Sure, put all your trust in Tony. When did that ever go wrong for anyone?
For better or for worse, Survivor: Cagayan is Tony’s world and we just live in it. He’s become such a key force in driving so much of the drama on the island that for the last four episodes or so, pretty much everything has been presented from Tony’s perspective. It’s not uncommon for a season to end up with an unofficial narrator – each episode of Caramoan would probably have been a lean 20 minutes if you took out every confessional from either Cochran or Malcolm – but even by this show’s standards, Tony is a polarising character so it’s awfully brave of them to allow him so much airtime.
To whit, upon returning from Tribal Council, Tony is deeply shaken by having four votes cast against him. That he was never in any real danger is of no relevance to him: he sees this as having escaped having his torch snuffed by the skin of his teeth, and is suitably scandalised about it. In many ways, it’s this sort of thing that stops Tony from being a live-action cartoon: despite his desire to twist everything on the island to suit his own ends and indeed the fact that more often than not he succeeds at it Tony, in the words of Sophie Ellis Bextor, is not good at not getting what he wants. It’s fortunate for Tony that he doesn’t get questioned very often on this show, because his inability to handle that is really the only crack in his armour, and if his fellow castaways were less trusting of him (or at least less willing to make him think that they trust him), his game probably would’ve crumbled weeks ago. Anyway, despite not really wanting to show that he’s rattled by what happened, Tony asks the minority alliance why they voted for him. Spencer tells him that it’s because he’s perceived as a threat, and that he should take it as a compliment. Tony’s need to always be the smartest person in the room leads him to make an extensive speech about how targeting the strong is a trait of the weak, and the whole reason that his alliance voted out Morgan was because she wasn’t any sort of threat at all, and wouldn’t have an idol, so she’d be easy pickings to help them keep the numbers. It’s a bit unfortunate that Tony acts like this is the kind of brilliant strategy that the other alliance could never possibly work out for themselves, considering that it’s less than a week since they targeted Jefra for precisely that reason, but I don’t think Tony is particularly interested in addressing any sort of reality where anyone else is as smart as Tony is. Anyway, the point of this whole scene is that now everyone is aware that despite Tony’s considerable power in the game, he’s not actually that hard to rile, which is potent to both his enemies (because it provides a chance to topple him) and his allies (because it makes him vulnerable to attack not just from outside, but from within).
Tony’s growing paranoia brings him to the realisation that, within his own alliance, LJ is a big threat because he’s strong and strategic and is certainly going to be an obstacle for Tony to overcome at some point, so it makes sense to tackle that sooner rather than later. Rather than cherry-picking the most trustworthy members of his alliance and telling them to vote out LJ, however, Tony goes about this in the most Tony way possible: he approaches LJ and invents a story about Woo trying to get LJ out, just so that he can get LJ to say that he’d be okay with targeting Woo (which LJ does, albeit in a manner that would certainly merit an objection for leading the witness if it had taken place in a court of law). Having yanked a treacherous thought out of LJ by force, Tony takes this as evidence that LJ lacks loyalty, so he definitely needs to get rid of him as quickly as possible – and now, of course, the quickest way to do that is to go to Woo and say that LJ’s hinted about getting rid of him, because it’s only a lie of omission by this point. I’ll admit: Tony is nuts, and exhausting, and I get annoyed about how much airtime he gets when frankly Trish is a far more interesting character to me, but it is fun watching his self-justification as he unravels.
Treemail brings news of a reward challenge, and Tony is very keen to win it because he knows that time away from camp is when a lot of the strategy talk happens, so he wants to be there for it. (Let’s hope he remembers that leaving people behind to talk strategy is just as dangerous, because Jonny Fairplay and Burton taking their eye off the ball and treating themselves to a reward in Pearl Islands was all the time that Sandra, Lill and Darrah needed to form an alliance and take them both out.) The reward challenge involves throwing a hook into a ring to release a pile of sandbags (I can’t be the only person who misses Reynold whenever we have a throwing-things-into-things challenge, can I?), then hurling the sandbags into a rope tunnel and subsequently bouncing the tunnel to remove any that get stuck, then finally bouncing five sandbags off a trampoline and into nets to win the reward. One team is Jefra, Trish and LJ, one is Tasha, Woo and Kass, and the third is Spencer, Jeremiah and Tony. Essentially, the all-male team takes the lead early on and stays there, despite the best efforts of the others. Woo in particular is pretty great at hurling the sandbags down the tunnel, and Tony is freakingly skilled at the bouncing-off-trampolines part, and Spencer is also there. They win a spa retreat, where Spencer and Jeremiah passively make it known to Tony that they would be open to any approaches his alliance may wish to make, if it furthers their chances in the game. Tony in turn suggests that there may be an opportunity for them coming up, and Spencer views this as the most amazing piece of strategy he’s ever deployed because Spencer is quite a sad little man, and this is probably true. Jeremiah, on the other hand, just gets a bit bored of the whole thing quite quickly and wanders off. Jeremiah <3.
