A contestant opens up about his demons

By Dalton Ross
October 25, 2017 at 09:00 PM EDT
Robert Voets/CBS
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I’m kind of a germaphobe. Not a super crazy one, mind you. Well, on second thought, maybe I am a super crazy one. When anyone in my family gets sick I basically quarantine myself off from all of them. There may or may not have been an incident where my sick daughter came up to me with tears in her eyes sobbing, “Daddy, I don’t feel well. I need a hug,” only to get the response, “Daddy’s hugs cost $5 billion dollars. Go see your mother.” I may or may not be known for carrying Purell in my pocket for immediate emergency hand cleansing after an inordinate amount of hand shaking. And I can neither confirm nor deny that I have been accused of pretending not to see someone just so I can avoid any and all bodily contact.

Which is why I almost straight-up hurled watching Cole on this latest episode of Survivor. The dude was just licking…everything! And I realize that may sound disgusting, but trust me, in this case it was even more disgusting than it sounds. He was licking spoons. He was licking fingers. He was licking jars. There was so much licking going on I half-thought he was merely paying homage to everyone’s favorite Caucasian Canadian reggae artist, because homeboy was all “licky boom boom down” on anything that moved. The Snow comparison actually tracks because with all the secrets Cole has been spilling, he certainly could be referred to as an “Informer.” But then I remembered that Canadians aren’t allowed on Survivor so there goes that theory. (That’s so unfair, eh?)

Seriously, what the hell? We saw Cole basically have mouth sex with a spoon, then put the spoon back in the jar for other people to enjoy his sloppy seconds. I mean, I know dating a virgin can lead to some — um…frustration, we’ll call it — but cheating on Jessica with a spoon? Dude, that’s rough. And now other people are expected to use that spoon? Honestly, this was my worst nightmare. It’s like the world’s most extreme case of double-dipping. (Speaking of which, when will human beings realize the solution to avoid double-dipping is to simply break the chip in half before dipping. That way you can dip each side of the chip once and yet still get two dips per chip? When will our national nightmare end?)

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

Every time the camera cut to Cole licking his fingers I threw up a little bit in mouth. To make matters worse, Lauren accused Cole — no doubt already sexually aroused after his tryst with the spoon — of fondling his own man parts in between dipping his hands into the communal peanut butter and jelly. Again, I’m trying to give the guy the benefit of the doubt considering he’s dating a virgin, but if I were out there and had the choice between either starving or eating Cole’s crotch jelly, then I’d be starving. And have you seen me? I’m so scrawny I make Ryan look like the freakin’ Rock. I can’t afford to starve or else a moderate-to-strong breeze will just carry me away. Jeez, the licking of the spoon? The crotch fondling? Shouldn’t the Sex Doctor be weighing in on all of this? Isn’t that why he’s there? Do you really expect me to believe it is mere coincidence that Cole, the Sex Doctor, and the virgin all ended up on the same tribe? Au contraire, mon frère.

As much as I talk about putting up with nonsense and not letting personal feelings get in the way of strategic decisions, these Cole shenanigans might push me over the edge. Hell, when someone covers a sneeze with their hands instead of vampire sneezing into their elbow, that pushes me over the edge, so you can imagine how I would feel about this. Along with blabbing everyone’s secrets to everyone for no reason, that’s two strikes against Cole — and it looks like he may be out next week…at least passed out, judging by the preview.

Okay, we need to get through the rest of the episode, culminating in a big decision for Ryan that I am warning you right now I will spend waaaaaay too much time dissecting the pros and cons of. Yes, I just ended a sentence in a grammatically incorrect fashion. That’s how off the chain things are going to get this week! But really quickly — because I always need a minimum of one off-topic tangent per paragraph — I am going to have to not-so-sneakily transition into the role of shameless salesman for a minute. If you’re a Survivor fan — and I have to assume you are, otherwise I have NO IDEA why you would be reading this (it’s certainly not for the prose) — I must recommend you read an amazing Survivor piece that posted yesterday. I can call it amazing because I did not write it. Rather, former players did. Thirty-five of them, to be exact. To help celebrate season 35, I asked 35 former players to share their fondest memories from their time on the show, and what they responded with is a mix of humor, heart, and just plain weirdness. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that you actually may laugh and cry while reading it, so please do yourself a favor and check it out right here.

Tangent done! Let’s recap this S.O.B!

Joe Can Read Minds!
I wrote last week that Joe was probably full of it in saying that he could read Ashley’s face and that’s why he kept the idol for himself. And I do maintain that he still was partly full of it because I don’t think there was any chance he was going to actually part with the idol and allow himself to be vulnerable to being voted out. And let’s be clear: That’s not a dig at Joe. I wouldn’t have shared my idol in that spot either.

