Survivor: David vs. Goliath recap: Idolpalooza
There’s been something missing this season of Survivor. You know it. I know it. Even the Brochachos, the Strike Force, the Rock Stars, the Thoroughbreds, the Mason-Dixons, and every other terrible alliance name you can think of knows it. At first, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. After all, it seems like pretty much any other season of the show. We have blindsides, and torch-snuffings, and #OrangeHatAlerts, and tears.
And more tears.
And even more tears.
But there is one thing we have not had this season: the lull. Where’s the lull?!? Pretty much every season of Survivor has one, even the great ones. You know the lull — that part of any season (usually lasting about 3 weeks; sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) where the action cools down for a bit before picking back up. The lull is like a supernatural serial killer in a horror movie: you know it’s coming, but you just don’t know exactly when. So you sit there anxiously… waiting… waiting…. And then the phone rings. You pick it up, only to realize THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!!!
That’s the lull. Scary as hell, it is. All you can do is hope to outlast it and live to see another blindside. But here’s the weird thing about Survivor: David vs. Goliath. There’s been no lull. I’m not saying every episode this season has been A+++. This isn’t quite Cagayan — the best all-newbies season ever, in my book (not counting the first season because that is incomparable to anything) — and I’m not even sure if it’s Pearl Islands, The Amazon, Palau, or China. But every episode has had something. Every episode has earned its keep. Every episode has felt like it is moving the story forward. Yes, the cast is better, but the editing and the storytelling have been better as well. Add it all up and what do you have? No lull.
Now, the jaded pessimist in me naturally worries that the fact we have had no lull means that the lull has simply yet to come. Maybe the next 3 weeks were filmed on one big reward trip to Snoozeville, USA. We’ll see. But this season has been remarkably steady. (I actually spoke with Probst about this in an extended halfway-through-the-season interview we did earlier this week and I encourage you to check that out.)
Anyway, that’s my longwinded way of saying that we had yet another engaging episode this week, so let’s get into all of it right now, because you better believe that I have thoughts.
We start off right after the previous Tribal Council, with Angelina admitting that she got “caught red-handed” trying to jury-manage Elizabeth. She tells her tribemates that “it was a moment of weakness, it was not a moment of strategy,” and then they tell us they do not believe her for a second, which I suppose is nicer than straight-up laughing in her face. But another Goliath is having his own problems. Mike is worried about the new Strike Force alliance, and not just because it sounds like the name of some obscure 1980s G.I. Joe prequel cartoon. He’s concerned the Davids may be playing him and will revert to tribal lines once they get the numbers back in their favor. It’s a legitimate concern, and one with an easy solution, which we will get into later.
But speaking of the Davids, Davie and Nick are out looking for any help they can find — help in the form of an idol or advantage. And, sure enough, they find it. Remember when I pointed out last week that the camera was lingering suspiciously long on that sign at the merge feast that showed an image of a palm tree stretching out over the edge of a point with the words “Everything you need for the merge is right here”?
Well, whenever a camera lingers long enough on an object like that, it’s not only a clue for the players, it’s a clue for viewers as well. And that was confirmed when Davie and Nick found the same image wrapped up and not-so-hidden around camp. I wonder if this image clue was placed simultaneously with the sign, or later after nobody figured out the sign was itself a clue? I’m going to assume the latter since someone figuring it out from the sign would have made for much better television than the obviousness of the clue. So my best guess is once nobody realized the sign was a clue, producers went to plan B and put out an actual clue.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with producers doing that, by the way. Everybody had an equal chance of finding it. There was no funny business. Think of a game where contestants are given clues to figure something out. If they don’t get it on the first clue, you give them another. Remember: producers openly admit they WANT clues and idols to be found because they want these advantages and idols in play. So if the sign didn’t do the trick, then this was the backup plan. At least that’s my guess (because otherwise why even put the sign clue there in the first place)?
Anyway, Davie finds it and shares it with Nick — which, of course, is awkward because Nick at this point is in a separate alliance. And then things get more awkward when Carl tags in and Davie tags out to create a diversion that resembles some sort of martial arts routine that looks like an outtake from The Next Karate Kid.
