Survivor recap: The First Blindside of the Season
The gorilla and the lion. Both fearsome animals. The kind you don’t want to mess with under any circumstances. But the circumstances are now these, my friends. The gorilla and the lion are no longer content to sit back in their zoos and curse you from afar as you snap poorly zoomed photos from your cheap digital cameras. No, they are now protectors. And enforcers. You do something to the United States, you get the gorilla. You do something to the family, you get the lion. You do something to both the United States and the family? You get them both in the form of the most horrifically mutated beast never to appear on a Syfy channel Saturday-night movie: the GORILION! That’s right! Gorilion! More fearsome than Mansquito. More powerful than Dinocroc. More high-budget than Sharktopus…although I suppose that’s not saying much. Whatever you do, don’t piss off the wackjob in the droopy fuchsia underwear or he will summon the beast. For only he is its master. And only he can unleash it from his secret-agent secret lair, located somewhere between Lord Licorice and Gramma Nutt on the Candy Land game-board map in his mind. GORILION SHALL DESTROY YOU ALL!!! But until then, let’s recap episode 2 of Survivor: Redemption Island, shall we?
The episode starts off in the aftermath of that first Loony Tunes Tribal Council. After being voted out, Francesca arrives at Redemption Island and says being there could be for the best. “I could still win Survivor,” she tells the cameraman, who impressively does not immediately burst into laughter. Dude, sign that guy up as a Buckingham Palace guard. He’s made of stone! Back at Ometepe, Phillip asks to talk to Boston Rob, it being somewhat of a miracle that he can talk, what with his dry-mouth condition and all. Phillip is worried that everyone must think he’s a loose cannon — now, why would they think that? — so he pledges to Rob that “until I go to Redemption, you own my vote.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is music to Rob’s ears. Not that Rob doesn’t recognize the risks of counting on someone so loopy. “I don’t know if he’s delusional,” says Rob. “I think he’s a good-hearted guy. I do. Just might not all be there. Let it be a lesson to you. Government jobs — stressful.”
The next day Phillip goes crab hunting, which, as far as I can tell, amounts to chucking various objects (spears, rocks) at the poor little critters. For some reason killing the innocent crabs reminds him of how much he loves his country. (Personally, it reminds me of the time back on Micronesia where I joked that such an occurrence “most likely wasn’t the first time Parvati caught crabs,” thereby enraging both Parvati’s mom and —randomly — Peter Berg. I kid ’cause I love, Parv!) Then, out of nowhere, Phillip does something rather remarkable, morphing before our very eyes into Stuart Smalley. “I still love Phillip Sheppard,” he says. “He’s a good guy. And that’s okay.” Hey, remember that movie Stuart Saves His Family? Of course he saved them. THANKS TO THE LION!!!
NEXT: Boston Rob breaks up a budding showmance
And from one nutjob to another, as we are next treated to Ralph imitating a rooster. Oh, I shouldn’t give Ralph a hard time. After all, I haven’t seen anyone rock overalls so assuredly since Dexy’s Midnight Runners were bitching about some broad named Eileen. Besides, I don’t need to give Ralph a hard time when Russell can do it for me. “He might be the dumbest person on the face of the earth.” SEE! But damn if Ralph doesn’t pull a total Mr. Magoo, absentmindedly stumbling straight into a Hidden Immunity Idol without even looking for it. “That’s as simple as wiping your hiney with toilet paper,” says the good ol’ country boy of his discovery. Which, I suppose, is also kind of the problem. I thought the idols were now supposed to be harder to find because of the so-called “Russell Factor,” but now we’ve had two idols already found in two episodes — and neither with clues. Do we have to have the freakin’ Ralph Factor now, too?
Back at Ometepe, Boston Rob may be feeling good about having Phillip’s vote in his pocket, but do you know the one thing that Boston Rob absolutely hates? Love. Boston Rob hates love! Here are Andrea and Fabio…I’m sorry, Matt, flirting and giggling and being blond together, and Rob has to go all Sourpuss Sally on the whole thing. Rob remembers how powerful he and Ambuh were back in All-Stars and he wants to break up this showmance pronto. Rob’s thinking long-term and sees this potential power couple as a problem down the line and therefore wants to eliminate it now. And he thinks Natalie could be the perfect partner for him to bring to the end. I see why, because Natalie is about as blank a slate as they come. Nice enough girl, certainly beautiful, but, well, not a whole lot going on up there. Or at least not a lot that she cares to weigh in on. (Getting her to say anything of substance in my pregame interview was like pulling teeth. Incredibly attractive teeth, it should be noted, but pulling teeth nonetheless.) “I’m gonna make big moves,” says Natalie to the camera, “but I trust Rob.” Translation: I’m not going to make big moves.
