Tony wins the food auction advantage and uses it to find his third hidden immunity idol of the game. Plus: Is the super idol too super?
Season 28, episode 10 Number of comments: 1,036 What got you talking? Tonny Vlachos was a polarizing figure in Survivor: Cagayan , but he proved…
Credit: CBS

Okay, I’ve heard of food porn but this is ridiculous. What exactly just happened? What did I watch? Because please correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure we all just bore witness to a three way between Jeff Probst, Ninja Stealth Woo and a plate of ribs. Hmmmmmm…tender. Juicy. Lathered in barbeque sauce. Just the way I like it, baby. Think I’m making this up? Just listen to the seventies porn soundtrack the show cued up as Probst and Woo whispered culinary sweet nothings into each other’s ears as the latter wrapped his lips around that big hunk of meat. What?!? Don’t look at me! That’s what actually happened. Go back and watch for yourself! Awwwwwww yeah, baby. That’s the stuff.

I suppose this is the point at which it should also be noted that Woo was the one hiding the wallets of money for the auction…in his ass! Or at least under his bathing suit and on top of his ass. Hey, Woo’s a cool guy. And handsome as hell too. But I’m not sure I want a wallet that his been pressed up against his (or anyone’s — male or female) backside that — let’s keep in mind — has been completely unwashed for 29 days.

Anyhoo, instead of diving into a plate of ribs, let’s dive into an enormous vat of Purell as well as this week’s episode of Survivor: Cagayan. And since I missed last week’s episode, I will also present my thoughts on the return of the Cook Islands post-reading-of-the-votes-super-idol that Tony found. Because, as always, I have thoughts.

We start things off with Kass gloating over being right about Spencer having — and playing — an immunity idol at the last Tribal Council. Kass tells Spencer she could tell he had it because “you’re usually much meaner to me.” She also informs us that, “Like a typical 21-year-old male, there was no way he was going to give that thing up. I mean, what is the most selfish beast on the planet? A college aged male.” Yes, because Survivor is all about selflessness. Memo to Kass: IT’S AN INDIVIDUAL GAME!

So after Woo retrieves the envelopes from his butt we head off to the auction. Already I am feeling good about it because Tony has told us that he is saving all of his money and as soon as he hears the first syllable about an advantage he is bidding all $500 on it. HALLELUJAH! Every season I go on a ranting rampage because otherwise seemingly strong players never ever do this. They always waste their money on tortilla chips or cheeseburgers instead of what is truly important.

That’s the thing to love about Tony. He may make some impulsive, boneheaded moves, but he is always playing the game. Always. That’s why he’s so dynamite to watch. And ultimately, isn’t that what we want out of our contestants — to actually play the game? So while other people bid on jelly beans, quesadillas, and steak sandwiches, Tony waits. But he isn’t the only one. Spencer is waiting as well. This makes me feel even better about my episode 1 pick to win it all. Like Tony, Spencer is there for one reason and one reason only. To come up with clever hashtagble phrases for CBS to randomly throw on screen? Nope. To win. So I give major credit to both Tony and Spencer for keeping their eyes on the prize. I will not afford Tasha the same credit here because Tasha did, in fact, put a bid in for the second item offered. So while she did not get that item and therefore still had $500 by the time the advantage came around, she did not stay out of the bidding completely like Tony and Spencer did. (Fret not, Tasha. Your credit will come later.)

NEXT: How much would you pay for a white rock?

Now usually when the secret advantage comes around, it is treated like any other auction item. So if you bid the max right off the bat, it’s yours. But with three players holding all their money, a new twist was introduced. Although Tony tries to blurt out “$500” first to grab it, Probst instead informs everyone that $500 will merely get you a chance to win by pulling rocks. Black rock wins, white rock loses. So it’s kinda like the blue pill and the red pill from The Matrix, only without all the cool bullet-time photography and Laurence Fishburne refusing to use contractions. I actually really like this new wrinkle and applaud the powers that be for having the foresight to put it in place. If multiple people are holding out of regular auction items to wait for the advantage — as well they should — then it should not just come down to who blurts out “$500!” the fastest. So I like the $500 only giving you a chance.

