Outside Chance: Jenn’s exit in the previous episode was sad for a number of reasons: primarily because she was a snarky, fun presence on the show, but also because it essentially meant that Mike and Shirin’s numbers situation was entirely hopeless, and left them basically sat around waiting to be picked off by the dominant alliance. Their only hope of survival, other than Mike’s secret immunity idol, was the remote possibility that Mike’s words about Dan and Sierra were on the bottom of the alliance, and since this would involve a) Dan having even a modicum of self-awareness and/or b) Sierra taking any kind of active role in the strategic game, this definitely felt like a long shot. To be fair, they had a discussion about it and debated whether they should do anything, but Dan drew a line under the incident by saying that just because Mike was talking about it, it doesn’t make it true. Which is an entirely valid point, but it kind of sucks for Dan that, at this point in the game at least, it seemed that Mike was 100 per cent accurate in his analysis: there was indeed a core four with Dan and Sierra lurking on the outside.
Dan Has Talked To Hundreds Of Girls, Remember: After the intense ugliness of last week’s Tribal Council, Dan decided to apologise to Shirin. Well, “apologise” in the absolute loosest sense of the word, because he was being very Dan about it – he came over and told Shirin that he was sorry about what happened, she asked specifically which part he was sorry about, and Dan replied “the part that made tears come to your eyes.” Could Dan be any more of an utter fucking creeper? Much like with Sierra before the merge, Dan’s apology was very much of the “I’m sorry you were offended by the entirely justified things that were said” variety, and was followed up by a Danterview where he called her a liar and a drama queen. I love how the editors are so determined to hang him out to dry this season (not that I suspect he needs the help) – I wonder if the casting team slipped them a little incentive to stop him from bothering them ever again. Afterwards, Shirin interviewed that she doesn’t normally cry, “but I kind of have a Pavlov’s dogs response to men yelling at me.” And then I cried too. God, Dan’s the worst.
A Barrel Of Laughs: At least having two people on the outs adds an element of interest to the reward challenges, because it’s no longer just about who gets to go and eat chicken wings in a treehouse, but about whether those who are seemingly circling the drain can use the away time on the reward to find/create/expand cracks in the majority alliance. So the eight remaining contestants were divided into two teams: Mike, Shirin, Rodney and Sierra vs Dan, Will, Carolyn and Tyler. It was a slightly odd challenge, where each team had to make their way across a large patch of beach divided into three sections using just a batch of barrels and planks. The rules were that once they got going, if any planks or human beings touched the ground, they would have to return to the start of that section. Now, you might think that the team comprised of Tyler, Carolyn, Fatty 1 and Fatty 2 would be absolutely screwed from the very beginning here, and it did look like that at first as the others edged into the lead – but it became a tortoise-and-hare situation as the scattershot approach of Mike’s team (which seemed to revolve around everyone huddling on one barrel while he rolled around on the other three trying to arrange some sort of walkway) started to fall apart while Carolyn’s team made slow but steady progress. After a slip-up that sent them back to the beginning of the third section, in desperation they put each of the barrels on its side and tried to roll them to the end by running on top of them. This was mostly hilarious because Sierra’s stated occupation is “barrel racer” and since I don’t really know what that is, I decided that this must be what she actually does for a living. Anyway, the brave but foolhardy effort failed and Will, Dan, Carolyn and Tyler won the chance to eat giant burgers on a catamaran. Dan made a face of sadness and told Jeff it was because Rodney hadn’t had any awards, and Jeff (who has been absolutely on point this season) told Dan he was entitled to give up his share of the reward so Rodney could go. Fortunately for Dan, he was saved the job of making an embarrassing retraction by Rodney insisting that he will earn his reward fair and square, thanks.
Pleading The Third: While nursing their hurt pride back at camp, Sierra took advantage of the other four’s absence by going to Rodney and suggesting that this might be a good time to get rid of Tyler, who is both a challenge threat and a jury-vote threat. (While Sierra was busy actively strategising, Satan sighed and took his snowshoes out of storage.) She put forward the idea that it wasn’t entirely necessary to get rid of Shirin yet, because nobody on the jury would vote for her. The one really interesting thing at this point is that virtually everyone still in the game is very confident that Shirin has no support on the jury, which is not how I see it at all: assuming Shirin made the final and Mike didn’t, I think she’d have a good chance of getting Hali’s, Joe’s, Jenn’s and Mike’s votes. Anyway, Sierra’s request fell on deaf ears, as Rodney informed her that he was not intending to get rid of Tyler until top six at least, and then gave a confessional where he discussed the sound strategy of his plan while talking about himself in the third person a lot. Dude, I know Monica Culpepper, and you are no Monica Culpepper. Meanwhile on the reward, Carolyn and Tyler actually did a nice job of reeling in Dan, because he is genuinely so stupid that he doesn’t realise the Core Four were planning to shank Mike all along. Dan thinks he is a genius. Dan is not a genius. (Also this section was very hard to watch because all four of these people are awful and do not deserve to be rewarded for anything in any circumstances.)
