A tribe switcheroo helps some and hurts others, while one tribe deals with the incredibly shrinking food supply.
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Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols
S29 E5
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It is perhaps the saddest thing I’ve ever heard uttered on Survivor. Yes, even sadder than Jon talking about his father with terminal cancer. Yes, even sadder than a contestant like Jonathan Penner crying while being medically evacuated from the game he loves. And yes, even sadder than the previous saddest thing ever uttered on Survivor, which were the words “And the winner of Survivor: All-Stars is… Amber Brkich!” The new champion of depressing statements came from the lips of one Alec Christy and it was this: “For the first time in my life I can say I beat Drew!”

For the first time? In your life? As in ever? How old are you, man? 22? So, not even in, like, checkers? Or Jenga? Or, I don’t know, Candyland? Candyland is 100 percent luck. I mean, there is ZERO skill involved in that at all so you just figure by the law of averages you would have had to have won at least once. Also, isn’t there a pretty good chance that at some point in whatever contest you were competing in that Drew would just opt out for a snooze halfway through, thereby allowing you an uncontested victory? Or did he later convince you to trade your win away to him in exchange for a pre-owned flint? So many burning questions here that clearly need to be delved into during my next round of Survivor couples counseling. But that’s for a later time and place. For now, let’s jump into the latest shenanigans that went down on episode 5 of San Juan del Sur.

After the blindside of Drew, Jon knows he’s on shaky ground and therefore begins his “apology tour.” As for Jeremy, he informs us that, “I’m right in the middle of where I want to me. This is beautiful. I’m in a beautiful spot right now.” I am convinced that uttering such statements on Survivor is not unlike reading passages of the Necronomicon that automatically unleash all manner of demon entities in Evil Dead movies—as soon as you speak them, you are immediately damning yourself to a swift and unsettling tribe switcheroo to undo whatever good gameplay has already been done.

Sure enough, that is exactly what happens as the contestants converge at the lamely dubbed Hero arena. But first, Coyopa takes a gander at the new Hunahpu, sans Drew. “I thought Drew was Mr. Popular,” says a shocked Baylor. That’s funny—so did Drew! Then Probst says it’s time for another shock, which only serves to remind me of the time I tried to convince myself that “State of Shock” was a good song because it was sung by Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson and they were two huge stars so how could their duet not be awesome? But deep down I knew it was not awesome. (What was awesome, however, is the video for another song off of that terrible record in which the other Jackson brothers literally used a wax dummy of Michael in their music video and hoped no one would notice—”Torture” indeed.)

No, the shock here is that it’s tribe switcheroo time. I went on last week about how while often the tribe swap is a godsend in terms of breathing unpredictability into stale voting patterns, I actually would have liked to have seen the original tribe dynamics play out more this time. Both tribes were just coming off big switch-up votes, with Rocker and Drew being the victims. How would the alliances have shifted as a result of those? I would have liked to have seen that play out a bit more. Of course, I’m sure you would have liked it more had I not rambled on about mid-1980s Michael Jackson misfires, so let’s just call the whole thing even and move on with our lives.

NEXT: Sizing up the new tribes

It is always fun to see how new tribes shake out: Which tribe looks stronger? Who got saved? Who got screwed? All that jazz. So the new tribes are:

















It really is a tale of two tribes, as Hunahpu has only one couple (Josh & Reed) while Coyopa has only one single (Keith). Physically, the clear advantage appears to go to Hunahpu. Strategically, at first glance you would have to say that Josh, Reed, and Keith are all vulnerable due to their sudden minority status. Ah, but first glances can be deceiving. Kind of like the way R.C. and Abi-Maria thought they would totally be BFFs when they first met on Survivor: Philippines. (What could possibly go wrong?!)

Anyhoo, let’s get on to the challenge…. Wait, what? No challenge? We’re just, like, gonna… leave? No Heroes will be crowned today in Hero Arena? But what if, not unlike Bonnie Tyler, we were holding out for a hero and waiting for someone to finally step up and defeat Kevin Bacon in a game of tractor chicken? What then, dammit?

