Man-Shannon is gone. Jimmy Johnson remains. And the Younger Tribe holds the Medallion of Power. That’s just about all you need to know as Wednesday (Sept. 29) night’s “Survivor: Nicaragua” begins.
Click through for a full recap.
Pre-credit sequence. Crabs. Crabs everywhere. We must be starting off with the Younger Tribe. They return to camp agreeing that sending Man-Shannon home was the right move. Man-Shannon’s allies work hard to convince the rest of the tribe that Jeff Probst was right and that they need to work on unity, which is exactly what you’d say if you followed a bit of a misogynistic, homophobic Alpha Male into battle and then suddenly found yourself rudderless. NaOnka is having none of it. NaOnka calls them fake. She clarifies that they are “faker than faux fur.” She believes that a tribe divided remains divided and that Alina, Fabio-Jud and Kelly B made their stand and that they backed the wrong horse and that now they have to face the consequences.
More fun than a tree full of monkeys. Way down the beach, we find the Ancients celebrating their first week in the jungle. They’re following the howler monkeys in the trees in hopes that the monkeys will lead them to food. Down at the base of a tree, Jimmy Johnson begins an extended conversation with one of the monkeys, based on similar intellectual discussions he must have had with Troy Aikman. Yve is inspired by Jimmy’s monkey conversation. “Now if I had Bradshaw with me, we’d really talk to the animal,” Jimmy says and everybody laughs as if they have a clue who Terry Bradshaw is. “He’s a threat,” Marty says, calling the idea of taking Jimmy into a Merge, “a disaster.” Marty’s very antsy, so Jill has to try to talk him down. Jill is all about tribal unity, even if it means exposing the Immunity Idol she found last week. But wait… Did the monkeys lead them to fruit or not?
Jud’s a dude. Fabio? More like Fabi-No. The Younger Tribe is making fire, an experience which gives Fabio a head rush. He insists to us, though, that he’s deeper than he’s showing. “I want to be kept around for more than because I’m funny. I want to be kept around for my mentalism,” he says. Or did he say that he wanted to be kept around because he watches “The Mentalist”? I started nodding off. NaOnka, who hates Fabio’s hair, isn’t swayed by the Stoner Crown Jester.
The editors are just killing time. After that interlude with Fabio being a clown, we return to the Ancients, where Marty shows everybody the Idol and earns a round of applause, led by Jimmy T, who admits that he’d have kept the Idol for himself. Jill just keeps quiet and lets Marty bask. Tyrone isn’t buying it, saying that although he may have won some “Team Points,” he’s still playing his own game. Marty admits as much. This isn’t entertaining. I really hope something happens in this episode soon.
Dan in Real Pain. The Ancients are drying their pants over a fire. Dan isn’t sleeping well and he’s concerned that the tribe may soon think he’s a weak link. Dan insists that he isn’t weak link and that he’s at least as strong as any of the women. Yve is noticing that weakness. The camera has also noticed that Dan has a big scar on his knee. I think that once you get past Marty and Tyrone, gradations of “weakness” on this tribe are like angels limping on the head of a pin.
NaOnka is ObNoxious. The Youngsters are pow-wowing, or at least the cool kids are. They’ve isolated Alina and Kelly B as threats. Alina knows that she’s on the wrong side of things. NaOnka wants to send a shockwave to Kelly B by voting Alina out. That shockwave? “That’s what you get, bitches!” Charming. These people are all charming.
More fun than a barrel full of… beanbags? It’s challenge time. Immunity is up for grabs. Teams have to collect 10 barrels, arrange the barrels in a pattern and then they have to throw beanbags on top of the barrels. But this isn’t just Immunity. It’s also Reward. Want to know what they’re playing for? A “Survivor” garden, plus sauces and fruit. We’re giving them food and condiments already? The Younger tribe would a two-barrel advantage for their Medallion of Power choice, but they elect not to use it. Probst gives the teams time to organize, which means Jimmy Johnson comes to the forefront and does his thing. The Youngsters get out to an early lead with Probst calling Dan out for failing to help the Ancients. After all of the brutal physical challenges of “Heroes vs. Villains,” this is really quaint. Last season? They were all trying to destroy each other every week. This season, they’re throwing beanbags at barrels. With Tyrone leading the way, the Ancients move into a lead on the beanbags. They’re winning 6-3, but Benry single-handedly ties things up, as Tyrone tires. Benry is dominant and pulls his team into the lead and carries them to victory. The Youngsters lift Benry triumphantly, as if he just single-handedly defeated the Russian hockey team and knocked out Ivan Drago. Dudes. He threw beanbags with slightly more touch than a some old guys. Kelly B gathers the fruits and sees the Immunity clue. She thinks she’s being clever, but NaOnka is right on top of her.
Least sexy “Survivor” catfight ever. The Youngsters return to camp, with Kelly and NaOnka in the lead, holding the fruit and the Immunity clue. After an actual physical confrontation, NaOnka grabs the paper from Kelly B. With all due respect to NaOnka and Kelly B, I’ve seen Amanda and Danielle catfight. I’ve rewatched Amanda and Danielle catfighting. And this catfight was no Amanda/Danielle. “Sorry I smooshed the bananas,” NaOnka apologizes. Kelly B is sad about the clue. Fabio is sad about the bananas. NaOnka’s proud of what she did and says she’d do it again, even if Kelly B’s leg flew off. NaOnka clarifies that Kelly B got hood-ed, not ghetto-ed. She explains the difference and my eyes glaze. “My name is NaOnka, not Fool,” NaOnka says, making it clear that she’d have no sympathy for Kelly B. NaOnka, off on her own, gets an assist from Brenda in deciphering the clue. And Brenda? She’s just happy to be aligned with whoever has the power. They don’t find anything, at least not anything we see.
