Survivor: Kaoh Rong recap: It's Psychological Warfare
The men act like giant babies, and Tribal Council devolves into chaos
“Welcome back to SportsCenter! I’m your host, Slappy McGee. Just a reminder that we will be joined a little bit later by the second-tier stars of Captain America: Civil War, even though they have nothing to do with sports whatsoever, but, you know, corporate synergy and all. So you’ll have that 12-minute movie ad disguised as a segment to look forward to. But right now, some peculiar activity happening out at a few games. Let’s start by going out to Buzz Fazzle at the Astros-Nationals game in Houston. Buzz?”
“Well, Slappy, the Astros have given new meaning to the term ‘stealing bases’ here in Houston. After Bryce Harper hit a grand slam to give the Nationals a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning, Astros manager A.J.Hinch instructed his players to take all the bases off the field and hide them in the team’s locker room, thereby halting play. When asked by ESPN why he would do such a thing, Hinch shook his rattle vigorously, adjusted his bib, and removed his binky, claiming that he was not, in fact, being a big baby and that it was all done in the name of strategy and ‘psychological warfare.’ Which, of course, makes perfect sense. Hinch then proceeded to ask for a diaper change. And I understand, Slappy, that is not the only instance we have seen of such behavior. Let’s head out to Los Angeles, where Zippy Olbermayne is on the scene. Zippy?”
“That’s right, Buzz. Steph Curry has done it again, hitting a half-court short with all five defenders in his face and 23 seconds remaining on the shot clock to give the Warriors a 166-74 advantage over the Lakers. Lakers guard and noted sage-like veteran presence Nick Young then unleashed a strategy that involved taking the basketball, hiding it under the font of his jersey, and walking off the court so nobody else could continue playing.
“Insiders claim Young was not merely being a sore loser, incapable of accepting defeat graciously, but was rather attempting to fool the Warriors into believing he was reenacting the classic high jinks of the Harlem Globetrotters with their patented ‘Pregnant Grandma’ routine (as perfected by Meadowlark Lemon), which would lull the opposition into a false sense of security and allow the Lakers to storm back from their 92-point deficit. Which, of course, Buzz, makes complete and utter sense. How else do you think the Globetrotters beat the Washington Generals 8,472 times in a row? So, in conclusion, no poor sportsmanship here! Now, let’s get you back to the studio with Slappy McGee to see what Ant-Man thinks about all of this. Slappy?”
Make no mistake about it, people. This was not Survivor strategy we saw on the part of the men to hide the machete and ax and use the tribe water to pour out the camp fire on multiple occasions. If that was the case, why didn’t they do it on day 1 like Russell Hantz did in Samoa? No, this was a pissed off Brandon Hantz and J’Tia tossing the tribe rice all over again. Only after people did not side with them and their alliance did Jason and Scot go into seek-and-destroy mode. And why? Because they didn’t get their way at Tribal Council. And who cries and screams and throws a fit when they don’t get their way? Babies. That’s exactly what Scot and Jason are being here: babies who didn’t get their way. Sore loser babies.
They can attempt to mask it as “strategy” all they want, but that’s a complete crock and they know it. Scot even said as much when talked about how angry he got over the fact that the women were NOT being angry that they had hidden the ax and machete (think about that for a minute) and that it was his anger that led him to putting out the tribe fire. He said it himself. He got pissed, so he put out the fire. Self-incrimination at its finest. (And, by the way, if this entire charade actually was strategy, it would have to be considered the worst Survivor strategy of all time. I can’t think of a more terrible way to secure million-dollar votes should you make it to the end than by openly sabotaging your own starving tribemates. Way to look ahead, fellas!)
NEXT: Tai turns to the dark side
This petulant child act is not surprising in the least coming from Scot and Jason, who showed their true colors early this season in their treatment of Alecia. But what was shocking and entirely depressing was watching Tai get into it, as well. The fan favorite who professes to love all living things expressed concern and uneasiness with Scot and Jason’s methods early on, but then eventually got into the act by dousing the tribe fire himself. Tai has proven himself to not necessarily be the savviest Survivor player ever, so I don’t know if he’s just being super-duper gullible in buying into this idiotic argument that sabotaging the tribe is strategic or if he is not the genuine good guy we thought him to be. Ether way, Tai’s descent to the dark side was truly sad to watch.
