Jason talks a lot about making a last-ditch effort to get out of the bottom ... and somehow it works
Credit: CBS

I’m confused. Did we just watch a one-hour confessional interview with Jason, or was it his same short interview just replayed on a continuous loop over and over again? Because with the exception of a few challenges, every time I looked up at my TV screen I saw the exact same thing: Jason lamenting his situation in the game. Over and over again. And then again after that.

It went a little something like this: “Man, it sucks. I lost my partner and my idol at the same moment. It’s looking pretty bleak right now. But I won’t give up. Just got to find a way in. Need to find a crack in the alliance. It’s gonna be tough, but I won’t give up. It’s do or die time! But I won’t die without a fight, because I don’t know if I mentioned this yet or not, but I won’t give up. Never. Ever. Totally going to keep fighting. I just need to find a crack in that alliance. Because I lost my partner and my idol at the same moment. Which sucks.”

Basically, that was the entire episode. We were hammered with so many expository confessionals of Jason describing the basic parameters of his condition in the game that I started to figure that we as the audience were being fattened up for the inevitable pecking-order-flip-flop-blindside. After all, last week all we heard was how insanely overconfident Jason was, only to then see his alliance blindsided. This was starting to feel like the opposite scenario, where we are pounded over the head for 40 minutes hearing what trouble he is in with his last ditch effort to pull things out, only to see that last ditch effort play out as #Blindside appeared on the lower left corner of our screen.

But alas, it was not meant to be. Jason survived, but only because the majority decided to take out double-dealing Julia instead. Did Cydney and Michele make the right move in not flipping? I say yes, and I’ll explain why a little later. And we’ll also get into one very debatable move by Aubry at Tribal Council that was not as forward thinking as it should have been. But that is all in due time. Let’s go ahead and start at the very top.

Scot is gone! And so is Jason’s idol! The rest of the tribe get back to camp and start celebrating like Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz parading around after a big house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East. Aubry and Tai start smothering each other in kisses. (Tai may have been smooching Aubry, but we all know he was secretly picturing Caleb. Or Mark the chicken. Or both.)

For his part, Jason does a good job of keeping his cool while also pointing out to Julia and Michele that “You can’t get rid of him now. You’ll never get rid of Tai.” He may be right. With an immunity idol and an extra vote advantage, Tai is in a pretty sweet spot. But he needs to make sure his social game is on point to keep that target that goes along with such advantages as small as possible. While out-of-the-loop Jason, Julia, and Michele have an invitation-only pity party by the shelter, Aubry, Cydney, and Tai continue to celebrate. “From now on, there will not be a blindside,” says Tai, practically begging to be blindsided. “We know exactly and we don’t switch. We have the numbers.” Wow, it’s almost like he’s taunting the Survivor gods with a quote like that. And the Survivor gods are wrathful, vengeful gods. You taunt them at your own peril. Just ask Jason and Scot from last week’s episode.

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The next morning Tai goes up and apologizes to Jason for turning on the alliance, calling it the hardest thing he’s ever done. That would lead me to believe that Tai has not done many hard things, but we all know his history escaping Vietnam and living in a refugee camp, so I’m just going to chalk this one up to comforting exaggeration. To his credit, Jason once again keeps his cool and resists the urge to bludgeon Mark the Chicken right in front of Tai as payback.

We have an #OrangeHatAlert at the reward challenge, ladies and gentlemen. In this contest, pairs will be tethered together and have to race through a series of obstacles while collecting rings along the way. They’ll then need to toss all three rings onto a swinging hook to win reward. And the reward in question is a helicopter ride that ends with a picnic of fried chicken, corn on the cob, soft drinks, and wine. From the looks of it, Cydney’s excitement over the chicken is matched only by Michele and Aubry’s desire to chug booze.

NEXT: Why three wrongs make a wrong

There is a random draw to select the pairs, which ends with Joe teamed with Tai, Julia teamed with Aubry, Michele teamed with Cydney, and Jason teamed with a confessional interview camera so he can keep telling it how he needs to find a crack in the alliance. Speaking of which, has there been one Joe confessional the entire season? It’s as if he got pissed off that Julia was running pole position in the race for Most Invisible Contestant in that first month of the season, so he took a vow of silence for the remainder of his time in Cambodia.

In actuality, Jason doesn’t get a partner, so he has to sit out. I don’t get this, like, at all. Last week they had eight players and did an individual immunity challenge. This week they have seven players and do a challenge that requires an even amount of players. Why not just flip the two contests and do the one that needed pairs in the last episode and have them balance their stupid pots this week? Seems super odd, right? Almost as odd as my insistence on being semi-obsessed with such matters.

