The tailspin continues over on Zapatera, while Rob's rice has Phillip in a tizzy.
Credit: Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

I was wrong. But in my defense, Jeff Probst was wrong too. After I spoke with Sarita prior to the start of Survivor: Redemption Island, I saw a breakout character. Not necessarily a great player, mind you, but I thought she would be a blast to watch. She told me all about how she was discovered by casting while “taking margaritas to the face” and how she started developing a cold sore while being interviewed by Mark Burnett and therefore named it, yes, “Mark Burnett.” She was so candid, offbeat, and quirky, I thought we had a sound-bite machine in the making, much like my other favorite pregame interview — Francesca. Francesca lived up to her billing in her brief showing, but it never quite happened for Sarita. Not sure why. Probst loved her from his interactions in casting as well. Obviously she showed us something that — once she was left out in the elements — quickly disappeared. It happens. People who are full of vim and vigor often find themselves unable to summon the strength to be funny and entertaining when deprived of creature comforts.

It was sad watching Sarita begging “Help me!” at various points in this last challenge. She’s most likely a completely self-sufficient, confident woman out in the real world. And in the end, her only ally in the game was a guy who didn’t even know what the word “cohesive” means. (Incidentally, I looked up “cohesive” in my dictionary and the definition listed was “not Zapatera.”) If it sounds like I’m writing Sarita’s eulogy even though she is technically still in the game, I am. Now voted off and at Redemption Island and needing only to win one challenge against an apparently injured Matt to get back in the game, I still think she has about as much chance of winning as I do of not going to grab another Milwaukee’s Best before finishing this paragraph, and for those of you keeping score at home, the chances of that happening just officially reached 0%.

Now that I’m properly refreshed, let’s take it from the top of the episode, which — surprise, surprise — features drama between David and Sarita, with the former telling the latter, “I don’t trust you but I have no problem with you.” LIAR! You totally have a problem with her. Other than picking Stephanie to be the caller/puzzle solver in the blindfolded challenge, it remains unclear what exactly Sarita did to inspire David’s ceaseless ire. Maybe she shared her “Mark Burnett” with him. I have no idea. But then when she tries to mend fences, saying “I have a ton of respect for you, David,” it is met with “You don’t have to give me a speech.” Say hello to Mr. Warmth, everybody!

Next we head over to Redemption Island, where Stephanie continues a long, proud Survivor tradition first started by Jerri Manthey of women salivating at the thought of food to the annoyance of the men around them. In this case, Matt — who for some reason is dressed like he’s about to rob a stagecoach with the buff pulled over his nose and mouth — is the one tiring of the constant grub-related chatter. Matt’s ready to get to the duel right now, but before we can do that, we have to bear witness to some more Phillip preposterousness.

NEXT: Ralph Kiser — puzzle king?

Silly Philly is upset over the perception that Rob is controlling him and so references his good pal, 17th century samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi, author of The Book of Five Rings — which is kind of like Lord of the Rings in that both involve lots of swordplay, have the word “Rings” in the title, and are worshipped by big-time nerds. “Nobody’s controlling me!” Phillip pronounces, which is immediately followed by the former federal agent (?) acquiescing to Rob’s command that he keep his shirt on for their visit to the duel. “He’s dangerous because of his stupidity,” notes Rob. “He’s probably the most unaware person I’ve ever met in my entire life.” This statement undoubtedly causes lightbulbs to magically appear above the heads of producers and invariably sets plans in motion for a Phillip-vs.-Coach battle in season 24 — Survivor: Unintentionally Absurd Island. (You know it’s coming, people.)

David and Ralph are the witnesses from Zapatera as Matt and Stephanie enter the arena. It’s a good ol’-fashioned memory challenge with players needing to match up five pairs of symbols to win. God appears to once again be on Matt’s side, as Matt immediately picks two skulls his first time. But Stephanie’s master (Satan? Russell?) also has a little action riding on the outcome as she responds with two crocodiles on her first turn. With all of the tribe witnesses rooting against their former members, Matt eventually wins 5-3. Stephanie’s defeat is followed by predictable anti-Zapatera smack-talking, with the loser imploring Ralph to ditch Sarita and keep David because he is “the only guy that can do puzzles. Are you ready to take on that responsibility?”

“If I got to do it, I will,” says Ralph. And you’ll do a great job of it, too, man! Especially on the word puzzles. As long as the word “cohesive” isn’t part of it. Or “outlast.” Or “Survivor.” Or “the.” “Or “it.” But if “cockadoodledooooooooooo” is anywhere on there, my boy Ralph is all over it! Phillip then starts talking about something called the Bushido code and how Matt is “truly a samurai warrior,” further cementing his link to Coach and the certainty of Survivor: Unintentionally Absurd Island.

On the way back from the duel, Phillip asks Rob how much they should tell the rest of the tribe about what they witnessed, in effect setting himself up, in that Rob will now go and inform everyone else in the tribe how shady Phillip is. (It’s not shady, Rob. It’s stealth! Stealth R Us, baby! Code of the samurai!) Rob is clearly setting Phillip up to be the next guy to go. “If we lose, there won’t be any blindside. I’ll go right up to Phillip and when he asks me who to vote for I’ll say, ‘You know what, Phillip — you’re going home.’ I’ll frontside him.”

