Jaime exits after the merge when she plays what she hopes is an immunity idol, but Jeff Probst tosses it into the fire pit

By Josh Wolk
March 13, 2015 at 02:10 PM EDT
Monty Brinton
S15 E7
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Remember last season, when Yau-Man, possessor of the hidden immunity idol, made a fake one and buried it, in the hopes that someone would find it and try to play it? I’ve since regretted the fact that no one found it, because I thought I’d always wonder just how hilariously that might have played out.

Now I need wonder no longer.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. This week’s episode began with some residual tension among Fei Long from Courtney’s sniping at Jean-Robert at tribal council. Apparently Jean-Robert’s strategy of slowly becoming nicer is working on Todd, who’s becoming less enamored with Courtney. Who could blame him? The woman is starting to look more and more like a praying mantis. Sure, she looks weak, but you don’t want to wake up one morning to find out she’s devoured half your torso.

Later, she told the camera that just because she dislikes everyone more than Todd and Amanda doesn’t mean that those two should mistake her for their friend. And then she smiled a puckish grin and shrugged, and I worried that her sharp shoulders were going to sever her ears.

As I’ve kicked things off with a couple of skinny-Courtney jokes, I should address something I saw come up repeatedly on last week’s message boards. It seems like people fall into two groups:

1. People who are irritated by Courtney and like making fun of her (lack of) weight

2. People who find Courtney really hot and are turned on by her (lack of) weight.

Obviously, I fall into the first camp. To those in the second camp, hey, to each his/her own. But if I may offer a small helpful hint: If you are so lucky to someday meet the young Courtney, sense a connection, and ask her out, I would advise that for your first date, you don’t take her on a hayride. Her ankles can be used as kindling during the dry season, and you don’t want the whole wagon to go up in smoke when she crosses her legs.

Back to the show: Todd was working Courtney at Fei Long to calm her down and get her to vote with the group, rather than be a loose cannon and try to target Jean-Robert. Why is there always somebody who can’t grasp the basic concept of strength in numbers? Is it the lack of food that compromises that function of the brain? I suppose it’s a good thing, as it sometimes saves the postmerge voting from going straight down party lines for a dull few weeks. But jeez, it’s basic math.

Meanwhile, back at Zhan Hu, James pried the immunity idol off the arch when no one was looking, making him the proud owner of two idols. Having yanked the wrong one off first, he left it in the dirt for Jaime to pick up and assume it was real. She reached this deduction by going through James’ pack and finding the other two, but she didn’t notice that they had writing on them, while hers did not.

I wonder: Is there a Survivor rule against stealing from someone else’s pack? Somebody please refresh my memory: Has there been any theft in the past? (Where’s Dalton when you need him? Actually, he’ll be back next week to reclaim his rightful ownership of this column.) People have snuck into other players’ packs before and discovered idols, but never taken them; what would stop people from just yanking the idols and hiding them somewhere for their own use, kind of like Sawyer on Lost? Sure, the list of James’ suspects wouldn’t be very long, but if you’ve got the immunity idol, what do you care if he’s mad at you?

But she didn’t take his idols. She just smugly held on to hers, assuming it real and not stopping to consider this: If James had two idols, he obviously knew what they looked like, so why would he leave one just lying in the dirt? What did she think happened? That he saw the idol and thought, ”I’d like to take that third get-out-of-eviction-free card, but I only have two pant legs to hide them in. My hands are tied, people!” I did enjoy James’ giddy laughter over the prospect of Jaime playing the fake idol. ”I would pass out in pure joy!” he said. I wonder if James’ grave-digging coworkers are confounded by seeing his giggly side, and wonder, ”That’s odd. James never acts that silly at work. Is it something we said? Does he not feel comfortable opening up? Or is it…oh yeah, the constant aura of death. Never mind!”

Then came the inevitable merge, followed by a huge feast and a performance by China’s favorite acrobats, the Bounty Quicker-Picker-Upper Dancers. (I just assume after the Charmin Tea House that everything in China is branded.) A contortionist could bend her legs backward over her head so her feet cupped her own face. And yet I’ll bet even she was shocked by the sight of Courtney, whose arms are only slightly wider than chopsticks. The contortionist likely thought, ”Sure, I can stick my own head up my ass, but that’sweird,” adding, ”This pale woman looks like a…” But then she’d get stymied, because the Chinese don’t have a word for ”bendy straw.”

After the feast, when the group renamed the new tribe Black Fighting Wind (which is a bit flatulent for my taste), Jeff revealed why he’d made the cryptic remark earlier that ”this game never stops.” Turns out he wanted to play a big game of Concentration, where they’d have to answer questions about what they’d just seen. It was hardly a dramatic showdown. Why didn’t he just hand out Yes & Know books? Nobody could remember anything, so Frosti won by default.

At this point, the game was seeming a little dull, nothing but procedure. But then the wrangling started. James shared news of Jaime’s fake idol with the alliance and begged them all to stay together. For someone who was so quiet at the beginning of the season, James really seems like the strongest voice of reason. Todd may think he’s the mastermind, but he gets too panicky (as with last week’s elaborate but pointless immunity plan), while James never wavers from a solid plan based on numbers.

