John Rocker’s infamous words from yesteryear come back to haunt him, and lead to an early exit from the game.

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 27, 2015 at 09:59 PM EST
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S29 E3
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Hey, guys, we’ll get to John Rocker’s implosion on the latest Survivor, but before we do, I’m sorry to say that I’ve had to sell some additional advertising in these here Survivor recaps just to keep things afloat, so bear with me while we pause for this quick commercial message from CBS…

Next Wednesday, on America’s Most Watched Network, the tribe has spoken, and the word is… HILARITY! That’s right, get ready for the debut of the next great sitcom, SPOONIN’! From executive producers Chuck Lorre and Mark Burnett comes the story of one Louisiana firefighter and one homosexual New Yorker—trapped together on a deserted island. Oh, they’ll have a gay old time alright, but will these two fish out of water be able to catch any fish? Keith Nale and Josh Canfield star in a side-splitting tale of survival, stereotypes, and, yes, spoonin! Tune in Wednesday night for the premiere episode as Keith and Josh adopt a new pet—a sassy wisecracking snail named Lester. Can these three misfits stay alive… without managing to kill one another? You’ll have to tune in to find out. But don’t take our word for it. Critics from coast to coast can’t get enough SPOONIN’.

“So, I popped in my advance screener for SPOONIN’…” lauds TV Guide.

“It is a comedy that takes place on an island…” marvels USA Today.

SPOONIN’ airs on Wednesday nights…” raves Entertainment Weekly.

“If there are any guys on SPOONIN’, I will knock their teeth out,” says John Rocker.

Yes, it is universal acclaim for what it shaping up to be America’s next great sitcom. Two urns. One clue. A million laughs. It’s SPOONIN’!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Survivor recap…

Whoops, hold on for one more second real quick. Sorry, just had to set the ol’ DVR. (I wasn’t sold on that show until I heard about that sassy wisecracking snail. I bet he gets all the laughs.) Anyhoo, let’s recap another exciting installment of Survivor, or, as I like to call it: Revenge of the 7 Train.

Back at Coyopa after the vote, Josh is at the center of the action. Baylor is now skeptical of her island BFF saying she “doesn’t trust anyone but will still work with anyone,” which pretty much sums up the feelings of every player that has ever played this game. Meanwhile, Josh confesses to Rocker that he flipped his vote while telling us he was tipped off after watching John sneak off with Val. Eyes are always upon you.

Over at Hunahpu—and I have to say I really am not feeling these tribe names—Drew is either going three levels deep with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy for Inception 2, or he’s just lazy. Either way, the guy is residing in Napsville as he stacks some island Zzzzzs in the shelter. Workaholic Keith doesn’t like what he sees and says he can’t say on camera what he’d do to his son Wes if he slept that much. In comments that can’t help but feel a little cringeworthy in the wake of the whole Adrian Peterson thing, Keith informs us that, “We still spank, we still whoop, whatever you want to call it, in the South.”

Well, let’s see if Keith can spank and whoop Wes in the next reward challenge. But first, Jeremy has something to say at “Hero Arena” when he sees his wife Val is gone. Jeremy expresses frustration, leading Rocker to do the dumbest thing imaginable and apologize for not keeping her safe. Yes, John Rocker actually apologized for something, and no, I don’t think he should have. Because the votes he needs to worry about are the people on his own tribe, and by admitting that he tried to save Val and kept this all a secret from the others—well, why would they trust him after that? This guy really has no clue how to play this game.

NEXT: Jeremy strikes back

As for the challenge, it involves racing across a wobbly beam while transferring wooden squares from one end to the other. First to get all six squares over wins either comfort in the form of a hammock, tarp, mattress, pillows and blankets, or the fishing gear that Hunahpu gave up for flint last time. Wes volunteers to play, saying that his dad won’t be any good at it. (Hmmm, revenge for all those spankings and whoopings, perhaps?) He’s kinda right as he scores Coyopa’s first ever challenge victory in a contest that unfortunately lacks much drama because only one square falls along the way. So it kind of just turns into two dudes moving back and forth for a while.

