By Dalton Ross
February 27, 2019 at 09:00 PM EST
Robert Voets/CBS


Look, I’ll admit it: I tend to get paralyzed when purchasing anything online. Doesn’t matter how big or how small. I’ll sit there reading 10 zillion online reviews of a potential microwave oven or the highest-rated disinfectant spray to get the smell of cat piss out of my carpet. And after that painstaking process is complete, I then need to comparison shop for five days straight to find the best price. It’s exhausting.

The worst of all, of course, is booking a hotel. You’ll read 10 incredible reviews praising a perfect little hideaway and be all ready to click on the “Book Now!” button before reading one stray report from a disgruntled guest warning “DO NOT STAY HERE! YOU WILL GET MURDERED! AND IF YOU DO NOT GET MURDERED YOU WILL BE KIDNAPPED AND TURNED INTO DRUG MULES FOR THE CARTEL!!! Also, the water pressure in the shower is sub-par at best and they don’t leave mints on the pillows. BUT SERIOUSLY, YOU WILL GET MURDERED, CHOPPED INTO PIECES, AND FED TO THE COYOTES THAT ROAM THE PROPERTY AT NIGHTS!”

The whole online process is a nightmare and the total amount of wasted hours I’ve spent on it in a fog of indecision is roughly approximate to the amount of time I have spent actually raising my two children. So I get having a bit of a panic before making a life choice, but I repeat my question: What are you waiting for?

This question, of course, is directed to Keith Sowell. Keith was voted out of Survivor. Bummer. And, truth be told, it wasn’t a great showing from Keith. He almost drowned two minutes into the game. He then aligned with the two other people who were clearly on the outs of the tribe. And then he looked positively Fishbachian while attempting to toss a ring onto a paddle. So, yeah, the guy struggled.

But how, when you are voted out on day 6 and offered a chance to stay in the game — as Keith was when he got to the Edge of Extinction sign — do you not take it IMMEDIATELY?! Let’s be clear: Keith appears to be in fine medical shape. No dislocated shoulders. No broken toes. No infections. No #SevereGastrointestinalDistress. He’s good. He also does not (that we know of) have any issues with family back home that would lead him to realize he never should have come out there in the first place. No sick parent on the verge of death. No pregnant spouse or recently born baby. No reason to leave.

The kid is 19, for crying out loud! This is precisely the age where you embrace the bold and the crazy. So what the hell was up with Keith not immediately grabbing that torch and heading in the boat to go get Reemed? (Okay, that came out wrong.) Sure, I guess it made for a dramatic cliffhanger as Keith repeated the phrase “Come on, God” approximately 37 billion times with the occasional intermittent “Jesus” thrown in for good measure, but I don’t understand what the hesitation was.

I asked Jeff Probst before the game began if he anticipated anyone not choosing to remain in the game when offered the choice, and he told me that if someone opted to quit then “we cast wrong.” Well, now Keith is considering quitting, and so is Reem. Did they cast wrong? We’ll find out. But even the fact that he is so pained over the decision as to whether to continue is pretty troubling.

It was also a bit weird, right? Cliffhangers don’t happen on Survivor very often. The natural parallel would be when they first introduced the Outcasts back in Pearl Islands. I actually watched that episode with Mark Burnett in Panama while on location for the filming of Survivor: All-Stars and threw my notepad at the TV when the words “To be continued…” popped on the screen. Last week, there was no cliffhanger as we saw Reem’s decision, so why one this week for Keith? Who knows! Maybe Keith actually stood there for a full week chanting “Come on, God” before deciding, so producers are trying to simulate that experience for viewers. Maybe Keith read the online reviews for the Edge of Extinction and heard he might get murdered there so is starting to rethink his drink. Or maybe they just cast wrong. I suppose we’ll find out next week, but there’s still plenty else to touch on this week, so let’s hit the other big points of the episode.

Edge of Extinction
The episode starts with Reem at the Edge of Extinction. Great! But what the hell is the Edge of Extinction? Oh, there’s a note telling her (and us): “This is the Edge of Extinction. You will have to work hard for everything. When fear or loneliness sets in you must find the resolve to overcome. If at any point you wish to end your adventure, raise the sail and a boat will pick you up.”

