Disclaimer: This episode may be annoying in the extreme.
Just in case we’ve happily been able to forget the events of last week, Bwana Jeff insists on reminding us that Shambo lost Galu’s fishing gear and made friends with no one, Ben managed to alienate every single person on the island, and Russell H (hereinafter referred to as “Fat Russell” or “Bad Russell” ) continued to scheme and manipulate. About his tribemates, he says, “They’ll be my little puppets. They’ll run when I tell ’em to run. They’ll walk when I tell ’em to walk.” Have to say, I think Russell looks a lot more like Howdy Doody than Buffalo Bob. In the end, Russell got his way and Officer Betsy was on her way back to crush the criminal gangs rampaging across New Hampshire. I know I certainly slept better last night knowing the good officer was on patrol.
FOA FOA Day 7—Where else?
Mick and Jaison are having one of those ubiquitous heart-to-heart Survivor talks. Mick wants Jaison to know he thought Ben was way out of line calling Yasmin “ghetto trash” at Tribal Council and Jaison wants Mick to know if they lose the next challenge Ben is toast: “At this point Ben is a mental plague on our tribe.” There has been speculation that the whole FOA Tribe is mental, but I’ll leave that for others to decide. Note to viewers: watch Mick—he speaketh with forked tongue, saying exactly what he thinks the other person wants to hear. This may be clever strategy on Mick’s part or it may just be Mick being a wuss.
Russell makes a move on Natalie to find out what she thought about the Tribal Council. Natalie says it was brutal, but she isn’t about to let Russell think she was upset in any way and just does one of those “it is what it is” shoulder shrugs and walks away. This suits Russell fine, “Nobody on our tribe is playing the game. I’m the only one. This might be the worst group in Survivor history. I might be the best. I’m gonna have ‘em all like Zombies walking around.”
Meanwhile in camp, Ben is making a major production of demonstrating to the others how to make fire by accumulating a pile of magnesium on coconut fibres. Mick gives it a try and fails. Ben succeeds on his first attempt and warns the girls not to even consider doing this on their own, [quotation exact only as to author’s best recollection]: “Me Ben, you idjits. Weaklings. Big strong man needed for big job. You waste flint. Need flint start fire.” He then triumphantly describes his morning poop. Poop not shown.
Ben, in fact, is pretty sure without him there’d be nothing left of the GALU tribe but CROATAN scratched into a tree trunk: “These guys are not used to bein’ out in the woods. Kinda pansies. Mick’s not outdoorsy. Without my help these people will die.” Somebody quick: call the Mother Teresa Award committee to submit Ben’s name.
Russell observes, “As long as Ben keeps his crazy rantics going on his ass is gonna be on the line.” Still, he wants to keep him around because he’s good for the challenges. Ben murders another helpless reptile and skewers it for the barbie.
Laura, Kelly, Dave and Brett (I think those are the two guys; we’ve only had glances of them so far) have arranged themselves on rows of foliage looking like they’re about to be stuffed into grape leaves and made into dolmades. Oh, sorry, they’re just doing Yoga. [BritLit raises hand: Hey, can I pick the guy who’s the Downward Facing Dog? Please?] Laura explains that things are well in hand at Galu: they all work hard, win the challenges, and don’t have to stay in “game mode” all the time.
Shambo is whomping logs against the trunks of century-old palms and looking disdainfully at the quartet: “Are you frickin’ kidding me? Four people doing yoga this morning. Kinda alienated from my tribe cause I’m not in that 90210 clique. I’m not doin’ the warm and fuzzy. I’m doin’ the Rambo Shambo provider role out here. Do we have water? No. Do we have food? No. Do we have firewood? No. Screw yoga, man!” Umm, I think that’s a different branch of yoga. Tantrums or something.
AGRICULTURE FOA STYLE
Up to his usual tricks, Russell is working on Ben, to convince him that Ashley, who is next on Russell’s hit list, is gunning for Ben. He knows Ben will go after her:
“I’m tellin’ ya, ya plant that little seed in their head, in their little brain and then it grows. It’s called a Russell seed.” Russell’s little seed does indeed grow, like kudzu—about a foot a minute. Ben accuses Ashley; Ashley gets paranoid and accuses Natalie.