Anyhoo, Michele and Cydney survive a late scare from Joe — who has his finest challenge outing yet, which, granted, isn’t saying much — and win their food and booze. Naturally, they get to pick someone to join them, and after a brief consultation, select Aubry because she has not gotten any food rewards. Luckily the helicopter ride comes before the meal, because apparently the chopper pilot is some adrenaline-fueled thrill-seeker who keeps diving the plane at crazy angles sure to make anyone and everyone hurl. The helicopter dives at such a dangerous dip, in fact, I half expect to see Jeff Probst hanging out the side yelling “39 Days, 18 People, 1 Survivor!” It’s that same exact shot!

After an unfortunate interpretive take on the chicken dance, the three ladies get down to eating. Seeing as how she was left out in the dark on the last vote, Michele wants to make sure the others trust her, and she may find receptive ears since there is a realization brewing that they can only allow Tai to get so far. At least I think the realization is brewing. I’m actually not 100 percent sure thanks to the fact that Cydney does one of the most remarkable things in the history of Survivor and busts out — get ready for it — a triple negative! That’s right, not a double negative, but a TRIPLE negative. When discussing what to do about the Vietnamese gardener, Cydney informs her tribemates that “We can’t go to no final 3 with no damn Tai.”

So, let me attempt to decipher this one. Two negatives make a positive, so if she said “We can’t go to no final 3” that would mean that they actually could go to a final 3. Or if she said that “We can’t go with no Tai,” that would mean that they in fact do need a Tai to go. But “We can’t go to no final 3 with no damn Tai” is truly taking things to the next level. The bottom line is this: While two negatives make a positive, three negatives resort back to being a negative. So Cydney is, in fact, correctly stating that she does not want Tai in the final 3. Awkwardly, to be sure, but correctly.

But here’s another issue with that final 3 statement. There may not even be a final 3. This episode — episode 11 for the season — will end with 6 players left. That leaves us with only three episodes remaining. Assuming we lose one player in each of the next two episodes, that means we head to the finale with just 4 players, which would seem to almost guarantee a final 2. REJOICE! REJOICE! CALLOOH! CALLAY! THOU HAS SLAIN THE JABBERWOCK! (Now, after all my celebrating, watch us get a Jason vs. Joe final 2. Whoops!)

Back at camp, Jason is worried that he’ll actually be the next to go. “It’s probably going to be me on the block,” says Jason, apparently not realizing that there is no “block” and he is not playing Big Brother with its Head of Household nominations. He and Julia try to get Cydney on board to take Tai out. “It’s a me game, not a we game,” says Cydney. (There was really no pressing need to include that in my recap other than the fact that it sounded cool and it’s the episode title, so I did.) This potential plan has Julia excited. So excited that she has already put Mark the Chicken on death row for after Tai leaves. (Julia will be eating chicken sooner than she thinks, but it won’t be Mark.)

NEXT: If memory serves…

But first we have the immunity challenge to deal with. QUICK! Who was the first person ever voted out of Survivor? Unless you remember that it was ukulele-loving Sonja Christopher, you’re already out of this one as it is a memory contest in which the players must race out in the water to a platform, memorize symbols and corresponding numbers, and then race back and use the numbers as a combination to release a key that opens a box containing puzzle pieces that spell out the word Blindsided. That was an absurd and unnecessarily long sentence, and for that I apologize.

Jason takes a huge lead out to the platform and eventually everyone arrives there to study the symbols and numbers. Cydney leaves first to head back, followed by the others. Once back on land, Cydney and Aubury put down the numbers they know and head back out to the water to take another gander, but Jason, Julia and Michele all decide to go for the key on their first try. Jason’s wrong; the others are not. (By the way, Joe has quit the challenge by this point. Normally, that would be grounds for serious mocking in this here column, but the dude is 71 years old. The fact that he has made it to day 29 and counting in what could easily be considered Survivor’s most brutal conditions ever is a testament to the guy and his effort. I may crack wise about the fact that he seems incapable of changing his mind and that he makes Claude Rains from The Invisible Man seem…well…visible, but Joe still gets respect in my book just for being out there.)

In any event, Michele wins immunity and then informs Jeff that she managed to memorize all of the numbers and symbols, which, if true, is crazy impressive — matching Stephen Fishbach’s memory prowess from Tocantins. In fact, it’s probably the most impressive thing Michele has done all season. I keep wanting to love how Michele is playing, but while she has talked a great game, I’m not sure what she has actually done. Make no mistake, I’m not dissing and dismissing. I just keep waiting for a signature move out of her that has yet to happen.