Speaking of moves, let’s move on to the big Immunity Challenge. Probst takes the Immunity Idol back from Ralph, who claims that it will be returning to Zapatera shortly. Phillip doesn’t take kindly to that and remarks that “it brings out the animal in me. [Gorilion?] I will outlast any man over there.” We’ll see about that. Probst then gives the instructions, which are to swim out, climb up a platform, smash a tile, and retrieve a key. Once your team gets all five keys, you use them to unlock a box that has a ball. That ball is then used to break five tiles. First team to do that wins.
NEXT: Did Ometepe cheat in the challenge?
Now let’s back up those instructions a bit, to right around the part where Probst said — and I quote — “smash a tile and retrieve a key.” I bring this up because I watched Grant forward, backward, and in super slow-motion, and homeboy simply grabbed his key in the air and never smashed any tile at all. In fact, you could still see it hanging there completely intact for the rest of the competition. Had I been a member of Zapatera at that point I would have taken off my buff, painted it red, and thrown it into the pool as a challenge flag, demanding an instant-replay review that Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth could then dissect from every possible angle up in the broadcast booth. To me, it doesn’t matter that he got the key. The host said “smash the tile” in the rules. It’s like on The Amazing Race, where people get a clue saying to take a bus to a certain location. That doesn’t mean you can take a cab. You do that and Phil Keoghan is gonna slap you with a 30-minute penalty while arching his eyebrows for no apparent reason. If you’re told you must do certain things, you do them. At least that’s what I would have been yelling had I been on Zapatera.
The big fat cheaters of Ometepe get their five keys first with a big lead, but then Natalie can’t figure out how to unlock her box, allowing Zapatera to become the first team to start breaking tiles, with Ralph then beating Phillip 5-4. Zapatera then all begin to celebrate along with their newest member, Matt. Oh, wait — no, he’s just congratulating them enthusiastically. Boston Rob is disgusted by Matt’s display of sportsmanship, dubbing the fraternization “despicable.” Honestly, it kind of bugs me as well, but it is something you actually see relatively frequently on Survivor, especially in all-star seasons. The contestants on Heroes vs Villains (one of Rob’s previous seasons, I might add) were constantly high-fiving and hugging after challenges. Several times when I’ve been on location I’ve seen Jeff Probst have to yell at the teams to “break it up.” Remember when J.T. handed Russell the Immunity Idol? That was passed on during one of that season’s many love-ins. But I am with Rob that it is annoying. Matt should be pissed, not getting all huggy-huggy with the enemy. Former football player Grant doesn’t like it either, explaining that “there’s a time and a place for those things, and that wasn’t one of those times.” Of course, Grant played in the NFL, where people who are paid millions of dollars routinely joke and josh around on the field with the opposition after the game is over, so I’m not sure how that is any more appropriate.
Then something truly odd occurs as most of the post-challenge drama takes place at the camp of the winning tribe. That sneaky Russell knows that there will be a clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol in their newly won fishing gear (which, incidentally, is one of my biggest Survivor pet peeves. How many one-legged women must be bowled over before we get rid of the hidden-clue-in-the-reward-gear trick?). So Russell carries the basket back and takes the clue out of the flipper, slipping it into his pocket. Just one problem: Ralph sees it.
NEXT: Ralph takes on Russell
Russell calls alliance-mates Stephanie and Krista (who interestingly enough told me before the game that Russell was her least favorite player ever and had “zero integrity”) together to both rank on Sarita’s swimming ability and read the clue. But Mike and Ralph have other plans. They follow the trio, and Ralph asks Russell if he took the clue. Russell — shocker! — lies while making vague Russellesque threats. “Calm down, boys. This is how the game is played. You’re either with me or against me.” (Never heard that one before.) Ralph counters that the clue belongs to the entire tribe since they won the challenge together, to which Russell replies, “That’s not the way the game is played, my friend,” and love him or loathe him, you have to agree with Mr. Hantz on that one. The two continue to jaw at each other, climaxing, as it always does, with Russell referring to himself in the third person while reminding everyone how awesome he is.
