After a crazy week last week, Survivor kind of settled down for episode 5. Maybe “settled down” is the wrong turn of phrase, but it was more normal game wise for at least one week. That does not mean there is not a lot to talk about this week, there definitely is. Look at it this way a legend’s legacy was harmed, another’s was solidified, and a third person cemented themselves as one of my least favorite castaways ever (I bet you can guess who that is). If nothing else Malcolm’s departure uncorked the craziness of some people and that made this week entertaining. Let’s break it down.
We start right off at Nuku camp where everyone is pissed off at how the tribal went. Not only are they pissed off about the result, but more specifically at J.T. Everyone is accusing him a leaking information and J.T. remains defensive. He says he didn’t tell Culpepper “s—“, but to us he says he thought it was his chance to get Sandra out and it blew up in his face. Sandra is stuck on the idea that why did Tai know to play the idol on Sierra and keeps bringing it back to J.T, who keeps on repeating that all he told Brad was that he was safe. He then tells us he is mad because Malcolm is his friend and he did not want him to go. The next morning J.T. realizes his dire straits and starts looking for the hidden immunity idol. He starts searching high and low and finds the clue in a tree stump. It is the same clue that Tai had last episode and he digs it up rather easily. This is huge for him and could shake things up.
We then head to the reward challenge which is at the same location where they held that weird snake challenge in Millennials vs. Gen X. Its that island sand bar in the middle of the ocean and its fantastic. As the tribes come in, Tavua is confused that Mana still has everybody and is shocked to see Malcolm gone. For this challenge one tribe member will use a grappling hook to retrieve a bow. Then a second member will have to dig up a bag containing a ball. Form there the third member will have to balance the ball on the bow and make their way across two balance beams. Once they are across the first two members repeat the process to get a circular disk and another ball. The fourth member will do the same as the third member and once they are done the fifth member has to run over and complete a slide puzzle. The reward is a huge plate of PB&J sandwiches with cookies and milk. Second place gets just a plate of PB&J sandwiches. Tavua has one extra member so Troyzan is going to sit out. We then see some tribal strategizing where Zeke volunteers to do the puzzle for Tavua, Nuku debates who is doing what, and Debbie brags about being good at balancing so Brad says that she will do the balance. This is important and remember it for later.
Starting out Sierra, Sarah and Varner are doing the grappling hooks for their respective tribes. Sierra is the first to hook the bow and Tai is doing the digging. Sarah is not too far behind and Cirie is doing the digging for Tavua. Tai is the first to dig up his bag and Hali will go across with the bow. Eventually Varner lands the bow and Michaela goes to dig up the bag and gets it in about 2 seconds flat. J.T. is doing the bow for Nuku and finally Cirie finds her bag, giving it to Ozzy who is doing the bow. Ozzy, as he does, beasts the balance beam giving Tavua the lead. J.T. is rushing and falling further behind as Hali finishes for Mana. Sarah hooks the bag containing the disk rather quickly, but once again Cirie is slow at digging, but she gets it giving the ball to Andrea who widens Tavua’s lead. When Michaela goes to dig up the second bag, Probst makes a comment about if she will be able to dig up the second one as fast and she sasses him saying of course she will. Aubry is on the disk for Nuku and Debbie is on it for Mana. Zeke gets to the puzzle as Aubry starts her section of the challenge and Aubry does pretty well getting through. Sandra runs up to do the puzzle for Nuku, while Debbie constantly drops the ball, both figuratively and literally, losing her tribe time. She just makes it over as both Zeke and Sandra finish giving Tavua first and Nuku 2nd in the challenge.
Now before we move away from this challenge a few things to talk about. When Debbie is dropping the ball a lot, Brad comments to Sierra that she was adamant about doing the balance portion. As we head to commercial in confessional Debbie is yelling to the camera that they don’t strategize before challenges because Brad is a dictator and just tells everyone what to do. Then Survivor does something they have never done before and flashes back, sepia tone and everything, to Debbie saying she should do the balance. It is effing perfect and why I love the Survivor editors so much. They have the receipts and put them forth to show how ridiculous Debbie is. She is super pissed over nothing.