I want to be absolutely clear that I have no problem with good people outside the game doing bad things within it to get ahead. Longtime readers of these recaps know that I am a check-your-morality-at-the-door kind of guy when it comes to this game. Voting out your best buddy who has had your back since day 1 if it means throwing them under the bus will get you further in the game? Go for it! For example, I had no problem with Dawn doing that to Brenda in Caramoan. Brenda would have beaten her, so Brenda needed to go, no matter how many times she found Dawn’s fake teeth.
But acting like a spoiled brat just because something doesn’t go your way at Tribal Council? That is beyond lame and has nothing to do with the game. And don’t for even one second think that just because the men did not receive more votes at Tribal that their antics had anything to do with that. Because they didn’t. If anything, those antics should have thrown more votes their way — which would have been negated by the super idol and would have sent Cydney out (who was their target) — but that did not happen.
This was exactly the type of behavior I expected from Scot and Jason. But while they were definitely the ringleaders, we can’t excuse away Tai’s actions. Tai is either acting like a jerk, or has been tricked by jerks into acting like a jerk. Honestly, I’m not sure which is worse. On one hand, you’re just a jerk. On the other, you are dumb on top of being a jerk. It pains me to say that about Tai, but you can’t rail against Scot and Jason and then give Tai a free pass just because he has a cute pet chicken and stole a kiss from Caleb. He has to be held responsible for his actions as well.
So, yeah, the guys were basically just being huge jerk-faces this week. (What is this, Worlds Apart all over again?) Well, all the guys except for Joe, who I am relatively confident does not even know what island he is on, what game he is playing, and who the hell Julia is. (To be fair, I don’t think viewers knew who the hell Julia was for the first month of the season either.)
But don’t worry, Scot and Jason lovers — Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? — because while I have no issue calling them out for their insufferable sulky behavior, I also have no issue giving them credit where credit is due, and they did play one very important aspect of this game to absolute perfection. More on that later. Let’s start at the top of the episode.
Which brings us right back to Scot and Jason hiding the ax and machete. Scott says he wants to “make camp life miserable.” Jason calls it “psychological warfare” to “mess with their minds.” Just one problem. Nobody cares. “We don’t need these big burly men to do it for us,” says Michele of cooking and opening food without their tools. “Within 20 minutes we figured out a new method.”
The fact that the women are doing just fine — they actually seem even happier — without the tools ends up having an “I’m rubber, you’re glue” effect, as the alleged psychological warfare bounces off the ladies and sticks straight back onto Scot, who gets so pissed that he pours all the tribe water out on the fire. To which the tribe just makes another fire. Watching the men’s sabotage backfire in their faces is perhaps the most enjoyable thing we have seen all season. SCOT, YOUR PLANS ARE SO DIABOLICAL! HOW WILL THEY EVER SURVIVE YOUR PERFECTLY CRAFTED REIGN OF TERROR?!?
NEXT: Julia tries to play both sides
Let’s take a break from that nonsense to go check out the reward challenge. This particular contest will have two teams of four attached to a long rope, which they must work to unbraid. Once they do so, they may then unclip from the rope and use sand bags to knocks blocks off a ledge. Not the most imaginative challenge, but okay. The winners get Chinese food delivered to their camp. Again, not super imaginative, but okay.
But then Jeff Probst adds a wrinkle. He says they can do the traditional schoolyard pick ‘em or they can select their own teams, with the ninth person left out being able to choose either team to root for and if that team wins, they get the reward as well. Before Probst is even done explaining the rules, Joe has already opted out, the same way he opts out whenever anyone attempts to change their mind about who to vote out at Tribal Council. (FUN FACT: Nick said in our exit interview that the plan last week was for everyone to switch and vote out Jason, but they knew Joe would not go for a last-minute switch, so they stayed with Nick instead. Tai was confused about the back and forth, and that is why he mysteriously voted for Jason.)
