S35 EPISODES 10 & 11 – THAT WAS AN INCREDIBLY TIGHT ALLIANCE
NICE TRY, LADY LIBERTY
This double episode opened with trying to explain my double take last week after Mike made what looked like a big idol blunder. Mike said he had two reasons for playing his idol. One was that he didn’t want to be the guy that went home with the idol in his pocket – fair enough. The second reason was that he needed Joe to stay in the game. Ehhhhhhhhh. “Needed” may not be so accurate.
I get that Mike wanted Cole to go over Joe, but I disagree that he needed to go so far out of his way to draw attention to himself so that he’d have more reason to play his idol. Either Joe or Cole was going to serve as a temporary shield for Mike and while he had a stronger relationship with Joe, I think he could have managed to infiltrate the majority alliance of seven without him and with an idol still in his possession. I’m glad the show let us hear Mike’s inner thoughts about his move, but I’m still in the camp of calling it a mistake. We’ll see who’s right in the end: am I just an armchair Survivor player who thinks he knows it all, or was the doc off his rocker?
(Maybe a little of both.)
REWARD – PLAYING FOOTSY
Mike tried and almost succeeded in coming out of the last night on bottom to coming out of this challenge on top, but Lauren instead served him up da feet. Since the first time I saw this challenge in San Juan Del Sur I’ve thought it could be one I could win. Whenever I drop something and I’m not wearing any shoes, I have the tendency to pick it back up with my feet instead of my hands. There’s such a thing as hand-eye coordination, so am I allowed to say I have good foot-eye coordination? Is that weird? Is that a Millennial thing?
I love that the show brought back an individual reward challenge for a change. It feels like lately we’ve only gotten one each season, at least with this many people left. I love watching the winners weigh who they should take on the reward with them as they inevitably make friends and enemies with that one decision. Lauren chose to take the three people she saw as her core alliance within the game which probably wasn’t the smartest decision she could have made, but luckily it didn’t set back her game at all. Even when Probst prodded, Ryan didn’t smell anything fishy coming from the fisherwoman.
In fact, the only discussion back at camp between Ryan and Chrissy was who should go next between Joe and Mike, or the “Coco-Nuts” alliance as they named themselves. Ryan and Chrissy came off as fairly naïve in their conversation, not suspecting anything was up within the seven. I don’t think that scene could have more clearly foreshadowed that their gut instinct regarding the seven staying strong was going to end up being a punch to the gut instead.
KNIGHTS OF THE RIMMER TABLE
Lauren let Ben, Ashley, and Devon devour the burgers, but after their bellies were full she wasted no time in getting down to business. Lauren explained that the reason she brought these three to her table was to actually turn the tables on Ryan, Chrissy, and JP. Lauren feared that if she waited until it was down to seven to make a move, it’d be too later so in her own words, she wanted to beat the other players to the punch.
Lauren was impressive as hell here. She reminded me in some ways of Sandra in the way she was able to talk to these people and bend them to her will. Lauren has a similar way of speaking that is so matter-of-fact and real that people can’t help but to trust her every word. Though she may be a little blunt, she also has this way keeping her cool and calming the people around her into a sense of security. Devon even said in confessional how amazed he was at how well Lauren was actually playing the game. Lauren may not look like a power player at first glance, but this scene proved just how hard Lauren is playing the game and given that no one has seemed to pick up on it, she’s got these suckers good.
As the Knights of the Round Table disbanded with Lauren’s plan to pull a fast one on Chrissy, Ryan, and JP, I dubbed this new alliance of four the Knights of the Rimmer Table. “King Arthur” was no longer wearing the crown – Queen Lauren claimed both that and Ben’s seat at the head of the table.
CLAY POT IDOL
After getting back from the reward, Ben stumbled across a clue to a new hidden immunity idol that must have been buried after Mike played his at the last tribal council. The skeptic in me questioned how true of a “stumble” this really was. Ben had just wrapped up a confessional and it so happened to be filmed merely a few yards away from an idol clue? Really?
The only person I know with a stronger eye roll than me.
Ben learned that the idol was hidden in a clay pot which he soon discovered to be hanging up in a tree. It’s not Ben’s fault that the idol was made so easy for him to find and his genuinely giddy reaction was endearing, but come on. That tree may as well have had signs pointing to it.
IMMUNITY – FLOATING FEET
This first episode’s challenges had a lot of emphasis on feet. Where was Tarzan to remind everyone the game was afoot?
