Let's take this challenge underwater

By Dalton Ross
October 04, 2017 at 09:00 PM EDT
Robert Voets/CBS


S35 E2
  • TV Show

Look, I don’t want to embarrass my kids. But since I have spent well over a decade embarrassing myself in these here recaps, it’s time they took some of the heat as well. So let’s talk about potty training, shall we?

Potty training is goofy as hell. Anytime your kid does not soil him or herself and instead goes to the bathroom in some sort of miniature plastic toilet contraption you have to act like it is the best thing to happen since Pauly Shore stopped making movies. Parades are thrown. Grandparents are alerted. Single tears roll down cheeks in absolute joy. It’s all ridiculous. We even had something called the Royal Potty in our house that was shaped like a throne (the “Magic Throne,” if you will) with a whole book that came with it telling a story about how some dumb-ass kingdom was saved because a kid decided to drop a deuce in the proper place. Even more absurdly, the Royal Potty had some sort of creepy motion sensor that played a royal jingle every time some “material” passed from human body to the plastic cup underneath.

And you know what? As parents, we loved it! We loved the Royal Potty! Because cleaning out a plastic cup with human waste was a hell of a lot better than cleaning human waste off of a human. But our celebrations paled in comparison to the pride and joy at which Simone from Survivor announced her first ever aqua dump.

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Ah, the aqua dump. That old standby method of human waste disposal for Survivor contestants (and, perhaps, reporters — I ain’t saying I have, and I ain’t saying I haven’t). It’s not exactly something one looks forward to — just ask Darnell — especially having to make sure the ejected matter does not get caught in a tide and follow you around relentlessly while the theme from Jaws plays ominously in your head. Yes, aqua dumps can be scary. But I have never in my life seen someone as excited as Simone to take part in this Survivor ritual. After cheering for herself (always awkward, by the way) for completing her mission, Simone informed us that “the fact that I was reliving myself in the water was the biggest milestone.… I feel like a superhero!”

Really? What superhero? Well, let’s see here; the Brown Trout is already taken. Deuces Wild? The Dumpster Diver? Simone the Super Soiler? Whatever, we clearly need to workshop a bit on the name, but we’ll figure it out. Unfortunately for Simone, the water was not the only thing that was crappy. Her game stank just as bad. Memo to all future Survivor contestants: You might want to think twice before telling a tribemate, “I hate the outside.”

If someone is constantly telling me how much they hate the outdoors — at one point Simone complained, “There’s no air conditioning” — they are in essence also telling me they cannot be counted on to stay strong when the going gets tough. If they can’t handle being on a so-far sunny beach in Fiji, how are they going to handle the next physical immunity challenge? How are they going to handle it once a huge storm comes through? How are they going to handle it two more weeks in when they are practically starving?

I don’t blame Simone for having a tough time out there. It’s a hell of an adjustment. I even wondered if Cirie would be able to handle it when I met her on location before her first time playing and she was freaked out about all the bugs. (She clearly adjusted and handled them just fine.) But you don’t advertise your difficulty handling the elements; you hide it! That’s why Simone’s celebration over taking an aqua dump — and drawing more attention to how difficult it was for her to do — just reinforced the idea that she was not fit to be out there. Even the scrawny New Jersey bellhop called her “weird”…think about that for a second. (BTW, as a scrawny New Jerseyan, I am total Team Bellhop.) But don’t cry for Simone. She was sent back to Ponderosa with a roof over her head, and maybe even air conditioning in her room. Probably right where she belongs. Okay, let’s recap the rest of this S.O.B from the very top!

