(BLOGGER’S NOTE: So it’s been a few years since I’ve done one of these, but I thought it would be fun to bring back the weekly Survivor recap. For those of you who are new to this, I give my cheerfully rambling opinions on last night’s episode, both in terms of game play and production, and speculate on strategies the players might use going forward. It should be noted that this does assume you’ve already watched the episode. If you haven’t, go find an online recap and come back to us. (Or watch the thing On Demand. This doesn’t have to be hard, ya cheap bastard!)
WHAT CAME BEFORE: 20 of the biggest game changers in Survivor history (or really, just some people we could get to come back) hit the beach! Tony and Sandra face off and Tony gets sent packing. (Apparently, Ciera was never here. Forget you even heard the name Ciera. Ciera who?)
WHO’S LEFT: Sandra (the self-proclaimed queen), Malcolm (and Malcolm’s mustache), Caleb (with med-evac on alert), Michaela (who hasn’t killed anybody yet), Ozzy, Cirie, Zeke (with head currently up Cirie’s backside), Culpepper (ugh), Varner, Sierra (with SECRET ADVANTAGE), Aubrey, Tai, Debbie, JT (played by JT’s older, fatter brother), Sarah, Halie, Troyzan and Andrea (all trying to go through the game anonymously.)
QUICK AND DIRTY RECAP: Both tribes hit the beach and are informed of this week’s worst-kept secret (at least for viewers): drop your buffs. We’re switching tribes! The twist that was NOT foreseen is that we’re going from two tribes to three. Mana and Nuku remain and will now be joined by Tavua. After the random draw, it breaks down as such, Mana: Debbie, Hali, Sierra, Tai, Caleb and Culpepper; Nuku: JT, Michaela, Malcolm, Sandra, Aubrey and Varner; Tavua: Troyzan, Cirie, Andrea, Sarah, Zeke and Ozzy. Tavua draws the short straw of having practically nothing in the way of supplies or shelter back at camp. Probst, of course, wastes no time in pointing out who’s in the minority on each tribe (reminding me again that Probst is the kind of weasel we all would’ve hated to go to school with; the kind who would interrupt science class by bellowing out, “You have a crush on WHO?!”) It would have been nice if at least one castaway had said, “Uh, Jeff, we’ve only been out here a week. It’s not like we’ve created a lot of unshakable bonds. Besides, we’ve all played this before. We know-God willing-we’re all going to hate each other by the end. So…”
Back at camp, the new arrivals see the Nuku camp as seventh heaven, given all the food, supplies and decorations. JT is less thrilled, since he’s clearly on the bottom of the pecking order. To remedy this, he drags the rest of the tribe out to the middle of a lagoon on a supposed fishing expedition, then abandons them on the pretense of going back to get a pair of pliers and conducts an idol search. Since it only takes about ten seconds to find a pair of pliers, his tribemates quickly figure out what JT is up to. They’re so concerned, they just let him go about doing it. Their faith is well-placed as JT doesn’t find anything.
Looking for another way into his tribe’s good graces, JT decides to catch a goat because Sandra wants to eat a goat. Yes, in a tribe with ALL of the luxuries, including four chickens, Sandra decides she’s deprived enough to need goat meat. Her explanation? “That’s what they’re here for, for human consumption.” You could just FEEL the CBS suits’ buttholes puckering in anticipation of the wave of letters they’re going to get from PETA. Well, JT is successful in catching the goats, only to realize one is a baby and the other is it’s mother. Since the tribe isn’t made up of a collection of monsters, they ultimately decide to let the goats go. But first, they have to take a vote and defeat Sandra, who still wants to eat the goats. As far as I can tell, the segment was there for only two purposes: 1. To make my friend Carol bawl like she was six and watching Bambi again for the first time and 2. To remind us all what a complete a**hole Sandra can be.
