HOT TAKE: Survivor Recap – A Diamond in the Rough

This week’s episode starts off with a demoralized Malolo tribe returning back to camp having just eliminated Brenden. In my last post I thought that Brenden’s dismissal was all part of Michael’s master plan but now I don’t think that was the case. Michael seems pretty broken up about the fact that he caused his buddy to go home and now he’s up a creek without a paddle. Bradley’s former Naviti posse has a significant numbers advantage over the remaining 3 Malolo tribesman and can pick them off one by one if they need to – and Michael knows this. His only gambit at this point is to try and convince Bradley that picking off some of the stronger players (really just making the case for himself here) wouldn’t be a great idea moving forward because they will continue to lose challenges and eventually all be eliminated. I’m sure Bradley has at least considered this if he is as smart as he claims to be, right?

REWARD TIME! The coveted winner of today’s reward challenge gets something more precious than gold – COFFEE. Now hear me out – two weeks without coffee would make me insane. I won’t go as far as to say it is the lifeblood that allows me to slog through my entire day, each day – that’s beer – but coffee is an extremely close second. If it was socially acceptable to have a beer in the morning I could quit coffee cold turkey but since it’s not – coffee it is! Oh! Mr. Probst is also offering some pastries to go along with the coffee but honestly who gives a fuck? A cheese Danish is fine but pales in comparison to a nice cup o’ Joe. To win the coffee the two tribes will compete by running over tables (really? Tables? Someone mailed it in) to get to an area filled with sandbags. Two tribesman from each team will then move all the sandbags to expose a lever that will release smaller sandbags (Come on guys, this is getting embarrassing). The smaller sandbags will then be moved to a staging area where the competing tribes will toss the sandbags at 3 suspended targets about 20 feet away. First team to close all 3 targets wins the coffee. Got it?

Jeffry Probst gives the go-ahead and our two tribes are off. Naviti jumps out in front early and doesn’t really look back to see how Malolo is doing. Naviti is first over the tables, first to move the sandbags, first to release smaller sandbags and first to close their targets. How are they able to do this in such a convincing fashion? Turns out it is pretty easy when you have a former college baseball player on your team. Chris absolutely crushes the target competition by consecutively closing all 3 targets without missing once – I think? Did anyone see him miss? It certainly didn’t look like he missed the targets. Also, dude has a cannon for an arm so he hit each target with force when he connected, which was 100% of the time. Poor Malolo. They never stood a chance. Also Jeff Probst is totally geeked about Chris’ performance. He’s so jazzed! He’s never seen anything like this before because he has somehow avoided the millions of trick shot videos that exist on the internet. That’s more impressive than what Chris did for us today, tbh. How do you filter out all those Dude Perfect wannabe videos?! Did anyone else want Chris to whip a pastry at Malolo? Just me? Cool.

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I know kung-fu

Tradition now demands that someone from the losing tribe be sent to Ghost Island. To keep things from getting political Naviti opts for the bag of rocks and Jeff dutifully hands them out to Malolo. The person who draws the white rock will be headed to the dreaded (?) GHOST ISLAND! Time for a question – why would anyone mind being sent there? I get that you can’t participate in the politics of the tribe but do you really want to? It seems like you get a nice break for a day and even have the opportunity to give yourself a huge advantage by finding an idol or completing a Ghost Island challenge successfully. The whole solitude aspect is also completely overblow since you’re probably surrounded by tons of a PAs and cameras. The whole idea just seems a little half-baked to me. AND IT’S NOT EVEN SPOOKY! MAKE IT SPOOKEY! THE ISLAND ISN’T EVEN SHAPED LIKE A SKULL, OR HAVE A SKULL LOOKING MOUNTAIN/CAVE!

After drawing the rocks it turns out none other than Miss “Hope” herself (Stephanie) will be headed to Ghost Island. If you recall from last episode, Stephers felt like she was up against the wall and her only strategy at that point was to channel positive vibes – and somehow it worked. Her voodoo mojo cast a spell over Michael who used his fake immunity ruse to “save” her in place of Brenden. This time it seems like her magic has worn off just when she needs it most. Upon arriving at Ghost Island Stephanie has to break a tile and reveal if she gets an opportunity for a challenge – she doesn’t. Well shit. Hope is dead. She doesn’t even get to the roll the dice to see if she can win immunity. Alright fine – well at least she has a whole day to tool around Ghost Island and look for an immunity idol, right? Nope. Now this could be clever editing but the way the scene is revealed to us makes it seem like Stephanie just sits in camp and eats rice the whole time – willing herself to survive. This doesn’t seem like a good strategy – especially for someone who thought they were going home last week…I would be moving every single damn rock and leaf I could get my grubby hands on. Not Stephanie though – she’s all about channeling those good good vibes. She talks about all this as she suns herself and I have to “hope” production offers up sunscreen because I can’t imagine being sunburned with no options for relief on a tropical island. That would be hell. Also, incredibly irresponsible of Mark Burnett and co.