Could this be the time? While it appears as if Jason would be the obvious target, Aubry now has her sights set on Julia. “I don’t think he can win at the end of the day,” Aubry says of Jason, while “Julia doesn’t really have any blood on her hands.” It’s a very astute point and a smart play by Aubry. But the aftershocks of the move have the potential to ruffle — excuse me, Russell — some feathers. Michele does not know how she feels about betraying her fellow Beauty while Tai does not appreciate Cydney bringing his name up as the decoy. “This is Survivor game and I have to dot my T and cross my I, or whatever how you say it.” That’s exactly how you say it, Tai.

Michele and Cydney both tell the minority alliance they are on board to switch and vote out Tai, but is it just a ruse? The two meet to discuss their actual plan, while Julia and Jason cross their proverbial fingers. Jason points out that if Tai goes, that the two of them will go all the way to he finals! I’m not sure where he is pulling that data, but if I had to garner a guess, my first supposition would be, oh, I don’t know… out of his butt?

We head to Tribal, where Julia kicks things off by letting us know that “we are at a crucial point in this game right now.” This statement means nothing, of course. Every point and every vote is crucial. If you don’t feel that way, you are either too comfortable or too resigned to your fate. Julia and Jason proceed in their attempts to convince Cydney and Michele to flip by saying that Aubry and Joe are too tight, even if that seems like a major reach.

In the latest of a long line of quotes that makes it seem as if Michele is about to make a huge move before she makes no move whatsoever, the former Beauty tells us that “You have to be thinking ahead in this game. You definitely have to make moves at some point or another in order for your game to be respected. You sit at the end and you have to have something to say.” Coincidentally, Michele then has nothing else to say.

NEXT: Aubry misses a golden opportunity

Everyone goes up to vote, and as Probst goes to retrieve the urn and consult with producers how to best order the votes for reveal, a nervous Tai leans over and whispers to Aubry “Do you think I should play my idol?” Aubry’s response? “I think you’re fine, but it’s your gut.”

NOOOOOOOOO! What are you doing, Aubry? Tai is a guy you want on your side right now, but as Cydney so eloquently stated earlier with her triple negative, you can’t go to no final 3 with no damn Tai! And that means you may need to cut him loose at the next vote. And that would be a hell of a lot easier if he has no immunity idol. This was the perfect opportunity for Aubry to flush the idol without having to double-cross Tai. Not only would she not have had to double-cross him, but she would have flushed the idol out of seeming concern for his safety in the game. It was all served up on a silver platter for Aubry, but instead she flipped the silver platter over like she couldn’t stand the sight of it because she was suffering from dysentery while traversing the Oregon Trail. Aubry is a very strong player, and I like her game a lot, but I honestly have no idea what she was thinking here. A golden opportunity, missed.

As for the vote, it is Julia who is sent home as Michele and Cyndey stay true to the alliance. I actually think it’s the right call on their part. Contrary to Jason’s claims that Aubry and Joe are joined at the hip, I have not gotten that impression. (I’m also not sure if at Joe’s age his hip can handle being joined to anything, but that’s a whole other story.) That alliance has seemed very fluid and flexible. If anything, Aubry and Cydney seem tighter than Aubry and Joe. And Jason and Julia were probably tighter than any other duo out there. I’m also not sure had they flipped that it would have been viewed by the others as some super-stealthy big move that would have been respected by the jury. Not every instance of flipping is seen as a positive. So I support the move to stay put this time.

So Julia leaves and Probst informs everyone that, “Fear has entered the game, and when fear is in control, anything can happen.” Not for nothing, but I’m pretty sure fear entered the game the second everyone was forced to jump off the boat on day 1, but it sounds all super dramatic when Jeff says it, so I’ll let it slide.

Regardless of Aubry’s inexplicable idol advice, you have to like her position in the game right now. She has a good résumé of moves and everyone (even adversaries like Scot and Jason) respects her play thanks to generally solid strategy and strong challenge performances. She’ll need to remove Tai at some point, however. Watching these two top threats maneuver themselves closer to the finish line should be a treat to watch.

Speaking of treats, we’ve got an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode in the video player below in which Joe says he looks “like an 80-year-old woman.” And I ask Hostmaster General Jeff Probst about Aubry’s Idol advice in this week’s Q&A, so check that out. We’ll be speaking with the ousted Julia on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) Thursday morning and will have that for you here as well on the InsideTV Podcast. [UPDATE: You can now read/listen to the Julia interview here.] And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. Should Michele and Cydney have flipped? Should Aubry have told Tai to use his idol? Did it feel like the entire episode was one Jason confessional interview on a continuous loop? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!