Picking up where we left off last week, when JT double-crossed his alliance at Tribal Council to vote with Tom and Colby to get rid of Cirie, the Heroes return to camp. JT claims he did it, not for personal reasons, but “for the team and not for me.” He begs an angry Amanda to believe him: “I swahyer, I swahyer, I swahyer, I would nevah lie to you.” If you believe that, I’m giving your number to my cousin Susie who sells Amway.
ON THE BEACH IN A CIRCLE WITH COACHEY
The next morning, we move over to the beach at the Villains camp. The entire tribe, with one notable exception, has joined Coach on the beach to participate in his special secret “Dragon-Slayer Chi.” It’s like a scene straight out of Kung Fu Panda. Sandra, Courtney and Parvati are trying to control their giggles at the absurdity. Sandra wears over-sized black gloves that look as if they might be made of asbestos—probably not a bad idea if you’re expecting fire-breathing dragons. It’s anybody’s guess whether this was Tyson’s idea of making Coach feel better about himself; it doesn’t seem likely that the whole tribe suddenly had a yearning for enlightenment.
Russell has better things to do than Coach’s Chi; there’s an idol to be found. He’s contemptuous of his tribemates: “Everybody on the beach this morning in a circle with Coachey, doing this meditating crap. While they’re meditating, I’m looking for the hidden immunity idol. It’s a very important tool. I’m gonna git it; I’m gonna find it. I been diggin’ for this thing for two days straight.” And then it happens, just as he knew it would: he pulls the idol from the sand. “Rob is not in control of this game right now. This is my key. Here it goes again.”
Today there will be a reward challenge, a repeat from Samoa where Ben got kicked out for excessive roughness. Three players from each team will compete in a rugby-style scrum for footballs. Whenever a ball is secured it will be passed up to two other team-mates on a platform who’ll try to toss the ball into a net goal. Balls that miss the target go back into the pit. It’s a tough assignment, so only two goals will be needed for the win.
Jeff announces that the reward for the winning team is a trip to a “watering hole” and a chocolate feast. Is this really such a great idea—a bunch of people who’ve barely eaten in days gorging on chocolate? I hope the chocolate comes in barf bags. As a little incentive to play hard, Jeff offers each tribe a plate with pea-sized pieces of chocolate to pass around. The Villains down theirs in seconds; the Heroes take on stoic looks and refuse to eat. Jeff is puzzled: what are they thinking? Rupert growls, “We don’t care about the reward, we just want to win.” Umm, you don’t eat the chocolate because you don’t want the reward which is chocolate but you do want to win the reward which is chocolate?
Jeff notes that Colby seems annoyed. Colby denies it, “I’m not annoyed with you. I just want to get to the challenge. Jeff counters “…it’s free chocolate.” Colby snaps, “Don’t need it; let’s go.” Jeff does not take kindly to being ordered about, “I got the message, brother. We’ll go when I’m ready.”
Since Colby was sitting out the challenge, it seems strange that he was so rarin’ to go. For the villains, Sandra, Parvati and Courtney are not playing. Courtney apparently has a pocket full of “Get Out of the Challenge FREE” cards in her pocket; she’s only competed in one all season.
In the pit, Danielle, Tyson and Russell will be going against James, Tom and Amanda. Things get rough immediately. Russell upends James. He hits the dirt—hard. James is writhing in pain. Sandra blurts, “Uh, oh, something’s broke.” The game stops. James, in his shiny black spandex undershorts, tries to walk. He has to be helped off the field.
The game resumes; the Heroes are playing one man short. Amanda scores. There’s a free-for-all happening in the pit. JT picks up Boston Rob and slams him into the ground. Rupert shoves Jerri face-first into the fence hard enough to send her staggering. He’s half-apologizes, “Like I meant to do that.”