Back with Naviti we see the tribe getting down with that java and shooting the shit over bear claws. It’s at this moment that I come to a profound realization – Chris has an extremely tiny head for his body. Remember the head hunter safari guy from Beetle Juice? There’s a definite resemblance there. We’re also treated to a quick scene where Donathan (I have major problems with the spelling and sound of this name. Did the J on his birth certificate just look like a D or something? Who else is named Donathan?) Anyway he starts to break down over being away from his grandmother, who he takes care of. I feel for the guy – it’s gotta be hard to be away from someone who has come to rely on you. Chris sees Donathan and makes his way over to tell Donny that he can relate to his situation. Chris is building allies any way he can to protect himself from being voted out.

Onto the immunity challenge! For this week’s challenge each tribe will…need to race from point A to point B and unlock a box. Honestly, the actual path to get from point A to point B is not worth explaining – it involves a body board, some planks and a rope…it’s dumb. I get that the competitions are limited based on location but can we please try and be a bit more creative? I’ve been watching the challenge for like 15 years and those challenges always seem different. Production doesn’t have the budget to spice things up a bit? Anyway the competition starts and Naviti is off to the races again. It looks like Naviti will be dominating this challenge as well but then there’s a brief moment where Desiree on Malolo seems to get ahead of Libby on Naviti and it looks like we could have a competition…but then Desiree falls into the water and whatever lead Malolo had quickly evaporates. Naviti is first to get to the end puzzle and, since they are so far ahead of Malolo when they start the puzzle, first to solve it and claim another victory. Malolo will be forced to cleave itself once again. Did anyone else see this coming? I sure as shit did. Did anyone else think that Jeff Probst was wearing a New York Jets cap? I sure as shit did. And while we’re on it – what’s not to like about the scrappy Jets this year? I watched some of their games last season and actually enjoyed myself. J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!

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Jeff Probst watching a New York Jets game next season

Naviti takes their immunity idol and skedaddles leaving Malolo to figure out who to vote off the island. Back at camp the politics begin as the Bradley Tribe debates who to eliminate. It seems like Michael’s point about eliminating stronger players is starting to sink in given the two recent loses – they can’t keep losing competitions and survive – they need to switch strategies up. During this scene I also learn that Michael is 18 years old. Are you kidding me?! I am sure this was mentioned in an earlier episode but I must have glossed right over it. Dude is 18 years old?! The guy looks like he’s just under 30 – what the hell! Do you know what I looked like at 18? Not like that. I was maybe 135 lbs., had bleached tips for my spikey hair and wore pukka shell necklaces. NOT FAIR.

Before they switch up their strategy there is still Malolo fat to trim. Stephanie would make the most sense but they don’t know if Stephanie found an immunity idol or not (She didn’t). To confirm, Dez helps herself to Stephanie’s purse and digs through it – no idol. Really? Is nothing sacred on Survivor? Obviously the expectation of privacy is out the window but going through someone’s modest personal belongings seems like a real dickbag move. Still, Stephanie could be keeping the idol on her I suppose (Where exactly?) but that seems unlikely. After riffing through Stephanie’s stuff the group sets poor Stephanie in their crosshairs.

At tribal council it quickly becomes apparent that Stephanie is going to be up for elimination. Is it just me or does Bradley look like someone? He resembles someone famous but the only person I can picture is Matthew Lillard – and that’s not who I am thinking of – anyone else got a hot take on who Bradley looks like? He’s so snivelly-looking. This is going to drive me nuts. While chatting with Stephanie Jeff Probst makes the claim that Survivor is the most difficult relationship game ever conceived – insert corny marriage joke here. So we get to voting and Jeff asks Malolo if anyone has an immunity idol that he or she would like to play. All eyes go to Stephers and we wait for a minute…No idol from Stephanie. She’s still rocking the posi-vibes but it’s not enough. Stephanie gets the needed 5 votes and Jeff demands her torch – her fire is out.

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WHO DOES HE LOOK LIKE?!!!!!

What did you think of last night’s episode? Do you think Malolo made the right decision in axing Stephanie? Is Chris’ head proportionate to his body? Is Jeff Probst all in on the NY Jets? Give me your hot take or rip on me for mine.

