While James and Parvati bickered and Jason went idol hunting, Natalie came out of nowhere to take charge of the game

By Josh Wolk
Updated February 28, 2015 at 03:49 AM EST
Monty Brinton

Survivor

S16 E11
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Dalton’s on vacation and I’m covering, but I suppose it’s apropos that a new writer emerges out of nowhere to write this week. After all, this episode of Survivor was dominated by Natalie, who up until now has appeared on this season only slightly more often than I have. But boy, she made up for lost time last night.

Before I get into her, I just have to say Wow, this episode was delightful, in an A-Team ”I love it when a plan comes together” kind of way. It was like watching a good heist film, where an intricate scheme is pulled off thanks to a wily crew after many twists, turns, and close calls. Granted, the usual wily heist crew don’t stop to shove fistfuls of chocolate cake into their cakeholes, but the analogy still stands.

Okay, let’s start at the beginning, as Parvati ”apologized” to James for Ozzy’s surprise snuff. See, this is why they’re Favorites: When they talked, it’s as if their entire conversation had been carefully scripted by expert writers. No random curses, just sly lines like James’ ”No, ‘Sorry”s not what you mean. ‘Ha ha’ is what you mean.” (The man is a pro: He can deliver pithy dialogue while sporting a knuckle that looked like it was about to give birth.) James then came up with his ”always gotta eat the apple” metaphor, which was fine the first time, although he did beat it to death by the end of the episode. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if this repetition was egged on by Mark Burnett, who had struck up a product-placement deal with Apple computers. Well, then I guess we should just be happy James wasn’t saying, ”You always gotta eat the damn Crest Whitestrips.”

One side note here: When a stunned Amanda was reflecting on Ozzy’s ousting, she said that she believed that Parvati had Cirie wrapped around her finger. I’ve even more confident that Cirie is gonna win this damn thing: She is brilliant at hatching all the plans while making sure that someone else takes the blame. She would make one hell of a network president.

Anyway, last night was the Survivor auction, where everybody bids on mystery platters, hoping for tasty snacks. Cirie nabbed a hot dog and French fries for $120. (Seems pricey, but who knows, maybe that’s because they were made by Coolio as one of his Secret Talents of the Stars before it got canceled. They’re expensive because they’re celebri-licious!) Eric paid $80 for a mystery box, which he fortunately swapped for another containing nachos. (The first contained octopus.) Then Natalie paid $240 for what turned out to be a bowl of fruit-bat soup. She rejected it, and James snapped it up. Before digging in, he gave Probst a bat culinary tip, ”You gotta take the skin off first, that’s the secret.” (The other part of the secret? Vomiting in your own mouth provides a tasty sauce!)

The bad taste of rejected bat still fresh in her mouth, Natalie came alive. First she bid another $240 for a bottle that gave her the right to send somebody to Exile Island and take his or her money. See ya, Jason! (After revealing that there was a replacement idol there, Probst told Jason, ”This time maybe you’ll get a real one.” The contempt in his tone was clear. I’m surprised as Jason was leaving, Probst didn’t yell after him, ”And get a haircut, ya bum!”)

NEXT PAGE: Natalie’s dental-floss fantasy

Then Natalie bid $240 of Jason’s money for what turned out to be a giant chocolate cake, and the right to gorge on it for 60 seconds with three others. She, Cirie, Alexis, and Parvati then dug in for an orgy of frosting and Duncan Hines. Even the three-year-olds at my daughter’s recent birthday party would have said, ”Ladies, please, show a little self-restraint. It’s only cake.” But at least they made some of their money back: Erik paid them $40 to clean their fingers with his tongue. I’m surprised he didn’t throw in an extra $20 to go at their feet: Hey, toejam’s still jam, right?

After weeks with little to no food, I can only imagine how fast their hearts were racing after this massive influx of sugar. Perhaps it was this jolt of energy that turned Natalie from mouse to lioness. After saying not one thing that I can remember up until now, she suddenly spouted, regarding Jason’s trip to Exile Island, ”The little bitch now has two days of sunshine with the immunity idol. Guaranteed, hands down, the bitch’ll find it. And that bitch being Jason.” Quite a rant…if an overexplained one: I think we could all keep track of who the bitch was in this particular scenario.

