Pre-credit sequence. How will the Beauty Tribe cope without Brice, their self-professed most beautifulest member? “I'm just pretty mad and frustrated,” says Morgan, calling Jeremiah a giant coward. No intellectual slouch, Morgan suspects that since a four-person alliance voted Brice out and since she wasn't part of that alliance, she may be next to go. Accosted by Morgan about his vote, Jeremiah stutters and mutters and says that Brice scared him, socially. “We'll see if I made a bonehead play or not,” Jeremiah tells us. Going on the offensive, Morgan tells Alexis a complicated story about how Jeremiah wanted LJ out, but decided to target Alexis because they still needed LJ for challenges. Alexis is skeptical, but also curious and suggests Jeremiah has a big target on his back now. I hope we don't spend too much time with the Beauty Tribe tonight. They're not personality-filled.
Blind faith. Over at the Brains Tribes, Tree-Mail suggests a challenge involving blindfolding, but also providing protein. Once again, the Brains Tribe decides that preparation will be their answer and they go out onto a field and practice responding to directions. J'Tia, fairly calm at this point, willingly admits that her tribe is hungry because of her and vows to perform well.
Barney's film had heart, but this Reward Challenge has LJ getting hit in the groin. Reward Challenge time. One person will be a caller and everybody else will be blindfolded. Players have to collect five items, hoist them to the caller and then collect a flag. They're playing for three egg-laying hens, plus a rooster. Second place gets a dozen eggs. The real challenge here turns out to be the hoisting. Cliff, Tasha and Alexis are shouting. People are bumping into things. Jeff Probst, mostly narrating every second of the challenge for the benefit of the seeing-impaired, is very excited by people bumping into things. LJ, in particular, is finding his groin to be a frequent target. This is a great challenge if you like watching LJ get whacked in the nads. Otherwise? Beauty and Brains are neck-and-neck. We get to see one last crotchal disaster for Spencer before Beauty finishes first. Can Brain at least get the eggs? They have a huge advantage with their flag, but they can't get the darned thing hoisted. From way back, Brawn grabs the eggs. Probst mocks the Brains. “It's alright. We did a good job,” says J'Tia, who doesn't understand “good job.”
What the cluck? Beauty returns to camp with chickens. Along with their chickens, Beauty also gets a clue, buried in the chicken feed. Whereas Tony was smart enough to hide keep the two clues to himself, Jeremiah ends up reading — Yes, he can read — the clue out-loud to everybody. “The clue was so precise. Thank God, I have it,” says LJ. With that out of the way, we have some important questions to ask. For example: “Does the rooster have to get it on with one of the hens to make eggs?” a confused Alexis asks. “There's been some talk about how this egg-chicken process works, but I really think everybody's just pretending to know and they don't know,” Alexis says. It's a bit awesome. LJ has to explain the ins-and-outs to Alexis, which is disappointing, because I'm 85 percent sure he could convince her that horses also lay eggs. “All I know is it tastes really good,” Jefra says, ending the conversation. Jeremiah hopes to prove his value by choking a chicken. He snaps its neck and off it runs. And this too blows Alexis' mind. [Wait till she hears about Mike the Headless Chicken.] Killing their dinner doesn't earn Jeremiah the respect of Morgan, who even questions his aesthetic credentials to be on the Beauty tribe. Ouch.
Police Cops. Over at the Brawn Tribe, Lindsey and Cliff are bantering, which seems to confirm the lie Tony told Sarah. “You mess with me, I'll mess with you way worse,” threatens the entirely-unmessed-with Sarah, targeting Cliff. She goes to Woo with that familiar point-of-persuasion that Cliff doesn't need the money. This is true, but… Who cares at this point in the game? Woo is weirdly agreeable. They pound on it. Tony gets paranoid, but Sarah tries to reassure him. Tony swears on his badge, which means nothing to him. “I'm here to drag people's dreams through the mud so I can fulfill mine,” Tony says. Sarah, though, is imagining an all-cop Final 2.
Cliff Robinson: An unremarkable .438 from the floor, .689 from the line. Tree-Mail makes reference to sinking a shot. The Brawn Tribe turns to Cliff immediately. See, he played in the NBA and NBA players sink shots. Unless they're DeAndre Jordan at the free-throw line, I mean. “Hopefully it's a walk in the park,” Cliff says, listing his credentials, or at least the number of NBA games he played. The answer? A lot. Sarah goes to Trish and she suggests throwing a challenge. Did she not read the Tree-Mail? Trish is down, if necessary. “But we have the numbers right now,” Woo says sensibly. Woo wants to keep Cliff, but he also wants to keep his core alliance happy. Woo has gone from one of my favorite players to a boring follower in no time flat!
Nothing but net. Set out in the water, the Immunity Challenge involves diving and releasing five buoys. They then have to throw the five buoys into a basket. The challenge begins with J'Tia struggling to get a buoy that's only three feet underwater. J'Tia's uselessness knows no bounds. Sarah is costing the Brawn Tribe time, which we immediately assume suggests the fix is in. Trish follows by struggling, confirming the fix. Then again, Brawn is going to have to throw the challenge hard to keep up with the uselessness of the Brains, which is down to Spencer doing it all. Even Probst is impressed with Spencer. With Jeremiah dominating, Beauty easily finishes first. It's down to Spencer versus Cliff shooting buoys. Guess what? Cliff Robinson has good shooting form. Guess what? J'Tia is useless. Cliff keeps Brawn in it and they finish second. Brains is going to Tribal. “We tried to hard to blow that challenge,” Sarah laughs, blaming Brains for sucking.