Nick finds the steal-a-vote advantage, WHICH ALWAYS WORKS OUT SO WELL FOR PLAYERS IN THIS GAME!!! Carl then gets carried away and tells Nick about his idol nullifier, while Davie sits back with his badass toothpick and tells nobody anything, which is my favorite thing about Davie. His restraint in not blabbing about his idol — in sharp contrast to all these other bozos who are practically posting Instagram selfies of themselves with their immunity toys and trinkets — has been a welcome respite. (Although the fact that the Davids would split their votes later at Tribal makes me wonder if Davie eventually did give them a heads up he was playing his idol that night. Otherwise, why split?)
Off to the reward challenge we go, and this one will look familiar to Australian Survivor fans because that international version of the show has been running this latest challenge a lot lately. In it, two teams of six will have to hold sandbags connected to a trough above their head. If a bag drops, the trough falls, and the team loses, with the winners getting a dozen pizzas.
This is actually a bit different from the recent Aussie version. In that one, each player could drop out whenever they’d had enough and pass their bag over to a teammate. In this version, there were eight bags for six players and each team would have to take someone out every 15 minutes. I actually like these rules a bit more, because it added a bit more strategy. For example, let’s say you decided Mike was your weakest team member left. The smart play would then be for him to hold two bags for as much as possible during those 15 minutes — and especially in the last two to three minutes — before he had to drop out to save the arms of the people that would keep going.
Either way, it’s a fun challenge that combines brute strength and strategy, and the only thing that could make it any better is if some cocky taunting spectacularly backfired… which is exactly what happens. Hot cop Dan at one point starts holding three 10-pound bags in one hand and dares the other team to try it. Yet just moments later (at least according to the edit), Dan drops one of his bags, losing the challenge for his team and making this the most comically tragic boast since Survivor: Nicaragua’s infamous “Benry’s here, baby!” moment at Tribal Council. (Watch the video to relive this classic moment in all its unintentional hilarious glory.
(Recap continued on next page…)
So Gabby, Christian, Alison, John, Alec, and Nick (five-sixths of the Strike Force, incidentally) win the cold pizzas as the others hear Probst’s refrain of “Got nothin’ for you,” to which Mike responds, “We’ve got nothing for you either.” I wish people would do more of this. I’m not saying folks should be a-holes to Jeff Probst, but there is some room for more back and forth and to have a bit of fun. Jonathan Penner always had a blast coming back at Probst for some of the things he would say while narrating a challenge. It was never mean-spirited, but it was spirited. Mike was just making a funny joke here, and while I don’t think the inmates should run the asylum, it’s always cool to see someone give it back to Probst. I know the host actually likes it as well, as long as it is all within the spirit of the game.
Speaking of Mike, while the winners enjoy their breadsticks and Carl and Davie kill the chicken, he’s doing more thinking. He’s still worried the Davids might pull a fast one on him and take over once they get the numbers. He also thinks Christian is the best player left in the game and they need to get rid of him because “He’s just as smart as I am.” Not only that, but he feels Gabby can’t get anyone to follow her while Carl and David also aren’t going to start an insurrection, which is why the charismatic Christian is the biggest threat. It dawns on him that everyone watching the show on TV is going to be like “Why aren’t they taking him out?” For all these reasons, he decides Christian needs to go immediately.
WHICH IS THE EXACT SAME THING ANGELINA ARGUED THREE DAYS AGO!!! And I said she was making the right call then. Now, Angelina may not have presented it in the best way, trying to impose her will on the others— which is what she herself even admitted she was attempting to do — rather than just floating an idea in a collaborative discussion, but she thinks something else may be in play. Angelina opines that the tribe is more receptive to Mike than they were to her because all season long women have been throwing out ideas that were ignored, only for a man to then present the same idea and have it be immediately accepted. I have no idea if this is accurate or not because I am not out there, but I certainly would not be surprised if it was.
Angelina and I spoke about the role of gender on Survivor last week and how it has impacted other aspects of the game, and to think that gender would play no role in the social and strategic dynamics of tribe decision-making is probably naïve. Anyway, I found her comment really interesting and I asked Jeff Probst about it in this week’s Q&A, so head there to see what he has to say about whether Angelina is on to something.
