We're down to two tribes — putting instant targets on Tai and Anna's backs

By Dalton Ross
March 17, 2016 at 03:04 PM EDT
Credit: Robert Voets /CBS Entertainment
S32 E5

Dammit. How can one man be so terrible? It’s embarrassing, really. And to perform this poorly right in the public eye! Actually, embarrassing doesn’t cover it. It’s more like, I don’t know… humiliation. Abject and utter humiliation. I am speaking, of course, about the fact that for the 17th season in a row, my episode 1 pick to win it all has flamed out in spectacular fashion.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time where I actually picked three straight winners (Yul, Earl, Todd) in a row. And then my next pick, Cirie, would have won the following season after that had Survivor: Micronesia gone with its now traditional final 3 instead of downsizing to a final 2 due to too many injuries. (How’s that for irony? Me, of all people, actually complaining about a final two.) But the numbers don’t lie: It’s been a pretty pathetic display since Survivor: China. And that piss-poor track record continued with Anna’s elimination this week in Survivor: Kaoh Rong.

Let’s take a look at just how bad I’ve been picking winners over the past 8+ years:

Survivor: Micronesia

Picked 1 Fan & 1 Fave: Cirie Fields (3rd place — So close!) and Alexis (6th place)

Survivor: Gabon

Pick: Charlie Hershel (9th place)

Survivor: Tocantins

Pick: Brendan Synnott (9th place)

Survivor: Samoa

Pick: Betsy Bolan (18th place — OUCH!)

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains

Pick: Honestly, I can’t remember whom I picked, but he/she didn’t win

Survivor: Nicaragua

Pick: I picked either Sash (3rd place) or Brenda (10th place). Again, I can’t recall. Mostly because I’ve tried to forget this season ever existed.

Survivor: Redemption Island

Pick: Ashley Underwood (4th place)

Survivor: South Pacific

Pick: Elyse Umemoto (15th place — Yeesh!)

Survivor: One World

Pick: Chelsea Meissner (3rd place — Ack! Another finals loser!)

Survivor: Philippines

Pick: Mike Skupin (2nd place tie — Dammit! Yet another finals loser!)

Survivor: Caramoan

Picked 1 Fan & 1 Fave: Dawn Meehan (2nd place tie — Are you kidding me?!? Three straight finalist losers?!?) and Michael Snow (11th place)

Survivor: Blood vs. Water

Pick: Aras Baskauskas (11th place)

Survivor: Cagayan

Pick: Spencer Bledsoe (4th place)

Survivor: San Juan del Sur

Pick: Jeremy Collins (10th place — Crap. I picked him one appearance too early)

Survivor: Worlds Apart

Pick: Joe Anglim (10th place)

Survivor: Cambodia

Pick: Spencer Bledsoe (2nd place tie — First time I picked the same person twice, and I paid the price with another finalist loser performance.)

Survivor: Kaoh Rong

Pick: Anna Khait (13th place)

So my exercise in futility continues on! Beware the Dalton Ross Episode 1 Pick to Win It All Curse! It is real, and it is deadly. I’d also like to offer my public apology to Anna for selecting her as this year’s honoree. I thought her poker smarts would take her far, but then Jeff Probst CLEARLY engineered a tribe swap just to make me look bad yet again. (Payback, no doubt, for some of the things I have written in this recap space over the years.) Anyhoo, my bad on that, Anna.

Okay, let’s get to all the events that preceded Anna’s untimely departure. We begin with another medical situation! This time it is Joe’s finger, which appears to be on the verge of infection. But Joe’s pain could be Peter’s gain as the surgeon realizes that it is “strategically crucial that I start pandering to these people.” Although that pandering has left Peter feeling “like a neutered dog right now.” By the way, Peter’s version of a neutered dog simply means that he brags about his superior smile and intelligence 31 percent less than normal.

Of course, Peter could help himself out more by doing what Neal is doing — namely, searching for the hidden immunity idol. Neal undertakes a series of tasks that involves locating a clue, digging for an idol box, getting another clue and map, making a big stick to knock a key off a big tree, spinning on his head while reciting the entirety of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, unlocking the box, and, finally, retrieving the idol. And you know what that means: ICE CREAM PARTY!!!