Let’s take a quick break from that drama and go visit Tavua where they are super happy about all of the winning they are doing. Side note: they should be winning this much. I mean they have Ozzy who is the greatest challenge competitor of all time, Andrea who is one of the best female challenge competitors of all time, Troyzan and Sarah are no slouches, while Zeke and Cirie are beasts at puzzles. This tribe is stacked. Anyways, Sarah does not want to be super confident so she starts talking with Troy so that they have a relationship if that becomes necessary. She also tells him that she is going to look for an idol. He loves this because its a relationship for him on the tribe instead of being a leper to them.
Now let’s get back to the drama. Debbie is sitting apart from the rest of the tribe and is super pissed. She goes off on them, saying make their decisions with out her, vote her out and give her clothes to Hali when she’s gone and storms off. Brad is so caught off guard by this he asks Sierra if Debbie is acting. A little bit later Sierra checks in to see what is wrong and Debbie says she knows where she stands in the tribe and that’s at the bottom of the totem pole. She goes off saying that Hali gets whatever she wants and nobody ever listens to her opinion. She is even delusional enough to suggest that Hali cost them that challenge and not her. Tai also talks with her and tells us that he is scared of her now. Debbie tells us that as far is she is concerned Brad is her next target and this is war. Brad tries to apologize, even though he has no idea why he needs to, and Debbie just yells at him some more and then starts laughing. It’s all pretty scary because it really seems like she has lost her mind. It’s like her mind could not fathom being not good at something and it snapped her. Like some Batman villain that had one trigger, she is Debbie “The Joker” Wanner now. I honestly do not know how she sees any of this and kudos to Mana for putting up with all of that.
The next day at Nuku, the tribe is chilling and Michaela asks Aubry if she could get her “seven drips of coffee with a scoop of sugar”. This for some reason sets J.T. off and he tells us that he is done dealing with Michaela. Apparently he does not like her attitude or something and just wants her gone. Sandra sees all of this and decides to exploit the opportunity for drama as only Sandra can. She tells Varner that she is going to eat all of the sugar, because then J.T. will blame Michaela. Varner is staring at her with this wide eyed look on his face, but in confessional he is cackling at all of it. He loves it so much and seems like he and Sandra are thick as thieves. Later that day when J.T. notices that the sugar is gone he does exactly as Sandra predicted and not so subtly blames Michaela. She kind of argues with him, but controls her temper. She tells us in confessional that she held her temper, but she wanted to kill him. Its like I said earlier, the producers must have slipped crazy pills in the water or something this week.
Over at Mana, Tai is scared by all of the tension at camp, so he decides to go search for the idol since he knows one is back in play after he played the one the night before. He feels that having the idol will make him feel in charge of his own destiny a little more. He eventually does find another clue and it says something about submerging some wood in water, but I do not really understand the clue. Hopefully we will see what it means soon.
We then head to the immunity challenge. In this challenge all tribe members must climb over a tall wall and then role a big cube to a tall post that has keys on a spring. They have to unwind the keys from the spring and then find the right one to unlock a chest of sandbags. They must transport the 100 sandbags across a balance beam and then use them to knock down five targets with a sling shot. First two tribes to finish win immunity. Tavua once again has one extra member so they are going to sit out Cirie.
We once again see the tribal strategizing session and once again Debbie takes over the session one Brad mentions Tai should do the balance beam. She flips out mentioning she was a gymnast for 10 years and finally determines she will not do the balance section. Once the challenge starts and the teams climb over the wall, Debbie is the first one down and proceeds to let Brad know it. The tribes are even at the cube and when they stop for the keys, Debbie is still bragging and Brad replies that he does not know what she is trying to prove and that he loves her. Nuku is the first to unlock their chest and Michaela and Varner are doing the balance beam. Michaela does not take that many to start and J.T. yells at her to bring more. Tai starts to struggle at the balance beam for Mana and once again Debbie is yammering about keeping the gymnast off the balance beam. Tavua has a lead at the slingshot, but Mana is right behind and the combination of Sierra and Brad destroys that part of the challenge winning it for Mana. Its a closer race between Nuku and Tavua, but Ozzy pulls it off for Tavua sending Nuku to tribal council. As we head to commercial we have Michaela telling us that she hopes that she doesn’t go home tonight, because it was a slingshot challenge that sent her home last time and she does not want that to happen again.