Fine, Probst: We’re leaving. Happy? Let’s check out the dynamics at the newly formed tribes. Josh shows up an Hunahpu and immediately reminds me of the worst houseguest ever, talking about how his shelter was twice as big and how he had a much better food situation back at his place. (Listen, if you don’t like Cup-O-Noodles and an air mattress, then tough noogies for you. DO YOU HEAR ME, DAN SNIERSON?!?!)

The problem, it seems, is that the former Hunahpuians were devouring their rice at a record pace with little-to-no regard for how many scoops of the crispy they were dishing out. With only three days of food left, they debate whether or not to start throwing rocks at birds and eating them instead. I actually do feel bad for Josh, Wes, and Alec in this situation: They were conscientious and may have even been losing challenges as a result of their conservative approach to nourishment, and now they end up paying for the sins of their loved ones.

But all the talk is not about food. There is plenty of strategy chatter as well. Jeremy is worried Reed will jump ship to join Josh and the former Coyopians. He hatches a plan to surround and drown Alec, which isn’t as creepy as it sounds, but instead has something to do with firefighting and convincing Drew’s brother that the couples will band together and take out all the singles.

As for one of those couples, Josh and Reed are thrilled to be back together. But since we are contractually not allowed to hear more than three words at a time from Reed, Josh will have to be the one to tell us all about how awesome their relationship is. And so Josh complies by providing us with some intimate intel about said relationship, informing us that they plan to remain abstinent until marriage. Now, I will not sit here and poke fun at that decision because it is of both a personal and religious nature. If those are their beliefs and how they chose to act—or, in this case, not act—on them, then more power to them. I won’t stoop so low as to mock those beliefs. However, if you think I am going to sit here and stay silent after the Survivor producers showed someone talking all about how they are not going to have sexual intercourse and then immediately followed it up with footage of that someone being drenched by fluid cascading all over his body… well, you clearly are reading the wrong Survivor recap.

NEXT: Be nice to people with no riceOver at Coyopa, there is no wave crashing down on Jon and Jaclyn, unless you consider the epic amount of sloppy saliva being passed forth between the pair as Jaclyn exclaims, “Oh my God, I can sleep with you!” (Not until marriage, kids.) Poor Keith has nobody to kiss, but he does have something perhaps even more valuable—his hidden immunity idol. Now, if you’re like me (and pray that you are not) you’re wondering: Hey, how did Keith get that idol over to his new beach? Well, I asked Jeff Probst that very question and I won’t ruin it here, but go check out my Q&A with the host for all the answers. Pretty fascinating stuff. In any event, Keith is worried he may need that idol since he is the only single on the tribe. But, in reality, all he has it do is sit back and let the rice do its work.

We’ve seen rice as a key player in this game before: Whether it was the Specialist complaining about a lack of scoops of the crispy, or Brandon and J’Tia tossing out their tribe’s supply, rice has played a big role over the years, and it is about to again as Missy and Dale debate how much of the white stuff they should be ingesting. And, to be clear, when I talk about ingesting the “white stuff,” I am, of course, referring to… cocaine. Hey, it gets boring out there. Sometimes you need a little boost—especially before a challenge. No, that’s not it. Rice! We’re talking about rice. Kelley says she is waiting for Ricegate to explode and wants to keep her dad as mellow as a cello. Too late. “She’s a self-centered bossy bitch,” says Dale.

But now comes the time in the program when Jeff Probst looks to the ground and yells, “Come on in, guys!” at it for no apparent reason. (What are they, ants? Emerging from their underground labyrinth of passageways to compete in the name of honor, pride, and an immunity idol to bring back to their queen?) At this particular immunity challenge, teams must race to dig up a bag with two keys, then crawl through the mud, and use one key to open a gate. They must then shake a basket to release 10 sand bags and throw those bags into a wobbly platform. First team to do so wins. I can speak from experience here when I say that digging sucks. Totally underestimated on the scale of grueling Survivor challenge phases. We had to do a similar group dig while testing out the first Gabon challenge, and I still wake up in a cold sweat occasionally when thinking about it. That event has become my personal Vietnam.