Jerri scores the winning goal for the villains. Rupert smacks a ball down in disgust. As the Villains head out for reward and the Heroes trudge home in defeat, James stays behind for evaluation by the medical team. Jeff consults with the medics and confirms that the injury, at least for the present, isn’t serious enough to take James out of the game, “So you’re going to splint him up, see if he can walk?”
WATER AND CHOCOLATE
Russell notes that the challenge provided “Two good things at once: we get rid of the big guy, James. Maybe. And we get chocolate.”
The Villains descend upon a picnic blanket covered with chocolate confections. I’m disappointed not to see any brand names, no Hershey’s Kisses or Babe Ruth bars, just cupcakes and generic candy. A Reward just doesn’t seem like a Reward without some nice product placement, does it? No Sprint phones, no Craftsmen tools. Jerri describes the experience, “a mix of chocolate euphoria and sickness.”
Most of the gang goes for a swim in the below-ground salt-water pool. Russell and Parvati stay behind. The talk among the others is about Russell’s quest for the idol. They’re certain he’s found it by now; he’s spent the last few days doing nothing but searching.
Parvati laughs about being a target, “They think I’m like some evil mastermind that’s going to screw them all over. They’re trying to vote me out.” Russell has the solution to that, he tells her, “I found the idol.” Parvati chortles with delight. Russell advises, “Just grab on to my coat-tails.” Parvati asserts her independence, “I don’t ride coat-tails, baby.” Russell assures her, “You’ll ride these.” They clink milk-glasses.
Russell confides to Parvati that his next mission will be to bring Coach on board with the plan. That shouldn’t be a problem, Parvati says, “He’s scared.”
Coach returns from the swimming-hole. Russell, with great fanfare, reveals that he has the Idol and he needs the Coach on his team, “We have to get to the merge. We have to get to the merge. We can blindside anybody. Anytime.”
Coach’s head swells nearly to bursting at Russell’s flattery. It’s not that Rob isn’t still his hero, “I do wanna play with Rob, of course, but for Russell to trust me, that’s huge.” Coach feels he must acknowledge this Trust from Russell. He drops to one knee and pays obeisance, “I feel like I should do something monumental, like the Knights of the Round Table.” King Arthur must be rolling around in his crypt at the thought of one of his knights running around with a cabana-striped beach towel tucked around his waist.
Russell, now confident he has Coach doing his bidding, gloats, “It’s personal with me and Rob. He thinks he’s tough? Let’s do this: may the best man win.”
RETURN OF THE WOUNDED
In the Heroes camp, Amanda and Candice talk about their frustrations. Amanda is tearful at the possibility that James may have to leave the game. “It’s a reward challenge for chocolate and James gets hurt again. James wants to be here so bad. He looks out for me, like his little sister. I can’t even think about that. I just hope I see him walking down the beach tonight.”
Tom’s feelings about James’s possible departure are quite different: “I’m not rooting against him, but in Survivor, a rival getting hurt…That’s huge.”
Right on cue, here comes James, his leg encased in an enormous brace, slowly hobbling down the beach. Amanda, overcome with joy, goes running to meet him and flings her arms around him. James spends the rest of the afternoon prone in the shelter. The medical team, he relates, has been unable to diagnose his injury. The leg isn’t broken—or painful—but he can barely walk. Candice tries to talk with him but he sends her away, saying he just wants to be left alone. Candice is worried about what may happen at the upcoming immunity challenge, “You can’t lug around dead weight and James is dead weight.”
THE LAME LEADING THE BLIND
For the Immunity Challenge, one from the last All-Stars season, blindfolded team members in pairs, directed by one seeing tribe-member, must retrieve huge wooden blocks from a field full of obstacles. Once all the pieces have been gathered, the blindfolds can be removed, and the pieces must be assembled into a complex box structure. The “caller” for the Villains will be Jerri; the Heroes will be directed by the injured James. Jeff notes that “it’s not a role we’re used to seeing James in.”
