By Mike Ladue
Last week, I rambled on about how loyalty is an important factor when voting at Tribal Council. It's not the only factor, however, as Loyalty + Physical Prowess > Loyalty + Choking In Every Challenge Ever.
On the Beauty tribe, things looked bleak for Morgan. Being down by 3+ in numbers is never a good position to be in, and few rarely recover. Those that do -- Sandra in HvV, Danni in Guatemala -- often go the distance. But Morgan showed some promise, taking a page from Tony and dropping some white lies. Did Jeremiah want LJ out that badly? That's not how I remember it, but the story was believable enough (and honestly, Morgan was defeated enough) for the target to stick. All of a sudden, Jeremiah's vote looks like a bad decision. TOLDJA!
The Beauty tribe dominated both challenges, the first being one of the all-time best sources of physical humor the show can deliver. Look back at All-Stars' puzzle bloodbath, or even Colby drenching Jerri with water in Australia. This season's didn't disappoint, as apparently John Kirhoffer and the challenge crew decided to build all the protruding rails at crotch height. Poor LJ and Spencer. Were I in their shoes, I'd hold the bag in front of my waist to protect it from sharp, pointy hazards.
The second was tailor-made for the Brawns, who couldn't manage to throw the challenge against the pitiful Brains. (Flashbacks to Matty single-handedly preventing the pole-balancing challenge from being thrown in Gabon!) Cliff, who's played more NBA games than Michael Jordan, only narrowly managed to out-shoot Spencer. Maybe it was Jeff's incessant coaching from the sidelines that distracted him? The man has hosted Rock & Roll Jeopardy and Survivor; ESPN is the obvious next step in his Trivial Pursuit-like journey through television. Or maybe it was how the challenge was subliminal plugging for CBS' March Madness tourney? Regardless, Cliff should be even more ashamed than Spencer for missing those shots.
Speaking of ashamed… Sarah. Sarah should be ashamed. She's running around like a chicken with her head cut off (or twisted off, in the case of the Beauty tribe. Also, how ridiculous was the whole egg debacle? So ridiculous). She's fallen right into Tony's trap and is gunning for Cliff/Lindsay. She turned to Woo, an established Cliff-Hanger(™), and made some pretty convincing arguments towards getting him out. All of these, however, conflict with my pro-tips.
SURVIVOR PRO TIP #5: Don't throw the challenge. You will lose momentum and you will lose sleep and you will lose numbers and you will lose the game. Unless you're Richard Hatch and you've established an endgame where the only way you win a million dollars is if you drop out of the final challenge, give it your all. Cliff won't go on an Immunity run post-merge and you can easily blindside him then.
SURVIVOR PRO TIP #6: Celebrity = Goat. Remember how I suggested you find the most likable person on the island and quickly dispose of him/her? This rule trumps that one. There is NO WAY a celebrity will defeat a single mom or a college student in a jury situation. Cliff has (or had and lost) millions of dollars, and no matter how well he plays, he's not getting another big check. Lisa Whelchel played strong enough to garner at least a few votes in Philippines, but the fact she was a former child star (and, worse, lied about it) nullified any jury traction. You've gotta be a real scumbag to lose a jury vote to a celeb -- in which case, there's no way you'd ever win Survivor.
But it looks like Woo's on board… I think? Watching him scuffle away from Sarah, shouting "WE'RE GOOD!", when Tony approached leads me to believe he's a nervous player. Nervous players are easily swayed. Once Cliff approaches Woo with another deal, Woo's probably jumping back in the (sinking) canoe with him.
So far, Tony's plan is working. Sarah is off his trail and targeting Cliff. Woo is apparently intimidated by his presence. His house of cards is immaculately constructed. By swearing on his badge and talking about "dragging dreams through the mud" he's shown shades of Jonny Fairplay and Tyson, in addition to his already Hantz-ian behavior. But, to me, it all feels so forced, so unnatural, so… pathetic? Tony is a good cop trying to play bad cop. I'm not buying it.
Which brings us to the Brains, in last again thanks to J'Tia. Not since Crystal Cox has a contestant been so spectacularly bad at challenges. Sure, swimming is hard. Puzzles are hard. But placing a flag on a platform and lifting a rope is NOT hard, compared to what Spencer's crotch went through. (For all my Archer fans, this is where you yell "Phrasing!')
The meta commentary from Spencer and Kass at tribal was great. The audience is treated (or sometimes nauseated) by edits handed down from the production gods that foreshadow certain player's worth. We can surmise, for instance, come finale night Jeff won't be handing a million-dollar check to Lindsay. While on the island, in the moment, Lindsay is just as viable a contender as anybody else. How can you possibly predict who's going to help your game?
SURVIVOR PRO TIP #7: Know Your Survivor History. Kass and Tasha racked their brains over whether a merge or tribe swap was coming. The answer, to Survivor super fans, is an obvious yes. There have only been two other seasons in which 18 players were divided among 3 tribes, All Stars and Philippines, and in both of those seasons, tribes were shuffled after 4 eliminations. With this being the 4th Tribal of the season, odds are Kass and Tasha would soon be playing with new blood -- and as the scenes for next week show us, this is exactly the case.
That doesn't automatically mean keep the loyal J'Tia and cut the alienated Spencer. The shuffles in question weren't your run of the mill tribe swaps -- in each instance, the last-place tribe in a reward challenge would be absorbed into the other tribes. If Kass, Tasha and their third amigo lost the challenge, two of them go to Team Beauty (or whatever the name we actually have to learn now), one to team Brawn, to even things out 7-7. In order to stay intact, they need to win. To win, frankly, they need Spencer.
Spencer gets MVP this week for not only putting on a good show at the Immunity challenge, but also convincing Kass and Tasha he's not jumping ship the first chance he gets. And I believe him! He doesn't seem live a spiteful guy, especially because the ladies on the tribe have shown him respect. When Cochran flipped on his Savaii tribe in South Pacific, it was because he'd been mercilessly bullied. Shambo in Samoa, too. I guess that's SURVIVOR PRO TIP #8: Don't Be A Bully.
In my opinion, the Brains made the right choice. Best case scenario, Spencer seems loyal enough and will probably be more of an asset in socializing and swaying stragglers than J'Tia. Worst case, Spencer is picked off first due to his strength, buying Kass & Tasha 3 more days.
Up For Grabs (Formerly Random Thoughts):
-Episode MVP: Spencer.
-Winner Pick: Sarah, for at least one more week, because of the whole "two cops in the finals" runner. I don't think it's Tony. It's not Lindsay, Cliff, Woo, Alexis, LJ, Jeremiah, Jefra or Trish. That leaves us with Tasha, Kass, Spencer and Morgan still in the running.
-Historically, cops suck at Survivor. The average placement of acting/former police officers is 14.25 (counting Debb, Maralyn, Jessie, Ken, Amy, Cristina, Betsy and Mark/Papa Bear. Wow, lots of lady cops!)
-Fallen Comrades: You hung in there for as long as you could, girl, and I applaud you for that. Kass and Tasha nearly kept you! You nearly made the tribe swap! There's no telling how far you could have inched along, you poor little pawn. At least you're a winner outside of the game.
-Having two challenges per week is good for most fans of the show, bad for me and the blog, but I obviously still found A LOT to say.
-Did the Brains make the right move? What'll happen in the upcoming tribe swap? And where do chickens come from?? Share your thoughts in the comments or with me on Twitter, @miketvladue.