HOT TAKE: Survivor, Trust Your Gut

Holy shit. This is the 36th season of Survivor. Can you believe how long this show has been on? Some perspective: The first season of Survivor aired in a pre-9/11 world where Bill Clinton was still the President. Bill “Slick Willy” Clinton. America was killing the game in 2000. The internet tech boom was making everyone an overnight millionaire (Hello Mark Cuban). Contrast that with the 2018 world Survivor: Ghost Island airs in now and it will make you long for days gone by. We have Trump as a President, 2 active wars in the Middle East, and an exploding national debt that tops itself year after year. We need shows like Survivor to remind us that things weren’t always quite so bad. We need Survivor to show us that when you strip away all the luxuries we are accustomed to in modern western society we revert back to our basic animal instincts. We form alliances with some, and distance ourselves from others. Survivor is as much an experiment on human psychology as it is entertainment. I haven’t watched Survivor for years but since starting this blog I knew it had to be on my must-watch list. What did I discover in my time away from the tribe? When it comes to Survivor the more things change the more things stay the same.

This week’s episode “Trust your gut” is all about intuition. It’s a very in your face metaphor that foreshadows several key situations our tribes face this week. Let’s start with the Naviti tribe. After a very political tribal council meeting Morgan lost her flame and was sent packing. Domenick and Wendell emerge from the jungle licking their wounds having played too strong a hand at the council meeting as they voted to oust Angela over Morgan. We see them alone on a beach strategizing about how they can survive another week with all their cards out on the table for the rest of the tribe to see. Oh, and Chris will be coming back from Ghost Island, and when he does he will be gunning for Dom. Luckily, Dom mentions to Wendell that he has a “real” immunity idol and I’m immediately skeptical. Why use the word “real” when describing it to someone? People always overemphasize a lie – just saying. I like Wendell but he seems easily manipulated by stronger personalities like Dom. Is this part of his game? It’s too early to tell.

This week’s reward challenge is high stakes – not only will a member of the losing tribe be sent to Ghost Island to exist in solitude (minus production) but the winning tribe will get…PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SAMMIES! And a cold glass of milk to wash it all down. Let me ask you – when is the last time you had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It’s probably been a while, yeah? Let me tell, after a long hiatus, much like Survivor, pb&j sandos are so fucking good! For me this reward seems significant. As for the challenge itself: 2 teams of 2 will need to swim 100 yards or so to grab a ring and bring it back to their post, scoring a point. Best 2 out 3 wins. This is basically water polo but you are allowed to mostly drown your opponent. Tangent: who comes up with these challenges after 36 seasons? How many different variations of “get the ball in the goal” are there? I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that room and just listen to the various producers work out different scenarios. The well has to be running dry at this point, no?

There’s really only 1 key takeaway from this reward challenge and that is don’t fuck with Laurel – just like in MTV’s The Challenge. Can we put that in the reality TV competition handbook? If there is someone named Laurel on the show you should not fuck with them because they will grind your bones to dust. Laurel is a tank on this challenge, going full beast mode and dragging the other contestants, IN WAIST HIGH WATER NO LESS, down the field, ring in hand. It’s really impressive. Later I will learn she is a division 1 athlete who went to Yale (Sienne? I miss you. I hope you’re doing well) so the fact that she can throw tiny white girls around like rag dolls will make a lot more sense. The Naviti tribe wins the sandwiches and the Malolo tribe is up to send someone to Ghost Island – PS they really need some kind of sound effect every time Ghost Island is said out loud. Speaking of sound effects, who is the dude that does the generic guttural tribal noises when we return from commercial break? I want that job.

Leaving things to chance, the Malolo tribe drew rocks from a bag to determine who will go into a brief exile. Before drawing Kellyn, a career counselor from Denver, states that her worst fear is being sent to Ghost Island. Guess what happens next? She draws the white rock out of the bag and punches her ticket to Ghost Island. Congratulations Kellyn – enjoy your time away from the tribe! Production shoos Kellyn into a small boat and they set sail for an all expenses paid vacation to the fabulous Ghost Island. Kellyn is now surrounded by the “ghosts” of past survivors and their on-show errors that cost each former contestants the game. Upon her arrival Kellyn is presented with a decision – she can risk her tribal council vote to play a challenge game and win a huge advantage, or she can sit tight and do nothing on the island. Kellyn chooses to do nothing but not before explaining how in her life she follows her gut (Title reference!) She tells us how she left a brief marriage because the relationship didn’t feel right. She left her job to get an MBA because she felt it in her bones. And now she is doing nothing because risking her vote is no good in this moment. You know what also doesn’t feel right? Kellyn telling us how everything she has done has lead her here – Survivor. On this show if you’re not active making and plotting moves you’re going to lose.

Case in point: Chris is back from Ghost Island among his Naviti people and already politikin’ to get Dom out. The Dom versus Chris war is coming. While Chris is trying to sell everyone on the idea that he would make the better leader Dom is doing his part to solidify his own position. More vaguely tribal guttural noises sound and it’s time for the immunity challenge.

