A stare down, cursing, and forgotten shoes make for a memorable exit

By Dalton Ross
November 03, 2016 at 09:58 AM EDT
Monty Brinton/CBS
S33 E7
  • TV Show

With apologies to Shane Powers having a chocolate ice-cream bar “in about one minute,” did we just witness the grandest exit in Survivor history? In between the stare down, the cursing, the forgotten shoes, and then even more cursing, it has to be, right? I mean, again, the forgotten shoes!!! When you add that level of awkwardness into the heat and anger and confusion, it is just the most delicious cocktail of all time. And we haven’t even gotten to my favorite part of all — this exchange:

MICHAELA: “Did you do that?”

JAY: “Yeah, I did. Sorry.”

PETRIFIED HANNAH: “I did not do that.”

That exchange is right up there with the following classic from Micronesia:

CHET: “I hurt my head.”

JOEL: “I don’t care.”

CHET: “I know.”

“I did not do that.” What a perfect response — bewilderment mixed with a dash of please-don’t-kick-the-crap-out-of-me. The entire thing was terrific television, even if the result has us all crying into our Milwaukee’s Best. But sometimes the best episodes are the ones where the fan favorite goes home in dramatic fashion. That’s what makes Survivor special. Like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or Lost back in the day, you never know when your favorite character might go. Those are the stakes, and the stakes are why we keep watching. I hate to see Michaela voted out, but I’ll tell you this much — it was a hell of a lot more dramatic than seeing Bret or Sunday go home.

It was also more dramatic because Michaela took all of that bluntness we’ve seen all season, cubed it, and then unleashed it. She went out the way she came in — full throttle. Moments like these are what make the show so great, even if we ultimately hate the outcome — especially because it did not occur at least three days later, so we could be treated to the greatness that would have been Michaela on the jury. Seriously, can you imagine that? She most likely would have given Eliza Orlins a run for her money for the title of Most Comically Expressive Juror Ever.

So let’s all mourn the loss of Michaela in the game, yet appreciate the moment itself for landing an impact that just can’t be felt on other TV shows, right down to her final words to the camera after losing her chance at a million dollars: “Oh, well. I’m gonna get rich some way.” You know what? I don’t doubt it.

This was a great episode in what’s shaping up to be a great season. Think about it: All three tribes after the reshuffling voted AGAINST their majority numbers. All three! How crazy is that? The Gen Xers voted out a Gen Xer on Vanua. The Millennials voted out a Millennial on Takali, and then the Millennials once again voted out a Millennial on Ikabula. That’s insane! Nothing makes sense anymore. Black is white! Up is down! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

In any event, let’s recap this sucker from the very top. We begin on night 18 at Takali, with Adam explaining to Taylor why he turned on them and voted out Figgy. But Adam’s explanation merely consists of him stating the obvious over and over. Like, he just recites previously established facts without actually apologizing. It’s kind of hilarious. “I lied to you and I screwed you,” he says. “100 percent.” Oh, really? Thanks, I hadn’t noticed. “You are now in a worse situation than you were before,” he continues. “And that’s my fault. And I admit that.” Oh, you DO admit that? Thanks again, because there seemed to be a lot of confusion about whose fault it was, so for you to go out on a limb like that and reveal you were the culprit takes a lot of guts. Way to man up!

As for Taylor, he starts to talk tough for the first time all season and says it’s now “a total game of revenge… When it comes time, I will destroy you.” However, he then laughs his goofy stoner/snowboarder laugh immediately after, making his previous threats pretty difficult to take seriously. By the way, have you noticed Taylor and Figgy are suddenly way more interesting out of the game than they ever were in it? I spoke with Figgy last week and she said: “There was a real-life situation that I found out after the game, and it led to Taylor and I not being together.” Naturally, I assumed that to mean Taylor had a girlfriend back home, but apparently it’s more than that — a few hours after my interview with Figgy posted, Taylor tweeted he’s “stoked to be a snow board instructor/DAD this winter!” Yes, that’s an exact quote and yes, he is a snowboard instructor who doesn’t know how to spell snowboard. But a Dad?! So not only did he have a girlfriend back home, but he impregnated her as well? (Either he later thought better of this tweet, or CBS thought better of it for him, but either way, it has since been deleted.)