Timing is everything, and Neal finding the idol before his next trip to visit Jeffrey Probst proves fortuitous. Because when the three tribes come together, the host utters those three famous words: drop your buffs. They are words that would no doubt cause confusion, repulsion, and even perhaps a pump or two of pepper spray to the face in normal society, but here they mean it is time for either a merge or tribe switcheroo. With 13 people left, this one could have gone either way, but it is indeed the latter as three tribes will go down to two with the obliteration of the Brawn tribe.

NEXT: Meet your new tribes!

The moment is electric! Not because we get to see who will end up where, but we will finally be forced to learn at least two of the original tribe names. So here, ladies and gentlemen are your new tribes:

CHAN LO (a.k.a. the blue tribe)







A perfect, even distribution of two Brains, two Beauty, and two Brawn

GONDOL (a.k.a. the yellow tribe)







Three Brains, two Beauty, and one Brawn

But hold the proverbial phone. What about Julia? I know what you’re thinking: Who the hell is Julia?!? I can already sense your disbelief, but I promise you, she is an actual contestant playing this season. I even went back and checked the cast list. She’s there!!! She has totally been a participant. What? Stop laughing! It’s true! She jumped off the boat and everything. Look, again I can feel that you think I’m pulling one over on you or something, but I guarantee that Julia is indeed a human being that has been residing on the island of Kaoh Rong during the filming of the television program Survivor. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.

In any event, it’s appropriate that the tribe member we have seen the least of this season pulls a red buff, meaning she is not on either tribe! Instead, she has to head back by herself to this now abandoned Brawn beach and see if she can locate Alecia’s hidden cheerleading pom-poms, which, when combined with two other hidden immunity idols makes a SUPER DUPER IDOL that not only saves you after the votes are read but also magically lands you a role in the next Tyler Perry film, which, last time I checked, is scheduled to be Boo! A Madea Halloween.

You think I’m kidding about that part. I’m not. That is an actual movie. Seriously. Look, I know you’re extra skeptical after the whole Julia-is-a-real-person-competing-on-Survivor thing. I understand how that tested our relationship, but it’s the God’s honest truth! Look it up. According to the film’s description on Wikipedia, “Madea spends Halloween keeping an eye on a group of misbehaving teens and fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists, ghosts, ghouls, and zombies.” So Madea is battling zombies? Sounds about right. Could Boo! A Madea Halloween enter the pantheon of fine Survivor-screened reward challenge films alongside such modern day classics as Gulliver’s Travels and Jack & Jill? Unfortunately, the Oct. 21 release date means we’ll have to wait until season 33 to find out!

Let’s go check out what’s happening at the new tribe beaches. Over at Gondor… I mean, Gondol, Peter has taken any momentary humility he had, wiped his butt with it, shoved it in a bag and lit the bag on fire. Now that he is back in the majority, the ER doctor is as cocky as ever. “I’m set up right now to easily make it into the merge without having any concern or even a bead of sweat down my eyebrow,” he tells us.

He then goes on to tell Aubry that “the logical thing is to take out a beauty,” and you can’t help but wonder: Should they throw the challenge so they can take one out and keep the numbers advantage? If you think about it real quick, it makes some sense. Whichever tribe loses will have to vote someone out, and Julia will then take that person’s place. Brains currently has a numbers advantage over Beauty on this tribe, so they can take out one Beauty now and then continue to pick them off until the merge comes, ensuring that Brains goes into the merge with the numbers advantage.

So there’s logic behind the idea. But there are simply too many variables in Survivor. What if someone has an idol (and someone indeed does)? What if Scot wavers (and Scot indeed may have)? What if the fellow Brains find Peter too insufferable and just decide to get rid of him, numbers be damned (and Aubry indeed told us that “I don’t trust Peter as far as I can throw him”)? This is why you NEVER throw an immunity challenge. Too many things can happen and you could end up being the one going home. The only way to stay truly safe is to win.

NEXT: The former Brawn tribe members are sitting pretty

Peter brings Scot into the fold, but Scot also likes the cut of Tai’s jib. “I’ve got a man crush on Tai right now already,” says Scot. “In my opinion, he’s number one most valuable member of the tribe right now.” Check out Tai bromance-hopping all over the place! What’s next, him and Jason getting matching brass knuckle tattoos?

