“All the fools out there who think I’m dumb and ‘oh, he talks like an idiot’—wait till you see what I have planned for this game.” —Rodney
Well, Rodney, I don’t know what to tell you on this one. I did what you asked. I waited. I tried not to judge the fact that you chose Joaquin over Mike as an alliance partner because “[Mike] goes to church every Sunday; we’re having Sunday fun day ripping shots. He doesn’t have sex. He’s celibate. He hasn’t had sex in, like, eight years. So what do we have in common? You don’t drink? You don’t party?”
I did not cast aspersions when you told us how Joaquin was the perfect alliance partner for you because “We’re both about girls. We’re both about having fun, you know, partying, not settling down.” And I have to be honest here, it was very difficult not to cast aspersions because that is quite possibly the stupidest reason for picking an alliance partner I have ever heard in my life. But you told us you had something big and bold planned! You warned us! Just wait! So I waited. And then your big move amounted to throwing a challenge. And now I hate you and hate myself for waiting. Rodney, throwing a challenge is ALWAYS a bad idea. Even if it ends up not hurting you—and Mike certainly dodged a bullet by agreeing to participate—it has all the potential in the world to screw your game up.
Repeat after me: You NEVER want to go to Tribal Council. Tribal Council is where people get voted out (when not receiving a dissertation from Jeff Probst on the pros and cons of Botox, that is). And, well, that person could be you. Just ask Max, who only three days prior was downright giddy after losing the immunity challenge so he could vote somebody out—only that somebody ended up being him. Or, if you don’t get voted out, your new bromance partner does. Rodney had all these secret plans to go to the end with Joaquin, and now those plans are dead and gone because he insisted on telling people to lose the challenge. And how bad is Rodney’s social game? So bad that Sierra would rather partner up with Dan—DAN! He of the terrible, no good, awful non-apology—than the tribe newbies she actually kind of liked and Rodney. That’s pretty damn bad.
Throwing a challenge is the height of arrogance in this game, and when you get arrogant, you get shipped out. You ALWAYS need to assume that your neck could be on the line. How many people have gotten eliminated after they said they got too comfortable? No, seriously, I’m asking that as a question because I’m too lazy to look it up myself. Well…um…rest assured it’s a lot! So never get comfortable, and that means never ever trying to go to Tribal Council on purpose. You know how you want women to hold themselves to a higher standard, Rodney? Well, I expect Survivor players to hold themselves to a higher standard—a standard you certainly did not meet here, my friend. (P.S. We’re not friends. I know this because I have never “ripped shots” and a “Sunday fun day” for me basically consists of driving my kids around like a chauffeur to various activities while they bitch at me en route because they are sick of hearing Dexy’s Midnight Runners every damn time I drive them anywhere.)
So Rodney, you got what you deserved. Simple as that. And Mike, don’t you think for one second you’re off my s— list either, mister. I expected more out of you, dude. As punishment for your Survivor crimes, I now sentence you to eating three more scorpions. Bon appétit!
Okay, to quote Marty DiBergi, enough of my yappin’—let’s get into it and recap this sonofabitch. We start off at the Nagarote camp as Shirin is coming to terms with being on the outs after Max’s ouster. “Is anyone in this game willing to play with me?” she asks. “I don’t think so.” This leads into Shirin talking about how she grew up in an Orange County suburb surrounded by beautiful skinny people while soaring, swelling music plays in the background. Now, a story about growing up in super wealthy Orange County and not being as hot as the Heathers over at Westerberg High is simply not going to register on the same emotional level as some other things to viewers, but that’s not to completely dismiss Shirin’s story either. Everyone has their own personal issues and adolescent problems that can’t be graded solely on a zip code. Being tormented by peers knows no geographic limits. Of course, this is all coming from a guy whose formative years happened in a neighborhood called “Spring Valley.” Not exactly Compton, if you catch my drift. So take anything I say with about two gallons of salt. (In any event, check at the end of this here recap for a special exclusive extended version of this scene and more of Hali and Shirin’s chat by the water well. Enlightening stuff.)
