One contestant single-handedly flips four votes to change the game

By Dalton Ross
September 29, 2016 at 12:46 PM EDT
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment
S33 E2

Survivor is incredible. There are so many reasons to love this show, and this latest episode basically had them all. Seriously, if you were going to make up a Survivor shopping list with all the things you wanted to pick up, it would look a little something like this:

  • Amazing underwater fishing scene of a dude catching a freakin’ octopus. (Check!)
  • Guy on the absolute bottom of the alliance finding a hidden immunity idol to possibly save himself in the game. (Check!)
  • A medical intervention, but one in which nobody is actually pulled from the game. (Check!)
  • Orange Survivor baseball hat. (Check!)
  • A challenge actually in the water. (Check!)
  • An exciting come-from-behind victory in the immunity challenge. (Check!)
  • Contestants being unable to snap small branches or open coconuts. (Check and Check!)
  • Couple caught sucking face on night-vision camera. (Check!)
  • The host worrying someone may have disappeared on the way to the voting urn. (Check!)
  • Jeff Probst throwing down some cardboard and initiating the ultimate island break-off with some hardcore pop-and-lock action. (Okay, can’t have ‘em all.)

Even without that last cherry on top, this episode basically touched all the bases. But none of that was even the best part. The best part was watching one woman pretty much single-handedly flip four votes all on her own…and completely change the game for the Millennials tribe in the process. If I weren’t too lazy to stand, I would be getting up right now and performing the most dramatic slow clap of all time — outside of perhaps Rudy, Cool Runnings, and Mystery, Alaska, that is — for Michelle. What she did was super-duper impressive in flipping what looked like a sure vote-out for Figgy to one for Mari, with even a vote to spare.

Once a resigned and defeatist Jay came and told Michelle that Figgy was going to be voted out by the tribe, she could have done one of two things. She could have quickly gotten on board with the majority to save face and not be seen as opposition — hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em — or she could have taken a bolder, more long-term look at the game and fought to save a core alliance member who would give her side the numbers moving forward. She chose the latter, explaining to Jay why the numbers were important (why do I get the feeling math makes Jay’s head hurt?) and then laid out a plan to make it happen.

They got Michaela on board — stretching the truth to tell her she was the next to go after Figgy so she would vote to keep a person she clearly despises — and then got Will to go against his better instincts as well. That gave them the majority, but Michelle wasn’t done. She wanted to lock up an insurance vote in case Michaela — who was in the process of once again publicly dissing and dismissing Figgy — reversed course, so she started whispering sweet nothings to Hannah. And she did it right there at Tribal Council.

“I’m voting for Mari,” she whispered to Hannah, and when Hannah asked what the hell she was talking about, Michelle responded with this: “I had a reason. I’ll tell you later. I promise.” WHAT?! I’ll tell you later? As in, after the vote? Well, isn’t THAT convenient! When Hannah mildly pressed her, Michelle once again came back with “Please trust me. I’ll tell you afterwards, not now.” Not now? WHY NOT NOW?! Afterwards is after the vote! This is absurd! No way a superfan like Hannah falls for this nonsense!

Only, she did. The woman who wanted so desperately to break up Kappa Kappa Survivor just got absolutely played. Think about it: Hannah changed her vote based on absolutely no evidence of anything whatsoever. And her lone attempt to sniff out the truth was to ask…Michelle’s biggest ally! That’s right, she asked another member of Kappa Kappa Survivor to verify Michelle’s bogus claim. What did you think he was going to say?!

I honestly can’t believe she fell for the “I’ll tell you later” bit. Now, the vote did not matter — Mari would have gone home anyway — but it was not a good strategic look for my episode 1 pick to win it all. Is it too late to change my selection? (Hey, at least I didn’t pick Mari, whom I was seriously considering.) But again, give it up for Michelle. She showed some serious game by pulling this off, and in the process completely crushed my dreams for a new freakier and geekier Millennials tribe. Last week I was all about Mari, Hannah, and Zeke. Now one of them is gone, the second one just got outplayed, and the third just got screwed over. But my respect for a great game move outweighs all of that, and Michelle earned my respect in this episode.

NEXT: Ken catches dinner and an alliance partner

In any event, it was a great installment from top to bottom, so let’s get to the rest of what went down in episode 2. We begin over at the Gen X beach. “Right now I think I’m playing a miserable game,” says David, who is playing a miserable game. “I’m more of a Cochran than I am an Ozzy,” he says, to which Cochran looks up from his Domino’s pizza order and yells “Hey, don’t lump me in with you, dude!” from his couch. (Also, judging by the way he once again has difficulty breaking a piece of wood, David appears to be more of a Fishbach than anything else.)