Jeff gave everyone the option to either compete or sit out and partake in a feast of chocolate and peanut better which should have triggered any Survivor superfan’s memory. To date, one of the show’s most memorable scenes is from The Amazon when Jenna and Heidi infamously stripped their clothes for chocolate and peanut butter during an immunity challenge. I’m confident in this because one of my friends who has watched next to no Survivor in his lifetime (don’t ask me why we’re even friends, I know) even remembers how irate his mother was when that happened and how she vowed never to watch the show again. Shhh, nobody tell her that one of those harlots went on to win the million dollars and later pose for Playboy with her co-conspirator.
The chocolate and peanut butter came at no such promiscuous price this time, so Lauren, Ben, and Devon sat out and ate. I’d have liked to see Devon play so we could have at least seen a competition between him and Ashley in a challenge designed for a surfer to crush. Without him, Ashley rode the waves to victory. Finally Ashley had a major accomplishment for herself and I couldn’t have been happier for her. Of course, the question will forever remain: would Lauren have won her third straight individual challenge here had she participated? I can only assume she sat this one out intentionally to prevent a resulting target on her back from winning three in a row. That said, as of this date, Lauren still holds the record for most individual wins this season, and that much is no question.
GOING BANANAS OVER COCONUTS
With Ashley winning immunity, Ryan said he felt secure about the seven’s plan to vote out Mike or Joe. A red flag as bright as Ryan’s (Day 1) turtleneck should have been raised by Lauren, Ben, and Devon sitting out of the challenge but Ryan didn’t read too much into it other than feeling the decision was a little selfish on their part. Chrissy was just as clueless as Ryan (a hard look for me to see on her) and was confident that “Coconuts” would soon be split up for how much they were driving everyone bananas.
The Knights of the Rimmer Table later met in private to finalize their plan to blindside Ryan, Chrissy, or JP. Lauren laid out the logic for each: Chrissy was a strategic threat, JP was a physical threat, and Ryan had an idol in his pants. Devon came up with an even more sinister plan of Secret Spy Ben, suggesting that Ben vote with Ryan, Chrissy, and JP so that he could maintain their trust and gather intel in the following round.
While a risk, I applauded how deliciously devilish Devon was being in trying to orchestrate a 5-3-1 vote. The only risk was that Joe and Mike could have blown up the plan by going to Ryan and Chrissy to confess everything. However, when talking to Coco and Nuts, Ashley and Lauren were smart to make the move seem like it was against Ben, Mike and Joe’s biggest adversary, to make sure that wouldn’t happen.
I was at the edge of my seat for really the first real time this season having no idea what was going to happen. Would this blindside be a success? Would Mike or Joe blow it up? Was someone going to be voted out with an idol in their pants? I was nervous that the vote was going to be for Chrissy, but I think that was a casualty I was prepared for in order to bring some more fireworks to this season.
Ryan, Chrissy, and JP were 100% in the dark here and even Mike and Joe played their parts perfectly to push them further into it. Obviously a lot of this tribal council was a charade so I’m just going to skip to the juicy bits: whose head was about to roll?
JP literally had not spoken in the episode before his few words at this tribal, so I thought he was safe which meant it was either Chrissy or Ryan. Ryan’s story felt like it had just a little more to tell since he also wasn’t a major player in this first hour, so my gut was thinking Chrissy, but even that felt a little off. I couldn’t quite figure it out and was as confused as Chrissy was about to be as I tried to guess who was getting blindsided.
When the big vote finally flipped around and read JP, I felt like that was anything but an #EpicBlindside worthy of the hashtag. Had Ryan been voted out with his idol, completely in shock, that would have been a blindside for the Survivor history books. But instead, the “epic” flip in the game resulted in the boot of the least epic player remaining.
Strategically, JP was the least likely to pull out an idol, so I assume that’s why he was the target, but I think the Knights played this vote waaaaaaaaaaay too safe. They had enough reason to trust that Mike and Joe wouldn’t ruin the plan and rather than going for like the fingernail of the Ryan/Chrissy/JP trio, they could have easily gone right for the jugular and voted out Ryan. Ryan’s “holy [expletive]” said it all – he didn’t suspect a thing. JP leaving left the eight more interesting players in the game at least, but damn could that have otherwise been one of the most blindsides we’ve ever seen.