NEXT: Why don’t contestants ever get drunk anymore?[pagebreak]
You would assume the folks at Escameca would be feeling pretty good considering their tribe appears completely dominant from a physical perspective. But then Rodney tells us how he’s sick of his Blue Collar tribemates and their stories involving manties. “I was looking for maybe a little bromance,” he says. “Maybe a homie to chill with.” And that homie is Joaquin. Why Joaquin? BECAUSE JOAQUIN LIKES TO PAR-TAY!!!! It has often been said that great minds think alike, and apparently the same is true for not-so-great minds as well. This point is driven home by a masterful image of Rodney and Joaquin swinging their arms and clapping them against their fists in unison. It is a full-on bro-down throwdown!
And now the tribes will throw down at the reward challenge. For this one, both teams must race up a giant tower and through a series of obstacles. Once at the top, they must launch sand bags to hit six targets out in a field. The winners “will witness a truly magical event” proclaims Probst. Wait, is it another Jack & Jill screening?!? (The most non-reward reward in the history of Survivor rewards, by the way, no matter how much Coach would try to convince you otherwise.) Nope. Instead the winners get to go watch turtles migrate from the sea back to the beach to lay eggs. They also get to eat beef stew, mac & cheese, and hot chocolate, which is all well and good, but let me ask something: Where’s the booze?!? Remember back in the old days when folks would get plastered on this show? And I’m not just talking about soused Jan from Thailand and drunk-at-Tribal Fairplay in Pearl Islands. Tom Westman got hammered out of his mind one night in Palau and kept falling on his face. Liquor these poor saps up! What, do the Survivor producers all of a sudden go to church every Sunday and refuse to have sex? Because that’s what Rodney’s telling me, and that dude would know. (P.S. Word is he also has big plans for this game.)
Escameca predictably takes a big lead in the physical portion of the challenge, but once it comes to launching, Nagarote makes up the difference and wins 6-5, leading to lots of awkward hopping and chanting, and then even more awkward dancing from Will, which is a little bit of a “Don’t let that fool you!” situation because Will was the one who held up his tribe in the first section by being so out of shape and far behind everyone else. In any event, Will gets to join the others at the sanctuary where we are treated to super-invasive night vision footage of a turtle laying eggs, only one out of a hundred which will survive. Clearly this miracle of life happening up close has made a major impact on Jenn, not that it’s all about her: “It made me realize that a turtle’s chances in life are way worse than me winning Survivor. I do have a 1 in 14 chance of winning as opposed to a 1 in 100 chance of living. So that’s cool.” Yeah! Cool!
Meanwhile, something truly odd is happening over on Escameca. No, not Rodney singing the praises of Gloria Steinem, but Joaquin decides to have a chat with Sierra about forming a new foursome with Rodney. And then, as if on cue, Rodney shows up. And then it gets weird. Correct me if I’m wrong, but are Rodney and Joaquin carrying on a conversation about Sierra right in front of her as if she is not even there? At first I thought it was one of those editing jobs where two people chat about someone so the camera cuts away to whatever that person is doing at the time so the viewer has a visual cue as to whom they are talking about, but then I realized as they showed the rodeo queen that no, she is, in fact, right there with them. Bizarre. So Rodney formulates a plan to get rid of Joe and tells us “I am feeling so confident that I can see my hand being raised like Rocky Balboa winning this damn thing at the end.” (Put your hand down, Rodney.)
NEXT: Mike hands Kelly the victory, and then regrets it[pagebreak]
The immunity challenge is a memory test, and I know I’m the guy that lobbied successfully to Probst for them to keep a once-a-season memory contest because it is pretty much the only challenge where you can play along at home and match your wits against the contestants and see how you would do (albeit with a full belly, clean clothes, and a roof over your head). The problem with this particular memory challenge, however, is that it’s a bit harder to do that. The set-up is that there are a series of items in a specific order that players need to memorize. Once they have, they pull a lever and race back to put them in the right order before their opponent to score a point. First team to three points wins.