Back at camp, Tony's alliance is focusing on the importance of taking out Spencer, Tasha and Jeremiah. Scrambling, Tasha decides that LJ is her best bet of getting someone to flip, and that he might bring Jefra with him, so she sits casually by him at the camp and, talking out of the side of her mouth, tells him that she has a proposal that might interest him if he's willing to meet her discreetly. It's hilarious in just how much like it reads like the opening scene of an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that’s clearly going to end with one of them getting murdered and the other arrested, but you’re not sure which way round it’ll be. Anyway, Tasha walks off casually, and Tony’s right there watching LJ’s movements avidly. LJ decides that Tasha has nothing to offer him that could improve his game right now, so Tasha is left waiting when LJ doesn’t turn up. FORESHADOWING.
The immunity challenge is mostly cerebral this week: Jeff will show you a pattern of colours, and you have to repeat it with your own coloured blocks, one by one. Everyone survives the first round, which is pretty easy, and then people start falling: Trish goes out first, then Woo. (Imagine being beaten at this challenge by Jefra. Imagine.) Then Jefra, Kass, Spencer and Jeremiah all go out in the same turn, leaving Tasha, Tony, and LJ fighting for immunity. All three end up playing different colours, with very different looks on their faces: LJ looks smug, Tasha is looking pointedly blank, and Tony clearly knows he’s fucked up. Sure enough, Tony’s eliminated, muttering that he thought LJ had the right answer. Then Jeff breaks the news that LJ was wrong too, and Tasha wins individual immunity. It’s extremely well-timed for her, and she’s thrilled. (I’m also informed that she’s only the second-ever black woman to win individual immunity in the history of Survivor, but I haven’t verified that.)
With Tasha no longer on the chopping block, Tony’s convinced that it’s definitely the right time to get rid of LH, but he’ll need to work carefully to get it to happen. First, he lets LJ arrange a vote split between Spencer and Jeremiah (in case one of them has the idol), with the boys voting for Spencer and the girls for Jeremiah. With that in place, Tony goes to Woo and tells him that LJ’s planning to get him out. Woo appears to be hugely gullible and falls for it easily. Then Tony goes to Spencer and Jeremiah, who are quite happy to vote for anyone else if it buys them each another week, and promise that they can get Tasha on board as well. So that’s five people, which gives Tony the majority he needs, but he decides to sound Trish out just in case…and Trish is not convinced. She thinks it’s far too early to start cannibalising their own alliance and that they should stick together, and frankly she’s not particularly sold on the idea that LJ is a traitor either, mostly because the story that Tony is spinning is full of holes. Trish is far cannier than any of us gave her credit for in the beginning, I think: as she says in her next confessional, “I might be gullible, but I’m not stupid.” However, she doesn’t go to LJ with any of this, which is quite interesting. Does she think it’s a storm that’s blown over, or is she simply looking out for number one?
At Tribal Council, Jeff points out that there’s a clear majority alliance at work here and asks if there are any fractures in it. LJ replies that of course there are not. Tony makes a reference to his fictitious job as a construction worker, which gives Sarah another opportunity to do Elizaface over on the jury benches. I wonder if that’ll come back to haunt Tony, given that he told his pre-merge tribe that he was a cop? Also, Tony has brought with him the episode’s eponymous bag of tricks, which is a canvas sack that he appears to have there just to freak everyone out with the thought that he might have six immunity idols inside it or something. They vote, and LJ receives five votes to Jeremiah’s three and Spencer’s one, because Tony and Woo voted against their own alliance. Kass looks severely displeased, Trish looks unnerved, and Jefra looks adrift, because LJ was her main ally. Spencer, meanwhile, cheers because he has no pokerface whatsoever. He’s SO bad at Tribal Council, it’s embarrassing. LJ departs, and I will miss him – not because he was a particularly compelling player, but because his arse always looked smashing in those board shorts.
Next week: Tony's back in the spy shack, and Woo falls out of a tree.