Remember how I’ve said in the past that I’m fine with returning castaways, so long as they don’t take more than their fair share of screen time? Well, please extend this stance to CELEBRITY castaways as well. There is far too much Jeff Kent in this episode.
Let me briefly welcome you back to “Idol Speculation”, before diving right into the episode. Specifically, the “Previously On” segment. Although I normally avoid talking about this segment, since more important, game-changing things are happening (or at least they SHOULD be happening), this segment is a particularly egregious example of screen hogging. As is the norm for the second episode, the Probst recap deals mainly with the castaways of the season, with the focus particularly on those who had a major impact on the game. The first castaways singled out? Lisa Whelchel and Jeff Kent. Ok, so I can KIND of understand Jeff, as he did have a minor impact on the first episode, but LISA? True, she is part of a plotline later in the episode, but beyond that, she really didn’t contribute anything, game wise. And don’t think it was a mistake, the Probst narration made it CLEAR who they were emphasizing. They do better with the returning castaways, only really putting emphasis on Russell and Skupin, who did at least impact last episode. Admittedly, they do highlight R.C. and Abi-Maria on Tandang, even more so than Skupin, but overall a disappointing recap.
On to the actual gameplay! Fresh from Tribal Council, we get Russell doing damage control, pointing out that he’s not used to a situation where he could go home. Admittedly, this is a fair point. On “Survivor Samoa”, Russell was on the (at least in the tribal phase) winning Galu tribe. All told, Russell went to Tribal Council ONCE, and even then, he wasn’t remotely a target, so not only losing, but being in danger of going home, must be an alien sensation to him. To the cameras, he swears to learn from his mistakes. Time will tell if he actually does.
It seems that every season of “Survivor” has to have a “Think with you crotch.” Moment, and Malcolm is this year’s victim, cuddling with Angie late at night. Both claim this is an issue of warmth, and has nothing to do with strategy, and I’d believe it from Angie. However, I’m rather skeptical that Malcolm can get anything even RESEMBLING warmth from that small a body. His case is not helped when he comments that he warned himself not to get “Booty Blind” (which, I’ll admit, is kind of a catchy pun). Malcolm seems to be the only blind one, though, as Roxy catches the pair’s cuddling, and is immediately suspicious. I have to admit, Roxy has been much more strategic, and less overzealous with her religion, than I gave her credit for. Now, prepare to have my expectations dashed.
We miss out on an intro this week, but because of my buzz from last week, I don’t care. Also helpful is the fact that we get a couple of very interesting scenes. First, over at Tandang, the clue to the idol is found, and it’s actually NOT a clean sweep for the returnees. R.C., in fact, stumbles upon it while checking the rice for mold, even managing to hide it from her “enemy” Lisa. Given how much strategic prowess she showed last week, I’m sure R.C. will do the logical thing, and keep the clue to herself, in the hopes of finding the idol for a personal emergency. No, wait, she’ll immediately run over to Abi-Maria and spill the beans. R.C. claims this is a strategy, as her alliance hasn’t been tested yet. Well, if your alliance hasn’t been tested, that all the more reason to keep the clue a secret! That way, if everything goes down the proverbial chamber pot, you have a trump card. But know, R.C. insists on showing Abi-Maria, and, what a surprise, it backfires. Abi-Maria becomes suspicious of R.C., particularly due to the fact that R.C. and Skupin have a lot of “suspicious” conversations. Rather than hold her hand and keep her guard up, however, Abi-Maria chooses a direct confrontation with R.C., ending in something of a stalemate, with the alliance on shaky ground. On the one hand, I’m not happy with this, as I rather root for Abi-Maria, but on the other hand, it makes the politics at Tandang much more interesting, and seeds for future exciting episode.
As Kalabaw is the only tribe we haven’t visited yet, it’s time to go have a look. As promised, the conflict here has to do with Penner desperately needing an immunity idol to bring his plans to fruition. But before that, we need another pointless scene of Jeff Kent talking about his busted leg. We get it, you played baseball and you’re tough, but you still got injured! Stop talking about it! Anyway, on to the more interesting things at Kalabaw, Penner has a problem. It’s raining so damn much that the tribe is all staying in the shelter, making it impossible for him to search. Luck goes Penner’s way, however, as the tribe decides as a group to go up to a cave for warmth. Penner declines (which should make them immediately suspicious) with a very good acting job, advising them all not to go. A good bit of reverse psychology there. I’m not sure how it worked, the logic seemed very flawed to me, but it gets results. Some good interviews of Penner frustrated follow, until he has the same brain wave I had, pops the logo off the top of the rice box, and finds that it’s an idol. Can I call them, or what? Though to be fair, it is a fairly clever hiding place, and I’m also well fed, hydrated, and sleeping soundly, so I had something of an advantage.
Penner’s road is not smooth, though, as Dawson and Dana come running back into camp to grab flint, and find Penner searching under the shelter. Penner quickly comes up with the lie that a contact lens fell out, and he was looking for it. Contrary to his own snide remarks, I think this was a good lie, believeable with just the right inflection put on it.
Engaging in a rotation system, we come to Matsing after the commercial. We’re rewarded for our patience, with a good bit of strategizing by Roxy. Following up on her observation about Malcolm and Angie’s sleeping habits, she takes the logical course of action and finds herself an ally to combat the twosome. As Denise is a bit of an unknown quantity, she opts for Russell, and I have to admire her willingness to talk strategy with the man she practically despised last episode. Both agree that the alliance means trouble, and that, due to a lack of physical strength, Angie needs to go. Malcolm is interviewed, but seems oddly ignorant of the problem posed by his sleeping habits. Perhaps he’s not such a strategist after all. True, Denise is a bit skeptical of Roxy, but other than that, Malcolm looks to be in deep water at this point.
