Survivor recap: Just Let Me Do the Thinking
Sugar blindsides Kenny and Crystal by playing it straight with Bob and saving Matty's hide
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Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! Finally, a slam dunk of an episode. I’m going to try to get through this recap a little quicker than usual so we can fit in my traditional Survivor seasonal rankings, but don’t let the shorter length fool you. I could write about this episode for days. It had it all: blindsides, double-crosses, shifting allegiances, Mohawks, and some of the most inept challenge play ever. It’s exactly what this mostly dull season full of mostly unengaging contestants needed.
The episode started off the same way every Survivor: Gabon episode has started off: with Kenny telling us how unbelievably awesome he is. “I have been calling the shots from day 1 out here. I am the mastermind behind everything going on.” Jeez, Kenny, why do you continually insist on sabotaging your own likeability? You’ve played a good game, and we all respect that, but stop telling us what a good game you are playing! It makes us want to smash the King of Smash with out fists. (Don’t worry, my man, your humble pie will be served up in about 53 minutes at tribal council.)
But if Kenny was being annoying, Bob was being just plain dumb. First he admitted to Ken that Corinne didn’t play the idol because it was a fake. (Why, Bob, why? No reason to tell him that. Just say she thought she was safe.) And then he one-upped his own stupidity by offering to hand over immunity should he win it at the next challenge. Bob is the most schizophrenic strategist I have ever seen in my life. I’ve never seen one player make so many good and bad moves, not just in the same season — but in the same damn episode! This one was especially egregious, because now if you give immunity away you’re a moron (hi there, ice-cream scooping Erik!). And if you don’t, people will call you a liar, and you could be automatically throwing away a potential jury vote for no reason whatsoever, just like you did to Randy. Ughhhhh.
NEXT: Alley ooops
Before Bob could do anything else idiotic, we were whisked off to the reward challenge, which involved the contestants wading through an obstacle swamp to get three balls that then needed to be tossed basketball style through a hoop and into net. It came down to the wire for the three men: Matty, Kenny, and Bob. The women — Crystal, Sugar, and Susie — predictably did not even make a single basket. I say predictably not because they are women but rather because they are Crystal, Sugar, and Susie. Bob won, but his victory was clearly overshadowed by what may just be the single greatest moment of Survivor: Gabon. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? The Dunk. Now when I say “Dunk” I am not referring to a dunk tank. Nor am I using shorthand for sassy season 1 American Idol co-host Brian Dunkleman. Nor am I talking about an actual dunk, because in reality it was a botched dunk. That’s right, Crystal — the Olympic track and field gold medalist who could not even run up a hill in the first challenge; the athlete who could not even hold a stick in her hand for one second in another; the woman who could not row to save her life; the towering jock who could not make one measly basket — decided when the challenge was over to show the one thing that she could do. One thing that anyone could do — dunk the ball on a low rim that did not even require jumping. It wouldn’t even have really qualified as a dunk, but more of a drop in. Just walk up, raise your arm, and then drop the ball into the net. Easy. Or so it would seem.
What happened instead is right up there with some of the greatest sports blunders of all time: Jim Marshall running into the wrong end zone with the football for a safety against his own team, Jose Canseco letting a ball bounce off of his head for a home run, and now Crystal Cox missing on her check-me-out dunk attempt. The thing that makes this entire incident even more hilarious? The fact that Crystal told the other contestants she was a professional basketball player! (At least she informed me before the game that’s what she was going to tell everyone.) Her performance, in essence, was the equivalent of me telling people I am a professional Milwaukee’s Best taste-tester and then not being able to shotgun a Beast in under 5 seconds. I mean, how ridiculous is that? Who can’t shotgun a can of beer in under 5 seconds? Crazy, right? Crazy! But the saddest part of all had to be the fact that as soon as Crystal started making her way to the hoop, we all just knew — knew — she was gonna miss. It is her destiny.