Did JP let one of the producer’s family burn in a building or something? Someone with power did not want him getting any sort of screentime this season. I think I stand by what I thought of JP pre-game in that he’s too nice of a guy to ever win this game. I’m not sure he had the heart to be cutthroat or play too savvy, so it’s very possible he just gave horrendously boring confessionals. It’s sad, though, that they couldn’t bother giving him more than a sentence or two in his boot episode, or even pity him with airing his final words! For real, what did JP do to deserve this kind of treatment? In what ended up being, so far, the biggest night of the season, I genuinely feel bad for the poor guy for being such a non-entity during it.
I will say that JP’s lack of any real story ironically makes him memorable. Will he ever be asked back? I’m pretty sure Colton, the two-time quitter in Probst’s eyes, will sooner be brought back several times before JP will once, so no. But, you know, at least JP will forever be regarded as a fun little anecdote about Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers and things like that.
UPSET ABOUT THE BLINDSIDE
Chrissy and Ryan had plenty of questions to ask when they got back to camp, but they were given no answers. Devon was the most vocal about keeping that information “classified” which came off a little smug, but I think his intent was to give Ryan and Chrissy a small taste of their own medicine. I’m not sure they were openly boastful about feeling like they were in control, but I do gather that that’s how they felt prior to the blindside.
Ben’s A+ acting should not go uncredited here. He not only came back and played up confusion over the vote, but then proceeded to continue get into it with Joe which isn’t something anything would think Ben would do if he was actually behind the blindside. I admittedly felt a little sorry for Ryan and Chrissy but they really got smoked here and Lauren, Ben, Devon, and Ashley’s performance before, during, and after the vote could not be described as anything less than perfect.
REWARD – PUSH!
This challenge really was as basic as it gets. Hop in a boat, pick up some pieces in the water, get to the puzzle, and solve it. The only unique element was that instead of collecting puzzle pieces, the teams collected “logs” which they’d then push through an obstacle to release the actual puzzle pieces. I about fell asleep during this but quickly perked up when I saw Lauren go into complete beast mode as she started pushing those logs through with her entire body. I was glad to not be on the other end of that obstacle where those pieces were flying out with the same force Lauren was putting in. That was indeed a Hustler move.
The teams were as mismatched as any random draw could have made them, but the challenge miraculously ended in a close finish – probably because of Lauren; let’s be honest. That said, Ben, Ashley, Devon, and Joe won the reward and were off to the spa for a day. I’m sure Ryan had the perfect analogy to describe how it felt to lose yet another reward challenge, but sadly we were robbed of hearing it.
SPY AT THE SPA
Ben continued to play dumb for Joe’s sake and act like he wasn’t 100% in with Devon and Ashley. His performance was so good it even got Ashley and Devon thinking that going all the way with Ben may not be in their best interest. We know Devon and Ashley have been a tight unit for a while, but here I think we saw them, at least the first time for us, solidify an alliance to the end as they acknowledged how similar their games were.
While Devon sported Ben’s hat, as if saying he was the new man in charge, Ashley sipped her mai tai with her pinky out and thought about how the game was now hers to lose. One thing that’s great about this season is that I could see anyone left in the game winning. . . except Ashley. I think she’s played a solid game, but I just don’t see the jury giving her the million over anyone else. Subtle games can be successful ones, but Ashley’s is almost too subtle in that her allies will end up getting the credit for all the moves she’s had an equal part in making. Ironically, given her self-assessment, I think it’s anyone but Ashley’s game to lose.
SO NOW YOU WANT TO TALK?
“I can’t win a veggie wrap. That’s how bad things are going right now,” Ryan lamented back at camp. I mean, sure, you lost, but is winning a veggie wrap ever anything to celebrate? There are worse rewards to lose than this one, Ryan. Chin up!
Ryan and Chrissy couldn’t have been more transparent in their attempts to finally talk strategy with Mike and Lauren who they had evidently ignored up to this point. As fun as it would be if I was in Mike or Lauren’s shoes to say, “piss off” for only coming to me when they were desperate, it’s probably not the smartest behavior in Survivor. I can’t say it really hurt Mike’s game dramatically, but he could have at least played along with Ryan a bit if only to prevent Ryan from moving on to someone else. Lauren handled Chrissy a little better but still made it clear she wasn’t interested.
