Survivor: Cagayan – Episode 9: “Sitting In My Spy Shack”

There are other people on that island besides Spencer and Tony, right?

For the first time in ages I find myself troubled by the narrative of Survivor, or at least in terms of who’s getting to tell it. Every season has its natural storytellers, but I wonder how bad everyone else must be if that job is falling to Spencer and Tony this year, because they’re both intolerable. The best storytellers are the ones who can give a confessional that sums up what’s happening on the island right now, and the problem with Spencer and Tony is that they can only ever tell me what’s happening to Spencer or Tony right now, and to be honest I’m kind of exhausted by both of them. I realise that Jefra’s probably a lost cause, and I can’t imagine Kass is terribly charismatic on a one-to-one scenario, but…Tasha? Trish? They’re both playing interesting games and seem to be fairly telegenic people, and the few confessionals that we have seen seem to be fine, so can’t we hear a bit more of them? Because right now all I’m getting from the edit is that this game is being won by either Spencer or Tony, and I don’t like either of them, so it’s not really filling me with enthusiasm for what’s left of the season.

SO: post-vote, there’s some explaining to do. It’s mostly Jefra who’s feeling hurt and confused, though Trish and Kass are quick to point out that they didn’t know anything about it either. How much plausible deniability Trish has on this matter is interesting – based on her talk with Tony in last week’s episode, she did know he was gunning for LJ, but I think maybe she didn’t realise it was happening that quickly, or perhaps she thought she’d put a lid on it. Either way, Tony insists that this wasn’t a broken promise and he hasn’t flipped. Jefra asks if this means she’s on the bottom of the alliance now. The answer is “yes”, of course, but Tony still insists that there is no “bottom of the alliance”, which is bizarre and I can’t understand how that’s attracted so scrutiny for so long. This show can’t have multiple winners, and the people within the alliance all know that and must all be making plans for their endgame, and while it’s possible none of them are working on it together, it’s highly unlikely. There is a bottom of the alliance, and we’ll probably see who that is very soon.

This week’s Reward Challenge tasks the castaways with paddling a boat around some crates in order to retrieve some paddles with letters on, and then rearranging those paddles once they reach dry land in order to spell a phrase. The purple team is Tasha, Kass, Spencer and Jeremiah, and the orange team is Trish, Tony, Woo and Kass. Tasha does a good job of leading the purple team throughout most of the sea-based part of the challenge. Both teams have their moments of peril: Tony accidentally knocks a paddle overboard, and the purple team accidentally overshoots one of the crates. The ultimate outcome of this is that the orange team get back ever so slightly ahead, though by the time they start rearranging paddles there’s not a lot in it. Kass and Woo take on the rearranging for their team, and Spencer and Tasha take charge for theirs. There’s lots of faffing around as they try out various combinations, and neither team is shy about spying on what the other is doing in the hope that they might be able to steal an idea and get the answer faster. Kass almost gets the answer first, thinking that it’s “worth fighting for”, but she’s missed a few letters and over on the other team, Spencer works out that it’s actually “worth PLAYING for”, so the purple team wins, and Monday morning quarterback Tony is quick to point out that he *told* Kass that answer wasn’t right.

Upon returning to camp, Tony is worried that the three members of the ex-Aparri alliance have now been gifted an ideal opportunity to work on Jefra, in her capacity as the least-tethered member of his alliance, while they’re off enjoying a BBQ lunch as a reward. After a couple of episodes of cool, in control Tony, manic-panic Tony is now back in full effect. Because he’s got himself in such a cushy position, he now can’t help getting super-paranoid about the possibility of someone trying to dethrone him. He builds another “spy shack” by the water well to allow him to eavesdrop on people, but all we see him learning is that Jefra doesn’t trust him any more, and that Trish admits he can be a little bit unpredictable but that she’s sticking by him, both of which I suspect Tony already knew. (Weird Tony logic: he spent one confessional snorting that he doesn’t trust Jefra any more because she doesn’t trust him, as though he’s an innocent bystander in the whole thing. It’s a bit like when he lied to LJ about Woo trying to get him out and then viewed LJ’s willingness to flip to get rid of Woo as proof that he couldn’t be trusted. I’m unsure whether this is just Tony playing up to the cameras to get more screentime, or if he’s somehow genuinely convinced himself of all of this.) When everyone’s assembled again, Tony decides that he wants to strategise now and figure out how they’re going to prepare for the prospect of Jefra wandering over to the other side, but Trish is exhausted and her first priority is to get the limes and papayas that she’s found in a tree nearby, so she drags Woo off to go and get them with her while Tony stomps off muttering about how he has to strategise on his own AS PER USUAL. He’s suck a freak this week. Meanwhile, Trish is transfixed by the size of the papayas that she’s found, commenting that they’re “like Morgan’s boobs”. Well, if Trish wasn’t already my player of the season, she is now. Woo falls out of the tree in the attempt to retrieve them, but it appears not to be a serious injury: just his pride and his butt are bruised. Damn misleading trailers.

