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'Survivor: Kaoh Rong' recap: 'It's Merge Time'

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Robert Voets /CBS


TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Jeff Probst
Reality TV

Forget about the merge! Who cares about the medical evacuation? Whatever for the first individual immunity challenge! Sure, we’ll get to all that in due time. But I need to start by asking you a question: Was this the most inadvertently sexually-laced-when-taken-out-of-context episode in Survivor history? I mean from top to bottom (no pun intended) it seems as if anything that came out of anybody’s mouth (again, no pun intended) was ripe for chuckles, guffaws, and chortles galore from immature morons such as myself. Let’s examine the evidence. These are all actual word-for word quotes from the episode.

“Neal was walking around with a big bulge in his pocket.” (Say what?)

“Double and triple teaming people is not the way to go.” (Excuse me?)

“You can’t double and triple team people.” (Oh, stop being such a prude.)

“It was so raw and burned.” (Ewwww.)

“We’ve all soldiered on and dealt with it — embraced the suck.” (What’s that, now?)

“In a moment of desperation, all I have to do is reach into the family jewels.” (Not the first person to do that, I’m guessing.)

“Tai’s balls banging into each other.” (Oh, come on! That one was intentional!)

“Nick with a lot of movement — his balls dancing all over the place.” (Seriously, Probst? Now you’re just messing with us.)

Of course, everything sounds suspect when you have an immunity challenge like this. Even seemingly innocuous statements like “At any point if your hands touch your ball…” or “Everybody put two balls on your disk” sound dirtier than intended. But still, this episode must have set a land-speed record for unintentional innuendo.

RELATED: Ranking Every Season of Survivor

Bulges? Double teams? Balls banging? I mean, for crying out loud! I’ve tried to contain all these sexual-yet-not-sexual mentions into these few paragraphs rather than having them go in-and-out (Dammit! Unintentional!) throughout the entire recap.

So not unlike Neal’s bulge — which left the game with the player rather than be passed on to someone else — it’s time to move on. And move on we shall to recap one of the most pus-filled episodes in Survivor history!

The episode begins with Joe being very confused with the whole “original plan” thing from the last Tribal Council. Aubry, who gave control away by changing her vote at the urn, is more depressed than confused. “We’re done,” she says of the Brain tribe, which makes one wonder why she decided to vote for Pete and give up all the control. (Maybe she pulled a Cochran and just wanted to avoid a tie and going to rocks?)

And Aubry’s assessment is pretty spot-on judging by what Scot — who is annoyed by her indecision while voting — has to say. “I am absolutely going to be picking off the Brain tribe now because of that indecision,” he tells us. ““If I have to go to another Tribal, I am absolutely going to write down Aubry. Joe. Aubry. Joe. And I’ll just cross ‘em out until I decide which of them I want to go first.” That’s actually pretty damn funny. And would be even funnier if he actually does it.

After an extended discussion the next morning over at Chan Loh about the size of Neal bulge’s, Jason once again tell us how he holds all the power. (Whether this is some sort of defensive commentary from Jason on the size of one’s bulge not correlating to the amount of one’s power is open for discussion. I’m not going to go all Marco Rubio–Donald Trump in a debate on how the size of one’s body part relates to any and all other matters.)

But that power dynamic could be changing because here comes some random dude on a boat up to the Chan Loh beach. Any hope of it being an actual pirate there to pillage and plunder are dashed as the rando just hands them a note telling them they have five minutes to pack everything up to head to Gondol for the merge. Everyone is all excited about making it to the individual portion of the game, and the same is true for the folks at Gondol once they see the boat approaching. Scot even carries his BFF Jason from ship to shore, no doubt sending Tai into a shame spiral of jealousy and self-loathing.

So here we are with 4 beauties, 4 brains, and 3 brawns all chowing down at the merge feast. Actually, upon closer inspection, is anyone even eating? It looks to me like a choose-your-booze situation, with everyone hitting the bottle pretty hard. Unfortunately it does not lead to any Tom Westman falling down drunk situations, which really is my only hope and dream at this point.

The drunk reward or merge feast buffoon used to be a Survivor staple. Remember Jonny Fairplaly showing up wasted for Tribal Council? Hey, NEITHER DOES HE! That’s what made it so amazing. But that hasn’t happened for years. And it’s a damn shame. Ply these people with more alcohol, please. Can’t we sign some celebrity booze entrepreneur up for a little product placement? Sammy Hagar could hand deliver a bottle of Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum! Ludacris could freestyle to the contestants about the joys of his Conjure Cognac! Dan Aykroyd could introduce the tribe to some of his Crystal Head Vodka, which — it should be noted — comes in a big glass skull bottle, just like the giant skull found on Survivor: Panama’s Exile Island. It’s a natural fit!

Look, I’m just spitballing some ideas here. Get whatever sponsor you like. Sign up the Silver Bullet if that’s the way you want to go. I just know drunk people on a beach usually makes for funny TV. Same rule applies to life in general, actually.

