Watching this episode felt a bit like playing a game of Uncle Wiggily with a bunch of five-year-olds hyped up on leftover Halloween candy. It was that confusing. And puzzling.
As usual, we open back at the FOA camp after another losing Tribal Council. The spooky night-vision cameras confirm my suspicions: all their eyes are totally black, like demon-possessed characters in a horror movie. Come to think of it, they are demon-possessed. By the hairy-backed troll, Russell. They discuss the possibility that a merge may be coming up soon and Maitai Dr. Mick affirms his allegiance to the demon: “You know whatever you want to do, we’ll follow you.” The troll gloats that he’s controlling the game, even with GALU thrown into the mix. Nobody, he says can outplay him: “I’m too sly. I gotta make sure my seed is planted in all these dumbasses’ heads.”
At GALU, Laura and Shambo are feuding. As usual. This time it’s over Shambo losing Laura’s canteen. It wasn’t enough to exile Laura to FOA during the reward, oh great Chief Shambo? You had to go and lose her canteen too? Someone might think you can’t be trusted with valuable property. Like chickens and snorkel masks. Shambo wants to take Laura for a walk and sort things out; Laura scoffs at that—like that’ll find the canteen. So Shambo gets all huffy and rails at her nemesis : “You’re just the mean girls, like the cheerleaders in high school. You’re having this 90210 thing going on.” I think it’s safe to assume that if we were to get our hands on Shambo’s high school yearbook, we would not find her mullet gracing a cheerleader’s uniform. And if you got a peek in her hall closet you’d find a pile of very very worn VCR tapes of every single episode of 90210. Laura doesn’t give a big flying flip about Shambo’s zip code angst, “If your feelings are hurt, that’s on you.”
Erik observes, “We know Shambo’s crazy. If you fight with Shambo, you’re just as crazy as her.”
Enigmatic Tree-Mail has arrived at FOA. Jaison is defeatist, “We just don’t wanna lose.”
The Troll smells a shake-up and goes off to dig up his hidden immunity idol. He’s not about to get caught empty-handed if there’s a merge.
The tribes arrive. Again, there’s a treasure chest, no sign of Bwana Jeff and no poultry. The chest is opened to reveal—brand spanking new blue buffs, paint, a tarp, and a note that the tribes have merged. They’re to have a feast and all go to live at GALU. Good thing the Troll brought along that idol!
Shambo looks heavenward: “A GALU-FOA FOA merge; I’m on top of the world. I’m like, my prayers were answered. Totally.” Let’s just hope Laura didn’t overhear—she’d have Shambo up before the Spanish Inquisition on blasphemy charges.
Monica thinks this is a feast fit for royalty so she does the whole Fellini Satyricon thing dropping grapes one by one into Russell’s gaping maw. That’s appropriate, he says, “Who gets grapes fed to them? The Kings do!”
Back at camp, wearing their new mood-brightening blue buffs, the new tribemates start to make friends. Or pretend to. John fesses up that he has a degree in mechanical engineering; Dave complains about their diet heavy on the hermit crabs and Natalie is in awe of the facilities: “I feel like I’m at the Hilton.” She should know; I’ve heard those pharmaceutical sales reps travel on awesome expense accounts.
Oh, wait, we need a name for our new tribe. “Hey,” suggests Brett, “what about AIGA? It means ‘extended family’ in Samoan.” (To pronounce AIGA, imagine choking on a peanut and being grabbed in the Heimlich maneuver. The noise you make coughing it up sounds like aaiiiee—guhhhh!.) I’m surprised to find that Brett is fluent in Samoan. I’m surprised to find Brett on the island at all. Wonder how many more previously unknown GALUANS are running about?
Erik is contemptuous of his new ‘family members.’ “FOA is starting over. They’re on Day Two. We’re on Day 19. AIGA. (makes barfing motion) What’s Samoan for ‘Get the Hell Off My Island’?”
RUSSELL PLAYS SHOW AND TELL
I don’t know whether he’s just super-proud of having found it, or if he has some bizarre strategy in mind, but Russell decides to advertise that he has the Hidden Immunity Idol. He shows it first to Laura (swearing that No One Else knows he has it), pitching the proposition that if she’ll just take him to the Final 7 (huh?), at that point he will cheerfully hand over the idol to her for her own personal use. Just one tiny condition, she’ll have to help vote off someone from GALU first. Uh, yeah, is Laura’s reaction, not gonna happen, “I’ve got 90%, you’ve got 10%. You want somebody out—has to be one of your guys. Or Shambo.” Russell is incensed over her reaction, and decides just for that she’ll be the first name on his hit list.