At the reward, as Tony anticipated, Spencer, Tasha and Jeremiah go to work on Jefra, who takes a surprising amount of persuading. However, then the letters from home are brought out, and Jefra’s tells her not to be afraid to lie and be dishonest. She views this as a sign from God that she’s meant to flip on her alliance, because I’m sure that’s the sort of thing God’s got time to attend to personally, so she agrees to help the other three get rid of Tony.

For this week’s Immunity Challenge, the contestants have to stand on a balance beam that slopes forwards, while holding a pole with a disc on top of it and balancing a ball on top of that disc. And yep, Probst makes a lot of ball jokes while he’s waiting for something to happen. As always, as time goes on the beam gets narrower and the contestants have to hold the pole lower down, throwing off their centre of gravity. I don’t think I could have even started this challenge, let alone finished it. Jefra, Trish and Tony go out early, with Jeremiah and Kass falling not long after them. Woo, Spencer and Tasha make it to the final difficulty level, where Woo falls first and Spencer bows out last, leaving Tasha in the delightful position of being able to retrieve the individual immunity necklace less than an hour after giving it up in the first place. I’m reliably informed that this makes her the first black woman in Survivor history to win back-to-back immunity challenges, and indeed the first to even win individual immunity more than once, though I’d have to double-check that. As a Tasha fan I’m thrilled that she’s turning out to be an immunity challenge beast, but it also seems apparent that this, combined with her decent social skills, is going to stick a massive target on her back the second she slips up in an Immunity Challenge.

Prompted by his concerns about the stability of his alliance, Tony goes mad hunting for the Tyler Perry Idol Of Power, and Tony finds it, because of course he does. So that’s Tony basically here at least until the idol expires, sigh. (Interesting Tyler Perry Idol Of Power trivia: it can only be played for the person who finds it, so Tony can’t use it to annul the votes cast against anyone else.)

Back at camp, Trish notices that Jefra seems to be a bit out of sorts, and takes her off to talk to her, assuring her that Tony is still on her side and she shouldn’t be tempted to flip. (Trish isn’t playing as flashy a game as Tony is, but she’s probably playing a much stronger one.) Kass joins in and tells Jefra that voting emotionally just to get rid of somebody you don’t like because they annoy you is a terrible idea, and every ironyometer in North America explodes. Returning from his idol quest, Tony joins them and is APPALLED that anyone would question his loyalty, and talks a load of bollocks about how he never even broke a promise apart from that one time when he totally did but it was totally justified because reasons, and for some reason everyone’s like “yeah, fair point”. I’m beginning to think Tony’s survival is 100 per cent witchcraft, because he’s done so many things that by rights should be Survivor suicide and yet he’s still here and looking even safer than ever.

Jefra, bless her, goes back to Jeremiah and announces that she will no longer be voting with him after all. With pretty much no options left at this point, Jeremiah, Spencer and Tasha shrug “ah, fuck it” and go to sit in the sea and commiserate with each other. Sensing the end of days for himself, Jeremiah makes his big confession: that he’s a FASHION MODEL and that they’ll find all sorts of interesting pictures of him on the internet if they google “Jeremiah Wood…model”. The pause in his delivery of that sentence is what makes it art. Also, Spencer takes this opportunity to reveal to Jeremiah and Tasha that he has a hidden immunity idol. They agree, for what it’s worth, to vote for Woo because he’s a bigger threat in Immunity Challenges and also Tony’s kind of shifty and is probably up to something.

At Tribal Council, the trio do their best to unsettle Jefra and see if they can drag her over again, but it isn’t working. Spencer points out that siding with Tony is all well and good, but you wouldn’t want to be sat next to him at Final Tribal Council because he’s played an amazing game and, as far as Spencer is concerned, if he’s on the jury at that point then Tony’s got his vote. Tasha agrees, and seemingly so does Jeremiah. Tony’s alliance seem a little nervous at the prospect of him having a three-vote advantage in the final (particularly Trish, who probably has the most to worry about on that score). With Tasha immune, Spencer and Jeremiah give reasons why the other one should go tonight, since it’s clearly one of them, and Woo pointedly says that they’re taking into account who might have an idol when they’re voting.

They vote, and despite Woo practically screaming “WE’RE VOTING FOR JEREMIAH”, Spencer sees Tony fiddling with his bag of tricks (sigh) and plays his idol for himself. Tony hoots and chortles that the young jedi is not the master, and makes a comment about how he should’ve been worried for “Jeremy” (prompting Morgan to mutter “who’s Jeremy?” on the jury, which: LOVE). At this point I wonder why they don’t just do away with Tribal Council and just have Spencer and Tony wave their dicks around for 10 minutes. Anyway, Spencer makes the wrong move because his alliance of three voted for Woo (Jeremiah actually voted for “Wooooooooooooooo”, which is brilliant) and everyone else voted for Jeremiah, so Jeremiah’s gone and Spencer’s idol has been flushed, which is just about the worst thing that could’ve happened to that alliance considering Tasha has immunity. Oh, and the idol that Tony fiddled with to unsettle Spencer was a fake anyway, so nobody even knows yet that he has the Tyler Perry Idol Of Power. Egad.

Next week: more Spencer and Tony, and maybe the editors might remember there are some other people on the island if we’re lucky.

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