Survivor: Cagayan – Episode 3: “Our Time To Shine”

If you’re not winnin’, you must be Luzon.

Well, so much for the brief hope in the last episode that the Brains tribe might actually manage to regroup and recover from the mess they made of their first week or so on the island. I think the moment we all knew it was about to head south again permanently was when J’Tia unironically referred to her tribe’s “winning streak”, apparently unaware that (a) it needs to happen more than once in order to be a “streak”, and (b) you actually need to win, as opposed to just “fail to lose”, which is what the Brains tribe actually did last week. Still, whatever you call it, they managed to avoid Tribal Council once, and that seemed to give them a rather unrealistic impression of their own abilities.

First, though, let’s look at the post-elimination fallout on the Beauty tribe: after Brice got the boot, Morgan realised that Jeremiah had flipped and left her in an alliance of one, which ought to have spelt certain doom, but she at least had the good sense to publicly question Jeremiah about flaking on their alliance, thereby leading the rest of the tribe to potentially question his loyalty. She’s clearly got more game than I initially gave her credit for, but I’m still not quite ready to like her yet. For that to happen, I need her to stop saying things like “LJ doesn’t even belong on our tribe, he’s not even that beautiful” while jiggling her boobs right down the camera lens, because: gross.

It’s been a long, long time since we had separate immunity and reward challenges (THANKS OBAMA REDUMBSHIT ISLAND!), so it was immensely pleasing to see the return to the two-challenge format at long last in this episode. Once again we were shown the Brains tribe practising before actually embarking on the task, and now I’m starting to wonder if this is actually something that happens all the time on Survivor but they never bother to show it, or if this is a new idea they’re trying out this season, but the editors do seem to enjoy highlighting the Brains tribe’s comparative ability in the practice round against their performance on the task itself.

The reward challenge was a version of that classic schoolyard game where two players are blindfolded and have to hunt stuff down while a third player shouts directions from a distance (and in this version, a fourth player – also blindfolded – has to help to operate the pulley that lifts the items up to the caller once the fetchers have retrieved them). Thanks to Tasha’s skill with directions, the Brains tribe took an early lead, and Spencer and Kass did a pretty good job of following, but despite relegating J’Tia to the most negligible job in the game, she kept screwing up the pulley-pulling. This allowed Beauty to catch up and overtake, while Brawn remained a distant third. That was until Tasha freaked out about the placement of the final item, a flag, needing to be precisely in the centre of the platform or something and J’Tia kept moving it in the wrong direction, so they got overtaken by the Brawn tribe as well. So the Beauty tribe won chickens, the Brawn tribe won eggs, and the Brains tribe won nothing. This is not a great outcome for a tribe that has no rice, which you probably didn’t need me to tell you. The women of the Beauty tribe then demonstrated that they are alarmingly lacking in knowledge of the reproductive process of chickens, and indeed of humans in some cases. Glad to see they’re all living up to the stereotype.

Of course, that’s not even taking into account the best part of that challenge, which is that the producers arranged for all sorts of obstacles to be placed right at nut-height across the course, and LJ strode right into all of them. I think he’s pretty much removed himself from the gene pool at this point. It was also fun to see Jeff Probst develop a modest streak as he repeatedly referred to the female contestants as getting hit “in the stomach” even when it was clear they were being hit somewhere…rather south of there. Well, I guess it’s one way to sublimate the sex drive.

Now, it’s time for the segment that I like to call “OH SARAH, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” I liked Sarah in the first two episodes, she seemed smart and shrewd. But she appears to have lost her damn mind ever since Tony finally fessed up to being a cop. Rather than questioning why he might have lied to her about it prior to that, and what else he might be keeping from her, Sarah appears to have thrown herself wholesale into this alliance, to the extent that she’s swallowed all of Tony’s nonsense about Cliff and Lindsey plotting to get her own, and has started to overplay her hand by suggesting they throw the challenge to get Cliff out before the merge, even though this is in the interests of no one but herself, which basically paints a big target on her back. (And it’s even stupider when you consider that the only person who actually stands to benefit from a manoeuvre like this is Tony, who gets to sit back and reap the rewards of someone else’s flameout.) She got MalnuTrisha on board, obviously, because she was just happy to be included, and Woo was sort of tentatively in agreement, even though he couldn’t really see himself actively throwing a challenge.

The interesting thing is that despite all the screentime that went into building up that narrative, we’ll never really know if the Brawn team were actually trying to throw the challenge or not because the Brains tribe were JUST THAT BAD. The challenge involved yer standard Survivor “swim down to increasingly terrifying depths and retrieve these things” angle – in this case, they had to fetch balls which they then had to chuck into a hoop – the sort of skill that Cliff comes in quite handy for. Again, the Beauty tribe quickly took the lead and a comfortable victory, while the Brains and Brawn tribes struggled just to get the balls released (fnar) in the first place (or the Brawn tribe just weren’t really trying, possibly, for the aforementioned reasons). Once again, J’Tia was HOPELESS, and Kass and Tasha weren’t much better, so Spencer had to pretty much do the entire task single-handedly. To his credit, he came remarkably close to beating the professional basketball player, but the ball-retrieval skills of the women left a lot to be desired and so poor Spencer was just stood there helplessly in between shots, which allowed Cliff – who unsurprisingly has a lot more practice at this sort of thing – to take the Brawn team to safety. Poor Sarah – it must be really hard to throw a challenge to specifically get rid of the person on your tribe who is best suited to that task.

So the Brains tribe headed for Tribal Council again, and it seemed apparent that J’Tia had to go this time, surely? But then Tasha started wavering over the idea that there was almost certainly a tribal swap coming up and whether J’Tia would be more loyal than Spencer in such an event, but then if there wasn’t a tribal swap, J’Tia was too much of a challenge liability and they’d starve. And really, this shouldn’t have been a factor, because the odds of Tasha and J’Tia ending up on the same tribe after a swap can’t have been great, and the odds of J’Tia actually lasting long enough on any tribe to make the proper merge, which is when you’d really need her for goaty purposes, are pathetically small, but given how hopelessly the Brains tribe has been faring up to now, I can at least appreciate Kass and Tasha wanting to consider all (or at least) both of their options before deciding who to get rid of.

That said, they probably should have made this decision before Tribal Council, because they ended up having to make their final decisions through whispers and facial tics while Spencer and J’Tia made their best cases to stick around – and they weren’t anywhere near subtle enough not to be noticed by Spencer, J’Tia and Jeff. All the way through Tribal I was hoping for Spencer and J’Tia to realise that they’d be best served by uniting and voting together against either Kass or Tasha, and either forcing a tie or hoping that the other two were indecisive enough that they’d actually get one of them out – but I suppose it’s not the sort of thing that you can really realise, plan and execute in silence when you’re already at Tribal Council. In the end, J’Tia’s luck ran out, and Spencer thanked Tasha for keeping him around and he and Tasha got all nice and cosy. So if alarm bells weren’t ringing in Kass’s head at this point, they probably should have been.

Next week: tribal swap! I bet Spencer won’t be able to flip on Tasha fast enough, bless him.

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