incredibly exciting. Caryn and Katie immediately fell off the obstacle course, with the latter girl getting her foot stuck in a rope ladder. Needless to say, after Katie’s vine-swinging disaster earlier this season, she and obstacle courses do NOT mix well. As usual, Tom was in the lead, but Jenn seemed first to put her pattern together. Surprisingly, she didn’t tell Jeff that she had it. Instead she went back time and time again to check her work. Ian, meanwhile, called Probst over for approval several times, but despite the music getting all climactic and exciting, his pattern continued to be incorrect.
Tom meanwhile spent a good amount of time falling on his face, but that didn’t stop him from eventually winning immunity. Yes, once again, the unstoppable fireman won the necklace, hopefully causing the women to regret voting Stephenie off two weeks ago. Well, it became quite obvious how the rest of this episode would play out. Despite Katie’s previous anger, there was no way she was going to actually vote Ian off after their little spat/love-fest. It was so obvious that CBS barely even showed any post-challenge scheming. We simply went right to Tribal Council after only a mere minute or so at camp. And for good reason. After an entire episode of crazy scheming, Tribal Council proved to be quite the explosive affair as Caryn let loose her anger for the first time in weeks. She seemed to sense that Katie had reconnected with Tom and Ian, and so Caryn boldly tried to sever their bond by saying how Ian devised the plan to get rid of Gregg, then Jenn, and then Katie. Ian rolled his eyes as if she were a crazy conspiracy theorist (Ian, we have Tivo. She’s not lying), but while Caryn was effective in exposing the men’s hypocrisy, she failed to sell why Katie would be better off with the women.
Warning: gossipy and confusing sentence ahead. Tom claimed that Caryn said that Gregg and Katie wanted to vote Tom off. I don’t seem to remember this happening, but either way, Caryn was livid at the accusation, charging, “You are such a liar!” Meanwhile, the jury simply sat back and laughed. Man, they had front row seats to the best show on Earth that day.
As for Katie, the girl somehow caught in the middle, she seemed pissed off that Ian had let her in on the Gregg scheme at the last second, noting how it made her feel like an outsider. Yes, but would she sacrifice her friendship with Ian over that? Apparently not. In a vote of four to one, Caryn was ousted over Ian. And yes, Jenn voted for her too. So much for that female alliance. Well, Caryn left the game angrily, and in her goodbye speech, she passive aggressively accused everyone of shooting the messenger. She was just saying it like it is, and if they couldn’t deal with it, well, that’s too bad because they’d have to face the music eventually. Yeah yeah yeah. Just go and write your bitter finale-night speech already.
In retrospect, when Caryn confronted Ian about his alliance with Katie, she may have overplayed her hand. What seemed like a good move turned out to be her undoing. After all, from that moment on, the boys couldn’t trust that she’d be with them, and therefore their attention moved to Katie, who then had the luxury of keeping them begging until Tribal Council. Basically, Katie was ensured all the power, allowing her to choose between the two alliances, and because Caryn had nothing to offer, she was easy to dispose of.
And now we enter finale territory — my favorite part of the season: the fallen survivor montage, the endurance challenge, and the venomous showdown with the jury. Who do you think will win? Might Jenn quietly ascend to the throne? Will Katie ever realize that Tom and Ian are only taking themselves to the final two? Will Jeff Probst be cranky at the reunion? Just three more nights…