We're only three weeks into the "Redemption Island" season, but tempers are flaring and backs are being stabbed all over the place. And frankly, we couldn't be happier.
After the fairly dull season that was "Survivor: Nicaragua," it's good to have some contestants this time who are really playing the game. And that means telling some lies, which is not a problem for these folks.
Sure, they're dishonest about the important things, such as whether they have a hidden immunity idol or who they're voting out. But they also lie about dumb stuff, like who lost the first "duel" on Redemption Island. At this point, I'm not even sure I believe Phillip is a a former federal agent. (Would a former agent really wear those pink briefs?)
Our recap of this week's show:
Pole positioning: We witness our first competition on Redemption Island, between Francesca, voted out in Week 1, and Matt, voted out last week. The duel involves using sticks and ropes to make a longer pole that must then be used to retrieve three keys. Matt can't tie his sticks together to save his life, and Francesca gets out to a huge lead. But Matt makes a dramatic comeback to win, and Francesca goes home ... "this time, for good," host Jeff Probst ominously intones. Matt goes back to Redemption Island to await a duel with the next person voted out. At some point, we're assured, one of the folks from Redemption Island will be let back in the game.
The peanut gallery: Two players from each tribe get to watch the Redemption Island challenge. Ashley and Andrea are the spectators from Ometepe, which gives Andrea an opportunity to make googly eyes at her island boyfriend Matt. David and Steve get the honors from Zapatera. They hatch the brilliant plan to tell Russell that it was "the black girl" (Francesca) who actually won and "the blond dude" (Matt) who lost. The point of concocting this elaborate lie is not at all clear.
Come and knock on their door: Russell continues to play "Three's Company" with feisty brunette Stephanie, left, and naive blonde Krista. After their tight-knit alliance of three fails to find a hidden immunity idol, they hatch a scheme to pretend they have one in hopes of fooling the rest of the tribe. (Then they'll meet Mrs. Roper for drinks at the Regal Beagle!)
Gross moment, part 1: In all of "Survivor," one phrase you never want to hear is "Russell's armpit funk." But we do hear -- and see! -- a nasty underarm rash of Russell's that causes him to relax around camp all day. Steve thinks it's time to throw a challenge to get Russell voted out.
Gross moment, part 2: The Immunity Challenge is again that waterwheel event that involves dunking three tribe members underwater who then have to take water in their mouths and spit it into a bucket. Once the bucket is filled, it releases a ball that then must be rolled through a puzzle maze. It's a disgusting challenge to watch. Zapatera's Steve, David and Julie throw the competition, giving Ometepe its first immunity win.
Boston Rob's moment of brilliance (and cattiness): Ometepe also wins a reward of chairs, a tarp and other equipment, and everyone suspects there is a clue to the immunity idol stashed somewhere in the stuff. It's Boston Rob who notices the clue hidden in the fabric of the chair Phillip is sitting in. Rob says he's thankful that Phillip is so "fat" he made the chair sag.
Russell's moment of brilliance (and cattiness): He knows that his threesome is in danger against the other six members of Zapatera, so he and Stephanie try to win over one of the six. They decide on "the old lady," Julie. (Note: Julie is a whopping 50 years old!) She considers switching her allegiance to Russell, Stephanie and Krista. Russell, right, says that would be the "biggest move ever."
Tribal Council meanness: It's clear at Tribal Council that Zapatera is a tribe divided. Mike notes, "We've got some fat on this tribe that we need to get off." Stephanie says voting out Russell would be "plain stupidity." Sarita calls Russell "a huge black cloud over everything we do."
The vote and the tie-breaker: Julie ultimately opts not to join the Russell trio, and the first vote ends in a three-way tie between Russell, Stephanie and hairy farmer Ralph. There is then a revote among the other six. It's 5-1 to send Russell to Redemption Island. And he ain't happy about it. "I'll be back and be ready," he warns as he leaves. An angry Stephanie looks at Julie and says, "storm's a coming." Bring it!
Next week: Russell and Matt duel on Redemption Island, and Phillip continues to annoy most of the Ometepe tribe.