The combustible contestant considers throwing in the towel after a tribe switch and a nasty storm

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 28, 2015 at 01:13 AM EST
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Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S21 E5
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“NaOnka seems like a high school girl. She’s irrational and crazy and she just seems like she’s on her period all the time.” —Alina

Now that Jimmy T is gone (unless he decides to pop back and write another recap for me — KIDDING!), welcome to the NaOnka show, everybody. All NaOnka, all the time! Up until this last episode, NaOnka was a firecracker, full of vim and vigor, piss and vinegar, attitude and no gratitude. She’d steal your socks, knock you to the ground, and berate you as you searched for hidden immunity idols. Love her or loathe her (and I think we all pretty much fell into that latter category), you had to admire her spirit. Her spunk! Her moxie! And lots of other words from the 1930s.

Where did it all go? The Survivor producers and editors are trying to convince us that the woman was simply beaten down by a few raindrops —that a night with no tarp suddenly turned Hurricane NaOnka into a depressed mess who seriously contemplated quitting the game. But I don’t buy it. Not for a second. I think we’re being sold a pound of phoney baloney, people. To me, NaOnka’s emotional downfall had nothing to do with the weather, but rather something far more debilitating — the fact that she no longer had a physically handicapped person to pick on anymore.

Bullies need targets, and NaOnka had the perfect one in Kelly B. A woman with an artificial leg? Easy pickins! Over the first 11 days, NaONka developed what could only be described as an unhealthy obsession with the prosthetic limb, calling it out at every opportunity and dragging it into conversations even when it made no sense whatsoever. “Yeah, winning the fishing gear was incredible and really helped us in terms of eating and protein. But you know what has no protein? Kelly B’s leg. I hate that damn leg!”

It was as if once she was separated from the object of her ire after the tribe switch, and saw that everyone on the new Espada was in possession of all their regular body parts, she didn’t know whom to pick on, and decided to simply pick on herself instead. And it was wonderful. There is nothing more gratifying then watching a cocky bully be completely humbled by the elements of the most powerful player in the game — Mother Nature. But, as usual, I’m jumping ahead. Let’s take it from the top of the episode.

There is nothing Survivor producers love more than to make contestants look bad by showing them talking about how smooth everything is going and how they have absolutely everything figured out and under control. Because as soon as they do that, the producers screw with them. So Marty talking about how the next two to go would be “Jane and Holly. It’s locked. It would take something extraordinary, off the charts, completely wacked out to disturb my plan,” was the equivalent of a Survivor money shot. And sure enough when the tribes showed up at the next challenge, with Marty’s insane hair making his head look like a poorly grown-out Chia Pet, it was only a matter of time before we heard those three magic words: “Drop your Buffs.”

NEXT: We’re going to have to make Mr. Probst repeat himself a couple of times.

And then came the moment we have been praying for since…well, since the season began, pretty much. A tribe switcheroo. Brenda and Holly chose the colored rocks and became new captains, writing down the names of people they wanted to join their tribes. Brenda chose Jane, Jill, and Marty, while Holly picked Alina, Benry, Chase, and NaOnka. Jeff Probst then made one of the most glorious announcements in the history of Survivor: “Old versus young is done. Medallion of Power — done.” Say it again, Probst! “Medallion of Power — done.” One more time! “Medallion of Power — done.”

Okay, I know by this point we’re all midway through belting out the second verse of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration,” but let’s pause for the cause and reflect on the special place the Medallion of Power will occupy in the Awful Reality Ideas Hall of Shame. Somewhere past the Chains of Love Locksmith, Big Brother‘s Otev The Showtunes Loving Clam, Pirate Master‘s Chest of Zanzibar, the American Idol “Judges’ Save”, and the Amazing Race: Family Edition, an entire wing will be devoted to what is sure to become a one-and-done blight on Survivor‘s gold standard reputation.

In the show’s defense, the powers-that-be realized quickly it was a misstep, and — like the old vs. young twist — ditched it. The players on Survivor aren’t the only ones who have to constantly adjust on the fly. The producers do as well, and as much fun as I’ve had at their expense over the MOP, kudos to them for not being stubborn and sticking with what was obviously a loser. (And while outside of Sally Schumann’s knee socks I have never really craved a Survivor prop before, I would kind of kill to somehow get my hands on the Medallion of Power. I can’t help but feel that when Survivor does finally go off the air — hopefully many, many years from now — that the MOP will become one of the show’s great curiosities, a supposedly fresh yet oddly infuriating sideshow, sort of like Cousin Oliver or Scrappy-Doo. If nothing else, it would make for one awesome conversation piece. Maybe I could have even used it last week to reduce the number of angry comments people left on the message boards by 20 percent.)

Okay, back to the episode. The new La Flor and Espada competed against each other in a reward challenge that consisted of catching balls that had been rolled by the other team down a maze. The new Espada won and received three chickens for their efforts. Back at camp, Tyrone celebrated by bossing everyone around and telling all his new tribemates exactly how they did things at Espada. (Losing a lot?)

