Ashley and Natalie are presented with an opportunity to make a big move against Lord Mariano. Guess what they do with it?

Ashley Underwood
Credit: Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S22 E11

Congratulations, Ashley Underwood! You just won the coveted Most Infuriating Survivor Contestant of the Year award! You join a long line of distinguished recipients: Clay Jordan from Survivor: Thailand. Osten Taylor from Survivor: Pearl Islands. Sierra Reed from Survivor: Tocantins. NaOnka Mixon from Survivor: Nicaragua. Almost the entire cast of Survivor: Fiji. These honorees all earned their titles in different ways. There’s no magic formula for success in this department, just the natural-born ability to infuriate viewers beyond belief. And my, was Ashley infuriating last night.

Perhaps I am particularly infuriated because Ashley was my preseason pick to win the game. And who knows, she may still do it. But she certainly is not playing the game. Not since Jan in Survivor: Thailand have I seen someone so content to sit back and do absolutely nothing. It’s actually worse than doing nothing. It’s the outright refusal to do something. Ashley has been aggressive in her pursuit of unaggressive gameplay. She said it herself in this latest episode, noting that “Rob’s very smart and he’s played this game before. And so we’re kind of taking our lead from him.” Really? We hadn’t noticed!

Then Steve went over and tried his best to explain to her and Natalie that Rob would definitely be taking Phillip to the finals instead of them because no one would vote for Phillip. He suggested the three women join up with him in voting off Rob. “That actually would work if we wanted Andrea in on it,” Ashley said to Natalie. Wait, has she finally seen the light? Grown a spine? Decided to make a move? “But we don’t.” Oh, well. But wait, it gets worse!

Not only did she refuse to even consider the option, but she then immediately ran over to her lord and master Boston Rob and told him how Steve had approached her and said, “‘Our two votes are going for Rob, so if you three girls want to make a big move now’s the time, blah, blah, blah.’ Which obviously we didn’t entertain.” Obviously. This easily had to be the most frustrating scene to watch all season long. Finally we saw a possible glimmer of someone actually not letting Rob walk all over them, and instead they lay down on the ground and put a carpet over themselves just to make his walk all that much smoother. I’m not sure which part of her quote is worse, the part where she equates Steve’s words of wisdom with “blah, blah, blah,” or where she says she “obviously didn’t entertain” the suggestion. Again, obviously.

On one hand, you have to be impressed with the masterful job Rob has done in controlling every single aspect of his tribe. On the other, you have to be frustrated by the fact that he has been offered absolutely no competition whatsoever. Will someone else please stand up and play this game?!? While we’re waiting…and waiting…and waiting, let’s take this week’s episode from the top.

In the aftermath of the big Tribal Council rice-meets-race debate, Steve comes up and tries to make peace with Phillip. Only Phillip is not buying it, saying that Steve is not being “totally genuous.” That’s fine, because Steve then tells us that Phillip should have reached out to him. As for Rob, he is giddy about the racial stuff that Phillip started, proclaiming that “as long as he keeps up his stupid antics he’ll be coming with me all the way to the finals.”

NEXT: Misquoting Jack Nicholson

But before Phillip can go to the finals, the federal agent has another mission he needs to complete — Mission: Locate Bathing Suit. It seems Phillip has had yet another premonition. I know, what are the odds?!? In this one, his Cherokee great-great-grandfather Jessum came to him in a vision and said to “look near the water” for his buried bathing suit. That’s funny, because Jessum came to me in a vision, too! Only in my vision he said, “What the hell is wrong with my great- great-grandson? What an embarrassment. Is there some sort of reverse genealogy we can do to prove we’re not related? I mean, my name is not even Jessum. It’s Frank, for crisssakes!”

Phillip uses his vision to locate and uncover his suit, as angelic voices and trumpets blaring announce his triumph. And then Phillip continues to announce his triumph for all to hear, which includes lots of boasting about how he found the suit “with no clues.” (Who exactly was he expecting to hand him a clue? It’s not a hidden Immunity Idol. At least I hope not.) It also features some fantastic misquoting of A Few Good Men. “Don’t mess with the undercover specialist,” Phillip informs us. “Because he makes his living uncovering the truth. And most people CAN’T STAND THE TRUTH! What did Jack Nicholson say to Tom Cruise? Son, you can’t stand the truth! You can’t take the Truth!” Handle, stand, take…details, details.