We start at the Heroes camp, where Chrissy is excited because she feels after all the Naked Idol Hopping between JP, Ashley, and Alan that she may no longer be on the bottom of the tribe. Not only that, but by not using her secret advantage idol, she can now produce — with apologies to Bob Crowley — the most bitchin’ fake idol in Survivor history. As for Alan and Ashley, they both think the intra-alliance tiff did them a favor. Alan tells us how his plan worked and that people now see JP and Ashley as a power couple, while Ashley talks about how Alan’s antics show “how off-the-hinges he really is.” Neither of them appears capable of understanding the nuances of a lose-lose scenario, a scenario painted by Ben as he compares his alliance to “old paint. It’s cracked and fractured everywhere.” (Recap continues on next page)

After Simone gets a cookie and a sticker for defecating in the water, we head over to the Healers tribe, where another power couple could be forming. “I think Jessica is super cute,” Cole informs us. “She’s a cool girl. I could see myself with her.” There’s just one problem when it comes to Jessica, and I don’t want to sugarcoat it, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s a biggie. How bad could it be? Is Jessica an evil person who worships at the altar of Sauron? Worse. Does she have a puppy-murdering farm where she kills cute little doggies for giggles? Worse. Does she hold fast and true to her belief that Han, in fact, did NOT shoot first? Much, much worse. You see, the ginormous cloud hanging over Jessica’s head is that she is — gasp! — 30.

I KNOW! If this were Survivor: Panama she’d be two years away from the dreaded “Older Woman” tribe. You have to understand, this is a dog years situation. Being 30 in reality TV is like being 112 in normal society. Just get the woman a cane and a pair of Depends already! Surprisingly — or perhaps not — there is a lot of chatter about beauty on the Healers tribe as we also barge right in on a conversation of Desi talking about how she was Miss Virginia twice and then shift over to Joe telling Mike he’s “one ugly dude.”

This segues into a transition of Joe realizing his strategy of telling everyone that Mike has the idol has been backfiring a bit since it means he can’t go looking for it himself. But where there’s a will (and a well-positioned cameraman) there’s a way. Joe finds an idol map on a tree but can’t figure it out, so he pulls Cole in to help. And Cole does help. He informs Joe that the map shows the idol is buried by the well. So they dig. I cannot tell you how much I wanted Cole to find this idol. I wanted it with every fiber of my being. Not that I give a crap about Cole. He seems nice enough, but he’s done nothing to inform my opinion of him one way or another. I just wanted to see what Joe would have done had Cole dug it up first. And what would Cole have done? Would he have played a game of Finders Keepers, or deferred and given it over to Joe? My gut tells me it would have been the latter, but I would trade in my entire Vanilla Ice bubblegum collection (it exists) to have seen how Joe would have reacted had Cole not handed it over. Alas, no luck.

Meanwhile, over on the Heroes tribe — by the way, does anyone know or care about the actual tribe names? I think one is like Yucatan or Yugo or something — it is suddenly dawning on JP that he is doing this all wrong. He says it sucks being called a power couple with Ashley because they’re not even hooking up. It seems everyone thinks they are friends with benefits…but without the benefits. And now JP is all, If we’re going to be treated like a couple, I may as well get some damn benefits! Homeboy wants to get his Blue Cross Blue Shield on! (Speaking of which, what is the difference between Blue Cross and Blue Shield? Can’t we just settle on one? It seems unnecessarily repetitive. And yes, the irony that I, of all people, am complaining about something being unnecessarily long is not lost on me.)

I still don’t understand wanting to do the hibbity-dibbity when you are all unshowered with no dental hygiene and at the mercy of random idol strip searches, but maybe that’s just because I am an asexual cyborg when it comes to this game. I’d just be feeling more nasty than thinking about the nasty. Then again, I’d do just about anything with anybody to get my hands on some of that lobster in JP’s hand — and no, that is not a euphemism. At least I don’t think so. Sometimes you have dig pretty deep down to get at the root meaning of things we say and do.

While we’re on the subject of analyzing, check out the financial analyst making some moves! Chrissy was on the outs last week yet did not use that idol to save fellow outsider Katrina. (I complained about the weird editing that did not show us any reasoning for Chrissy’s decision, and that was backed up by my exit interview with Katrina, in which she said Chrissy actually “was out to get me from the moment she met me” — something we never got a hint of on the show.)

