S29 E13
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February 27, 2015 at 09:47 PM EST

Dear Natalie Anderson,

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Dalton Ross. We’ve met actually—out in Nicaragua the day before filming began on Survivor: San Juan del Sur. I spoke with you and your sister Nadiya. You guys cursed a lot and made fun of Rupert. I say that as a point of reference as if that might help you remember, but my best educated guess is that you curse and make fun of Rupert relatively frequently so that may not help much. Anyhoo, I write to you today to say the following: THANK YOU!!! Thank you for restoring my faith in Survivor. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It’s not as if my faith in the franchise ever wavered, but this more just reminded me that remarkable things can still happen in unremarkable seasons.

Look, it’s no secret that this has not been the best of Survivor installments. (And I will tell you exactly where it falls in my updated season-by-season rankings, which can be found a bit later.) Maybe it’s because San Juan del Sur had the unfortunate timing of having to come right after the tremendous Cagayan. Perhaps it’s because the Nicaraguan locale can’t match up to the scenic South Pacific settings. Or could it be because most of the players seemingly have had no clue what they are doing? Whatever the reasons, it just hasn’t measured up.

Matters were not helped when the two biggest players (Josh and Jeremy) were ousted in consecutive weeks. Reed gave it a go for a while and is to be lauded and applauded for his efforts to shake things up, but he was ultimately undermined by clueless Keith. We appeared destined for a super-underwhelming final 3 comprised of people from the Jon, Jaclyn, Missy, Baylor less-than-fearsome-foursome. As viewers, it felt like playing out the string. But then you did it, you magnificent bastard! You got Baylor to agree to your plan to oust Jon. That was temporarily put on hold when he won immunity—I still don’t understand why you didn’t target Jaclyn then instead of Alec, by the way, but I’ll let that slide—however the plan was later back on. Then, after convincing Baylor, you won immunity, and won over Missy as well.

Not only did you provide us with an awesome blindside, but you provided us with something even more valuable—a person to root for. That was the biggest problem with this season after Josh and Jeremy were ousted. I was pulling for you by default after that, pointing to your earlier play to get rid of Drew as evidence of your savvy, but my rooting was half-hearted at best. No longer. You’ve pulled off the move of the game and proven yourself worthy of the million dollar prize. (Although I do want to warn you that there has been a disturbing trend recently in the presentation of said million dollars—they are no longer accompanied by an oversized novelty check. And honestly, if they’re not going to present you with an oversized novelty check, then why bother?) Not only did you do all this, but you did it after your twin sister was the very first one out of the game! Impressive.

So again, my thanks. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to this week’s recap, and I have to do it all lickety-split-like since it is also time for the updated season rankings. Where will San Juan del Sur fall? Read on to find out!


Dalton Ross

Okay, let’s get to the episode that made me about 1,000 percent more excited for next week’s finale, starting from the tippy-top. Jon and Jaclyn are still mystified by Alec being voted out instead of Keith. “I’m really confused,” says Jaclyn. “Did Alec vote for himself?” Oh, boy. That pretty much sums up Jaclyn’s gameplay right there in a nutshell. Hey, Jaclyn: Try to vote yourself out next time and see what happens. Either way, we will enjoy watching.

The next morning, Keith has trouble spitting something out of his mouth, and if things have gotten to the point where Keith cannot even do the one thing he is competent at—spitting—then what good is he? That’s not fair: Keith is actually good at challenges, so let’s see how he does in this week’s reward competition, shall we? The players are divided into 2 teams which will be belted together and have to run through some hay and then over and under a series of hitching posts… wait a minute, hay and hitching posts? What are they, freakin’ horses? What the hell is going on here? Anyway, then they need to fill a bucket with water, go over a teeter-totter and pour the water into a bigger bucket, which will lower a gate, and then they have to solve a plank puzzle. Winners get a spa day. Keith, Missy, and Jon comprise the blue team while yellow is Natalie, Baylor, and Jaclyn.

I want to say a few things about this challenge, the first of which is that the strategically placed teeter-totter camera totally made me feel like I was tripping on mushrooms while watching this, which, coincidentally, I was! It also made me a bit nauseated when it would tilt up and down. Kinda reminded me of the time I went on the Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Studios, almost hurled… and then went on it again! It was just that good.

I’d also like to point out that for some reason Probst yelling to the contestants to “Get clean! Get rubbed! Get fed!” struck me as super awkward—especially the “get rubbed!” part. I mean, have you ever been walking down the street minding your own business and then someone started yelling at you to “get rubbed”? People complain all the time about Jeff Probst’s play-by-play during challenges, and I honestly do not know what they are talking about. That’s when the guy unleashes some of his greatest gems! Yelling at contestants to “get rubbed”? Magic. Pure magic. Just imagine if this challenge had involved balls!

NEXT: Keith knocks the funk off

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