Okay, still doesn’t tell us much. I mean, we kinda figured it wouldn’t be easy. While the obvious comparison is to Redemption Island (because that was another place where people who were voted off went in an attempt to get back in the game), a more apt comparison would be to the early days of Exile Island. Back when that started, you were given a flint, a machete, a pot, and that was about it. There was not even a shelter. The focus was primarily on pain, suffering, and, yes, idol hunting.

And it seems Reem is already suffering. While we hear weird tribal moaning and random sitar playing in the background, Reem wonders about what she will have to go through for her second chance. And then she does her best Gabby Pascuzzi impersonation by crying about being stranded. This — along with Reem’s comment at the very end of the episode that she may raise the flag to quit if nobody shows up — is everything producers could have hoped for. Reem likes to project herself as being super-tough. So if someone like that can be reduced to tears by the experience, that then drives home the narrative of how hard it will be to be there. Who’s getting Reemed now?!?

Big Wendy Makes a Big Move
I wrote in last week’s recap about how Kelley Wentworth took a much bigger hit at the first Tribal Council than you saw on TV, and the person now most on the outs of the tribe, Wendy, tries to exploit that back at camp. Either that or she is attempting to rob a bank with that buff over her face — I can’t tell. But she talks openly to a few other tribemates about how the returnees are going to ruin the game. Now, this is a bit odd as one of the tribemates she is talking to is a returnee himself in David, so maybe not the best sales pitch, but the point is she’s trying to magnify that target on Kelley even more.

Her chat pays dividends as Rick and David both agree they want her gone. And more so, they seem to agree with what I wrote last week when Wendy told The Wardog that she would not betray Reem. That made The Wardog want to get rid of Wendy immediately, while I said that was a huge mistake because someone that is loyal to the end is the perfect alliance partner and should be cultivated as such. Rick and David see that value as well, meaning perhaps there is some hope for her after all.

Aubry and the Returning Player Blues
This was not a good episode for Aubry. And I think you all know what I’m talking about: the dancing. Okay, yes, technically Ron started the supes-awkward Kama war dance, but that was to be expected after sitting through one or two of that guy’s social media teaching videos. But I felt so terrible for Aubry in this special Survivor edition of So You Think You Can Ingratiate Your Way into the Tribe Through the Power of Dance because she clearly wants no part of it but has to play along so she can get along with her new castmates that control her fate. As we know, Aubry has a much-celebrated history of awkward island dancing from her previous outings, but I feel those were her dance moves. This? I don’t know what this was. But I know I cannot unsee it.

And I’m sure Aubry wishes she could unsee the montage of her attempting to make connections with her tribemates that follows. It is truly a master class in editing as producers show her using the exact same language with Julia, Victoria, and Gavin about “having a dialogue” and telling them each how much they remind her of herself. On one hand, Aubry is doing the right thing in trying to have one-on-one conversations to forge personal connections with new players who may be wary of her presence and résumé in the game. But the key to forging those connections is to individualize them. Never use the same language, because if people compare notes, you’re screwed. And once Victoria, Julia, and Ron started comparing notes… well, let’s just say that’s not exactly a dancing moment for Aubry.

You all know I like Aubry. I think she should have won her first time out. She was in danger immediately her second time playing and somehow made it 37 days anyway. But there was something Eric said last week that got me thinking. And that thing was that I should probably work out more…or, you know, at all. Seriously! Look at that guy! Put me on the fireman workout and pronto! But the other thing it got me thinking was how Eric told Gavin about how this should be their experience and one they define by themselves rather than have it be defined by players that have already had their turns.

Fast forward to a discussion I had recently with Stephen Fishbach. After going over the finer points of how to hit another team’s target in a challenge, Stephen mentioned how the problem with mixed seasons featuring new and returning players is that the returning players’ coverage and narrative is often defined by how they are reacting to the all-stars. And you know what? He’s totally right. Look at the new players this season. So much of their story has been about their thoughts on the returning players. On Kama, we’ve heard Eric, Gavin, Julia, Victoria, and Ron all weigh in on wanting to get rid of the returnees. And the only line I remember coming out of Aurora’s mouth all season was about Joe. Over on Manu, the majority of the tribe dynamics so far have revolved around how people feel about Kelley Wentworth, with Lauren talking about what a fan she is and almost everyone else talking about how she is such a huge threat. There has to be more to these players than just their reactions to the returnees, but we’re not really seeing it yet.