So now Chrissy has to go from out to in. She says her job is to analyze data, so she’s going to analyze the players on her tribe…which I kind of thought was my job but okay, whatever. Her take on JP? “Truthfully I just don’t think he’s that smart.” DAMN! And I thought I was rough on these people. I’m now like the dude setting up semi-stalkery social media fan accounts for all the players in comparison to Call-It-Like-I-See-It Chrissy. Chrissy is also not feeling Ashley (whom she does not trust) or Alan (who for all we know may start taking off his own clothes at some point to look for an idol). (Recap continues on next page)

“At this point the data shows Ben is a better option for me,” says Chrissy, magically morphing into Spencer Bledsoe before our very eyes. But she’s right. Ben appears the most stable and the most loyal and the most eager to find a true ride-or-die. It’s amazing watching a four-person alliance disintegrate due to one person, but that’s what often happens when you make an alliance right when you hit the beach with people you don’t even know. Remember the day 1 love-fest between RC and Abi-Maria? It also lasted only one day. By sitting back and sifting through the chaos, Chrissy may have just become the power player on the tribe.

I honestly don’t think I am going to be able to successfully recap what happens next on the show — some would argue I have never recapped successfully, period — because I still don’t quite understand it. As far as I can tell…and I’m just piecing this together as best I can…Patrick on the Hustlers tribe picks up a crab. But then Patrick screams and throws it down because he’s scared of it. So then why did he pick it up in the first place? And why did he claim to have a crab in his pants last week? Or was that a euphemism like JP’s lobster? And why would one use any crustacean with pinchers as a euphemism for anything as that sounds slightly horrifying?

So I don’t really get Patrick. “I’m a wild banshee!” he announces while also revealing that his strategy is to keep everyone having fun. Memo to Patrick: Lauren is not having fun. Lauren says Patrick’s volume is at a 10 when it needs to be a 2. (Well, just wait until he gets all Nigel Tufnel on you by turning it up to 11 and see how you feel about that.) But annoying Lauren is just one of Patrick’s many problems. The other is that people don’t want to align with wild banshees. They want steadiness and predictability and votes and actions that you can set your imaginary watch to (because Survivors are not allowed watches).

Watch Fan Forum: Survivor on People TV here, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.

Patrick is like the drunk guy at the party with the lampshade on his head, and while there is nothing better in life than getting to see that guy, you never want to be that guy. Because when the party is over, that guy is going home alone. You’re not going to count on Lampshade Party Guy for anything important. He’s never going to be your confidante or someone you would trust. Lampshade Party Guy is there for a few laughs, until you kinda start to realize that as the night goes on, that Lampshade Party Guy becomes less and less funny. And then you just want him out of your sight. (You also want your lampshade back, but that’s a whole other thing.)

So Patrick and his sunburn could be in trouble. Let’s head to the immunity challenge to find out how much trouble exactly. Let me tell you loud and let me tell you proud — I love this challenge. And there is a cool story behind it. You may have read about it already when I dropped some intel a few weeks back, but the short version goes like this: We had an Entertainment Weekly convention last fall in L.A. called PopFest where people for the first time ever could compete in actual Survivor challenges against former (and future) contestants. It was tons of fun.

So this fan named Will Arbuckle came to the convention to personally accost Survivor challenge producer John Kirhoffer. And accost he did! He pitched Kirhoffer an idea. Then he started pitching more ideas. Kirhoffer then hired the guy as a consultant and a Dream Teamer. And this sign post puzzle is Will’s idea! And I love it! How cool was it to use the names of former Survivor locations on the posts? So smart and inventive. (P.S. Will has one more challenge idea you will see in episode 5.) Put that together with the underwater diving and maneuvering of puzzle pieces through a cage and you have an immediate classic. Of course, in my mind, anything underwater is a classic. They should just stage the entire season underwater as far as I’m concerned. Jeff Probst can float around in an orange scuba suit. Survivor: Atlantis, y’all!

