The majority alliance starts to crumble, and an extra vote goes to waste
Credit: Screen Grab/CBS

Immuniyt? Wait, no…that’s not right. Immuntiy? Nope, that’s not it either. Imnumity? Is that closer? DAMN IT, WHY IS THIS SO DIFFICLUT?!? I MEAN, DIFFICULT!

Oh, spelling, you merciless slayer of egos and intellectual pseudo-prowess. You have owned me many a time over. You even manage to still elude the traps I have carefully set out for you in the form of such modern day devices like “spellcheck” and “editors.” Regular readers of this here recap know a few slips are likely to emerge each and every week — perhaps a “form” instead of “from” or “relay” instead of “really” — things that eyes both human and electronic may miss. And then you occasionally decide to simply toy with me in the form of cast members with oddly spelled variations on otherwise completely normal names — you know, folks like Alecia and Michele. DAMN YOU, SPELLING!!!

But while spelling will surely strike me down many times throughout this recap, it set its destructive sights this week squarely on Joe. Make no mistake, Joe being unable to bring back the proper letters for “immunity” was far less embarrassing than some of the slip-ups we’ve seen in Big Brother’s annual find-a-bunch-of-letters-and-spell-out-the-longest-word-you-can challenge (the absurd technotronics — or “tectronics,” as Jeff Schroeder spelled it, anyone?), but it was still not a great look. However, I cringe to think of what my spelling skills would be like after 32 days with little food or sleep, so I’m gonna give Joe a free pas on this one… I mean, pass.

Okay, let’s break down the rest of this bad boy from the very top. We begin after Julia’s elimination at Tribal Council, and there is a lot of chatter around the camp. Jason tells Cydney and Michele that Tai and Aubry are the biggest threats and how he is much better to bring to the end. Of course, he also tells us how now everyone knows he can preach and that “I make mothers rat their sons out.” If everyone knows he can preach, why would they want to bring him to the end? Also, why would a mother rat out her son? That’s terrible parenting! Even in tough love scenarios I’m not sure I can endorse that. The reconciliation process would simply be too much.

Meanwhile, Tai informs Aubry and Joe that if they stick together they are good to go to the end. He says he’ll use his advantage at the next Tribal and his immunity idol after that. Whether telling them this is a good idea is open to debate. It demonstrates loyalty, but offering up a road map to your game play is always a shaky proposition, especially in a game as fluid as this one, where alliances seem to form and disintegrate as often as Jason gets a tattoo, which, judging by all available evidence, appears to be approximately every day.

Michelle — damn it! I mean, Michele — tells us that she voted out Julia to show loyalty to the majority by getting rid of her biggest ally in the game, but Tai remains unmoved, explaining that Michele is a more well-rounded player than Jason, so she should go next, WHOOPS!

The next morning, Tai puts Mark the chicken through his own disgusting food reward challenge, with the secret dish being…grubs! Mark pulls a Cochran and dominates, downing the grub in one swallow and then running a victory lap for good measure. (Is that a red wattle on Mark’s neck, or is it actually a sweater vest? Hmmm…) Jason laments that “I gave up eating that chicken days ago,” so apparently his sabotage only goes so far.

And then, all of a sudden, Jason morphs into Ciera and complains to Joe that “no one is playing the game anymore!” Ever notice this is only ever said by people that are outside of the main alliance? You never see people in control of the game lamenting that nobody is making moves. I certainly don’t remember Jason complaining about a lack of moves being made when he was in power. My favorite thing about the Second Chance season was watching Ciera bellyache that nobody was actually playing the game, while at the exact same time you had Stephen Fishbach breathlessly going on and on about how it was the most strategic season in the history of seasons of any reality show to ever air in any country! So which was it?

This isn’t to say that Ciera and Jason shouldn’t be doing this, however. When you are in that position, you need to try to convince people to make a move, even if what you are saying is total B.S. Jason’s other strategy is to play “the lazy card” — basically refusing to do any work in the hopes that you become even more disliked and therefore brought to the end. I believe in Survivor parlance this is known as “Shepparding.”

NEXT: Initiate super cool reward challenge

We have an #OrangeHatAlert at the reward challenge. Is this why Probst always looks down when he orders the contestants in, so he can show off his awesome Survivor hat? (By the way, props to the Tweeter whose name I can’t recall that asked me whether wearing a Survivor hat while on the show Survivor was akin to a band member wearing a T-shirt for his own band while performing in concert. I don’t know, but I do recall when I was younger — and even less cool than I am now — wearing band-specific T-shirts to concerts from the same band, and now I look back on those occurrences and immediately want to crawl into the fetal position and wither away to nothingness.)