But here’s another question for Mike: If you are so worried about getting rid of Angelina because it would put the Davids closer to the numbers, why not target Carl or Davie? Yes, Christian is a huge threat, but if you string him on for a few more votes, than you can maintain BOTH your Goliath and Strike Force alliances. That’s a pretty powerful place to be in that you would be protected by both sides.
Sure, the Davids in the Strike Force might not be crazy about it, but since you’re in a position of numerical power, you express your concerns and promise Angelina will be next after one more David and see how it goes. As someone that argued strategically for it last week, I totally get the need not to let Christian get close to the end. But why blow up one of your two alliances so early? There was not necessarily a need to pick a side so early.
Speaking of picking things, what’s up with Dan calling out Brad Culpepper as “my hero”? Brad Culpepper is your hero? Were you simply pulling a Bonnie Tyler and holding out for a hero and along came Brad? Whatever the reason, allow me to humbly offer up the following suggestion: You need to aim higher, my man. And that’s not even a dis on F U Brad Culpepper. I mean, yes, it was super awkward that time before Blood vs. Water when Brad and Monica tried to teach me how to talk to my kids about sex, but I got nothing against the guy. And let’s not forget that he did sport the single best finale porn-stache of all time. Plus, he went on an epic challenge-winning run. I get it.
But to call him out as your hero? In public? In front of other people? That honestly may be worse than telling Kara about your two idols! I’ve seen new players get star-struck before at the mere mention of Survivor legend: Hatch, Parvati, Ozzy, Stephenie, Boston Rob, Sandra, Tata the Bushman. But F U Brad Culpepper?!? That took me by surprise. In any event, Brad Culpepper was relevant because of this week’s immunity challenge in which players had to balance on a narrow perch while holding a buoy with two handles. It seems FUBC did it in Game Changers with a winning time of 23 minutes. Apparently, Dan was impressed.
And considering how quickly people started dropping out of this one, so should we. It finally came down to Dan vs. Angelina, which was kind of perfect. Even though they are in the same alliance, these two clearly rub each other the wrong way. I would use some sort of military terminology to describe their combative relationship — something involving “friendly fire,” perhaps — but I don’t want to make Dan angry… or Dangry, as it were.
But Dan wins. And I imagine we should all be sufficiently impressed as a result. What can I say? HE’S MY NEW HERO!!! So the Goliaths are all set to vote out Christian. “Tonight is going to be a #BrochachoBlindside,” exclaims Ab-raham Lincoln, having no idea how right he is. That’s because Alec is ready to cause chaos unlike anything anyone has seen before! (Unless anyone happened to follow him on social media or read TMZ before the season began, that is.
Alec tells Nick that Mike wants Christian out — betraying not only his Goliaths but one of the fellow Strike Force members as well. Not only that, but he also tells Nick “You could very easily go f— things up if you wanted to.” And he wants to. After all, who doesn’t want to go f— things up? It sounds fun! Makes you feel cool! YEAH, LET’S GO F— THING UP! Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?
Nick tells Christian and then consults with Davie as to whether they should use the steal-a-vote. The problem with that advantage (other than the fact that it is cursed) is that using it would only make it a 6-6 tie. Nick thinks the Goliaths would not go to rocks for Angelina, but he can’t be sure. He also has to decide if now is the time to go big. What Nick doesn’t know is that Davie has an idol. But he’s about to find out.
After the Tribal Council voting, Probst gives his traditional instructions that “If anyone has a hidden immunity idol and would like to play it, now would be to time to do so.” Davie then takes time out from looking like a toothpick-chewing badass to stand up and announce “I’m nervous, Jeff, but I’m more nervous for Christian. This is for him.” But that was the mere appetizer before the main course. The opening act warming up the crowd prior to the headliner. The kiddie table in the corner next to the grand dining table with all the delicious booze.
That’s because while it was interesting to see if Davie would use the idol nobody knew about to save a guy that had multiple secret alliances he was not even a part of, what we all want to know is whether Dan will use one of his 317 idols to save the woman he seemingly cannot stand — the woman he promised that at “the first opportunity I get, she’s gone” — in Angelina.
