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“He’s a badass, ex-Marine…definitely my favorite player.” That’s Sarita talking on Redemption Island, trying to convince Matt that the “horror stories” he’s heard about Zapatera are exaggerated. “It’s not that bad,” she claims. Definitely a different story than Matt heard from Russell and the troll-ettes.
Matt needs the intel. He thinks today’s duel may be the last one before a merge and he’s considering his options, “It’d be the opportune moment to strike and take out the Ometepe tribe.” Matt has another worry: he’s wounded. “I’m really nervous. I cut my foot pretty badly. If it’s one of those endurance challenges, it could be tough…but God gave me this platform.”
Sarita is delusional, “I think I’m a worthy opponent.”
ZEN AND THE ART OF STILT-STANDING
Tree mail ordering everyone on both tribes to come to Redemption for the duel sets off alarms that a merge is coming. Rob immediately sets his tribe to work packing up camp to take along with them. Phillip, being either contrary or lazy, or both, tries to argue that it’s unnecessary work, “I’m a gambling man.” Rob ignores him, and Phillip falls in line.
On Zapatera, Mike can’t wait to face the enemy, “I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into them.” Rob, he admits, may be a tough chew, “He’s a master.”
As soon as both tribes are seated in the bleachers, and Matt and Sarita have marched in from the gladiator’s lounge, Jeff announces that today’s winner will go back into the game. Rob is worried: “If Matt wins, it’s no good for me personally. There’s a possibility he might defect. That’s what I would do.”
For the contest, Matt and Sarita must brace themselves between two vertical walls, on which there are three sets of footholds, graduated from half an inch wide to about an eighth of an inch. They’ll spend fifteen minutes each on the top two ledges, then on the bottom rungs as long as they last. It looks painful, especially for Matt, the cut on his foot hits exactly where it rests on the ledge.
Sure enough, Matt has problems with his foot. He has to constantly readjust. Sarina tries to shift her weight from one side to the other. Julie keeps telling Sarita to “ZEN!” Phillip, thanks to a prompt from Probst, is torturing everyone with a rambling and incoherent Samurai story in which the Samurai were getting vengeance by cutting themselves in half with their swords. If Phillip had been around, I’m pretty sure the first thing they would have done is cut off his head to shut him up.
Sarita puts up a good fight, but Matt, as usual, is the winner. Jeff tosses Matt a new buff and announces the merge. Handshakes all round. Matt hugs Andrea like a soldier back from the war, greeting his gal at the train station. Sarita’s departure is almost ignored; she doesn’t even get farewell remarks, just the order to “Throw your buff in the fire” and it’s Sayonara Sarita. Everyone else departs for a new camp site.
Matt is pleased to be back in the game, but cautious, “I’ve got a couple of options, but I gotta be careful ‘cause one slip-up out here and you’re gone.” He thinks he has an edge because the six people who’ve joined him on Redemption have “told me exactly what’s going on in both tribes.”
“MY WHOLE BODY GOT HAPPY”
The now singular tribe arrives at their new campsite to find a picnic. Julie almost swoons with joy, “My whole body got happy.”
A new name is the first order of business. Rob suggests MURLONIO, “in Spanish it means From the Sea: Unity. Apparently no one, including the alleged genius David, knows any Spanish beyond, “Yo quiero Taco Bell?.” There’s universal agreement that this is indeed the perfect significance for their new oneness. What, no one realized that Murlonio is just Mariano with a couple of vowel switches?
Rob, for no reason except mischievousness, has punked the tribe, “Murlonio. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s a private thing with Amber. She’s got this bunch of stuffed animals and Murlonio is kinda the ring-leader.” That’s a little scary, harboring stuffed animals who have their own general. I’ll just give Rob and Amber benefit of the doubt and assume the animals are locked up away from the munchkins.
A little later, Mike decides the time has come for him to take action, “I can’t just sit around and wait to get taken out by Boston Rob.” He tries to convince Matt that he and Andrea are sitting ducks, “You’re the biggest chess pieces right now.” And to sweeten the deal, he offers a place in the final four, “I’m okay with whittling down my tribe to go with you and Andrea.” And, he adds, “I have access to an idol. I can use it to save you if I need to.” Matt responds that the idea sounds good, but he needs to talk it over with Andrea.
Later that night, Matt and Andrea are alone on the beach, looking very much as if they’re still a couple. Matt has decided, “Here’s what I want to do: I want to take out the Ometepe tribe. First we vote Steve out, then Phillip, then we blindside Rob.” Andrea agrees that this is brilliance, but privately reveals she has serious reservations, “In the back of my mind, I’m thinking this could be extremely bad. At this point I’m keeping my options open.”
ROMANTIC COMEDIES AND OREO COOKIES
The next morning, Matt explains to the Zapaterans that his return from Redemption was divine providence, “After I beat Stephanie, I felt like God wanted me to win Survivor.” Mike, undoubtedly thinking it will help his campaign for Matt’s support, reads aloud from Krista’s my-little-pony-pink Bible.
Rob, half-sunken into his beach chair, laughs wryly, “I should probably go over and get in that convo, but I probably don’t have too much to add. It’s like the Christian Coalition or somethin’.” He explains his objection to the camera, “I don’t have any problem with religion. I go to church every Sunday. But anytime a group likes the same thing–I don’t care if it’s romantic comedies or Oreo cookies–I wanna break ‘em up.”
A FLY ON MIKE’S BALL
Since there’s been a merge, there’ll be individual immunity up for grabs in the challenge. The new immunity necklace is gorgeous, with images graven in bronze. To win it, one must, while standing on a round log, balance a wooden disk on one palm. First one ball, then two, then three will be added to the platter. The object is to keep the balls on the plate, while not losing one’s balance and falling off the log.
