Survivor recap: Man in the Middle
Sash relishes the role of swing vote, while another player panics himself right out of the game.
This latest episode of Survivor was like one big game of chicken. And I’m not referring to the actual chicken that was devoured this evening for dinner (we’ll get to her in a minute), but rather the game of chicken. You know the deal, right? First person who loses their courage loses the game. My favorite game of chicken took place in the 1984 hit Footloose. Dancing fool Kevin Bacon was challenged to a game of chicken on tractors — possibly the stupidest version of chicken I have ever seen in my life. The things were moving slower than Dan in a challenge, yet the bad guy blinked and jumped off like a fraidy cat. He lost.
Tonight’s episode was just like that — minus the awesome Kenny Loggins soundtrack. On one side you had an alliance of Fabio, Benry, and Dan. On the other you had Holly, Jane, and Chase. In the middle you had the suddenly powerful swing vote of Sash. Both sides made plays for his allegiance, but neither was entirely sure they had it. Who would blink? The answer was Benry, who immediately sold out Fabio in an effort to stay in the game. By so willingly agreeing to slit his best buddy’s throat, Benry made Sash’s choice easy for which side to align with, and once he did so, they all voted off Benry instead. You blink, you lose. Chicken.
Speaking of chicken, let’s take it from the top of the episode, as the contestants — upset about being forced to go sit in the rain at Tribal all night just so Silent Kelly and NaOnka could quit and get all the food they wanted — decide to dub their chicken KellyNae. Personally, I think PurpleOnka has a better ring to it, but whatever.
The next day, Sash gathers the boys and tells them that he’s playing his hidden immunity idol so that he won’t have a target on his back. And they should believe that about as much as Sash should believe Chase telling him that he’s next in line to go on a reward challenge victory trip along with Holly. This, of course, provides a perfect segue to…the reward challenge! The contest is actually a collection of previous challenges, forcing contestants to trek through mud, retrieve keys, and throw lots of various objects at other various objects. It’s one of those challenges that involves specific rounds where certain people get knocked out at different times. I always disliked that. Whenever I watch one of these I feel like one of the dudes in the Astrodome during the Bad News Bears in Breaking Training: “LET THEM PLAY! LET THEM PLAY! LET THEM PLAY!” Seriously, the start and stop motion of these events never allows you to get in a groove and also doesn’t give anyone far behind in one portion the chance to post a dramatic comeback. True, you could run this challenge for weeks on end and Dan isn’t going to catch anything (certainly not his breath), but with Sash and Fabio, you never know. Oh well, no biggie. It’s not like they would ever subject us to two such stop-and-go challenges in a single episode or anything.
NEXT: Probst turns the challenge into a hug-free zone
It eventually comes down to Chase vs. Benry in the finals, and in such cases I always make it a point to root for the guy without the stupid nickname. Lucky for me, Chase wins! Jeff Probst seems considerably less excited, however, refusing to hug the muddy mess. My question to Chase is: Why even ask? Just go over there and hug the man! Give him a good ol’ fashioned fanny slap too if ya like. Them’s the spoils of victory, my friend! Speaking of spoils, Chase gets to bring two people with him on reward. It always KILLS me when someone wins reward and brings their two best friends along, leaving a vulnerable person back at camp to be wooed by the opposing alliance. And yet that is exactly what Chase does, ignoring his promise to Sash and leaving the swing vote to strategize with the others while he gallivants off with partners Holly and Jane. We all have fun mocking Fabio’s intelligence, but I seriously think Chase may be dumber. “I’ve been a little flighty in the game,” he admits. A little? Gee, ya think? Dude just cannot figure it out.
But while Chase, Holly and Jane are stripping down and enjoying the pleasure of a hot shower — and that sounds waaaaay more sexual than I intended — the boys are having their own swanky meal after killing the chicken. However, Sash is more hungry to get himself to the finals. He comes on strong to the others, telling them he wants to hear their game plan to see if it’s worth siding with them. Essentially, Sash is making them pitch him for his vote. He’s like a football free agent listening to different offers before he picks his new team, and hopefully for him he won’t pick the Redskins, ’cause man, does my team suck. (It’s quite depressing, actually.)
