Terry gets terrifying news from home — and we lose two contestants.
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
S31 E6
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We all see what’s happening here, right? It’s Dr. Will all over again. Who the hell is Dr. Will, you ask? Legitimate question. Dr. Will was the winner of Big Brother 2. Will Kirby was his name. Still is, as far as I know. Will was part of the unfortunately named “Chill Town” alliance that was fronted by him and an even more-unfortunately named white rapper who went by Mike Boogie. (In one of his in-house raps, Mike Boogie rhymed the word “party” with fellow contestant “Hardy.” He was quite the wordsmith.)

Anyway, Chill Town thought they were running the game but were quickly decimated by the rest of the house, which upset Will and Boogie greatly, who lamented that the house was being run by a bunch of “nerds.” Seriously, this was their greatest concern. They couldn’t understand how people less cool than themselves had somehow come into power. It was their worst high school nightmare come to life.

But then something weird happened. After all of his Chill Town allies were voted out, Dr. Will stuck around. “Eh, we can get him out anytime,” many people reasoned. “Hey, I can use him as a number to get rid of someone else instead and then take Will out after that,” said others. Week after week after week, Will was going to be the next to go — only he never did. Do I even need to tell you that he ended up winning the game?

Will was smart and savvy. He laid low when he needed to, and then when he got close to the end, he pounced. Are we now watching this exact same scenario play out again with Spencer Bledsoe? I certainly hope so, seeing as how he was my preseason pick to win the game, and every week he stays, he makes me look a little less stupid. Yet, at the same time, it is frustrating to see player after player constantly underestimate Spencer’s skill and savvy in this game. Getting rid of Shirin, Monica, and Woo before Spencer? Seriously?!?! What happened to getting rid of the biggest threat when you have the chance? Especially when that person is not part of your numbers and has no real allegiance to you whatsoever?

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I give Ciera a total pass on this week’s vote. Savage way overplayed his hand by dictating the action instead of asking, and once Ciera heard her name go up as the pawn, she was well within her rights to flip the script to guarantee she was not in any actual danger. But what were Abi and Kass thinking? (I actually know what Abi is thinking: something about someone being dead to her. Most likely Woo, because she still has not gotten over those two votes he gave her.)

So Spencer lives to play another day. That’s good news for him. It’s good news for me. And it’s certainly good news for producers, who have never met a Spencer confessional interview sound bite they did not like. I think the scoreboard on confessionals at this point is something along the lines of:

Spencer: 168

Kelly Wiglesworth: 1

Hell, Terry’s son, Danny, has gotten more screen time this season than Wiglesworth. But here’s the thing: The longer you leave someone like Spencer in the game and say “No biggie, we can take care of him later,” the more dangerous he becomes — certainly more dangerous than Monica and Woo. We’ll see if this is the latest in a series of moves that comes back to haunt the remaining Second Chancers, especially since Spencer is now on about his fifth chance.

Okay, let’s get to it and recap an episode that saw bookend eliminations at start and finish. The episode begins with a boat arriving at Ta Keo camp, a tribe that was not even at that night’s Tribal Council. This is never a good sign. An even worse sign is Jeff Probst showing up at your beach. Delightful guy, but he’s never bringing good news, so when he strolls up the sand toward the shelter, it can’t help but feel ominous. “Terry,” he whispers. “Hey it’s Probst. I need to talk to you for a second. Come on out.”

NEXT: Terry gets bad news from home

They walk down the beach, and then Jeff drops the bombshell. “I just got a phone call from your wife, and your son, Danny — he’s in the hospital. Both your wife and the doctor think that it’s serious enough that you should go home to be involved. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t serious.”

Brutal. I swear this is my last Big Brother 2 comparison of the week, but back in that season, one of the contestants, Monica, was informed — on air, of course — that her cousin was missing after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Monica chose to stay in the house and in the game. For Terry, the choice was obvious. “No question. I’ll go back, grab my bag, and then we’ll go.”

Terry goes over to inform his tribe and thanks them, telling the other five that he could not have done it with finer people. Little does he know that they were planning to vote him out at the next opportunity. But not even Chaos Kass is immune to the emotion of the moment and cries as she talks about how you have to be a parent to understand. And she’s right. Even I get a little misty as I watch this event that happened months ago play out on my TV screen. “Its worse than a medevac. It’s worse than anything on Survivor,” says Kass, and she’s right — for multiple reasons. For one thing, it’s your child, and no pain nor worry can compare to that. That is first and foremost.

And then there is just the terrible timing of Terry waiting nine years to come back to play, only to have an emergency happen halfway around the world at that exact same time that causes him to abandon his dream. That sucks. But, of course, all that means nothing when stacked up against concern for the health of your son. Any what ifs Terry would have about how he may have done this season — and those are natural no matter what the situation — are inconsequential when measured against real-life survival stuff like this.

