Matt looks to a higher power for direction, but does it lead him down the wrong road?

Matt Elrod
Credit: Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S22 E8

Here’s a list of things I am bad at: penmanship, dancing, cleaning, spelling, remembering my wife’s half birthday (because that is an absurd thing to have to remember), arts and crafts, performing Sir Mix-a-Lot karaoke, gaining weight, leaving coherent voicemail messages, writing recaps in the voice of Jimmy T., not puking on boats, and anything involving even an iota of patience. It’s a partial list, really. I could go on forever. I suck at a lot of stuff.

Unlike Matt. Matt seems like a great guy with a lot going for him in life. In fact, if you were going to construct a list of things that Matt is bad at, there would be only one item on it — playing Survivor. Look, he’ll tell you himself: “Apparently I’m just not very good at this game of Survivor.” See! And it’s not just that you’re not very good, Matt. You’re really, really bad. First you get way too cuddly with the hot blonde and give Rob cause to vote you out. Then you get back in the game, and run right back to the person who engineered your ouster. And not only do you run back to him, but you tell him how much the other tribe loves you and wants to steal you away! See, this isn’t God’s will at play here, Matt, this is your will to be a big dummy in oversharing information. I get that you were perhaps in something of a no-win situation — the low man in either alliance — but you have to play the hand of cards you were dealt better than that. And now, even with all my reservations about what Redemption Island has done to dampen the drama at the end of each episode, and the news that it will be continuing past the merge, I have to admit, the only thing that could make that twist extension worthwhile would be seeing you battle your way back again, only to get voted out a third time by Boston Rob. It’s like Kenny on South Park: Keep bringing Matt back just to see him get killed off in new and exciting ways. I’m sorry, Matt. I don’t mean to laugh, but seriously, what else do you expect me to do?!?

Here are a few other notable moments from this week’s episode:

Sarita shows a bit of heart

“I was glad to see her because she doesn’t seem too incredibly tough,” said Matt when Sarita arrived at Redemption Island in perhaps the understatement of the season. And while I will admit to emitting an audible chuckle when Sarita commented that “I think I am a worthy opponent,” she actually performed capably in the endurance challenge to reenter the game, making it all the way down to the last peg before bowing out. Now, let’s not get carried away here. She still lost, and to a man who was putting all his pressure and weight directly on an injured foot. However, this was a decent effort and it was nice to see her show a little heart, even if it was too little, too late. Enough at least to warrant some final words after being kicked out, you’d think, but alas, no.

Instead, Probst gave the remaining contestants new buffs. Awesome! He told them they had merged. Awesome! He told them Redemption Island was still in play! Uh…less awesome? I’ve made my thoughts on Redemption Island clear. I feel it weakens the impact of the show’s signature moment, the vote-off, and that, to me, is a problem. So I was hoping that once someone reentered the game at the merge, that would be it. That seemed like a clean place to reset the game, but now, having people come and go once we’re down to an individual game and getting closer to the end? It feels a bit dicier.

NEXT: Oreos for all!

Amber has a stuffed animal collection?

Making up a merged tribe name and saying it stands for something it doesn’t is nothing new on Survivor, but Rob’s choice of Murlonio, which he claimed meant “from the sea, united” was interesting for what it does actually represent. According to Rob, Murlonio is the “ringleader” of Amber’s stuffed animal collection. So first off, Amber still has a stuffed animal collection. So there’s that. But why said stuffed animals need a ringleader remains unclear. Are they disgruntled? Are they possibly mobilizing against someone or something? Against Boston Rob, perhaps? (Hey, at least then someone would then be putting up a little resistance to the Robfather. At this point a stuffed Winnie the Pooh or Snoopy would probably be more of a match for Rob than giggly Natalie or Ashley.)

The Christian coalition

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God does not give two floods who wins Survivor. The dude has much more pressing concerns to deal with. So yes, when Matt said that God wanted him to be victorious at Redemption Island, I rolled my eyes. But I loved what Mike was doing by reading out passages from the pink Bible that Krista gave Matt. Maybe he was just sincerely enjoying the teachings for himself, and that’s totally fine. Or maybe, just maybe, he was indeed trying to form a “Christian coalition” (as Rob called it) to woo Matt over to the Zapatera side.

Of course, nothing escapes Boston Rob, who immediately worried about people bonding over anything — God, romantic comedies, or Oreo cookies. (Just for the record, I would totally be down for a Double Stuf alliance should anyone be willing and ready to form one.) Rob’s the only person in his entire tribe playing the game, but damn, he is playing it well.

Survivor has balls

Before we get to the immunity challenge, can we pause for the cause to recognize what may just be the dopest-looking immunity necklace in Survivor history? I’ve poked a fair amount of fun at some of the ugly contraptions they’ve fastened around winners’ necks in the past, but I’ve got nothing but love for this pimped-out accessory. It looks like it comes straight out of the freakin’ Stargate or something, with mystical powers that could include — but are not limited to — lasers shooting out of the middle and the ability to summon some ancient beast from the underworld. (GORILION!)

Last week’s immunity contest was a huge, sprawling obstacle course and it was a blast watching teams have to literally break through brick walls. But this week reminded us of the power of simplicity. Stand on a log and balance balls on a disc. Whoever does it longest wins. I’ve always been a big fan of endurance competitions where it is a case of mind over matter. Of course, balance played a big part in this one as well. Phillip was having trouble balancing on his log right off the bat, which surprised me because isn’t he supposed to be Mr. Roller Disco King? (Note to self: Buy Phillip a robe that has “Mr. Roller Disco King” spelled out in sparkly gems on the back.)

