A crazy tribal council. A voluntarily sit-out during an immunity challenge. What the heck happened on tonight's episode?
Phillip Sheppard
Credit: Image Credit: Greg Gayne/CBS
S26 E10

“Whatever happens tonight, this is why I freaking love Survivor and have for 13 years.” – Cochran, during tribal council

Here’s what I freaking love: Number one, Cochran. But we’ll get to that later. Numero dos: The fact that this season began by spending every single second on a sleeping giant and a possibly unstable person with anger issues, but has more than made up for it with a string of awesome-awesomer-awesomest gamer episodes these past three weeks. Season 26 is in it to win it, as Randy Jackson might say. Not in it to win it? Dalton Ross, who’s on vacation this week, so he won’t be your tour guide through tonight’s beautiful episode. I know, I’m not happy about it either. But don’t be too mean on the message boards or else I’ll start crying like Dawn — and I don’t even have missing teeth.

Speaking of which…let’s start off at the top of the episode with Dawn screaming for help. I kind of thought she was being eaten alive by one of those 10-billion-legged creatures the Mark Burnett team of camera people love to zoom in on. But nope, she’d just lost her fake teeth mouthpiece. Ah, shades of my sister losing her retainer at Sbarro’s in Westfield, NJ and my father having to pull a Brenda and deep dive to find it. Anyway, Brenda managed to pull Dawn’s bottom two teeth from the bottom of the ocean. As bad as I felt for Dawn, which is as bad as I’d feel for anyone who’s having a step-by-painful-step emotional breakdown on national TV every week, I wondered if she would have gone through with quitting if Brenda couldn’t find her teeth. Basically she’s saying, “I won’t show a gap in my lower teeth for $1 million.” That’s certainly one way to see things.

But it didn’t matter because with one dive, Brenda ensured Dawn will never turn on her. This move, gross as it was (teeth!) could come back to a key moment for Brenda. Did Brenda do it out of a general humanity and kindness for a friend in trouble, or was it calculated? I think the former. Aww, Brenda, you’re a great swimmer and a great person.

Of course, Dawn’s teeth were the least of her problems this episode. “She’s losing it,” Andrea later announced to Phillip, no bastion of sanity himself. Even Dawn couldn’t run off to the well to cry alone and maintain focus in front of everyone else. “I honestly feel, like, unstable,” she told ally Cochran. “I cry more than a baby. Literally.” I have a baby at home, Dawn, and you are literally correct. You cry more than my baby. Luckily, a good night of sleep seems to cure all emotional problems and that was in her future! From the looks of last week’s preview of this week’s episode, Dawn was going to lose it on a whole other level. I guess I was expecting more of a meltdown or something, but I came away from the episode not wanting to mock poor Dawn, which still shocks me.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a reward challenge to discuss!

Walk over a balance beam, waterslide into mud, climb through race, shoot balls. Almost everyone commits to the challenge with gusto. “This is how you do it!” Jeff Probst screamed when Cochran head-planted down the mudslide. How good is Cochran at challenges lately? He can actually, like, do stuff. And not even completely humiliate himself in the process. Man, I love that guy this season. Most of all, I love that we’re about to see what he can do since he won’t be able to hide behind a certain person next week. I have a feeling someone’s game is about to get a lot stronger.

But back to the challenge…Malcolm kind of fumbled the balls, as it were. He took way too long to dig out the ball bags — so long, in fact, that I wondered if he was throwing the challenge to get some time on the beach with Andrea and Sherri to try to recruit them. Sherri, on the other hand, continued to be a useless player in every way. The best thing she has going for her is that she doesn’t laugh in Phillip’s face. We’ll see how far that carries her in this game. Anyway, Reynold, Dawn, Eric, Cochran, and Phillip won the challenge before the other team even started shooting their balls.

NEXT: Phillip opts against showering

During the reward, Dawn took a shower, admitted to losing her “marbles,” and used a loofah. Reynold ate beef. Phillip decided to jump into the resort’s glorious pool without showering off first, so the filth from the past 26 or so days slid off his body into the pristine water. He reminded me of Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comics, with a halo of filth around him at all times. And then something shocking happened: Eric expressed a thought. He said he’s sick of Phillip. That’s almost game talk from Eric, who’s been so silent all season you know he’s not going to be top 3, but you also know you’re not going to care when he gets voted off. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’ll make some massive move one of these weeks. But I doubt it.

Dawn woke up on day 28 with a new lease on life. She slept! Stealth R Us decided that “Reynolds” should go first, which was good news for Reynold as he seemed to be on the chopping block. It’s been 28 days, people. Learn each other’s names. And by people, I mean Phillip. So they decide Reynold will go home, but they’re going to throw three votes Malcolm’s way just in case. Secret awkward handshake and off to the immunity challenge!