The whole curtain-dropping element is pretty cool, but it’s not as easy for the viewer at home to play along as the one where you have to remember symbols in a particular order that they’ve done the past few seasons. Not saying I hated the challenge, but it just didn’t quite offer that same element as effectively. So the score gets to 2-2 and it is Mike vs. Kelly. We already know the result because Mike told us beforehand that he was on board to throw it to keep her safe. LAME! I only wish both Rodney and Mike could have been punished for this heinous act.
So Mike tries his darndest to throw the damn thing, at one point even staring at the curtain after it has closed, as if he has just been granted Superman-like X-ray vision. But just one problem: Kelly can’t figure it out. She gets it wrong not once, but twice—even after Mike had already told her “Listen to me, I’m giving it to you” and then proceeded to literally list all the items out loud in the proper order. Can we please blame this on Kelly’s head injury, since I otherwise like Kelly and don’t want to destroy her over not being able to get a few items in a row when your opponent is not only not trying to win but is literally telling you where to put things? Finally, Mike devises a fail-safe plan where he will put all of his bottles in the right order except for two, and all Kelly has to do is switch those two to win. I can’t tell you at this point how much I wanted to watch her screw that up, and continue screwing up just so the scene could become that much more absurd to the point where Mike just ran over to Kelly’s items and placed them for her.
Unfortunately, the third time is the charm. Kelly finally gets it and Shirin can breathe a sigh of relief. Back at the Escameca camp, Mike is already starting to regret his decision. “By throwing the challenge today a little something inside of me died,” he reveals. And that death is even more pronounced when he also reveals that “I’m starting to not trust Rodney.” He realizes that Rocky Balboa has become too chummy with Joaquin—kinda like the awesomely homoerotic hug and ocean frolicking between Rocky and Apollo Creed at the end of the classic Rocky 3 training montage. Plus, Joaquin—who repeatedly refers to the vote to come as “a walk in the park”—definitely seems too comfortable. Mike starts to rethink his drink and moves the target from Joe over to Joaquin.
Only one problem: Mike and Dan need to get Sierra on board—the same Sierra Dan refused to apologize to after needlessly berating her after voting out her friend. So they approach her about Joaquin. At this point I’m thinking to myself, why not just tell her you want Rodney gone? She actually seems to kind of like Joaquin, but she hates Rodney. He would seem the easier target. Yes, it’s better to eliminate Rodney’s other options and force him to come crawling back to you while hoping you can mend Blue Collar fences to maintain your numbers advantage post-merge, but the most important thing is securing Sierra’s vote, so if she wants Rodney gone, I get rid of Rodney.
NEXT: Tribal Council—and an exclusive deleted scene![pagebreak]
We head to Tribal to see which way she’ll go. There’s a lot of talk about how dysfunctional the Blue Collars are with Joaquin saying how easy it was for him to make inroads with all the fighting. Probst then compares the Sierra situation to dating and having to woo someone back, which is a pretty apt analogy but would have been much better had he found a way to work Botox into the conversation—as he should from now on in every conversation.
So, in any event, Joaquin’s “walk in the park” ends with him getting completely bludgeoned as he is voted off, leading Rodney down a path of confusion from which he simply cannot step off. Rodney looks completely befuddled as the votes are read. He looks befuddled as Joaquin gets his torch snuffed. He looks befuddled as Probst gives his post-snuffing coda talking about how the vote impacts the tribe. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was still befuddled as the opening credits for Criminal Minds started rolling… and this took place seven months ago!
The best part of all of this might be the preview clip for next week where Rodney tells us he feels betrayed for them teaming up behind his back—even though he was doing the exact same thing to them!!! Survivor is amazing. Also, looks like we have the merge coming up next week so the whole game is about to change. Will the Blue Collars stand strong or splinter? Will Joe team back up with the No Collars? And are Shirin and Tyler now dead in the water—their proverbial corpses floating somewhere next to Dan’s missing manties? We’ll start to find out next week. But you can get some scoop from the Hostmaster General right now with our weekly Jeff Probst Q&A. We also have an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode in the video player below. Also make sure to check back for our exit interview with Joaquin, and for more Survivor scoop you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
Now it’s your turn. Does it ever make sense to throw a challenge? How do you grade Mike’s acting when he let Kelly win? And how delicious was Rodney’s confusion when his bromance buddy was voted out? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.