Loyalty program. Back to misery for Brains. Spencer is disappointed. He figures he's doing well and everybody is letting him down. He feels “gypped.” Come on, Brain. Avoid the anti-gypsy slurs! “History's definitely not in my favor,” Spencer knows. He makes his case to Kass and Tasha that the only way to keep the tribe strong is to get rid of J'Tia and they can't really disagree. “We can't win with her,” Kass says of J'Tia. Tasha agrees, but they decide not to tell Spencer he's safe, to keep J'Tia feeling confident. J'Tia compares herself to the “Hang in there” cat, knowing that being trustworthy is her only attribute. “I believe J'Tia is a loyal person,” Tasha ponders, now wondering if we're heading for a tribal shuffle. “She's like a pendulum,” Kass says of Tasha.
Tribal Council. Jeff Probst shrugs. And shakes his head. He hates nerds to much. “In high-stress situations, I usually rise to the top,” J'Tia says, claiming that this was the first time she's been weak in a challenge. Tasha is having none of that. “In 'Survivor,' it's not just outplay, it's also outwit,” J'Tia reminds everyone, but Probst has to remind everybody about that whole “outlast” thing. “I just think she's a hothead. But I get her,” Kass reflects, before admitting that tonight she could make a really bad decision. “Unpredictability is just as dangerous as disloyalty,” Spencer argues. “It's crazy. As a viewer, I think I would love it,” Spencer adds. Kass admits that fans are probably yelling at people not to do stupid things, but nobody knows what's stupid. Kass and Tasha keep looking back and forth at each other. Which way will they go?
The vote. Spencer votes for J'Tia. And J'Tia votes for Spencer. Probst tallies: J'Tia. Spencer. J'Tia. And that means that's it. J'TIA. Spencer, immensely grateful, puts his arm around Tasha and promises that she made the right decision. J'Tia admits she was weak in challenges and threw away the rice. “Yeah, those are two really good reasons,” she says. “You live and learn. You make mistakes and you grow. I'm just gonna grow outside the game,” she closes.
Bottom Line, I. Thank heavens. By keeping J'Tia around for two votes, the Brains became a pathetic tribe. The weird/sad thing is that this vote, it would have been much easier to justifiably protect J'Tia both with the potential of a shuffle and, per “scenes from next week's episode” the reality of said shuffle. For the first two votes, when the Brains weakened the tribe, loyalty should have been secondary to not losing. Tonight? Maybe loyalty had value. But probably it didn't. In this sort of season, where is Spencer really going to go? Which alliance is going to welcome a scrawny nerd, even a scrawny nerd who had some worth in a couple challenges. Are the Beauties gonna rush to embrace a potentially conniving Brain? No. And neither are the Brawnians. The remaining brains are pretty much only valuable as potential swing votes for other tribes at this point, at least in the short-term, so J'Tia's loyalty wasn't all that enticing. And there's almost no context in which Spencer's potential disloyalty could ever be a real determining factor in a future vote, at least for Kass and Tasha. They had to keep Spencer around in the hope that there might be another couple Immunities before a Shuffle or Merge. Nope. But no matter what Kass thinks, tonight's vote wasn't a game-determining vote. When the tribe count is 6-5-3? The “three” tribe is probably hosed or piecemeal regardless.
Bottom Line, II. Throwing a “Survivor” challenge is almost always stupidity. Throwing a challenge based on a lie you were told is an extra layer of stupidity. Throwing a challenge when that requires losing in that challenge to an epically bad team makes it even stupider. But throwing a challenge based on a lie when you have to lose to an epically bad team when you have a clue suggesting a basketball component and your team includes A FORMER NBA ALL-STAR? Come on, Sarah. Getting duped by Tony has made Sarah look astoundingly stupid for two episodes after she was made to look fairly smart in the premiere. Tony is such an icky, smug, *obvious* player. People like Tony really don't win “Survivor.” Because people normally don't get duped by them. So Sarah looks sad and Woo looks bad because he's following Sarah and betraying Cliff way too early in the game. The “Player Who Already Has Money doesn't need more money” argument is one you make or fall for much later, isn't it? Because if you're making it in the first three weeks of a season, “Survivor” probably shouldn't bother casting people who aren't poor. But “Survivor” isn't a charity. If it's a pseudo cross-section, sometimes you're gonna have people who come from professions that get paid. Until the “Survivor” slogan becomes “Outplay, Outwit, Outlast, Need Money,” I'm never going to particularly respect the plea Woo fell for. At least Sarah didn't mean it. She wanted Cliff out because he was allegedly targeting her, not because he didn't need the money. That was just a ruse that Woo bought. But that was just about the stupidest possible challenge for Brawn to try to throw.
Bottom Line, III. I thought last week was a dud, but this week was better. You had Sarah's infuriating stupidity. You had Beauty pondering chicken biology. You had Brains sucking more. I don't think “Survivor” did a good job of casting for a Beauty/Brawn/Brains separation and the twist has floundered as a result, forcing the editors to reenforce stereotypes just to justify the “social experiment.” The pending shuffle is probably for the best and it'll give us our first indication of whether or not this could evolve into a good season. So I'm looking forward to that.