Wet Play: For this week’s immunity challenge, the contestants had to hold on to a spool of rope which was attached to a bag that weighed 25 per cent of their body weight when they first arrived on the show. If allowed to unspool completely, the bag would drop and cause a bucket of water to fall on that player’s head. Much like when this task was used in Philippines, individual immunity was on offer for the top-placing man and the top-placing woman. (I would say “transparent attempt to save Shirin is transparent”, but given what sort of challenge this is, I’m not sure that even narrowing the field of competitors to two gave her that much of an advantage.) Interestingly, Sierra went out first due to a badly-timed bout of sweaty palms, and was followed by Dan, Will, Tyler and Shirin, leaving Carolyn to get the women’s immunity necklace. Just Mike and Rodney were left to play for the other one, but Mike was in a much stronger position while Rodney was gripping on for dear life, so despite Dan whispering encouragement to Rodney LIKE A FUCKING CREEPER, Mike won individual immunity again. Oh well, bye Shirin…
Shirin, Sheep: Still, Shirin wasn’t about to go down without a fight and I applaud her for that. First she went to Dan, who literally spent the entire conversation spitting out the contents of his water bottle while repeatedly saying “I’m listening” like he’s Frasier fucking Crane or something, because he genuinely one of the grossest human beings ever to compete on this show. And that is a high bar, as we all know. Shirin, in a reasonably sound bit of strategy, told Dan that she would be voting for Tyler, and that he should too, because Tyler is a threat to win and their alliance of six can’t all be in the final together. Having made her point there, she then went over to Sierra and said that she couldn’t come up with a single decent gameplay-related reason why she (Shirin) should be voted out. In the face of direct confrontation, Sierra mumbled something about needing to stick with the rest of her alliance, and later admitted in a confessional that she did genuinely want to get rid of Tyler, but she didn’t particularly trust Shirin as an alliance-mate either.
While all of this was going on, Tyler remembered about Dan’s advantage and decided that he was going to come up with a way to get into his bag and find out what it was. The ingenious method that Tyler finally used to carry out his devious plot was…finding Dan’s bag entirely unattended and opening it. God, Tyler is just the lamest. Having established that Dan’s advantage is having two votes to play, Tyler ran straight to Carolyn and told her, because she’s got him well and truly whipped at this point.
Family Matters: Jeff’s first question at Tribal Council was whether Will and Shirin had made up yet, to which the answer was of course “duh”. Will insisted that he wouldn’t apologise to Shirin, because it wouldn’t be sincere. (Will is clearly from that breed of very special reality TV asshole who insists that they have to be “real”, which generally means being a giant dickhead and expecting to never have to apologise for it.) Jeff asked Shirin what it meant for her to hear everyone else talking about playing for their families at home when she doesn’t really have one, and rather than point out that everyone who says stuff like that is completely full of shit (because they always are), Shirin said that she was playing for her boyfriend, his family, and her best friends.
For reasons best known to himself, Dan decided to make this his own personal “hold up, bro” moment and intervened, telling Jeff that ACTUALLY Shirin isn’t the only one with no family, because he’s adopted. Sure, he has a wife and kids and everything now, but that’s all meaningless because he’s ADOPTED and having an adopted family is just the worst, right? Jeff, never for a second willing to let any of Dan’s bullshit lie long enough to gather dust, asked Dan if that meant he’d experienced domestic violence as a child as well. Dan, insistent: “I was adopted, Jeff.” And at that point Jeff had to very firmly point out to Dan that being adopted and living in fear because your father is abusive are not equivalent situations. And once again I find myself pointing out that when Jeff Probst is standing back and singling you out as the asshole, you really want to reconsider your choices. (I wonder how Dan’s adoptive parents felt, watching this? Not thrilled, I assume, though perhaps they’re already well aware of the monster they had a hand in creating.)
Anyway, having let Dan swing in the wind long enough, Mike decided it was time to get serious and pulled out his hidden immunity idol. He informed them all that he would be playing it for Shirin tonight, that she would be voting for Tyler, that he would be voting for ONE OF THE REST OF THEM, and that they should decide quickly who’s going because it won’t be him or Shirin. And, well, YEAH. That is basically how you use an idol in modern Survivor. Aside from the teeny, tiny drawback that Mike has already shown at last week’s auction that his word isn’t exactly his bond, that was pretty much flawless idol play. Tyler pointed out, slightly panicked, that Mike can’t be trusted for that exact reason, and implored everyone to stay as a strong six. The jury lapped this up, and everyone went off to vote. Of course, when Jeff asked if anyone wanted to play an idol, Mike told Shirin that he loved her and put it back in his pocket. The votes were read: two votes for Tyler, two votes for Dan, and four votes for Shirin. The sixliance applauded themselves for staying strong and not panicking, even though, as Mike pointed out, at least two of them cracked and flipped. (Tyler and Will both voted for Dan, just to clarify. Mike and Shirin voted for Tyler.)
Next: Dan’s angry about having his name written down, and Rodney threatens to quit. Yeah, that’s happening.