My favorite place to shop growing up in Washington D.C. was a place called Value Village. It was a thrift store where you could buy awesome stuff for next to nothing. I got a Village People trash can there for $2. I found myself fascinated by the failed technology of the 8-track cassette player and scooped up 8-tracks like the Ramones’ first album, Parliament, Blondie, The Muppets with John Denver, and Engelbert Humperdinck for a quarter a pop. And I uncovered an old Washington Bullets “The Fat Lady Will Sing Again” t-shirt promising another comeback championship victory from the city’s professional basketball team. (Suffice it to say, that promise was not delivered.)
But my greatest find of all by far was a black satin jacket with the word “Breakin’” emblazoned on the back in red cursive letters. It cost me a dollar, which was actually a bit steep considering there was a massive blood stain on the inner lining, no doubt due to an early-’80s break-off gone horribly awry. I still own this jacket to the consternation of my wife and anyone else with good taste or even the remotest sense of fashion.
Maybe it’s my way of honoring pioneers like Shabba Doo and Boogaloo Shrimp. Or maybe I just enjoy looking like an idiot. Whatever the reason, it’s still in semi-regular rotation. And let me tell you this: I don’t care if your name is Natalie or Angelina or Turbo or Ozone — you ain’t getting my black satin Breakin’ jacket. Maybe — MAYBE! — if your name is Johnny Mundo and you decide to include me in the Brochachos I will consider lending it to you for the weekend, but even that is a big if.
I bring all this up, of course, because we just witnessed the first time in Survivor history that a jacket has become such a central plot-point in an episode. It started with the Goliaths on Jabeni discussing whether to vote out Lyrsa or Nick, and Angelina had become a single-issue candidate. “I want Lyrsa’s jacket,” she informed us. “I’m not sorry. I’m cold.” (Good thing Jeremy’s not still around or he’d be claiming Angelina was trying to have a showmance with some outerwear.) Then, Natalie essentially told Nick to give them his jacket in exchange for his safety in the game, asking him if his jacket was worth a million dollars. (MINE IS!)
Nick thought this ultimatum amounted to bullying by Natalie, and he may be right. And once word got back to Lyrsa, she was not going to let anyone else slip into the sleek smooth sleeves of her Members Only gear. “I’m the only member that’s going to use this jacket,” she said in a line that felt pulled straight out of a 1980s TV commercial starring Jim McMahon, David Hasselhoff, and some other cheeseball with his sleeves pulled up to the elbow.
The problem I had with Natalie’s ultimatum is not that she was mean, but that it simply was not particularly strong gameplay. Why make enemies who then may want to target you in retaliation? Why give potential jurors something to hold against you should you pull a Phillip Sheppard and make it to the end? Especially if the jacket is not even for you, as we later learned at Tribal Council.
“You should see the jackets!” Natalie explained to Jeff Probst as to why all this fuss had been made. But the best was yet to come. After being blindsided due to Mike flipping and joining the Davids, Natalie went over to get her torch snuffed. However, as she did so, a plea came from the far corner of Tribal Council.
“Natalie, is there any way I could have your jacket?” asked Angelina. YES! That’s right! Now the tables had been turned and Natalie was being asked for her jacket on her way out of the game. Oh, the irony! But there was no response.
“Natalie?” Angelina asked again timidly.
Natalie never broke her stride or looked back. “Nothing,” said Angelina to nobody in particular. And as if to rub extra salt — or, in this case, napalm — into the wound, Natalie put her coat on for her final words. ‘I didn’t give Angelina my jacket because I didn’t know if she was part of the reason I am out, so why should I?” she asked. “I don’t have to. And I chose not to. So I’m wearing it.”
Indeed you are. This was a bit of an odd takedown for Natalie, however. Her previous modus operandi had been to follow a savage takedown with a confusing compliment. Take her vote-off of Jeremy two weeks back: “That stinging sensation you feel in your eyes right now? That’s the Natalie Napalm. Get off of my island. By the way, your skin is gorgeous, darling.” Or her final message to Lyrsa: “Take your lime green Members Only jacket back to Boston. I like your purple hair.”
It’s kind of genius. Basically, you can say whatever terrible, horrible, mean thing you want to anyone, but as long you finish it by complimenting their appearance, then the rest is forgiven! It’s like, “Hi, you’re an idiot and you make me want to stab you in the face and cut out your brain, then feed your brain to my cat, then have my cat vomit the brain out again so I can return it to your head, somehow in the process actually making you smarter because it’s impossible for you to get any dumber…but hey, have you lost weight?”