Belying the tension on screen, there’s an idyllic shot of dolphins frolicking in the sea and one of the late lamented lizard’s cousins looking about, wondering where the dickens everybody’s gone.
Mail has arrived, along with a pillowcase full of swimsuits. Thank heaven for small favors. I’ve seen more than enough of Ben’s mustard-yellow BVDs. And Russell’s prison-issue dingy gray boxers. (Note to producers for future seasons: let ‘em bring the swimsuits. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has a yen to see guys in their saggy bloomers prancing around the campfire.) The mail portends a challenge, so let’s get to it.
ALPHABET BLOCKS FOR DUMMIES
Bwana Jeff wants to know how Shambo is feeling. Excellent, she reports, “Rock and Roll. I’ve got my jogger bra on.” (That sound you heard was a shudder going through the feathers of Heidi Klum’s Victoria’s Secret angel wings.)
Jeff takes back the Scary Immunity Idol and stabs it into the sand. Whoa. I’d treat that thing with more respect if I were you, Bwana. Here’s my theory—the reason things are so calm cool and collected over at GALU is that creature staying with them all the time. I’m pretty sure if anybody misbehaved it would awake with a snarling roar and tear them to shreds. You can just tell by looking at it that it’s not a nice guy.
The challenge today will require the participation of six members from each tribe who must swim out to retrieve six colored crates, tow them to shore and stack them vertically so that no side has any repeating colors. And by the way, during the swim try to maim and mutilate as many members of the opposing team as possible. Either the PA’s who devise these challenges have unresolved aggression issues, or somebody’s selling the out-take videos to Joe Francis for Girls Gone Wild. First to get all six crates in a non-matched stack wins immunity. And reward. Must be some sort of cost-cutting effort at CBS—combine the challenges each week. Or it could just be that the darn things are so violent the contestants need a few days in between to lick their wounds. Like a waiter revealing a flaming entrée, Bwana Jeff jerks of the table cover to reveal the prize: beach towels, a hammock, some throw pillows and a couple of rush mats. I’m not saying it’s a cheesy prize, but it does remind me of the sale table at Linens ’n Things just before they went bankrupt.
Giving short shrift to the hair-pulling, choking, full-body wrestling holds, and human tugs-of-war, let’s move on to the results show. Surprise! GALU wins. But wait. There’s more! There’s a twist, says Bwana Jeff. He calls up Maitai Dreadlock Russell and offers him a choice; you can take these lovely boudoir items OR you can have…With another matador-like flourish, Probst reveals a collection of Gen-U-ine survival gear—a tarp for shelter, a cooking pot, a lantern and lamp oil. There were some other things I didn’t recognize but they looked like a Revolutionary War pistol and a couple of sticks of dynamite. Shall we let the tribe choose? Noooo—Dreadlock Russell is the Maitai; he takes care of the tribe; he must decide alone. No prob, says Chief Russell, I’ve got all these whiny females bitchin’ and groanin’ ‘bout stuff day and night. We’ll take the throw pillows, thank you very much.
Now I’m not going to be the one to say that anybody who turns down a roof and cooking and lighting utensils in favor of stuff you can steal from any Motel 6 is dumber than a box of rocks. No, that would be unkind. I am merely going to recount a story about our thirtieth President, Calvin Coolidge. The nation had been in a period of extended drought. At a press conference a reporter asked Mr. Coolidge if he thought it would rain. Never one to waste words, Cal responded, “It always has.”
Maitai Russell has another duty to fulfill: he must choose one of his tribe to go home with FOA as their guest for the day and to accompany them to Tribal Council. I’m hoping he selects Yasmin again; everyone had such a jolly time during her visit. Rats, he picks Shambo as GALU’s Ambassadress of Good Will.
