Pre-credit sequence. “That was the first time I’ve ever come close to wetting myself,” Julia says as Bikal returns to camp. Good to know, Julia. I mean, we don’t know anything else about you, but you’re not incontinent. And that’s a start! Michael already misses his buddy Matt, but he vows to keep trying to build friendships. Fortunately, Corinne is more friendship than any one gay dude could ever possible need. Corinne wants to protect Michael, but she isn’t ready to flip on Phillip just yet. So she tells Michael they just need to make it to the Merge. “I want her gone,” Phillip tells Cochran. “Not next, though?” Cochran asks. Phillip does, indeed, want Corinne next, no matter how sensibly Corchran protests that if won’t look good after a Merge. Well, if Phillip can’t get rid of Corinne, he’s willing to take out “her new gay friend” if he has to.
Lincoln Hawk Lives. We’re sticking with Bikal. Tree-Mail says something about the strong bearing the weak. “We have plenty of the latter of that category,” Cochran says happily. But Phillip says that he thinks he can win any challenge involving strength. Any challenge. “I only do what you call ‘power lifting,'” Phillip says of his deceptive strength. Phillip revels beating men who look stronger or think they’re stronger. And he decides to teach Cochran about arm-wrestling. This is some “Over the Top” stuff. Cochran comes away semi-impressed with Phillip’s might, or at least he comes away amused. Or bemused. Phillip, without irony, announces he has “the will of a lion and the determination of a gorilla” and he’s ready to show that he still has game. I can’t help but feel like this is foreshadowing.
Weight Weight, Don’t Tell Me. Time for Reward. It’s that classic challenge where they move together as a tribe, each carrying 20-pound sandbags, with people handing off weight as they get tired. Want to know what they’re playing for? A “Survivor”-style coffee bar and a guaranteed caffeine-and-sugar-crash. This ought to be a rout, right? I mean, there’s no plausible way Bikal could win, is there? Phillip takes the lead for Bikal, while Erik paces Gota. In no time, Gota is gaining on Bikal, which prompts Brenda, sitting out the challenge, to do a Happy Dance. Gota gets closer, as Phillip begins saying he’s tired and can’t run. “If this a strategy, it’s a strange one,” Jeff Probst says of Bikal. Dawn goes out for Bikal and puts her weight on Corinne. Brenda is giddy and ready for the coffee bar. Gota puts on a charge. Brenda’s bouncing up and down. Phillip falls down and Gota catches up to win Reward. “Worst strategy ever,” Julia groans. Brenda dances again. I believe we’ve found Brenda’s purpose in this “Survivor” season. “They’re going to get sick. It’s not a big deal,” Dawn grumbles, before criticizing Phillip’s arrogance. “He sees all of his strengths and none of his weaknesses,” Dawn says.
The Bacchanalian Bachelor. Coffee break! The pastries look fantastic and Adorable Andrea sees this as a chance to finally bond with the Fans, who have never won a Reward. Andrea wants the Fans to have good times and remember them before she votes them out. “I’m a Bacchanalian. Life is meant to indulge in glorious abundance,” Reynold says. Malcolm loves everybody and kisses them all on the head. “Caffeine’s starting to kick in,” Malcolm tells his tribe. “All we do is win challenges and party,” Malcolm says of his happy tribe, but he warns us that he’s getting his pieces in order to take control in the game.
I had a “Dukes of Hazzard” lunchbox that could have made me tubby. “They had every component you needed to win that challenge,” says Phillip, who’s actually confused as to whether that was a Reward or Immunity challenge. “You tubby lunchbox. I have yet to see any abs on you,” Corinne says of Phillip, who she calls “an amoeba.” Cochran still wants to vote off a Fan, but he’s worried his fellow Favorites are ready to devour themselves, especially with Michael’s wheeling and dealing. Then Cochran unloads on Julia. “I’m tempted to say that she has a vanilla personality, but that would be doing a great disservice to the flavor of vanilla. I mean, people actively seek out vanilla-flavored products. Children clamor to get a vanilla ice cream cone. Nobody’s clamoring for anything Julia-flavored, except for Phillip,” Cochran says. Dang. It’s like Cochran versus Corinne as tonight’s quote machines. Phillip, meanwhile, tells Julia that he wants to make her into a double-agent. He makes no promises, but tells him she can go forward. Julia isn’t intimidated by Phillip, but she’s prepared to stick with him until he drives everybody crazy.
The Malcolm before the storm. TARSIER! I don’t think we saw the tarsier at all last week. Back at Gota, they’re talking about their advantage, but also eying a Merge. Malcolm knows that the Alpha Males — himself, Erik, Reynold and Eddie — will have trouble after a Merge, so he tries to create an alliance, starting with Reynold. “In a game where you cannot trust anybody, it’s hard to tell,” Reynold says, believing that he sees a kindred spirit in Malcolm, while he also admits that it could be a nail in his coffin if he’s wrong. Reynold tells Malcolm about his Idol, which wins some of Malcolm’s trust, but not enough trust for Malcolm to tell Reynold about his own Idol. Malcolm’s bursting at the seams to turn the game upside down, though that’ll only be necessary if Gota actually loses something.