Let’s head to Redemption Island. Before we get to the duel, however, I want to get to the latest issue I have with the new twist. I’ve already documented how I feel the RI twist has robbed the show of its most dramatic moment — the vote-off. I also mentioned how I felt it probably should have stopped at the merge. And now I’m a bit worried about issues of fairness. As Jeff Probst mentioned in last week’s Q&A, there will still be people at Redemption Island battling to get back into the game in the finale. Here’s my worry: If someone makes it off RI and then into the final three, doesn’t that give them an unfair advantage with jury members they spent time with at Redemption Island? You have to figure that they would have had time while at RI to bond and unite against a common enemy — the people in the game who voted them out.

Think of it this way: Let’s say there was no Redemption Island and Matt was voted out and sent to Ponderosa (the place where all the jury members stay). Then a while later, Rob turns on Andrea and votes her out. Andrea goes to Ponderosa and hangs out with Matt where they talk about what a jerk that Rob guy is for backstabbing both of them. They bond, make up, and talk about the mistakes they made and the big meanie who sent them both packing. Then, all of a sudden, producers decide to take Matt and put him right in the finals against Rob. Well, whom do you think Andrea is going to vote for now? I asked Jeff Probst if he thinks this gives someone from RI an unfair advantage should they make the finals, and he has a very interesting take on it. Make sure to check out his answer in our Friday morning Q&A.

NEXT: This just in — Ralph is “not a gay person”

If Matt is going to be the one to make it back, he’s got to get his heart back into it. “I’m out here wasting away,’ he says. “God has me here for a reason. God wanted me here.” Then he starts bawling uncontrollably. “God has literally been carrying me for the past four days. I know I’m still in the game, but I’m just so over this game.” Probst notices the difference as well. “This is a very different Matt than I’ve seen in the past,” he says. “It sounds to me like you’re ready to go home.” Matt does not disagree. “I’m going to do the best I can in today’s challenge, but yeah, I think I’m ready to go home.”

You’ll go nowhere and like it! That’s because Matt takes first place in the Survivor shuffleboard challenge, followed by Mike the Marine. That means that Julie is out of the game. This is extremely sad because her house is in foreclosure. On the bright side…PEANUT BUTTER AND OATMEAL!

Andrea then talks about how guilty she feels for breaking Matt’s spirit. That’s an unremarkable comment, but what happens after is quite remarkable. Natalie speaks! She says nothing worthwhile, of course, but she does speak. I wasn’t sure she could for a few weeks there. Let’s head to the immunity challenge. The contest is an old summer-camp standby: the log roll. The contestants will be paired off on a spinning log and whoever can stay on the longest advances. Turns out they’re also playing for a reward in the form of a big chocolate cake. “I know it’s worth playing for,” says Probst, simultaneously winking at and preempting his famous “worth playing for?” line.

The first matchup is Grant (a practical shoo-in to win the whole thing due to similar agility drills he has been subjected to during NFL training camps) versus Rob. Grant does win, then immediately feels bad for besting and possibly upsetting the one and only Lord Mariano. “I love you, Rob,” he yells in perhaps the understatement of the season. Eventually it comes down to Grant versus Ralph in the finals. Ralph’s strategy? Flap your arms like a bird to distract the opponent. Shockingly, this does not work, and Grant wins immunity and the cake. Naturally, Probst tells him he can choose one person to join him in the feast. Do I even need to reveal his pick? Here’s the crazy thing: Say anyone else from Ometepe besides Rob had won. Guess whom they all would have taken? That’s right — Rob. So I suppose Grant is no lamer than anyone else from his tribe, which has to be the most backhanded compliment I’ve ever dished out in this here column.

But wait, sneaky Probst is now letting him pick another person to gorge on chocolate. Runner-up Ralph has a deal he’d like to strike. “I’d hug your neck if you let me eat some of it,” he says, in what has to be the biggest lose-lose deal in Survivor history. (Also, is hug a euphemism for strangle?) “I’m not a gay person,” Ralph clarifies. “I don’t know what else to do.” Grant knows what to do. He picks Andrea, causing Natalie to immediately go to her pouty sad puppy-dog face. Amanda Kimmel would be impressed. Before they leave, Probst throws something to Steve and instructs them not to open it until Tribal Council. Oooooooh, intrigue!