“I did everything I could, brother. I swear to you,” Rocker whispers to Jeremy on his way out of the place that should be called Exile Arena. It is too little and too late as Jeremy plots his revenge to avenge his wife. And his plot involves… MURRRRRRRRRRRDER!!!! Wait, no. Sorry. Seems I’ve been watching one too many Shonda Rhimes promos. In actuality, his plot involves outing John Rocker’s past to the rest of his tribe. Jeremy told me before the game that he knew who John Rocker was and planned to use that and try to team up with him so he could perhaps sit next to an unlikeable guy at the end. But screw that! Now he just wants revenge.

He informs the clueless Hunahpuians that Rocker pitched for the Atlanta Braves and “said a whole bunch of racist and homosexual stuff and got in huge trouble.” For the record, I’m pretty sure the issue was not that John Rocker “said a whole bunch of homosexual stuff.” In fact, had he “said a whole bunch of homosexual stuff,” then that would have been a very different Sports Illustrated article. I think this could be a bit of a Bluto “was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” moment—but forget it, he’s rolling. So let’s assume that he meant “homophobic” and continue on. Of course, since her twin was also voted out by the other tribe, Natalie takes this info and runs with it, not even showing any sympathy for John’s girlfriend Julie, who is off crying because she has now become a target by association. (Although, it should be noted, things didn’t turn out so bad for Monica Culpepper when people started attacking her husband, Brad, on the last Blood vs. Water season. She ended up making it all the way to the finals.)

Mix all this unrest with a physically bruising contest and sparks are likely to fly, and that is exactly what happens at the immunity challenge. In this latest competition, people are divided into pairs and tethered together. One pair for each team will then race/crawl through an obstacle course to retrieve a tribe-colored ball, which they must then shoot into a basket. First tribe to score three points wins. Dale and Keith sit out because they are not shirtless twentysomethings with regular appointments at waxing salons.

Like the previous immunity challenge, it is a back and forth affair and is once again physical. Alec smashes into Julie, Rocker bashes into Reed, and Wes crashes into Natalie, which sends John into a fit of joy, screaming “Yes! Yes!” I guess that was obnoxious, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t chuckle when Rocker tried to distract a shooting Jeremy by doing his best Caddyshack impersonation and yelling out “Noonan!” (What can I say? I’m a sucker for a Caddyshack nod. I still smile a goofy smile even to this day every time I lay eyes on a can of Fresca.)

NEXT: Natalie goes after Rocker

In the end, it is Jon without an H that leads Hunahpu to victory. But the fun has only begun because I just checked my Doppler 2000 weather tracking device and it looks like Hurricane Natalie is about to land on the coast of San Juan del Sur. “You’re getting rid of all your strongest people,” Natalie yells to the other tribe, although as someone that watched the first two challenges in person I find that statement to be highly debatable. “Julie, why is there a group hate against John right now?” asks Probst. When she replies that everyone is upset because they think he’s the mastermind, the whole tribe comes back at her and says he’s been talking smack the entire time and being a bad sportsman—which is odd because I remember John Rocker as being positively delightful when he pitched for the Braves.

And then Natalie drops the bombshell: “Why don’t you say something homophobic or racist like in your past?” (Or, you know, homosexual.) Lots of talk about the infamous Sports Illustrated article ensues until Rocker simply can’t take it anymore and tells Natalie, “If you were a man, I would knock your teeth out.” WHOA! Ease up, my man. After all that Danny Bonaduce­ – Jonny Fairplay unpleasantness, the next thing we need is another Survivor contestant’s teeth knocked out. Let’s just make that clear right here and now… after I go back and watch that Bonaduce – Fairplay fracas one more time, that is.

At this point, everyone—including Julie—tells him to take it down a notch. To which Rocker replies, “Take all the stuff down. Let’s fight,” which is totally not a Neanderthal response in the least. “Me no like you. Me swing fist. Me hurt you. Me also like girlfriend’s boob job.”