Later, the tribe explodes over the proper distribution of crispy rice when the harem attempts to save as much as possible for their savior Rob. But Phillip — after chewing as vigorously as I’ve ever seen any man chew in my entire life — decides he wants some as well, but is denied Rob’s not-so-secret stash. The ensuing argument leads to — when taken on its own without context — one of the most hilarious accusatory statements in the history of the show: “I saw you guys get a scoop of the crispy!” The phrase “scoop of the crispy” manages to amuse me and creep me out at the same time. There’s just something that sounds very dirty about it.

NEXT: Be nice with rice

Meanwhile, there’s still some dissension over at Zapatera in the wake of the David–Sarita feud. Ralph is convinced David will flip at the merge because he’s a lawyer and “they think they’re better than everybody else.” Ugh, tell me about it. Lawyers — with their “spelling” and “grammar” and “lack of overalls.” How dare they! Sarita is still upset as well, informing everyone that “I want to go punch him in the face.” Better not. Because you know who will be all over you if you do? LAWYERS!

One thing I really miss about Survivor is the epic water challenges of yesteryear. Back in the day you’d have cameras in the ocean filming contestants lugging boulders on the ocean floor or diving down to unchain objects that were moored in the deep. That sense of underwater wonder has been missing for a while now due to either unconducive locations or budgetary cutbacks to the marine department. It bums me out, as not only did those contests look amazing, but in terms of the big picture they gave the challenges a diversity that they currently lack. That said, this week’s land challenge is a doozy. It basically amounts to a massive obstacle course in which the teams must collect bags of balls along the way that must be shot into a basket at the end to win. They also get to bust through a brick wall like my main man Kool-Aid or Meat Loaf in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. “Any questions?” asks Probst after explaining the rules.

“Yes, what are we playing for?” inquire Ralph and Julie. Big points to them for honoring/usurping a classic Probstism. Turns out the tribes are playing for a helicopter ride and afternoon picnic on an active volcano. The challenge itself is as exciting as the course it is run on. Ometepe takes an early lead as Sarita is unable to retrieve the first bag of balls, but once Zapatera switches David into the role of ball retriever, the tribe catches up and then takes a big lead of their own, even with Sarita yelling out “Help me!” along the way. However, former professional athlete Grant again steals the show, making basket after basket to give Ometepe yet another win.

And with the win comes their big trip to the volcano. The only question hovering over the proceedings is how long it will take Rob to find the… Oh, never mind. He found it already. What the hell is going on with the women on Ometepe? Are they so dense that they don’t even think to look for clues in the reward gear, or are they so confident in Boston Rob bringing them to the end that they just don’t care? Either way, their complete lack of effort or gameplay is mildly infuriating. As for the clue, “it doesn’t even matter what it says,” laughs Rob, “because I already have the Idol.” And with that he tosses it into the abyss of the volcano. The man certainly has a flair for the dramatic, that’s for sure.

NEXT: Tribal Council/English 101

Speaking of the abyss, the losers at Zapatera make their way to Tribal Council once again with a decision of trust (keep Sarita) vs. strength in challenges (keep David) before them. (And let’s pause for the cause for a second here to congratulate everyone who had “snake” down in their office pools as the Tribal Council entrance animal of the week — a wise bet considering a big, hairy spider had its turn last week.) Probst starts off by asking the question on everyone’s mind: “What has happened to Zapatera?” When Ralph talks about how close they were, Jeff invites David to play a little game of complete the sentence: “Excuses are for…”

“Losers,” David responds. After Ralph then calls himself a loser — his words, not mine — Probst points out how Zapatera has lost three out of four challenges since deciding to throw one to get rid of Russell. (It never works, people!) After lots of chatter about how splintered the tribe is, TC is momentarily halted so Jeff can conduct a language-arts class for Ralph and explain the meaning of “cohesive” and how a question is not something to be agreed or disagreed with, but rather answered. Freakin’ Probst — who does he think he is anyway, a lawyer?!?

In the end, the tribe votes to keep David to help with the challenges, which may not have been the wisest move, judging from the promos that indicate a merge is coming next week before the next challenge anyway. Whoopsie! Speaking of Survivor bloopers, it seems Sarita did not even bother to bring her stuff to Tribal Council, leading to this too-little, too-late advice from David: “Don’t get too confident.”

And off to Redemption Island she goes to face Matt, who will go up against his fifth woman in a duel (as against just one man, Russell). The winner is back in the game. Assuming it is Matt, will he fall back in line with his old Ometepe peeps, or look to join up with the now-outnumbered Zapatera? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out. In the meantime, enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode in the video player below, along with my pregame interview with scrappy Stephanie. Jeff Probst also weighs in with his latest thoughts every Friday morning here on And for more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. But before you leave, make sure to tell us what you think. Would you have kept David or Sarita? Whom are you pulling for in next week’s duel? How do you think Ralph would do on a puzzle? Hit the message boards and let us know. I’ll see you next week with another scoop of the crispy!