Monica is next for the idol viewing. She gets offered a better deal, Top Two. I keep hoping at the next Tribal Council someone’s going to pipe up and say, “Okay, everyone here who Russell’s promised to take to Top Two, raise your hand.” By my count, the number is up to around forty. Monica is polite and noncommittal. Russell senses she doesn’t believe him, but privately sneers that once he’s axed her boss, Laura, she may be singing a different tune.
John is now privileged to view the idol. Russell’s making the case for ousting Laura. Conspirationally he asks “Do you think she’s trustworthy? I think she should be the first to go. My guys are all voting Laura.” You can almost see the wheels turning inside John’s head: ‘hmmmm, just what I’ve been thinking—Laura and Monica could spell trouble for us guys…’
Russell goes to chat with Shambo and show her the idol. What? He’s not going to tell her he Has the idol? Interesting development. He doesn’t really need it to turn Shambo: all he has to do is mention Laura’s name and the smoke starts curling from Shambo’s ears: “Laura? She’s a little bitch.” Russell pats himself on the back, “I’ve got Shambo in my pocket. If we can get rid of Laura this whole game might change.” I’m wondering about two things here: What happened to Russell’s whole “we’re both such good Christian soldiers” bond with Laura from their time on FOA? And did Shambo decide Erik’s pocket was just too linty and she’d rather be in Russell’s?
EVERYBODY HITS IN TEE-BALL
Time for this week’s Immunity Challenge. Notice there have been very few Reward Challenges this season? Guess Mark Burnett decided he’d rather have the extra bucks to put toward a new Maybach. Happily, here’s Bwana Jeff, in a celery-green bowling shirt, to see that all is fair and things run smoothly.
Today’s contest is a game combining tee-ball and shuffleboard. Each Survivor will get one shot at whacking an over-sized papier-maiché ball off a tee. There’s a triangle with spaces designated for 0 to 5 points and a net worth 10 points. Whoever lands the ball in the area with the most points wins immunity. Oh, and girls will play against girls, boys against boys and the winner of each gets his/her own immunity necklace.
I’m relieved that they’re finally getting rid of that “team” Scary Immunity Idol (I just know that thing was up to its own mischief), but I’m thinking this is a silly and stupid challenge. Each person only getting one chance to hit the ball makes it pretty much random who wins—it’ll be more luck than skill. They might just as well play Rock-Paper-Scissors.
“Danger Dave” is up first. So, asks Bwana Jeff: “Is baseball your sport?” I’m thinking maybe this isn’t a very kind question to ask of a guy whose college major was OPERA. Not to worry—big Dave is ready.
“Nah,” he retorts, “makin’ looove is my sport.”
Bwana Jeff: “You play a lot?”
Danger Dave: “Not often enough.”
Sparing you the boring details of the game, I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you that John wins for the guys and for the girls…Laura! Shambo has a heart-sickening realization: “When I saw Laura win immunity I got a gut feeling in my stomach. (Umm, I think that’s where you usually have gut feelings, Sham.) The plan had been put into motion; we were gonna write down Laura’s name tonight. Now we can’t.”
SCRAMBLED LIKE EGGS IN A SKILLET
Russell suggests to Shambo that the consensus now is to get rid of Monica. Shambo says that “ain’t happenin’” because Erik and Laura will tell everyone how to vote.
Laura reveals to Erik that Russell has the idol—not knowing that Erik has one of his own--and that they ought to use the vote to flush it out. Erik and Laura decide to vote for Jaison in case Russell plays the idol.
Erik clues in John to the plan to terminate Jaison. John tries to talk Erik into voting for Monica. He thinks GALU will be playing “Junior Varsity Survivor” if they just pick off the FOANS one by one. Erik’s horrified: “NONONO!” Take note here—Erik’s not the one coming up with the lame-brained scheme to vote off Monica. Erik sternly warns the guys: “Nobody talks to Shambo.”
Erik trots over to Jaison, Natalie and Mick and pretty much orders them to vote for Monica, but threatens them with dire consequences if they tell Russell. (He’s still hoping to flush out the Troll’s idol.) After Erik leaves them, Jaison expresses his fury at being told what to do and proposes voting off Erik himself.