But who would possibly volunteer to defect to the men’s team to join the sabotaging opposition, especially when that would clearly raise doubts about your loyalty to the female alliance? Julia, that’s who. I cannot stress what a terrible strategic move this is. Julia is thinking to herself, “Hey, why be in one alliance when I can be in two?” There is nothing wrong with creating sub alliances or secret alliances with the opposition that nobody knows about. But this is not the way you do it.
The key is to always convince the majority alliance that you are a predictable rock solid vote in their direction. The last thing you want to do is arouse suspicion. And that’s exactly what Julia does by volunteering herself up here. The move is so transparent! Let’s just say she is not exactly making a good case for gaining membership into Stealth R Us. Although, I’m not sure the president of Stealth R Us exactly made a compelling case for membership either, now that I think about it.
It’s quite simple, really. In a game in which people are paranoid beyond belief, don’t give them any reason to question or doubt your loyalty. And that’s what immediately happens to Julia as a result of this. In fact, had the one person who did not question her loyalty, Debbie, agreed to vote against her and had she not won immunity, Julia would have been voted out at this Tribal as a result of her misstep. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Anyway, the saboteurs (which, sadly, do not include Annie nor Ragan from Big Brother 12) plus Julia win in a landslide. They get to dine on fortune cookies back at camp while Cydney and Aubry freak out over Julia’s defection. “She’s playing both sides,” says Aubry. “But sometimes the guy in the middle of the road gets run over, and I hope it’s her.” Aubry wants her out, but Debbie is insistent they get rid of the guys first and lays down an ultimatum: “I’m not voting for Julia.”
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So back to a challenge we go, this time for immunity. And we have a #GreenHatAlert, my second favorite Survivor hat after orange. This time the players must stack blocks on a beam while avoiding trip obstacles that will knock down the blocks. Once they have stacked the blocks they must tip the first one over and hope the rest fall like dominoes, with the last one hitting a gong. Watching things fall is funny. Not as funny as people falling, mind you, but still funny enough. And there are a lot of blocks falling. Jason’s blocks. Scott’s blocks. Tai’s blocks. Aubry’s blocks. Not Joe’s blocks because Joe is moving so slow he hasn’t even put his first block down yet.
After several attempts by several players to tip their stacks over to hit the gong, Julia finally gets it and wins immunity. Clearly this means the men will be the target now. As long as the women are all super quiet about how they want to attack the vote then they should… Wait, what is Debbie doing? Why is Debbie giving away the entire plan to split the votes between Tai and Scot right in front of double-dealing Julia? And why is Debbie saying, “There is no way the three of them have an idol”?
In fairness, she’s actually correct on that front. They don’t have an idol. They have TWO!!!
NEXT: Chaos and confusion at Tribal Council
So a double-miscalculation from the woman with 1,000 jobs — not only are the men buried in idols, but Julia indeed goes right up to them and squeals on the plan to get them out. Now see if you can follow how ludicrous the next series of events is. Aubry and Cydney were desperate to get rid of Julia because they found her way too untrustworthy. But Julia won immunity. So now Aubry and Cydney decide they need to cut loose Debbie — even though she is a rock-solid alliance partner who will never turn on them — because Debbie trusts Julia. So they now go to JULIA, the person they trust the least, to get rid of Debbie. Say what?!?!
Making all of this even more hilarious is that, while this is a such a bad game move on so many levels, it ends up actually being an inadvertently positive thing for Cyndey and Aubry because of the presence of the post-vote-reading Super Idol, which they do not know about and would have sent Cydney home had they continued to target the men. So Cydney and Aubry made the right move but for all the wrong reasons. (God, I love Survivor.)
It may not be the Fourth of July but we’ve got some fireworks at Tribal Council, ladies and gentlemen. Debbie begins by once again mistakenly defending Julia for teaming up with the boys in the reward challenge, and then Probst asks Tai about the idols, no doubt hoping the gardener will slip up again and say something stupid. But instead, Scot has an announcement. “Jeff, we can just tell everyone what’s going to happen… Tai’s got an idol. Tai’s not going anywhere tonight.” And then, Jason — who is working hard to cement his reputation as the most irritating contestant this side of Dan Foley — chimes in with “Wait a minute. The idol’s got a brother! There’s two of them!” This leads to an awkward high-five, which is almost as disconcerting as the appearance of two hidden immunity idols.
