By Dalton Ross
October 03, 2018 at 09:00 PM EDT
The Chicken Has Flown the Coop
Credit: David M. Russell/CBS
S37 E2

We all kinda knew it. Or suspected it, at the very least. There was anecdotal evidence. There was circumstantial evidence. There was hearsay, rumor, and innuendo. The only thing we lacked were cold, hard facts. But this second episode of Survivor: David vs. Goliath appears to have officially and emphatically proved it for once and for all. Men are dumb-dumbs.

I mean, okay, maybe not all men, but most of us are. It’s not like I have my old 1980s calendars filled with weightlifting schedules and beach week parties to back it up, but I could most likely point to plenty of moments over my lifetime that would illustrate just what a dummy I was. And we’ve seen this on Survivor time and time again. Quick, what’s the dumbest Survivor move of all time? I will bet you my entire Vanilla Ice bubblegum collection that whatever answer you choose to give is something idiotic done by a man. Erik giving up immunity. Brandon giving up immunity. Tyson essentially voting himself out. JT getting voted out… with his own immunity idol. JT telling Brad exactly whom his tribe was voting for. James getting voted out with two idols. Colby bringing Tina to the end. Woo bringing Tony to the end. Phillip Sheppard’s choice of underwear.

What do all these terrible choices have in common? ALL MADE BY MEN! All of them! How could men own every single spot in a list of the top (or, in this case, bottom) 10 dumbest decisions ever made on Survivor? That’s crazy! Plus, there was also that time on One World where the teams were divided by sex and one of the tribes decided to go to Tribal Council even though they won the immunity challenge. I’ll give you exactly one guess as to which gender made what has to be considered the stupidest collective move in Survivor history, and the answer is not “women.”

So, to recap, men are dumb-dumbs. And I couldn’t help but wonder if we were seeing the latest examples of that in this week’s episode of David vs. Goliath. First off, over on the Goliath beach, we had Angelina, Natalia, and Kara forming what could be a deliciously devious plan. They all felt they had a dude they could easily manipulate and control — and they’re probably right. Angelina said Natalia had Alec, Kara had Dan, and she had the Shaman of Sexy, or whatever the hell he is calling himself today. “We have these boys wrapped around our fingers,” noted Angelina. Considering how obsessed Dan seems to be with Kara, she may be on to something.

But I found what happened over on the David tribe even more fascinating. Now look, I may be reading too much into this, but did you catch that scene with Gabby and Christian down by the water? You must have because it was in the episode, but just to recap (this being a recap and all), Gabby was getting bad vibes from Jessica and Bi so wanted to flip the script, keeping Lyrsa and targeting Jessica instead. But look how she went about it.

“Do you want to play with me?” she asked Christian down on the beach

“Play with you?” he replied. “On the sand?”

“No, do you want to play this game with me?… I want to play with you. Are you comfortable protecting me?”

Gabby said this all while doodling — not playing, mind you, but doodling — in the sand, barely even making eye contact with her new protector. And Christian, even while proclaiming to us that it made more logical sense to get rid of Lyrsa, and even while telling us how the new Mason-Dixon alliance was controlling the vote, did exactly as she asked.

Watching this scene felt like taking in an old film noir like Double Indemnity. For those unfamiliar with the genre, film noirs usually involve some woman pretending to be sweet and innocent and in danger asking a man to do something to save her when really she is setting him up to be the patsy and take the fall. Did Gabby play Christian like Barbara Stanwyck played poor Fred MacMurray? Her intent may not have been as nefarious as that, but it did seem like some pretty successful manipulation. And Christian fell for it. Because he is a man. And men are dumb-dumbs. (Present company included.)

By the way, as a postscript to this entire incident, can I just say how impressed I would have been had Gabby actually wanted to play in the sand and then the rest of the episode was just them building castles and burying each other so only their heads were sticking out? Of course, we all know the problem with sand. (See video below for answer.)