While Eric was talking about getting rid of Joe and Aubry so they could have their own experience out on the island, it holds true even more so on television because returning players command so much air time that the longer they stick around, the less of your experience anyone will see play out. It’s not just a fight for the million dollars; it’s a fight for screen time as well. Anyway, I wanted to point all this out for a few reasons. 1) To give Fishbach some props. Lord knows I owe him that after all the fun I’ve had at his expense in these here recaps. 2) To explain why this season may actually be better without the returnees. 3) To gauge how you feel about mixed player seasons and the way returning player attention comes at the expense of the newbies we are trying to meet and learn more about. Hit the message boards and let me know what you think.

Open Season for Idols
With seemingly on-the-outs Wendy off searching for an idol, Kelley brings up the subject of an open idol hunt so Wendy doesn’t get it. That’s probably a smart move by her because coming off the heels of the last Tribal, she knows she is most likely at this point to go if Wendy is protected. So as long as anyone else gets the idol, then she’s probably okay.

And while obtaining it herself would definitely be option number one, Wentworth gets the next best thing as her biggest ally in Lauren finds the idol. While finding the idol is just kinda lucky, Lauren impresses by not making the rookie mistake so many others have made before in blabbing about her new toy. Instead, Lauren buries the idol and tells us “I am 100% keeping this myself. I am very close with Kelly, but I am not telling her. I’m glad I have it and she doesn’t.” So far, so good. Now let’s just see how she uses it.

Meanwhile, over on Kama, Julie is bemoaning the fact that men are always the ones finding the idols due to preconceived gender roles — of which she seems a bit confused herself — out on the island. This is a great point from Julie! Such a great point that I already made it a few seasons ago. And then Angelina brought it up again last season. I’m glad Julie is trying to explain this to Victoria, but the time for talking about it is over. It’s time for results. It’s time to change the game and go get them. Plus, I was only, like, half-listening to what you were saying, Julie, because there was some seagull doing a straight drop dive into the water to eat a fish behind you while you were talking and it was super distracting. Anyhoo, Lauren finding one idol is a nice start, but hopefully only the start.

Déjà Vu All Over Again
Oh, God. Not the snake. This week’s immunity challenge is my personal Vietnam. I did this sucker during a test run for Game Changers and getting that snake up and out of that cage and then back to shore was a nightmare. The thing weighed a minimum of 300 pounds and was actually much harder in Game Changers because it was completely submerged (as opposed to the one here that was resting on top of the water). Plus, the one in Game Changers then had to be carried over a balance beam, which I fell off twice even though I was carrying the tail — also known as THE LIGHTEST PART OF THE ENTIRE SNAKE! Look, it sucked. My team eventually won, but I still have nightmares about that snake — especially with Gordon Holmes and Josh Wigler laughing at me from the sidelines.

Honestly, the paddles you have to hook those rings on are not much better. We must have spent 30 minutes on those as the rings would constantly fall off at the last second. Anyway, let me just say that this challenge is a lot more fun to watch than play if you are a scrawny weakling with no upper body strength like myself. Or, if your name is Keith.

Jesus Christ this was hard to watch. I’m not sure which portion was rougher: Keith not being able to swim to the cage, Keith not even bothering to help with the snake, or Keith pulling a Fishbach when it came to the ring toss. Oof. The only thing having a tougher time than Keith was Jeff Probst’s voice, which sounded hoarse and in serious need of rest. And yet we all know what the host did… HE DUG DEEP!

Unsurprisingly, Manu lost, and the question became: Would Keith pay the price?

Someone’s Gotta Go
“How is Keith in this game helping The Wardog out?”

That’s not a particularly important quote in the grand scheme of things. I just love it when people refer to themselves in the third person. And I love it even more when the third person in question happens to be “The Wardog.” Yes, Dalton loves that.

