Mike’s God will be very cross that he’s been worshipping false idols.
Shirin Control: If, during the early stages of this series, you’d told me that a mid-season episode would feature Shirin as a power-move gameplayer who singlehandedly gets to decide who goes home next, I would have said…well, I would have said that you were John from the Purple Rock Podcast. As unlikely as it seems, however, that’s exactly what we got this week, and as I said to my boyfriend near the beginning of the episode, it felt like this was either the episode where Shirin’s overall strategy starts to make sense, or it’s her boot episode. As it turned out it wasn’t quite either, but it was definitely closer to the former than the latter, because once you strip away all of her eccentricities it turns out that Shirin has a good grasp of the mechanics of Survivor. It’s only her appalling social game that’s been tanking her at every turn, but somehow she’s got to the point where it’s become less of a handicap and people are starting to consider her as a vote-for-sale who’s also a perfectly viable goat. It’s not a winning strategy, as far as I can tell, but it at least suggests that Shirin can spin all of this to her advantage if she’s careful. Her first step is to pin a big ol’ target on Mike’s back by announcing, upon their return from Tribal Council, that Mike is a great player of the game and he’s absolutely got her vote to win. Dan, of course, is all “yeah, you’ll vote, because you’ll be on the jury”, because Dan is not really a man with a keen grasp of subtle social interaction, but it’s clear from one or two of the worried glances that Shirin’s words have sounded a few alarms for the likes of Rodney and Tyler. Not content with that, Shirin also starts to speculate to the likes of Mike and Sierra about how powerful Carolyn is, and how she’s basically got Tyler and possibly also Will in her back pocket. Basically for the first half of this week’s episode, Shirin is The Doctor and pretty much half of the Blue Collar alliance is Harriet Jones, looking tired.
Sailing Away: And speaking of viable goats, as we were a little while ago, Jenn’s edit in last week’s promo was far closer to the truth than we gave it credit for being, because Jenn is fed up and wants to go home. As she puts it, “this would suck less if these people sucked less”. She doesn’t want to quit outright, because she’s not a quitter, but Jenn wants to be the next one to go home and is actively campaigning for the vote at the next Tribal Council. This, of course, only makes her more appealing as a goat and therefore more likely to not get voted out – a fact that Jenn is aware of, so she resolves to muster the bare minimum of engagement with the game in the hope that she can be reunited with Hali over on Ponderosa as swiftly as possible.
Hooked On A Feeling: For this week’s reward challenge, Jeff instructs the contestants that they will be “taken up the chocolate café”, which almost certainly was not intended as a euphemism, but I’m going to make regular and enthusiastic use of it all the same. The focus was on the slapstick here, as the contestants had to slide into the ocean (preferably headfirst, although we would also accept rolling down on their sides as long as their limbs are flailing), then splash across a net, then walk across a pole, and then when everyone was assembled on the other side, they had to use a hook to drag five rubber rings over to the platform. The automatic assumption based on last week’s challenge was that whichever team contained Shirin would be at an automatic disadvantage because we’ve seen what she’s like on a balance beam – and this assumption proved correct, as her team’s initial slight lead turned into a considerable trail as she struggled with this section of the task. However, they soon caught up and managed to pull back ahead with the ring-hooking (phrasing) and so Dan, Mike, Sierra, Shirin and Tyler won a trip to the chocolate café. Knowing low-hanging fruit when he sees it, Jeff went to Jenn for her thoughts on losing, and Jenn was all “whatever, this sucks, I don’t even want to be here any more anyway” and then Joe got weirdly prissy about it and was all “I disagree completely, Jenn, we knew we weren’t going to win everything and losing is all part of the experience of being here”. I mean, he’s not wrong, but the way he said it was so old maid-y.
While the winners were off enjoying their chocolate and Shirin was busy making a few more inroads into their alliance, the losers decided to cut their losses by killing one of the chickens. (God, I hope they killed the actual rooster this time, because come on.) Jenn was about as happy about this as she was last time, having apparently assumed squatter’s rights over the chickens because she was the only one who bothered to look after them properly. Rodney was his typical sympathetic self about this, and it all looked set to become another clash of the titans…and then the weirdest thing happened. Rodney started doing impressions of Dan and Mike, doing a surprisingly good job of capturing not just their voices but also their rather pious speech patterns, and completely cracked Jenn up. They actually bonded. So not only did Jenn manage to smile for once in this episode, but it also clued Joe in that the alliance really isn’t that tight at all.
