Shamar gets upset after Reynold uses the diving mask in the challenge. Actually, Shamar gets upset about pretty much everything.
Survivor Caramoan Recap
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S26 E3

Sometimes you need a reminder of why you love something. I have said early and often that the most important factor when determining the success of any Survivor season is casting. Every season is like a chemistry experiment where you drop 16-20 elements into a test tube, shake it up, and hope something explodes. And I still believe that. But there is something else about Survivor that transcends the personalities — or lack thereof. It’s the escapist element. Whether you are working in a factory all day, or, like me, staring at a computer screen that gives you migraine headaches on a semi-regular basis, you can plop down on your couch at 8pm on a Wednesday night, crack open a Milwaukee’s Best (or, you know, some other beverage that does not taste like piss), and immediately be transported to the remotest corners of the earth.

And it’s not just escape — it’s adventure. And that mixture of escape and adventure was on full display in this week’s challenge. Running! Swimming! Climbing! Diving! Pushing a submerged trunk through an underwater gate! And this was only the first-half of this week’s contest. It’s no secret I’ve always been a fan of underwater challenges, and watching this one in glorious high definition was truly a sight to behold.

Holy crap! Do you hear how earnest I sound? I feel like I’m a contestant in the middle of a Fallen Comrades tribute! (“Man, remember Carter? He was just, like, super great. Miss you bro!”) I can’t help it. Occasionally I get all mushy when I think about what this show delivers that no other program can. It’s why I’m still writing and you’re still reading 26 freakin’ seasons in. So well done, Jeff Probst, challenge guru John Kirhoffer, producers Dave Burris, Dave Dryden and everyone else that brings those incredible images into our living room every Wednesday night. Even when I write mean, horrible things about your show, I still love it. And this scene was just the latest example of why.

Man, check me out! I am fired up! Fired up like my man Shamar. Shamar should be happy because he was not voted out at the last Tribal Council as all of his buddies stayed loyal and tossed Allie instead. But he’s not. Because he’s Shamar. I mean, the yelling at Reynold we expected because that is totally his go-to move, but then Shamar starts yelling at Matt. What for? I have no idea! Maybe he doesn’t like his tattoos or his beard or the fact that his name is Matt. It could be anything with this guy. Then he starts yelling at someone I have never seen before who apparently is named Julia, until he gets just as bored with her as the producers are and turns his attention back to Matt.

But Shamar is not the only upset person on the Fans tribe. The next day, Reynold vents to Eddie about the Flirty Foursome being outwitted by the rest of the tribe. “It’s revenge of the nerds,” he complains while doing an unintentional Stan Gable impersonation. Am I the only one at this point that has visions of an actual Survivor: Revenge of the Nerds edition dancing in my head? Get Booger, Wormser, and Poindexter out here pronto! They’d be unstoppable! Have you seen Lamar Latrell toss a javelin? Or Takashi ride a tricycle? They would go all Koror tribe on anyone that dared to oppose! (Of course, I suppose you’d have to put Cochran on that tribe as well. I imagine he’d have to go through some sort of Nerd fraternity hazing like, say, a midnight panty raid on the unsuspecting Pi Delta Pis, but you have to believe he’d be welcomed by the Tri-Lambs with open arms.)

NEXT: To quit…or not to quit?

One person that would definitely not fit on the new Nerds tribe is Shamar. BECAUSE NERDS NEVER QUIT! Shamar, however, appears to be rapidly approaching Quitsville. “I can’t do this,” he tells Sherri. “This ain’t my kind of lifestyle.” Sherri feels like she can handle the former marine because “All I do is deal with snotty, teenage brats all day.” Later in the shelter, Shamar explains why he’s ready to throw in the proverbial towel: “My happiness is not worth a million,” he explains. “I’m not going to be the angry black man on Survivor. It’s not gonna happen.” Ummmm…I don’t know how to break this to you, Shamar, but that ship has sailed, my friend. Not only has it already happened pretty much nonstop since you first set foot on the beach, but it continues to happen every time you open your mouth. And it will be happening once again after the challenge and at Tribal Council. Just you wait and see.

