Tai makes a jaw-dropping decision at Tribal Council

By Dalton Ross
April 21, 2016 at 02:14 PM EDT


S32 E10
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Here is a list of things that are more satisfying than the end of the latest episode of Survivor:

  • Mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • A cat curling up in your lap and purring up a storm
  • Deleting a season pass for a show you no longer watch yet keeps appearing on your DVR to taunt you and make you feel bad for not watching
  • Blocking a telemarketer’s number on your phone
  • Watching Joe last more than 10 seconds in any challenge
  • When Prince starts wailing his lungs out at the end of “The Beautiful Ones”
  • Any time Tony Romo throws a backbreaking interception in the last two minutes of a game
  • A good in-flight entertainment system stocked with a bazillion movies (including any and all films with the word “Leprechaun” in the title)
  • Nikki and Paulo dying on Lost
  • Finding money on the ground when there is absolutely nobody around so you don’t even need to feel guilty for not making a cursory attempt to return it
  • The “Grilled” episode from season 2 of Breaking Bad
  • The birth of your children…I guess
  • When Jeff Probst wears his orange baseball cap

Honestly, I think that’s about it. Because that’s how satisfying it was watching the combination of shock and confusion on Scot’s face at Tribal Council as he sat there after receiving four votes waiting for Tai to hand over his immunity idol to combine with the other one Jason had already given him to create the mythical Super Idol.

Only Tai never did hand it over. Scot looked over at Tai. And kept looking. And kept looking. He tried raising his eyebrows. He tried looking down at Tai’s pocket as if to give him visual directions as to what to do. None of it worked. “You’re not doing it?” asked Scot.

“No, sorry,” came the reply.

“Wow.” Wow, indeed. This would have made great television no matter who the victim was. Watching one person renege on a pre-existing safety-net plan to save someone that thought he was 100 percent safe and then watching that terrible realization slowly cross the face of the screwed party is simply delicious. It’s like that moment on The Simpsons where Bart puts the Krusty the Clown anniversary special in slow-motion so he can see the exact moment when Lisa breaks poor Ralph Wiggum’s heart. (Sorry, she does not choo-choo-choose you, Ralph.)

RELATED: Ranking Every Season of Survivor

So this was going to be a great moment no matter who the players involved were. But the fact that Scot was on the receiving end of the dis and dismissal made it extra sweet. Scot’s no dummy. He knows he was playing the part of villain this season. It’s something he seemed to relish doing any time he played professional basketball in an opposing arena, so he was comfortable enough in the role. And when he hid the tribe’s tools and used the tribe water to douse the tribe fire, he full-on embraced that role on the island. So the same way a crowd would cheer wildly when the guy they hated the most on the opposing team would foul out of a game, he most likely gets why Survivor nation is downright giddy about what transpired here.

Throw in every cocky mention by him and Jason all episode about how absolutely safe they were and how everybody else better get in line and do exactly what they were being told to do or else, and you have the makings of a glorious Survivor moment for the ages that had fans high-fiving from coast to coast. A full-on Survivor celebration, ladies and gentlemen! It’s like all those dorks on Coruscant toppling over the Emperor Palpatine statue at the end of the rejiggered version of Return of The Jedi while the rest of the universe mourned the unfortunate loss of “Yub Nub.”

The other amazing thing about Scot’s Super Idol-less ouster? He walked out with Jason’s hidden immunity idol in his pocket. Jason could have protected against that by only giving his to Scot after Tai did, but instead he handed it to Scot before Tribal Council, so once Scot was voted out, he could not give it back because he was already officially out of the game. So now it’s gone. Buh-bye. Sayonara. WHOOPS!

NEXT: Why the move was a no-brainer for Tai

So Tai’s decision to turn on Scot was great for viewers. But was it great for Tai? I’m not talking about whether the move is good for his conscience or his soul or any of that nonsense. I couldn’t care less about that. I mean, don’t get me wrong — I am wildly happy that he no longer is teaming up with Frank Booth and Alex DeLarge. But that’s not ultimately what matters. This is Survivor. What matters is if it was a good move strategically. Clearly, the answer is yes for multiple reasons.

