Another loss by Russell’s team means another person needs to go home. Could this tribe be any worse?

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 27, 2015 at 11:37 PM EST
Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Unlike the past few weeks, I’m not going to start this week’s recap off by mocking the lameness of manufactured let’s-get-this-show-trending! Survivor hashtags…even if they are #COMPLETELYIDIOTIC. Nor am I going to make an impassioned plea for the misunderstood power of cookies. Nope. Instead, I want to get all earnest-like and talk about something that made me very, very happy. It was a small thing. You may not have even noticed it. (Okay, so from that description I am clearly not talking about Angie’s boobs.) No, this was nothing anyone on the show said or did. Instead, it was a single camera shot. Not the shot of a raft — that may or may not have been planted by producers — drifting off in the middle of the ocean. Rather, the shot of which I speak was at this week’s immunity challenge. It wasn’t particularly fancy, and yet I watched it over and over again. (I’d like to once again assure readers I am not talking about anything boob-related.)

The shot was of Jeff Kent diving off a dock into the water to undo one of the deeply submerged puzzle wheels. The shot — taken by a cameraman filming up from the water — began just above the surface line as Jeff dove. Then, as Jeff entered the water, so did the camera, going completely underwater to capture his dive. “YES!” I said out loud. “This is exactly what Survivor has been missing for the past eight seasons!” Then I watched it again. And then I watched it again. And then my wife came downstairs and said, “Why are you talking to yourself?” And then I said, “Don’t you worry about who I’m talking to.” And then she said, “Stop being weird. You’re scaring the children.” And then she left. And then I watched it again.

Four viewings of a man in swim trunks simply diving into water may sound excessive…not to mention borderline creepy, but it is shots like this that made me fall in love with Survivor 12 years ago. It just screams…I don’t know…adventure. And that single shot brought the adventure straight into our living rooms. So cool. Go back and watch it if you still have the show on your DVR, and you’ll see what I mean. This is why I was so psyched for Survivor to return to a location that allows for legitimate water challenges. It just has a different feel to it. Yes, I love all the strategy and blindsides, but this is another important element the show has lacked while in locations (Gabon, Tocantins, Samoa four times, and Nicaragua twice) that did not allow for underwater challenges. So happy they are back, and big props to the crew for getting that incredible visual.

Incredible is a word you are not likely to hear used often while describing the Matsing tribe, who begin the episode returning from Tribal Council after ousting Roxy. Angie is upset that Roxy “threw me under the bus,” which is a phrase we have never, ever heard on reality TV before. Angie feels confident that the rest of her tribe knows she and Malcolm are not a couple, but Russell doesn’t like the Snuggle Bunny alliance and worries he may end up the odd man out.

NEXT: The Executive Assistant alliance crumbles

However, before he can worry about that any longer, it’s time for the opening credits sequence. And I don’t just mean a Survivor logo and two notes of music — I mean a full opening sequence, with all 18 contestants. This is a rarity these days. Some people get excited when they show the full opening. I just get worried that they didn’t have enough other interesting stuff to show and needed to fill time. Let’s find out if that’s the case, shall we?

From the second their giggly girl alliance started over on the Tandang tribe, I could tell things would end badly for RC and Abi-Maria, and therefore I would like to personally thank them for rashly entering into a day one pact before they knew that they hated each other’s guts. The results have been delicious. Things start off tense from the get-go this week as for some reason which I cannot for the life of me understand, the two get into an argument over God knows what. All I know is, RC eventually evacuates the premises while Abi utters things like “Get out of here,” and “Don’t waste my time.” I don’t want it to end. Ever.

Abi then decides, screw RC and her stupid hidden immunity idol clue. She’ll go tell Pete and they’ll find it themselves! Besides, he’s totes super cute! For his part, Pete describes himself as some sort of superspy ninja who is performing surveillance all around camp. But now this ninja is ready to strike! Trying to get the numbers advantage over the other half of their four-person alliance, the Taylor Lautner lookalike enlists Lisa to join him and his friend with the busted ankle and sunny disposition to take out Mike and RC. Having no other options, Lisa agrees to Team Jacob’s demands.

THIS JUST IN! Jonathan Penner’s ass hurts. I know it hurts because he can’t stop talking about how his ass hurts. Seriously. The guy has gone totally ass-happy, chatting about his bum-feeling bum incessantly. No doubt trying to focus her eyes anywhere but on Penner’s backside, Dana notices that the top of Kalabaw’s rice container is gone. “How stupid are we?” asks Jeff, realizing that it was the hidden immunity idol and is now in Penner’s possession. And then something truly extraordinary happens: Carter speaks. Now, it is not an actual interview with the cameraman, and you can only make out so much of what he says — something about blindsiding the retuning player — but make no mistake, it is the power of speech he is exhibiting. What’s next? Artis talking?!?