Over on Redemption Island, we see Francesca receiving a luxury item: her journal, in which she no doubt humors herself by jotting down all the inventive ways Phillip came up with to mispronounce her name. Speaking of Phillip, he’s ready to make a speech. For those of you who missed last week’s pep talk (which was an exclusive deleted scene right here on EW.com), you can check it out here — along with Krista’s pregame thoughts on Russell — at our Survivor video hub. This week, he commends everyone for performing “gallantryly” (dry mouth?) and in his own bizarre way apologizes for losing it during the ball toss. I’m actually not sure why he was apologizing at all, seeing as it was Natalie’s inability to open the locks that put Ometepe in a hole. She’s the one who lost the tribe lead, not Phillip. Then again, she’s young and hot, so it’s hard for any of the tribemates to stay mad at her.
As for Boston Rob, his target is now firmly on Fabio 2.0. “I get it. Matt’s playing Survivor. He’s playing textbook. But he’s playing with me.” Rob instructs his alleged alliance of six to vote along gender lines for Kristina and Phillip, but then he takes his new, true alliance of four (with Grant, Ashley, and Natalie) and orders them to vote off Matt, right as Matt is busy telling the camera how “every day Rob impresses me.” Just you wait, buddy boy! But how to handle Phillip, who is as good at keeping secrets as he is at making sense? Rob wisely tells Phillip all is good but doesn’t let him in on the plan, telling him to vote for the person Rob puts his right hand on at Tribal Council.
At Tribal Council, Phillip explains his gorilla and lion tattoos, and if I was being a stickler for detail I would point out that America’s favorite bird of prey, the eagle, would have made a lot more sense in terms of a tattoo of an animal charged with defending the United States. I’m not sure why the hell the gorilla would give a crap about us. All we’ve done is capture them and lock them up in zoos for our amusement. Wouldn’t he be much more pro-Africa? It’s common sense, people! Yet another example of an ill-planned tattoo, if you ask me. Anyhoo, Phillip also explains that he’s not dreading a trip to Redemption Island at all, because then he will get to face off against “my nemesis,” although I thought his true nemesis was the inability to properly pronounce her name.
NEXT: My fearless (and some would say clueless) pick to win it all
Eventually, Rob gives Kristina a back rub, which doubles as a sign to Phillip to vote for her, although that vote doesn’t really matter because Kristina is playing her idol and Matt is the one being voted off. The first blindside of the season! “You guys are learning this game quickly,” says Probst, and if “learning this game” means doing whatever Boston Rob tells you to do, then he’s absolutely 100% correct. Matt heads off to Redemption Island, where he will duel next week against Francesca, and we head off in the blissful afterglow of another highly entertaining episode.
But one question remains, a question many of you asked last week on the boards, which I will now paraphrase and combine into one message: “Hey, Dalton! Where’s your episode 1 pick to win it all? Nothing is more amusing than watching you pick someone who will inevitably get voted out before the merge, thereby further tarnishing your reputation as an alleged Survivor expert.” Well, to that, I say a few things. First off, I would say not to forget about my glory run of Cook Islands through Micronesia, where I picked three straight winners (Yul, Earl, Todd) and then selected Cirie, who would have won had they gone to the now-standard final three. I remind you of this because, yes, otherwise my record has been…well, spotty at best. (I’m the numskull who picked Betsy in Samoa.) The second thing I would say is that I apologize for not announcing my pick last week, but in all that Tribal Council insanity, I just plumb forgot. So here it is. I actually made this pick right after my pregame interviews, and that pick is…Ashley. Like Amanda Kimmel and Danni Boatwright, Ashley is a pageant girl, and like Amanda and Danni, Ashley seemed to me when we spoke to possess solid social, strategic, and physical skills — a true triple threat. We haven’t really seen enough of her yet to know how she is playing (and her lack of screen time and being on the tribe that lost the first two challenges make me nervous), but I’ll stick with the pick — hoping for the best, but assuming the worst. There! Happy?
If you’re not happy, we have a few things that should turn that frown upside down. We have another exclusive deleted scene waiting for you in the video player below, along with my pregame interview with the recently voted off Matt. And keep an eye out for that wily Jeff Probst, who will once again be answering a few questions about the most recent episode, as well as offering a tease for next week. And for more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. Okay, now it’s your turn. Did Rob make the right move in breaking up his own alliance just a few days into the game? Whom are you rooting for in the big Ralph-versus-Russell face-off? And is there anything in the world funnier than the question mark that appears whenever Phillip is identified on screen as a “Former Federal Agent?” Hit the message boards and let us know. See ya next week!