But David is starting to turn things around. First, he makes fire! Okay, granted, it was with flint and everybody who plays the game should know how to make fire with flint, but still, let’s give it to the guy. Then, his idol-hunting pays off as he finds a coconut with a weird marking on it and opens it up to find the game’s first hidden immunity idol. Could things be turning around for David? At the very least, it’s a move in the right direction. Hell, I was just shocked to see that the resident Nervous Nellie was not the first member of his tribe to suffer a suspected heart attack.

Meanwhile, over at the Millennials beach, Taylor is telling us how “super rad” Figgy is. And he’s right, she must be super rad if she’s making out with a guy who hasn’t showered or brushed his teeth for five days. Or super not caring about personal hygiene. I’m with Michaela on this one: Why anyone would want to swap spit when your face smells like a toilet bowl is beyond me.

For her part, Figgy thinks “nobody cares” about her showmance with Taylor. Figgy is wrong. Michaela is annoyed, Zeke is incredulous, and even Jay calls them “freakin’ stupid” because “No couple lasts on Survivor. Ever!” Yeah, you tell ‘em, Jay! No couple has ever lasted on Survivor. And furthermore… Wait, hold on… Sorry about that, my Survivor: All-Stars DVD just fell off the shelf for some reason. That was weird. (And yes, I have shelves full of DVDs. And VHS tapes, if you must know. I’M A GEN XER, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!)

Jay’s also upset because women are apparently evil wenches who blind you; next thing you know, you’re stuck with some shrew who makes you miss bowling night. Bowling night? Do Millennials do bowling night? Is that a thing — sitting there chugging down some Coors Light while throwing 7-10 splits and bitching about their “Old Ladies” back home? Or does bowling night just consist of watching hipster bowling movies like The Big Lebowski and Kingpin? Personally, my bowling night is just watching this clip over and over again:

But I also love the adventure and the look and feel of the show. Survivor added a completely new dimension when it went to HD with the Gabon season, and going to a place like picture-perfect Fiji makes Survivor the best show to look at on all of network television. Every week there is one scene that blows me away, and this week that scene was Ken spear-fishing an octopus.

For my money, the ultimate octopus scene in pop-culture history is either the live consumption scene from the original Oldboy or anything involving that lovable Hanna-Barbera scamp Squiddly Diddly, just because he could apparently play the saxophone and the guitar at the same time. But damn, this was one amazing shot by the Survivor camera department and quite a score by Ken. But Ken wasn’t done proverbially reeling things in, because next thing you know, he has David wanting to start an alliance and showing him his idol — not a euphemism, by the way.

NEXT: Paging Survivor medical…

David and Ken want to stand up to “Paul’s Posse,” which I could swear is also the name of a late-1980s local cable-access hip-hop show, but perhaps I’m a bit off on that one. Anyway, they quickly get fellow outsider CeCe on board. It’s unclear if the three of them had time to construct a Paul voodoo doll, but next thing we know, the big fella is shaking, down on the ground, and complaining his hands are numb. It looks scary. Also scary is the fact that this is not happening at a challenge, where the medical team is standing just a few feet away, but at the tribe camp.

On some Survivor locations, the tribe beaches are actually on the same island as base camp. Fiji is not one of those locations. I was out there for season 34 and if my memory serves correct, the tribe beaches are anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour away from base camp by boat. (Keep in mind, my memory is terrible and it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re trying like heck to not vomit at sea, but rest assured they are not close.) So when Paul dropped, there was no Dr. Joe to rush in to help him. Which is why we see a very unusual sight instead — a tribe-camp producer actually stepping out from behind the cameras to handle the situation until medical can make it on the scene.

After having the rest of the tribe back up to give them room, the producer takes Paul’s pulse and tries to keep the big guy calm. Then Dr. Joe and Probst — in an orange hat, no less — show up, with Joe informing the host that Paul “might have had a little heart attack.” A little heart attack? Yikes! I’ve said it before and will say it again — Survivor has been extremely lucky to have never had a player die in the game. With the sheer volume of contestants put through such grueling conditions, you would assume the law of averages would dictate that at least someone might not make it out alive at some point.