James and Jerri are yelling at the top of their lungs as the competitors stumble about the field running into obstacles. JT bangs straight into a barrel. Each tribe gets three pieces back to the mat. JT trips over one of the puzzle pieces and goes splat. Rob collides chest-high with a block. The game ties again, as each side has eight of the puzzle pieces. Rupert and Candice wander off into the underbrush; James is in a screaming rage. I’m thinking it’s probably a good thing he can hardly walk or he’d be out there tearing off his team-mates’ heads. Finally, the Heroes have all their pieces, rip off their blindfolds and start with a huge lead over the Villains in putting together the puzzle.
Not so fast, Heroes. Boston Rob is directing the Villains’ effort. Jeff reminds everyone, “The Villains have had great success in challenges involving puzzles.” As is often the case, the Heroes’ effort dissolves into argumentative chaos and suddenly Boston Rob is atop the Villains’ puzzle-box, stomping the last piece into place. Villains win again! Or perhaps it is more accurate to say, “Heroes lose again.”
JAMES V. TOM
At camp, the Heroes are dispirited. Tom concedes, “So they’re better than us at puzzle solving.” “And shooting baskets,” adds Colby. “Pretty much anything but sumo wrestling,” sighs JT.
All afternoon, there’s back and forth about who should be voted off the island. James is adamant, “Even with me injured, it should be Tom. What’s he done besides cause confusion at challenges?”
Rupert and JT are telling Candice that Tom should be the one to go. Candice asks, “Why? I feel like that’s the dumbest move. James can’t run. I feel like that’s a really risky move.” JT concedes, “Let’s just think about it hard.”
James walks up, “I just wanna…” JT finishes his sentence, “Make sure?”
Rupert warns Amanda that Candice may be going for James. He questions that, “If we’re voting for the weakest, it should be Candice.”
Amanda wonders if she’s being foolish, “This is so stupid, but I’m counting on JT tonight.”
Tom and Colby make their case to JT that the only thing that makes sense for him and for the tribe is to get rid of James. James, meanwhile, has “taken to his bed.” He’s done nothing but lie around with his splinted leg ever since they returned to camp.
Colby knows that JT will be the deciding vote, “Everybody’s looking at JT for a vote.” Colby thinks JT’s actions may be short-sighted, “Clearly he’s voting the hand that makes sense today. If he’s making deals with everyone, I can guarantee that will come back to bite him.”
Once again the Heroes make their way to Tribal Council. Host Probst asks James for the medical verdict on his leg. James answers that the docs can’t figure out what’s wrong with it. That, says Jeff, is a problem, “My niece could beat James in a race today.” He’s challenging the Heroes as to why they’re thinking about keeping around a severely impaired teammate.
Rupert claims that even with one leg, James is still stronger than Tom, “James still has some strength left in there. I wanna believe he’s gonna be OK.” JT supports the position, “There’s no way I’d ever say vote me out because of an injury.” But, he adds, “We gotta win, our backs’re against the wall.”
About that, Jeff interjects, “What happened? You had a huge lead today.”
James jumps in, “Everybody just went haywire.” He points to Tom and Candice as the culprits. Tom retaliates, “He’s (referring to James) is just being kept because he’s a loyal vote. When he says just shut up… that’s what he’s doing. If he’s not saying anything at challenges it’s because he doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Colby and Amanda get into the fray, and James gets the last vituperous word before the vote, “If y’all think that guy can outperform me, vote for me. I just want y’all to win.” Umm, hmm.
Tom votes for James. He offers his judgment, “All Mass, No Class.”
As Jeff begins to read off the votes, Colby looks nauseated. He and Tom have voted James; the others have all case their votes against Tom. Tom wishes the tribe well as his torch is snuffed: “Be safe out there, guys.”
Jeff dismisses the Heroes, “It’s clear that even with a bad leg James is still more valuable to this tribe than Tom.”
Next week: It’s March Madness—we’ll have to do without Survivor ‘til Wednesday, March 24—when “Boston Rob becomes Russell’s judge, jury and executioner.”