Boston Rob collapses after a brutal immunity challenge, and Ometepe has to turn on one of its own

Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS
S22 E12

You know there are certain things about being a writer that kind of suck. Don’t get me wrong: I love writing. And while the fact that I have written more words about the reality television program Survivor than any other person on the planet may occasionally cause me to take a long hard look in the mirror and say “WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE WITH YOUR LIFE?!? And what’s up with that zit on your forehead? You’re a grown man, for crissakes. Why are you still getting zits?”, in the grand scheme of things, it’s been a blast. But back to why being a writer sucks. There’s simply nothing badass about it. Did you see Boston Rob willing his body past the breaking point to win an immunity challenge, then immediately collapsing in a mix of emotional victory and physical agony? Badass. Nothing I can do can compare to that. What am I gonna do, complain about a little writer’s cramp? Not badass. The most — most — I can hope to physically overcome is carpal tunnel syndrome, and that’s nothing some well-planned-out ergonomic repositioning can’t fix. See, I just used the phrase “ergonomic repositioning”! That’s how completely unbadass I am.

In fact, Jeff Probst has even taken it upon himself to publicly mock how physically unimposing we writers are. After a press-run time in a test run of the first immunity challenge in Survivor: Gabon bested the losing tribe’s time a day later, Probst actually chided the losers at Tribal Council for being beaten by a group of writers who “sit on their fat asses all day on their typewriters.” See, he thinks we still use freakin’ typewriters! That’s what a laughingstock we are!

If what you want in a Survivor contestant is someone who goes all-out all the time and plays every aspect of the game as hard as possible, then it doesn’t get much better than Boston Rob. It’s not his fault that no one else has stepped up to challenge him and this entire season has been the path of least resistance. He came to play — socially, strategically, and physically. He plays so hard that he collapsed for the second straight season. This time wasn’t quite as scary as his Heroes vs Villains blackout where a flu bug wreaked havoc on his body, but it still showed what a badass this guy is. Unlike me, the nerdy Poindexter with the laptop. (Yes, Jeff, a laptop!) But hey, if you can’t beat ’em — write about ’em! And with that, let’s take it from the top of episode 12 of Survivor: Redemption Island.

We start off with Redemption Island welcoming not one but two fresh new bodies in Ralph and Steve. “Redemption Island keeps on getting crazier and crazier,” says Mike. He’s right! It seems everyone is now hanging out there. It’s impossible to get eliminated on this show! In fact, rumor has it that Donald Trump has also convinced Probst to fly in La Toya Jackson and have her added to the game as well. Why? Why not!?!

NEXT: Another one bites the dust

Over at Murlonio, Ometepe is celebrating, having completely decimated the Zapatera tribe. “It’s a little scary that we now have to take out one of our own,” observes Andrea, “but it’s also a little exciting because for the last five votes we’ve been on cruise control.” I love how Andrea is acting like the tribe now has a big decision to make. We all know who makes the decisions, and as we’ll see in about 55 minutes, it sure ain’t Andrea. “As long as they don’t start talking to each other and realize I’m the one that should be going, I’ll be all set,” says Rob. (Dude, you are set.)

Hey, look, it’s Tree Mail. Or is it an Epic 4G, only from Sprint? It’s both! (Truly fitting product placement for Survivor seeing as how “epic” is executive producer Mark Burnett’s all-time favorite word. He uses it approximately 18 times per sentence and means it every single time. The phone is loaded with videos from friends and family clearly filmed at a nearby hotel, meaning it is only a matter of minutes before we see them in the flesh waving at their loved ones from afar. The exiled contestants on Redemption Island watch their videos as well, and it is pretty clear they will be playing for an opportunity to see their loved ones. So on to the duel we go.

“Love from home on a Sprint phone is pretty nice: That’s what we’re learning,” Probst informs us, although we are also learning it can sometimes be very awkward to work product placement into a speech. Probst tells the duel participants that the winner will get to spend time with their friend or family member, although we know it will not be that simple. The challenge involves using balls to break tiles. The first three people to break all four tiles stay in the game, while the fourth is out for good. And the first person to break them all gets to see their loved one…or so he thinks.

Now, it wouldn’t be a Dalton Ross recap if I weren’t pointing out some petty problem I have with Redemption Island. My pet peeve with Redemption Island since the merge (beyond the clear jury advantage it gives to someone should they waltz right back into the final three) is the fact that you don’t even have to win the duel to stay in the game. Having to win to stay alive is one thing, but now all you have to do is not come in last to stay in the game, which seems a little lame. You’re not fighting for your life. You’re just fighting not to come in last. One-on-one battles are just more dramatic. I guess it’s the same way I’ve always argued that a final two is worlds better than a final three, but that’s a whole other column.