Rotating to Tandang, we get the promised breakdown of Lisa. She admits that she’s an introvert, over footage of her leaving the shelter during a rainstorm. Ok, Lisa, I’m willing to cut you some slack here, the tribe didn’t exactly make you welcome, but you brought the talking behind your back on youself. We do get a nice scene of her sitting on the well, talking about having to leave home at age 12 to pursue acting, and how she can only be extroverted onstage. This WOULD be a nice, touching scene, were it not for the humongous “#SURVIVORBREAKDOWN” in the lower left hand corner. That’s a buzzkill right there.
I’m sorry, it seems that break took us to “Survivor Samoa”, because it won’t stop raining, and Matsing won’t stop complaining about the rain. Russell has horrible flashbacks, and Roxy has a minor breakdown herself. A calm after the storm settles things, however, and brings out Roxy’s Christian side on camera for the first time (not counting the crosses painted on her face in the first challenge), leading her to what appears to be a long time of solitary prayer. On more recent seasons of “Survivor”, this would have guaranteed Roxy a ticket to the late merge at least. This season, it separates her from her tribe, leading Denise especially to question Roxy’s mental health. This season just went up in my standing!
Ok, to be fair, I don’t hate ALL Christians of “Survivor”, and Roxy was one of the more low-key ones, but there’s just been so much of it on recent seasons that I really just need a break!
Challenge Time! And today we have a mixed bag for your viewing pleasure. It’s really quite straightforward: Tribes run in alternating pairs pulling a sled along a sand course to collect puzzle pieces, and then have to solve an admittedly very complicated puzzle with the aid of a caller up on a pedestal. So, it’s an original challenge with a good balance of mental and physical, I should like this right. Well I would, and I do appreciate that the challenge team is going with mostly original challenges this season (at least so far), but the SLED, ugh the sled. It just seems so un-“Survivor”, so very out of place, that it just drags the challenge down for me.
Still, I shouldn’t hate it too much, because I do LOVE the puzzle. It’s complex without appearing to be so, and did make for a dead heat at the end. I’ll admit that despite having a pretty good idea that Matsing would be going to Tribal Council based on editing, I did get excited toward the end, which generally doesn’t happen if I’m pretty sure of the outcome. It was a very back-and-forth race, due largely to Penner’s refusal to listen to Kalabaw’s caller (Dana). Ok Penner, I want to like you, and I know you’re intelligent, but that’s just not smart man.
It doesn’t matter in the end, as Matsing loses, causing Russell to become very frustrated, giving his tribe the rather backhanded compliment that they can beat the other tribes, they just need a fire underneath them. In doing so, however, he inadvertently blames his tribemates for the loss, never a good move.
All is forgiven back at camp, though, because the spotlight is still on both Angie and Roxy. Now, given her screen time, I bet that Roxy is going at this point, but I’m not very certain at this point. The misdirection is quite well done in this case, and both performed abysmally in the challenge, so it’s still something of a tossup. I’ll mention here that I’m loving Denise’s gameplay. She’s smart, she thinks things through, and she’s even got herself in the ideal position of the middleman (or in this case middlewoman) of two competing alliance.
Tribal seems like it will be a subdued affair. Probst comments on Russell’s outburst, and asks the tribe what they could do to be better. Roxy makes the fairly reasonable suggestion that they work less hard at camp, so they have more energy for challenges. Denise counter-argues (I wonder who’s side Denise is on?) that if they don’t maintain camp, they won’t be able to compete regardless. This could be a solid, albeit unmemorable tribal council. Then Angie whips out the cookies.
Oh, I don’t mean she baked the tribe cookies, that would just be silly (though given how much supplies the tribes have been given of late, it wouldn’t surprise me). No, I mean Angie suggests that the tribe could be improved by the addition of cookies into the camp. Now, I can sympathize with this sentiment. Cookies are delicious, and when you’re starving in the jungle, I imagine they’d be excellent comfort food. However, and forgive me for stating the obvious here, THEY DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO HELP YOU SURVIVE! The most they could POSSIBLY do, and this is the best case scenario mind, is give you a sugar rush for one challenge. Cookies, my dear, are not what’s wanted. However, much like Randy’s (“Survivor Gabon”) cookies, these set off a big tribe argument, in which Angie and Malcolm’s alliance (don’t pretend it’s anything else) is exposed, and everybody looks bad, save Denise. Note to self: Cookies on “Survivor”=bad juju.
Also, Roxy calls Angie’s strategy a “Boobie Trap”. Bonus spoonerism!
Spoonerisms do not change the situation, however, as Roxy is unanimously voted out. Not the decision I’d have gone with, as I think that Roxy and Russell were not as tight as Angie and Malcolm are, and Russell at least would have been fairly easy to beat in the finals. However, I can’t say it was a bad decision, as Roxy wasn’t performing very well, and the vote was unanimous. If the preview for next week is to be believed, Matsing may yet have a prayer (the irony). Tandang, however, maybe in trouble.
This was actually a pretty good episode. Nothing spectacular, but pretty good. A lot of seeds planted for future story arcs, some good strategy and triumph, and very little stupidity. If nothing else, I do have to admit that it kept me entertained, and I very much look forward to the next episode.
Title Credit to Jean Storrs.