Things were equally lively over at La Flor. After being questioned by Marty as to why nobody stopped NaOnka from knocking over a physically handicapped person to steal the hidden immunity idol, Fabio offered up the gem of the evening: “I don’t know, man. We’re the young tribe and I guess we don’t really know what we’re doing.” (Winning a lot?) Fabio rules. Marty then continued the trend of people not being able to stop themselves from bragging about having a hidden immunity idol, although if my hair was looking as bad as Marty’s, I might try and distract people with a silly looking necklace as well.

NEXT: When nasty rain storms happen to nasty people.

RAIN STORM!!! It was wet, it was cold. And while that meant bad news for the contestants, it was good news for us because it looked like it might force NaOnka from the game! “When I’m cold and not doing too well, I lose it,” she informed us, which is frightening when you consider how she’s been doing while perfectly warm and toasty. But what was NaOnka losing exactly? Her will? Her fortitude? Her courage? Her toughness? All of the above! Right as NaOnka was telling Alina and Chase how she was thinking of leaving the game, that murmur you heard was the sound of millions of people simultaneously yelling “QUIT! PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, QUIT!!!” at their TV screens. Unfortunately, that incredible high of thinking that one of the most hateful contestants in Survivor history might actually pack it in was quickly followed by the ultimate downer of hearing Chase talk about his dead father. Way to kill the mood, dude! Damn. Okay, fine let’s just get to the immunity challenge.

Let me just say, I LOVED the design of this challenge. Absolutely loved it. My love for this challenge is matched only by my confusion over why, at the beginning, Espada was returning the immunity idol to Probst, even though La Flor won the last immunity challenge. (Yes, I realize Espada brought it home from the reward challenge, but why? And why was it even brought to the reward challenge to begin with? And why do I even notice or care about such things?) This contest involved three tribe members being strapped to a wheel and spun and dunked in water, where they had to collect water in their mouths and then spit it into a tube that, when filled, would push out a ball that would then have to be used to break some tiles. I could have done without the breaking tiles bit, but the actual spinning and spitting was genius. When the press goes on location, we get to test out a challenge. This season we did the dash through the mud (which was awesome), but when I was told about this one, I was really, really jealous. And seeing it play out, I’m still jealous. I don’t know why I have a desire to be potentially drowned while sucking in disgusting mud water, but it couldn’t possibly be any worse than the time I was waterboarded by Mark Burnett. (True story.)

Anyway, props to challenge producer John Kirhoffer and his team for dreaming up this one. But while the names may change, the results stayed the same, as La Flor won immunity once again (even though they were too dumb to realize that you should slow the wheel by the spitting station so that the water actually went into the tube). NaOnka responded to the defeat by announcing that “I’m not a quitter, and I don’t want my students to think I’m a quitter. But I think I’m done.” (Umm, sounds a lot like quitting to me.)

NEXT: Which one do you vote out? Dude who can’t walk? Lady who wants to leave? Wait! How about neither?

Let me just say this: The second someone on your tribe starts talking about quitting, you get rid of them immediately. They can’t be counted on from there on out. What if you vote out someone else on your tribe instead — someone who is a hard worker, and a physical presence in challenges, someone like, say, Tyrone — and two days later the wannabe quitter decides to up and quit again anyway? Well, then, my friends, you are seriously screwed.

But unfortunately for Espada (and us) they were more annoyed by the amount of chicken that Tyrone ate and voted him out instead. It was an entertaining Tribal Council, at least, with NaOnka comparing her time on Survivor to her divorce and complaining about her previous day’s trials that, “There were not 24 hours in that day, there were 26, but it felt like 48.” (Anyone know what the hell that means?) The true highlight, however, was Ben Henry’s speech while voting off Tyrone. “It’s time to dethrone the king of Espada,” he bragged. “Benry’s here, baby!” One problem, Mr. Silky Smooth Pimp Daddy was also in the process of clumsily knocking over the paperweight while he preened. Whoops!

I think Espada will end up seriously regretting this decision. Not that Tyrone was the be all and end of Survivor contestants, but when you have one player that can barely walk (Dan) and another who wants to leave (NaOnka), you don’t vote out the dude who actually can and wants to compete and get stuff done. So he’s a little bossy. Deal with it!

Anyhow, I hope you’re not done dealing with Survivor, because we have lots of goodies still in store for you. Jeff Probst shares his thoughts on the big tribe swap and more in his EW.com blog. Craving an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode? Well, satisfy that craving by clicking on the video player below to see it, along with my pre-game interview with Tyrone. And finally, make sure to check out our new TV Insiders podcast (you can click here to download the mp3 or listen to it right beneath the video player), where yours truly and others discuss who among the Survivor: Nicaragua contestants we actually do like. And finally, let us know what you think? What excites you the most about the latest episode: the tribe switch, the end of the Medallion of Power, or seeing NaOnka reduced to a quivering shell of her former self? Hit the message boards and let us know! And for continuing Survivor scoop, you can follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss.

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