It’s a tough challenge in windy conditions. Julie is first out, followed by David, Ashley, Andrea, Grant, Matt, Rob, Phillip, Ralph and Steve. Only Natalie and Mike remain. Mike looks invincible. Jeff says he’s “like a statue.” Natalie begins to get a bit wobbly. Then the unthinkable happens: a fly lands on one of Mike’s balls and starts to crawl around. He tries to concentrate, but unexpectedly takes a step backward, and Natalie wins the first individual immunity.
Mike explains “what happened was, my feet went numb and I lost it.” I’m pretty sure it was the fly on his ball. Jeff seems astounded that Natalie, as the “youngest player ever” has done so well. I guess he’s forgotten that she was the one whose skill at the slingshot won an earlier competition for Ometepe. Besides, she’s a dancer; she better have good balance.
MICHAEL’S EPISTLE TO MATTHEW
At camp, Mike is worried about his fate. He tells the others it will either be him or Ralph who’s the target. He puts Ralph on the spot and asks him if Ralph will use his hidden immunity idol to save him, on account of how well he played today and probably being in danger at tonight’s vote. Ralph isn’t thrilled, but he doesn’t have much choice except to say, “I guess so.” I’ll bet Ralph wishes he hadn’t been so quick to blab about having that thing.
Matt, it seems, has had a change of heart since his talk with Andrea. He decides to confess all to Rob, as they share a perch on a cliff overlooking the ocean. He tells Rob all about the deal offered by Mike, his decision to take it, and then incriminates Andrea by revealing she was included. But Matt has seen the light, “I’ve decided I want to honor my god; I don’t wanna flip. I want to be with you.”
Andrea encounters them, and learns what’s been said. She is not happy. She tells us, “First Matt wants to take them out, now he’s like throwing me under the bus to Rob. I don’t know what to do. I trusted Rob once before and got royally screwed over. On the other hand, Matt’s just sketchy. He’s flighty.”
To Matt, Rob is very conciliatory, seeming grateful for Matt’s new loyalty. Privately, he’s livid at Matt’s audacity in first plotting against him and then telling him about it. He can’t wait to share with Natalie: Matt has signed his own Survivor death-warrant, “He can still be a good Christian guy. He can just do it on Redemption.”
Mike decides he needs to write a letter to Matt, formalizing his offer of a place in the Final Four. Epistolary efforts in this game are never a good idea. Just ask J.T. about that note to Russell. Matt announces he needs to go for a walk. (Like that’s not going to raise suspicions.) Alone, he read’s Matt’s letter, “Matt, vote for Grant and I’ll take you to the Final Three.” Definitely a promotion, up one from Final Four. Poor poor Matt. He’s so torn, “Here I am at the crossroads of keeping my word and breaking my word.” He’s also been watching Rob with the others. “I feel ostracized.”
Rob knows everything is at state, “Tonight’s vote is monumental. If Matt and Andrea are with them, I’m in a world of hurt.”
PARASITIC GLORIOUS DECEIT
Jeff faces the tribe at their first tribal council as Murlonio. He wants to know if there’s peace and harmony in the camp. Not hardly. Rob chuckles, “Jeff, I’ve never seen anything like it; nobody’s sayin’ anything to each other.” Ralph agrees, “It’s still like two tribes.”
David complains, “We got the bad side of the shelter. They were under the side with the tarp and we were soaking wet in five minutes.” Ashley interjects, “Well, we won that tarp.” Oh, David can’t let that one slide, “Winning with an asterisk. We weren’t exactly trying in that challenge.” Oh-ho! pounces Probst, “so now you admit you threw the challenge?” The former Zapaterans sheepishly nod their heads.
Phillip takes this as his opportunity for a dissertation. “That’s the difference in the tribes. We would never not try.” Jeff can’t resist encouraging Phillip to continue. Phillip launches into one of his incoherent rambles, “Some on that tribe like deceit, which can be beautiful and glorious but when it recedes (like a hairline, I wonder?) it leaves a stench, there’s something disgusting and parasitic.” The girls from Ometepe and Rob can’t help it: they’re nearly doubled over with mirth. Jeff is offended, “What are you laughing at?” Natalie chokes out, “Phillip. What he said.”
Jeff realizes he should change the subject and inquires about Matt’s state of mind. He sighs, “Man it was so much easier on Redemption without all these people around. I’ve been gone fifteen days. I still even struggle, but I’m startin’ to see the whole picture.”
APPARENTLY, I’M NOT VERY GOOD AT THE GAME OF SURVIVOR
The vote begins. Matt is seen agonizing over whose name to write down. Jeff gets ready to count the votes. He asks if anyone has the idol and wants to play it. Ralph rises and walks over to hand Jeff his idol, saying he wants to play it for Mike. (That made some sense: they did not know that Matt had revealed their possession of the idol and Mike would be an obvious target as the strongest player.)
Jeff reads the votes, in order of maximum dramatic impact. The first five are for Grant. There’s one for Steve, cast by poor Matt on Robb’s direction. The next six go to an astounded Matt. He never saw the train barreling at him.
David gapes in astonishment and appreciation, “Genius. That’s what that was.”
Julie is sympathetic, “Oh my god, that poor kid.”
Steve sees war, “Now the fireworks begin.”
Jeff has a warning for them all, “He’s going to Redemption and the problem is one of the eleven of you is going to have to face him. I have a feeling forgiveness is not what’s gonna be on his mind.”
Matt arrives back at his solitary home on Redemption, “Today God’s will is contradictory to what I wanted. I like these people. I wanted to be friends with these people. Apparently I’m not very good at the game of Survivor.”