Luckily, this story appears to have a happy ending. Terry’s son, Danny — a high school junior — was found to have an enlarged heart, spent months in the hospital and had open-heart surgery, and then had a successful heart transplant in September. So, you know, kind of like Abi’s knee tendon. Seriously, though, as a parent of a child who also has had heart issues, I know how scary these things can be. It was awesome seeing Terry and his son together at the end of the episode, and I am so happy the family is doing well.

Okay, let’s bring it back to the island and get to the reward challenge. Angkor walks in and then Bayon. But where is Ta Keo? Doesn’t the losing tribe usually walk in last? Ah, but then we would not have the dramatic reaction shots of shock and surprise when people see that Terry is gone.

Memo to future Survivor contestants: There are a few sure-fire ways to get extra airtime when you are a contestant: 1) Be Spencer. 2) Always talk about how awesome whatever product that bought airtime on the show is. Mike proved to be a pro at this last season via his incessant Snickers endorsements, but Coach was the true Jedi Master when it came to hilariously over-the-top product-placement praise when he punctuated a Survivor: South Pacific private reward screening of Jack and Jill by telling us, “Adam Sandler — personally, I’m a fan.” 3) My favorite: the look of shock when you see who is missing from the other tribe. Now, surely this was surprising to see Terry gone seeing as how they had not even been to Tribal Council, but someone always does look shocked no matter who is missing. “What?! They voted out Shirin? CRAZY?!?!?” It’s actually not crazy. But if you act like it is, and are willing to open your mouth 3 miles wide like Eliza Orlins at Tribal Council, then you’ll get a bit more face time.

NEXT: Another tribe switcheroo

But, like I said, this is one of the few legitimate shockers for the others to see. And it causes folks like Wiglesworth and Ciera to shed tears once they are informed of the circumstances. After that, Probst asks everyone how they’re enjoying their current tribes. Jeremy says that they have a nice little family on Bayon. Savage says, “This four are unbelievably tight” of Angkor. Of course, when Probst does this it can only mean one thing: tribe switcheroo time. Which brings us right back to all those shots we love of contestants feigning shock at the announcement. Why do I say feigning? Because they all already know they are going down from three tribes to two. And how do they know? Because there are only two lanes of slip ‘n’ slide right in front of them, as opposed to three. If a challenge is set up for two tribes, that’s a pretty good indication that a contraction is in order.

Still, they came all this way to get on TV so might as well play along and pretend to be surprised when Probst announces, “Everybody drop your buff.” For Savage, it is music to his ears. “The three most beautiful words in the world for me — drop your buff.” (Some married people might go with “I love you,” but I’m sure your wife will be totally cool with that, Andrew.) Anyway, let’s meet our new tribes.

















That means Kass and Spencer will have to deal with working together on Ta Keo, even though, as Kass says, “There’s not a love connection there.” (Paging Chuck Woolery!) Meanwhile, Kelley notices she is the only original Ta Keo on her tribe but hopes the Bayon folks she worked together with after the first tribe switcheroo will have her back. And then there is Stephen, who likes the fact that there is an obvious target in Kelley but says it is “terrifying” to have all those alpha males. With that in mind, here is a partial list of other things that terrify Stephen:

  • Tree branches
  • Sling shots
  • Running on slip ‘n’ slides
  • Ring tosses
  • Sitting next to JT at final Tribal Councils
  • Appearing in Dalton Ross recaps.

Oh, Fishbach. I think most of you all know that Stephen and I are buddies (he blogs for EW’s sister publication, People.com), which makes his antics this season that much more delightful to cover. It’s as if he’s thinking to himself, “There’s no Coach or Specialist this season, so what can I do to hook Dalton up this week for his recap?” And the man always delivers. He is truly the gift that keeps on giving. And he is about to give again in this next challenge.

The reward competition is a Survivor and creepy-voyeur classic — the slip ‘n’ slide. Contestants race each other one-on-one down a slide and then toss a ring onto a post to get a point. First tribe to three wins. We could talk all about Jeremy beating Savage by half a second or the ladies losing it over Joe rubbing oil all over his body or the Kelly vs. Kelley battle that ultimately gave the competition to Ta Keo, but instead, let’s just focus on Stephen. Or at least the cartoon version of Stephen that appeared to be running down the slip ‘n’ slide course. Seriously, that was not an actual human running, was it? It looked more like the gait of an early-era CGI character whose movements weren’t quite believable when measured against actual, you know, people. I feel bad for comparing Fishbach to the most reviled character in film history, but if you go back and look at it… Holy crap, he runs kind of like Jar Jar Binks! Meesa serious!