See! All that other stuff is water under the bridge! Finish it with a flourish and leave them remembering only the good stuff. All else is forgotten. Probst accused Natalie of always needing to have the last word, but at least that last word is always super-positive! The cast will no doubt not miss Natalie Napalm, but we, as viewers, certainly will. She was a unique player and not one who came out there to be a “character.” You just get the sense that’s who this woman is. And God bless her. Now, don’t get me wrong, she seems like an absolute NIGHTMARE to live with, but you know what? Her hair is amazing. (Guess who taught me that strategy?)
Okay, let’s find out what else there is to get to this week, right after Mother Nature has her say…
And she has a lot to say indeed. You all saw the rain. You saw the tribe flags being blown down. You saw Davie telling us that “I’m ready to go get my black ass out of here.” This was a massive storm closing in on the contestants — a cyclone, in fact. That makes it the second cyclone of the season and — much like season 33, in the same location at the same time of the year — the second time an entire cast had to be evacuated from the beach for their safety. And thank God that they were shipped off to safety because when they returned two days later, “It looked like a bomb went off,” according to Alec.
He’s not wrong. Of course, the bomb that went off on my television screen was the fact that we actually got to hear from Alison. I made Alison my episode 1 pick to win it all after she was chosen by her tribe to lead in the first two challenges. I don’t know if she then evacuated early for the cyclone or what, but I swear I have not seen her since. But here she is! Talking even! “I feel like I have lived a lifetime out here,” says Alison. And I feel like I have lived a lifetime since I heard you speak.
The destruction at the camps does look major, however. Clearly, the producers made the right call in getting them out of harm’s way. The question becomes: How many more times will this have to happen? From what I have heard, there does not seem to be much wiggle room for production in moving filming dates back to avoid the tail-end of the rainy season in odd-numbered seasons in the future because they can only reserve their home base of operations in Fiji throughout so much of the peak (read: dry) season. As long as they continue to film these odd-numbered seasons in April, then this will most likely continue to happen because as you’ve probably noticed, we are getting more, not less extreme weather these days due to climate change.
So we’re back on the beach and back in the game, but you most likely still have many questions. Questions like: Where did they go? What did they do for those two days? Well, Jeff Probst provides all the details in this week’s Q&A so I highly advise you to go check that out to get all the behind-the-scenes off-camera scoop. Also, in terms of how being off the beach for two days may impact the timing of the game, it won’t. Because Bi quit and the fifth person was eliminated on day 11 (instead of a usual 12th day for the 4th person voted out), there were a few days to spare here anyway. They could have all gone Members Only jacket shopping for an extra day and still been okay.
Anyway, there’s a reward challenge to get to, our first true reward challenge (not including the marooning) of the season. Could the lack of reward challenges so far be part of the reason this season has popped so much so early? As I wrote last week, I can’t recall an all-newbie season in which you felt you had a good handle on so many players so soon. Obviously using that extra time afforded by having only one challenge per episode gave us more time at the camps to meet and mingle with the contestants, and it’s a creative strategy that worked out well. All that said, now we have a reward challenge in which the players have to use poles to knock sandbags off a net and then use a slingshot to hit targets. Wait, did somebody say something about launching sandbags to hit targets? You mean, like this guy?
It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Anyhoodle, Vuku wins and gets four egg-laying hens and a rooster, while Jabeni nabs second place and the dozen eggs that come with it. And if it’s shifting alliances and allegiances that producers wanted with that tribe swap and expansion, that’s exactly what they got. Over on Vuku, Kara is trying to throw her future TMZ boyfriend Alec under the bus because he sold her out on the Natalia vote. But Elizabeth isn’t buying it. I don’t even know if she’s really listening to Kara’s pitch or if she’s off daydreaming about squirrel hunting. Either way, Kara’s screwed.
But it could be worse for Kara. She could be residing in the seventh circle of hell known as Jabeni arguing about how soon eggs need to be cooked. Give it up for the Jabeni tribe, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve never seen one group have dumber arguments in my entire life — and I was part of an Entertainment Weekly editorial team that had a knock-down, drag-out weeklong fight about whether “Last Exit to Springfield” or “Cape Feare” was the best Simpsons episode ever. (By the way, it’s “Cape Feare”, even if I lost that particular battle to my less-enlightened coworkers.) But seriously, Members Only jackets? Eating eggs? Next thing you know they’re going to be arguing about whether Bud Lite tastes great or is less filling. The whole thing is absurd.