People are no doubt going to slam David for that comment, but I won’t. If you feel you are the next one to be voted out — and the person who you believe is leading the charge to get you out suddenly looks like he may go instead of you, thereby possibly keeping you in the game — then it’s only natural for part of you to consider the positive side of that. All David did was admit what pretty much anyone in his position would be feeling but be too scared to say. He didn’t boast about how happy he was Paul suffered a huge medical scare. He just acknowledged the thought occurred to him that Paul’s removal would most likely benefit him in the game. I would have done the same. Now, granted, I am a terrible person, but then again, aren’t most of us?

So it’s over to the immunity challenge we go to see how Paul will hold up in a very physical competition. And an amazing one. I mean, just look at that water. LOOK AT IT! Gorgeous. This is what makes a location in the South Pacific so preferable to somewhere like Nicaragua. Yes, I am a #SurvivorLocationSnob. No two ways about it. Anyway, this challenge requires teams to dive into the water one at a time, race up a cargo net, and then jump into the abyss while grabbing a key in mid-air. Once all five keys are retrieved, they are used to open a chest containing a mask, which is then used to dive down and get five rings that must be thrown on five targets. Winners get both immunity and a tarp, because why not?

NEXT: All the reasons why this challenge was awesome

I love this challenge. I love the action! I love the scenery! I love Chris almost losing his shorts! I love David taking enough time up on the platform to watch a Michael Cimino double feature of Heaven’s Gate and The Deer Hunter before actually getting the courage to jump…and then not being able to swim…and then not being able to find where to put the key. I love CeCe going down in the water to get the first and easiest ring and having to return unsuccessfully without it. I love Ken being a boss and going back-to-back to catch up the Gen Xers up — I was fearing a repeat of Nicaragua when the Old Fogeys tribe was clearly outmatched by the Young Whippersnappers in every contest. I love CeCe getting two rings on targets to give her tribe the lead because I believe in redemption. I love the Millennials losing, just so we can see how things will shake up strategically over there. And I love when Paul exclaims “Dr. Joe brought this old pirate back from the dead, baby!” because I am not sure if that is entirely accurate and I don’t really care and now I am wondering why I watched so much of Pirate Master and if anyone ever actually opened the elusive “Chest of Zanzibar.” I love it all. (By the way, Pirate Master — not available on CBS All Access. Just putting that out there.)

As we go to break, Mari tells us all about how they are going to blindside Figgy…which, of course, means Figgy is safe. Zeke then continues Jinxathon 2016 by telling us how tickled he is to go to Tribal Council because “I came to vote people out and I want to get started.” Does it ever go well for anyone proclaiming how much they are looking forward to going to Tribal Council? It’s as if the second that comes out of your mouth in a producer interview, the Survivor gods immediately conspire against you.

We, of course, all know what happens next. We know because I already recapped it at the start of this recap. I will say I did find it a little peculiar when Will compared Figgy to Cochran and Parvati, because she does not seem remotely like either of those former winners. I also felt sad for Mari for defending Hannah’s whispering, right as Hannah was being tricked into voting her out. “Whatever she’s talking about right now, it’s probably puppies or butts or something,” said a calm, cool, and collected Mari. Oh, why couldn’t it have been butts?!

And are we to infer from this comment that Hannah has been engaging in an ungodly amount of “butt talk” back at camp? And what kind of butt talk, exactly, are we looking at here? Is she talking about her own butt, someone else’s butt, or rather engaging in a social discourse comparing and contrasting the two preeminent butt songs of our generation: Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” and EU’s “Da Butt”? I realize Sir Mix-a-Lot would appear to be the clear and easy winner in such a lowdown throw down, but in defense of EU, they did pen the lyrics “when you get that notion, put your backfield into motion,” so please don’t write them off completely on the topic of getting a little bass in your face, if you will.

I may have been a tad harsh on Hannah for getting tricked so easily at Tribal Council. After all, she likes talking about butts. Plus, she did make Survivor history by dethroning Eliza Orlins and stealing the title of Most Comically Indecisive Juror Ever. Seriously, you know you’ve been up there a while when Jeff Probst has to peek out from the side to make sure you haven’t died while casting your vote.

It was a fitting and bizarre end to a glorious episode. And while our recap is coming to an end as well, our coverage is definitely not. Make sure to check out an exclusive deleted scene from the episode in the video player below. And no true Survivor fan can go without our weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. Plus, if you want to hear from the ousted contestant first, then check out our interview with Mari at 9:40 a.m. EST on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105). And for more Survivor stuff sent right to you, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Okay, your turn. Have at it on the message boards, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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