So there you have it! And the fact I am now reporting on the real-life breakups of reality romances is suuuuuuuuper depressing, so let’s move on, shall we? Over at Vanua — boy, I think I finally have these tribe names memorized; I sure do hope they don’t merge soon or anything! — David rightfully recognizes his neck may be next on Chris’ proverbial chopping block, so he goes to work on Zeke, telling him about his hidden immunity idol. “I hate sharing knowledge that I have,” he says, although judging by the evidence of what we’ve seen from David so far, that does not appear true in the least.

But maybe this information-sharing will pay off. “He has put his life in my hands,” says Zeke. “And I am going to take very, very good care of his life, for the time being.” Ah, but it’s those last four words David needs to worry about. In between promising Taylor to vote out his own and telling Zeke about his idol, there should be some fascinating stuff with David playing out at the merge next week.

NEXT: Michelle gets quite the reward back at camp

It’s time for Jeff Probst to stare at his sneakers, so let’s go watch him welcome the contestants to the reward challenge. As the tribes come in, the others get their first look at the new Takali tribe and Michaela cannot hide her glee at seeing Figgy gone. Probst asks her about the open cheering against them at the immunity challenge, when Michaela said it was just because Millennials had the numbers advantage on Takali. “Sometimes you say what you’re supposed to say, not what you want to say,” she responds. “That was one of those times.” Seeing as how Taylor is standing right there, apparently Michaela didn’t deem this to not be one of those times. “It’s been time for Figgy to go home for a while,” she continues. “So bye, Felicia.”(Ooh, Friday shout-out. Love that movie!)

The challenge itself is a big one, as teams must unwind a bag and release three balls, which then must be shot into a basket, moved through a rope tunnel, and then tossed up onto a perch. First place gets a chef visit to their camp, while second place gets kebabs. Vanua has some initial trouble with the unwinding portion. In fact, it gets so comical as they try to hold Zeke up, the producers actually bust out the circus music for a quick second, no doubt giving Stephen Fishbach painful flashbacks as he relives his personal Vietnam all over again.

They get to the shooting portion last, but thanks to Chris’ shooting and Zeke and Michelle coming up with a super-efficient method for getting the balls through the net — he pushes the ball through while she holds the net up —they take the lead and cruise to victory.

Solidly in second place, Takali looks like they’re in good shape, but here comes Michaela, passing Ken at the end to win her team the kebabs. BEAST MODE!!! But was it too much? She tells us after the challenge how she does not want people thinking, “I’m the one to beat.” (Umm, a little too late for that, methinks.)

RANDOM TANGENT ALERT! Back in eighth grade, I had this science teacher. We called him Doc Rock, a really stupid nickname that makes it sound like he was some cool, Dewey Finn-esque heavy-metal-loving professor, but in reality we just called him that because he was into science and rocks and stuff — and back then, that was about as creative a nickname as we could come up with. Anyhoodle, he always got really upset when anybody passed gas in his class. You’d think a science teacher might show a little more leniency on such matters — seeing as how this was, after all, a bodily function — but in this case, not so much.

So, whenever anybody would let one fly — and this was an all-boys school, mind you, so stuff would rip in fairly frequent intervals — he would always ask the same question: “Would you fart on a date, son?” I suppose his point was if you wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself by farting on a date, you shouldn’t be farting in his class. The problem with this line of thinking is I’m guessing a good 80 percent of the dorks in that class had never even been on a date at that point and still ranked girls somewhere between Pennywise the Clown and Killer Mimes on their list of scariest things imaginable. Also, they didn’t give a crap about squeezing the cheese in his class.

