Two immunity challenges, two Tribal Councils, and too much dominance by Boston Rob
Rob Mariano
Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS

What a weird episode of Survivor. I’m not talking about Phillip sticking a feather on his head. Or David scratching his ass while hanging upside down. I’m not even talking about Ometepe’s bizarre “buddy system.” I’m talking about two entire episodes being squeezed into one. At first I thought I had simply consumed too many Milwaukee’s Bests and was seeing double. But no! We’ve had episodes with two Tribal Councils before, but that was always one of those lame challenges where both teams had to vote somebody out. This was more like someone in a rush hitting the fast-forward button to cram two episodes worth of challenges, Tribal Councils and general beach living into 60 minutes so they could use the extra hour to go do something important. As if there is anything more important than ‘Survivor’!

If you’re like me — and pray that you are not — you also most likely found yourself shocked that an episode featuring two immunity challenges and two Tribal Councils could produce so little drama. (Humor, yes. Drama, no.) Which is exactly why I support the idea of the Survivor fast-forward. This season started so promising, but let’s admit it — it’s fallen into a bit of a rut. There is almost always a pre-merge lull, so that was expected. Things definitely livened up last week when Matt went through the Redemption Island revolving door and found himself right back where he started, but now with Ometepe clearly in control, and the next vote-outs sure to be Zapatera, there was only so much drama we could hope for. The solution: Get through it as quick as possible. I totally support the decision. Just imagine if they had done the same thing for Survivor: Nicaragua. Hell, we could have jammed through that entire season in an hour-flat!

Also, it’s a numbers game. When Survivor went up from 16 contestants to 18 (and sometimes 20) that meant that unless people started quitting or being evacuated by Dr. Ramona that there were going to be some double eliminations. I always hated a tribe winning a challenge and still having to vote someone off, so I’ll take a super-stuffed episode over that any day. That’s not to say this is exactly the way I would have done it, though. 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.

C’mon, not bad, right? Almost as good as my idea to bury hidden immunity idols in pre-merge tribe challenges to tempt people at the bottom of their tribes to stop helping their own team in the hopes of digging up an idol and saving their skin — another idea that will never see the light of day. But enough of my Survivor day dreaming. Let’s get to last night’s episode, from the top.

NEXT: Return of the Robfather

They say that home is where the heart is. I say your home is where you get sent after making a stupid as hell strategic decision. Welcome back to Redemption Island, Matt! “First and foremost I’d like to congratulate myself for being the most naïve person to ever play the game of Survivor,” says Matt, who then goes on to call himself a moron. (His words, not mine.)

Meanwhile, back in Amber’s stuffed animal collection, Boston Rob has made even more admirers. David calls Rob’s move to vote out Matt “a hit straight out of a mob movie.” And then he goes on to name that movie: The Godfather II, with Matt in the role of Fredo about to get popped on the fishing boat. It’s an apt comparison, however The Godfather is just so obvious. I would have been much more impressed if David could have busted out a Mobsters reference — preferably one involving Richard Grieco. I’ve had Grieco on the mind a lot lately — by the way, if someone ever tells you “I’ve had Grieco on the mind a lot lately,” get the hell out of there and call the police — ever since a few coworkers revealed they had no idea whom he even was. GRIECO! Am I the only guy that watched Booker? Seriously? If Looks Could Kill? Anyone?

Ralph then saunters over to Ashley (please don’t ask him to spell “saunter”) and inquires if he’s on “the chop block,” which, presumably, is like the chopping block and not a place where they illegally dismantle cars. Ashley answers that “We can’t talk about anything like that because we don’t know.” Usually this is something you say when you don’t want to tell someone you are voting them out. Not this time. Ashley honestly has no clue, because Rob hasn’t told her what to do yet. And make no mistake, Rob tells her exactly what to do. Heck, she’d probably even stop plucking her body hair if Rob told her to. But why would he do that? That’s ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as forbidding starving people to eat freshly caught fish.