First off, we heard Jason and Scot earlier in the episode telling Julia that they wanted to cut Tai loose soon because they knew he would beat them at the end. Knowing that, it is unquestionably a good move. Of course, Tai did not necessarily know they wanted him out, but he certainly must have suspected it. And then once Jason gave Scot the idol before Tribal Council, it was the only move that made sense. Because if Tai gives Scot his idol, he saves an alliance partner but his idol is gone. However, by not handing over the idol, Tai now keeps his protection while, once again, Jason loses his.

Not only that, but if Tai gives Scott his idol — which, of course, he would never do because he already voted to oust him — then he is potentially going home right then and there. That’s because now that Scot is safe, the next two highest people with votes are Tai and Aubry with two apiece. That means the six other players all vote to oust one of them. What if Julia and Michele decided to join the others to eliminate Tai on the revote? Pretty gosh darn good chance that happens, meaning he’s done, just like that. So Tai giving away his idol likely means he would have been the one eliminated. Not quite Erik Reichenbach or Brandon Hantz level nincompoop-ness, but close. (Also worth pointing out that since Tai would not have been voting on the revote, he could not have used his extra vote here.)

So unquestionably, Tai did the right thing, but the key now for him is to spin it so that the other players see his decision as a power move and not a betrayal or cop-out. Jason and Scot may attempt to brand Tai a coward for being too scared to part with his idol to help Scot, so Tai needs to work hard to convince current and future jury members that he was setting Scot up all along and this was his big résumé-building move. Whether he is successful in that could well determine how he is perceived by the people he may later be asking to reward him with a million dollars.

For the people perceiving at home, however, Tai is once again back in our good graces after his one-episode vacation to the dark side last week. Welcome back, you kiss-stealing, chicken-leash-making, tree-scaling rascal, you! Okay, now that we’ve broken down that bit of Tribal Council madness, let’s recap this sonofabitch from the very top.

The episode begins back at camp after Debbie’s ouster. Clearly uncomfortable with the needless sabotage, Tai tells Scot and Jason that it’s time to mend relationships and bring the tribe together. But Tai’s visions of everyone sitting around the fire and singing “Kumbaya” are immediately dashed when Scot says he first wants assurances the others will do what he says. Because that’s what bullies do. They get their way…or else.

Scot tells us that he didn’t want to be a Russell Hantz type but needed to make a point that “we are the providers” and the others could not survive without them. But we all know that is a big stack of Oscar Mayer baloney because it was only when votes started not going his way that Scot proposed screwing everyone over. Russell did it on day one because he legitimately thought it might give him an edge and that he could handle worse conditions better than the others. Scot just wanted revenge for getting outplayed. Big difference.

So the next day Scot goes to Aubry and says they want Cydney out and that “if we feel like you’re on board with that idea, everything goes back to normal.” What makes this even more hilarious is that Scot tells us, “Now we’re being the bigger people. We’re showing our maturity.” REALLY?! HOW IS THAT?!? BY DEMANDING PEOPLE DO WHAT YOU SAY OR YOU’LL CONTINUE TO STEAL THE SUPPLIES AND PUT OUT THE FIRE? YES, SUPER MATURE!

NEXT: A doozy of a challenge twist

Okay, so as you can tell by my rampant overuse of the caps lock button, I found that to be mildly enraging and hypocritical. But let’s get to something I absolutely do love, and it’s not Jeff Probst’s orange Survivor hat. I mean, I do love Jeff’s orange hat. This has been clearly established many times over, including previously in this here recap. But no, not that.

Rather, I love the setup of the reward challenge. The challenge itself is nothing special — players need to place one foot on a balance beam with pots on the other end. When the pot drops, you’re out. The challenge itself is fine. Not tremendous, not terrible. A serviceable contest, to be sure. But what I love are the bells and whistles the producers place around it. Not actual bells and whistles, mind you. It’s not a bloody circus. No, it’s something else entirely.

If you’ve been a longtime reader of this column, you know there are few things I have been quite passionate about over the years: the superiority of a final 2 vs. a final 3; knee socks (except when worn by Scot); hiding idols at challenges; and choices at challenges. Well, Probst and Co. threw out a doozy here. Because each of the contestants had the choice to play for food, or letters from home, or a mystery advantage in the game. Ah, but that was not all.