I’m always one to believe that in this game, you keep your friends close and enemies closer, so I’d like to think that I’d hear anyone out and lie through my teeth to make them think I was sincerely listening, but Ryan and Chrissy have been shown to be a little arrogant before, so perhaps Lauren and Mike were simply fed up and didn’t feel like pretending. Instead, Lauren decided to divert Chrissy’s attention elsewhere by building her a kickass swing in the middle of camp. I can’t say it didn’t work either – just look at the pure joy on Chrissy’s face.
NO LONGER IN CONTROL
Soon after swinging high, Chrissy swung low. I realize this scene came across like a bit of a pity party for Chrissy, but I actually sympathized with her a lot. I can be a perfectionist and like to be in control so things get done a certain way (i.e. my way), and when I don’t have that control I can be a pissy Chrissy myself. I was glad Mike offered Chrissy a hug because I kind of wanted to do the same. Chrissy may have gotten what was coming to her by playing the game from the top for so long, but it still sucked to see a great player like her fall to the bottom.
Ryan and Chrissy were still in trouble, and Devon had indicated earlier to Ben that he wanted Chrissy out next, so I was really hoping Chrissy could somehow pull out a win in the upcoming immunity challenge because I wasn’t ready for her to stay lying down and mope her way out of the game. That’s not the Chrissy I love. Luckily, she was still holding on to hope that she’d have the last laugh, and I was too.
IMMUNITY – INVULNERABLE
Now that’s pure joy.
Despite his best efforts, Devon was not right on his first try at the word puzzle as he spelled out the word “nurbelenavil.” In his defense, that could have been some surfing lingo the majority of us have never used, but it wasn’t the word John Kirhoffer built into the challenge.
Chrissy came from behind to pull of a much-needed win, putting her actuary brain to good use and deeming herself invulnerable for the evening. The immunity challenges keep resulting in a new winner each time which will be an interesting trend should it continue. Also, of those five, four wins have come from women, so nice work ladies!
THE RIGHT DECISION
The Knights of the Rimmer Table (I won’t accept Devon calling it “his” alliance of four) met again and settled on Joe as their next target since Chrissy was immune and Ryan had an idol. From there, it was only a matter of splitting up the rest of the votes. Joe and Mike were told to vote for Ryan with Devon while Ashley and both of Lauren’s votes would go to Ben. Hearing Ben’s name on the chopping block made the Coconuts go nuts.
After the JP blindside, I could tell Mike was feeling a lot more confident but I think a little too confident. That move was entirely not his own and he was simply a number for Lauren and company. Mike was clearly happy to finally not be on the bottom, but especially his comment about being Merlin and making everyone else disappear this week wasn’t all that spectacular to me. Instead, that spectacle had me more like this:
Ben’s role was next to get Ryan to play his idol, which he did by reaffirming to Chrissy and Ryan that either himself or Ryan was in trouble. This, of course, left Ryan to head into tribal council ready to play his idol thinking Ben’s fate was sealed. It was all just part of an act, Ben thought. . .
Little did Ben know, Lauren and Ashley were considering turning the tables on him at that very moment. Devon too weighed in and acknowledged Ben being a huge threat to win, but I was watching my screen going, “this is way too soon for this.” I gathered there was enough animosity between Joe and Chrissy to prevent them from ever joining forces later, but voting out Ben now still seemed like the wrong decision for Lauren, Ashley, and Devon.
They were overcomplicating this vote big time. The no-brainer move seemed to be take out Joe, then go after one of Ryan and Chrissy again, and at that point they’d have 4 votes including Lauren’s extra and could eliminate the rest and get down to the final three. As enticing as it may be to make those BIG MOVEZ it’s more important to make the right moves.
Mike and Joe came in to this tribal council for the first time since the merge feeling comfortable and even cocky. This version of Mike continued to leave a bad taste in my mouth because it just didn’t seem like him at all. He came across as very naïve in suddenly believing that the new alliance that included him was going to work out so much better than the old alliance that didn’t. Ryan rightfully called both Mike and Joe out on their hypocrisy. Also, if you join an alliance that was created by people who betrayed their old alliance, why would you think those people wouldn’t eventually do the same to you? Paging Dr. Duh!
I can’t move past this tribal council without addressing Ryan’s latest analogy. I don’t know what kind of swingers prom they had at his high school, but that’s not how your typical prom works. I used to think Ryan made up all this stuff about never having a girlfriend, now having never been to prom, but if that’s what he thinks prom is, maybe he really was that out of touch as a teenager. I mean, I’m sure from time to time a couple may split before the last dance is over, but it being standard to show up with one date and leave with another? That’s quite a stretch to say, “yep, that’s prom for ya!”
