Survivor recap: To Quit or Not To Quit?
I should be celebrating. Cracking open cans of Milwaukee’s Best. Reciting Wizard of Oz lyrics like “Ding dong the witch is dead. Which old witch? The wicked witch!” Or better yet, making like Mick Jagger and David Bowie and recreating their entire Live Aid-inspired 1985 video for “Dancing in the Streets.” I should be high-fiving random dudes and dudettes, and when they reply that nobody has actually high-fived in 20 years (how lame is the fist bump, by the way?), I should just look at them and scream, “They do now, mother#&%$@*! Here, have a Milwaukee’s Best!” I should be gong cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs because NaOnka, the Nicaraguan nightmare, is finally gone.
But I can’t. Because I’m feeling something else: frustration. Frustrated that this cast of Survivor: Nicaragua continues to assert itself as the lamest of the lame. Seemingly half of them have tried to quit this season already at one point or another, and now, with just 11 days left, two of them (NaOnka and Silent Kelly) actually did it at the same time. Frustrated that the quitting ordeal was dragged out for the entire episode. Frustrated that pretty much the only part of the episode that didn’t involve quitting was a freakin’ advertisement for Gulliver’s Travels. (What is this, Big Brother?) Frustrated that Probst allowed the two quitters to have their torches snuffed and didn’t toss said torches onto the ground a la Osten in Pearl Islands. Frustrated that two quitters actually get to appear on the jury. (I totally would have barred them from voting at the end. You don’t want to play the game any more? Fine, you’re not playing the game, which means you don’t get to vote — since voting is probably the biggest decision in the game. If the producers wanted to truly send a message, that’s what they should have done.)
So while what happened last night was certainly dramatic in parts, and while we no longer have to endure NaOnka, at the same time, all this episode did was reinforce what has been so lacking this entire season. So it’s all bittersweet. But let’s go through it blow by blow, starting at the top of this episode, which shall hereby be dubbed “QUITTERPALOOZA.” The stage is set right from the get go as the “Previously on Survivor…” clip shows us how much living outside absolutely sucks and all the people that have contemplated going home along the way. (Foreshadowing!)
As Libertad makes their way back from Tribal Council, Silent Kelly gives us perhaps her most insightful sentence to date: “Like, I don’t understand it at all.” (What can I say? Slim pickings with that girl.) NaOnka then calls Brenda a bitch because she’s NaOnka and that’s the way she is and if you don’t like it then tough luck because she was NaOnka before she got there and she’ll be NaOnka after she leaves and your opinion is your opinion but she is NaOnka and that’s that.
Eddie Rabbitt may love a rainy night but the contestants of Survivor: Nicaragua hate a rainy morning, so as they watch water pour into the ocean, NaOnka starts crying under the tarp and complaining about her joints freezing. In what is shaping up to become the ultimate one-upsmanship game of anything-you-can’t-do-I-can’t do better, Silent Kelly then informs us that, “There is only so much I can do.” (See!) And, sensing she may finally be getting a few seconds of screen time, she keeps the complaining in high gear: “I just don’t know physically if I can put up with this.”
NEXT: Who got more screen time this season: Jack Black or Silent Kelly?
Fabio’s advice to Silent Kelly is to find a “mental happy place.” Of course, Fabio’s mental happy place most likely involves a life-sized Tickle-Me Elmo piloting a flying submarine through a cloud of Three Musketeers nougat while the Meow Mix jingle plays on a continuous loop. Either that or something involving Willie Nelson and a big cloud of smoke.
NaOnka is then kind enough to inform us that her “ass hurts.” Is it just me or is the woman completely booty-obsessed? We’ve seen her passing gas, hiding immunity idols back there, and, well, acting like an ass as well, when you get right down to it. The spitfire then claims that “My heart is not in the game like it should be,” which is mildly frightening when you consider how she would have been acting had she actually wanted to beat people. In what has seemingly become a Nicaraguan tradition (Jill to Marty, Marty to Sash, etc…) NaOnka then goes and gives Chase her immunity idol. Why him and not Holly — whom she claimed as mother figure the day before — is beyond me, other than maybe she feels sorry for Chase for being ignored by Brenda for so long.
