Bros before hosed.
Loyal To A Fault: After Nagarote returned to the beach following last week’s challenge drubbing and the subsequent blindsiding of Max, Shirin understandably had a few questions. Unusually for this season, however, she wasn’t angry about what happened at Tribal Council, she was scared. Very, very scared. One of the things that interests me about Shirin is that while she may be loud, eccentric and fairly annoying, she’s not an idiot: she worked out the numbers from the previous vote and realised that not only did she not have the backing of the ex-No Collars and Kelly, but that she lost Carolyn as well. Worried that she a) had no alliance left and b) was the next one lined up for the boot, Shirin went to talk to Carolyn to find out if she was still willing to vote with her, at which point Carolyn announced that she probably wouldn’t, because she didn’t think she could trust Shirin, and gave her a lecture on the value of loyalty. There is something so, so beautiful about saying all of this to the person you just flipped on and have them not even call you on it, but perhaps Shirin was afraid of making things even worse.
A Fine Bromance: Meanwhile on Nagarote, Rodney and Joaquin were wandering round holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes and doodling “Rodney and Joaquin Lavoie-Souberbielle” on each other’s Trapper Keepers. Rodney actually gave a confessional saying that he’d been actively looking for a “bromance” on the show, although presumably he was looking for a bro who holds himself to a higher standard than all those guys who just put it about with anybody. Someone like his father, you know? Apparently he formed a bond with Joaquin primarily because they’re both from the east coast, and the two of them wanted this season’s winner to be an east-coaster, not a Dumb Arizonan, a goddamn Californian, a bible-thumping Texan, or one of those Utah types. (There was a slight problem here in that Dan is from Maine, but Roaquin decided to use the loophole of him being a “dumb hick” to get around it.) Also apparently Mike doesn’t deserve to win because he hasn’t had sex for six years, which is a subject I would be fascinated to hear discussed in great detail at Tribal Council. Perhaps Max could be brought in as an expert witness to tell us how long it had been since all of the previous winners last had coitus before arriving on the island.
Shots Fired: For the reward challenge in this episode, the teams were required to race along an obstacle course and up a tower, at which point they’d have to fire bags out of a giant slingshot at a series of targets back on the ground. From the way the challenge played out, I assume the rule was that once a contestant has scored a hit on a target, they have to swap out and let someone else take over, though I don’t remember Probst explicitly saying this. Escameca sat out Dan due to the numbers imbalance, and the expectation was that they would crush Nagarote once again – it was a mostly physical challenge, combined with a bit of a skill/accuracy test – but Nagarote entirely held their own. Even when Probst was narrating that Escameca were “way out in front”, they really weren’t – in fact, Rodney had only managed to fire one shot by the time Jenn started shooting for Nagarote. In fact both tribes were fairly evenly matched and fought each other point for point, until the endgame where Escameca edged into the lead – only for Nagarote to come from behind and win, with Jenn scoring the final point as well as the first one. (And Shirin hit the target on her first attempt, so I’m pleased she got at least a small moment of challenge-based triumph.)
Turtle Power: Nagarote’s reward was a cookout where they would have stew, mac ‘n’ cheese, and…hot chocolate? I mean, I like hot chocolate as much as the next person, but it’s not the first thing I’d be craving on a desert island. (Still an infinitely better reward than that time in The Amazon when Alex and Jenna’s reward, 25 days in, was all the coffee they could drink, which I think at that particular point of near-starvation would have utterly destroyed my digestive system beyond all hope of repair.) Shirin used the time to try to make nice with her group, and succeeded at least to some extent as she bonded with Jenn over what an absolute tool Rodney is. I don’t exactly think that’s an alliance built to last, but if Shirin can manage her behaviour well enough to appear friendly and useful she might end up in a halfway decent position post-merge once the alliances start breaking up. I mean, I’m not holding my breath, but she’s handling this bad situation better than I expected. The other half of the reward was a chance to enjoy the rare sight of a turtle coming to the beach to lay her eggs at night, and the guide explained to them that the turtle will lay maybe 100 eggs in the sand, and perhaps one of those proto-turtles might survive long enough to actually be born. Jenn had an epiphany as a result of this, realising that she had better odds of winning Survivor than a turtle had of being born. (Of course, what she didn’t mention is that everyone else on the show is in the same position, as far as turtle-based odds comparisons go. Still, I’m hoping that this is Jenn’s winner edit emerging. Please, let it be so.) (Also, how long did they have to wait up to see that? Were they well-rested enough for the immunity challenge? I mean, this question isn’t exactly keeping me awake at night, but it’s a point worth raising, I think.)
