This week in Bizarro-Survivor: Trish and the Brains tribe are the ones with all the power.
Last week when the Brains tribe were deciding who to vote out, and the decision came down to whether Spencer’s challenge aptitude or J’Tia’s loyalty would be more useful in the long term, there was one question hanging in the air: what if there’s a tribe swap? After all, Spencer’s challenge aptitude is a liability if he’s suddenly on the opposite side, and J’Tia’s loyalty is not much use if she’s not even on the same tribe as you any more. So, of course, as soon as Spencer had finished thanking Kass and Tasha for not sending him off to Ponderosa with Brice, Garrett and David (just imagine those awkward conversations), the castaways were summoned to the Reward Challenge, and Jeff instructed them to drop their buffs.
It was at this point that I realised why the series was subtitled simply “Cagayan” rather than “Brains vs Brawn vs Beauty” – because that particular conceit only lasted for three episodes (four, if you count the double-length premiere as two episodes). Jeff informed the tribes that they would be Brains, Brawn and Beauty no more (although many of them will continue to identify as their original tribes, because that’s how we do it on Survivor), and that Luzon was officially being disbanded: they would draw to see who would be on Aparri and who would be on Solana.
Fortunately for the producers, the split happened in the most drama-friendly way possible: everyone on the former Luzon tribe is now in Aparri, along with Sarah (the tribe’s only original member) and Alexis, Jeremiah and Morgan from the Beauty tribe. That means that everyone-minus-Sarah who was originally on the Brawn tribe is now on Solana, along with original members LJ and Jefra who are now very much down in numbers and thinking “oh, FUCK.” To celebrate these new kinships, the producers busted out one of the best (read: most violent) types of challenge: the one where one person wraps themselves around a pole and two members of the other tribe have to try to drag them off. This was possibly the first challenge all series where Tasha really got to show what she was made of, as during the first bout she clung on LIKE A BOSS and kicked sand in Trish and Jefra’s faces while Lindsey got dragged across the line by Morgan and Alexis. Yes, those three young women were rolling around on top of each other in the sand. I’m sure certain demographics within this show’s audience quite enjoyed that, and probably rewatched it in slow motion several times, but I’m afraid it was rather lost on me. Unfortunately that was about as good as it got for Aparri, because on the other two challenges Solana put Cliff on the pole, and…well, have you seen Cliff? You try moving a man of that size if he doesn’t want to be moved. So, with a 2:1 victory, Solana won a massive platter of food to take back to their camp and chow down while they got to know each other. This little welcome breakfast was the moment where Trish discovered that LJ was from the Boston area, like her, and immediately offered her vagina up for him on a platter, and LJ’s response was essentially “well, I haven’t got the numbers any more, so if some toothy cougar wants to mount me, I’m at least going to act interested.”
So if the post-merger social over at Solana was a kind of sexually-charged potluck, the alternative version over at Aparri was more of a Sweet 16 party where the mean girls spend the entire evening scheming to drop a bucket of pig’s blood on each other. Lighting the touchpaper, seemingly inadvertently, was Sarah: feeling the need to play host as the only original member of the tribe, she went around showing everyone where everything was, including the extra bag of rice that Trish got them all on Day 1 by refusing the clue to the location of the Hidden Immunity Idol. Wait, what’s that? Oh, your tribes didn’t get a second bag of rice? Oh, how interesting. With her cover entirely blown, all Morgan could do was admit sheepishly that it was a moot point anyway because she didn’t manage to find the idol. This immediately exposed all of the fractures in the former Beauty tribe, as Alexis was reminded that she didn’t-couldn’t-shouldn’t trust Morgan, so she immediately went scurrying off to Tasha, Spencer and Kass to offer to align with them, on the grounds that they have the numbers and a seemingly stronger core. Also coming to this conclusion was Jeremiah, who went to them independently with the same suggestion. So having come into this episode kneeling, wounded and weeping, the former Brains tribe was suddenly in a position of extreme power – an observation that was not lost on a positively giddy Tasha and Spencer.