Hey, who likes Jack Black movies? Well, have we got a reward challenge for you! The reward, in this case, is the opportunity to appear in a covert advertisement for the new Jack Black–Jason Segel comedy Gulliver’s Travels. To win, your team (who is all tethered together) has to carry an 8-foot stuffed dummy named — you guessed it! — Gulliver through a series of obstacles. Fabio, Sash, Jane, and Silent Kelly are on the Yellow team. Holly, NaOnka, Chase, and Benry are on the Blue team. And Dan is on the I-Am-Unable-to-Physically-Move-More-Than-18-Inches-And-If-You-Think-I-Can-Carry-That-Giant-Dummy-Around-Then-You-Are-Even-Dumber-Than-Fabio team. He gets to sit and watch and practice his gambling skills by picking a winner, and if he’s right, he gets to join them at the Survivor cinema. The downside for Dan? He is forced to sit in an oversized chair that makes him look even more unimposing than he has appeared all season. (That was actually the funniest visual in the entire episode. My hat is off to the art department on that one.)
The challenge itself is an action-packed seasaw affair. In the end, the Blue team wins. But just as Probst is about to wax poetic about the comedic stylings of Jack Black, NaOnka has an announcement to make “This will be my last day.” And with that the angels can be heard singing throughout the land: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelu-jah! Hallelu-jah! Hal-le-lu-jah! But in a truly bold move, Probst decides to double down: “So you’re quitting. Anybody else here want to quit?”
And then Silent Kelly informs him that she too wants to bail. Well, now the producers have a serious problem. These two women quit right here and right now, and they don’t have enough people to vote someone off every episode. Unless, of course, they do one of two things. 1) They convince both of them to hold out for a few hours more to do it all official and dramatic-like at Tribal Council. Or 2) They scrap the final three at the finale and go down to a final two. Lord knows, I’ve gone on record a million times already on how much I hate a final three, because an A vs. B head-to-head matchup is much more dramatic than a pick-one-of-the-above. The producers like a final three because they’re petrified that a great competitor (like Ozzy in Cook Islands) would otherwise not even make it to the finals, but final threes are just inherently lame. Unfortunately, the powers that be go for option #1, with Probst going all stall tactic and announcing that “I’m going to give you guys the afternoon to think about it. And we’re going to meet at Tribal Council tonight.”
NEXT: Holly chooses a cup of boiled rice over unlimited candy.
But before that, he offers the winners of the challenge a choice: “If one person from the winning tribe does not go to reward, they can bring back for everyone a tarp, and enough rice for 11 days.” Controversy erupts when Holly offers to give up her reward for the shelter and food. All the Survivors, especially Benry, think NaOnka should give up her spot instead, because she’s quitting anyway. NOT ME! I’m actually totally with NaOnka on this one. If she had been allowed to quit right then and there like she wanted, she would have been feasting at Ponderosa all afternoon. She agreed to stay in the game so that they could have a phoney baloney Tribal Council, so why should she give up her food as well? But you know who should have volunteered to sit out the reward? Dan! What the hell did he do? The guy didn’t even perform in the challenge. How he escaped scrutiny on this one is beyond me.
Back at camp, Holly tries to persuade Silent Kelly that she’s not as weak as she seems. She tells her to “suck it up” and talks about how she wouldn’t let her daughters quit cross-country and “they ended up state champions that year.” And, no doubt, hated every second of it, resented their mother like crazy, and sought out years of therapy as a result, but Holly wisely leaves out that whole part. Speaking of hating every second of something, I don’t know where to begin with the whole Gulliver’s Travels thing. For years, we’ve had a ball mocking Big Brother for their yearly installments that turn into blatant ads for upcoming movies, but that’s all in good fun because Big Brother is so cheesy and low-rent that it sort of adds to the perverse charm of the entire thing. But Survivor is actually, like, you know, good. To have to subject us to shots of Benry and NaOnka telling us how hilarious Jack Black is…well, it was kind of awkward. And I’ll leave it at that.
