Survivor 42 recap: Paying for the sins of the past
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Jeff Probst won't stop talking to me. I mean, the guy just won't shut up! What's so weird about it is that the dude has done a complete 180 from just a few weeks ago. Sure, we had a little chat at the very start of the season, but then for the longest time… nothing. Radio silence. It was almost like he Purple Kelly'd himself. Then, last week, he started talking to me again, and honestly, it was nice to hear from the guy. I mean, we go back, me and Probst. We've been doing this since Day 1. True old school Survivor, in Ethan Zohn t-shirt parlance.
I figured last week's check-in might be it for a while, but then he reached out directly again this week… TWICE! Why? I don't know, maybe the guy's lonely? Perhaps he just likes to remind me how much better his hair is than mine? Whatever the reason, it's nice to hear from him. I always dig hearing from Jeff because maybe he'll spill some Survivor secrets and give me some intel on an upcoming twist or something.
And that's exactly what he did every time he reached out over the past few weeks. The only problem is, instead of reaching out over the phone or email, he's lately been reaching out over the TV screen. And instead of just letting me in on a secret, he's telling the entire damn world! THAT'S NOT HOW EXCLUSIVES WORK, JEFF!!!
As upset as I am over not being the sole audience for the Hostmaster General, you all know I do like these little private moments between Probst and the audience before players start walking in for a challenge or a fake pseudo merge or whatever. I mean, he's not exactly inspiring me to drive over to my local Applebee's or anything, but it's fun to hear Probst talk about how bummed he'll be if nobody finds an advantage under the Sandra Diaz-Twine sit-out bench.
I wonder how often he actually did these little intros out on location. Like, did he basically give a little soliloquy before every single challenge and then they just decided on the best ones to use on the air? (Sample one that did not make the cut: "Okay, the tribes are about to walk in for a reward challenge where the winner will get 10 fish, and I gotta tell you, we had a lot of trouble deciding how many to give them. Five fish? 20 fish? One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish? The whole situation was a bit… fishy, hahaha! Anyway, let's see how Jonathan dominates this one. COME ON IN!")
Anyway, it's a nice touch and they've done a good job of not going overboard with it. And I'll try my best to not go overboard as we recap the big events of Survivor 42, episode 8.
I Like Mike
How great is Mike? I'm not just saying that because we both reside in the Dirty Jerz. I'm not just saying that because we are both — as Omar might put it — mature gentlemen. And I'm not just saying that because of our Wesleyan dad connection. But none of that certainly hurts either. Watching Mike ask Omar questions about his religion, and hearing Omar talk about how Mike — unlike a lot of people his age — does not run away from things he does not understand shows once again what a great social game Mike is playing. This comes right on the heels of last week's episodes that showed the former firefighter making connections with Jonathan and Hai.
Mike just seems like such a likeable dude who genuinely likes people. (Unless you write his name down. Then you are dead to him.) Can he actually win this game? It's not so far-fetched, and would be yet another notch in the belt of New Jersey Survivor domination.
Peanut Butter & Jealous
The Kula Kula tribe (no doubt named for another one of Amber Mariano's stuffed animals) arrived for a reward challenge, but thanks to all of #SurvivorNation now being BFFs with Probst, we learned that there was an advantage hidden on the Sandra sit-out bench. Still fuming over the fact that the same reward challenge advantage was never found on season 41, Probst placed his package on the bench… which, incidentally, sounds much worse than the way I meant it.
After two teams were picked to run the contest with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at stake, Maryanne was left with the gray rock, meaning she had to sit out, but would have access to the advantage. YES! That's my girl! LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOO!
And then the unthinkable happened. Drea announced to the world that she was the anti-Heidi and Jenna because she does not like peanut butter. First off, who doesn't like peanut butter? What are you, some sort of monster? ARE YOU THE MONSTER JEFF PROBST KEEPS TALKING ABOUT?!?! Actually, I'll be completely honest. In a weird way, I respect not liking peanut butter at all over preferring creamy to crunchy peanut butter. That, to me, is sacrilege. It's like saying you prefer Pirate Master to Survivor. Creamy? Get that garbage out of my face and fire up a little Skippy Super Chunk instead. (Admission: I watched Pirate Master because I have no taste and I have no shame. All hail the Chest of Zanzibar!)