But just because he would not have given up the idol does not mean Ashley did not tip him off with her facial reaction, and according to everyone there, that’s exactly what she did. First, Probst backed up Joe’s account in our weekly Q&A. Then Alan confirmed it as well — even after saying how much he could not stand the guy — and now at the start of the episode, even the guilty party in Ashley ‘fesses up, saying, “I caught myself as soon as I did it.” So let’s give credit where credit is due. But let’s also be real: No way Joe gives up that idol, no mater what Ashley’s face says. And nor should he have. 

Bigger Than the Game
Powerful. That’s the only word I can use to describe what happened with Ben here in the cold open. Of course, brevity has never been my strong suit so now I will proceed to use many more words to say, essentially, the exact same thing.

Look, I don’t think anyone is going to mistake me for having served a day in my life in the armed forces. I think about what those brave men and women have gone through and experienced, and I realize that I can’t even begin to comprehend it. I have no reference point whatsoever. That’s because I’m way too much of a coward and a chickens—. I’m not trying to be funny here. I’m being honest. I am. I’m a total wuss. Which is why I have the utmost respect for all those non-chickens—s who do risk life and limb to serve and protect our country. Their bravery astounds me.

And what so many of them have to deal with when they return is heartbreaking. Hearing Ben talk so openly and honestly about his experiences returning from combat was super impactful. “There’s things upstairs that are there forever,” he said after struggling upon hearing some burning bamboo popping noises that apparently reminded him of gunfire. “Coming back with that stuff — it’s hard, it’s lonely, and you feel like no one understands. Civilians have no idea what it’s like to be shot at and have people try to kill you. You can’t comprehend it without going through it.”

Now, you all know it takes a lot to get me choked up. I am an emotionless cyborg Vulcan of a gamebot who cares not for human feelings that merely get in the way of strategic reason, order, and logic. But damn if my eyes did not well up during this scene. I’m not saying I cried! Just welled up. But that is huge for me. Because Ben is absolutely right. I don’t understand. And this dude — and so many other dudes and dudettes (Jesus, I sound like Devon) — have to live with this every freakin’ day of their lives.

“My wife and kids have definitely saved me from my demons, my nightmares, and the past,” Ben went on. “I used to live in the past.” Wow. And to think that my wife and kids have to listen to me bitch and moan about stupid stuff like a Sunday football overrun throwing off my DVR’d season pass schedule. That’s, like, a major area of concern for me. And here’s Ben dealing with some actual real issues because he went over there and put his ass on the line for what he believed in. (For the record, I believe that cable providers should have the technology to automatically adjust DVR schedules on the fly due to live event overruns, but let’s try to stay somewhat on point, shall we?)

When Ben talked about the bigger picture of being able to serve as an example and show other veterans who have gone through war and depression and PTSD “that there’s a way to life outside of all that hell,” in all honesty — and I’m warning you that this is going to sound cheesy as all get-out — that made him already the winner of this season in my book. WHAT?!? I warned you it would be cheesy! I know! There’s probably a pool of congealed Velveeta developing on the corner of your screen right now, that’s how cheesy it was. But the sentiment remains. That was one of the most awesome and powerful moments I have seen on the show in a long time. Now let’s move on to discuss people wiggling around half-naked in the sand while pushing a ball with their heads like a group of poorly trained seals.

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

Not All Rewards Are Created Equal
This reward challenge not only was insanely difficult, but it forced the contestants to look absolutely ridiculous. Which is to say, I loved it. You may remember this doozy from Millennials vs. Gen X as players were forced to slither in the sand with their feet tied together and arms bound at the side. This time they had to push a ball with their head though, and then finally at the end one person would have to shoot five balls in the basket. But who cares about the basket part — that’s boring. It’s all about those poor souls horizontal on the ground getting sand in places where they do not want it. And really, if we’re going to be honest, it’s all about Ryan. While attempting to push the ball with his noggin over a hill, the ball rolled back down and he had to start over. Then it happened again. And then it happened again. Terrible for him; fantastic for us.

But was it that terrible for him? His tribe — Soho or Solo or whatever they’re called — got last place, which means that they missed out on…coffee? Okay, first place was iced coffee and pastries plus coffee and teas, while second place was iced coffee. Look, I don’t drink coffee so I could not have cared less about this reward. But as I wrote last season, I’m not sure even if you do drink coffee that this is a reward you really want. You’ve already weaned yourself off the stuff, so why start back up? Plus, I choose to stubbornly ignore clinical research and cling to the unfounded belief that caffeine dehydrates you. Ryan even noted, “It’s gonna run right through us,” and I guarantee that will dehydrate you.