“Survivor” becomes a JV football team meeting. The Ancients are miserable as they return. Jill’s sad about missing out on the bananas and spices. And Jimmy T is miserable that he has talents that are being wasted. Naturally, he turns to Jimmy to get his talents validated. There’s a lengthy discussion of Tyrone’s cold spell. “Do we want to win or do we want everybody to touch the ball?” Tyrone asks. Because of Jimmy Johnson’s presence, this is all about sports metaphors and Tyrone plays along by referring to himself in the third person. Marty is silent and sits on the outside, but he’s looking forward to Tribal Council.
Lots of blather about the inevitable. We’re back with the Ancients. Marty and Jimmy Johnson are out in the waves talking strategy. They agree that a strong team is for the best. It sounds like they’re targeting Danny, but Marty tells us that he’s planning on getting rid of Jimmy to destabilize the team, take away everybody’s Daddy. Jill doesn’t care. She thinks Danny, Jimmy Johnson and Holly are the same person and it doesn’t matter who goes first. She’d prefer to get Dan out first, but she calls Marty the puppet master and moves on. Marty moves on to Dan and lures him with the prospect of being able to tell his friends that he blindsided Jimmy Johnson. Next, Marty approaches Jimmy T and Jimmy T agrees that Jimmy Johnson should be next to go. Marty thinks that Jimmy Johnson going next will shake the team to its core. Weirdly, Holly’s convinced that she’s done, but Jane reassures her that it’s probably Danny going out. They’re way out of the loop. Jane takes a strong stand against going to Tribal Council. At the fishing hole, Jimmy Johnson is suspecting that he’s in trouble. “I’m in trouble every single week we go to Tribal Council,” he says. Jimmy calls this the hardest thing he’s ever gone through, but he isn’t doing anything to save himself. Tyrone is in Jimmy Johnson’s corner, preferring to get Dan out first, but he’s wishy-washy at Marty’s prodding. “Do not mess around with me. I’m playing this game for real,” Marty threatens to the camera as they head off to Tribal Council. He whips out a little bit of a Boston Rob “If you’re not with me…” It’s here that I realize that Marty actually could *be* Boston Rob, if Boston Rob were an insecure 48-year-old dedicated to voting out senior citizens.
Tribal Council. Barring some fireworks, this is going to be a really dull result. Jeff Probst leads a discussion about the previous challenge, which leads to more of Jimmy T’s ranting about his underappreciated “game.” Jill tries saying that everybody in the tribe is a leader, but he may be the most accomplished leader. There’s a weird conversation about Jimmy Johnson’s leadership style and Jimmy T’s failure to properly bond with Jimmy Johnson. It turns out that Jimmy T is a Patriots season ticket holder and that Jimmy Johnson is threatened by him. I watch Patriots games regularly on TV. I’d hate to imagine how that might temper Jimmy Johnson’s feelings toward me. Tyrone is flummoxed by that statement and Jimmy Johnson maintains that he thinks he’s had a great relationship with the other man. My gosh. What are we talking about here? Does everybody want Jimmy Johnson to pat them on the head and give them orange slices? Is that “Survivor”? Finally things transition to Dan’s physical well-being, his limitations. “If I don’t meet what they want me to to, I’ll be voted out. But I’m there,” Dan maintains. Jimmy T is confident, saying that the tribe has three or four week players. Probst goes around the team and nobody wants to admit that they’re the weakest until they get to Jimmy Johnson, who acknowledges both age and weakness. Marty tells Jeff that it’s time for them to start the game. I couldn’t agree more.
The Vote. Jimmy T laments that Jimmy Johnson didn’t listen to him and writes Coach’s name down. It appears that Coach is writing Dan’s name, as Dan sits by the fire fingering the scar on his knee. Time to read the votes: Jimmy Johnson. Dan. Jimmy. Jimmy. Jimmy. And that’s it for Jimmy. He instructs one of them to win a million bucks. Poor Jimmy. Probst chides the Ancients for voting out their proven leader, or else for voting out this season’s celebrity meal-ticket. In his exit confessional, Jimmy said he had fun, but he was miserable the whole time, calling it the most stressful time in his life. He still predicts that his tribe will come together and be successful.
Bottom Line. It doesn’t hurt the show to lose Jimmy Johnson. “Survivor” really shouldn’t be a game with one isolated celebrity and 19 civilians and too often the editors were as caught up in Jimmy’s star power as his fellow players. What hurts the show is to have a whole hour with absolutely no tension, drama or misdirection. Other than the brief fracas with Kelly B and NaOnka, that was as lazy and unengaging a “Survivor” episode as I can remember. I don’t know if it’s age-ist of me, but I find Jimmy T’s delusions to be more difficult to watch and enjoy than any of the myriad “Survivor” delusions we’ve been treated to over the years. I mean, NaOnka’s deluded and I think she’s probably a pretty awful person, but I don’t worry that she might get disoriented, wander off into the jungle and mate with a howler monkey (though I wouldn’t put that past Fabio). Too many players on the Ancients tribe are coming across as beaten down and exhausted. Too many people on the Younger tribe are coming across as spoiled and obnoxious. Where’s the fun in any of that?
Am I wrong? Was this a good “Survivor” episode and I just missed the fun? And are you going to miss Jimmy Johnson?