Okay, so here I was saying I was gonna make this recap brief and I just went on for 400 words about a botched dunk. Sorry, couldn’t resist. As long as Crystal doesn’t have any more embarrassing challenge performances we should be okay. And I’m sure that won’t happen. So Bob won and picked Kenny and Crystal to accompany him to a gorilla sanctuary where one of the ferocious beasts “rocked” Bob’s soul. Personally, my soul was rocked by some of the sweet threads that Bob, Kenny, and Crystal were sporting. From the gorilla sanctuary we zoomed over to Exile (non) Island, the only purpose for which I can come up with was to remind us that Susie actually exists as a person and is still a contestant in this game. (Do something, woman! Anything!)
NEXT: Crystal and Susie’s wanderlust
Back at camp, Matty was busy working Sugar, who seemed convinced that Kenny considered her his biggest partner in the game. (Oh, poor delusional Sugar). She also wondered to cameras about needing to get rid of Matty because he was the biggest physical threat, to which I say — who the hell cares? Sugar, it’s not like you can beat anyone else at a challenge, except for Crystal, and she doesn’t really count. Sure, getting rid of a physical, challenge-winning threat makes sense if you’re someone that can then go on to win stuff, like Kenny or Bob, but your job in challenges is to stumble around, laugh at how you’re stumbling around, and high five everyone else after they dominate you. That’s pretty much it. Matty being there or not there doesn’t change that.
But as we’ve seen time and time again, it doesn’t take a whole lot to sway Sugar. In fact, Matty didn’t even really have to do anything — he just let Crystal and Kenny do it for him. Their overconfidence got them in trouble, and once they ganged up on him, putting Matty in the role of poor helpless victim, that opened up the Sugar waterworks. “I believe you now. Why would they kick you when you’re down?” she asked her new sick puppy. But before her could lick her hand and pee on her leg, it was time for the all-important immunity challenge.
The challenge involved studying a mask, taking mask pieces through an obstacle course, and then using those pieces to fill in missing features — all while blindfolded. Yeah, Bob won, so what? More importantly, just who do you think provided the entertainment for this competition? Oh, Mrs. Cox, we’re ready for your close-up! I won’t waste 400 words on this one again, but watching her literally walk off the course was simply a delight. Although, I do have a bone to pick with my boy, Probst. “Crystal, you are off the course. You are in the wrong lane. You are completely off track,” he told her as she was strolling off to nowhere. Pretty funny. But you know what would have been even funnier? Don’t say anything at all! Just let her keep going! And keep following her with a camera! I know, I’m a heartless bastard, but tell me watching Crystal stumble cluelessly into the jungle while the others continued the competition wouldn’t have been genius. Hell, it may have even topped the dunk. I forgive Probst, though. It happened quickly; he had other things to keep track of; can’t win ’em all. But then he did it again! He started warning Susie that she was on a road to nowhere once she also overshot the course. Good God, man, you’ve got gold here! Gold! And you’re just throwing it away! Just imagine the helicopter shot you’d get with four people on the course competing, Susie 100 yards away heading into an endless savannah, and Crystal 100 yards away on the other side, about to get eaten by a leopard. Such a missed opportunity.
So Kenny then tried out his best Black Widow-alliance impersonation, hatching his plan to get Bob’s immunity necklace and then vote him off. Only he went and told everyone about it, and Sugar, already bumming on him and Crystal for their treatment of Matty, decided to flip the script. Look, we’ve had some fun at Sugar’s expense over the course of the season — her incessant crying and being way too trusting of what people (mostly Kenny) tell her — but she was a superstar here. First she went and told Bob what was going on, then she want back and convincingly reassured Kenny and company that everything was okeydokey with Bob giving up the necklace. Then she took command when Matty was questioning the plan, telling the nervous Nellie “let me do the thinking.” (Man, would that make me nervous coming from her). But I thought that was the extent of her plan. Good, but not great. But then she pulled one over on even me, handing her hidden immunity idol over to Matty at tribal council. It didn’t matter; Crystal would have gone home anyway. But man did that make a statement. And that statement was: You are done. You think you’re hot stuff just because you’ve lucked your way into a power position thanks to excessive producer meddling, but guess what? You are now the basketball, and I am about to show you how to actually dunk by slamming you through the net and all the way to the jury house. And while you’re there, be sure to ask Randy what’s up with his crazy looking Mohawk. Who does he think he is anyway, Lex from All-Stars?