Natalie goes and tattles to Laura that Erik came to the FOANs and wants to get rid of her little buddy Monica. (Since everyone is treating Monica like some kind of clueless Valley Girl—but remember that of the girls, Monica’s by far the most educated; she’s a recent law school graduate). Laura tells Kelly about Erik going to FOA and wanting to vote for Monica. Natalie does her job on behalf of FOA and works on convincing Laura and Kelly to vote for Erik.
Russell muses: “This is the first time I don’t know nothin’. The girls want to get rid of Erik.”
Dave, ignoring Erik’s admonition, decides to bring Shambo in on the plan and tells her to vote for Erik. Clueless as ever, Shambo demands, “Who’s Erik?” Dave just looks at her in disgust and repeats, “Erik.” Shambo’s still staggering, “Our Erik?” (Yes, you turkey, the very same Erik to whom you so blithely handed over all the clues to the hidden immunity idol, without ever bothering to look for it yourself.)
John, coming late to the party, rushes over to Kelly to ask her what the heck is happening? Hey, big guy, it was your idea in the first place.
Erik’s thinking aloud: “What concerns me is that it almost seems too easy. I’ve got my idol in my pocket and if I need to use it, I’ll use it.”
My head is hurting so much from this hullabaloo that I rush into the kitchen during the commercial break to wash down a handful of aspirin with some club soda. I have absolutely no idea what’s about to happen at Tribal Council. I’m not sure the players do either.
ENOUGH TALKING. LET’S VOTE
The newly unified and blue-bebuffed AIGA tribe arrives at Tribal Council. Bwana Jeff goes through the usual Q and A, soliciting information (which he doubtless already knows) about how the glorious merge and whether the former tribesmen retain their former trust in their comrades. Fine so far. Then he asks: “Erik, looking at FOA, what do they have to offer?”
He could have lit the fuse under a bundle of dynamite and the explosion wouldn’t have been any bigger. Erik has no use for his new comrades, “I struggle to see anything that FOA has to offer GALU.”
Russell jumps in, “I think we have a lot to offer.”
“Oh yeah,” counters Erik, “here’s the deal.” (Dialogue exact only as to author’s best recollection.) “They’re a bunch of worthless losers who couldn’t win a lottery with only one ticket. That idiot Russell’s out there running around chattering nonsense into everyone’s ear. And Jaison? He has the physical prowess and the smarts and he doesn’t do squat with them. Look at his resumé and then look at what a bust he’s been in challenges.” And he doesn’t stop there. He pretty much throws every one of the FOANs onto the ground, stomps them with his boot and then grinds them into the dirt.
Jaison is highly offended. As usual he gets out his imaginary violin and plays the “poor me, facing twenty-seven years of hardship and discrimination, roadblocks thrown up before me at every turn” refrain.
The thing about Erik’s tirade, other than that it was one of the most bone-headed, unnecessary, arrogant and obnoxious moves ever made on Survivor, was that everything he said was pretty much the truth. I’m nearly certain after he’s been that insulting to the FOANs that he’s going to protect himself by playing his immunity idol.
Bwana Jeff has had enough and announces “It’s Time to Vote.” They obey. Host Probst retrieves the vote pot and removes the lid. Russell jumps up from his stool. Not so fast, big guy, he says. Bwana Jeff is taken aback. Russell pulls the Immunity Idol out of his linty pocket, hands it over and sighs, “Everybody already knows I have it; I might as well play it.” To be accurate, that’s not quite true. I think this is coming as a complete surprise to Shambo. I’m thinking, okay, now, Erik. Play yours. He just sits there, smiling smugly at his perceived success in fooling Russell into surrendering his.
The first two votes are for Jaison and then things start going downhill for Erik in a hurry. (For the record, the two Jaison votes came from Erik and from Shambo—still not getting with the program.) Laura looks like the cat who just swallowed the canary.
As he gets up to extinguish his torch, Erik ruefully turns to his buddy Brett and tries to slap him with a high-five. Brett wants no part of it. Erik’s bad day just got worse.
Tune in next week. The previews promise we’ll get to see the Troll in Trouble and fighting for his Survivor life. I know, it’s too much to hope for, isn’t it? What do you think, fans? Will the girls get smart and team up? Has the tide already turned in FOAs favor? Is anybody really in charge here? And is Shambo going to win by default?