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''Survivor'': An A for effort

On ”Survivor,” Stephenie — a strong player despite her weak tribe — finally meets her fate; meanwhile, Caryn may have sealed hers

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Stephenie LaGrossa, Survivor: Palau
Stephenie LaGrossa: Robert Voets/CBS

”Survivor”: An A for effort

Whoa… What the hell is going on here? This is the weirdest Survivor episode ever! What’s with that podium? And all those reporters in suits and ties? Is Mark Burnett gonna come out and make some sort of statement defending Jeff Probst against allegations that he forced Janu to quit last week? Wait… Who’s that? It’s the President! What’s he doing here? Shouldn’t he be off watching a baseball game or something? Ohhhh, I get it. He’s addressing the nation about important issues like Social Security and asbestos reform. (What is asbestos reform, anyway?)

I guess that means I’ll return in an hour when the really important matters begin…. Okay, I’m back. And seeing how that creepy night vision is consuming my TV screen, so is Survivor. Was it worth the wait? Yes, and no. Yes, because we had a strategy-filled episode with players seemingly realigning every 30 seconds. And no, for a few reasons. First off, we had to endure another one of those ”Let’s give the contestants letters from home so we can watch them cry on camera!” segments. Been there, slept through that. Let’s just hope they don’t double-dip and also do one of those ”Here are your relatives to compete in a reward challenge!” spots too. I can’t take that — unless phony dead grandmothers are involved, of course.

Another bad thing about this episode was the elimination of one of this season’s fiercest competitors, Stephenie. In fact, I’ve been trying to think if there’s ever been a better player on a bad tribe. Andrew Savage from Pearl Islands comes to mind, but that’s about it. (If you can think of any, call in on Survivor: Live Friday at 2 p.m. Eastern and let me know. I’m sure I’m spacing on a few.)

Even though Ulong lost every single Immunity challenge, more often than not, Steph (or ”Jersey,” which is apparently what Probst calls her whether she likes it or not) either held her own or dominated her portion of the competition. And she also showed some strategy savvy along the way, although her proposed women-versus-men alliance was simply a case of too little, too late. (It also may have been a case of too much Caryn using too much of her mouth.)

What to make of Caryn’s double dipping? Well, it would have been smart for her to align with the three other women, especially when the other person (Tom) is only promising to let you join his ”strong five” to make it a ”strong six.” Gee, where do you think that puts you, Caryn? Umm, maybe sixth?!? (Dude, Tom, I know you’re trying not to piss off possible future jury members by lying to their faces, but you can sell yourself a little better than that.) As for catty Katie, she’s starting to become pretty damn annoying. True, it was funny when she mentioned that ”We can’t get a female alliance because Caryn sucks,” but her gossipy playground tone is really wearing thin. (Speaking of which, Jenna Morasca is convinced Katie is the first Survivor contestant ever to actually gain weight playing the game. Just wanted to throw that out there. Feel free to discuss among yourselves.)

What else did we learn this episode? Well, we learned that the folks on Koror weren’t lying when they said how nasty Ian’s hygiene is, with Probst calling out, ”Wow, you smell, Ian. You reek!” We learned that Tom doesn’t want to be penalized for being a strong player. (Sure, Tom, strong players are never, ever voted out because they are simply too good. Don’t sweat it, my man.) And we learned that spaghetti dinners in Palau go for approximately 300 bucks a plate — and I thought New York was expensive!

Okay, so it wasn’t the most enthralling of episodes (in a season of strong challenges, these two were among the weakest), but as Probst pointed out, now the going should get good. With only six tribe members left (remember, ”The Big Six!”), now people are gonna have to start turning on each other. Who knows — maybe the President will even tune in. Once he handles that whole asbestos situation.

What do you think? Is Tom in trouble? Did Caryn blow it by not siding with the women? And where does Stephenie stack up in the list of great Survivor players from horrible tribes?