There will never be a tribe as awful as Ulong in Palau. They lost every single immunity challenge to the Tom Westman-led Koror tribe. Just think about that. I mean, that is ineptitude on a scale that is practically inconceivable. Nobody will ever be able to usurp that title as Worst Tribe Ever, but damn if Matsing isn’t making a legitimate go of it. To even have a chance of dethroning Ulong, at this point you have to go beyond merely losing challenges. You have to think outside the box. You have to do things like…oh, I don’t know, say…LOSING YOUR RAFT! That’s a pretty epic blunder if you’re planning to go out do any fishing. If only they had an opportunity to go win a canoe and some paddles…

NEXT: Skupin tries to kill himself — again

Well, lookee here! It’s Jeff Probst at the immunity challenge. He’s telling everyone that not only are they playing for immunity but that the first place team will also get a “massive” fishing kit complete with said boat. (Second place gets a smaller kit. Third place just gets a date with Probst at T.C.). The challenge is vintage old school Survivor as the players must dive into the water to release eight puzzle wheels that must then be returned to the dock and used to spell the word treasure. Kalabaw decides to sit out Katie and Dawson, Tandang decides to sit out Abi and Lisa, while Matsing decides to sit out Angie’s can-do spirit and Russell’s ability to climb out of the water.

Right off the bat, Matsing is put in a giant hole when Angie cannot get two feet below the surface to release her tribe’s first wheel, although I suppose it should come as no surprise she could not get down seeing as how her giant floatation devices kept bobbing her back to the surface. (I’m sure there’s also some joke to be made here about Angie’s shocking lack of ability in the breaststroke, but some things are just too easy.) Of course, Russell is not much better, having trouble getting out of the water on his first turn out, and then not being able to even retrieve his second piece. Meanwhile, this week’s Survivor Rock Star award goes to RC, who does three legs in row with no break. Very impressive. I have to say, I am totally digging RC in this game. If only she had picked a better alliance partner on day 1.

“SKUPIN BLEEDING FROM THE FACE!” I don’t know why that call from Jeff Probst cracks me up so much. All he is doing is accurately describing what he sees in front of him, which is that Skupin is, in fact, bleeding from the face after he dove off the dock with his mask on, causing it to shatter all over him. It just seems so dramatic. He could have said, “Skupin’s face is bleeding!” but that just wouldn’t have had the same oomph. For some reason “Skupin bleeding from the face!” just has a bit more mustard on it. He face isn’t merely bleeding. Instead, he’s bleeding from the face. Here are a few other calls Probst could have made that would have worked:

* “Skupin is red in the face. But it’s not from embarrassment. Unless he’s embarrassed of bleeding. Because he is!”

* “There will be blood…on Skupin’s face!”

* “Skupin is bleeding! Someone get this man some cookies!”

* “Dude, your face.”

* “Oh my God, Skupin is bleeding! I can only imagine now that when people see this at home they will be ending all their tweets with #SKUPINBLOODBATH! That’s S-K-U-P-I-N-B-L-O-O-D-B-A-T-H, all one word with a hashtag at the start.”

* “This challenge has turned into a total face-off!”

* “No, seriously, dude, your face.”

* “Skupin is a bloody mess! This sounds like a topic worth examining in further detail on The Jeff Probst Show. That’s right, The Jeff Probst Show, which airs every weekday afternoon. Check local listings!”

NEXT: Shake on it!

In the end, Kalabaw wins, Tandang takes second, and Matsing continues their epic losing streak. So now’s the time when we head back to the losers’ camp to see who wants to get rid of whom. Or do we? Instead we’re thrown a curveball and go over to Kalabaw. It seems Penner knows that Jeff Kent knows that he has the idol. He also knows the former baseball player trusts him about as much as he trusts his best buddy Barry Bonds. He tells Jeff he has the idol to try and forge some sort of partnership and it appears to work when both extend their hands to shake on it. BUT NO! Because instead Jeff hits him with the dreaded four finger handshake!

