Pre-credit sequence. Interesting interpretation in the recap, suggesting that the men got rid of Marissa out of “vengeance.” This is probably true, but it’s much more passionate than the noncommittal audience-blindside we got last week. She arrives at Redemption Island, where she’s hugged by Candice and Rupert, who have no clue who she is. “People had the audacity to put a frowny face next to my name like they were upset about it,” says Marissa, who describes herself as “pissed off” and places the full blame on Gervase. Rupert is just glad that Marissa isn’t Laura. Rupert and Candice agree that they’re also pissed off.
Rub-a-Dub. We start with the Returning players at Galang. They’re in harmony. That’s why they’re doing a congo line of massaging. Laura is literally right in the middle of things. The only person not participating in the group rub-down is Colton, who is sick of pretending to be Zen. He’s here to play “Survivor,” though Monica tries telling him that patience is part of “Survivor.” Colton, of course, has no clue how to play “Survivor,” but he knows how to get on camera. “I don’t want to live with these people. I don’t want this to be the Final 9,” says Colton, who just wants to get to Caleb. So Colton starts striving to throw people under the bus and rock the boat, which pisses Aras and Gervase off. Along with Tina, they try to make Colton promise that nobody will talk “Survivor” for the rest of the day, or until they lose a challenge. This is not what Colton wants to hear. “We are peace. We are Zen. We are stupid!” Colton says. Oy.
Teach a tribe to fish and they… Zzzz. At Tadhana, the new players are bouncing back. They have flint and fire. They also have fish, because it turns out that Brad is good with fishing and he’s willing to teach people. He may earn that last-name-only appellation yet! Rachel is worried that because she’s a woman, she may be on the outs with Brad’s all-guy alliance. This is “fishy” to Teen Mom, who is 75 percent confident that Rachel and John have an alliance, which she tells Katie. Poor Rachel. Or something.
Spool’s out forever. We get to Redemption Island and both tribes are already crying as they see who is and isn’t still there. Rupert comes out. Laura cries. Candice comes out. John cries. Marissa comes out and glowers at her tribe. “My performance did not lose at our challenge,” Marissa says, warning Gervase that she went home because he rubbed salt in their open wounds. “I’m gonna rub some more. I promise you that,” Gervase. He’s given the chance to replace Marissa in the challenge, but he tells her, “Handle your biz.” Heh. Weenie. The challenge requires players to stack 10 spools, spools that they have to navigate through a precarious structure. The first person who finishes gets to give one person a clue to a Hidden Immunity Idol. The first two to finish stay alive. Candice and Rupert get out to a lead with eight stacks apiece, but Marissa isn’t far behind. Down go Rupert’s spools and he’s back to one. Candice finishes first and she’s safe. Rupert is rushing through this and it isn’t paying off, because Marissa has nine spools to Rupert’s five. With Gervase coaching, Marissa finishes and survives! Rupert’s fourth trip to “Survivor” was a brief one. “I’m sorry,” he tells Laura. “Never went to Tribal. Never got a vote,” Rupert says, maintaining that he has no regrets, because he loves “Survivor,” but he loves Laura more. Candice has to choose who gets the clue, but she doesn’t hesitate, giving it to John. Hmmm… I guess if she assumes she’s never going to integrate with the Returning tribe then that makes sense. John’s relieved.
John can’t do anything right. The Newbies return to camp. John is still gushing at Candice’s win, though he’s worried about Marissa’s anger and how that might drive her. Suddenly, Vytas has a grasp of strategy in this game. He figures that if they vote Rachel out, there’s a better chance he’d switch places with her, so that’s potentially taking out one of the strongest players in the game. That’s at least forward-thinking. John, though, doesn’t want a strong player against Candice. Brad is glad to have John in an alliance with him, but he says that potentially this could make him a target. John thinks he knows where the clue is steering him and he decides to be private with the information and not share with his group.