And then the scheming began: The women decided that since Jason would likely find the Idol, they had to fool him into thinking that they were on his side so he wouldn’t play it, and then they could blindside him as they did Ozzy. But, wow, the glee with which they plotted his demise! During the early planning, they were all scheming in a circle around a smoking fire. My first thought was, Boy, they look like a bunch of evil witches sitting there. But then I thought, No, that’s sexist. If they were men, I would probably just say they were good strategists. Of course, about 15 minutes later, after more plotting, Alexis and Parvati cackled and mimed stirring a giant cauldron. So scratch that first thought: Nice going, you witches!

Natalie, drunk with power, became a one-woman quote machine, talking about how she was becoming more herself, a ”stone cold bitch and pretty cutthroat,” and how she was looking forward to flossing her teeth with Jason’s jugular. This was quite an empowering performance for women everywhere. In fact, I think we can all look forward to the upcoming Lifetime movie, ”I’ll Use Your Scrotum as a Hackeysack: The Natalie Bolton Story.”

What was amazing was just how perfectly they played Jason, who is more easily manipulated than a Stretch Armstrong doll. Even though sending him to Exile Island was an admitted mistake, Natalie knew she could convince him that she did it to help him find the idol…and at that very moment, on Exile Island, Jason was thinking, Gee, Natalie must actually like me to send me here to find the idol! We are best friends! Perhaps someday we will get married and raise children, right here on Exile Island!

NEXT PAGE: Two blindsides in two weeks

Sure enough, when he returned, all it took was a whisper in his ear to vote out James and not ask any questions (and really, when’s the last time he did ask a question, other than, ”Who is more godlike: me or God?”) to get him to fall in line. Eric, birthday karma on his side, just beat out James for immunity in a suspenseful race, allowing the women to keep their plan in motion: dole out their votes between Jason and James, so if Jason did pull the idol, James would go.

(Side note on the overly intricate and yet very familiar Rube Goldbergian challenge: It’s feeling like every challenge is just a grab-bag recombination of elements from any number of previous ones. Is the Survivorteam creating new games by just reaching into a sack and pulling out three pieces of paper with different challenge staples on them and slapping them together for a ”new” game? ”Tonight, it’s….puzzle pieces…digging a key out of a hole…and crossing a rope ladder on planks! We done that combo yet? No? Okay, Survivors ready? Go!”)

After the challenge, James and Amanda seemed resigned to their fate. This is James’ biggest downfall: He preaches ”sticking to the plan,” but when the plan falls apart, he’s incapable of coming up with a new one. Dude, when someone eats the apple, just get an orange! When Amanda was sighing that they were helpless, the best he could do was hope that Jason played the idol. Hope? James knew the plan! The ladies had gotten so hubristic that they’d searched Jason’s bag for the idol right in front of James and Amanda, and talked about how their blindside was gonna go down. Why wouldn’t James take that info to Jason? If he joined Eric, Amanda, and James, they could have gotten Parvati out and completely stunned the women. And Jason wouldn’t have even needed to use his idol. That was the final twist I was hoping for, and thought was going to happen, considering how the producers were so excitedly setting us up with the female alliance. But you know James didn’t even try to flip Jason, because if he had, the producers would have shown it: They always like to throw in something to show that Tribal Council might go either way.

So instead, we were treated to a Tribal Council in which still-angry juror Ozzy flipped the bird and mouthed ”Bitch” at Parvati (wasn’t he listening to Natalie? Jason was the bitch!), and a third-person epidemic swept the losing team: ”It don’t look good for old James right now,” said James, while Eric said, ”That’s one more reason you don’t need Eric around.” (I was waiting for Natalie to stand and yell, ”NATALIE WILL EAT YOUR TONGUES FOR LUNCH AND SAVE YOUR HEARTS FOR DINNER!”)

James’ inability to score a surprise coup would have been more enraging if it wasn’t so damned fun to see Jason get so utterly duped. He didn’t have a clue, which seems utterly unbelievable. I’ll have to ask him about this on Monday’s Survivor Talk…right after I complete my negotiations to sell him the Empire State Building.

What do you think? Were you just as surprised to see Natalie grow a personality? Would you let Erik lick your fingers for 40 bucks? Do you think Jason will have figured out what happened to him by the time he appears on Survivor Talk on Monday? Don’t forget to check back then for our exclusive video with him. In the meantime, weigh in below.

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Survivor

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

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