This is otherwise an actually pretty fun challenge. Well designed. Me likey. Unfortunately, the contest is over from the outset, as Hunahpu takes a commanding lead and never gives it up. But before they can go back to their beach and celebrate, they have a question for the Hostmaster General: “Jeff, when you have a sec we’d like to talk to you please,” says Reed, doing his best Drew impersonation. He proceeds to explain how they are out of food and want to trade for a bag of rice to sustain them.

Probst correctly points out that the tribe was getting all that extra energy for challenges by eating so much of their food and that, “The tribe now has to now pay that invoice. That invoice will be steep.” Previews show us that he will show up at their camp next episode with food and explain what they must do in return for it. I am hesitant to weigh in too much here about the swap since we have yet to learn what it is, but I do know this: It’s super easy for us to sit here and say, “Hey, they knew they were supposed to ration and didn’t and therefore have nobody to blame for this but themselves. Screw ’em. Let ’em starve. It’s their own fault. After all, it’s not like a huge flood came and carried their food away, like in The Australian Outback. Nor did some loon sabotage the rest of the team by tossing it out, like in Caramoan and Cagayan. They did this to themselves. They don’t deserve special treatment.”

That’s easy to say and completely understandable. But here’s the thing: Three of the new Hunahpuians had nothing to do with that. And four of the former Hunahpuians that did eat all that rice, are now living scot-free of the consequences over at Coyopa. (And I think we all know Missy may have been the chief culprit in this whole situation after seeing what she did with the food supply in her new digs.) So that all complicates matters. As does the fact that producers cannot actually let them starve. They just can’t. So, yes, a deal of some sort needs to be struck, and we’ll see next week what it is.

NEXT: Where are the big time gamers this season?Over at Coyopa, Jon & Jaclyn are the swing couple—which makes them sound like some freaky 197os couple getting ready for a key party, but actually means that everyone wants to pair up with them… even though Jon has those creepy water shoes with individual toes that completely give me the heebie-jeebies. Dale and Kelley appear to strike up a new fearsome foursome alliance with them, but J&J want to feel out all of their options and also check in with Missy & Baylor. This courtship period extends right into Tribal Council as the pairs vying for their attention engage in a shameless game of flattery one-upsmanship.

“They’re the hottest couple in camp right now!” says Dale.

“They’re the hottest couple—period!” counters Baylor.

I’m half surprised Missy does not go up and start literally fanning them off because I guess that’s just how hot they are. Baylor’s compliment was enough, however, as Captain America and Barbie side with the ladies and Keith—splitting their votes to protect against an idol and getting Kelley out of the game. But why Kelley instead of Dale? Seems odd to me considering the mom-daughter beef seemed to be with Dale, and Kelley appeared to be strong enough in challenges, but I’m not sure any of these people really qualify as big time gamers, so who knows what they’re thinking.

In fact, that would have to be my biggest gripe with San Juan del Sur—the lack of solid gameplay we’ve seen so far. The very best seasons (Micronesia, Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan) all featured a mix of impeccable and idiotic strategy. We marvel at the strong moves and laugh at the stupid ones. So while it’s been fun to watch Val tell an absurd lie and Drew absurdly overplay his hand, we have yet to see any masterful play on the other side to counter that. Josh could be a good player. Jeremy, too. Natalie made a nice move to flip the script last week. But we don’t really know. It’s an element that has been sorely lacking from this cast. We’ll see if that continues. (We’ll also see if Josh continues to get the winner’s edit that he’s been given all season.)

Okay, now on to our programming notes: We have our weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst going up Thursday morning (in which he explains how Keith got his hidden immunity idol back) and you can scroll down to the video player below to enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode as well as our pre-game interview with Kelley and Dale. Speaking of Kelley, check back Thursday afternoon for our InsideTV Podcast exit interview with her, and for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Now it’s your turn. Happy about the tribe switcheroo? Think Hunahpu should be given more food? And did Jon & Jaclyn make the right move? Hit the message boards to weigh in with your thoughts, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy… right after I barter with Jeff Probst for some.

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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