Let Colton be Colton. “I am surprisingly OK with this,” Laura says, back at the Returning camp, saying she has a sense of relief. Everybody hugs her and consoles her and makes her feel like part of the group. And you *know* who hates that. “I don’t mind campfire-side chats or whatever, but that’s all they want to do,” Colton rages. “Do you think this is a YMCA camping trip where we talk about how we want to improve ourselves? You know how I want to improve myself? By getting a million dollars,” Colton says. He decides to push people against each other, targeting Laura, among other people. “I do not way to play against Colton,” worries Kat, who knows that Colton thrives on hating people, so she goes to Colton and tells him that Tina is concerned about his strategizing. But Kat won’t tell Colton everything he wants to know, so he turns on her anyway. “When I’m angry, I turn into like a raging bitch and hopefully this camp will turn into chaos, because there’s one thing I know: I can rule in chaos,” Colton tells us, before confronting Tina and then Kat. “You don’t want to deal with drama for 39 days,” Tina worries. Colton calls a team meeting about burying the hatchet. “I think he came out here wanting to be different from the person he was and he pretended to be for a day-and-a-half,” Tyson cackles, suggesting that Colton’s about to play himself out of the game. “These people need to experience Tribal Council and realize this is a game. This isn’t ‘National Lampoon’s Horrible Vacation,'” says Colton, who hopes the tribal gets slaughtered at the next challenge.
Get ready for “Survivor 28: Russell Hantz vs. Gay Russell Hantz.” “I woke up this morning and everyone’s being super-sketchy,” Colton says, claiming he doesn’t know why. Monica tries to reassure Colton that he’s OK, but she tells us that the Old Monica died in Samoa. Tyson leads a group discussion saying that the only way to prevent Colton’s bitchy reign is to be honest with each other and not to let him foment distrust. “He is a Gay Russell Hantz,” says Aras, who worries about Colton’s bullying. Tyson, Aras, Tina, Monica and Gervase form a “communication” alliance. Monica’s comfortable with this group because of all of their life experience. Why is Monica back on “Survivor”?
Roll out the Barrel. Immunity is back up for grabs. Three tribe members are tied together and have to push barrels holding another players. The players in the barrels have to get out and untie bags containing balls. Then teams have to roll the balls into holes. Or something. They’re also playing for Reward in the form of fishing gear. Kat sits out for the Returnees. I like the inside-barrel-cam, but they mostly aren’t using it, because mostly they don’t want me to puke on my laptop. The tribes are even for much of the barrel-rolling, but the Newbies get a small lead before ball-rolling. There are six balls and six holes and Hayden gets his tribe out to a 3-1 lead, but Gervase ties things up. We’re tied at 4, but Gervase scores the last two balls and the Returnees win. “MARISSA! THAT’S FOR YOU, BABY!” Gervase bellows, rubbing the promised salt. Consider the Newbies CURED, baby. That was a salt joke. Who will Brad punish for Gervase’s hubris this time?
“Blood vs. Water” is finally just “Penises vs. Vaginas.” Bugs. Everywhere. So many icky bugs. “We beat them in the first Leg,” somebody says, as if that was meaningful. “Is it just me or is Gervase as stupid as he looks?” says Brad, who says he wants a physical challenge so that he can bet Gervase up. That’s not figurative. Brad just wants to beat Gervase up. Yeah. I kinda hate Brad. Strategically the All-Male alliance targets Rachel either to get Tyson to Redemption Island or to mess with Tyson’s head. The only one who doesn’t want that is John, which causes Vytas to have doubts about John. Vytas and Hayden go to Katie, who effectively makes pushes more suspicion onto John’s loyalties. They agree that Teen Mom is the dummy vote and tell her not to worry. This, of course, makes Teen Mom worry, because nobody knows if John as the Idol yet. Katie and Teen Mom decide they want to vote against John, who doesn’t want Rachel out, but is still going along. But John keeps looking for the Idol by himself and that makes John sketchy. Vytas, Hayden and Caleb all have issues and Vytas thinks it’s time to vote John out. He doesn’t want to be the one to split up the men, though, so if a blindside is coming, it’ll be a blindside on us.