There must have been so many things running through Dan’s mind in the 5 seconds he had to make this decision. I’ve attempted to sum them up for you here.
- Crap, I didn’t know Davie had an idol. Why didn’t he tell anyone? I told EVERYONE!
- Man, Angelina is so annoying with her intelligence and military jargon. I am so ready to throw her under the bus, or, failing that, the S.W.A.T. van. Why would I ever waste one of my idols for someone I want out anyway?!
- Buuuuuuuut, if I let her go, it could start to shift the balance of power back to the Davids, especially if they have other idols and advantages. That’s not good.
- Ugh, why is Angelina staring back at me and begging me to use the idol? God, this is so awkward! How long can I avoid eye contact with her for? Jesus, I know I’m absurdly good looking, but sometimes women staring at you really is a curse. God, I’m hot.
- Now, hold on a second. If I don’t use the idol, are my other alliance-mates going to be pissed at me? And since I told Angelina I would use it, will she be pissed at me and poison the jury against me. Damn, Survivor is hard. Also, I’m hot.
- WWBCD? (What would Brad Culpepper do?)
This is a tough call for Dan. I honestly would not have faulted him either way. Ultimately, he chooses to play it, shrewdly giving himself credit for being a team player by announcing, “Well, I want to take care of my alliance too.” If you’re gonna play it, that is exactly the way to do so.
“Oh my god, Dan. I love you,” says Angelina in a response that is almost as believable as me claiming I won a Pulitzer for devoting my life to chronicling the misadventures of a network reality TV show. (And Angelina double-checking to make sure Dan told Probst whom he was playing the idol for is the most Angelina thing ever and I love her for it.)
But even after Davie’s idol for Christian and Dan’s idol for Angelina, things were about to get even crazier, because the Davids did something extremely smart. They split their vote. In fact, they did not even put the majority of their votes on Angelina. Instead, they placed three of their five votes on the Shaman of Sexy, sending the affable wrestler out of the game.
That’s a positively brutal exit for Johnny Mundo. “That’s off the top rope, brother,” Nick pointed out while celebrating with Carl, Davie, and Gabby. The Mayor of Slamtown took it about as well as possible, laughing at the absurdity of what had just happened as he had his torch snuffed. And poor Dan! He thought he was taking one for the team by giving Angelina one of his idols, and instead, he wastes it and perhaps his biggest partner in the game goes out instead. Like I said, brutal. But also brutally entertaining.
This was an awesome game of cat and mouse that happened here, and once again, all the drama came from a Goliath spilling the plan to a David. Who needs a slingshot when you have all these loose lips? And it leads to so many questions heading into next week. Questions like: Where does Alec stand now? And if the alliances continue under opening tribal lines, can the Davids do it again even though they are still down 6-5? The answer is yes. In fact, if they want, the Davids are assured of controlling the next vote. How so? Through the following:
First off, Nick uses his vote steal. That flips the advantage to the Davids at 6-5 their way. Then all the Davids put their vote on someone — let’s say Dan — and Carl uses his idol nullifier to nullify any idol played on Dan. Then Dan is guaranteed to go home. Episode over. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Now, it probably won’t go down like that. The Davids may be loathed to use both of their advantages at once (even though I would argue that this is the perfect situation in which to use the idol nullifier because it at least guarantees that the person will go home). It also probably won’t go down like that because who knows who will be aligned with whom in three days, meaning the traditional David vs. Goliath division may no longer apply. So this scenario I outlined will probably not come to pass. But if we head into the next Tribal as Davids vs. Goliath, remember this get-out-of-jail-free option I laid out as a way to even up the game.
We’ll have to wait until next week to see if that ends up going down, but you don’t have to wait to see an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode, which we have right here. And you don’t have to wait to read our weekly Q&A with Hostmaster General Jeff Probst. And you can now enjoy our exit interview with John Morrison. Plus, for more Survivor scoop, like that state of the season interview I had with Jeff Probst earlier this week, simply follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
And now it’s your turn. What did you think of Davie and Dan’s idol plays? Sad to see Johnny Nitro go? And who’s playing the best game so far since the merge? Hit the message boards to weigh in and I’ll be back next week with a scoop of the Thanksgiving crispy!