Apparently, Sherri really does know how to deal with snotty, teenage brats because she somehow convinces Shamar to not quit out of some sense of loyalty. For his part, Reynold is incredulous: “He made himself a hero for unquitting the game of Survivor that 50,000 people would line up for days just to play. I don’t know. That’s no heroic movie in my book.” Congratulations, Reynold. That just might be the first awesome thing you’ve said this entire season. Stop feeling superior to the rest of your tribe and we’ll get along just fine.

Hold on a second…is that Phillip Sheppard over on the Favorites beach, or Magic Johnson? I can’t tell with all the sweet pretend crossover dribbling he’s busting out. And check out the form on that fake fadeaway jumper! “All air, baby!” boasts Phillip as he releases the imaginary basketball. So, in essence what Philip just told us is that he shot an air ball. I’m not sure on what playground an air ball is considered a good thing — inviting comparisons to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird — but it sounds like they may be grading on a curve over there. (I believe the phrase Phillip was searching for was “all net.”)

While Phillip continues his game of phony baloney one-on-one, Malcolm and Corinne go hunting for hidden immunity idols. Of course, this being Survivor, idols are about as hard to find as custom made Jeff Probst Survivor hats, and sure enough, Malcolm locates it, making it two seasons in a row for him. The excitement of uncovering an idol causes Corinne to straddle Malcolm a little too close to his Magic Johnson, if you know what I’m talking about. (His penis. I’m talking about Malcolm’s penis.)

As Cochran salivates over hot chicks in underwear, Andrea decides it’s time to extend her claws and get rid of another strong female. She wants Corinne gone and is willing to take Brandon in her place. Brandon agrees to join the alliance but is wary of being discarded like he was last time by Coach. And if he is, there will be repercussions. “I’ll pee in the rice,” he says. “I’ll pee in the beans. I’ll burn the shelter to the ground.” Okay, not to be a nitpicker, but if he pees all over everything, won’t all that moisture in the shelter make it more difficult to burn. Plus, isn’t it more badass to torch the place and then pee on it while it burns to the ground? Not so much pee as to douse the flames, mind you, but just enough to act as an exclamation point to the whole proceeding. See, this is precisely Brandon’s problem. He’s too impulsive. He’s not thinking these things out clearly! Burn first. Then pee.

NEXT: A puzzling lack of puzzles

Speaking of Brandon, he leads the Favorites tribe into the challenge, holding up the immunity idol with a Bikal buff on it for all to see while yelping with pride in a move sure to intimidate the opposition. Just one problem: The opposition isn’t even there to see it. (The tribe that lost the previous immunity challenge always comes last so the others can see who was kicked off.) Anyhoo, I’ve got good news and bad news for you challenge fans out there. Which do you want first? Well, characters in a movie always take the bad news first so let’s start there. The bad news: It is another reward/immunity combo platter. This marks the second straight episode we have not had two challenges in an episode. (I asked Jeff Probst about this in this week’s Q&A and I encourage you to go read his answer as to why they’re only giving us one challenge per episode.) Okay, now the good news, which is really good news. Once again: no puzzles! This is actually remarkable when you think about it. This marks our fourth challenge of the season and we have not even had one single leg involving puzzles. After the past few years of Puzzlepalooza, this is a more than welcome respite.

The entire challenge is a big ball of awesomeness. The contestants must swim out in water to a large bamboo cage, climb over it and in it. Then they must open an underwater gate to the cage and drag a submerged chest through that gate and back to land. But not unlike a Ginsu knife collection — WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Then they must place themselves and the trunk on a track, use a grappling ring to retrieve three missing sections of track, traverse across them and push the chest to victory. Damn, I got tired just typing that.

Making an already awesome challenge even awesomer (new word) is the fact that the lead changes hands multiple times. The Faves are the first ones to the cage thanks to Laura’s “backstroke in the wrong direction,” but then the Fans get their trunk out of the gate first. The Faves then catch up in the water somehow (even with Cochran basically walking a few feet behind them), and take the lead by getting up on the track. Then the Fans take the lead, then the Faves. The lead goes back and forth so many times I’m pretty sure Jeff Probst is suffering from a severe case of whiplash. It’s like a classic battle between Larry Bird’s Celtics and Phillip Sheppard’s Lakers. Who will make the last shot to win? Turns out it is Brandon as the Favorites enjoy their second straight victory. And we are all winners for having been able to witness such an incredible competition. Except for the Fans, who are technically still losers. Sorry about that, Fans.