In any event, it seems Chris, David, and Zeke have no interest in dating Michelle because holy hell, they were farting up a storm after that reward feast! I mean, if you’re too damn lazy to walk over to the woods and pretend you’re looking for firewood to do your business in semi-privacy, then at least make an attempt to pass the blame onto someone or something else. (“Hey, did someone just step on a duck?”) I mean, anything, for crying out loud! But no, they were just owning it, perfectly happy and content to belch and fart to their heart’s desire. All this “activity” made Michelle nervous she was the only female on the tribe, but she says she was “not going to change who I am for the game.” What, you don’t want to bust out the trouser trumpet to fit in, Michelle? That doesn’t sound like fun? You don’t want that to air on national television and have everyone start referring to you as Farty McGee? Smart move.

NEXT: Jessica considers a new ally

Speaking of smart moves, Ken and Jessica are now trying to figure out what their best play is going forward. They have already pledged their loyalty to Adam, but oh my god, maybe they should go with the dumb guy! “I’m not so concerned with who is going to be president,” says Taylor, as if he’s auditioning to be the poster child for every terrible Millennial stereotype ever invented. But maybe he’s just the ally these two Gen Xers need. “He might not always sound the brightest,” says Jessica. “But you like him because he’ll give you the answer that is always the answer.”

On one side, they have Adam, who saved them last week but could be craftier and less-than-trustworthy moving ahead. He’s a smart superfan who will do whatever it takes to win. (And then, for no apparent reason, recite back to you the next day exactly what he did, as if he’s giving play-by-play commentary on a game that is already over.) On the other side, they have Taylor, who just tried to vote out Ken but has no idea what he’s doing and could be more easily manipulated. “We have Taylor who, I don’t think he would even understand strategy if you tried to explain it to him,” says Jessica, and immediately visions of Vinnie Barbarino going “What? Who? Where? Why?” spring to mind. Obviously, the merge will help this decision shake out, but with Taylor, Jay, Will, and Michelle all reuniting, I would expect Ken and Jessica to stick with Adam and link up with folks like Zeke and David, and maybe Chris, Bret, and Sunday. Should be interesting to see what happens.

Over at Ikabula, Bret is trying to pull a Tony Vlachos and lie by not telling people he’s a cop. Instead, his cover story is he’s a funeral director, but the way he talks about his job in the vaguest generalities is raising suspicions. (“I see dead people. Ha! Ha! That’s a little funeral-parlor humor for you there. Seriously though, I…you know…do, like, funeral-director-type things. Pick out a casket, talk to the family in a very quiet, soothing voice, watch a lot of Six Feet Under — you know, stuff like that.”) Hannah says she’s 70-percent sure he’s a cop, and I am 70-percent sure that‘s the best move we’ve seen out of Hannah (my episode 1 pick to win) all season. Jay also thinks Bret’s a cop, because he’s just like all the cops in Florida who would be a total buzzkill by busting up his beach bonfires. #BroProblems.

To the immunity challenge we go, where teams will race to throw coconuts into a net. When it gets heavy enough, a flag will drop with numbers. Those numbers release a key that will release slingshots, which will then fire sandbags to knock down targets (Stephen Fishbach’s other personal Vietnam). Takali takes an early lead and never relinquishes it, hitting all five targets before another team even gets two. It comes down to Vanua and Ikabula, and while we’re all waiting for Michaela to dominate once again, this time it’s Chris who hits four of his team’s five targets and sends Ikabula to Tribal Council. Right before the break, Jay tells us Bret has to go home, so at least we know he is safe.

Then some odd stuff starts happening. First off, the entire tribe appears to take some sort of vow of silence, just sitting there on a log for half an hour and awkwardly wondering why nobody else is talking. Is this like when my parents used to play the “Let’s see who can go the longest without talking and whoever wins gets a quarter!” game? My sister and I are clearly not very smart, because we fell for this multiple times. Of course, the plan backfired on my parents spectacularly, because the winner would always spend the next hour mocking the loser in loud, obnoxious ways, driving them even more insane.

