(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: Two tribes go to Tribal Council to vote out one player. Whispered conversations! Huddles! Sidebars! Probst has lost control! Cats and dogs living together! Mass hysteria! And then Malcolm gets voted out.
WHO’S LEFT: Sandra (the self-proclaimed queen), Michaela (who hasn’t killed anybody yet), Ozzy, Cirie, Zeke (with head currently up Cirie’s backside), Culpepper (ugh), Varner (who really ought to consider wearing a shirt), Sierra (with SECRET ADVANTAGE), Aubrey, Tai, Debbie, JT, Hali (is…still here…for some reason), Troyzan (now with Hidden Immunity Idol), Sarah and Andrea (both trying to go through the game anonymously.)
QUICK AND DIRTY RECAP: Nuku returns to camp after Tribal Council and wonders aloud how the f**k Tai knew to hand Sierra his Immunity Idol…unless someone ratted out their plans to Culpepper. JT claims to know nothing about it, despite having clearly whispered the plans to Culpepper in the recap. In fact, JT seems so genuine about it that he may have suffered some form of hunger-induced amnesia. He laments the loss of Malcolm, describing him as the best friend he had in the game. (Judging by last week’s exit interview, you may want to check with Malcolm on that one, big guy.) Clearly, though, JT is on the bottom of his tribe and needs to save himself. This, of course, is the international signal for JT to find an immunity idol, which he immediately does. This could make things interesting around Nuku.
It’s on to the Reward Challenge, which involves digging up some balls, carrying them across a couple of balance beams and then solving a slide puzzle. The reward is a lot of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for first, a couple of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for second and no peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for third. (Sadly, this reminded me of when I was a kid and my mother would call me and my two brothers in for lunch. The kid that got in the house last usually got to wonder which of his a**hole brothers swiped his PB&J…not that I was frequently last or anything…) Anyway, the usual Mana stank is in full force as Debbie completely f’s up the balance beam portion, Mana goes from first to last and the other two tribes are treated to lunch from mom. Debbie, being the calm and rational person we all know her to be, immediately throws a hissy fit and blames the entire loss on Hali (who handled the first part of the balance beam challenge well enough to give her tribe a lead) and Culpepper (who’s apparently a dictator for agreeing with Debbie that she should handle the balance beam portion.)
Back at Mana, the insanity finds a whole new gear. Debbie insists she wanted no part of the balance beam portion (prompting the editors to REPLAY the portion where she basically volunteered to do it!) She insists that Hali messed up her portion of the balance beam while Debbie was nearly flawless. (Unless the editing was REALLY manipulated, that didn’t appear to be AT ALL the case in the actual challenge.) She stalks away from camp and is followed by the rest of the tribe. In the middle of her ragefest, Debbie starts doing push ups to calm down (which was about the only thing she could have done to make herself look even more insane.) She insists that Culpepper is a dictator (which is fair in general, but not in this specific instance), randomly starts shouting and making insane remarks (such as the one about the tribe wanting to give her clothes to Hali when she gets voted out. O…….kay….)
Two thoughts on this: 1) Debbie insists that because of her background in gymnastics, she should have been given the right to do the balance beam…which is what happened…and it’s someone else’s fault she screwed it up…can we get Abbott and Costello in here to interpret that logic? 2) Someone blows up at the slightest hint of criticism, blames everyone else for their shortcomings, makes delusional statements that are demonstrably false….hey folks, I watch Survivor as an ESCAPE from these things…
Meanwhile, over at Tavua, Sarah has finally shown up for the game and wants to keep her options open. She tells Troyzan that she’s looking for an idol and may want to work with him. Troyzan, grateful to have ANYBODY talking to him, immediately goes along with this. He doesn’t tell Sarah that he already has the Immunity Idol so apparently he’s keeping his options open as well.
At Nuku, JT and Michaela get into a conflict about how much sugar Michaela uses in her coffee. Sandra decides to fan the flames of this by secretly eating the rest of the sugar and making it look like Michaela did it. Two thoughts on THIS: 1) either JT is emboldened by finding the idol or he simply has no sense of self-preservation; 2) it amazes me that when put on a remote island and deprived of nearly all basic necessities, people will STILL find the most petty and childish things to argue about.
