Phillip Sheppard is as mad a March hare, as loony as a Looney Tune and as barmy as a bat in the belfry. And no, those are not code words for a racial epithet, though Phillip himself would no doubt accuse me of denigration. Almost the entirety of the X Episode of Survivor Redemption is devoted to Phillip’s violent tirades, accusations of racism and threats of retaliation against Steve. Steve, completely fed up (as I daresay, are we all) with Phillip’s ranting about rice consumption, had the audacity to tell Phillip he was crazy.
It all started at breakfast. Ralph, Julie and Steve are dining on a breakfast of grilled fish and ample quantities of rice. It seems the two tribes have not merged their food supply, and since there are only three of the original Zapaterans left, they have more to eat.
Phillip has climbed up a cliff, the better to meditate, and to receive the celestial signals beamed from his dead grandfather. He’s in a swell mood until he gets back to camp and stealthily (remember he’s head of the StealthRUs organization) counts as Julie downs what he considers a gluttonous quantity of rice: seven and half scoopsful. No way is he going to allow Zapatera to eat up all the rice before they’re ousted: he takes what looks like a big portion of their supply and dumps it into his bag.
On Redemption Island, Matt has been joined by Mike and David, but he’s still running up his MasterCard bill calling 1-900-HEY-LORD on his psychic telephone:
You know how much I want out of this game. I want nothing to do with it, but if you want me to stay in it, God, I will. I will fight.
Matt wonders if you can call a duel with three people a duel. David answers, “No, it would be a trial,” and Mike invents a word–[i]truel[i]. Whatever it’s called, everyone has come to the arena to spectate. Jeff explains that they’ll each have 150 wooden tiles, which they must stack “house of cards” style until the tower reaches a height of eight feet. Top two finishers will stay in the game. The loser will be the first member of the jury.
Mike gets ahead quickly, has a few nervous moments on his very last tile, but gets it steadied. Matt is second and self-described puzzle wizard David a distant third. On his way to Ponderosa, he’s gracious, “Being on Survivor has given me a fresh outlook and determination.”
As for Saint Matthew, he’s still running on faith fuel, “God’s continued to give me strength day to day. If it’s his will, I’ll continue to win and try to take Rob out.” Sounds like Matt’s verse-of-the-month is “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.”
“IT’S NOT A CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER, IT’S A LOG”–Steve
Back at camp, Grant and Rob are cheerfully singing a ditty they’ve made up about “rice wars.” Andrea opens the rice cannister to discover there’s a leak in the bottom and the rice has become contaminated with maggots. They dump the rice on a blanket to sort out the good from the bad. Andrea nicely asks Steve if they can add the good rice to Zapatera’s supply. Steve allows as how, no, he and Julie don’t think that’s a good idea, and adds for good measure, “I’m pretty sure Ralph won’t think so either.”
That sends Phillip into the stratosphere of Rice Rage, screaming that after the merge only the rewards are separate (I’m pretty sure that’s a rule he made up on the spot.) and threatening Steve, “You know what, I asked. Unless you walk with that can, the first opportunity I get to take that can and hide it, I will."
Steve looks incredulously at Phillip and with icy calm, says, “You’re a lunatic. You’re a dangerous man.”
Phillip is like a volcano bubbling sulfurous fumes: “Anytime somebody of my color gets up in one of your faces, then you feel like I'm a lunatic. I'm crazy. We’ll go mano a mano if we have to; I’m chief of counter-intelligence. They’re gonna get down on their knees and beg for rice.” Things soon go from bad to worse, with Phillip repeatedly and viciously accusing Steve of using the term “crazy” as a stand-in for the N-word, “Every time I make an argument, it’s that N*****.” Phillip stomps around, looking like nothing so much as an escapee from the lunatic asylum, his private parts saggy in his baggy faded pink panties. Flouncing off, he warns, “I’m Wing Chung kung fu.”
Steve can’t believe what he’s heard, “Taking it to the N-word is crazy. It’s not a chip on his shoulder; it’s a log.”
Rob can only shake his head, “What started off as a friendly little song turned into a warrrr. Phillip managed to make a discussion about white rice racial. He’s public enemy number one. Now I just have to figure out who to make number two.”
The immunity challenge, which, unless it changes the order in which the Zapaterans will be voted out, won’t affect the game at all, consists of having to run round and round a platter, then fit puzzle pieces into it. The first six get a second puzzle to complete. Evidently, a product-placement sponsor was unavailable: there’s no reward. Though Steve is only a second behind him, it’s the puzzle-solving champ Rob who wins. Steve recognizes that another of his tribe will be going home unless “two of them change their mind and vote for Phil: BAM. It’s the only shot we got.”