Jeff Probst does not allow the tribes to engage in a full-on brawl, so the teams eventually retreat back to their respective camps, and the question becomes: Did Natalie’s attack and Rocker’s response change Coyopa’s view of their tribemate and how he might fit into their long-term plans? The short answer: Yes. Yes, it did. For his part, Rocker is shocked—SHOCKED!—to find that gambling is going on in here. (Casablanca. Look it up.) “Natalie called me a homophobe today,” John tells us. “Really? My closest ally on this tribe is a gay man. Actions vs. accusations don’t really gel there.” Okay, first off, LOVE the “my best friend is gay” excuse. A classic, if ever there was one. Secondly, what about the “action” when you used the word queer in a major magazine article? Are we ignoring that? (To be fair, the use of that word is one of the very few things that Rocker has expressed regret about, and he does so again here—but still, it’s not hard to figure out where Natalie may have gotten that “accusation” from.)

But the damage has been done as John’s “closest ally” now doesn’t feel good about being in an alliance with someone who “stands for so many things that [he’s] against.” Josh hatches a plan with Wes to basically pull in everyone but Dale to vote out the big fella. Alec, however, has doubts about voting out their biggest athlete so we are left until Tribal Council to find out if they will pull the trigger on the big move.

NEXT: Should celebrities be allowed to play Survivor?

Hey, everyone shut up for a second! Jaclyn has something to say! This is a rare occurrence so it must be something super important she has to get off her chest here at Tribal Council. Let’s all take a listen: “If I make it to the merge, I have a target now.” Wait, what? No, you don’t. I assure you there is no target even remotely in the vicinity of you or your yellow bikini. Oh, hold on, now Jaclyn has something else to say. A 2-for-1! Now she’s talking about the men in her tribe: “They just need to stick to the plan, grow some balls, and vote one of the guys out.” There, now that’s more like it! Welcome to Survivor, Jaclyn! Nice to meet you. For a second there I thought you were going to join Rick from South Pacific, Julia from Caramoan, Brett from Samoa, and Purple Kelly from Nicaragua in the very esteemed and exclusive WHO THE F— ARE YOU?!? club. But now maybe you have something to add. But guess what? Now that I know who the hell you are, you just became a target!!! Bam! It happens that fast.

So the tribe does indeed vote out Rocker, who walks out with “a goddamn idol right in my pocket.” (Admit it: That kind of makes it sweeter.) Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I did not love watching John Rocker have his lunch handed to him. But it does bring up the larger issue of whether public figures like Rocker should be in a game that was designed to be played by 16 complete strangers. Instead of folks coming in with preconceived notions about others or using their past against them—and Rocker’s public past was definitely used against him here—Survivor was originally designed so that everyone comes in with a clean slate. Watching people make those first impressions of one another is a critical part of the game, and when those first impressions were formed 15 years before the game even started—as was the case here with Rocker’s 1999 World Series appearance and Sports Illustrated article—well, that invariably alters the game.

I’m by no means trying to be a purist. Look at the very top of the season rankings I update twice a year and you will find Fans vs. Favorites and Heroes vs. Villains—two seasons filled with a bunch of returning players and their public perceptions and baggage. However, both of those twists were naturally built into the theme of that particular season. To have a cast of all newbies with one sole stand-out (like a John Rocker, Jimmy Johnson, or Cliff Robinson) seems a bit off-balance. Anyway, just putting some discussion fodder for you to chew on.

Speaking of fodder, you will definitely want to check out my weekly Q&A with the Hostmaster General to get Jeff Probst’s take on the John Rocker exit. We also have an exclusive deleted scene as well as my pre-game interview with John & Julie in the video player below. And check back Thursday afternoon for our InsideTV Podcast interview with Rocker. (That should be interesting!) Finally, for all sorts of Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Happy to see John go? Do you think famous folks should be cast among other newbies? And whom are you rooting for to win Survivor: San Juan del Sur? Hit the message board to let us know, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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