It also leads to chaos. All of a sudden, Tai is busting out some fuzzy math as to the percentage chances he could receive votes, Neal and Nick are very demonstratively losing their minds over in the jury box while everyone is whispering to everyone in what appears to be an elaborate game of telephone, which must be hard to complete seeing as how Joe left his hearing aids at home.
“Without question one of the craziest Tribals I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing,” says Probst, and while that may be a bit of an overreaction, I do love all the last-minute scrambling we have seen at Tribal Councils this season, even if the overwhelming majority of said scrambling is just people saying the word “original” over and over again, thereby proving they are not really changing anything. Doesn’t matter. It’s still dramatic!
So everyone goes up to vote, and then before the votes are read, Jason and Scot perform their aforementioned game of rock, paper, scissors to see who gets to use the idols. But that’s all a ruse, a show, a bit of theater — because the plan is to give Tai the second idol, so he now has both. And then, to everyone’s shock, he uses neither. SUPER IDOL POWERS ACTIVATE!!! The only question is, will he need it after the votes are read, and if so, for whom? And if so, will he use it for that person or not?
We never find out because Debbie is voted out instead. Too bad. Debbie was not only wacky and fun to watch, but she was also actively playing the game. Maybe not very well at times, but she was out there making moves. I’m sorry to see her go but am very confident we have not seen the last of her on this show.
NEXT: Why Scot, Jason, and Tai hold all the power
Okay, now let’s get back to the fellas. I was pretty brutal in my assessment of their actions at the beginning of the episode because, well, their actions were super lame and reflected very poorly on them and how they handle adversity. To put it in easily digestible basketball parlance for Scot, this was the 1991 Detroit Pistons walking off the court with time still on the clock and refusing to congratulate the Bulls, who had finally beaten them in the playoffs. It’s just a bad look. But as I said earlier, credit must be given where credit is due, and Scot, Jason, and Tai played the double-idol advantage to absolute perfection.
In an episode filled with terrible strategic decisions from top to bottom, this one was right on the mark. They flaunted their idols and made a big show about having them to discourage votes headed their way, yet did not actually use them. And it now hovers as the ultimate deterrent against votes in the game. Because of Tai’s slip up about the presence of a “super idol,” and the fact the nobody used an idol at this Tribal Council after claiming they would, the other contestants likely have now deduced the super idol’s power as being that it can be used after the votes are read.
So here’s the question you now need to ask yourself if you are playing this game: How do I vote for any of those three guys as long as the super idol is in play? Unless you can convince Tai to flip back while in possession of at least one of the idols, then these three are pretty much bulletproof. It doesn’t even matter if you flip free agent Julia permanently back to your side because, even with a 5-3 advantage, you don’t have enough people to split the votes and get a person not protected by the super idol.
So unless you flip Tai, you’re screwed. And what do you do if you can’t flip Tai? You basically have no choice but to vote out one of your own. That’s how powerful this combined idol now is. And will continue to be. I do truly believe Scot is a smart guy. He’s figured this out. He knows they now hold all the power as long as they hold both the idols. And that has to be a depressing thought for both the other players and millions of viewers.
But hey, no need to get depressed now, because we have an exclusive deleted scene below in which Cydney blasts Scot and Jason for their sabotage act. We also have our weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst, in which the host weights in on the men’s antics. And while I am out on vacation this week, check out Debbie’s conversation with Jessica Shaw on EW Radio Thursday morning. (I’ll make sure to get that out in podcast form, as well.) And you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss for a steady stream of Survivor scoop.
But now it’s your turn. What do you make of the saboteurs? Is Julia making a big error playing the middle? Did Aubry make an even bigger error by targeting someone who would remain a rock-solid alliance partner in Debbie? And can you even target Jason, Scot, or Tai as long as they are holding both idols? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!