The Throws Of Death: While everyone was kumbaya-ing on Nagarote, it was backstab o’clock on Escameca, where everyone was considering the easiest way to oust the player with the most potential to damage their game. Joaquin, in a deft bit of strategy that I wouldn’t have expected from him, actually did a pretty good job of attempting to woo Sierra into an alliance, in that he was nice to her and laid out a plan that had the appearance of being mutually advantageous. Also it probably didn’t hurt that Joaquin was getting Island Hot, since he’d lost enough weight to look more muscular than when he arrived, and the stubble was really suiting him. (I apologise – believe me, I’m not proud of how attractive I find Joaquin. Then again, I fancied Reynold in Caramoan so it’s entirely possible that my taste is just plain bad.) And in a scenario where the alliance would just have been Joaquin, Tyler and Sierra, he probably would have been on very solid ground – however, it was the part where he admitted that she’d have to vote alongside Rodney that threw him on to much rockier ground. Sierra was not at all pleased that Rodney came as part of the package, even if it did mean she’d get to screw Dan over. And speaking of Rodney, he was desperate to get rid of Joe before the merge – which is not a terrible idea in and of itself, given that he’s a floater with attachments to the dominant alliance on the other tribe and also a likely challenge beast, but the problem was that he wanted to throw a challenge to do it. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my brief time watching this show, it’s that any plan that begins with the words “let’s throw a challenge” is never a good one. (Except when Drewchebag did it in San Juan Del Sur, when it was hilarious, but it still wasn’t a good idea for Drew himself.) Mike, Rodney’s apparent partner in crime, was of the opinion that throwing a challenge is a stupid idea – but couldn’t deny that it had its advantages, given that his primary alliance is with Kelly, who’s currently on another tribe, and that by throwing a challenge he was guaranteeing Kelly’s place in the competition for another week, and therefore in all likelihood making the merge at which point they’d be able to work together again.
Pay No Attention To The Items Behind The Curtain: So we went into the Immunity Challenge with, as far as I can tell, Rodney, Mike and maybe Joaquin all planning to throw it, which made things interesting. Well, ish. As interesting as things can get when the outcome is completely preordained, anyway. So the challenge is basically to be on The Generation Game, in that the players took part in a head-to-head game of memorising six items that were then hidden behind a curtain, and had to then replicate the arrangement on a separate podium. There was a bit of a twist in that each player had a lever, and when either lever gets pulled, the curtain drops, so the onus is on everyone to play as speedily as possible and drop the curtain while their opponent is still memorising. Joaquin sat the challenge out for Escameca, and it was a best-of-five match, which instantly created a problem: there were six contestants playing, so one person on each tribe would not have to do anything at all in this task. I don’t really know why that wasn’t taken into account. Nagarote won the first two rounds, then Escameca won the second two (possibly, but not exclusively, because both Escameca players in those rounds were people who weren’t in the whole throw-the-challenge rig), so it came down to Mike vs Kelly. This should have been very straightforward, because Mike was very obviously trying to throw it, but the problem was that Kelly was SO bad at this challenge. So, so bad. Even when Probst took it down to five items, even when Mike told her the answer, she couldn’t get it right. Mike actually had to TELL her to copy his arrangement but just switch two of the items around, and he was not subtle about this, so god knows what everyone who wasn’t privy to the challenge-throwing plan thought was going on here.
The Power Of Two: So Nagarote eventually won immunity, which is delightful if hollow, and Escameca prepared to go to Tribal Council to do their strategic self-sacrifice thing. Rodney started rounding up people to vote out Joe, and was convinced that with Joaquin, Tyler, Mike, Dan and Sierra all on his side, he was sitting pretty. The trouble was that Mike and Dan were getting antsy about just how close Rodney and Joaquin were, in a pretty close imitation of the Lindsey/Sierra bond that was viewed so troublesome a couple of episodes ago. Once again, Mike and Dan decided to split them up before they Joncylned themselves into a power position, so they did their best to woo Sierra over to their side. Obviously this was a tricky task, because it’s not like Sierra likes Dan any more than she likes Rodney, but Dan somehow managed to be fractionally less of a dick than he usually is, enough to make this proposition seem worth considering for Sierra, anyway. The proposal, incidentally, was to take out Joaquin to weaken Rodney, which I get, but: why not just take out Rodney? I guess there’s the risk that Joaquin would flip straight back to his ex-Masaya pals post-merge if his alliance on this tribe is gone, but they don’t have much proof that there’s any alliance for him to go back to: they’ve just seen Max get the boot and for all they know Carolyn and Shirin are next in line. Still, I suppose given the possible chance of Joaquin having nowhere else to go and the relative certainty of Rodney having nowhere else to go, it’s better the devil you know. Anyway, they head off to Tribal Council determined to vote out either Joaquin or Joe, with Sierra as the swing vote. Poor Sierra: given the choice of siding with this misogynistic windbag, or that misogynistic windbag. What a position to be in.
Joaq Of Shame: At Tribal, Probst asked about the dynamics on the new Escameca tribe, and Tyler said that it was obvious that there were fissures for the newcomers to exploit that revolved around Sierra’s general unhappiness with the rest of the former Blue Collars. Sierra told Probst her story, since he hadn’t had a chance to really hear it yet, and said that they were all horrible to her, and then Mike got all “uh, #notallmen” about it, which was probably not the best move right here, I don’t think. Meanwhile Joe glummed that even if all the former Blue Collars did work out their differences and stick together, at least Joaquin and Tyler would have each other, where he would still have absolutely no one in his corner. Poor Woobie Joe. Classic Probst asked Mike if, in fact, Old Escameca is just one of those couples that had a fight but still loves each other deep down, and Mike responded by glomping Sierra, which again: DIAL IT DOWN, MIKE. They went off to vote and we saw Sierra writing “JO” but nothing further. It came down to three apiece for Joaquin and Joe, and the final vote – Sierra’s, of course – is for Joaquin. Apparently Dan really was the lesser of two evils. Who knew? Meanwhile Rodney was very, very confused. Like, counting numbers on his fingers confused. Shit gon’ go down next week, is what I’m saying.
RIP Joaquin’s Magical Ass: Seriously. I will miss you most of all.
Next week: merge!