“Do nothing which is not useful.”––Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Zapatera last week chose to keep the trustworthy but feckless Sarita over sneaky Stephanie. David decided to be rebellious, go against his alliance, and vote Sarita. I can’t see any possible advantage for him in being contrary. Ralph isn’t surprised: David’s a lawyer and “they think they’re better’n anybody else.” Sarita tries to mend fences and assures David “I have a ton of respect for you.” He snarls, “Don’t be giving a speech. It won’t do any good.”
On Redemption, Matt is longing for the duel, to get away from Stephanie’s motor-mouth yammering about food. Matt’s conversation has been of more import, “I told God I’m gonna stay out here as long as He wants me to.” While I respect Matt’s devotion, I find it a bit disconcerting to think that God may be neglecting some other, more important, duties to intervene in Survivor TV competition.
At Ometepe, Phillip, still sporting the horrifying pink underpants, demands to go to the challenge, whining, “It’s my turn!” Rob quickly says he’ll go too. He has to keep a close rein on Phillip, “He wants to go to the duel, so I gotta chaperone. He’s dangerous because of his stupidity. He’s probably the most unaware person I’ve ever met in my life.”
Phillip is already gunning for Rob, spouting about Samurai’s and The Book of Five Rings advice to “let your enemy move first.” It’s the Survivor version of Tony Soprano quoting Sun Tsu’s “Art of War.” (I doubt Phillip actually read the book; more likely he watched the movie one night after finishing up Potty Patrol.)
MATT’S A SAMURAI
The duel requires memory skills. (Think Toy Story 3 Memory Match Game). Short-legged tables are topped with tiles! which will be flipped over two at a time to try to make matches of pictures things like skulls and eagles and warriors. First to five pairs wins. Jeff is totally astounded and amazed when both Stephanie and Matt get matches on their first tries. Stephanie, most likely being guided by the satanic spirit of Russell Hantz, is quickly defeated. Matt has his fifth Redemption victory.
Stephanie gets teary-eyed, but doesn’t miss her opportunity to lobby with Ralph, “Sarita doesn’t deserve to be here. David is the one who can solve puzzles.” She warns Rob, “Look out, because they’re gonna try to take you out, just like they did Russell.”
Phillip, with great gravity, bestows his approval on Matt, “In the old days the Samurai had the Samurai Code. Matt, you’re a Samurai.”
Looking over his shoulder as Probst sends him back to the solitude of his Redemption camp, Matt grins and quips, “You know where to find me.”
On the way back to camp, Phillip, kicking into stealth mode, asks how much information Rob wants him to “withhold” from the others. Rob quickly says “none,” that he wants to keep the tribe strong. Rob can’t wait to share Phillip’s perfidy with the others. He’d been hoping, he says (interview) that Phillip would “say something like that. I wanted everybody to know the target on my back. I’m telling you, the first opportunity, he’s flippin’. If we lose a challenge, I’ll go right up to Phillip and say ‘You’re goin’ home.’ I won’t blindside him; I’ll front-side him.”
Back at Zapatera, Ralph and David have different interpretations of Stephanie’s words. Ralph reports, “She told the other team to beat us.” David counters, “I don’t think it was anything egregious.” Poor Ralph, he probably thinks egregious is a tall white water-bird.
Inertia has gripped the Zapaterans; they’re all lounging around. David becomes very insistent that they must go fishing. Now. At once. Julie and Ralph argue that the storm has muddied the waters, and David counters with some theory of bait fish going the other direction. David’s belligerence is not well-received. Steve quietly observes, “the thirty-year-old attorney David is telling the forty-five-year-old farmer Ralph when to fish.” Sarita is also negative about David, “As much as he’s the King, riding the wild waters of Survivor, he doesn’t know how to play the social game at all.” Ralph has had it, “He’s got to go.”
I SAW YOU GET A SCOOP OF THE CRISPY
Ometepe has cooked rice. Phillip has a bowlful, which he’s chewing on as if he has a giant ball of caramel popcorn in his mouth. The girls are tending the pot. All that’s left are the browned bits in the bottom. Natalie says she told Rob she’d save him the crispy stuff. Phillip, madly jealous, practically jumps off his seat and runs over to demand “one scoop of the crispy.” The girls won’t let him have it, saying it’s for Rob. Phillip goes ballistic, screaming, “I saw you guys get a scoop of the crispy! I’m standing right there!”
Phillip has a major rant–“Rob Rob Rob Rob Rob. I asked for a little teaspoon of the crispy. No no no. It’s all for Rob, how asinine is that? Let it be known, the first opportunity I have to eliminate him, I will. I’m the senior member of this tribe; in any other world I’d be getting the deference. I wanna be on record, there’s a division in this tribe––of their making. Instead of the senior member, I’m the red-headed stepchild.”