Finally, people do commence speaking, with Bret and Sunday saying they have to put each other’s name down so that whoever survives doesn’t upset anyone moving forward by voting for him/her. Next thing we know, Michaela is like a football coach diagramming a play in the dirt with rocks. She says this is to show it doesn’t matter who they keep, but I couldn’t disagree more.

Look, you may make the wrong call, but there has to be a reason to pick one over the other. Maybe one is more of a threat to win individual immunities, or one has a better social game, or one is less trustworthy — whatever the formula is, you have to weigh the pros and cons of each and then come to a decision. And that decision could ultimately be a million-dollar one, because every decision has the potential to affect every decision that comes after.

NEXT: Did Jay make the right move?

In any event, the Millennials finally come up with a somewhat convoluted plan for the girls to vote for the guy and the guys to vote for the girl, and then to vote out Bret on the re-vote. Why they didn’t just have people vote for their own gender instead of confusing matters by having them do the opposite is beyond me. But it doesn’t really matter, because Jay now has other plans. Jay is looking past the numbers and thinks this could be the time to get rid of the person he sees as the biggest threat in the game. We’ve seen Michaela’s strength in challenges, and now Jay and Will are talking about how smart she is, too.

So we head to Tribal Council, where there’s a whole lot of talk about trust with a side order of Tony Vlachos (the best side order ever, as far as I’m concerned). Michaela says one of the Gen Xers is going home, but then the votes come back. After the third reading of “Michaela,” we get one of the most awkward, amazing, peek-between-the-fingers-that-are-covering-your-face-because-you-are-kind-of-too-scared-to-look-yet-at-the-same-time-cannot-look-away moments in Survivor history. “WHAT?!?” Michaela shrieks and then turns around open-mouthed.

Even after her exchange with Jay and Hannah, she just keeps staring. And Probst — to his credit — lets the moment linger. He doesn’t say anything. He just lets it play out for a few beats. He then reads the final note. “Damn, Jay. You just f-cked up.” While Hannah appears to be halfway into a seizure, Michaela keeps her stare down rolling as she gets her torched snuffed. She tries to leave while telling Jay he’s “gonna feel like an a–hole.” Then the forgotten shoes make everything even more awkward. And then Hannah starts hyperventilating, no doubt causing Dr. Joe to murmur “Not this sh-t again” while waiting just outside the camera frame in case his services are again required for someone merely watching something.

It’s about as dramatic as it gets. And the question becomes: Is Michaela right? Did Jay blow it? You could argue this one on both sides, so let’s do exactly that: If Michaela was a solid ally who never would have turned on Jay, that’s a valuable thing to have in this game and hard to give up. Also, Michaela was a huge target and there‘s definitely something to be said for keeping bigger targets around, because if you don’t, then you become the target instead. The counter-argument would be that when you have an opportunity to take out a total beast, you do it. And in doing so, you put a nice notch in your belt you can use to state your case at final Tribal, should you be there at the very end.

My take on it? From a strategic standpoint, I like how Jay is thinking ahead and wanting to take a big swing, but I feel his timing was a bit off. In a case like this, I would rather wait until right after the merge — once you see how the numbers shake out — and then pull the trigger. Michaela is great in challenges, but she’s not going to run the table. There would be other opportunities to get her out, so let the merge happen, shore up your numbers, and see if and how many other Millennials might defect. Once you’re sure you have the majority, you can take her out then. (What if they get to the merge and realize they’re down one alliance member, and therefore are now in the minority? This decision will then come back to haunt them.) Anyway, that’s how I would have played it in Jay’s shoes. But why play when you can armchair-quarterback from the climate-controlled comfort of your living room? That’s what I say!

I also say we have plenty more goodies for you, including an exclusive deleted scene in the video player below and my weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst. We’ll be chatting with the ousted Michaela on EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105) on Thursday at 9:40 a.m. EST), and you can follow me on Twitter for more Survivor scoop @DaltonRoss. Thanks for playing along, everybody, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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