From there, we go to the Immunity Challenge, which consists of going through an obstacle course (including some balancing) and then using a big slingshot to shoot sandbags at a collection of targets. The highlight of the challenge is Debbie refusing to do the balancing portion of the obstacle course (because she’s had gymnastics experience and her tribe WASN’T AT ALL burned by the last time she volunteered for something like this) and then Debbie trash talking her own team DURING the challenge (because they didn’t pick her for the job she refused to do and…ugh, I can’t keep trying to make sense of this crap.) Anyway, Mana pulls out a victory because Culpepper’s REALLY good with the slingshot. Ozzy narrowly finishes ahead of JT to give Tavua second place. And it’s back to Tribal Council for Nuku.
Heading to Tribal Council, it looks like Michaela is the slamdunk choice to go home (which means, of course, that she’s not.) Sandra decides to get rid of JT. Aubry throws in JT, leaving Varner as the swing vote. Once at Tribal, Michaela and JT continue their spat over the coffee. Sandra and Varner do a masterful job of making it look like their going to vote for Michaela. JT, because he doesn’t have Stephen Fishbach around to do his thinking for him, not only doesn’t play the Immunity Idol, he didn’t even bring the damn thing to Tribal! The final vote is fairly obvious, as Varner throws in with Michaela and Sandra to get rid of JT. Michaela pours herself a cup of water as the votes are being counted and Sandra, when casting her vote, declares herself the Queen for the umpteenth time. (Apparently, both Sandra and Michaela were trying to get in their weekly quota of Obnoxious before the show ended.)
WHAT COMES NEXT: Yet another twist (sigh). Another tribe swap (Gack!) Exile Island is back in play (groan). And a former Survivor is returning to the game. (To play? To visit? Who knows? But there’s a good chance I’m going to roll my eyes.)
SCORECARD (Our weekly breakdown on how the castaways are doing. When it’s early like this, I usually just pick three to discuss.)
Sarah: Well, it was nice to see Sarah actually show up to play the game. She repeated her desire to play like a criminal rather than a cop this time out. Unless “waiting in the weeds and hoping for the best” is some kind of criminal activity, I’m not seeing it. Offering to align with Troyzan is an interesting idea, but even HE doesn’t seem into it. Troyzan has NOBODY on his side and yet he still didn’t totally buy into the idea of working with Sarah. It’s like handing a glass of water to a man dying of thirst and the guys goes, “There’s not anything floating in here, is there?”
Debbie: Truthfully, there’s nothing strategic to talk about here. Whether she’s intending to do it or not, Debbie’s clearly begging her tribe to vote her out. If not for the guy she attacked most vehemently, it might have happened this week (oh irony!) Debbie might be helped by next week’s tribe swap, but she such a delusional person anyway, I can’t see how ANYTHING’s going to help her game at this point.
Michaela: I’ll admit that I was sad when Michaela was voted out of Gen X vs Millennials, since she was clearly the best player and the force of her personality made her enjoyable to watch. This time out, Michaela seems determined NOT to strategize (since that got her booted out once before) and her personality is that of a whiny, entitled Millennial (the exact mold she DIDN’T fit in before.) I’d like to see a little of the old strategizing Michaela back in play because right now she’s just being kept around as a pawn. When she outlives her usefulness, her allies will kick her to the curb. Unless Michaela starts, y’know, playing the game.
SO WHAT HAPPENED TO: JT.
The very first time I saw returning players in Survivor (during All-Stars) it pretty much shattered my view that there are good players in Survivor. Yes, there are some players that are simply better than others. I think someone like Parvati is strong enough to go to the end of just about any edition she plays. But how many times have we seen a past winner come back and make us wonder how the hell they won the game in the first place? Sadly, I think we have to throw JT into that bucket. During Heroes vs Villains, his incredible blunder of handing over an Immunity Idol to Russell Hantz not only cost HIM the game, it pretty much destroyed the chances of anyone on the Heroes tribe. This time, he was guilty of clearly not thinking a step ahead. Not bringing his Immunity Idol to Tribal Council tells me he didn’t even entertain the possibility that Sandra or Varner could be lying to him. I hate the beat this particular dead horse, but it feels like JT needs someone like Fishbach around as a sounding board. Without him, JT simply misses the finer points of the game.