Between A Block And A Hard Place: After a narratively important conversation between Jenn and Joe where she told him that if she won individual immunity she’d give it to him at Tribal Council, thereby ensuring his immunity and everyone else’s ire directed entirely at Jenn, everybody trooped in for this week’s Immunity Challenge, which turned out to be the classic “stand in a wooden frame and balance a block on your head to stop it from falling out” version. Probably the most exciting part of this challenge was Joe falling out in fourth place, after Probst spent the entire challenge narrating Joe’s previous unbroken record in individual challenges (dude, it’s three challenges, he’s hardly Terry Deitz), which should have made this outcome heartbreaking but instead just made me root for someone, anyone else to take it. Interestingly, it came down to a battle of wills between Jenn and Tyler, and while it would have been pretty sweet for Jenn to push it right through to the end, she had one wobble too many and Tyler clinched his first individual immunity of the season.
Head Shirin: (You know, like Ed Sheeran? Oh, never mind.) So with Joe now obviously in the firing line, Shirin came up with a plan. The numbers were such that the other side would be looking to do a vote split (see Dan, she can TOO do math!), but if Joe voted for Jenn and Jenn didn’t vote for Joe and Shirin told them she was voting for Joe but actually voted for Jenn, then it would end up 5-4-1 with Jenn going home and Joe staying. This was a plan that was good for everyone in their alliance…but then Mike decided to call Shirin in and declare that he was interested in her previous offer to vote with them, but she would need to vote for Joe. At this point Shirin had a tough decision to make: stick with her alliance, or flip and vote with Mike’s alliance in the hope of prolonging her game.
Idol Hands: Meanwhile, Joe was busy working on what I believe is called a “hail mary play” in the sports. He’d gradually been accumulating everything he needed to make a fake idol – and being a jewellery designer by trade, he’d be able to make one that was a bit more than a fucking stick with a face on it. The trick was to get the others to leave him alone long enough to do it, so in order to do this, Joe formulated a plan that relied upon the total stupidity of Dan, which is about as bankable an idea as you can get this season. So he called Dan aside to discuss whether there was anything Joe could offer up to save himself for another week, Dan laughed in his face, Joe was all “ah well, can’t blame a guy for trying OKAYBYESEEYOU”, and then Dan returned to camp, blissfully unaware until Mike asked him what the actual fuck he was doing leaving Joe unsupervised. So Joe made his (very convincing) fake idol, and offered it up to Mike in exchange for Joe’s safety at Tribal. Mike insisted on having it before the vote, Joe was all “no deal”, and basically neither trusted the other at all. Still, even knowing that it couldn’t be the idol from the clue the other day, Mike wasn’t entirely sure that it wasn’t the idol from the Escameca camp, and didn’t want to take any chances.
Hair Today: The most important thing that happened at Tribal Council was Joe’s lustrous hair. Seriously, it was amazing. If L’Oréal didn’t call him up the morning after this episode aired, they’re fools. Also, it turns out Hali was a good choice for the first jury member because she scrubs up very well, unsurprisingly. Jeff talked to Jenn about her wanting to quit, and Jenn clarified that she wanted to be voted out, not to quit. She also mentioned that even at this sad, sad stage of the game, there are still some unexpected joys to be found, and cited her newfound love of Rodney’s impressions, and possibly maybe by extension also Rodney. Mike chanced his arm by trying to get Jeff to confirm, pre-voting, whether the idol Joe had just given him was real or fake, and Jeff told him that he couldn’t, so after they voted, Mike decided to play it for Will. I get that he was basically just burning the thing, but the decision to play it for Will is hilarious. Is there even a Will at this point? Has he been relevant at any point? Are we completely sure he’s not just a production staffer who crept onto set and hasn’t been exposed as an imposter yet? Anyway, they all voted, Jenn voted for Dan (because when your vote doesn’t matter, why wouldn’t you?), and Shirin flipped, so Joe went off to the jury and hopefully to some hot oil treatments.
Next week: apparently there is actually a Will? Who knew?