Now, whether it is more or less absurd than three men calling themselves the “Brochachos” remains open to debate. Here’s my problem with the Brochachos: It sounds like a cross between the Three Amigos (great movie, terrible alliance from season 26) and the “Bros” alliance from this summer’s Big Brother. But the thing I really don’t like about it is the fact that it has put our girl Gabby in peril. For Gabby is most assuredly not a Brochacho. She’s not even the avocado of the Brochachos. And because of that, Dan tells us she needs to be the first one to go. Say it ain’t so, bro!
This coming from Dan is bad news for Gabby because he has some power in the form of his hidden immunity idol and he is about to get more. That’s because Dan finds a clue to another idol that will be hidden at the next immunity challenge, which we are going to now in the interest of a seamless transition.
Look, I could tell you all about this challenge — which involved going up and down obstacles, raising a bridge and maneuvering a ball through a snake maze. It’s a cool challenge. I could write a whole bunch about it. But instead, I am going to focus on something much smaller yet no less fascinating. I am going to focus on that moment right after Jeff Probst asked — FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME — “Survivors ready?” It’s a rhetorical question. You’re not meant to answer it. Instead, you are supposed to look intense and steely and then go when he tells you to “Go!” Only something different happened this time. Someone actually responded.
“Survivors ready?” Probst asked in his baller orange baseball cap.
And then a lone voice called out in the wilderness: “Yes.”
And, to be clear, it wasn’t some sort of pep talk response to get a tribe fired up. This was no “Hell yeah!” or even a “Yeah!” for that matter. Just “Yes.” Plain. Simple. Matter of fact. I have no idea why Angelina decided to respond to Probst’s query. I guess she was just like: He asked a question and now nobody is answering and it’s getting super awkward so I guess I better say something. Whatever her reasoning, it was brilliant and I loved it.
And why would the producers even include this moment? It has nothing to do with anything. It’s pointless to the action on the screen and pointless to the story. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for this to have made it to air other than the fact that it probably made some editor hopped up on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Red Bull giggle in a half-delirious state, so now here I am wasting multiple paragraphs of my and your time writing about it. God bless that most likely chemically enhanced editor and God bless Angelina for saying it in the first place.
Going through who did what in the challenge is confusing when you have three new tribes whose names and members you haven’t entirely figured out so I’m going to skip the play by play, but suffice it to say that unlike Luke Skywalker on Dagobah, Dan exercised patience and retrieved his hidden idol, giving him two idols and a lot of damn power (especially because nobody knows about the second one yet). Meanwhile, Vuku won their second straight, while Tiva captured second, sending Jabeni into a raging debate about jackets.
We’ve already covered what happens next but there is one interesting thing worth getting into. When Nick spoke to Mike about getting Natalie out, Mike basically told him (and us) that they needed to get Angelina on board for him to jump because otherwise he could be ostracized by the fellow Goliaths for turning on one of their own. If Angelina joined him, however, they could form a united front and with Natalie’s volatility, the others would understand. But if Mike turned on Angelina, that could be bad for his game.
Judging by her vote for Lyrsa, however, it appears Angelina did not join the plan to oust Natalie, meaning Mike just went rogue. [UPDATE: Angelina has since indicated on Twitter that she was in on the plan to oust Natalie, but put her unnecessary extra vote on Lyrsa in the hopes of getting Natalie’s jacket on her way out. That woman REALLY wants a damn jacket!] Anyway, that makes two straight tribes where “Goliath strong” has disintegrated like the Avengers right before our eyes. Alec’s move last week seemed highly suspect and Mike’s this week is also questionable on a strategic level. Natalie was as Goliath strong as anybody, so there was no fear about her flipping or leaving the majority. But Mike looked like he was on the verge of blowing his own brains out by living with her for 15 days. Mike’s a massive Survivor fan and a guy who doesn’t really need the money. For him, it’s more about the Survivor experience, and if Natalie was ruining his Survivor experience, then I get why he did it. Even if it doesn’t appear to make the most strategic sense, I get it. And now here we are all even at 7-7. Not that those numbers necessarily even matter anymore.
But I’ll tell you something that does matter. My weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst, where he shares all the intel on what happened to the contestants during the cyclone evacuation. You’ll also want to check out the exclusive deleted scene above and tune in for our exit interview with Natalie Napalm at 9:40 a.m. ET on EW Morning Live (SiriusXM, channel 105), which is also now up on EW.com and a MUST READ. And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
And now it’s your turn. Did you ever own a Members Only jacket? Did Mike make the right or wrong move? And are you enjoying this season as much as I am? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!