But Anna is nervous about Tai’s potential popularity and decides to pull a Kelley Wentworth. Remember when Kelley threw Terry under the bus after their tribe swap so he would be the one to go, not her? Well, Anna does the same thing…only technically I guess Anna did it first since her season was filmed before the Second Chance one was. Ugh, this out-of-order airing thing is all so confusing!

Also confusing: Why is Anna’s confessional to camera taking place while she is lying down as if posing for a sexy 1980s-era wall poster? Seriously, I know producers are trying to get as much cleavage per second as possible before Anna gets voted out, but this cheesecake pose was just plain weird. Or maybe it’s weird they don’t do it more often. What the hell do I know? Give the people what they want, I guess. In any event, she starts totally selling out Tai to the others and talking about how idol-obsessed he was — which, to be fair, is kind of true.

Over at Gung Ho… I mean, Chan Loh, Debbie is excited to show Cydney their pull-up bar. “My game play is I’m on the offense, not the defense,” Debbie tells us. “And from the get-go I wanted to work with Brawn because the Brawn tribe is definitely the powerhouse.” PFFFFWAHPH! I’m sorry, that was the sound of me spitting my Milwaukee’s Best clear across the room. The Brawn tribe is definitely the powerhouse?!?!?!? I mean, I guess it’s technically true that they were the only tribe with a designated cheerleader, which is pretty cool, but how is a team that came in last place in four out of five challenges a powerhouse in any definition of the word? They were certainly a powerhouse at sucking in contests and being completely unwatchable back at camp, but that’s pretty much it.

Debbie wants to orchestrate a Brains-Brawn merger, but Nick is also trying to woo Cyndey and Jason over to the Beauty side. Yep, it has come to this people: By virtue of their terribleness, the Brawn tribe now have their pick of the litter when it comes to alliances — on both tribes. “We kind of hold all the power,” says Jason. “So I am feeling really good.” Which side should they align with? Let’s do a tale-of-the-tape in terms of if Jason and Cydney were going to make their decision on who does a better job of gratuitous boasting.

DEBBIE: “Once again, I’m the mastermind behind the scenes and they just don’t see me coming.”

NICK: “When it comes to being manipulative, I think I’m the most intelligent person out here.”

Hmmm, that’s a close call. While Debbie seems to have definitely come down with a bad case of Peteritis — symptoms include incessant bragging about one’s abilities and the curious urge to get an anchor tattoo — at least she can somewhat back it up. Debbie flipped the script and got Liz out. What the hell has Nick done? In fact, had Beauty lost a challenge, it was pretty much a sure thing that Nick was the first one to go. That doesn’t happen to the best manipulator out there. So in terms of gratuitous boasting, you have to give this round to Nick simply due to the fact that any boasting at this point on his part would be gratuitous.

Of course, there is still one beach to visit, and it is the old Brawn beach where Julia becomes the latest victim of dehydration, her entire body shaking. “I felt my body shutting down. I had never felt that way before. It was a combination of dehydration, being out here alone, and paranoia.” Well, sucks for her. See you next week, Julia! Or, you know, the way things have been going so far with the edit… maybe not.

NEXT: Did Tai do the right or wrong thing with his idol?

It’s an #OrangeHatAlert, folks, as Jeff Probst busts out his most stylish lid for the immunity challenge. Other than the hat, I couldn’t get too jazzed for this challenge. I mean, no one nearly died, so that’s good. And it involved people diving down to untie things underwater, which I generally like. But it feels like there has been a samey-samey feeling to many of the challenges this season: one section in water, one section on land, and then a puzzle to finish it off. It’s a rhythm that is starting to feel a bit old, and even when the tasks themselves are different, that familiar-feeling rhythm can’t help but give you a vague sense of déjà vu.

In any event, it’s a back and forth affair. When Anna and Peter hit the puzzle for Gondol to take on Chan Lo’s Neal and Debbie I thought A&P would smoke the competition due to their past success in puzzles. But no! Instead it is Neal and Debbie that dominate. (Interesting side note: I’d love to know if Peter threw the challenge to get rid of a Beauty, but now, since he lost, you have to assume he will automatically say he threw it, lest anyone question his intelligence, so I’m not sure we’ll ever get a true answer on that one.)

