Our correspondent (and longtime "Survivor" afficiando) Alec Peters of Raleigh offers his thoughts on this week's episode:
All season, our castaways have confused running their mouths with “being in charge of the game.” Ralph did it when he decided it would be good to tell almost everyone at Zapatera that he had a hidden immunity idol. Then after the Redemption Island duel, when Russell, out of the game forever (please!), went for one last dig at his team, Ralph decided to share news of his idol with everyone there, including Phillip and Kristina from Ometepe.
That’ll show Russell who’s really in charge! Phillip assured Kristina that he could use this knowledge and his covert federal agent skills to improve her position with Team Boss Boston Rob by promising Rob to give him this intel at the merge. Instead, all Rob had to do was ask once, and Agent Underpants was singing like a canary, while Kristina was on her way to Redemption Island. Meanwhile, Ralph might was as well have told everyone in Nicaragua that he had a hidden immunity idol.
Then at the last Tribal Council, Krista decided she had nothing to lose and might as well call out the Zapatera Alliance of Six, which we haven’t seen give much thought to long-term strategy beyond throwing a challenge so they could oust Russell. She named the duos and triads in the group, and it didn’t appear to be lost on David that he was odd man out while Steve was working two different duos. But taking a cue from Ralph’s playbook, Mike decided that Krista’s last gasp couldn’t go unanswered, so he assured Krista (and host Jeff Probst) that they have indeed been talking strategy -- just not when she’s around. Because, well, she’s not in charge of the game. I couldn’t help but wonder if all of this was news to David.
In keeping with the pattern this season, this week's episode starts with Krista’s arrival at Redemption Island. It doesn’t seem to take her and Matt, above, long to figure out something they have in common: their faith. This poses something of a challenge for Matt, who has let it be known in Insider Clips at CBS that he likes to play mind games with his competitors at Redemption Island. But seeing that Krista shares his values and beliefs, he doesn’t seem so sure he can do that with her.
They arrive at the duel, where they must use grappling hooks to retrieve three bags each. Then they must remove a ball from one of the bags and move it along a large table maze. Despite a slow start, Matt soon catches up, and when all is said and done, he remains the champion at Redemption Island. Zapatera witnesses Julie and Mike seem glad. In a particularly nice moment, at least by "Survivor" standards, a departing Krista asks Jeff’s permission to give Matt her luxury item –- her Bible. As she leaves, Krista comments that she and Matt had agreed that at the end of the duel, God’s will would be done and it was obviously her time to go.
I don’t want to belittle anyone’s beliefs, especially when I share many of those beliefs, but I’m always a little fascinated when reality show participants assume that God is heavily invested in the outcome of what is essentially a game show. Perhaps I just don’t see a big enough picture, but in a world full of poverty and disease, war and oppression, earthquakes and tsunamis, I have a hard time imagining that God is spending too much time plotting out who will win something like "America’s Next Top Model," or even a Redemption Island duel. Except, of course, when the duel involved evil Russell.
With the duel behind us, we see that life goes on back at the camps. Over at Club Med ... I mean, Ometepe, Agent Underpants (who actually spares his tribe and America from seeing him in his underpants much this week) is growing increasingly frustrated with “the girls,” mainly Natalie and Ashley. He does have a point, as they seem to spend all their time lying on the beach and having “spa days.” With big scissors, no less! (Ouch!) But once again, Phillip confuses running things with running his mouth. He seems oblivious to the plain reality that his fussing at them is doing nothing but feeding dreams of a Phillip-free Ometepe.
Meanwhile, Zapatera is enjoying its own dose of annoyance in the form of Sarita. Apparently, she thought she had a cavity and know believes that it has become infected. Being a drama queen must not be enough for her, as Julie describes her as “a drama queen princess.” That’s some royal drama, there.
Stephanie, left, and David are both observing the drama, and both of them see a chance -- Stephanie to relinquish the bottom spot in the tribe hierarchy and David to start planning outside the Alliance of Six. So he was paying attention at Tribal Council! They see an opportunity to turn the tribe’s sights on Sarita, but as part of the plan, Stephanie has to try and make nice with everyone. She laments that she didn’t learn how to do this in school. She starts with Steve, apologizing for voting for him at Tribal Council. He’s not sure whether to believe that she’s sincere, but he really, really wants to. Somehow that doesn’t usually pan out too well when one is playing "Survivor." But before he has a chance to remember that the woman he wants to trust was once Russell’s main ally, it’s time for the Immunity Challenge.
This looks like a fun challenge -- lacrosse with really big slingshots. Two people from each team will fire balls from the slingshots, while four others from each tribe will try to catch them in what look sort of like large, homemade lacrosse sticks. First team to five catches wins. As Zapatera has an extra person, Sarita sits out. I guess her tooth still hurts. Former NFL player Grant basically owns this game, scoring four catches for Ometepe. Added to another catch from Rob, that wins them the game, while Zapetera scores nothing.
As the winning tribe, Ometepe not only wins immunity but also a picnic at a scenic coastal park. But the excitement of Ometepe at seeing what they get to eat is nothing compared to the excitement of the viewer at seeing the total delusion that is Phillip – “the lion and the gorilla scorned” – when he notices Rob and Grant hiding the clue to the hidden immunity idol. (Never mind that Rob, who actually can keep a secret, already has Ometepe’s idol.) We are told by Phillip that he, Rob and Grant are in a three-way alliance. I had to replay it five times (and even consulted the less-than-helpful closed captioning), but I’m pretty sure Agent Underpants said he calls this alliance “Stealth-R-Us.” He, we are told, is “the Specialist,” while Rob is “the Mentalist” and Grant is “the Assassin.” Yikes! But now that he thinks they might be double-crossing him, Phillip is ready to bring the might of the United States government down on them. Personally, I think Phillip is in an alliance with "Survivor: Toncantins’ " Coach.
It’s no picnic back at Zapatera, as Stephanie and David lobby for Sarita’s ouster. Sarita can see what’s going on, but says she’s not going to campaign for herself, because her alliance knows how loyal she is. And indeed, Steve and Julie both note how they trust Sarita more than Stephanie. But they also note that Stephanie is stronger in challenges, as does Mike. It’s anybody’s guess as they head to Tribal Council. My guess is that, regardless of how strong you think your position is, sitting back while others campaign against you isn’t usually a smart move.
At Tribal Council, Stephanie and David give it all they have to push for a Sarita torch-snuffing, Stephanie going so far as to say that Sarita, right, is afraid to get rough and tumble. Steve seems to agree, and Ralph says that David’s argument that they don’t need loyalty right now, they need to win, sounds good to him. But apparently, it doesn’t sound good enough, as it’s Stephanie’s torch that’s snuffed. It looks like David may have been the only one who joined her in voting for Sarita. Something tells me he’d better hope that a tribal swap is around the corner.
What Jeff Probst tells us is around the corner is mental fatigue. Yes, that’s right – the tale of our castaways is about to find them having even more trouble making the best of things. It's an uphill climb I just can’t wait for.