So, yeah, I’m going to downgrade coffee as an actual reward. Why dehydrate yourself in a grueling physical challenge just to dehydrate yourself even more by drinking the reward and then having to deal with the inevitable stomach acheand sugar crash after eating the pastries? (Spoken with true confidence from the guy writing from the comfort of his air-conditioned living room.)

My point is, you all know my feeling about throwing challenges. (I’m against it.) But like that time in Kaoh Rong when three people almost died playing for some freakin spices, sometimes it is worth calculating the risk vs. the reward. If the reward is coffee, is that really worth completely depleting your reserves of energy and stamina? It’s a question I would have asked myself had I been competing. I probably would have volunteered to either shoot baskets or sit this one out

That’s not being a quitter, but rather playing the long game. 

Idol Behavior
Surprise! I have thoughts about hidden immunity idols! Shocker, I know. But here’s the thing: Jessica and Sex Doctor went hunting for an idol and found one. Of course they found one because they knew exactly where to look. That’s because Cole told them where Joe found his. And that’s because whether he is licking something or spilling secrets, Cole can’t keep his mouth shut.

So Jessica and Sex Doctor looked in the exact same place on their new beach (buried a few feet next to the water well) as Joe found his on their old one. Smart! I’m actually surprised it took them this long to go get it. But I don’t know how crazy I am about hiding idols in identical spots on opposite beaches. That’s because it presents an opportunity for someone to hoard idols — basically, if they find one on one beach, that automatically gives them an opportunity to find two or even three idols off of only one clue. It happened with James in China and it happened just last season with Tai, which was also at the water well. Isn’t that giving too much power to one person just because they found one clue? I asked Jeff Probst this very question in this week’s Q&A, and I won’t spoil it for you here, but his response is pretty hysterical and probably sums up how most of production feels when I make yet another one of my idiotic suggestions.

Anyway, I’m against hiding idols in identical spots on different beaches, but I do have another idol idea that my daughter and I workshopped together. As most of you know, for years I begged producers to hide an idol in a challenge, and they finally relented on Second Chance. Then my daughter had the idea to give tribes different choices in a challenge and we saw that in the first immunity contest this season. Here’s our latest collaboration: What if there was a hidden individual immunity idol built into the tribe immunity idol?

Think of it this way: You find a clue to the idol. It can be back at camp, it can be in a bag of chips, it can be given to you by John Cochran on a yacht — I don’t care how you got it. The point is, you get the clue. And the clue tells you that there is a small crown on the top of the tribe idol that can be removed that is actually a hidden individual idol. So now you have to go and win the challenge, somehow get yourself alone with the idol back at camp, remove the crown, and see if anyone even notices that part of the tribe idol is missing.

But we’re not done. Because someone else from one of the other tribes may have also gotten a clue telling them about the individual idol hidden in the tribe idol. So when that idol comes back for the next immunity challenge, and they see the crown missing, they know someone has taken it. They just don’t know who. Do they tell other players from that tribe once a tribe swap or merge happens and try to fish it out? I think there are a lot of layers here worth exploring. What do you all think? Hit me up in the message boards or on the Twitter and let me know. (This means you too, Probst!)

Oh, and before we move off the idol hunting completely, I’d like to give Sex Doctor props for referring to himself in the third person. “You can never underestimate Dr. Mike,” he told us. Okay.

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

Immunity Is Up For Grabs
Let’s give out more props — this time to Survivor challenge producer John Kirhoffer. The challenges this season have for the most part been truly bitchin’, and this week was no exception. The slithery reward contest was fantastic, and the water-based portion of the immunity competition was a delight as well, as players had to swim and retrieve three heavy bags of rice that then had to be pushed through a tight window and then carried over a balance beam to shore.

Then they had to use some balls to complete a ball maze, and that’s one that feels a bit too familiar, but still, the water stuff was awesome. I don’t know what it was about watching the teams have to smush that big heavy bag through a tight window, but I kinda loved it. Such a seemingly simple task that was anything but. Cool stuff. In the end, Yawa won and Levu got second, meaning Soko had a date with Jeff Probst at Tribal Council, and Ryan had a very big decision to make. 

Pick Your Poison
So all it all boils down to this. Some woman I have never seen before (name of Roark, I think?) wants Chrissy out, and Ali is on board with that plan. But Ryan wants to keep Chrissy around because she owes him for giving her the advantage that she neglected to use. Plus, they’re both from the Dirty Jers and have to keep it real, Garden State-style. But Ryan tells us he is now stuck between Ali and Chrissy because they are his two closest alliance members and Ali will never work with Chrissy. That poses a problem with what to do at the vote.