Ralph’s response is then to tell Ashley, “Hey, if you’re in the top 3, I’d definitely vote for you and not Boston Rob.” This is just awful strategy. You want Ashley to think she can’t beat Boston Rob in the finals and therefore needs to get rid of him, not that he is the perfect person to stick with because she can beat him with votes. Honestly, Ralph, this is even more infuriating than you telling the other tribe about your Hidden Immunity Idol. Natalie, who has been hypnotized by Rob to perhaps the greatest degree of anyone, then runs back to her master to tell him about what Ralph said and how Ashley didn’t want him to know. According to Rob, this means Ashley no longer gets to go the final 3 with him because, “You have to tell me everything. It’s my game. I’m in charge.” And how.

NEXT: Tribal Council — the first one

Wow, this is pretty early for an Immunity Challenge (our first sign that the show is in hurry up mode). But what’s with Phillip dressed like a Native American in an elementary school reenactment of the first Thanksgiving? “Phillip, did you have a collision with a hawk?” asks Probst upon seeing a feather attached to Phillip’s head. “I had a meditation and asked for a sign and out of thin air appeared this feather,” responds Phillip. “It looks good for the alliance of the former Otempo, uh, Atempe, tribe.” Uh-oh. Looks like another case of dry mouth!

The challenge itself is in three parts. The first six to dig up a club and smash a tile go to round two. The first three of them to take a mouthful of water from a trough, crawl under the trough, and spit the water into a tube move on to the final round, which is a block puzzle. Although Boston Rob sends shards of tile flying towards Jeff Probst’s million dollar dimples, he can’t escape the second round and it is Grant and Mike against the self-proclaimed puzzle master, David. And wouldn’t you know it, the brawn defeats the brain, as the former NFL jock Grant solves the puzzle first, winning immunity and leading David to consider his best options for convincing everyone that he once again “threw” the competition. Or at least some good excuses as to why he lost (“Uh, I got shards of Boston Rob’s tile stuck in my eye…Um, I was worried if I won, Rob would do me like Sonny got done at the toll booth in the first Godfather…Actually, I was simply too busy scratching my ass!”).

Back at camp, the former Zapatera members are grasping at straws, or, more precisely, flagpoles. Mike thinks the tribe flagpole has been moved so he and David start digging furiously. Rob sees it, so then he and Phillip run over and they start digging. Natalie and Ashley stand there and do nothing, because the only thing they work on is body hair. That’s not quite fair — they also have to work on figuring out how to pee together under Rob’s new imposed buddy system.

We have a visitor at Tribal Council! It seems Philip’s great-great-grandfather, Jessum Harry, has been hanging about and talking to Phillip in his dreams and telling Phillip — surprise! — how awesome he is. The Zapatera folk don’t agree. David says that Phillip is clearly on the bottom of the Ometepe alliance, to which the former federal agent replies, “I enjoy being on the bottom, if that’s where I am. It’s a nice place to be. You can look up and see what’s going on.” I’m sorry, but is he, like, talking about looking up people’s skirts and stuff? On one hand, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and say no. On the other, he does wear saggy pink underwear. “I have a new family here on Survivor,” Phillip proclaims, only to have Julie point out, “Matt thought you were his family too.” Oh, FACED! After Ralph dreams aloud about receiving a feather — only to be informed by Phillip that, “It takes courage, and determination, and knowing when to hold your tongue to get a feather” — the votes are cast, and Mike the Marine is sent off to Redemption Island to face Matt in a one-on-one duel. Or is he…?

NEXT: Just hangin’ around

After Tribal, Rob assures Phillip that he’s at the top of his alliance, and everyone from Ometepe continues to give Zapatera the silent treatment. But there’s no time for any of that because we’ve got another immunity challenge to get to. In this one, the contestants are forced to hang from a bar as long as they can, and after 20 minutes, they have to hang by legs only. However, they’re really not forced at all, because they can opt to not play for immunity and sit and eat cheeseburgers instead should they so desire. And someone always desires. This time it is Phillip and Steve who go for the feast. What I am about to write may shock you, because I always hammer contestants who don’t compete, but with this one, I don’t have a big problem with it. Why? Because there was zero chance either of these guys would win. The challenge involves endurance, but it’s one that clearly favors the smaller women, because having to hang from a bar means having to hold up all of your weight, and big guys like Steve and Phillip wouldn’t have lasted long.