NEXT: Survivor High School is now in session[pagebreak]

Anyway, Nick says he is taking advantage of a tipsy Scot and Jason (but not in that way), by allowing them to share all their secrets (as drunk people are wont to do), including telling Nick how both Tai and Neal have idols. SPOILER ALERT! Even though Nick keeps professing that he is only going along with them because he plans to use their overconfidence against them, all we have seen him actually do so far is go along with them.

Meanwhile, the Brains are trying to woo Nick as well. Debbie says that she and Neal are like “Salt and pepper, ebony and ivory, toilet paper and toilets.” Left unsaid is whether Debbie considers herself the toilet or the toilet paper. Not that either of those things are particularly desirable. I mean, I guess being a bidet could be considered the worst of all, but none of these options are very attractive. (I suppose, if pressed, I would go toilet over toilet paper, but I don’t feel super great about that decision.)

“Want to see something disgusting?” Well, that’s a hell of a way to start a conversation, Neal. Yes, by all means! Might I smell your underarms and backside while I’m at it? What is it with this season? Neal shows off his gnarly knee, but there will be much more on that later. We have no time for such matters now because Debbie is being about as subtle as Jeff Probst doing play-by-play on a competition involving balls.

Remember when Jeff talked about emotional intelligence and the ability to pick up on social cues? Yeah, Debbie is picking up on nothing here. She walks up to Tai, and instead of making any attempt to forge a personal connection that could lead to a possible long-term partnership, she instead just blurts out, “I really like you. I wanna get in an alliance.”

Tai’s response? “Uh… ooooooookay.”

“It’s a done deal!” proclaims Debbie, believing this deal to be permanently sealed.

“Debbie, it’s coming in as such a shock,” says the rattled Tai. It does not take a chemist, a civil air patrol captain, a part-time model, or a Red Losbter waitress to understand that Tai wants no part whatsoever of this alliance. It’s obvious. You know it. I know it. And Aubry knows it, astutely pointing out that, “You have to show confidence, and right now we’re showing desperation.”

You never want to appear desperate, especially in high school, which, in case you didn’t notice, is exactly where we are. At least it feels that way sometimes, especially when Jason is speaking. “Beauty always goes for the jock,” he explains as to why Julia, Nick, Michele, and Tai will join with the Brawns. “Always! It’s just the way of the world. The Beauties don’t date the brainiacs! They’re at the dance with us and we’re just shoving geeks in lockers right now.”

It’s a pretty funny sound bite, but one can’t escape the sneaky suspicion that Jason may have indeed shoved a few geeks into lockers back in his day. But if he’s right, then the Brains are in trouble. However, Neal has an idol and he and Aubry plan to use it once they find out on whom the votes are going to land. Of course, sometimes that is easier said than done.

Don’t look now, folks but we have an #OrangeHatAlert for this week’s immunity challenge — our first individual challenge of the season. But before we can get to that, we need to enjoy lots of close-up shots of people’s inner thighs as Tai and Aubry show off their gnarly cuts and abrasions. Sexy!!! And there is Neal’s knee, which he has dubbed Mount St. Neal, because it has been erupting with pus for a few days. Lovely! But he insists it feels fine, so clearly nothing to worry about here.

After Probst ditches the tribe immunity idol and shows off the new individual immunity necklace like it’s an item on the Price is Right (Oooooooooh! Ahhhhhhhhhh!), we get to the actual challenge, in which players must stand on a log while balancing a ball (and then multiple balls) on a wooden disk. Good luck in this one with your size 84XXXL feet, Scot! Then again, considering how the two challenges last week were seemingly geared specifically for him, turnabout is definitely fair play here.

We’ve already pointed out all of Jeff Probst’s “ball play” and I’m pretty sure I cannot do any accounting of my own about the action on the screen lest I spew out the same double-entendres as the Hostmaster General. Suffice it to say it comes down to Tai versus Nick, with Nick holding his balls up the longest. DAMMIT! SEE! I TOLD YOU! IT’S UNAVOIDABLE! Stupid balls.

NEXT: A visit from Jeff Probst is never a good thing[pagebreak]

While Neal did not win, he tells us that they still have some control in the game in that he could play his idol or pass it to Aubry. Yes, passing it on to Aubry. That seems like a good idea. And that good idea could even become a great idea should one, say, find himself unable to continue in the game for one reason or another. Like, why waste an idol in that circumstance, right? May as well give it to your best friend in the game to help them out. That seems to make sense. And would be a pretty selfless act, too. But again, we are speaking purely in hypotheticals here. After all, what could possibly go wrong?!

But the question remains: Which side will Nick and Michele take? Michele seems to like the Brains people more, which is exactly why she goes against them. She figures keeping Jason and Scot around is a good move because they are easier competition to beat in the end due to the fact that Jason is abrasive and Scot already has plenty of money from the NBA. This is so smart of her. Usually the inclination of most people is to stick with the folks they like the most, but Michele is taking a much more clinical look at the game and playing the percentages. Plus, if all of the Beauties are going that way, they are also keeping the four of them together to take out the three Brawns later should they choose.  Well played, Michele!