Back at the Nuku camp J.T. apologizes for not getting it done with the slingshot and then lobbies to Aubry, Sandra and Varner to vote out Michaela. Aubry is in total agreement and the other two agree as well, but to me they sound like they are just placating him. This is confirmed when Sandra tells us she wants to team up with Michaela and Varner to take out J.T. as revenge for Malcolm. She easily recruits Michaela and then goes to talk to Varner who tells us that he is the swing vote. Its up to him whether he wants to send home an attitude problem or a big threat.
At tribal council the Malcolm blindside is talked about right away and Sandra right away blames J.T. He feels really guilty about it and mentions that he gave up too much information. Michaela then calls out J.T. for leading the tribe and that whatever he says goes. J.T. says camp life is tough and eventually the sugar feud is brought up. They all agree its silly and even laugh about it. Sandra does a lot of talking up of J.T. and agreeing with him. Michaela says something about J.T. speaking for the tribe and Varner agrees that is true. There is even an argument where J.T. says she does nothing and Michaela has an outburst about her asking for confirmation if she does certain tasks which Sandra verifies. Aubry pipes up and agrees that Michaela is a bit of a problem around camp. J.T. even goes so far as to say that she is not a Game Changer and is just filling space. Varner ends the session by saying that the vote is complicated this time. We see Sandra and Michaela vote for J.T. while J.T. and Aubry vote for Micheala, but we do not see Varner’s vote. Probst asks if anyone has an idol to play and J.T. does nothing. Michaela then pulls out her canteen and pours a mug of water for herself. She drinks it while Probst reads the votes and reveals that J.T. is the next to go home. Aubry is impressed and congratulates the other three. After J.T. leaves Sandra and Michaela burst out laughing and Sandra reveals herself to be the sugar bandit.
There are only a few things to clean up here as this was not a very strategic vote. It was purely based on emotion and that’s fine because it was entertaining. First of all, let’s address the fact that in his final words J.T. tells us that he did not even bring his idol to the tribal council! What!?!?!? You have an idol, you bring it to tribal. I don’t care how comfortable you feel, you bring it just in case. This leads to my other point and that is the fact that Sandra, Michaela and Varner all deserve Emmys for their acting. It is them all playing their roles so well that even led J.T. to not bring his idol. According to his Twitter, Varner says they played J.T. for almost 30 hours and never broke character. That was impressive and especially so at tribal council. Also props to Michaela for her stone cold prop comedy. Great stuff.
Let’s address some legacy stuff at this point. I think we seriously need to take a look at J.T.’s Tocantins game now. We gave him a pass on Heroes vs. Villains because it could have been a fluke, but it happened again. I really think he needs a rock to reign in his crazy ideas and Stephen/Taj were just that. Otherwise he runs rampant and gets himself into situations even his charm cannot get him out of. Don’t get me wrong, J.T. is phenomenal TV, but his game play just might not be there and maybe Stephen should be getting more credit for J.T.’s win in season 18.
On the flip side, can we all just marvel at Survivor goddess that is Sandra Diaz-Twine? She is a two time winner and has managed to make it 13 days, nearly two weeks, into her third game without a single vote against her. How is this possible? Even if she goes home next week, which with a tribe swap is very possible, she has cemented how good of a player she is. She has really taken the forefront on a lot of strategy this season and put together the two votes that resulted in the other winners going home. She really has cemented her legacy as one of the best to play the game and we are lucky for every week she stays on our TVs.
As for next week they teased a tribe swap and the return of exile island. That means two tribes of seven with the one person remaining going to Exile. Also teased is “a former Survivor makes a surprise return”. I honestly was thrown for such a loop with this tease. I have not heard one peep about something like this happening and I am wondering why? They could be coming to host a challenge because Probst is sick? As a reward for the winning tribe? To help the person on exile? The more I thought about it, the answer came to me. In this last episode Ozzy tied Boston Rob’s record for most days played on Survivor and on the next day in the show he will break it. I am wondering if it is Boston Rob coming to congratulate Ozzy on breaking the record. It sounds trivial, but on a season like Game Changers, it seems rather likely. We will have to wait and see! Until next time!