AT THE NOT 90210
Shambo has come home with the FOAns. And boy is she ever glad to be here and away from those lazy good for nothing ommm-chanting Commie brats at GALU! Shambo spreads the charm with hugs and compliments all round, telling Mick he’s known as “McDreamy” and Liz that she’s an amazing competitor. She complains that at GALU she’s just a square peg in a round hole, that it’s like living in 90210. “Oh, how awful that must be for you,” cluck the FOAns. “They do YOGA? OMG that is like so last year. And like lazy. Why around here, we work like around the clock.”
Mick ain’t buyin’ her act: “She’s here to get the idol, I assume. You have to assume she’s lying.” Russell, as usual, is laughing up his nonexistent sleeve as he watches Shambo read the secret clues to the idol’s whereabouts: “I used my brilliant brain to figure out where it was.” Shambo, who obviously has no idea the idol’s already been found and removed by Evil Russell, is anxious to get started looking for it.
GALU has returned with their sumptuous prize. Dreadlock Russell delivers a self-justifying deprecatory monologue, allowing as how if it had been up to him, he would have picked the tarp but he has all these weakling females to take care of and “I take care of my wemmin’.” [Could you all just give me a moment? I need to go take some laudanum and lie down on my velvet fainting couch. Ohhh, much better. I needed that.]
On this one I’m voting with the rocket scientist John who reckons he’d trade every one of the so-called comfort items for the tarp alone. Or with Erik, who observes, “It may not rain for 39 days. But it’s gonna. Every one of those comfort items is going to be soaked and not so comfortable. What good are four pillows, three towels, and two rush mats going to do anyone?” Maybe if they'd thrown in a partridge in a pear tree?
EVERYBODY’S TALKIN’ ABOUT HIM
At FOA, Jaison is talking to Natalie and Ashley. He’s had it with Ben’s nastiness. “It’s the racist stuff.” And if everybody won’t go along with him, announces Jaison, he’ll take his Brooks Brothers blazer, his tassel loafers and his J Press tie and go home. To the camera, Jaison admits he has no intention whatsoever of leaving, but that he’ll be as devious as necessary to get rid of his nemesis Ben.
While Jaison is making his pronouncement about Ben’s fate, Russell is telling Mick and Liz that it’s Ashley who’s headed down the Exit ramp. Mick is worried, because he sees Ben as a big liability (remember he’s already talked to Jaison about Ben and knows he’s immovable on the subject). Mick and Russell shake hands on Ashley being next off, with Ben to follow. To prove his loyalty and trustworthiness, Russell shows the Immunity Idol to Mick. He pats himself on the back for his pact with Mick and grins ear to ear as he says, “I was Born for this.” If there were any ink-pots sitting around, I feel sure Russell would tattoo “I Have the Immunity Idol” square across his forehead.
Visitor Shambo is taking advantage of all the distractions and politicking to use her clues and search for the idol. How no one seems to notice that she’s upside down in a tree trunk looking exactly like one of the ENTS from [i]Lord of the Rings[/] is a little hard to comprehend.
Jaison, Russell and Mick are having a confab. Russell makes the case that if they don’t vote off Ashley, the three girls who are left could gang up on them and seize power. Jaison snorts in derision: “Them? They’d be fools to do that. They’re too weak too survive on their own.” (What is it with these dudes and their notion of female inferiority? I hope it comes back to bite them, big time.) Besides, continues Jaison, he’s going to make such a scene at Tribal Council about Ben that it will make life at camp unbearable should Ben remain. Sagely, Russell realizes that Jaison is immovable and that it would be supremely unwise to try to thwart him.
CIRCLE OF LOVE.
At Bwana Jeff’s instruction, everyone grabs a torch and sticks it into the fire to get a flame. I’m thinking of angry mobs and Molotov cocktails and wondering if this is such a good idea. Jeff asks how Shambo’s sojourn with FOA has been. Why, fantabuloso. In fact, volunteers Jaison, “I’d like to propose a trade with GALU in exchange for Ben. She’s a positive force in camp; he’s an incredibly negative force.” The gauntlet has been thrown. Things go downhill rapidly.