Man, what a doozy this challenge was for the lungs. Jump into the water, swim under a platform while pulling yourself along with a bar, climb up the other side of the platform, and hang up a ring. In the first heat, Reynold and Andrea moved on. Before everyone could get ready for the next round, Phillip decided he was going to sit this one out. Probst looked rightfully shocked and appalled. At this point in the game, I don’t care what your scars are from your youth. I don’t care if your bottom teeth fell out. You play and you play hard because that’s why you signed up for in this game. You can decide to sit out of strategy talks, but not challenges.

Alas, Phillip thought he was safe as could be, as the grand poobah of Stealth R Us, so he figured he’d take the break and not dredge up painful memories of childhood when he got stuck under a similar platform. For that round, Brenda (who, by the way, is kind of a mermaid, no? I’m not entirely sure she needs oxygen to breathe, she’s so at ease in water) and Malcolm move on after Eddie misses the only easy part of the challenge (putting the ring on the stub thing).

The final round was five rings, as opposed to the earlier two-ring rounds. Immediately, I knew the girls didn’t have a shot because it’s a lung capacity and upper body strength challenge. Oh well for them. Much as I like Brenda in water challenges, I didn’t want either of them to win. I wanted to see a Reynold vs. Malcolm showdown and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Damn, those two are good at challenges, but Reynold was that much better and got immunity this time.

Back at camp, Phillip yapped on about his childhood, causing Dawn and Andrea to think about anything else…an idol! Let’s go look! The boys were already at it and just as Dawn wondered aloud, “Would it be too much for a clue?” Malcolm gave her one by finding the hidden idol. Soon after some whispering and a plan that seemed like a sure thing (split votes, flush the idol, get rid of Eddie), it was time for tribal council. I was positive Malcolm would keep his second immunity idol a secret and stay safe two weeks in a row. Eddie, too, knew Malcolm would be safe, as he announced that he’d be going home tonight. One of the smartest things he’s said all season. But still, he was wrong!

NEXT: Three people are safe at tribal council?

Tribal council started normally enough. Cochran revealed that Reynold was the target number one. Phillip announced “that would have been a decision I made again and again” about sitting out a challenge. I wonder how he’ll answer that question when my colleague Grady Smith asks him tomorrow. And then talk of the immunity idol began. And Malcolm takes out not one, but both of his necklaces and gives one to Eddie, so wholly undeserving, but lucky nonetheless. There was so much to love about that moment, but my favorite part had to be watching Michael laughing hysterically from his lonely perch on the jury bench. “Malcolm announced the three amigos would be voting for Phillip. “Phillip is the fun sponge. He sucks it out of the group,” he explained. The look on Phillip’s face! Not happy at all. Not at all. I imagine Corrine will play and replay and replay that moment about 30 more times this week. Anyway, just as it occurred to me that the boys don’t even need to play these, just get the favorites to scramble, Eric announced it as well. Shoot. The favorites, despite tons of scrambling, basically voted how they’d planned, with Eric deciding to vote for “fillup.”

I wondered if Malcolm would play his idol in the end. I thought he’d hold onto it, but good thing he didn’t because he would have gone home and that kick-ass tribal would have amounted to nothing. So Phillip got the boot. Millions of fans cheered. To me, the game is just about to get really good.

Lingering questions:

  1. Who knew Andrea was so on the outs with so many in her alliance? Plenty of her good buddies were ready to throw her under the bus.
  2. Did Malcolm do the right thing by giving away his idol? Yes, he changed the game by getting Phillip out, but he could have kept himself safe for two weeks instead of one. It’s not like he has a majority now. As a fan, I loved the move. But I’m still not sure it was the smartest one.
  3. Does this mean two idols are going back in play? I’m definitely going to ask Jeff Probst about that. Be sure to check back for that post first thing in the morning.
  4. Who emerges as the face of the favorites without Phillip? It seems like a lot of alliances within the alliance are about to be exposed. Dawn and Cochran seem to be one. Anyone else? All we know is that people don’t have the option of hiding behind kooky Phillip anymore.
  5. Sherri is a free agent again, as scenes from next week showed. Phillip was the only person tying her to Stealth R Us and the rest of the favorites want nothing to do with her, so she’d be crazy not to flip back to be with the guys.
  6. And if she does flip, once again, it all comes down to Eric. How on earth does it always come down to the guy who doesn’t game?

Please weigh in. What do you think is going to happen? I’ll tell you one thing that’s going to happen for sure: Dalton will be back next week. That is, if he can find his two bottom teeth.

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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