The results bear that out. It’s no coincidence that Rob, Grant, and Ralph were three of the first four people to fall (along with Julie, who is easily the biggest of the remaining women). Rob’s fall was especially quick. First his hat fell off, and then he followed. Maybe he is like a modern day Samson and all his power rests in his Boston Red Sox cap. Or perhaps he was worried about the hat falling into the same pool as Fabio’s pee from last season and wanted to get it out of there before it soaked up too much stoner urine.

With 20 minutes (and 5 burgers) elapsed, the contestants move to legs only and things start getting a bit chippy. “David’s starting to make adjustments, guys,” notes Phillip when pausing from stuffing his face. Actually, it’s just the aforementioned butt scratching, but David falls soon anyway, leaving, yep, the three women, with Natalie and Ashley letting Andrea win.

Back at camp, Rob is telling us how he doesn’t want the Zapatera crowd to get any momentum or have any connection to the rest of the tribe. One problem: Ralph just caught tons of fish. Rob tries to immediately claim that they are inedible because rigor mortis has already set in. Nice try. The Zap crew cooks them up, and then in perhaps the most fascinating example of Rob’s chokehold on the rest of his alliance, he basically forbids anyone to go and eat it. When a starving Grant strolls over and has a morsel, Rob calls him back like a naughty child who needs to be disciplined. And Grant indeed goes right back, like a kid who has been caught with his hand in the cookie — or, in this case, fish — jar. Amazing. I remember telling Rob before the game started that I thought people would treat him like a hero and he said nobody was that dumb. Well, turns out lots of people are that dumb.

NEXT: Another one bites the dust

At least they don’t want to quit — unlike Steve. The former football player is telling his teammates ‘I’m living on a cup of rice and it’s getting really old. I’m not gonna last much more longer to be honest with you.” According to Boston Rob, Steve has pretty much asked to be voted off. Should the Robfather accommodate that request? “Getting rid of Steve may give me a jury vote. I mean, I’ve been known to have a mercy killing in me from time to time. Haven’t I?”

At Tribal Council, Phillip reveals his secret organization with Rob and Grant: Stealth R Us — although it remains open to debate just how stealthy it is to talk openly about your existence. Apparently, Rob is The Mentalist because he handles all the strategy (Simon Baker and CBS may have something to say about that), Grant is The Destroyer of Aspirations (or The Assassin) because he rocks the challenges, and Phillip is The Specialist because, well, Phillip is…you know, special. Phillip then goes on to also reveal the buddy system, even though he and the rest of Ometepe seem completely unaware that Rob instituted the entire system so that nobody would turn against him. It’s not about you, people! It’s all about Rob! As Julie so astutely points out, “Rob has complete control over them. It’s not even a tribe. It’s a cult.”

It doesn’t matter. David is voted off after Probst refuses to count all four of his votes for Rob — which, unfortunately for David, is the most genius thing the alleged genius has done all season. He’s then sent to Redemption Island to join Matt and Mike. What’s going on there? I thought the whole point of Redemption Island was how fair it was because the earlier you are voted out, the harder it is to get back in. If they’re just going to collect people there for one big competition to get back into the game, that seems to go out the window. We’ll have to see what the plan is here before passing judgment. I will say the one-on-one duels did feel played out so at least it appears like we’ll have something different to look forward to. You know what else you can look forward to? An exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode of Boston Rob explaining why we wouldn’t eat Ralph’s fish! It’s waiting for you in the video player below. Jeff Probst will also be weighing in with his thoughts on Friday morning, so make sure to give that a gander. And for more Survivor scoop, you can follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. But first, let us know what you think. Did you enjoy the Survivor fast forward episode? Should Steve and Phillip have competed in the challenge? Will the Ometepe members ever stand up to Rob? And what are your thoughts on Richard Grieco? Hit the message boards and let us know. See ya next week!