“I gave him a four finger handshake,” Jeff explains. “Not a manly shake. Not a five finger handshake. I’m not committed. In my book, unless it’s a manly handshake, it’s not going to count.” Really? A handshake doesn’t count unless it’s a “manly handshake.” Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever given a manly handshake — or manshake, if you will — in my entire life. Oh, I use all five fingers, mind you. But my handshake tends to be as light and airy as a summer breeze. It’s certainly not manly. More of the “charmed, I’m sure” variety. Does this mean every handshake deal I’ve made in my entire life is now null and void because they did not meet proper manshake standards? And if four fingers means you are not fully committed, what does three fingers mean — I plan to rape your pets and crap in your laundry?

But wait! Adding to the confusion, in the preview for next week’s episode we clearly see Jeff giving Penner a full five-fingered shake! Does this mean he now is fully committed, or has he just gone and thrown his own manshake code out the window? Clearly, this warrants keeping an eye on. After leaving Kalabaw, we still aren’t going over to Matsing, because instead we have to head to Tandang and check in on what the hell happened to Skupin. Mike says the mask broke when he dove in the water and that it… ALERT! ALERT! We have a confirmed sighting of an Artis Sylvester interview! Artis and Carter talking in the same episode? What the hell is going on?!? Is this opposite day? Unlearn everything you have learned about this season. Up is down! Day is night! Black is white!

While Artis is expressing his desire to get rid of Mike, Abi and Pete continue their search for the hidden immunity idol, and sure enough she finds it. You could not script the destruction of a friendship/alliance any better than this. However and whenever RC finds out that Abi has betrayed their trust and stolen the idol all for herself and Team Jacob, well, let’s just say another #SURVIVORBREAKDOWN may be in store.

Speaking of broken down, let’s finally get over to the Matsinging-the-blues tribe. “I’m stuck out here with the goon squad of tribes,” says Malcolm, which is putting it mildly. He and Denise steal off into the woods to discuss their team’s ineptitude, only to be interrupted by Angie, who now claims she never said “I can’t” during the challenge. After their conversation is done, the onset of somber piano music tells us one thing: We are about to be treated to “The Ballad of Russell Swan.” Sure enough, we are then served up lots of poignant shots of Russell walking alone on the beach, Russell looking off toward the horizon, and, of course, Russell talking to God. “What is it about this game that fights me so much?” he asks pensively.

NEXT: Could Russell be playing any worse?

Look, I’ve spoken with Russell a few times, and I genuinely like the dude. I’ve found him to be thoughtful, honest, and funny. But there can be little doubt that he has played an awful game thus far in all three phases. Let’s break them down. 1) Physically: As strong as Russell is, he should have been out in the water during the most physically punishing leg of the first challenge. And then he was downright atrocious in the last one. 2) Socially: He has no close friends on the tribe after jumping into dictator mode and berating everyone before the first challenge. 3) Strategically: Malcolm said something very telling when he mentioned that Russell had not talked a lick of strategy with him since day 1. How can that be? I was honestly shocked to hear that, especially about a returning player. And, let’s not overlook the fact that he is the only player out there to have a hidden immunity idol clue and yet not be able to locate the idol. I’m sure the person most disgusted with Russell’s play at this point…is Russell.

So we head to Tribal Council to see whether Angie or Russell will pay the price for their poor performance — and when I say “pay the price” I do not mean getting bit by one of the thousands of snakes that seem to have infiltrated the Tribal Council set (judging by the intro close-ups, at least). Basically, the two engage in a good ol’ fashioned game of You Suck More Than I Do, with Angie claiming, “I think I can fight more than Russell, honestly,” while Russell opines that “She ain’t ready for 30 more days.” The whole thing culminates with Russell’s statement that “ I was wiling to die for this game the last time I played. You willing to put your life on the line, little girl? C’mon.”

Wow. Dismissive much? I get that he is fighting for his survival in the game and I get that this person he is talking about is the same person that asked for cookies a few days prior, but this just gets back to the point of how poorly Russell is playing this game on a social level. He could have made that same point without throwing the “little girl” comment in there. That just makes him come off as a big bully. In the end, Malcolm and Denise vote off Angie, whom I will give props to for her classy final words. Goodbye, Angie. I am sure many, many men will miss your, um…presence on the show.

And speaking of missing things, make sure you do not miss my weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst, which will be up on Thursday morning. And that’s not all the Probst we have for you this week. The host with the most also names his picks for the top 5 Tribal Councils of all time, which can be found in the video player below along with an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well as my pre-game interview with Angie. And for more Survivor scoop delivered right to your digital doorstep, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. Now it’s your turn. The message boards are open for business, so go crazy and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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