Okay, so all that’s left is to see if and how Neal plays his idol and if… Wait, what is that in the distance? It’s another boat! Pirates? This time is it finally pirates?!? Oh, never mind, it’s only Jeff Probst. Of course, while Probst may not be as dangerous as a real-life pirate, he’s a guy you never want to see on your beach. But Jeff is not alone. He’s got some dude named Dr. Rupert with him, who oddly is not sporting a tie-dyed shirt and a scraggly beard and growling intermittently for no apparent reason.

Dr. Rupert wants to get a look at some of these infections people have been complaining about. Either that or he’s just some perv who somehow convinced producers he’s a doctor so he could check out sores in sensitive regions. The truth is that all of these people have most likely already been periodically examined by the Survivor medical team. Those guys and gals in medical are on it and constantly checking in on the players to make sure there is nothing dangerous going on that would put anyone in danger. The fact that Probst is there with the doc, and knowing how constantly these folks would be monitored in these conditions in the interest of their safety tells me that they knew exactly what was going to happen here once they got off the boat. Someone’s a goner. The only question is, who?

Tai is examined first. He’s cleared. Then Scot steps up and shows us all the pus that has been coming out of his upper inner thigh. Delightful! But he’s good. (I mean, relatively speaking, of course.) Aubry is next, and she’s got a lot of firmness under her skin, which has Dr. Rupert concerned. He discuses the possibility of cutting it open to drain it and let all the pus out, but apparently the only purpose of even bringing up that option is to gross us all out because he then opts for the less invasive approach of antibiotics. It’s like, “Well, we could cut your leg off at the knee and give you crutches to get around for the rest of your life. Or you can just take this pill and you should be good to go. Your call, though!”

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Of course, they are going to leave the worst for last, because that’s the person going home. Which brings us to Neal. Man, I don’t know what to say about this. Just glancing at his knee for a split second has now become my personal Vietnam. Sooooooo gross. Evidently a huge chunk of pus just recently erupted from Mount St. Neal, so now it looks like a cavern. Oh, wait, that’s not all. He also has another one on his back. Shocker, it’s disgusting as well.

NEXT: Mount St. Neal erupts and is silenced at the same time[pagebreak]​

Probst announces to the rest of the tribe that are going to take Neal off to a “clean environment” for further examination. For some reason I’m expecting this clean environment to consist of a big white medical tent with doctors in giant hazmat suits as if they’re trying to save E.T. from dying so he can phone home on a Speak & Spell. But the switch to a clean environment basically just amounts to making Neal get up off his log, walk about 50 feet, and then sit back down on an orange crate. I’m not sure what exactly was cleaner about this environment other than the fact that it allows Jeff to deliver the bad news privately without Debbie interjecting about how she used to treat infections and deliver babies at the same time while performing on a flying trapeze during breaks from her shift at the local Applebee’s.

And the bad news is indeed delivered as the doctor looks at the boo-boo on the knee and tells Neal that “infection in a joint can destroy it in a matter of hours.” Leaning on no medical expertise whatsoever, Neal tries to argue his way back into the game, explaining that “I truly believe this will be fine in a few days.” Probst offers up the perfect response, blending compassion with finality: “I believe that you believe that.” And then come the tears. I don’t blame Neal. In a way, this is almost tougher than some of the scarier evacuations. It’s not an evident and clear life-threatening situation where there is no question he has to go. He even says he feels fine! But deep down, even Neal has to know the risk is not worth it.

All that’s left is for him is to tell the tribe and give Aubry his hidden immunity idol. Ah, but can he? Remember, Neal has been officially pulled from the game. So as someone that is no longer technically in the game, is he even allowed to give her the idol? Well, I will tell you this. It is something that was actively discussed among Survivor producers, and Jeff Probst reveals the answer as to whether Neal was allowed to hand someone else the idol after being pulled in this week’s Q&A, so head there for the answer. (God, I’m such a tease.)

Regardless, Aubry does not get the idol and she is none too happy about it. “The idol went home with Neal,” she sighs. “That son of a bitch. Really. Neal left me hanging.” She then goes on to compare Survivor to getting dysentery and dying. That sounds a bit extreme to my ears, but there you have it. And in a season like this, maybe she’s not that far off.

So no Tribal Council. Maybe it saved Aubry. Or maybe it saved someone from Brawn due to the idol being used. We’ll never know for sure what Neal would have done at Tribal Council with his idol in the actual moment where his life in the game could have been hanging in the balance.

Of course, in these brutal conditions, nobody is ever safe, but you’ll find no such danger here as you peruse our extra goodies. Like the exclusive deleted scene from the episode below. And that weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst that I told you about three paragraphs ago. And my wacky mid-game chat with Debbie. And our exit interview with Neal that will be on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) and EW.com. You can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss for links to all those things as well as a steady stream of Survivor goodies.

But now it’s your turn. Who had the most disgusting infection? Should Neal have been allowed to hand Aubry his immunity idol after he was pulled from the game? And are you rooting for the Brains or the Brawn/Beauty combo platter? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!