Sick. Sick as a dog. That’s been me for the past few weeks. I’ve tried everything to get over it: sleep, cough medicine, nasal spray, steam baths, echinacea, Airborne, gargling with hot salt water, antibiotics. Nothing has worked. In fact, it’s gotten worse. But there was one thing I did not try: fruit. But I should have, because at approximately 8:55 p.m. Eastern Standard Time last night I took a bite of an apple, and damn it tasted good! It wasn’t actually just a plain ol’ apple, but rather a whole apple pie, baked by Amanda, whose contribution to Survivor so far had been solely keeping editors busy applying pixelation to various parts of her exposed body. Well, for once she flashed a little intelligence as well. We all cursed wannabe gamer Todd a few weeks back for passing up the smart play and ousting nonthreat Jean-Robert instead of the Adonis with two immunity idols in his possession. It was Amanda who finally put the gravedigger six feet under last night by seizing what might just have been the last opportunity to get rid of the seemingly invincible James.
You’d think James would have learned. At the previous tribal council Jeff Probst left us hanging with a crazy cliff-hanger that had many expecting another immediate immunity challenge and vote-off. James, who hadn’t even brought the idols with him, looked freaked at first. He was relieved when he found out it was only a reward challenge. His relief was our letdown. Sorry, but I kind of expected more after a two-week cliff-hanger than a mere Chinese-trivia reward challenge. It was as if the entire tribal council set was smothered in weak sauce.
Equally weak was winner Peih-Gee’s decision to bring Erik and Denise with her on the reward trip to the Shaolin temple. These were certainly not the smartest people to bring from a strategy standpoint: Erik was already in her alliance, and Denise is not the power player you can count on to flip herself and bring someone else over. Still, as viewers we scored by watching Denise bust out a little kung fu, even though — and this may sound a bit mean — with that ponytail and those moves she did look a bit like Steven Seagal. (What? She did! Have you seen Marked for Death?) Also, is it just me, or did watching Erik, Denise, and Peih-Gee do kung fu with all those kids remind you a bit of that Seinfeld episode where Kramer joins a children’s martial arts class?
Unless there is some sort of strategy shift going on, or people getting stupid drunk, pampering reward getaways are usually boring, with the same script pretty much every time. In fact, the contestant comments are so predictable you could probably start up your own Survivor Reward Getaway Mad Lib. ”The (insert reward location here) was (insert adjective expressing wonderment and awe). To see (insert name of native peoples here) doing (insert name of local dance or performance) was (insert adjective expressing some sort of humbling cultural appreciation). And after weeks of eating (insert nasty local diet favorite here), the food was simply (insert adjective expressing culinary delight)!” How many times have we heard that?
Finally, it was time to get back to the good stuff — namely, contestant suffering. This time it was the rain getting Todd down. He, Amanda, James, and Courtney looked appropriately miserable hovering in their little ”no talking” cave. Gee, I know what would cheer them up: Peih-Gee coming by and going on about all the champagne and cookies she was served! They’d simply love that. It was also about this time that James went into round 2 of telling us all about how he was not going to flip on anybody and how no one should eat the apple. The Spidey sense of this veteran Survivor viewer immediately started tingling. This point was being hammered home so much you had to figure right then and there that James was a goner. That’s not a dis either. One of the best Survivor episodes ever was the eviction of Rupert from Pearl Islands. Instead of trying to hide his ouster till the last second, producers let you see the whole thing go down, and the perverse thrill was in watching a hero being cluelessly led to the slaughter. James’ ouster seemed almost as inevitable as the episode went on (with the only question being whether he would actually use the hidden immunity idol this time), yet the drama was just as heightened.
NEXT: Star power