It also makes Matt’s run slightly less impressive after you consider that when Mike does break all four of his tiles first, he has now beaten Matt in two out of three challenges. In this case, Matt ties Ralph for second place, and Steve is sent home, having broken only one of his tiles. Bye, Steve. I could never quite get a handle on you. Half the time you fought to stay, and the other half you clearly stated you didn’t want to be there. But since I never want to see a Dallas Cowboy win my favorite game that is not played on a football field, I am glad your chances of victory are now officially extinguished. Hail to the Redskins, baby!

NEXT: The shot that sums up the entire season

Mike’s mom is then brought out and although she claims her name is Jane, I’m pretty sure it is Suze Orman. Mike thinks he’s off to hang with Mommy, but of course there is a twist. According to Probst, Mike can “forgo your own love with your mom” — is it just me, or does that sound creepy and vaguely remind you of Colby and his mom sleeping in the back of a truck? — and let Matt and Ralph have time with their loved ones instead. Or he can allow the Ometepe six to spend time with their families. It’s an easy choice. In this situation you have to play the percentages and pick Ometepe, hoping that your selfless gesture of kindness might win you a jury vote or two should you make it to the end. And that’s exactly what Mike does, although he claims it is due to his Bible readings and desire to “love your brother like you love yourself.” Whether that’s true, or another strategic vote to also curry favor with Bible-loving Matt, is open to debate, but either way, it is the right move. “Thanks, Mike,” Ometepe says. “You’re welcome,” he replies. “Don’t vote me out again.” Which, of course, they would.

Back at Murlonio, the contestants are showing their visitors their swanky pad. Natalie’s mom talks about praying for her daughter, and this makes Natalie cry for the 18th time this episode. Later, as Natalie is recalling the moment, she cries again! Phillip decides to explain the game to his sister, saying, “This is a social game. I’m prepared to go crazy if I have to.” Wait, crazy? Isn’t that racist? I’m so confused. Rob definitely must be racist because he calls Phillip a “nutjob” and then talks about how he’s playing every single person in the game. “Grant thinks it’s me and him. Natalie thinks it’s me and her. All they have to do is talk to each other. But they won’t.”

He’s probably right. But why not win immunity just in case? Which is exactly what Rob does at the challenge. This is an example of a contest that is both simple and, yes, epic at the same time. In 110-degree Nicaraguan heat, the contestants must collect puzzle pieces and use them to construct steps to make a giant staircase. Once the contest begins, it is only a matter of time until Jeff Probst utters those magic words: “Natalie having no luck at all figuring out puzzle steps.” It is also only a matter of time until Rob wins, which he does after crawling to the finish line and then collapsing.

You may think that the tribe’s adoration of Rob is most evident when they applaud his victory. Or you may think that adoration to be on full blast when they applaud him again upon returning to camp. But no, if there is one shot that perfectly encompasses just how much Rob lords it over the rest of the tribe, it is this: While Phillip is busy trying to take care of a pesky wasp, if you look in the background for just a split second, you can see Rob lounging in a chair while Ashley stands over him with scissors. To slit his throat? No! She is manscaping him! He actually has his harem grooming him now. Why not just feed him grapes while you’re at it, Ashley? If that’s not the most apt snapshot of the entire season, I don’t know what is.

NEXT: Everyone thinks they’re safe. SUCKERS!

Equally unreal is the confidence put forth by every single tribe member at Tribal Council that they are completely safe. Rob even says how he would feel nervous if he didn’t have immunity, and yet they are all still completely positive that they’re not getting voted out. The other confounding moment is when Probst tees up Phillip to talk about why he should be kept around because he’s not a threat…and Phillip proceeds to inform everyone what a threat he is instead. Is this part of his “strategy” to make everyone hate him? Is he going secret double agent style?

In the end, Andrea is the one shocked — shocked! — to be voted out. “Tricky, tricky,” she says on her way out, even though there was really nothing tricky about it. Tricky is betraying your island boyfriend after he confides in you, and joining the people who blindsided him in blindsiding him again. That’s the bad news for Andrea. The good news is that unlike the other people who got voted out, Andrea gets some final words and we actually get to see who voted for her (although you’d have to be Natalie not to be able to figure that out).

We assumed Andrea would be the first Ometepe to go. If I were Rob, I would target Grant next. Of all the Ometepe left, he stands the best chance of beating Rob because he could at least make the case that he did well in challenges. And because he does so well in challenges, he could go on a run to make it to the finals. (Of course, Rob’s biggest threat is whoever makes it back into the game from Redemption Island.) Just two episodes left, people! But before we get to those, we have our regular treats for you right here. Click on the video player below for an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well as my pregame interview with Steve. Then check out what Jeff Probst has to say about the latest episode in our weekly Q&A. And for more Survivor shenanigans, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. Now, what did you think? Did Andrea get what she deserved? Did Mike make the right call with the loved ones? And how does Rob’s collapse stack up compared with his last one? Hit the message boards and let us know. See ya next week!

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