NEXT: An episode so nice they have to vote off twice

Back at camp, Ralph tells Steve that”square’s runnin’ be fun jelly shut Japanese.” Huh? Come again, Ralph? “Fair’s goner be hell and mutt rappin’.” I’m sorry, just one more time? “There’s gonna be none tellin’ what happens.” Oh, riiiiiiiight. Okay, that still doesn’t make any sense, but I think I know what you’re gettin’ at. With Ashley rebuffing any requests to think for herself, the only real questions heading into Tribal Council are what is in that mystery package and, if two people are going home, whether it will be Ralph and Steve or Ralph and Andrea.

At Tribal, Probst tries his darnedest to draw Andrea into a discussion about how flipping now on your own tribe could make sense. Steve joins in by astutely pointing out how Rob cut Lex’s throat on Survivor: All-Stars and will do the same to his supposed friends here. This is amazing in that I didn’t think any of these contestants had seen a lick of the show before Heroes vs Villains. Check Steve out getting all old-school Survivor on us! (Well, middle-school at least.) Rob tries to point out that he still has an alliance with his one true ally that season, Amber. The only difference being I’m pretty sure he’s not going to go and marry anyone from this cast, except perhaps Phillip if he can somehow score another reality show out of it. As the voting starts, Steve makes one last pitch to Natalie to show a spine and vote for Rob. “Let’s do it!” he implores, but all she hears is the perpetual Meow Mix jingle in her head: “Meow, meow, meow, meow/Meow, meow, meow, meow/Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.”

Ralph is voted out and tries to leave before Probst makes him come back to retrieve his torch to bring to Redemption Island. I could make fun of Ralph for that, but instead I’d like to congratulate him for spelling “Rob” correctly on his parchment. No easy task for Ralph, that was. Finally we can get to those mystery cards. Probst instructs Steve to open them and read. The top card says: “You will now compete in your next immunity challenge. You will then immediately vote out one more tribe member.” Déjà freakin’ vu! Why, it was just a few weeks ago in the other double-elimination episode where I wrote how the producers should have handled it differently. I have copied and pasted in my suggestion from that column, which follows: “Here’s what I would have done: have the first challenge, everyone then goes to Tribal Council, Mike gets voted off, and then Probst says, ‘Guess what, suckas? It’s time for another immunity challenge and Tribal Council — right here, right now! BAM!’ They then perch each contestant on small platforms and make them take part in some sort of endurance challenge (like they did for the final Tribal Council-set challenge in Survivor: The Amazon). As each person drops, they go back to their stump and await the end of the contest/beginning of Tribal. Last person out wins the pimped-out immunity necklace and we’re immediately back to voting another person off.”

NEXT: Guess who wins the mental challenge?

So it’s pretty clear what has transpired here. Jeff Probst obviously read what I wrote, went into the time machine he keeps tucked away in his closet behind his stack of Survivor baseball hats and custom-made blue shirts, set the date for September 2010, got chased by plutonium-craving terrorists with a bazooka in a Volkswagen van, ended up in 1955 instead, went to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, tried to avoid getting date-raped by Lea Thompson in a car, taught Chuck Berry how to play “Johnny B. Goode,” used lightning to get back to Nicaragua, and then seamlessly incorporated my suggestion. There, it was that easy. OH NO! The book! He left the Gray’s Sports Almanac book back in 1955! Now all is lost and we’ll be surrounded by strip clubs, casinos, and paintings of Biff Tannen! DAMN YOU, PROBST!

Okay, so it wasn’t my exact suggestion. For one thing, I’m pretty sure Probst did not use the word “suckas” at any point. And instead of an endurance challenge (always my favorite), it was a memory one. That meant Boston Rob would win, and sure enough he did. Natalie, of course, was out first, along with Phillip, whose alleged federal-agent training didn’t appear to come in too handy. When all was said and done, Steve was voted out, finally bringing an end to the long, dark days of obvious Zapatera eliminations. Producers couldn’t have timed their double eliminations any better, shaving two weeks off what would otherwise have been an even more drawn-out, drama-free affair. But now we get down to the (hopefully) good stuff, when Ometepe must begin to eat its own. (Andrea will most likely be the first to go, unless Rob worries about Grant going on a challenge-winning run and cuts him loose instead.)

Did someone say good stuff? We’ve got some right here for you. Start off by enjoying an exclusive deleted scene from the episode as well as my pregame interview with Julie in the video player below. Then read my weekly Q&A with the host with the most, Jeffrey Probst. And for more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. Now it’s your turn. Did Ashley infuriate you as much as she did me this week? Did you like the immediate challenge/vote-off twist? And who will be the first Ometepe member to bite the dust? Hit the message boards and let us know, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

Episode Recaps

SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols


Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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