So let’s go over Ryan’s choices, because they are kind of fascinating. He could try to shift the target to JP, but for whatever reason, that doesn’t seem to be an option. Maybe they feel like they need him in challenges — especially after Chrissy just failed to impress in the latest one. Maybe they want him to catch more lobsters. Maybe they’re hoping he’ll hop around naked again. I have no idea, but we never hear his name discussed, so for whatever reason we have to take that option off the table.

So it’s either Chrissy or Roark going home. Let’s look at Ryan’s reasons for each.

The reason to vote out Chrissy is that it is what your current biggest ally (Ali, because Devon is currently on another beach) wants. You’ve been aligned with Ali in some fashion since day one and only just met Chrissy so don’t know how much you can really trust her. Plus, does Chrissy really want to align with you or is she just biding her time until the merge, when she can get back together with her fellow Heroes? Why blow up your safe and proven alliance for an only potential other one? If you don’t vote out Chrissy, you risk Ali never trusting you again. After all, would you trust her if she lied to and deceived you with this vote? There’s simply too much downside to pull the trigger on keeping Chrissy as it threatens to reveal you as disloyal and someone who cannot be trusted.

The Healers are running this game. Not one single Healer has been voted out. Not only that, but they have the numbers in the Yawa tribe and are deadlocked on Levu. That means it is entirely possible that all six of them could make the merge. If you have a chance to take one of them out now, you need to take it. And by getting rid of a Healer and keeping a Hero, you increase the chances that the Heroes and Hustlers could align later to take the majority Healers out completely.

Not only that, but you get rid of someone with no allegiance to you whatsoever, and keep someone that you at least hope will be loyal due to the fact that you helped her on day three of the game. You have been bragging about how great your social game is, so you need to get rid of Roark and then use that social game to bring Ali back in line after. If it’s as good as you say it is, then you should be able to thread the needle and pull it off.

So what is the right answer? I have no idea. I don’t think we’ve seen enough to give a definitive answer on that. Did Ryan just completely blow up his game with Ali by voting out Roark, or did he just manage to preserve having three big allies (Ali, Chrissy, Devon) in the game that will help protect him moving forward? My initial inclination is to believe that Ryan made the right move here, but it’s all about how he manages the fallout with Ali, and judging by the preview for next week, there will be fallout.

Also, can we give some props to Chrissy? While Ryan was my episode 1 pick to win it all, I was very close to giving it to Chrissy (and I assure you that them being my top two picks was not done out of some sort of misplaced Jersey pride). We’ve already seen Chrissy get out of a jam on the Heroes tribe by flipping the script and aligning with Ben, and now we saw her completely redirect JP’s vote by lying about a non-existent female alliance. (Granted, I’m not sure how difficult it is to redirect JP on much of anything. Look, something shiny!!!!) But Chrissy is a gamer, through and through. After all, she even outsmarted Miss Smarty Pants. The question now becomes: Will she end up out-gaming the guy (Ryan) who just saved her? Inquiring minds want to know.

Unfortunately, I can’t say a whole lot about Roark just because we didn’t hear a whole hell of a lot from her. I actually feel bad for the woman. Roark is clearly a big fan. So she goes and gets on the show and gets out there…and then we barely see her and she gets voted out at her very first Tribal Council. I do give her a lot of credit for saying that she does not blame her ouster on the tribe swap, commenting that there is always something you can do “and I didn’t do that.”

She’s right, to a degree. And Roark clearly was outmaneuvered by Chrissy here. But tribe swap luck does play a big part in who moves on and who moves out. Roark was not put in a terrible spot by being the swing vote, but she wasn’t put in a great spot either. Still, it’s nice she’s not reaching for excuses.

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

Okay, to quote the one and only Marty DiBergi, enough of my yappin’! Let’s get to the goodies. We have an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode you can watch above. And if you are not checking out my weekly Q&As with Jeff Probst then you are doing it wrong. Once again I’ll throw in a shameless plug for the collection of 35 former players sharing their favorite Survivor memories, but only because it is really awesome and I am confident you will find it well worth your time. As for Roark, the first place you can hear from her is on EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105) at 9:40 a.m. ET, and that will later be available on the EW Morning Live podcast. And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Now it’s your turn. Did Ryan make the right move? Were you moved by Ben’s introspection at the start of the show? Should they hide idols in identical places? And what do you think of my idea of hiding an individual immunity in the tribe immunity idol? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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