But I’ll take it even a step further. How about next time, instead of making it a game of chance by pulling rocks, why not make it a competition? Since this is a food auction, why not have a disgusting dish —balut comes to mind — that the players have to race to wolf down? Winner gets the advantage. Already have a food challenge that season? Fine. Have them do some other competition on the spot. Whaddya think, Probst? Pretty good, right? You can have that one for free.

Anyway, Tasha doesn’t want to spend $500 without a guarantee so she bows out, leaving Tony and Spencer to pull rocks. Tony pulls black and wins, leaving Spencer with the most expensive plain ol’ rock in history. Just for perspective, Spencer spent 20 times more for his white pebble than European explorers/exploiters did for the entire island of Manhattan. So there’s that. Still, he did the right thing. You have to do everything in your power to give yourself the best chance to win the game. So no, you are not “the greatest loser at the auction in Survivor history,” as you claimed, Spencer.

The advantage itself is not an advantage in the next immunity challenge but rather a clue to another hidden immunity idol. I guess I prefer that. I am have gone on record as HATING, HATING, HATING when they give away advantages in the final immunity competition, which I feel should be a straight up battle. I mean, why would you want the most important challenge of the season to not be on the level? I have less of a problem with doing it at an earlier challenge, especially if everyone else was too dumb to bid on it, but we have seen too many times where it gives someone too much of a clear advantage (like Cochran in Caramoan) that renders the rest of the entire challenge moot.

Like I said, it didn’t register a huge amount on the old Rage-o-Meter when they gave away advantages to non-final challenges, but it’s probably better to do it as an immunity idol clue as they did here if for the sole reason that it makes the challenge more interesting to watch. Anyway, it takes him a while to find the white tree, but once he does, Tony locates the idol, and immediately shows Kass and Trish and Woo and Jefra and anyone else that wants to see it — including, but not limited to, Jeff Probst, Tata the bushman, and the composer who came up with that skeezy ribs porn music. Awwwwwww, baby, Tastes so right!

The thing about Tony is that as hard as he’s playing the game, he can also get played. And Spencer does just that here, playing into Señor Spy Shack’s paranoia about a possible female alliance by talking about how Jefra wanted to get rid of him two days ago. At this point you could probably convince Tony that his #SPYSHACK had transformed Michael Bay style into a breakdancing robot assassin capable of destroying any and all immunity idols within its path and he’d probably believe you. (“It sounds crazy that my Spy Shack could turn into a breakdancing robot assassin because, you know, for one thing I did not use any metal when making it. But I gotta keep my eyes on that thing. It may have a mind of its own. Maybe it got into my bag of tricks or something. By the way, could you call me The Opportunist from now on?”)

NEXT: Can I win immunity from inadvertent double entendres?

It’s time to head to the immunity challenge, which for the second week in a row is brought to you by the word “balls.” While Jeff Probst will not be instructing anyone to “Put your balls on the platform” as he did last week, it still provides a double-entendre minefield for both his play-by-play and my recapping. In this particular contest, players must race to pick up five buried bags, then release their balls — DAMMIT! — and maneuver them through a table maze. First person to get their balls in the hole — CRAP! — wins.

The challenge turns into a three person race between Tony, Woo and Tasha, who get all five of their bags before Kass and Trish even find the front end of their rope. (Spencer is somewhere in between.) Even though he was in the early lead, by the time Tony takes his balls out — OH, COME ON! — Tasha already has two in the hole — JESUS CHRIST! — and is on her way to victory. Her third individual immunity idol victory. (Glad that is over. And honestly, it could have been worse.)

The question now becomes: How worthy of victory do these immunity wins make Tasha should she end up in the final three? Tony and Spencer have been playing the much showier games — with Tony constantly bragging about his bag of tricks and Spencer either celebrating after a big move or stomping his foot after a defeat like a five-year old kid having a temper tantrum because someone stole his Teddy Ruxpin. But with three victories, Tasha is making her own claim for the loot. (I still think the winner will ultimately be one of those two guys, however. They have definitely been getting the “Winner’s Edit” so far with the amount of confessional interviews. Probably a Winner’s Edit for Spencer and a Russell Hantz Edit for Tony, but it could go either way.) Anyway, I told you that you’d get your credit, Tasha, so there it is.