Meanwhile, over at Tavua, Ozzy takes charge in setting up camp (the sort of thing Ozzy is good at) and he and Cirie decide to bury the hatchet…in Troyzan, agreeing that he’s an easy first out. Troyzan senses he’s on the bottom when Andrea gives him the “why are you talking to me?” look that all popular high school girls give dudes like Troyzan. Andrea then warns the rest of the tribe that they should keep an eye on Troyzan, who might go searching for an idol. While they’re having this conversation, Troyzan is actually out looking for an idol. He finds a clue (literally walking past the damn thing) that says the idol will be hidden at the immunity challenge. Of course, the fun will be had in watching a stupnagle like Troyzan try to subtly capture the hidden idol.
The challenge is the usual “run through an obstacle course then solve a puzzle” bulls**t. The winning tribe gets a choice of “comfort for your body” or “comfort for your taste buds”. I wish I was making that up, but that’s a direct quote from Probst. Anyhoo, it’s an awkward way of saying you have a choice between pillows and blankets or a spice rack. Mana may have changed lineups, but the loser stank is still upon them as they come in third and win another all-expenses-paid trip to tribal council. Tavua picks up second place and Troyzan, under the pretense of collapsing against the table, manages to awkwardly grab the barely-hidden idol and stuff it down his pants. (I kept waiting for Probst to say, “And Troyzan is REALLY happy about the win.”)
Back at Mana, it seems like Hali, weak in challenges, weak in personality, would be the obvious choice to go home. Culpepper, though, is concerned about handing power over to the trio of Caleb, Tai and Debbie, all of whom played together in Kaoh Rang. Culpepper then convinces Tai that having an ally as loyal as Caleb will be a detriment after the merge. Tai, for reasons passing understanding, falls for this. (Tai seems to be a genuinely nice man who is light-speed stupid.) So with an obvious choice of Hali to send home, Mana overwhelmingly votes out…Caleb. It seems Mana has the reverse Midas touch: everything it comes in contact with immediately turns to crap. For his part, Caleb is gracious on the way out, giving his old buddy Tai a kiss on the top of the head.
WHAT COMES NEXT: Two tribes going to tribal council. And another twist! One that even Probst can’t believe! (And he runs the show!)
SCORECARD (Our weekly breakdown on how the castaways are doing. When it’s early like this, I usually just pick three to discuss.)
Culpepper: Suddenly, Culpepper, a temperamental, sexist moron, had become the Tai Whisperer. The frightening part about Culpepper, other than the way he hit Tai with the Jedi Mind Trick, is how he reminds me of Boston Rob when he came back for All-Stars. The guy’s unusually calm, as if he’s figured out where he went wrong the first time, but he’s not wearing the redemption angle on his sleeve. This, sadly, is a guy to keep an eye on.
Ozzy: I have yet to see that Ozzy has evolved in this game to where he can win it. I’ve made this point several times in the past, but Rupert, much as I love him, was never going to win the game because he was incapable of changing how he played. He was always going to survive tribe-vs-tribe because he was strong in challenges and good around camp. And he was always going to be tossed post-merge for those same qualities AND nobody wanted to go to the end with him. And Rupert refused to do anything cutthroat to change that. Ozzy, so far, is another version of Rupert: great in challenges and good around camp. But I haven’t seen anything that tells me he’s going to alter his game post-merge and avoid being outfoxed by people who don’t want to go to the end with him. Stay tuned…
Sandra: It’s going to be an interesting race to see if Sandra’s appeal (“Take me to the end because no one will vote for me”) is able to hold off her tribemates inevitable fatigue with her Queen Bee routine. Again, demanding that your tribemates kill a goat when you’re already living at the most well-stocked camp in the game is creating an issue where no issue needs to be created.
SO WHAT HAPPENED TO: Caleb. It’s hard to assess Caleb’s game play from his two Survivor appearances, since he didn’t get past day 9 either time. He was certainly more likable than the creepy, domineering Beast Mode Cowboy he was on Big Brother. If he made a mistake this time out, it was trusting a ninny like Tai. Sadly, it’s hard to imagine Caleb come back for a third go round. He simply hasn’t left enough of a stamp on the game. Maybe another appearance on Big Brother?