But enough of my personal embarrassment. Instead, let’s get back to the people willing to be humiliated on national television on a weekly basis. In this week’s reward competition the tribe will be divided into two teams of three. Each player will have to race out one at a time through a series of obstacles to a floating maze. Once all three get there, they must work together to run around a giant circle to get the three balls through the maze. It’s a super cool setup and a fun twist on an old standby.

Unfortunately, it is also pretty clear from the outset that whichever team ends up with Joe will be on the losing end. That’s not to diss and dismiss the guy, but at 71 years old, even a person in great shape like him is simply working at a massive disadvantage here. Aubry and Cydney join Joe on the losing (a.k.a. yellow) team while Tai, Michele, and Jason comprise the blue squad.

Sure enough, Joe gets lapped by Jason and Michele, putting yellow in a hole from which they simply cannot dig out — and apologies to Caleb, Cydney, and Debbie if you just experienced painful flashbacks by merely seeing the word “dig.” Blue indeed wins, leading to lots of kissing from Tai and Jason. I mean, a lot of kissing. I don’t know if Tai thought Caleb was had returned or what, but it is seriously Smooch City up in there.

Back at camp after the challenge, the losers are upset. Joe complains that he performed like a 6-month-old. I don’t know if that’s some Benjamin Button kind of nonsense or what, but he starts taking it out on the others by ordering Cydney around and snapping at Aubry. CRANKY OLD GUY ALERT!!! This has been a Survivor archetype since back in the days of B.B. (R.I.P.) back in season 1. Joe hasn’t seemed particularly cranky himself other than if you try to change the vote on him last-minute. Then again, we really haven’t seen anything from Joe other than dealing with him complaining about last-minute switcheroos, so who knows?

Over on reward, Tai, Jason, and Michele are being attacked by monkeys. It’s yet another Planet of the Apes prequel! Alert Caesar that the Cambodian primates have mobilized. REPEAT: THE CAMBODIAN PRIMATES HAVE MOBILIZED! It’s actually only Jason being attacked and basically just because he enters the monkey enclosure screaming at the top of his lungs. He eventually calibrates his volume to an appropriate level but not before stating his desire to be on the receiving end of “a little monkey love.” (Make of that what you will. Is that like “Jungle Love” from Morris Day and The time? Is Jason going to ask for some dude named Jerome to bring him his mirror?)

As for the others, Tai repeats his desire to get Michele out next while Michele talks about Jason’s evil side. Meanwhile, Lucky and the elephants are all looking around at each other all like, “What’s wrong with these people? And why haven’t they eaten that stupid chicken yet?”

Hey, we’ve had one cool challenge, so why not another? This week’s immunity competition is a simple and oft-seen one, but it still works. Basically, any contest that involves people getting super close to the finish only to have all their hard work collapse right in front of them thereby forcing them to start over is aces in my book. The rules are pretty simple (unless spelling is an issue). Each player has to hold on to a rope that balances a wobbly platform and bring out blocks one at a time that, when stacked up, will spell out the word immunity. But if the stack falls at any time, you have to start over.

NEXT: Cydney makes her move…very carefully

And don’t look now, but my main man Joe is out to the early lead! And now he’s got five blocks down! Only three more to go! Holy smokes, Joe may actually pull this off! All he has to do is stay steady and… Oh, never mind. While almost everyone else is relatively close to Joe at the point where his blocks drop, Cydney is going for the slow and steady approach.

And when I say slow, I mean sloooooooooow. She’s like a (barely) walking and talking version of C-SPAN. And not even cool C-SPAN, like with a White House Correspondents’ dinner or an actual vote you care about, but, like, super lame C-SPAN where a camera is just focused on empty chairs behind a desk, waiting for people to come sit down and talk about something that doesn’t even interest you in the least. That’s how slow Cydney is going. “Literally moving like she can’t walk,” yells Probst, before later describing her as “completely out of this challenge right now.” He didn’t appear to be wrong, either.

But then everyone’s blocks start dropping. First Joe’s, then Michele’s, then Tai’s, then Aubry’s, and then Jason’s. All of a sudden, the tortoise is beating the hares! While Joe keeps misspelling immunity, it comes down to Cydney and Jason. Both place their eighth and final block and are on their way back to the platform to claim victory in an insanely tense finish, but then Jason looses his stack, handing Cydney the victory in what I think we can all safely assume was nowhere close to record time. But it matters not! Immunity is hers, and well deserved at that.