How much of Drea swapping slots with Maryanne was due to her irrational hatred of a delicious protein-packed treat and how much was to gain access to a possible idol or advantage remains unclear, but Drea definitely was searching almost as soon as she got to the bench. And her reward was another Beware Advantage. But beware of what?
So when Drea later got back to the beach, she read the parchment that informed her a secret advantage was hidden five paces from the water well under a coconut, and that if she did not retrieve it by sundown, she could not vote at next Tribal. Wait… that's it? That's what she had to beware of? That is the easiest, lamest Beware Advantage of all time! No guaranteed loss of vote? No automatic giving up of any sort of power? Hell, the thing isn't even buried! Retrieve by sundown? She's going to retrieve that thing before I even finish this sentence! And that she did, securing the Knowledge is Power advantage in no time. Wow, what a letdown. Or so I thought.
Because when Drea turned over the coconut, it was revealed that the advantage was deep in a tube filled with red paint, and when she retrieved it, her entire arm looked like it had been severed and restitched back on like something straight out of 1991's Body Parts. Allow me to say… I love it. And that's not just because I have an affinity for cheesy Jeff Fahey horror films of yesterday. I love it because it is a stealthy beware advantage.
The producers pump-faked Drea (and us) into thinking the beware in question was losing her vote if she did procure the idol by nighttime — a task she no doubt deemed ridiculously easy. But there was a surprise waiting for her. And in her speed to get the idol, Drea didn't even seem to think about or consider the issue of dyeing her entire arm red. "No problem, she can wash it off, she's right at the water well," you may say. Well, how did that work out for her? She didn't get it all off, tried out an unconvincing cover story on Tori, and now this could be something that plays out down the line. Or not.
Either way, standing slow-clap to the producers for that fun second level to the advantage. I love it. What I don't love is that Drea now has an amulet, an immunity idol, an extra vote, a Knowledge is Power advantage, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. The idol and advantage overload is out of control. Maybe the monster can do something about that? Oh, and by the way — Jonathan won his team the reward, because of course he did. #Beast.
Someone Page Angelina Keeley
In yet another example of Survivor 42 being pretty much the exact same season as Survivor 41, the players were again negotiating with Probst for how many people would have to sit out of the immunity challenge for them to receive rice to keep from starving. In an interesting aside, Probst told us beforehand (because we are all total island BFFs with the host now) that he was going to try to get six players to sit out, but that he would settle for four.
Now, a lot of people will probably razz the host for caving and giving in to only four people. I disagree completely. I dig that he laid it all out for us beforehand in terms of what he was going to push for, but also what he would accept. And I dig that Probst was willing to show the players getting the better of him in the negotiation… if you want to call it that. I think it was clear to the host, the players, the crew members who had to dress up as phony baloney Applebee's waiters last week, and us losers sitting at home that there was no way six players were going to sit out, so getting four felt like a win in itself.
And Jeff only got that four thanks to a teary, emotional speech from Maryanne, who pointed out that she had agreed to sit out (along with Drea and Lindsay) even though she was in a much more precarious position that most of the others, finally guilting Omar into sitting out as well.
That left only seven people competing in the ol' balance-on-a-narrow-perch-while-holding-a-buoy-with-two-handles contest. First off, some props for Tori, who won her second straight immunity challenge. Tori was a goner last week if she did not win immunity, which she then did. She most likely would have been toast again this week, and again she won. That's two super clutch performances in a row. If you want to point out that she didn't compete against a full field in either contest and that this second competition was especially geared towards a woman (better balance, smaller feet) winning, that's fine and fair enough, but she still pulled it out when she needed it. Impressive.
