I’m sitting in for Dalton Ross on the Survivor TV Watch, but try not to fret. Just think of it as him having to sit out a challenge. But unlike Courtney, who does it ever week, Dalton hasn’t taken a pass in a long time. He’ll be sorry he missed this episode, which was a frenzy of scheming. Sure, there was strategizing and a bold move last week too, but having Zhan Hu throw the challenge with all the subtlety of an immunity idol to the groin still didn’t feel good to watch. This week, on the other hand, you had all the fun of the machinations without any of the residual ickiness of Peih-Gee and Jaime snickering over how funny they were as they crushed James’ competitive soul.
Everyone was trying at this week’s reward challenge, but Fei Long was quicker with the Confucius puzzle. While Jeff Probst reserves his utmost disdain for people who quit Survivor, people who can’t do puzzles must rank a close second, judging from the contempt in his voice when Zhan Hu barely made any headway at all decoding the quotation. Helpful hint: If you’re ever on a plane sitting next to Probst, don’t even consider starting a sudoku unless you’re sure you can finish it, because if he catches you stumped, ol’ Jeffy will throw you right out the door, airborne or not.
What did the winners get for their puzzle prowess? A trip to China’s fabled Charmin Tea House! What a landmark: I believe Confucius also came up with the house’s 2,500-year-old marketing slogan, which roughly translates to “Come relax at the Charmin Tea House, where your thirst will be wiped clean!” Seriously, Mark Burnett, we’ve all accepted your chronic product placement, but did you have to push it this far? I’ve always felt a twinge of doubt whenever people paddle in to visit the tribes, and Jeff identifies them as “local natives whose ancestors have been living off this land for centuries.” And yet I suppress that suspicion and take him at his word. But now that you’re ID-ing rustic huts as brought to you by the fine people at Charmin, I’m all the more convinced that all those “local fishermen” over the years have really been interns you brought over from UCLA.
Plus, toilet paper was a pretty weak luxury to spring on these players. They’re barely eating, so I don’t think tending to their bowel movements is even an issue. Next time, why not make the reward something they need even less, like a humidifier?
Back at their bathless camp, Zhan Hu moped about how they weren’t confident that Frosti and Sherea had stayed loyal, and wondered whether they should try to win immunity rather than throw it again. Frankly, if Frosti and Sherea had flipped, it wouldn’t matter what their old tribe did. There’s no way James would side with them after they told him he was as good as gone last week. And if their old tribemates had sold them out, they’d be hugely outnumbered. They might as well try to pick off James anyway, because it would be one fewer person to worry about.
The rest of the episode was devoted to Todd’s strategizing, and here’s how I understood it: Get James to give him the last clue to find the immunity idol; get idol; give idol back to James for when he heads back to Zhan Hu; have James throw the immunity challenge; when James is inevitably voted out at tribal council, have him redeem his bonus idol, thereby bouncing out Jaime, giving the old Fei Long an advantage in the (presumed) merge.
It seemed like a fiendish plot at first but far too complicated. If Todd was so sure of a merge at 10, why not just follow Zhan Hu’s lead and have Fei Long throw the immunity challenge? Then they could vote off either of the newcomers, Frosti or Sherea, and after the merge they’d have the exact same numerical advantage over the Zhan Hu leftovers. Plus, Todd would still have the immunity idol in his back pocket. The only problem would be if Fei Long were trying to throw the challenge, too. I pictured both teams desperately attempting to lose, just staring at the foods Jeff put down in front of them, not putting anything into their mouths until he got so angry he opened fire on all of them for sullying the integrity of his beloved game.
Instead, Todd located the idol on the archway and — for some inexplicable reason — tried to get it down with Amanda in front of everybody. Coming from someone who has allegedly studied every season ofSurvivor, that was a ridiculous move. I don’t care how hard he and Amanda pretended to be just randomly whacking shingles, this was about as subtle as the acting on MADtv. And why could he not resist greedily grabbing at it while Frosti was swinging around over his head? By the end of this ridiculousness, Todd was so spooked he scrambled down to the water, promised Frosti an alliance, and within the next couple of minutes had promised nearly everyone else they could be part of his clique. I’m surprised he didn’t start fashioning a telephone out of tree bark to call people from past seasons to invite them to be part of his immunity club too.
NEXT: Food fight!