“It’s a battle between Anna vs. Tai” says Anna after the Gondol loss, referring to herself in the third person for no apparent reason in particular. Aubry and Joe want Tai out while Peter argues to boot Anna because “she can win people over not only with her brain but with her looks.” Then Peter goes and tells Tai and Anna that one of them will be going because why not continue to prove you are terrible at playing the game of Survivor?

This causes Tai to call out the fact that he does not like Peter. Think about that for a second: Tai appears to like everybody! Consider how bad you have to be to make Tai not like you. After all, TAI LIKES SCOT, FOR CYRING OUT LOUD!!! In fact, Tai dislikes Peter so much he flat-out tells Anna and Scot (who may not even be on his side) that he has a hidden immunity idol and is ready to take him out. “I love Survivor, I love blindsides, and I loooooove immunity idols,” says Anna. “Especially hidden ones.” That makes two of us!

But Scot has another idea in mind. After being informed by Aubry that Anna is the target, Scot tells his new buddy to save the idol for as long as he can. Scot is thinking long term with the possibility that Tai and Jason’s idols could be combined to form a super idol. We’ve given Scot a hard time because he was acting terribly on a terrible tribe, but this is a smart play on his part.

However, would it be smart of Tai to not play the idol? Let’s look at his two options here.


Give the idol to Anna, resulting in Peter getting voted out.

Positives: Once Julia joins your tribe you now have three Beauties plus Scot versus only two Brains. You set yourself up for a nice numbers advantage both pre-merge and possibly post-merge, which can take you far in the game.

Negatives: Your idol is gone, making you vulnerable at the next vote.


Do not play your idol and watch Anna get voted off.

Positives: You still have your idol. If Scot is indeed in your corner, he could still feed you the intel on who the next target is. Also, Peter may piss someone off, and the tide may turn anyway, and you are still sitting with a hidden immunity idol.

Negatives: If Scot is not with you, then you just lost your one opportunity to gain numbers and are back where you started, in the minority, now the top target out there and with your idol only protecting you from one more vote.

It’s a super tough call, because obviously you don’t know how things are going to play out. On one hand, I would have loved the move of Tai handing Anna the idol and completely flipping the tribe. It would have been big, it would have been bold, and it would give him big points on his game résumé. But I completely understand why he played it safe and held onto the sucker.

NEXT: An exclusive deleted scene from the episode

Tai does show a deceitful side at Tribal Council, however, and I write that as a compliment. You need to effectively deceive to win. Tai going on and on about how straight forward and upfront he is — showing his inner thigh chafe marks is a nice, if slightly disturbing, touch — is impressive. And then hearing him explain how he doesn’t think there is an idol because he couldn’t find one keeps the ruse going. Meanwhile, Peter is busy at Tribal saying stuff like “To be honest, I’m not concerned, Jeff, because I’m in a position of power,” because that’s just the sort of thing to make your tribemates start liking you. Excellent display of emotional intelligence, Peter.

So Tai does not play his idol, and Anna get very, very confused. “Good luck, everyone,” she says after having her torch snuffed and pointing at Tai. If this is all she did, Tai should thank his lucky stars because she could have blown up his game by announcing he had an idol. And maybe she did. There have been instances where people have done such things (even if they were lying), but it has not made the show. So it’s possible Anna may have said something we didn’t see, and I plan to ask her about that in our EW Radio exit interview Thursday morning. So, you know, I will. Right after I apologize for predicting her as the winner of this season and thereby retroactively dooming her 11 months after the fact.

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But here’s the good news: We have some other Survivor goodies for you. Like the exclusive deleted scene in the video player below in which Peter clearly is angling for a role in Boo! A Madea Halloween by proclaiming himself “zombie dead…vampire coming into the sun dead.” And then there’s my weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. And the print version of my Anna interview, which will be up Thursday afternoon. You can also follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss for a constant stream of Survivor scoop.

But now it’s your turn. Should Tai have given Anna the idol? Are the former Brawn tribemates the new power players? And who has played the best overall game so far? Hit the message boards to weigh in with your thoughts, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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