Equally impressive was Jonathan. At his size, he had no business whatsoever lasting as long in this challenge as he did. Just absurd. Is there anything this guy can't do? He leads his team back in the reward challenge from a 4-0 deficit by shooting lights out to win it, and then follows that up by outdoing Chanelle, Mike, Rocksroy, and Hai (who lasted less time than it took for Romeo to misspell his name at Tribal Council) at a balance comp. That's insane. If this guy starts also dominating puzzles, then I think we can conclusively state that Jonathan is, in fact, a cyborg. And the most likable cyborg since Lieutenant Commander Data was patrolling the deck of the U.S.S. Starship Enterprise.
Chill Out or Freak Out?
With Tori having won immunity and Maryanne seemingly safe thanks to her sacrifice by not competing for immunity, all eyes were locked on Chanelle as a target. But instead of Chanelle fighting to stay, she went for a completely different strategy instead. There's a dumb (but often quite accurate) adage in football that most games are not won, they're lost. For those of you who don't subscribe to the Surviving Snyder podcast to get your wonderfully bizarre mix of Survivor and football deep dive discussion, it essentially means that you don't have to make a big play to win the game; just wait for the other team to screw up.
That's what Chanelle was hoping for on day 16 by laying super low, and her strategy almost worked. While Chanelle wanted to make sure nobody saw her scrambling or doing anything that might be construed as shady, Romeo was making like Black Sabbath and acting paranoid. I actually don't blame him at all. Tori mentioned hearing his name, and if I heard my name was out there, I would probably want to leap into action as well.
But there are ways to assess a situation without straight up badgering someone about the situation — like reading body language and noticing how people are interacting with and around each other. Romeo was about as subtle as an emotionally manipulative episode of This is Us in his execution, and because of that "inserted himself as a target," according to Omar.
And here's the thing: Chanelle's plan to lay low probably would have worked. The vote appeared to have flipped and Romeo was going to the jury. And why didn't he? Because of one stray vote from two Tribals ago: Chanelle's vote for Mike. She did it in case Daniel successfully used his Shot in the Dark, which seems smart. But in that scenario she still would have gone home anyway with more votes, and she made a mortal enemy in Mike, who was determined from that moment forward to get her out of the game (even though he had voted for her at the same Tribal). So when word came to Mike that the target was now Romeo, he refused and flipped it back.
Say Ciao to Chanelle
After a Tribal Council that set a land speed record for automobile analogies (including drivers, passengers, back seats, taking a nap, handing over the wheel, etc…), Chanelle was sent to the jury. And she did NOT look happy about it. I get it. Her dream was shattered. Folks just lied to her face about the vote. There wasn't even anyone at Ponderosa to grab a beer with. I'd probably be a bit salty myself.
Here's a lukewarm take: I don't think Chanelle is a bad Survivor player. But she did make some bad moves. Losing her vote (and thereby losing Jenny and giving Hai all the power) was the big first one. And then undoing all the work she did to get back in with Mike by voting for him later was the other. That was so fresh when they hit the merge that it proved to be too big a hole to climb out of.
And while Chanelle bragged at one point about her social game being so good she could control the votes even when she didn't have one, that turned out to be about as accurate as my fabled Survivor winner prognosticating skills. If anything, her social game actually appeared to be a liability once the tribes all came together. You could see it every instance in which she approached a group of players and things would immediately get more awkward than that time I wore my sister's white Benetton jacket and pants to a 6th grade dance because I thought it made me look like Sonny Crockett.
Whatever. I got over it. I mean… It took me a few years, but I got over it. And Chanelle will as well. Not in the game, mind you, but, like… in life. She'll move on. And so will we, but not without a few extra goodies for you. We have my exit interview with Chanelle up now as well as some intel on that new Kula Kula tribe name, complete with an exclusive deleted scene explaining the origin of said name. Keep your eyes peeled for both of those, and for more Survivor nonsense, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss and Instagram @thedaltonross. Go grab yourself some crunchy peanut butter, and I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!
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