Several tribe members turn on Brenda during the season's best episode to date, but is it enough to send her home?
Survivor is back, people! Well, for one week anyway. We can all pretty much agree that this season hasn’t been among the franchise’s strongest. But even in weaker installments like Nicaragua, you still see flashes of the show’s greatness. And you saw it this week with the ouster of the person who was arguably playing this game the strongest: Brenda. Of course, that ended up being her undoing — people finally caught on to the fact of how well she was playing. Truthfully, I’m sorry to see her go; she was one of the few intriguing contestants that seemed to actually have a clue as to what they were doing out there. But her pain was our dramatic gain. This entire episode was firing on all cylinders. Let’s break down what made this hour of television so great.
PEOPLE TURNING ON EACH OTHER
A season always gets the most interesting when allies start thinking endgame and turn on each other. The episode began with Holly and Jane talking about how Brenda and Sash were running the show. Holly declared that she was going to make a power move before the next tribal. Awwwwww, how cute, I thought: The swim coach is finally ready to jump into the deep end. No way did I actually think she would pull it off. But she went right to work on Benry the next day, explaining how “Kelly Purple crawls right up Brenda’s a—” (which sounds slightly uncomfortable, all things considered). Benry was sold. Then Jane went and spoke to NaOnka, saying how Brenda was dangerous and, “I don’t like to associate myself with villains.” (Ummm…look who you’re talking to, woman!!!) But NaOnka wouldn’t sell out her best friend in the game, would she? Of course she would!
And NaOnka didn’t just go along with it. From that point on, she led the charge. She pulled Fabio aside from his volcano feast and shared the plan. She told Chase. She told Sash. She had no remorse whatsoever. And by the end, even Chase and Sash, who you figured would never abandon the hottie ex-cheerleader, wrote Brenda’s name down at Tribal. The entire thing was completely ruthless. And I loved it.
BOYS ACTING STUPID AROUND WOMEN
As a male, I really should be upset at the way men consistently are made to look moronic by women in this game. But I can’t be, because it’s freakin’ hilarious! How many times have we seen dudes be completely blinded by babes in bikinis? The latest drooling numskull has been Chase. “What the f—is wrong with Chase?” asked Holly. Well, I think Jane can sum up that answer for us pretty succinctly: “Chase is sucking up to Brenda like he wants to get in her pants.” B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was his name-o! This entire season has been Chase playing puppy dog to a woman who doesn’t even have the slightest interest in him. It’s been kind of sad to watch. But also funny. And it was especially side-splitting watching him take everything everyone told him about Brenda and then run straight to her to fill her in. I half expected her to give him a milkbone treat every time he returned a bit of intel to her feet. And then, after giving her all this intel, he went and voted her out anyway! I wish I could say this was a case of Chase growing up and maturing in the game. More likely, he’s now merely under the thumb of another woman — in this case, mother figure Jane.
NEXT: Let us all celebrate Jeff Probst’s barely masked disdain for sad-sack competitors!
I’m not afraid to admit that I find entertainment in the misery of others. But the misery is even more entertaining when it is completely self-inflicted. It seems the Libertad tribe was concerned about their fire going out in the rain, so what did they do? They surrounded it with three extremely flammable wooden chests. BRILLIANT! I’ve been racking my brain all night trying to figure out if there is anything —anything! — they could have done more moronic than that, but other than say, putting NaOnka in charge of the food supply, I’m stumped. Then again, these are the same people that killed a chicken instead of a rooster when they were hungry, thereby needlessly reducing their supply of eggs in the process. Again: their pain, our gain.
This has been a pretty solid season as far as challenges go, and it continued in this latest episode. The reward challenge forced both teams to figure out how to cross a course without touching the ground while using only four barrels, some planks, and a string of rope. I like contests that involve teams figuring out how to use certain objects to achieve tasks, especially when some of those objects (like, say that fourth barrel or the rope) are possibly unnecessary. Pretty cool.