Fu Paws. MONKEYS! Dawn tries to sound Julia out for long-term strategizing. “I definitely feel like I’m being a little bit bullied,” Julia tells Dawn of her alliance with Phillip. “What if everyone just overthrew Phil,” Julia proposes idly to Dawn, which proves to Dawn that Julia is alive. But Dawn goes to Phillip to tell him about Julia’s loose lips, constituting what I’m pretty sure Phillip calls a major “fu paws.” Suddenly, Phillip’s double-agent is no more and he’s targeting Julia as the next bootee.
Paddle to the sea. Immunity is back up for grabs. People have to paddle into the water to find a statue. Other players have to use a grappling hook to get keys. And… whatever. Like every other imaginable challenge, this seems to be right in the Gota wheelhouse. In the early-going, it’s a surprisingly close race, dominated mostly by Brenda’s squirming. There’s a lot of yelling about “clipping in,” but Gota gets to the expected lead, with Reynold grappling against Phillip. Reynold really is very good at challenges. I may not like him, but he’s good at what he does. Reynold gets all five keys and he and Adorable Andrea attempt to unlock something. They pull the rope and unleash their flag, winning their third straight challenge since the shuffle.
WWBRD. Bikal returns in defeat. Again. Poor Bikal. “Those things would be a lot of fun if you didn’t have so much riding on it,” Michael laments. Phillip takes Cochran aside to make a confession. “I didn’t want to win that challenge,” Phillip tells Cochran, explaining his allegedly intentional failures with the grappling hook. “It’s complete crap,” Cochran says. “You can’t make up this level of delusion. And that’s what excites me about playing with Phillip,” Cochran chuckles. Phillip unleashes a long story about lions as Cochran fights to hold in his giggles. There’s a plan to split the votes between Julia and Michael, targeting Julia on the rebote. But Corinne isn’t interested in splitting, because she wants Michael with them after the Merge. “That’s just bad business and I don’t know why I can’t convince the rest of the alliance of that,” Corinne says. Phillip, however, answers to a higher power: Boston Rob. And in this case, Phillip is asking himself what “BR” would do. If you’re curious, BR would write Michael’s down and talk to Corinne like a three-year-old. “Phillip is beyond awful. If this was the real world, I would kick his ass,” Corinne tells us. Cochran thinks that the upcoming vote will bring things to a climax with Phillip and Corinne. It’s unclear if he’s afraid or excited about what’s coming.
Tribal Council. Michael begins by admitting that morale is low and that it’s raising tensions. Julia says that the Favorites are playing a long-term game, so they’re tense as well. “You don’t want to screw something up here and then regret it down the line,” Corinne says. Phillip says he and Corinne have a very different process, but similar goals. “I’ve learned that if we all have the same goal in the end, the conflict may be OK,” Dawn insists. Phillip takes some responsibility for losing the Immunity, but also not. Michael thinks he’s made his pitch, but Cochran says that Michael’s closeness to Corinne could be a problem. Julia says she started of thinking she was going to play the game one way and she ended up playing another way. I’m various curious what she thinks those two ways are/were.
The vote. We’re not going to see any of the votes tonight, are we? Nobody plays an Immunity Idol. Probst tallies: Michael. Julia. Michael. Julia. Michael. Julia. It’s our second tie of the season already. Weird, eh?
The revote. Probst retallies: Julia. Julia. JULIA. Guess Phillip got his way. Julia bows and heads off into the jungle. “This game was so different than I expected going into it,” says Julia, who says that being at the mercy of other people was the worst part. She also says she couldn’t have done anything differently. Really? That’s sad. Or pathetic. Or something.
Bottom Line. Julia was a non-factor and a non-entity and her elimination was both the correct, no-brainer voting decision and also an irrelevancy in terms of the season going forward. Better players and stronger personality went home long ago, for better or for worse, so Julia should probably be pleased she lasted as long as she did. She didn’t make it half-way, but she came very close. Yay. And since there was nothing she could have done differently, it’s impressive that she almost hit the Merge on autopilot. I’m still curious, though, what game she came into the season hoping to play and what game she thinks she ended up playing. Fortunately, we’ll talk tomorrow morning. And, when all was said and done, the only purpose to the tribal shuffle was getting rid of two Fans? That’s an odd structural decision for the season and not one that I quite endorse. But let’s not start fighting again about the way the eggs were divided.
Bottom Line, II. Still too much Phillip. I still can’t decide if having to deal with Phillip is worth it for getting to enjoy other people — Cochran and Corinne, mostly — and their reactions to Phillip. I’d say “No,” because we know that Cochran and Corinne are both perfectly capable of offering amusement without Phillip, while we also know that Phillip isn’t capable of playing this game any differently from the way he’s playing it. Does anybody want to weigh in on the possibility that Phillip honestly was trying to throw that Immunity Challenge? No? Fair enough.
Bottom Line, III. If you’re a Malcolm Fan, tonight was a bit of a tease. It set up myriad potential options for awesomeness, but all we got in current execution was an alliance with Reynold. The alliance Malcolm made with Reynold feels a lot like the alliance he made with Pete last season, which suggests exactly how the players are at a disadvantage going against Malcolm without knowing his game. Really, this episode was a lot about setting the stage for what’s coming next week and for the rest of the season to come. Oh and I guess it was also good for Brenda’s most exposure of the season thus far.
Any insights on this place-setting “Survivor”? Or was it just an episode we had to… um… survive?