Okay, enough of all that. Let’s recap what else went down this week. Hey, here’s a tip for all future Survivor contestants: Don’t play in odd-numbered seasons. Now granted, you have no say in the matter and if you get cast on Survivor as a newbie you really don’t have the luxury of saying “No, thanks, I’m holding out for an even-numbered season.” But maybe you should, because the weather is always much worse in the odd-numbered installments, which are shot at the tail end of Fiji’s rainy season. The Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers (season 35) folks got off relatively easy but both Millennials vs. Gen X (season 33) and David vs. Goliath (season 37) have gotten hammered.

Producers have been trying out a lot of new tricks when it comes to editing lately, and we got another one here as cameras went back and forth between the two tribes to show off the suffering as both teams were pelted by rain. There were tears. There was shivering and cuddling for warmth in the shelter. There was abject misery. You know, the good stuff. Eventually, Jeff Probst and Co. took pity on the poor bastards, delivering each tribe a fire-making kit and a tarp. Some old-school hardliners may take issue with that, but it seems to be the right call to me. These folks got brutalized and, don’t get me wrong, watching them suffer was suuuuuuper enjoyable. But you don’t want them wasting away on national television. You want them up and out and doing stuff, and that’s hard to do without any nourishment and protection. They served their time. Give them the damn tarp and fire.

Speaking of fire, Nick came in this game running super hot, and while it would have been him going home had Pat not gotten injured, a lot can change in a day. He’s got himself a new alliance partner, and that is awful news for all of us because it means we have to endure another painful segment in which Nick insists on coming up with an embarrassing alliance name. Dude, if you want your whole edit to be about you coming up with terrible alliance names then you are on the wrong show. THIS IS NOT BIG BROTHER!!! God, I hope this doesn’t turn into Big Brother. My life can only handle one Big Brother. Okay, that’s not technically true seeing as how I also watched Celebrity Big Brother, which technically makes two Big Brothers in my life, but I think you know what I’m getting at.

Big Brother is super fun in a stupid, trashy, I-think-I-need-a-shower-and-a-lobotomy-after-watching-that kind of way, but Survivor is, like, a real show. There are no sassy wisecracking robots that come on the island just to insult the contestants, and the players do not appear to have every single line scripted for them in their confessional interviews. Big Brother is an intentionally cheesy, ridiculous show, while Survivor is actually one of the most impressive feats of television production in the world. And never shall the two meet! It was weird enough having former BB players Hayden and Caleb on Survivor, but my fear is that now because of Nick it is going to become a “thing” to have to give your Survivor alliance a wacky nickname. Dear future Survivor players: PLEASE DO NOT MAKE THIS A THING! Form an alliance, by all means. In fact, form as many alliances as you want. But do us a solid and skip the naming ceremony.

Which brings us to the Mason-Dixon alliance. My main problem with this alliance name — other than the fact that it exists at all — is not the fact that Kentucky is only tangentially involved in the original history of said line. (The MDL was a demarcation line brought about as a result of a border dispute between Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in the 1700s. Virginia then got caught up in it as well just because they, not unlike Natalie, were looking for something to argue about.) But again, that’s not my biggest gripe. No, my biggest gripe is that using a Mason-Dixon nickname should be strictly off limits after Sylvester Stallone made his antagonist in Rocky Balboa be a guy named Mason “The Line” Dixon.

If you have not seen this film, it is spectacularly stupid. Basically, Mason Dixon (or The Line, or whatever the hell his name is) is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world who then goes ballistic because he loses an ESPN computer simulation boxing match against Rocky. Again, a computer simulation! Then the 812-year-old Rocky goes toe-to-toe in a real boxing match against the champ because of course he does. My advice to anyone and everyone that has made it this far in the recap: Go see Rocky Balboa immediately. And my advice to Nick and Christian is to drop the alliance name. SHOW SOME RESPECT FOR THE LINE, GENTLEMEN!