It was not simply a matter of the winner choosing his or her item, but rather each player had to choose what they were playing for before the contest began and then would be competing only against the other people that had also selected to play for that item. So there was a bit of strategy involved. Obviously, the advantage is the most valuable item, but do you risk playing for that against a lot of people where your odds of winning are reduced, or do you go for the food (which is also valuable as a means of boosting your energy for the important immunity challenge) hoping that is an easier path to that victory?

But what if everyone else thinks that will be easier to win, so they go for the food and the advantage ends up being just as easy (or easier) to get? There is definitely an element of The Princess Bride battle of wits between Vizzini and the Dread Pirate Roberts at play here. (Unfortunately, I do not believe any of the contestants here have spent the past few years building up a tolerance to iocane powder.) Notice I did not even mention going for the letters from home because honestly what the hell is the point of that?

Oh, by the way, Joe and Julia decide to go for the letters from home. Scot, Jason, and Michele go for the food, and Tai, Cydney, and Aubry do the smartest thing of all and elect to compete for the advantage. So we have three contests at once. Again, I cannot stress how much I love this wrinkle in the game. Bravo to Probst and the producers for putting it into play.

Naturally, Joe is out first, winning Julia her letters. Then Scot and Jason fall, giving Michele a bacon cheeseburger that looks roughly the size of Texas. That means the three people who went for the advantage are the only people left. Eventually it comes down to Aubry and Tai, with Tai waiting her out for the victory.

Back at the beach, Tai opens his mystery advantage and discovers that it is an extra vote at Tribal Council. Wow! That is super-duper powerful! After all, just look what it did for Dan in Worlds Apart and Stephen in Second Chance… who were both voted out when they were given a second vote. Stephen even got to subtract a vote from his arch-nemesis Joey Amazing and still came up empty!

It sounds like I’m dissing the extra vote, but I actually like the fact that it is not all-powerful. Sure, it can give you an advantage if used in the right circumstances at the right time, but it’s not a get out of jail free card. Nor should it be. (I also love that the advantage in question was not help in an upcoming challenge because I have already gone strongly on record as being opposed to those due to the fact that they make the challenge results almost a forgone conclusion and therefore less interesting to watch.)

NEXT: Aubry launches plan B

After Julia gets done crying while reading her letters from loved ones, she talks about her desire to flush out Tai’s immunity idol while staying loyal to Scot and Jason. She chats with Michele and Aubry about sending all the votes to Tai. That way either he is out or he uses it and Cydney is gone since Scot and Jason hate her so much. But Aubry has a backup plan. She wants to pull Tai back from the dark side and essentially guilt his conscience into flipping on the dastardly duo. Tai likes Aubry and thinks maybe she can work with the fellas a bit, so he reports back to the guys about their talk, thinking Heckle and Jeckle will be open to what he has to say. Instead, Scott responds with “How about this idea? At the next Tribal, we take Aubry out.”

Okay, so that did not exactly go as planned. “It seems like I have no say in our alliance,” Tai tells us. “I’m not part of the discussion. Those two boys are running the show. That’s why I’m feeling a bit like an outsider.” Well, what do you expect, Tai? How do you plan to fit in without belittling others and sporting a giant tattoo all over your arm that reads “Life’s a joke” in giant letters? Get with the program, man!

Off to the immunity challenge we go, in which the players must stretch their arms out and press their fingertips to… Wait, sorry, Joe’s out. Go ahead and take a seat, Joe. Anyway, as I was saying, they need to stretch their arms out and press their fingertips to two wooden discs holding ceramic pots. When the pots drop, they’re out.

It eventually comes down to a battle between Jason and Aubry, but apparently the rules of the contest have changed. Much in the say way players in the past have agreed to change the parameters of a contest midway through — such as balancing on just one leg on those floating triangle platforms out in the water — this time it seems as if Jason and Aubry have chosen to engage in a spitting challenge to see who can hawk the biggest loogie. That settles nothing, unfortunately, so they continue at it with the pots, going an hour and 15 minutes each. “Keep fighting! YOU GOTTA DIG!” yells Jeff Probst, on the verge of losing his mind.

Jason ends up outlasting Aubry and responds in exactly the calm, understated, reserved, and humble manner you would expect from him. And as he sees it, his victory makes his entire alliance safe. After all, they now have three immunities so all they need to do is each use one before the votes are read and they are all set. What could possibly go wrong? “Scot, Tai, and I, no matter what happens, us three are safe,” says Jason. “And from here on out, we’re unstoppable.” Ruh roh!