You know what sucks for Jane? Coming back and seeing the boys devoured her pet chicken. Well, Jane, maybe if your buddy Chase hadn’t been such a dumbass and taken you to reward with him instead of Sash you could have stopped the others from feasting on your bird, but he didn’t and you couldn’t so there you have it. Speaking of chicken, this is when we first see Benry frantically pressing the panic button as he tells Chase he’d be happy to vote Fabio out. Meanwhile, Sash asks Chase to swear on his dead dad. Stay classy, Sash!
Off to the immunity challenge we go. Well, at least this one won’t be another broken-up, winners advance affair where…D’OH!!! The contest involves people undoing knots so they can get a rope long enough to reach far enough to advance to round two where they must construct a puzzle out of a fake stack of fake gold coins. Fabio, Benry, and Sash advance and Jane is so happy about it she decides to root for all three of them. Benry gives up almost immediately as his search for the answer proves as futile as his search for a more embarrassing nickname. Sash is way ahead but then Fabio pulls a move which I am sure he is quite familiar with — studying what Sash is doing like a student in class copying off of the smart kid in the corner.
NEXT: Welcome back our big quitters!
It helps, but not enough as Sash wins. This leads to lots of Russell Hantz-esque “I’m so awesome” speak from Sash as he tells us what a triple threat he is and that “I can’t wait for the final Tribal to win my million.” Around this time, Dan joins Benry in fleeing from his alliance and leaving Fabio out in the cold. This tractor is big enough for the both of us! Your ass is ours, Kevin Bacon! Your ass is ours! (Again, that sounded more sexual than I intended, and now I have a very disturbing image in my mind playing to the sweet sounds of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For a Hero.”)
Even with the blindside, Tribal Council is a pretty ho-hum affair. The best moment occurs when Probst introduces the jury — “Alina, Marty, Brenda, and our two quitters, NaOnka and Purple Kelly” — but even that is slightly enraging in that the two are even on the jury to begin with, “precedent” be damned. (Anyone notice how NaOnka also smiled for the first time all season?) After saying how confident he is that things “will swing my way tonight,” Benry is shown the proverbial door. I am sure he will be deeply and dearly missed…by someone…somewhere…at some point in time.
And here we are — just two episodes left. And Dan is still in the game!!! Amazing. Annoying at the same time, sure, but amazing! (Hey, at least something’s been amazing this season, right?) Take note that after next Wednesday’s episode, the finale/reunion show will be on Sunday, Dec. 19. But forget about all that. Let’s talk about the here and now. Like the exclusive deleted scene and pre-game interview wth Benry that you can see in the video player below. Or the TV Insiders podcast (complete with crazy NaOnka interview) below that. Or Jeff Probst’s saucy blog in which he breaks down all the action. Take it all in and then let us now what you think. Glad to see Benry go? Did Sash pick the right alliance to…uh, align with? And whom are you rooting for to win? Hit the message boards and tell us. And for more Survivor news and views you can follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. See ya next week. Like NaOnka and Purple Kelly, I’m outta here!
GOT A CASE OF COMMUTING BLUES? LET OUR ‘TV INSIDERS’ PODCAST SPICE UP YOUR JOURNEY! Yes, folks, this week Dalton Ross, Annie Barrett, and Michael Slezak dish another crazy week on Survivor: Nicaragua, welcome EW zombie correspondent Clark Collis to talk about AMC’s The Walking Dead finale, and get the scoop on 16 Christmas-themed movies from Dan Snierson, who watched ’em all! Plus, Dalton has a truly insane interview with Survivor castoff NaOnka Mixon. To join in all the fun, just click on the audio player below. And in the best news of all, we’re now on iTunes! You can subscribe for free right here and take the TV Insiders with you on the go. And to send a question to the TV Insiders, follow us on Twitter @TVInsiders. Enjoy!