But Nick is ecstatic about the alliance. “We’re like JT and Stephen from Survivor: Tocantins,” he crows. Meaning what? You write love letters and give immunity idols to other players and Christian is terrible in physical challenges and suffers from severe bouts of #SevereGastrointestinalDistress? Seems like an odd couple to want to emulate, but okay. Oh, I kid because I love. After all, I am the only person that keeps campaigning for JT to get into Gordon Holmes’ Survivor Hall of Fame, and Fishbach is one of the most intelligent and self-aware reality show contestants you will ever meet. Love that guy. I mean, I also love making fun of him, but he is a great dude.

“It’s not who has the advantage, but what is the advantage,” Jeff Probst keeps telling us on the show and in press interviews. Okay, but I know who has the advantage. It’s Dan. And everyone else knows it too thanks to him leaving it right there in his jacket. Dan thinks it’s a wicked smart move to leave it hiding in plain sight. Sure, but isn’t it even smarter to hide it out of sight? From everybody? Where no one can find it? Just asking. Of course, this comes back to bite Dan in the butt when Jeremy goes and finds it. He then immediately tells Mike who — playing along with Probst’s game — tells us that information is the advantage. Wait, is information the advantage? Did he just answer Probst’s question wrapped inside a mystery wrapped inside an enigma? MIKE WHITE CRACKED THE CODE! SEASON OVER!

Mike also claims that “having that information is probably more powerful than the idol itself.” Not true, but I know what he’s getting at. After all, I was raised on hours of afternoon cartoons in which G.I. Joe characters like Duke and Snake Eyes and Rip Cord told me that “knowing was half the battle.” Knowledge is power! But still not more powerful than an idol. Sorry.

These aren’t the only idol shenanigans going on. Davie the Octopus Hunter also goes “ninja style” and finds himself an idol (complete with “authentic idol leather”). Davie is a quirky dude. I can’t tell how he is fitting in with the rest of the tribe in that he doesn’t appear to have a ride-or-die alliance partner. There is no Mason to his Dixon, as it were. But he sees himself as a provider, so if he can keep providing and finding idols, then maybe he can make a run in this game. I doubt it. But maybe.

Switching gears a bit, there are certain aromas I simply can’t get enough of: freshly cut grass, chocolate chip cookies, anything citrus. But more than anything else, I love the smell of Natalie Napalm in the morning. It just has a certain je ne sais quoi to it. Hey, maybe that sounds a little aggressive on my part, but I prefer the term assertive.

What is going on with this woman? “My strategy is to lay low and get along with everybody,” says Natalie in this week’s episode. “And I think it’s working out. To which I say… define “working out.” Natalie simply doesn’t have time for all this nonsense. Nonsense like catching crabs. Nonsense like washing out your shoes. Nonsense like skinny dipping. Nonsense like checking to make sure you are “boogerless” before a cameraman sticks his lens halfway up your nose. How dare these people have their fun!

But the thing most frustrating about Natalie not fitting in with the group is that there are people actually trying to help her, yet she simply won’t allow herself to be helped. Johnny Mundo gives Natalie a heads up that Dan wants her out, and instead of going stealth mode, she immediately starts grilling Dan. Jeremy tries to clue her in that “there’s a lack of self-awareness that you have about your personality and the way you talk to people,” and she immediately proves his point by showing no self-awareness at all and challenging Jeremy for trying to help her.

I do have sympathy for Natalie because there is undeniably a generation gap that needs to be bridged whenever the tribe’s oldest member has to assimilate and get along with people half his or her age. That’s a whole other level of the game that the twentysomethings don’t even need to worry about. But the woman is doing herself no favors. I mean, she’s doing me a favor because I love watching it and the material she is giving me almost makes writing these recaps too easy, but not herself.

Let’s head to the immunity challenge, where one person from each tribe must climb a ladder and retrieve a key to unlock a boat. Then the team must paddle out and retrieve bags of puzzle pieces that need to be put together on a wobbly table. Sure, the physical nature of the first half of the challenge looks to favor the Goliaths, but what do I always say? It’s all about the puzzle. The rest is all window dressing. Whoever does the puzzle fastest will win, regardless of who gets there first and how much of a lead they have.