Chrissy trying to make sense of Ryan’s perception of prom.
In the end, another blindside was pulled off and Joe was finally sent packing. It may have been rubbing salt in the wound (which honestly makes snide remarks even more enjoyable for me) but Chrissy’s final words to Joe about him having an incredibly tight alliance had me rolling. Quote of the night for me, and one whose sarcasm behind it represents just how alliances can and often work in this game.
Thank the Survivor gods for Joe. Everyone’s been calling him “Phony Tony” or other names since the cast release, but hot take: I think he actually played a little more like Chaos Kass? Or maybe like the love child of Tony and Kass (imagine that!) There’s definitely a little of each in him. Joe brought the chaos with all of his button pushing, giving zero craps about anyone’s feelings, and digging up all kinds of idols – if only he had the ability to speak to llamas, I’d think I was 100% on point with this comparison which is one I’m sure Joe would absolutely welcome with open arms. Hehe. . .
This season would have been much duller without Joe whether you love him or hate him. He came to play and was going a million miles a minute as soon as he hit the beach. He may have been this season’s biggest villain, but I’d argue he was also the one having the most fun in Fiji, reveling in that role. If Joe ever plays again, he could have a tough time making it as far given his reputation, but like several others from this season, I’d definitely vote him back for the next Second Chance. To those that can’t appreciate what Joe brought to the game, all I have to say is this:
NEXT TIME ON SURVIVOR. . .
We all gonna cry. If they bring out Lauren’s daughter and she yells, “Momma!” making Lauren burst into tears, that’ll be it for me. But then I’ll go from cry to cringe when Devon stares in awe at Ben’s fake hidden immunity idol. Including fake ones, we’re well over half a dozen by this point. With Ryan playing his idol, I guess another will be rehidden? I don’t think they need to rebury every idol when the game kicks off with three in play, but unfortunately I think that’s the norm nowadays. At least some more run-of-the-mill idol drama will be broken up with real drama over the loved ones visit.
Lauren – After some impressive at bats throughout the season, Lauren finally hit her grand slam here and I’m starting to think she can actually win this. She’s now a proven social and strategic threat, and we’ve gotten some great insight into who she’s playing the game for: her daughter. For as stellar as Lauren has been as a character and more recently as a player, the show is really setting up for some badly broken hearts if she doesn’t win. I’m not sure what would be worse at this point: her being voted out or her somehow losing a jury vote. Either way, I’d feel like punching a redhead.
Ben – His acting skills were Oscar-worthy this week, but with that performance, he had his closest allies concerned that he may be too good at the game and someone they shouldn’t take to the end. I’m still on the fence on whether Ben is winning this game or if he’s being set up for a big blindside. Whether he wins or loses, though, Ben will walk away one of this season’s most memorable players. If I was ever one to wear a hat, mine would be off to him. He’s a much savvier and aggressive player than I thought he had the potential to be pre-game.
Devon – Like Lauren, Devon has picked up a lot of steam lately and he was right there with her calling the shots in this double feature. Lauren got the ball rolling in the first half and Devon kept it going in the second. Devon’s in a great spot, arguably the best, and I like him, but I’m not all in on him like a lot of other fans. He’s a sharp player, but I guess watching him just doesn’t WOW me. I think it’s because he has just been so persistently calm and also may not have a single bad bone in his body. I root for someone with a little more punch, but I can’t say Devon would be an undeserving winner if he pulls it out. I’d just prefer a few of the other candidates.
Chrissy – Speaking of punches, man did Chrissy take a lot this week. I think that immunity may really have saved her because I’m not so sure the alliance in power would have went after Joe if Chrissy wasn’t invulnerable. But that’s what makes Chrissy special for me this week – she won when she needed to and on top of that, in wearing that necklace, she made another 16-year dream a reality. I love me some superfans. Chrissy could stand to bite her tongue a little more for the sake of her game, but for my sake, I hope she keeps speaking her mind. Without question I’m between Chrissy and Lauren on who I want to win, but honestly, while I may sound like I’d lean Lauren, Chrissy’d be just as much of a badass winner. If I was on the jury deciding between them, my vote would end up looking something like this:
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