THEY MUST HAVE GOT LEGS ON THEIR OWN AND WALKED AWAY
Back at camp, Zapatera is deleting the rice supply again. Julie laughs, “I’ve never eaten so much rice in my life.” Spying Phillip’s shorts flapping in the wind, she can’t resist the temptation to wickedness. She snatches the garments off the clothesline and hurries away to bury them in the sand, “Phillip is gonna have to hang out in his cute little underwear from now on.”
Never mind that the Survivor contract prohibits contestants’ stealing others’ possessions. They stopped enforcing that rule when Russell Hantz showed up and Probst thought his antics were so adorable and amazing.
Naturally, when Phillip comes looking for his trunks, he gets huffy in a hurry, “Did any of you bag my swim trunks?” Everyone denies the deed. “Well,” Phillip sneers, “They must have gotten legs and walked off on their own. The bottom line is I know my trunks were taken. I can play that game.” By now livid, he turns to Steve and Julie, and menacingly gives notice, “You from the big house. You from the big house. If my shorts don’t come up tonight…” [I assume the “from the big house” is a slavery reference?]
Steve says, “I feel threatened.”
Phillip snaps, “I don’t threaten; I just go off like (snaps his fingers) that. This ain’t the NFL. In the NFL they got rules.”
Phillip is girded for tribal council, his buff tucked into his pink drawers as a loincloth, now with double feathers sprouting from his bald head.
Rob sighs, recognizing that absolutely everyone is fed up with Phillip’s doltish behavior. “There’s room to play, but I don’t know where. One man should not have this much power on an island, but I’m grateful that I do.”
PROBST PLAYS POP PSYCHOLOGIST
Jeff opens tribal council (after welcoming jury member David) by inquiring, “Phillip, based on what you’re wearing, I’m guessing you had another meditation.” It’s as if he lit a firecracker directly under Phillip’s seat. Phillip begins a diatribe about Zapatera stealing his britches and eating all the rice. Steve isn’t going to stand for it, “he started threatening us with tae-kwan-do or jujitsu or something and accusing us of using the N-word.”
Jeff is shocked, “Who brought up the N-word?”
Julie replies, “Phillip did.”
Phillip is snarling about Steve, “…’cause he doesn’t wanna use the N-word, he uses crazy.”
Jeff, trying to make sense of Phillip’s jabber, “So you’re saying when he calls you crazy, he’s really calling you the N-word?”
Phillip asks Jeff if he’s ever been a woman. Jeff admits that, no, he’s never experienced that. Phillip triumphantly that proves his point that no one who isn’t black knows what it is to be black. Jeff agrees that’s reasonable, but asks how Phillip is sure that Steve is calling him the N-word when he calls Phillip crazy. Phillip tells a story about being with his dad in a store in 1968 where the clerk called his dad “boy.” That was obviously code for the N-word, says, Phillip, and now he for certain knows when somebody’s using a word to mean that.
Jeff summarizes, “Tell me if this is right so far. Big debate. Culminated with rice. Steve called you crazy. You equated that with the N-word. Nobody knows Steve’s intentions. It’s quite possible you both are right.”
Steve (who I don’t believe for a minute meant by calling Phillip “crazy” to mean anything other than that he thought him barmy, demented, psycho and wacko) offers a strong defense. He points out that he played (as an offensive lineman) for thirteen years in the NFL, on teams where he was the minority race, “There’s no black and white line in my heart.”
I don’t know if Phillip is really as bizarre as he seems, or if he’s putting on an act. In any event, I think for another Survivor to call him crazy is quite understandable. For Phillip to try to turn that into a charge of racism is in my opinion unwarranted and indefensible.
Before Jeff sends Murlonio/Ometepe/Zapatera folks to vote, he asks, “So who took the shorts?” Julie’s hand shoots into the air. She’s proud, “I took the shorts. Nobody’ll ever find ‘em. They’re buried.” Later as she votes for Phillip, she says, “This has nothing to do with the color of your skin, bro. You are one crazy dude.”
The Robfather has, it seems, decided to stick with the plan to rid the tribe of Zapaterans before tackling the Phillip problem. (He was also, no doubt, factoring in that he didn’t want to risk losing Phillip’s vote on the jury by voting him out before all the Zapaterans were gone.) All the Ometepes vote for Julie and she’s headed off to join Mike and Matt on Redemption.
She can’t resist one last taunt as she hands over her torch, “Guess you’re never gonna find the shorts.” I assume Phillip, though he’ll probably choose to remain half-naked in his pinkies (My eyes! My eyes!), still has access to the trousers in which he arrived.
Julie, landing on Redemption, hasn’t changed her opinion, “There’s poison on that tribe, and his name is Phillip.”
Tune in next week as Matt hits the slough of despond, Phillip has his best day ever and Andrea may be on track for an early departure.