And then it gets worse. Which is to say, better. Stephen throws his ring completely over the post, which leads into the unkindest cut of all as producers actually start busting out circus music as Stephen attempts a re-throw that is somehow even more pathetic than the first miss. Circus music. Brutal. When the producers are openly mocking you via musical cues, you know it’s bad.

This causes Jeremy to yell at Stephen, “You got to have confidence in yourself!” Maybe so, but Stephen has transitioned nicely from possible outcast at the start of the season to likeable non-threatening entity who could mount on off-the-radar stealth attack to actually go far in the game. This approach shall hereby be known as “Cochraning.”

NEXT: Andrew Savage miscalculates

Back at the victorious Ta Keo beach, Andrew Savage is loving his new group. He says he is rock solid with both the Angkor folks (Woo and Abi) as well as the original Bayon (Kass and Ciera). That makes five. “I’m not going anywhere,” he proclaims in the jinx of the century. Andrew then targets Spencer, which is a wise move because Spencer is an outsider and is a total threat to win the game. But then things start to get dicey. First Savage goes and tells Kass that “Spencer’s got to go,” and then the five make a pact to get rid of Spencer, as Savage tells Ciera that she will be the pawn whom they tell Spencer is going home.

Huuuuuuuge blunder by Andrew here. Survivor Rule No. 1: Ask instead of tell. What this means basically is this: Instead of telling people whom you want to vote out, ask them who they think should go. This way you allow others to reveal their hands while you keep your cards hidden. That way, if your suggestion would have rubbed someone the wrong way, you are protected in that you never revealed it. Once others come out and say what they are thinking, then you can subtly shift the target by presenting other possible options, but never be the first one to come out and say what should be done.

The second part of this is: Don’t volunteer someone else as the pawn. Instead of telling Ciera she would be the one they all said they were voting for and making her naturally suspicious and uncomfortable, ask everyone whom they think the fake name should be. Or volunteer for it to be you so that others can see how trustworthy you really are. Savage blew it on this one. He dictated instead of allowing others to make what would have likely been the same decision anyway.

Over on Bayon, Joe is being sneaky. He tells Kelley Wentworth that she has work to do to stay alive. Joe wants to keep Kelley with an extra e around so he can maintain numbers with his Ta Keo tribe swap five at the merge. Therefore he targets Kimmi and tells Stephen that she is a liability in challenges. Memo to Joe: Telling someone that has been a liability in challenges that they should get rid of someone else that has been a liability in challenges is probably not the best idea.

So Stephen does exactly what he should do and tells Jeremy, but Jeremy wants to keep Joe around because he is a shield, and Tasha also says it is too much too soon. And this leads to…crying? Yes, crying! Lots of crying! Like, an absurd amount of crying! The waterworks flow as Fishbach explains how upsetting it would be to have his second chance ruined because “I could not get the crew to take the shot we need to take.” At least I think that’s what he says. Honestly, there was so much blubbering going on it was hard to make out the exact words. With that in mind, here is a partial list of other things that make Stephen cry:

  • Tree branches
  • Sling shots
  • Running on slip ‘n’ slides
  • Ring tosses
  • Sitting next to JT at final Tribal Councils
  • Appearing in Dalton Ross recaps

Oh, I kid because I love! But I actually get it. Most of these players have been obsessed with getting another opportunity to play the game. So you finally get back on and you see a potential path to take you to the promised land, but nobody wants to get on board. Throw in a lack of food and lack of sleep, and it is #SurvivorBreakdown time, baby! Still, to see this from Stephen was surprising. In fact, I think the only person more surprised than me to see Stephen bawling like a baby…is Stephen!

We’ll have to wait to see what happens with that plan, but for now let’s go to the immunity challenge, which is a good ol’ fashioned gross-out eating contest. A new twist this time, as there are pairs for the first few rounds before it shifts back to an individual competition. Also, the new rules apparently mandate that every 30 seconds Probst needs to talk about there being “a little bit of guts in there; a little bit of juice.”

NEXT: Welcome to the Vomitorium

Some of the menu items this time around include tarantulas, giant water beetles, pig snouts, and deep-fried frog. The match is tied 2-2 when we get to a Woo and Kimmi battle over pig’s brain. “I haven’t had pig in 30 years,” says Kimmi, as if Probst is going full-Alicia and wagging his finger in her face. “My gift is to let Woo eat some pig brain.” Translation: Kimmi — Survivor’s most famous vegetarian — refuses to eat it.

I actually don’t have a problem with this. This is obviously something Kimmi feels very strongly about, and she shouldn’t have to compromise that for the game. However, if they had lost and her tribemates wanted to vote her out because of it, well, that’s their prerogative as well. As an individual player in what is ultimately an individual game — and you owe nobody else anything — you just have to decide: Is not doing this worth potentially getting voted for? Kimmi decided it was, so if that is where she draws her line, then so be it. I’m not going to kill her for that (but I may have if I was on her tribe and we lost).