Crystal was just an awful Survivor contestant on so many levels, but I do give props where props are due, and she was classy, like my man Freddie Blassie, on her way out. She blew a kiss to the people who had just blindsided her and then was gracious in her parting words. Better late than never!
NEXT: Survivor rankings!
What I liked about this episode was not just all the strategic flip-flopping and challenge hilarity, but I also feel a lot better about the final contestants than I did just 24 hours ago. Yes, Kenny is annoyingly overconfident, but he has still played well. Matty and Bob have been great in challenges, and Sugar really showed me something tonight. Only Susie appears to still be completely useless. And these good vibes will be reflected as I now present my official updated Survivor season rankings, but before I do that: two quick messages. Right after the rankings, you’ll see a link to Jeff Probst’s latest blog entry. I’m sure he has some interesting thoughts on what went down. And you’ll also be able to check out an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode. Just a little preview of what’s to come. Okay, on to the rankings:
1. Survivor: Borneo
The first will never be topped. Because it was the first.
2. Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites
It wasn’t just the most insane four-episode-run in Survivor history (with Ozzy, Jason, and Erik all getting blindsided, and then Amanda pulling out one last hidden immunity idol). It was also great characters (Chet and Joel are the 21st century odd couple) and the perfect mix of solid and stupid gameplay.
3. Survivor: Amazon
Probably the most unpredictable season ever. And introduced Survivor math. Chocolate + Peanut Butter = Hot Naked Chicks.
4. Survivor: Pearl Islands
Rupert stealing shoes. Fairplay getting drunk at tribal council. Osten sucking at everything. It was all delicious. Loses points, though, for the awful outcasts twist, which also led to a disappointing final two.
5. Survivor: Palau
I loved watching one tribe decimate the other. And the challenges may have been Survivor‘s best ever. Remember back when everyone liked Stephenie? My how things change.
6. Survivor: Marquesas
An underrated season that saw the first totem pole shake-up: Where people on the bottom got together to overthrow those on the top. Yes, it was a weak final two, but it also had a woman peeing on a guy’s hand. Purple rock!!!
7. Survivor: Cook Islands
What a difference a mutiny makes. It was listless until that fateful moment when Candice and Penner stepped off the mat. Then, we finally had underdogs to root for.
8. Survivor: Australia
An overrated season. Probst loved it. I didn’t. Solid but unspectacular. Pretty predictable boot order as well. Dude did burn his hands off, though.
9. Survivor: China
Really good cast. Kinda blah location.
10. Survivor: All Stars
Overall, a letdown, but man, were there some hate-fueled fireworks at those final few tribal councils. Plus: Best. Reunion Show. Ever.
NEXT: Gabon finds a spot
11. Survivor: Panama
Ah, just writing the word Panama gets me daydreaming about Survivor Sally and her intoxicating knee socks. Terry was robbed.
12. Survivor: Gabon
It would have been two or three slots lower before this last episode. Still, it’s a case of too little, too late. The fact that so many unworthy players went so far is simply too damning.
13. Survivor: Africa
Some great challenges. Not that much else was great.
14. Survivor: Guatemala
One of the more unlikable casts so far. (Remember Judd? Jamie? Stephenie’s evil twin?) Rafe was good for a few laughs, though. Especially on rope obstacles.
15. Survivor: Vanuatu
I don’t blame producers: The battle of the sexes worked well the first time around.
16. Survivor: Thailand
The fake merge and brutal last challenge (where the final three had to hold coins between their fingers in a crazy painful pose) keep this out of the bottom spot. Barely.
17. Survivor: Fiji
The season that we shall never speak of again.
Okay, I’m sure you have beefs with the list above. So let me — and everyone else — know your ranking. And who are you rooting for to win the million dollars on Sunday — yes, Sunday — night? Hit the boards and state your position. But only after you check out the latest blog entry from our intrepid young EW.com correspondent Jeff Probst. And make sure to watch the exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode below. It seems there have been some visitors to the Nobag camp. And they’re not human! See what Matty is doing about it. Then, and only then, may you deem yourself postworthy.
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