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…)