Jeff asks Ben how he’s voting. Ben reports that he’s voting for Ashley because she’s “the weakest link.” Ashley retorts that she’s not the one bringing negative energy to camp.
Jaison takes charge. “Here’s the thing. When someone’s in camp constantly screaming and yelling about everything, that puts everyone in a bad mood. “
Ben: “Who’d I yell at, Jaison?”
Jaison: “You yelled at Ashley, you yelled at Marisa, you yelled at one of our guests. Anybody tries to do anything you constantly correct them.”
Jaison and Ben are screaming back and forth, with poor Natalie sitting between them terrified the blows are about to start. Jaison accuses Ben of being a bully, of picking on girls. He mocks Ben, “Ohmigod, I’m an outlaw, I’m a renegade, they splashed me in the face, I can’t tackle anyone now.”
Jeff demands that Russell explain to him the animosity between Jaison and Ben. Russell reluctantly answers, “I just think it might have been that Ben said some negative things that might have been racial… That was it, that was the end of the relationship.” Russell as diplomat? Who’d a thought?
Jeff points out that the tribe still has a chance. He asks Jaison if there’s some way to heal the rift. Jaison is on his high horse: “You just have to draw a line in the sand. There is no one million dollars that would make it worth me sitting up here with him any more. I sat here watching him say incredible things at Yasmin here and at camp.”
Okay, I’m just going to jump in here. No way am I going to defend the troglodyte Ben. He’s awful. He deserves to be sent packing. Should never have been on the show in the first place.
But here’s the thing. Before anyone gets a new outfit to wear for the big ceremony when the Queen taps Jaison on the shoulder with her sword and makes him a Knight of Realm, ask this: Where was Jaison’s outrage a couple of days before when Ben was ranting at Yasmin both in camp and at Tribal Council? Jaison did not offer one word of protest, nor suggest that Ben should be ostracized or voted against for his actions. In fact, Jaison was as furious at Yasmin as anyone else for her condescending attitude toward FOA. What he actually said was: “I just want to tell her--Screw You!” Now suddenly he thinks she’s a lovely young lady who’s been “done wrong” by the cad Ben? Where was his outrage at the time?
But back to Ben. This is his night. He’s totally unrepentant for anything he’s said or done. As to Yasmin, he doesn’t think what he said about her was racist. It was, he claims, merely descriptive. “If she’s from the ghetto, and she’s trash, she’s Ghetto Trash.”
Jaison is snarling by now, “Well, tell me, Southern guy, with Southern ways, do you really think you should talk to a woman that way? Do you speak to a young lady that way?”
Ben hoots, “She’s not a lady. Ladies have manners.” He points to Natalie and commends her as a fine exemplar of Southern womanhood. I’m not sure Natalie is exactly thrilled with the compliment. Ben finishes, “Yasmin’s being a Bitch, and she’s not a Lady. It’s not that hard.”
Jaison is confident he’s won. He smirks, “If you say so.” But he can’t leave it there. He proceeds to give a lecture to Ben about historic context and racial content. It would have had about the same impact, I suspect, if he’d delivered it in Latin.
Shambo is asked to leave and the tribe proceeds to vote. The only member who fails to fall in line is Ben, who steadfastly refuses to vote for his own eviction and writes down Ashley’s name. As Jeff reads the vote, Ashley is relieved and Jaison wears a look of triumph. Bwana Jeff snuffs Ben’s torch and tells the others, “I’m not sure I have much to offer you. You’ve gotta figure things out.”
In his exit interview, Ben makes no apologies. He thinks they’ll regret sending him home. Smiling, he observes, “I’m glad it’s starting to rain.” And he did go for a whole hour without shooting his ‘finger gun’ at anyone. Props for that.
It is said, in Samoan legend, that that night, long after the humans were abed on their rush mats, lizards gathered from all parts of the island to mourn their loved ones and celebrate the vanquishing of their torturer. More than a few cans of Whoop-Ass™ were reported to have been overturned and their contents lapped from the ground.
Be sure to tune in next week for more Puppet Theater. You never know; it might rain.