On ''Survivor,'' when the two tribes consolidate, it's open warfare, and Bruce takes a machete to the face
Credit: Nick Stanbury: Jeffrey R. Staab

”Survivor”: The knives come out

It was a difficult three weeks. I thought I would enjoy my 21-day break from watching and writing about Survivor — maybe get out, see the world (or at least parts of New Jersey). But instead, I felt lost. Apparently, the 1980s glam rockers Cinderella were right when they theorized that you don’t know whatcha got till it’s gone. It wasn’t long before I felt a loss of purpose. I stopped shaving. I locked myself in rooms. I started peeing in jars. I figured, hey, if DiCaprio can do it, why can’t I?

But this dark period of my life is over — because now I’m back to watching people maul each other with machetes! Look, nobody likes to see someone get butchered on national television…except when it’s in slow-motion! Seriously, was that the first super-slo-mo replay in Survivor history? I was half expecting freakin’ John Madden to bust out the Telestrator and diagram the exact who, why, and how Nick ended up hitting Bruce in the face with a big-ass knife. ”Initially, I’m like, ‘I’m gone. I just hit Bruce in the face with a machete — I’m outta here,’ ” said Nick immediately after. Perhaps, but dude, you just provided the most awesome Survivor blooper in history! Cheers!

Okay, let’s backtrack a bit. The only reason Bruce and Nick were even on the same tribe was the merge. Why Nick and Austin were so jazzed about joining up with a tribe that outnumbered them by two is beyond me. Terry is the only one who seemed to realize that this was bad timing for La Mina. But a merge it was. How would Casaya react? Like any sane tribe would — by scarfing down all their food before the others could get their grubby little paws all over it. ”We saw the boat coming,” said Aras. ”We knew they were hungry, and all of us just chowed the rice. Because we’re heathens, and we didn’t want to share.” Selfish? Perhaps. Cagey. You betcha. Why give the people you need to beat in challenges any extra energy? Of course, had they been true students of the game, they would have known that any merge is usually accompanied by a big feast anyway, with this one including fresh fruit, chocolate, cheese and crackers, and wine. (Where’s Bob Dawg when you need him?)

Terry immediately set off to work on both the shelter and the Casaya tribe members. Now, I think Terry has played a pretty good game up until this point, but his pitch to Shane and Cirie to switch sides just had to be the worst sales job I have ever seen in my life. Here are Shane and Cirie sitting in a 6-to-4 majority, and what sort of incentive did Terry offer them to jump? The ”opportunity to take the burden of tribal council off your shoulders for the next two weeks.” What the hell does that even mean? The burden of what, systematically eliminating your tribe members one by one? Now, if he had gone to them offering the opportunity to vote off one of their annoying as hell fellow Casayans, maybe he could have gotten somewhere, but the burden of tribal council?

And I’m not done with Terry yet. Now what I am about to propose is very controversial. I am always against throwing challenges — perhaps until now. Hear me out on this one. Casaya was planning to vote Terry off. But homeboy is holding the hidden immunity idol. If he did not win the individual immunity idol (which has to be the ugliest necklace I have ever seen in my life — or at least since Survivor Thailand), and Casaya all threw their votes his way, and he in turn busted out his hidden buddy, then guess who would have gone home: Shane. That would have put La Mina down only one person, and with three more days to flip someone (or flip someone off — whichever).

I understand the downside. Terry loses his safety net. But if La Mina keeps going down in members, that net may not matter much anyway. Now, I’m not necessarily saying Terry should have done this, but it does merit serious consideration. (Basically, trading your individual immunity to keep your team down by one member instead of three.) Another option would have been to win and then hand the hidden idol over to Nick, but if Casaya had voted for Austin (who for some reason decided to tell everyone he wasn’t really trying in the immunity challenge — at least that’s what he was selling, but I’m not sure anyone was buying), everyone would have been royally screwed.

But Terry went and won the damn thing, so now Nick is a goner — the second (after Tina) of my pre-game final four to go, with only Terry and Sally left. (If Sally does make it, she’ll be the freakin’ George Mason of Survivor.) I liked Nick, even if he did confuse the hell out of me with his parting words to everyone about being confused and in your twenties. (I’m now the former if not the latter.) But, well, like he said, that’s what you get for whacking a dude in the face with a machete.

What do you think? Should Terry have lost the immunity challenge on purpose? Should Shane have been more careful about flaunting his team’s numerical superiority? And will the Casaya six stick together?