SACRIFICE TO THE VOLCANO
The teams are playing for immunity and reward, a helicopter trip to a volcano and another major picnic. Zapatera is desperate to win; they haven’t had extra food for weeks. The challenge course is tough, a combination of two from other seasons, the “Three Little Pigs” where teams have to crash through bales of hay, sticks and walls of bricks, and rope course, which requires crawling through mud and navigating through a platform obstacle. Along the way, bags of balls have to be retrieved from an elevated helix cross-bar. At the end, the balls must be thrown into a very narrow basket-ball-style net.
Sarita is pitiful–and ineffectual–trying to free the first bag, bleating, “Help me, Help me.” Zapatera switches to David as the bag retriever. He’s much faster than Rob for the other team. The ball-throwing proves to be Zapatera’s undoing: none of them can match the skill of former NFL wide-receiver Grant. Ometepe wins again.
Ometepe is thrilled. On the helicopter they’re exchanging high-fives. Even Phillip is proud, “Some tribes advance boldly….Superior tribes, like ours, we find a way to win. And we did. I’m actually having an incredible day today, having a wonderful meal and surviving with the tribe, I’m having a hard time not feeling tribal.”
As they picnic, Rob is on alert. He spots a jar of what look to be Pepperidge Farm Pirouette cookies and immediately realizes their potential. “I’ve been on enough rewards to know there’s a clue, then it occurs to me the cookies are cylindrical. Perfect place to hide a clue.” He reaches for the jar, and sure enough, the cookie in the center is the one he’s looking for. He palms it and hides it behind his back.
Rob heads off by himself to perch on the very edge of the volcano. He’s smiling from ear to ear, “I don’t even need to look at the clue; I’ve already got the idol. I’m just gonna throw it in the volcano.” When he launches that roll of paper out over the abyss, it’s one of those awesome moments in Survivor history.
THE CATCH 22
There’s a volcano of a different kind bubbling at Zapatera. Mike can’t believe they’ve lost the past three challenges, “all for food.” He’s looking ahead, “six of them, five of us, not a good situation with a looming merge.” He weighs the choice between Sarita and David, “Sarita is very loyal and trustworthy, but gets flustered. David, on the other hand, he’s a little harder to trust. It’s a total Catch 22, do we have a loyal tribe or a little bit of strength? We gotta figure a way out of this tailspin.”
Sarita tries to make her case that she can do anything David can do. Ralph acknowledges that David was a star in the day’s challenge, but doesn’t trust him at all.
When they gather for tribal council, Jeff can’t wait to chide, “Since you threw the challenge to get rid of Russell, you’ve lost three out of the last four.” Just for the record, since Probst keeps arguing that Russell’s presence is the key to Survivor Nirvana, I’d like to note that Zapatera won the very next challenge after Russell was sent packing. In his forty-eleven seasons on the show, I’ve never observed that he was much of an asset in challenges. Objection noted.
Ralph tries to argue that the finish at the challenge was close. Jeff is having none of that. He tells David, “Finish the sentence. Excuses are for….” David enthusiastically answers, “LOSERS!”
So, says Jeff, “maybe you’re not as cohesive as a tribe.” David can’t wait to agree, “You look at the other tribe, it seems like they’re all friends.” Trying to continue the conversation, Jeff asks Ralph if he’d rather have a tribe that was strong or one that was cohesive. Ralph is puzzled, “First of all, Jeff, I don’t know what cohesive means.” Jeff tries to put it in terms Farmer Ralph can comprehend, asking Ralph if he’d rather work with a bunch of guys who all work well together or a bunch who are strong. Ralph stubbornly insists, “I disagree.” Jeff is frustrated, “It’s a [i]question[i/]. You can’t just disagree.”
Steve interjects, “Any coach would rather have a team that gets along.”
Jeff pounces on that, “Stephanie would disagree. Krista would disagree. Stephanie would disagree.”
Steve wryly notes, “And that’s why they’re gone.”
Sarita and David throw a few barbs at each other. David says Sarita spent the afternoon gunning for him. He’s arrogant and nonchalant, “I didn’t even go around and try to plead my case. Either they’re for her or they’re for me.”
The vote goes against Sarita. (David received one other vote than Sarita’s; I wonder whose it was?) Sarita seems surprised, “I wish I’d brought my stuff. Oh my God!” Well, that was stupid, wasn’t it? In the old days, when one went from torch-snuffing to Ponderosa, that might not have mattered. This season, though, the eliminated player goes to Redemption Island. Poor Matt has been there nearly three weeks with literally “the clothes on his back,” the ones he was wearing when he was blindsided at tribal.
Jeff can’t let go of his Word of the Week, cohesive. “Well, if there was any question whether this was one cohesive group, tonight’s tribal council answered it: NO!”
Sarita arrives at Redemption. She thinks the tribe has made a mistake, “They wanna make the most robust football team they can. God love ‘em for it. They don’t understand you’re getting to the part of the game where you don’t want the strongest person, who might win individual immunity.”
She may just be right. Next week: there’s a merge in the making and someone comes back from Redemption. My money’s on Matt!