Continuing this trend of reverse foreshadowing, Jason tells Tai back at the beach that there is no way any of the three of them will go. Julia continues to feed the fellas intel, explaining how all the votes are going to Tai. Scot and Jason are unconcerned with that due to their idol situation and proceed to tell Julia that they know they can’t beat Tai at the end so want to blindside him down the line and bring her to the end instead. (That’s a smart move, by the way. I mean, I don’t think they can beat anybody, but definitely not Tai.)

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Meanwhile, Aubry and Cydney hatch a plan to vote for Scot. They don’t trust Julia and Michele, so they leave them out of it, but Aubry tells Joe and then gets to work on Tai again. “My brain is telling me to stay with the boys,” says Tai; they have upset people and he can beat them at final Tribal. “I’m not here to make good friends,” notes Tai. “I’m here to win that million dollars.” I’ll have to go back and fact-check this, but I believe that makes Tai the first person in 32 seasons to say that. Perhaps some day someone will also talk about throwing someone under the bus because I don’t think I’ve ever heard that said before on a reality television show either.

We head to Tribal Council, where the editors continue to beat us over the head with how cocky and self-assured Scot and Jason are. Now why in the name of Russell Feathers would they possibly do that? Hmmm, I wonder. “We’re not going anywhere,” boasts Scot. Tai is clearly uncomfortable with this attitude but claims, “This is war and I’m committed to these guys.” Wait, stop the presses! Did Tai just somehow magically morph into a competent liar? What the hell is happening? Must we unlearn everything we have learned? Black is now white! Up is now down! Dogs and cats living together!

NEXT: Scot goes out with a touch of class

After Aubry compares herself to a deranged llama, Jason has one last message for the others: “You might as well jump aboard the train. Otherwise, the world is going to be dictated for you.” Hey, don’t you dare talk to a llama like that, mister! I’ll call PETA so fast on you for animal bullying, it’ll make your pony tail spin.

So everyone goes up to vote, and Julia keeps mouthing to Tai to play his idol. Meanwhile, Scot is telling him the exact opposite. It’s a pretty wild scene with two people allegedly in the same alliance telling him to do two different things. Tai stays put, and the votes are read off — two for Tai, two for Aubry, and a whopping four for Scot, which leads to Tai dramatically swiping left on Scott’s request to couple up their two idols.

So an hour worth of Scot and Jason bragging about how unstoppable they are ends with Scot being voted out, Jason losing his idol without playing it, Tai defecting to the other side, and for all we know Julia now striking a new alliance with a coconut. So suffice it to say, they were stopped.

Before we finish, I will actually give Scot a little credit. He could have been a Bitter Betty after Tai reneged on the plan, but he took it in stride. “It was a good play by Tai, and I got blindsided, and I’m out,” he said in his final words. I don’t know if he had put it together yet that Tai not only didn’t give him the idol but also voted him out, but he gave the person that backstabbed him credit for a good game move, and in the past we have seen several players get mad over much less. I chalk this up to Scot’s experience as an athlete. He’s won a lot in his past, but he’s lost a lot, as well, and he certainly handled his defeat a lot better and a lot more graciously here than he did two weeks ago after Cydney flipped.

I wish Scot nothing but the best for his time on the jury at Ponderosa. I want him to enjoy it to its fullest extent, and with that in mind, for his sake I can only hope he is joined in three days by his island BFF Jason. That’s a win-win for all parties involved as far as I see it.

But you don’t have to wait three days for some extra Survivor goodies. We’ve got an exclusive deleted scene from the episode in the video player below. And you’ll definitely want to check out Hostmaster General Jeff Probst’s on-the-scene reporting from the big Super Idol snafu in this week’s Q&A. I’ll be chatting with Scot on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) Thursday morning and you can read and/or listen to that here later on the InsideTV Podcast. And for more Survivor scoop, just follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. Did you enjoy watching Jason and Scot feast on Humble Pie? Were you as enthused by the addition of different choices to the reward challenge as I was? And who is in the best position now to win this game? Aubry? Tai? Cydney? Someone else? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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