Back at camp Michele tells the others, “I feel like there’s no need to scramble on this one.” Little does she know that Tai wants her out and plans to use his extra vote to help make it happen. But his plan has flaws. For one thing, Jason does not trust Tai and says he’ll vote for Joe instead. For another thing, Cydney does not like being told what to do and starts mobilizing the troops to dump Jason instead. This includes letting Michele know about Tai’s duplicity.

This all puts Aubry in an awkward position because, while she agrees with the move to get rid of Michele, Tai’s forceful declaration of what needs to happen has created a rift within the group, and now Aubry must pick sides. “If it comes down to it, will you vote with me or will you vote with him?” Cydney asks her point-blank. This causes Aubry to cry, though I’m not really sure why. For someone who appears to view the game pretty clinically, Aubry has random outbursts of emotion that occasionally catch me off guard. I guess that’s what living on the Oregon Trail will do to someone.

We head to Tribal Council to find out Aubry’s answer. We also head there to watch everyone gang up on Tai. Cydney comes out and talks about how Tai was dictating things and her voice was not being heard. Pulling out possibly the worst Perry Mason courtroom defense of all time, Tai says they simply did not have enough time to chat, but then Aubry starts contorting her face and says they did have plenty of time. Nothing but time. All the time in the world. Time won’t give me time, and time makes lovers feel like they’ve got something real. But you and me, we know they’ve got nothing but time. And time won’t give me time, won’t give me time (time, time, time). Sorry, occasionally I slip into Culture Club lyrics. Just be glad it wasn’t “Church of the Poison Mind” this week. Or any other Culture Club song, for that matter.

Meanwhile, Michele says flat-out that she knows Tai wants her gone while also explaining that “there’s a big group and there’s a smaller group within the big group.” She continues to point out how “Tai has turned on every alliance he has had” — a comment that could do damage in terms of how the jury might view him should he make it to the end. Once again, Tai’s defense is not strong as he basically reveals that he never wanted Michele in the alliance anyway. Michele describes this as “malarkey,” which kind of makes me love her and wonder if such outdated jargon means she is actually 100 years older than she looks and is pulling some sort of Game of Thrones Melisandre act here in that as long as she wears her Survivor buff she appears 80 years younger than she actually is. (Maybe she can also bring Mark the chicken back from the dead should someone decide to snap his neck. Or maybe she should just cycle through the rest of the Thrones characters and start randomly yelling “HODOR!” for the rest of the season)

NEXT: Who’s the frontrunner to win the million dollars?

Everyone goes up to vote, and then Tai asks to use his extra vote advantage, which for the third straight season is about to prove completely useless. Dan Foley and Stephen Fishbach both went home the very night they used the extra vote or vote steal advantage. That does not happen to Tai here, but his two votes for Michele do nothing to change the fact that Jason is going home, the recipient of the other four votes.

So we are down to five. I think you have to consider Aubry the clear frontrunner at this point. She appears to have close alliances with every single player left except Michele. Plus, everyone genuinely seems to respect her game. She’s performed well in challenges, avoided personal beefs, and can point to flipping Tai away from Scot and Jason as her big power move.

Tai obviously has a resume as well, but people’s feelings about him seem more muddled. Does he get credit for ping-ponging between alliances or scorn? Judging by the people that have been voted out lately, it may be more of the latter. Aubry simply has less blood on her hands than he does. Cydney is by no means out of the running, and in a final two situation, Michele could even potentially win. Not sure I see any path for victory for Joe, though. Sorry, Joe.

And questions remain as to whether we are indeed getting a final three or a final two. The math is screaming final two since we only have five players left heading into next week’s penultimate episode. Since two people are usually cut in the finale and we will be presumably heading to the finale with four folks, that would seem to indicate a final two, which has me way more excited than it should. But with Survivor, you never truly know. That’s why I asked Hostmaster General Jeff Probst about it in this week’s Q&A, and you’ll have to head there to see how he responded.

But that’s not all. We also have an exclusive deleted scene from the episode in the video player below. Plus, we’ll be chatting with Jason on EW Morning Live (SiriusXM, channel 105) Thursday morning, and you can read/listen to that here later on the InsideTV Podcast. And for more Survivor scoop sent right to you, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. Who at this point do you think will win and should win? And did the majority make the right call in keeping Michele over Jason? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with a scoop of penultimate crispy!