Dalton also loves when the plan keeps changing on Survivor, and that is exactly what happens back at the Manu beach. Kelley thinks the plan is still to get Wendy out, but now The Wardog wants Keith out due to his lack of physical prowess in challenges. But then Keith professes his undying loyalty to Chris, saying how he will never turn his back on the bro. Much like the way having a rock-solid alliance partner in Big Wendy is an attractive proposition, Chris has to like the sound of having someone watch his back at all times, so he has another target in mind: Wentworth.

Chris tells Rick. Rick tells David. And oh my God, this may actually happen! But then… Enter The Wardog. The Wardog may come off like a knucklehead — in case you did not catch this yet, he calls himself “The Wardog” — but you can tell he thinks a lot about game theory. (I may not always agree, like last week with Big Wendy, but at least he thinks about it.) He sees value in keeping Kelley as a shield to help protect him and Chris if there is a tribe swap and the Kama folks want to take out a big target. And now Chris has a decision to make.

It’s not an easy decision either. There is no doubt that — rope burn to the face, notwithstanding — Kelley is a stronger challenge performer than Keith. Probst himself says it at Tribal Council, telling the teenager that “No matter how you look at it, your challenge performance was a disaster.” (Ouch.) And there is little doubt that she would be more likely to absorb a target than Keith would at a tribe swap or merge. But Kelley would cut Chris’ throat without a moment’s hesitation. Keith won’t. So what do you do? Tough call.

You know how I feel about loyalty. It’s one of the biggest assets in the game. But you also need to win, and Keith is almost literally dragging them underwater in these competitions. I probably would have kept Keith and banked on some land challenges coming up to keep my numbers strong, but that’s just me. (I posed this question to Probst and you can read in our weekly Q&A what he would have done in this situation.)

The Most Confusing Final Line Ever
Indeed, it is Keith that is voted out, and on his way to get his torch snuffed this is what he has to say: “Wow, wow, wow. You all still think you all are going to win challenges?”

Okay, let’s break this down, starting with part 1: “Wow, wow, wow.” Wow? Look, Keith: I don’t care what Rick or anyone else told you back in camp. You had to know you were in danger of getting voted off. You had to! You were on the outs with the tribe and were terrible in challenges. And yet you were still that surprised? The only thing that surprised me is that there was not a giant neon sign at Tribal Council flashing “DANGER! DANGER!” at you.

But what we really need to focus on is the second part of Keith’s statement: “You all still think you all are going to win challenges?” Clearly, a lot to discuss here. First off, there is the fact that they have not won any challenges to begin with, so I’m not sure anyone thinks they are winning anything. Then one must consider that if Manu has a prayer of finally coming out on top in any sort of competition, then Keith was the only choice to vote out.

I have gone back and watched this multiple times and I still can’t make heads or tails of it. Is Keith saying that without him they have no chance of winning a challenge? Again, I feel this bears repeating, THEY HAVE NOT WON ANYTHING WITH HIM! Oh, yeah, and if I may add, HE BARELY LIVED THROUGH THE LAST CHALLENGE. Do you want me to add a GIF of Keith throwing the ring toss? Because I feel like you want me to add a GIF of Keith throwing the ring toss. Hell, you know I would do it for Fishbach. But I won’t, because I feel kinda sorry for the guy. But his comment is just so inexplicable. It would be like me talking smack to my team for kicking me out of a short-and-to-the-point recap writing contest and me being all, “Well, good luck with your attempts to write a recap at under 500 words. We’ll see how that goes!”

I imagine it would go just fine. Anyway, you catch my drift. And there are a few other things you should catch while you’re at it. Like that exclusive deleted scene above. And my weekly Q&A with Jeff Probst. And that behind-the-scenes marooning story I wrote last week. Also, I also had the current cast play a game of Survivor Would You Rather, and that is definitely catchable as well. If you follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss you can get more Survivor scoop sent directly to you — like finding out which David vs. Goliath contestant just got $14,000 from Sia — and if you follow me on Instagram @thedaltonross you will have a chance to win all the original embarrassing moment confessions from the Edge of Extinction cast. That sounds cool, right?

But now it’s your turn. Did Chris make the right move in getting rid of Keith? Can Wentworth and Aubry rebound from seeming trouble? And will Keith go to the Edge of Extinction? Make your predictions now and weigh in on all that and more in the message boards below, and I’ll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy.

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