So now it is time to see if the Spencer seed — which is kind of like the Russell seed, but without the goofy hat — has started to do its work on Tony. And indeed it has as Tony is now petrified of a four woman alliance. “You want to pull a fast one tonight?” he asks Woo. “Tony is a brilliant player,” Woo tells us. But to be fair, Woo probably thinks that last rib he ate was a brilliant player also. Tony then tells Spencer he just needs to get Tasha on board to make it happen, which is easy enough. Now, does it occur to Tony at this point that if Tasha is so willing to vote out Jefra then there is no female alliance? And does he consider the fact that Spencer and Tasha are much more likely to beat him in the finals than Jefra (Real Last Name) Bland is? No and no.

So off to Tribal Council we go, and off goes Jefra — meaning Tony has now blindsided his own alliance not once, but twice! Make no mistake, this is CRAZY stuff. People like to compare Tony to Russell Hantz and yes, they both played super aggressive and found a lot of idols, but remember: Russell stuck with his final 4 alliance in Samoa till the end. I really hope Tony does make it to the end as well. For one thing, I think he deserves it. But more than that, I think it will be positively fascinating to see how the jury will react to his gameplay. And having both Tony and Spencer in the finals would be even sweeter. (Throw some Kass in the third finale slot for true insanity.)

NEXT: Is the super idol too super?

Okay, I promised I would offer my thoughts on the Tyler Perry super idol that was uncovered by Tony last week and I am a man of my word and shall offer those thoughts now. But first, a brief history lesson for you Survivor newcomers. When the hidden immunity idol was originally introduced in Survivor: Guatemala (season 11) and located by my Dallas Cowboys arch-nemesis Gary Hogeboom, it had to be played before the votes were even cast. That was cool, but it could have been cooler. So the producers tweaked it, as they are wont to do. The next two seasons — Panama and Cook Islands — the idol could be played after the votes were cast and read. Yul rode the threat of this power all the way to victory in Cook Islands. Too powerful, producers decided. And many fans agreed. So much like Goldilocks trying all the beds and chairs and porridge until it was juuuuuuuust right, the producers tinkered with it one more time, and in Survivor: Fiji introduced an idol that would be played after the votes were cast but before they were read. And that is how the idols have been played ever since.

Now, I didn’t see it, but apparently in some TVGN season preview Jeff Probst mentioned how the idea of this new idol with special powers — which are actually the same powers the idol had back in Panama and Cook Islands — came via a suggestion from celebrity chum and Survivor fan Tyler Perry. That’s not surprising: people (like me, I should add) bombard Probst with suggestions all the time for ways to improve the show or other twists to add. (Apparently I am the reason there were no puzzles in Caramoan, and also inspired Probst to reconsider ditching memory contests, although I am still fighting in vain to get my hidden-idol-at-a-challenge proposal through.)

So what do I think of them re-introducing this super-powered idol? Well, I basically think the producers got it right the last time by getting rid of it. The way Yul used that idol as leverage was masterful and fun to watch, but it was too much power in the hands of one person. There’s a reason the producers downgraded it and I think their instincts were right then. The problem here is also compounded by having the idol this time come into play so late in the game. If they were going to add the super idol back in, they should have done it at the start of the season where there would be enough numbers to flush it out early. Having Tony locate it so late isn’t really fair.

Now, I’m not jumping up and down screaming about it. It’s not like the guy happened to have a clue to the super idol fall out of his napkin or something. This was not mere chance nor luck that gave Tony the idol. He went out searching for it on his own and found it on his own. (I certainly never saw Jefra scouring for it.) In my book, Tony deserves to be rewarded for that. But this reward is a little too great for my taste. So going forward I think they should go back to the regular idol. They’ve tested it a bunch of different ways, and I think the way it’s been for the past 15 seasons works the best. I’m sure many of you agree and disagree and look forward to hearing your thoughts about it in the comments.

But wait, what does hostmaster general Jeff Probst have to say about why they brought the super idol back? I asked him about that and the new auction advantage twist as well in this week’s Q&A. You will definitely want to check that out. And don’t you dare forget about our exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode, which can be found in the video player below. We’ll also have our InsideTV Podcast interview with Jefra on Thursday, so come back for that, and for more Survivor scoop you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Like the new/old Tyler Perry idol? Dig or dread the auction twist? And who deserves the win this season: Tony, Spencer, Tasha, or someone else? Hit the message boards to let us know and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!