For the immunity challenge we see another variation of a tried and true reality TV contest – get heavy object from point A to point B via an obstacle course. At Point B there is a physical challenge to win the game. The idea here is to use teamwork in order to complete your objective because of course it is. Reality TV shows always try and force feed the audience these nuggets of wisdom. Trust your gut, teamwork works, don’t fuck with people named Laurel – there are lessons to be learned if you’re willing to be a good student. The challenge starts and right away it looks like the Malolo is going to pick up an easy W. To win, the tribe must swim out to a sunken chest, open an underwater gate and carry it back to the beach where each team will have to navigate an obstacle course. Once at the end of the obstacle course the team needs to open the chest and find 5 balls. These balls must be thrown onto a narrow ledge in order to get the win. This is variation #42-A on game 4C. Oh to be the fly on the wall.

The Malolo tribe is already out of the water and on the obstacle course before the Naviti tribe even has their underwater gate open – it’s going to be a massacre, folks. Sebastian, who doubles as a hook and ladder assassin for hire, somehow manages to connect a metal ring to the missing obstacle course piece on his first try and the tribe is able to pull the missing obstacle course piece into place. By the time the Naviti tribe is trying to connect their obstacle course pieces together the Malolo tribe is already tossing their balls onto the narrow shelf. Malolo manages to get 3 out of the 5 balls up on the shelf before the Naviti tribe even throws their first ball. Reality TV lesson time – never give up. Even though it looks like the Naviti tribe is sunk they don’t stop trying. And by some miracle then end up balancing all 5 of their balls before the Malolo tribe and get the win! It’s amazing! It’s the most epic comeback of the season (we’re on episode 3) and Jeff Probst hammers home the importance of never giving up no matter the odds. That’s what survivor is all about: Outwit, outplay, outlast.

As the Naviti tribe celebrates their legendary come-from-behind victory the Malolo tribe is left to pick up the pieces and figure out who they are going to sacrifice to the CBS gods. Bradley, the stereotypical looking and sounding law student, is mustering his troops to stage a coup. For the record, Bradley is every young republican I met in college. He’s the Devin of the survivor except he actually knows how to manipulate people. He has a core group of former Naviti tribesman that he has banded together and with their superior numbers he wants to vote out either Michael or Brenden. NO ONE WILL EVER SEE THIS MOVE COMING. Or so Bradley thinks because Bradley thinks he has all the answers and is the only one with a developed strategy. Bradley is wrong. Bradley calls Brenden docile and in that moment I know that I hate Bradley. Things are going to implode on him – smug little bastard.

We cut to Michael and Brenden who know that they are both up for elimination – See Bradley! How in the hell can they avoid certain departure when Bradley and co. have the superior numbers? Well, it just so happens that Michael has an ace in the hole – he’s managed to find a relic from Survivor: China. He can use this relic to save him or Brenden during the Tribal Council. But wait! This is a special relic, or at least it can be in the right hands. Each relic comes with a note and story behind it and Michael decides to bend the truth a bit here. He is going to announce his relic mid-tribal council and instead of using it to save 1 person he is going to use it to save 2 people. Wait, what? Can he do that? Is everyone stupid enough to believe that? It turns out the answer is yes.

Before we get to the council it’s important to note Stephanie’s powerful #fitmom hope sequence. She meditates on the beach and traces out the word hope in the sand. She knows she’s on the chopping block but if Instagram has taught us anything it is that the power of positive thinking can change anything! All you have to do is yoga. And eat clean. And spread love. Be positive!

At the tribal council Bradley’s coalition spares with Michael’s and each makes a case for voting the other side out. Michael lets us know that Bradley cannot be trusted because he’s using the others to save himself (duh, everyone is) and when he gets the chance he is going to put a knives in the backs of Chelsea and Sebastian. Vote Bradley out – Michael & Brenden 2018. Bradley says his side cannot trust the Malolo tribesman because they are not native Naviti so don’t vote Bradley, or Bradley. Only he can see the remaining Naviti-now-Malolo people to liberty and prosperity. A classic law and order strategy. With both sides dug in Michael reveals his relic and spins his web. He tells everyone the back story behind the relic (key to making everyone believe it is worth 2 lives and not 1) and that he will be using it on himself and Brenden…no wait…not Brenden because they wouldn’t throw docile Brenden in…let’s use the relic on Stephers instead. Come on, really?! Why the last minute change? Oh shit, this was Michael’s plan all long wasn’t it? Clever girl.

The votes are counted and its 4-4, Bradley versus Brenden. Jeff reaches into the bag and reveals the final vote it’s Brend-o. Congratulations Brenden, you just played yourself. This was Michael’s play the whole time – get docile Brenden out of the way so he can focus on Brad. He’s instilled significant FUD in Bradley’s coalition and I’m thinking he’ll look to push this further next week. Jeff gives Brenden the iconic Survivor sendoff, “The tribe has spoken,” and Brenden extinguishes his flame. Stephanie’s yoga/meditation/hope session has worked, for now.