James was very worried about Courtney after being briefed about her desire to vote out Jean-Robert. And then he said what sounded like ”Courtney falls in love with any swinging Dick or Harry that smiles at her.” He couldn’t possibly have said that, could he? I assumed he meant to say, ”Tom, Dick, or Harry,” but I replayed it many times, and I kept hearing the ”swinging” option. When did Survivor turn into Playboy After Dark? At this point I’m expecting the tribe to be sleeping when there’s a knock on the lean-to, and it’s the horny pizza-delivery man.

Jean-Robert restated his alliance with Todd and Amanda, although he finished with a dead-eyed warning that if Todd screwed him over, J.R. would work the jury to make sure Todd never won. It seemed like a useless threat, and yet the way he did it was kind of intimidating. I’m guessing the fact that he was using a machete at the time was not coincidental.

Yet for all Jean-Robert’s threats about unity, he went on to try to persuade James to go against the group and vote out Peih-Gee, which made no sense. Especially because if he and James had struck out on their own, they would have split their alliance’s vote and Jean-Robert would have gone home, regardless of Jaime’s fake idol. Jean-Robert’s not dumb, so it must have been a bluff, and just part of a larger strategy. Though I can’t imagine what that might be. Maybe his original plan to become less of a jerk has more stages than he let on: As he becomes less irritating, he keeps everyone off guard by then becoming more of a dumbass. Then he slowly starts acting smarter…just as he pretends to be more racist! And then, just when everyone thinks they’ve pegged him, he begins to love all mankind…but starts to lose his peripheral vision! And on it goes, leading him right to the final two, where everyone will vote for him because he is now a pleasant, intelligent, lover of all mankind who cannot see out of the corners of his eyes.

NEXT: I’m not with Stupid

Now I’m guessing that Jaime did not watch this episode last night. Because with the curse of hindsight, how painful would it be to watch herself try to coyly bribe Todd with information about who had the immunity idols, knowing now that she didn’t even have one? It’s like going back and reading your own diary about the days when you were sure your crush was flirting with you, but knowing now that he turned out to be gay. It didn’t help that she said, ”I’m very good at playing stupid,” when it turns out that was no game at all.

When we finally got to tribal council, I was murmuring, ”Please let Jaime play the fake idol, please, please, please….” And then it happened. Just as Jeff was about to count the votes, she interrupted, bringing her valueless plaque up to him. (I should add that Jeff usually asks anyone who wants to play an idol to come forward before he counts the votes. It’s the rules. But he didn’t this time, which means the producers knew she was going to try to play it and had Jeff drop his usual speech so she’d have to butt in, thereby maximizing her boobishness. Sure it smacks of manipulation. But if you want real reality TV, go film yourself running around your yard.)

(WRITER’S POSTSCRIPT: After this was posted, many of you pointed out my big mistake in the previous paragraph: Jeff hasn’t been asking anybody if they want to play an idol because the idols are still secret to anyone who hasn’t yet been handed a clue. My bad for implying manipulation on Survivor‘s part. If I want reality-producer shenanigans, I guess I’ll have to stick to Kitchen Nightmares.)

Jeff looked at the idol, and played the suspense, reexplaining the rules of what would happen if it was real, as if things were about to flip. And then — switcheroo! — he declared it a phony and tossed it into the fire. Jeff Probst, master of theatrics! I’m surprised he didn’t bite into the corner of it to test its veracity, and then spit on it upon discovering it was a fake.

Everyone snickered when it was over, and it was a delightfully unguarded moment. Usually people pretend to be empathetic when someone’s voted off, but here they couldn’t contain their delight as she fell right into their trap. Actually, it wasn’t even their trap; she just fell into the hole she’d dug herself.

I didn’t have any great feelings one way or another about Jaime. Sure, it irritated me the way she so cavalierly threw the challenge two weeks ago, but my disgust didn’t last beyond the end of that episode. But in her end-credit interview after her eviction, she said something that left a bad taste in my mouth. Her takeaway lesson was that James is ”obviously not very trustworthy.” So James was the problem? He had the audacity not to flip to your side even after you and the rest of Zhan Hu had told him flat out that he’d be evicted right after Aaron, and you only tried to keep him around when you realized he was your last hope? What a crock. You know what she deserved? To be brought post-interview to a giant feast to celebrate being off the game. And then, as she bites down on a large chicken leg, she realizes that it is made of cardboard. And that’s when Jeff swoops in, sniffs at the chicken, and declares, ”This is not the real feast” and tosses it all in the fire, leaving her to eat tree bark for one more day. Hey, it was funny once, why not twice?

All right, that’s it for me. Dalton will be back with his regularly scheduled recap next week. As for me, I’ll see you over on the Amazing Race TV Watch Monday morning. I’ve already seen the premiere, and I can tell you this: Unlike Survivor, you have to be at least 95 pounds to go on that ride.

On your marks, get set, post! Aren’t you glad the new tribal name is in Chinese — because Hae Da Fung sounds a lot better than Black Fighting Wind. Will any Fei Longster get the boot before all of Zhan Hu have gone bye-bye? And can you believe that Frosti has been cuddling with stick-that-walks Courtney? Stop shuddering and begin typing.

Jeff Probst leads adventures in the ultimate (and original) reality series.
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