After Woo wins to give Ta Keo the 3-2 lead, we move on to scorpion. I have a bit of experience with this one as I tested it out while on location during a press competition against my homies Gordon Holmes and Josh Wigler. I got destroyed. Absolutely blown up. I knew I would too. I’m terrible with food. First off, I’m a super unadventerous eater. Just to give you an idea on that, my lunch today consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, baby carrots, and a yogurt. So, yes, I eat like a 5-year-old.

I also have a super weak stomach. Can’t read on the bus, get nauseous in the back seat of cars, almost hurled in a few different boats in Panama and Cook Islands for Survivor. So, this is definitely not my jam. But here’s the thing: The scorpion wasn’t bad. Not bad at all. It was just super dry and hard to get down. I kept chewing, but it was so dry that I couldn’t get it into small enough pieces where I was comfortable swallowing fast enough. So I got smoked. But it actually was not bad in the least. (The ET Canada guy who looked purple for an hour after trying it may disagree.)

Wentworth beats Ciera at the scorpion so it is on to most infamous of food challenge dishes: balut. I cannot emphasize enough how much balut grosses me out. For those not in the know, balut is a partially formed duck embryo. That means you can see the face and the beak and even taste the feathers. I am honestly concerned I may vomit on this keyboard right now just thinking about it. It makes pig’s snout look like mint chocolate chip ice cream. Balut is my personal Vietnam. Just gnarly.

Tasha takes on Kass, but it’s not even close as Tasha shadow boxes her way to a Bayon victory. (I think Jeremy may have even eaten more balut than Kass did by sneaking a morsel on his way out.) Kass cries as well after the loss but perks up considerably after as she thinks of sending her Survivor nemesis out of the game. “Spencer Bledsoe — 0 percent chance of winning this game,” she calls out in an echo of Spencer’s line about her from the last time they played.

But is that really the case? Back at the beach, Woo tells us that “if all goes according to plan, we’re going to vote Spencer.” This is followed up with Woo’s announcement that “To be here on Ta Keo and be amongst the majority of the alliance feels like I’m finally in tune with this game and I get to play.” Uh-oh. Sounds like Woo just sealed his fate.

NEXT: Spencer lives to play another day…again

As for Spencer, he is psyched for his new alliance partner! “I’ve been wanting to play with Savage the whole time. I just think he’s a really good guy and someone I can trust.” Whoops! Because Savage is still intent on getting rid of Spencer. “This is going to be one of the most devastating unexpected blindsides in the history of Survivor,” Andrews tells us. Nice, Savage. Now you just sealed Woo’s fate. Speaking of which…DOES NOBODY KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS GAME?!? All these guys are completely clueless right now.

What is happening is Ciera is still not digging this pawn business, so she recruits Kass and Abi to keep Spencer and vote out Woo instead. Why Woo and not Savage? Possibly because Abi still wants him out for voting twice for her and possibly because Ciera would rather just fire a shot across original Bayon brother Savage’s bow than deliver a deadly direct hit. So many other questions, though. Why would Kass want to keep nemesis, Spencer? Why would Abi turn on Savage after running to him on Ankgor? And is Fishbach still crying? (Perhaps that last one is less relevant but still worth asking.)

We head to Tribal to see if it will be Calm Kass or Chaos Kass. Is Chaos Kass even on this season? For all the big talk, we haven’t really witnessed her this go-round, and neither has Andrew. “I haven’t seen Choas Kass yet,” he says. “I have seen a loving, loyal Kass” STOP JINXING YOURSELF! “I don’t have doubts about tonight.” SERIOUSLY, THIS IS NOW HARD TO WATCH! STOP IT!

They eventually go up to vote, with Spencer delivering his well-rehearsed “My fate tonight lies in the hands of Chaos Kass… God help me” line — complete with dramatic pause. And it is indeed Woo who is voted out. Bummer for him, but I honestly don’t know if producers would have even had a show had Spencer been sent out. How would they fill all that confessional time? And whom would we hear from during voting?

So two more contestants are now gone. Two nice guys. It didn’t work out for them for drastically different reasons, but the journey ends in both cases. However, your journey has only begun! We have an exclusive deleted scene for you in the video player below, along with my pre-game interviews with Terry and Woo, as well as last week’s edition of Survivor Talk. Plus, make sure to read my weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst, and come back later for two episodes of Survivor Talk with Terry and Woo. And finally, for an endless stream of Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn? Did Savage blow it? Did Kass make the right move in ousting Woo instead of Spencer? And should Jeremy and Tasha follow Fishbach’s plan to take out Joe? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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