Another reason this challenge was so amazing? For the second straight week, one team went from worst to first, and another went from first to worst. There is seriously nothing the Survivor gods love more than that, and now they’ve kicked off the season with two such scenarios as the Healers come from waaaaaay behind to win while the Hustlers squander their big lead to end up in last place. (Recap continues on next page)

So we end up back at the Hustlers beach, where the question before the tribe is whether to cut loose self-proclaimed Banshee Patrick or Aqua Dump Queen Simone. And it is at this point when Ryan starts reciting passages from my recaps of yesteryear. “Predictability is the best thing I can have in an alliance member,” says Ryan as he weighs whether to cut loose Patrick (who is off to the side checking out a reflection of himself in a diving mask…no doubt preparing for the onset of Survivor: Atlantis). I have written time and time again (even earlier in this here recap) about the necessity of predictable partners in this game. You can’t afford to have alliance members coloring outside of the lines because one rouge vote or action can sink an entire team. If you can’t count on someone to follow through with the game plan, then you can’t count on them period.

Only problem for Ryan is that Simone is not a much better option. He doesn’t trust her at all, so it has become a case of pick your poison. What will he do? Well, I’d love to go to Tribal Council to find out, but instead my mommy is making me go to Peyton Hester’s birthday party. This sucks! Peyton Hester is a total stinky-face and I can’t believe I have to go watch him jump up and down at the Sky Jump Trampoline Center for 90 minutes with all those other losers from my homeroom class at school. They’re just going to surround me on the Moon Bounce and yell “Dalton the Dolphin! Dalton the Dolphin!” in my face while bouncing me into the corner until I get trapped in the seam between Moon Bounce floor and wall. Stupid Peyton Hester!

Watch Fan Forum: Survivor on People TV here, or download the free app on your Smart TV, mobile and web devices.

At least they’re voting someone out of this birthday party. What’s also weird about the party is that two of the people at it — Patrick and Devon — appear to have taken it upon themselves to start competing for the title of Manspreading Champion of the World. Not content to merely put his genitals front and center, Patrick also decides to start spreading some intrigue as well with the announcement that he can trust “most” of the people there. Everyone makes a big deal out of it, but I’m pretty sure he’s just excluding the person they are all about to unanimously vote out, and that person is Simone, who can now escape back to the comfort of her air-conditioned room at Ponderosa. But Simone has a good attitude about her departure, hugging everyone on the way out and saying she’s proud of herself for stepping outside her comfort zone. Good for her! I mean, bad for us, because she didn’t add a whole lot to the show, but good for her!

So, all in all, not a spectacular second episode. I dug the challenge a lot, but wonder how many gamers and interesting characters we have to follow. Ryan, I guess. Joe and Dr. Mike from the Healers are intriguing. And Chrissy is showing us something on the Heroes tribe. Is that about it so far? Hoping some more personalities emerge that we can really get behind. They may be there. I feel like I still don’t know who half these people are. Like, I may have just imagined this, but isn’t there someone named Roark on this season? No idea what she looks like, but the name sounds familiar. Or maybe I’m just daydreaming about Fantasy Island again. We’ll have plenty of time to find out. But I would say that this season is off to a bit of a slow start. Of course, I thought the first two episodes of Redemption Island were dynamite and you know my feelings on that season as a whole, so two episodes does not a season make.

Let’s get to the goodies now! You can check out an exclusive deleted scene from the episode below. Also make sure to enjoy my weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. And the first place you can hear from the ousted Simone is Thursday at 9:40 a.m. ET on EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105). We’ll also have that interview up on EW.com and the EW Morning Live podcast so you can head there for it later. And you can also watch me and three-time Survivor Andrea Boehlke break it all down every week on the Survivor Fan Forum after-show. Finally, for all the Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Okay, now it’s your turn. How are you feeling about the season so far? Did the Hustlers make the right move it getting rid of Simone instead of Patrick? And are Cole and Jessica the next Taylor and Figgy? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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