So did I sweat for the Davids after they fell way behind? No way, José! Did I waver when Probst started yelling, “This has the makings of a Survivor blow out!”? Hell to the no! Because big and bold statements like that are always a sure sign that a massive comeback is around the corner. In fact, once Probst continued on by bellowing stuff like “the Goliaths are very close to lapping the Davids!” and “the Goliaths have such a lead right now!” and “it has been a massive advantage for the Goliaths!”, I was even more assured than the Davids would come back to win.

Only they didn’t. They never even appeared to be all that close. Comeback denied! Now, I was right about it being all about the puzzle, which took over an hour to complete, but the Goliaths owned that as well, perhaps due to their ability to better manage that wobbly table.

Where did the Davids go wrong? Why did they lose? WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE?!? The only person I can directly point to is Bi, who spent what appeared to be enough time to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy while up on that ladder. But when they get back to camp, the fingers all seem to be pointing to Lyrsa as the weak link. Okay, sure, it probably didn’t help that Lyrsa kept going on and on about how big and invincible the Goliaths were. That doesn’t exactly breed confidence. But didn’t she win that fishing gear? That’s gotta count for something.

Gabby is not too crazy with all this talk about getting rid of the weakest person, and with good reason — because she could be next on that hit list. This leads to her agreement with Elizabeth and Lyra and the subsequent sand-wooing of Christian. And if you can get Mason, then you’ve got Dixon and well, that gives you the majority. (God, I hate myself for leaning into this stupid alliance name business.)

Off to Tribal Council we go, and what a Tribal Council set it is, with massive rocks surrounding all the activity. It looks like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark… you know, minus the Nazis and melting faces. The set is awesome. But the real drama is unfolding amongst the contestants. Jessica throws some shade (do people still say that?) at Lyrsa and others for not strategizing enough and playing too little, too late. “If that’s the way you’re playing the game, then you need to recheck yourself,” she says — and I can picture her face-palming at home while watching that come out of her mouth.

There’s a bunch of back-and-forth chatter, and Christian talks about dying on a roller coaster, which, all things considered, doesn’t sound like a particularly terrible way to go. But the question is whether Gabby’s film noir move will work on Christian. What the hell am I talking about? OF COURSE, IT’S GOING TO WORK! And it does, as Jessica — who was so confident she didn’t even bother bringing her bag — is voted out of the game.

Sucks for her. Jessica is only 19 but seemed to be pretty smart. She wasn’t savvy enough to spot the move against her, but she was out there making deals and playing the game. That’s what we want from our lab rats that agree to be tortured for our amusement, so I appreciate that she tried her best. It just wasn’t good enough. No shame in that.

And while I am sure much will be made over the David tribe being outmatched in two straight challenges, I say big whoop. The Davids won the marooning contest (courtesy of a crazy helpful advantage in picking the routes, granted), so I’m not going to get all bent out of shape over a potential tribal rout when the challenge scorecard currently reads 2-1.

Anyhoodle, I guess that’s going to just about do it. Of course, we’re not truly done. There’s still my weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. We’ve got an exclusive deleted scene from the episode begging to be watched (above). And we’ve got your first interview with the eliminated Jessica over on EW Morning Live (EW Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105) at 9:40 a.m. ET. I’ll have highlights from that going up here on soon after, and for all your Survivor needs, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

But now it’s your turn. Did Gabby play Christian? Is Kara going to play Dan? Is Natalie going to play nice? AND FOR CRISSAKES WILL ANYONE START PLAYING IN THE SAND?!? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below. Speaking of which, I want to thank everyone for their very kind words about last week’s recap. Yes, I did read them, and yes, I was moved. At least as moved as this heartless bastard ever gets. So thanks. And I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!

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