With the knowledge that nearly all of the alliances from the previous three episodes had been thrown up in the air, it was time to decide which of these deeply promising fractures would be put to the test first. This week’s Immunity Challenge had the porniest intro I’d seen in years:
*large phallic object smashes through a series of walls*
*large phallic object moves backwards and forwards in a tunnel*
*large phallic object smashes into a gong to indicate climax*
I think I actually turned to Chris and shouted “standards and practices!” Honestly, won’t somebody think of the children? The challenge involved each tribe having to carry a large pencil-esque log first to a series of walls, where they’d have to ram into it repeatedly to break them down, then onward to a three-dimensional maze where they’d have to guide a metal spike through the grooves on the sides of the log without getting stuck in too many dead-ends, and then once they’d made it through the maze the winning tribe needed to carry their log to the end and smash it into the gong. Solana took an early lead after making short work of the barriers – an expected outcome for a tribe consisting mostly of former Brawn-tribe members. However, the ex-Brains tribers over on Aparri demonstrated their own worth by realising their strategy was flawed and changing so that the burlier members of the tribe (Jeremiah and Spencer – hey, we’re speaking relatively here) were at the front so they could do a better job of aiming the log and using brute force. As a result, they managed to catch up with Solana and hit the maze at more or less the same time. With Tasha overseeing the navigation and the stronger members of the tribe working on the movement, Aparri began to edge ahead and finished the maze about 15 seconds or so before Solana did – just enough time to get there and bang the gong first. Tasha, Spencer and Kass were overjoyed to be on the winning side for a change, while all the Brawny types over on Solana were despairing that they’d lost on an 80 per cent brute strength challenge. Womp womp.
As we followed Aparri back to their beach after the challenge, a scramble ensued. Cliff, Lindsey and Woo were convinced that LJ – as a physical and potentially strategic threat – should be the one to go, and were reasonably certain that they had the numbers if Trish and Tony stuck with them. But as Lindsey stared at Trish rubbing her privates all over LJ, she began to suspect that Trish’s loyalty may no longer be with them. She’s kind of observant like that. (Also, is it just me or does Lindsey look a little bit like she should be a lesser clone in Orphan Black? You know, one of the ones who died pre-series so all Tatiana Maslany would have to do would be to get her picture taken with a wig on for a fake drivers’ licence.) Indeed, Trish was planning to keep LJ around and get rid of Cliff instead, so she told LJ that she could get Tony on side if he and Jefra voted with them. She then went off to Tony to convince him of this plan – hey, remember when Tony forged a semi-alliance with Trish the other week? Yeah, I’d forgotten that as well – and Tony wasn’t entirely convinced that it was the right move or the right time, but the idea of booting Cliff clearly appealed. (Sidebar: I can’t take Tony seriously with that ridiculous tattoo. It looks like there’s a scorpion sitting on his shoulder just about to squeeze his nipple.) Lindsey worried that Tony might be coming loose, so Cliff went over to try to talk him round. Essentially, it seemed like everyone was courting Tony as their swing vote, with both sides using the same argument – that Cliff or LJ (depending on who’s talking) would be a big threat post-merge. And as Tony sat there and confessionalised about how difficult it is to know who to trust on this show, the official Survivor orchestra broke out the world’s tiniest violin. Meanwhile, despite Trish’s assurances that she totally had this in the bag (while laughing like a maniac – Trish’s cackle has been haunting my nightmares all week), LJ wasn’t sure about how safe he was feeling, and was in two minds about whether to play his Hidden Immunity Idol at Tribal Council or not.
At Tribal Council, it was raining. Seriously, for the second time this season it was absolutely pissing it down. Considering this is the show’s fourth consecutive season in the Philippines, you would think they’d have learnt not to have Tribal Council in an uncovered area by now. I bet the set designers are getting bollocked for the continuity nightmare that is the relative wetness of Probst’s shirt at any point during the session (although watching Lindsey repeatedly having to wipe her entire hand across her face because there was so much water streaming down it was pretty funny). There was a little bit of plain talk, but for the most part everyone was keeping their cards very close to their chest. In short: they voted, LJ didn’t play his idol, Tony flipped and Cliff was voted out 4-3. The looks of horror on Lindsey’s and Woo’s faces when the final vote was read were positively Eliza-worthy, as was the sheer delight on Trish’s face. This is a great season of Survivor, you guys. And it’s only just beginning.
Next week: Trish vs Lindsey, TO THE DEATH, quite possibly. Also Probst arrives on the beach to talk to Lindsey in the middle of the night, which must mean something extreme is happening. If she decides that she’d rather abandon all hope of getting her hands on the $1,000,000 than risk spending another 25 days on the island with Trish and just quits there and then, this might officially be the best season ever.