NEXT: Shamar can’t keep his mouth shut. (Surprised?)

Back on the Gota beach, Shamar tells Reynold, “Don’t talk to me. You disgust me.” I could go into the reasons why, but honestly, does it matter? And is watching Shamar as exhausting for you as it is for me? I mean, I know tribe drama is generally considered a good thing, but this is really not entertaining in the least. This isn’t someone I love to hate. Nor is it a person I hate. I just…CAN’T DEAL. All the repetitive screaming over nonsense is just monotonous. I’m over it. But Shamar is still valuable to the tribe if the majority wants to maintain numbers with a safety net in case Reynold uses or hands off the idol. They decide to have the three women (Sherri, Laura, Julia) vote for Hope and the three men (Matt, Michael, Shamar) vote for Eddie. Then, on the revote, they can all get rid of Hope, who has proved as useless in producer confessional interviews as she has in challenges. Okay, well that was easy.

Too easy, it seems. For reasons that only make sense to a man who makes no sense, Shamar decides to tell Hope everything. Hope then tells Julia. Julia tells Sherri. And they told two friends. And they told two friends. And so on. And so on. (Anyone under the age of 30 has no idea what I’m talking about right now.) Now the majority alliance gets worried about what Shamar is really doing and additional scrambling happens, with Laura even talking to Reynold about a possible new five-person alliance to get rid of Shamar. Will it happen? Let’s go to Tribal Council and find out.

At TC we are treated to more of the world according to Shamar, in which everyone else on the tribe is a liar, while Reynold and Eddie are on some sort of “No Talking list.” Hey, not for nothing, but that sounds like a pretty sweet list to me. If I were on the Gota tribe I’d be trying like hell to get on that list. Matt! Julia! Michael! Get your applications in pronto! Just one question, though: What happens if Jeff Probst gets put on the No Talking list? Not exactly sure how Tribal Council would work in that case, but I’ll tell you what — I’m willing to find out! I hereby present an official petition for the adding of one Jeffrey Probst to Shamar Thomas’ No Talking list. I don’t know what would happen were that to come true but I am relatively confident it would be amazing on every level.

NEXT: Who is playing the best so far?

Anyway, the votes come back and we have a three-way between Hope, Eddie, and Shamar, which is not nearly as disturbing as it sounds. Instead, it means all three are tied with three votes and the tribe (minus those three) must vote again. Sure enough, Hope is out of hope as she is booted on the revote. Hope, we hardly knew ye! No, I’m completely serious — I think you only said seven words in three weeks. Who the hell are you anyway? I have nothing positive nor negative to say about you because the only thing I know about you is that Eddie says you’re hot.

Three episodes in, there are quite a few people I am still unsure of in terms of what they are doing in the game. On the Fans tribe, Sherri seems to be running the show and Laura is one to watch as well (if she can stop being such a liability in challenges). I liked Michael feeling out his options in episode 1, but he seems to have disappeared since then. Hopefully he’s just laying low until it is time to make a power move, but I’m worried he and Matt find themselves the odd men out against the three women (Sherri, Laura, and whatsherface).

Over on the Favorites beach, I honestly have no idea what is going on. Phillip and Andrea seem to be playing the most aggressively, but I can’t help but feel that people like Malcolm, Cochran, and Dawn are simply letting those two think they are in control for now so they become the bigger targets later. Who knows what’s happening with Erik. Dude has been completely invisible for the past two weeks. Is he still aligned with Brandon? Someone else? No clue. But he’s likely safe for a while due to his domination in challenges. And is Brenda even on this season? I interviewed her before filming began, so I thought she was, but now I’m not so sure.

The one thing I am sure of is that we have another exclusive deleted scene waiting for you in the video player below. Also check out the interesting tidbits from host Jeff Probst in our weekly Q&A. And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. Now it’s your turn. Were you digging the challenge as much as I was? Would you have kept Shamar or sent him packing? And who do you think is playing the best on each tribe so far? Hit the message boards to let us know, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

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