Let’s all go to Tribal Council and not see anyone get voted out! The jury arrives and is immediately flabbergasted at how not one, but two women want to quit. There are quite a few things that perplex me as well. Like why are all the other players trying to convince NaOnka and Silent Kelly to stay? Don’t they realize their odds of winning improve dramatically with their exit? Kelly isn’t even in Holly’s alliance! What gives? And why is NaOnka calling herself the only African-American left when fellow minority alliance mate Sash is sitting a few feet away? And why is Jane still wearing the immunity necklace since they are not there to vote anyone out and there was not even a pre-Council immunity competition?
In between asking the contestants probing questions such as “Did you like Gulliver’s Travels?” Probst goes point-blank at NaOnka: “Realistically, you think you had any shot to win this game? NaOnka’s perfectly NaOnka-like response: “I don’t think I did. I know I did.” Of course, you did. Then things get a bit odd. NaOnka and Silent Kelly both make their quitting official and Probst asks what they should do with their torches. NaOnka wants hers “smuffed” which is kinda like “snuffed” but for crazy people. Silent Kelly likes the snuffing option as well.
NEXT: A win-win opportunity gets ignored.
I’m not exactly sure why Probst is giving them a choice at all. Why not just turn their torches into makeshift javelins and toss them as far as you can into the jungle? Or force the women to use them as weapons and battle each other gladiator style, with the winner being allowed to quit and the other…uh, I guess being sent to Survivor medical or something? In any event, I wish he hadn’t given them the honor of the snuffing. And I hold firm in my belief that they should definitely not be allowed on the jury. Not only would that have been more fair, but it would have been much more dramatic as well. Win-win!
While I wish Probst had handled this situation a bit differently, watching him get absolutely drenched during this Tribal once again reminded how he endures things that no other host on no other show goes through. Seacrest and Bergeron operate from air-conditioned comfort in Hollywood. Harrison hangs out in a mansion and the toughest thing he has to master is walking backwards after announcing that there is only one rose left. Keoghan travels the world just to stand on a mat (sometimes with an umbrella!) to tell people what place they are in. If for no other reason than that (and there are plenty of other reasons), Probst deserves all his Emmys for handling all the hazards of his job with such expertise and ease. (Doesn’t mean I won’t continue to rib him about Gulliver’s Travels, though.)
Also of note before we go is the reaction of the jury. While fellow jury members Marty and Brenda were cursing and shaking their heads in disbelief at the events unfolding, Alina started sobbing — and I have no idea why. Was she sad for the people who quit, or for herself for now having to share the jury house with NaOnka? Unclear. But what was clear was the masterful editing job done on Silent Kelly and NaOnka’s final words, with an immediate cut from Kelly’s “I feel bad,” to NaOnka’s “I feel like I owe nobody an apology, not even myself.” You could not paint a sharper contrast if you tried. Well played.
How is Jeff Probst feeling about how things went down? Glad you asked! Go check out his weekly column as the host weighs in on all the quitting (it’ll post early Thursday morning on our PopWatch blog). And then treat yourself to an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well as my pre-game interviews with NaOnka and Kelly in the video player below. (It’s actually hilarious to see how happy and bubbly they are just days before the game began, as they clearly have no idea what is in store. Ignorance is bliss!) And then let us know what you think. Did you miss the immunity competition and seeing someone voted out? Glad NaOnka’s gone? And, most important of all, do you think NaOnka and Kelly should be allowed on the jury? Hit the message boards and let us know. I’m very curious to see what you think on that matter. And for more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. See ya next week!
Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"