But for me, nothing beats an old-fashioned endurance test. Mind over matter. In the immunity competition, players had to stand on a tilted platform while hanging on to a rope. If they let go, they’d fall into the same pool of water that Fabio peed in a few days prior. Looked easy. Far from it. Jane once again proved herself tough as nails. It was down to her and Chase when she actually announced that she was going to let go and let him win. Probst wasn’t having it: “Don’t you dare give up on this challenge,” he implored the 56-year-old. And wouldn’t you know it, the Tony Robbins act worked, as Chase eventually buckled. Jane (with a motivational assist from Probst) showed she truly is the Nicaraguan endurance queen. Exciting stuff.
PROBST GETTING SAUCY
The host was really into it this episode, even beyond his pushing Jane to victory. He also mocked the yellow team relentlessly in the reward challenge, announcing at one point, “Yellow team has made very little progress in this challenge. If this were life or death, you’d be dead.” Of course, he saved his best for last, after Benry decided to show off with a back flip after his squad got creamed: “Benry makes the best move of the challenge for the yellow team with the ceremonial loser dismount.” I loved the way he was able to simultaneously congratulate and completely dismiss Benry’s Gymkata move in a single sentence. The host is clearly as frustrated with these contestants as we are, and wasn’t afraid to show it, even while splashing in a little humor along the way. You could just feel the sarcasm dripping out of Probst’s every pore as he struck a mock pensive pose at Tribal Council and asked, “Purple Kelly, weigh in on this. Give us 20 years of wisdom.” Even better than the question was Purple Kelly’s answer, which basically amounted to “Well, er…um, you see, like, OMG, hi!” And there’s your answer right there as to why this woman has been completely invisible all season long. In any event, it was great stuff, which brings us to the next thing I liked about this episode…
NEXT: Brenda refuses to “scramble.”
A DRAMATIC TRIBAL COUNCIL
With one or two exceptions (Kelly B???), we’ve pretty much known every week who was going home by the time the contestants got to Tribal Council, leading to some pretty ho-hum affairs. Not this week. Would it be Brenda? Benry? NaOnka? I assumed Brenda was safe because the whole episode had been so relentless from the very get-go showing how everyone was ready to vote her out. I figured it was a misdirection. I also figured Sash would save her by handing her the idol. Wrong on both counts. But the combination of not knowing how the votes would play out, along with not knowing whether Sash would give Brenda the idol (he didn’t), combined with Brenda’s nonsensical explanation for why she refused to “scramble” for votes, combined with seeing Marty for the first time with normal looking hair — it all made for one riveting tribal. As I said, I liked Brenda a lot (even if she did need to dial down the rhetoric a bit), and am sorry to see her go, but her departure was certainly dramatic, and just what this season needed.
But you know what this season did not need: a major spoiler! Here I am watching the “Next time on Survivor” preview clip, and it shows one of the players sitting there talking. One problem: He/she is clearly wearing the immunity necklace! I won’t mention the name to spoil it for you in case you missed it, but you can go back and watch and see for yourself. The most amazing thing about this is that it’s actually happened before. In previews for the Survivor: Guatemala finale, there was a shot that also clearly showed Rafe wearing an immunity necklace, ruining the fact he had won the first challenge in that episode. Whoops!
But I’ll let it slide this time seeing as how this season finally started showing a pulse. For that I am grateful. And we have plenty else for you to be grateful for, like Jeff Probst’s weekly column (click here to read it), and an exit interview with Brenda herself that will be on Friday’s edition of EW’s TV Insiders podcast. And don’t forget to click on the video player below to enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well my pre-game interview with Brenda, and Probst’s pick for favorite Survivor location ever. Then let us know what you think. Was this the best episode of the season? Should Sash have shared his immunity idol? And where does putting the wooden trunks right next to the fire rank on the list of dumbest moments in Survivor history? Hit the comments section and let us know! Finally, for more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. Next week is a clip show due to Thanksgiving, so see you in 14 days. Gobble, gobble!