Phillip ended up recovering and going pretty far, but it eventually came down to Mike versus someone I have never seen before in my entire life. Oh, right, sorry — Natalie. You’ll have to forgive me for being unable to recall all her scintillating sound bites. Are we absolutely sure Brett from Samoa didn’t pull some Freaky Friday-type experiment and end up in the body of a 19-year-old professional-volleyball cheerleader? And wouldn’t you know it, but just like Brett, Natalie proved that she could be both deathly boring and win a challenge, outlasting Mike to don the badass-looking immunity necklace.

NEXT: Matt can’t keep his mouth shut

Matt talks himself right out of the game

Even though Matt had told Andrea earlier that he wanted to take down Ometepe, he changed his mind after his conscience got the best of him. “This absolutely is a game, but my heart is telling me, don’t change. I want to honor my God and be true to who I am, so I’ve decided I don’t want to switch.” How is not playing the game well honoring your God? Boston Rob clearly had a reason for voting you out and that reason hasn’t gone away. You’re too likable, Matt! That’s why he doesn’t want you there. This is a chess game, not a morality test. I have never understood and will never understand how people cannot get this. It drives me batty. There are no moves that are bad in terms of being unholy. They’re just bad. If it is within the rules, then it is within the rules. You are doing nothing wrong!

Of course, Mike did not realize that Matt wasn’t going to flip, so the ex-Marine was putting on the full-court press, not only offering Matt access to the hidden Immunity Idol but even writing him a note. This was an extra bold move because, as we all know, Survivors have not had the best of luck writing notes to other players. (Just ask my man J.T.) Mike was upping his offer and now promising to take Matt to the final three if he voted for Grant. Just one problem: Matt, in a fit of serious Stockholm syndrome, had already confessed everything to Boston Rob. Boston Rob was doubly insulted because (1) he had been part of a plan to get him out, and (2) he had been stupid enough to tell him. “I’m glad we talked, so now I don’t have to worry about anything,” sighed Matt. Oh, Matt. You’re just killing us here. You’re like an adorable kitten running in circles chasing its own tail in the middle of the street, completely oblivious to the 18-wheeler that is mere seconds away from flattening you into the asphalt.

Now Rob had a new plan, or, more likely, a new argument and way to get his tribemates to help him execute the plan he’d wanted to follow all along. “This is a turning point in the game,” he said to Natalie. “Can you figure it out?” Uh, Rob, this is Natalie we’re talking about. I’m not sure she can figure out what 2+2 equals. Oh, I kid. Of course she knows what 2+2 is. 22!

Attack of the bizarre Tribal Council body morphing!

If you’re thinkin’ about my baby, it don’t matter if you’re black or white. You’ll have to forgive me for getting lame Michael Jackson songs stuck in my head (I’m much more of a “Man in the Mirror” kind of guy anyway), but that’s all I could think about as I saw the weird body-morphing technique employed by editors to show the tribe members going up to vote. For a second there I thought I had consumed too many Milwaukee’s Bests, but then I remembered — THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS TOO MANY MILWAUKEE’S BESTS! (Plus, that beer is so freakin’ watered down you could chug a case and be only mildly buzzed.)

NEXT: Even David is impressed

The other humorous element of this Tribal Council was David going out of his way to mention how he threw the puzzle in the immunity challenge way back when so that everyone on Ometepe wouldn’t think he was stupid because he was bad at puzzles — and instead just stupid because he threw a challenge that eventually allowed Ometepe to go up in tribe members at the merge. Phillip also said something crazy that involved deceit and parasites, but I think I was too hypnotized by the red-eyed tree frogs all over the Tribal Council set to understand what the hell he was getting at.

When all was said and done, Ralph had wasted the idol by giving it to Mike, who received not a single vote, and Matt was blindsided — again. In voting off Matt, Rob had sent all his tribe’s votes to the one person they were confident would not be using a Hidden Immunity Idol while also stomping out a potential threat to flip and someone who could possibly get more votes than him in the finals. As David himself had to admit, “Genius is what that was.”

I’m really mixed on watching Boston Rob this season. On one hand, it is undeniable that he has made several savvy moves and is impressive to watch in the way he continues to manipulate his entire tribe each and every week. However, unlike his epic feud with Russell last year, there is no one even close to challenging him on a strategic level, and his solo dominance has the effect of making the rest of his tribe’s lack of ambition and drive positively maddening. Rob is more entertaining when he has someone to battle with, but unfortunately, there is no worthy opponent for him out there, so it becomes the Boston Rob show…which might be fine if it weren’t his fourth time out there already. Many were worried about Russell fatigue before the season started, but I sense some Rob fatigue setting in now as well. Still, it’s not his fault no one else on his tribe is willing to step up. In fact, it’s a testament to his cult of personality that he has everyone so completely under his thumb.

And so Matt goes back to Redemption Island, although the competition he is likely to face there will be tougher than the likes of Sarita, Kristina, and Krista. Will he make it back? And if so, will God tell him to go get embarrassed by Boston Rob again? We can only wait and see, but until then, make sure to enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode in the video player below along with my pregame interview with Sarita. Also, see what Jeff Probst would have done had he been in Matt’s shoes when he chimes in Friday morning with his thoughts. The answer may surprise you. And for more Survivor news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. But first, let us know what you think: Can anyone stop Boston Rob? Is there anything else Mike could have done to get Matt to flip? Were you as unnerved by the weird Tribal Council body morphing as I was? 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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