Survivor: San Juan Del Sur – Episode 2: “Method To This Madness”

In which we learn that lying about your idols isn’t as easy as Tony made it seem.

And honestly, I’m kind of glad about that, because as much as it pains me to give Tony much credit for anything because he annoyed the shit out of me, I feel like it’s a good thing for the show that Tony’s gameplan isn’t that easy to replicate because the absolute last thing I want is everyone playing that game every time. It would be exhausting.

So I can sort of see where Val was coming from, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also think her strategy was incredibly stupid. She was in a minority alliance, she wasn’t an obvious task-winner, she’d lost crucial bonding hours in the early days by being sent to Exile Island, so she felt she had to do something drastic to keep herself in the game, and that thing somehow became “lie that I have two immunity idols”. It’s not inconceivable, particularly in modern Survivor – god knows they just kept throwing idols at Tony and Spencer every 30 seconds last season. The problem with this strategy, of course, is exactly what happened – since they’re not exactly short of other people to vote for, the dominant alliance decided to flush Val’s idol by splitting the vote between her and Baylor, and when it became incredibly obvious that Val didn’t actually have any idols to play, she got canned in the revote. Sorry Val. I just don’t think this is your game. It’s just a shame that the actual idol is in the hands of stupid awful John Rocker at this point.

If there’s one obvious upside to Val getting the boot, it’s that at least we’re spared of Jeremy’s ceaseless prattle about the need to “protect” her, as though she’s an infant fumbling around in the cupboard under the sink. This was the main focus of his journey to Exile Island with John this week, as he made an agreement to protect Julie if John protected Val. And to his credit, John did sort of try to live up to his word, but also immediately abandoned this plan as soon as he felt Val had made him look stupid by lying to everyone else. Oh well, if nothing else, it should be quite funny to watch Jeremy try to shank Julie at the earliest available opportunity now.

In other news, Natalie took the news of Nadiya’s ouster quite badly, as you might expect. She cried that the two of them had barely been apart in their entire lives, which prompted Jeff to ask if she was sadder for Nadiya getting eliminated, or for herself being left in the game on her own. It’s a tough but fair question and Natalie doesn’t entirely answer it, but I suspect it’s probably more the latter than the former. And that’s fair enough – she’s only human. Nadiya’s probably being put up in a hotel and wandering around some malls, Natalie’s the one who’s still got to live out in the open. With Reed.

The other fallout from last week’s vote was that Josh had some ‘splainin’ to do to Baylor about having voted for her at last week’s Tribal Council, the upshot of which was that he seemed to go “I know this looks really duplicitous but trust me I had my reasons and I’ve still totally got your back” and she responded by saying “BOO I AM ANGRY but I’m also your ally so I’ll just trust that you are being honest with me here”. Is that it? COME ON, WE PAID FOR BLOOD.

In The Art Of Negotation: Jon lost Hunahpu’s flint and, after winning the reward challenge, they attempted to barter with Probst for a new one, suggesting that they would swap a limited amount of their food supplies. Probst, of course, was massively unimpressed with this, stating that they’d clearly waited to see whether they would win the challenge or not and what the prize would be before attempting to negotiate, and that made him cross, so he told them that they could have a new flint only if they gave up all of the fishing equipment. This caused some consternation on Hunahpu as to whether they really needed the flint that badly; the women seemed to be slightly more vocal on the “yes, we totally do” front than the men were, and ultimately that side of the argument won out. This seemed wise to me, because there’s not really much point in having a shitload of fishing equipment if your fire has gone out and you cannot relight it so you have no way of cooking or sterilising your drinking water.

The reward challenge in this episode was a pretty straight revival of one from the previous Blood vs Water seasons – contestants were placed on a circular platform floating in the ocean and had to push each other into the water, and if you were drawn to fight against your loved one, so much the better. There were a couple of minor skirmishes between those with existing bonds (Alec vs Drew, for example), but arguably the one with the most drama was Missy vs Baylor, when Missy went in fighting and accidentally almost knocked one of Baylor’s teeth clean out. Probst leapt in to ask HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE MAIMED YOUR OWN DAUGHTER, as Probst inevitably does, at which point you could see the will to continue float right out of Missy’s body and she just let Baylor knock her right over the second the fight restarted. BORING.

That’s still my problem with this season so far: I’m finding it hard to care much about these people’s relationships because I still don’t know who half of them are, so I don’t care if people haven’t hugged their kids enough, or if a pair of brothers have enjoyed a lifelong sibling rivalry, or if a couple don’t always see eye to eye. This sort of stuff worked better in the original Blood vs Water because at least there we already knew half the contestants, so we could explore these relationships through the eyes of the returning players. For some reason here it just feels like an unnecessary complication within these 18 people that I’m frantically trying to learn to tell apart. Maybe it’ll all click later on in the season and I’ll start to get invested in those dynamics – maybe it’ll all change if there’s a tribe swap, or when the merge happens – but right now I have to say this particular Blood vs Water season feels like a pale imitation of the original.

Next time: everyone finds out about the stupid racist and homophobic shit that John Rocker said that time, and all hell breaks loose.

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