Tribal Council. Jeff Probst points out that it’s 5-3 for the men and Teen Mom knows that they’re vulnerable. “The guys have bonded together in a way that’s just how things have gone,” Hayden says, while maintaining that they haven’t necessarily *not* formed an alliance. Caleb agree that there’s a target on John because of the Idol clue, while Brad agrees that John should confess if he has the Idol. “Potentially we could weaken their tribe by voting somebody out tonight,” Hayden tells Probst before the voting.
The vote. Somebody votes Rachel. Was that Rachel or Teen Mom who voted John? I can’t tell them apart from overhead yet. Nobody plays an Idol and Probst tallies: John. John. Ciera. Rachel. Rachel. Rachel. RACHEL. That’s it for Rachel. “Peace guys,” are Rachel’s departing words. Probst tells the Newbies that they have to win the next challenge. “It wasn’t a huge surprise to me. I was a girl in a guy-dominated tribe,” she either tells us or the women on Redemption Island.
Bottom Line, Part I. Oh well. Bye Rupert. I can’t imagine anybody missing Rupert all that much. The fact is that Redemption Island challenges almost always tend in the direction of endurance or puzzling, so there was never going to be the sort of brute strength Redemption Island challenge that would have helped Rupert knock off a pair of athletic women. As for tonight’s vote, I like it because Vytas raised exactly the strategic interest that I mentioned last week, exactly the sort of twist that could eventually pay dividends this season, even if it isn’t necessarily working yet. My own instinct, having seen Tyson play several times, would be that Tyson would never even consider taking himself out of the main game for somebody else, but the scenes from next week indicate that there’s at least the possibility. As long as the guys were targeting women, though, there wasn’t any strategic purpose in voting anybody else out. What do you gain from sending Tina to Redemption Island or knocking her out of the game? What do you gain from sending Laura to Redemption Island or knocking her out of the game? The only question was whether Rachel was a big upgrade over Katie and Teen Mom in the challenges, in which case Vytas’ next-level thinking got ahead of itself. But I’m not going to criticize anybody for next-level thinking on “Survivor.” He had a tangible reason for wanting Rachel out and that’s much better than what Brad had in targeting Marissa last week. In fact, Brad stirred the Gervase hornet’s nest for absolutely no good reason and weakened his tribe last week. I dislike Brad an awful lot. I also dislike John, who is playing the most superficial game possible. He’s doing everything possible to put a target on himself and practically begging the men to toss their alliance away. Vytas has one piece of next-level strategy, but another plausible piece of next-level strategy is that once somebody’s partner is already on Redemption Island, you might as well send them as well so that you can eliminate dangerous swing pairings and introduce the possibility of free radicals post-Merge. Because things aren’t going to get genuinely interesting until we either shuffle or merge. But even then, I’m not sure on the potential for interest, because none of the returning players are bonded in a way where their primary alliances wouldn’t be to blood.
Bottom Line, Part II. Colton is icky. Colton is very icky. But you know what? Colton is probably right in this case, at least from his point of view. In a discordant tribe, he can instigate and maybe make things ugly and in the chaos, perhaps he can target insecurities and make a couple votes go unexpected ways. What else did Colton have working in his favor? He was always going to be in danger, because he’s icky and awful and untrustworthy. And he was never going to be a factor either in challenges for his own tribe or on Redemption Island. In a neat and orderly game, his only chance was to spend 36 days pretending to be New and Reformed Colton. And he couldn’t do that. Because he’s icky. Also, how dull would the Returnee tribe be without Colton? We’d just never see them, because why would we want to. And with the Newbies not instantly emerging as lovable or exciting… Well, in a poorly cast season, I guess you need Colton. I would prefer a better cast. I don’t get what I want.