Wednesday (Nov. 17) night’s episode of “Survivor: Nicaragua” is titled “Stuck in the Middle.” Does that mean that the week’s Reward Challenge is going to be a Stealers Wheel concert?
Click through to find out…
Pre-credit sequence. Libertad returns to camp on Night 24, sans Marty. I hope they check their shoes, because a scorpion is wandering around camp. But have the players actually suddenly discovered that a pair of scorpions are running the game? Brenda is concerned that Benry, Chase and Fabio are now aware that she and Sash are the game’s King and Queen, clarifying, “But Sash is more of a queen and I’m more of king.” But the peasants are revolting. Holly pulls Jane aside and says that they need to take out the royalty with an alliance that includes Chase, NaOnka and two players TBD. “Something has to change and it has to change soon,” Holly declares. Last time Holly was talking with that much determination, she was getting ready to quit.
The Banger Sisters revolt. Otters are cute. Was that an otter in the water? I have no idea. Rain is heading their way and Fabio suggests moving the fire closer to the shelter. They realign the various chests to protect their fire, which is now practically in their living room. [FORESHADOWING!!!] Meanwhile, Holly is excited about how far she’s come in this game, thinking she’s well positioned to keep going. After con-fabbing once again with new-found partner-in-crime Jane, Holly takes Benry out into the woods and warns him that Brenda and Sash are the dangerous threats. “Getting rid of Sash and Brenda is No. 1 on my list right now,” Benry says amiably. The next pair of schemers is Jane strategizing with NaOnka, who admits that Brenda has been playing too hard. Jane, for some bizarre reason, calls Brenda a villain, which is a real overstatement. Strengthening the base, Holly goes to Chase and says Brenda should go out next, but Chase isn’t so sure that Benry isn’t a bigger threat and tells Holly as much. Holly comes away feeling nervous about Chase’s loyalties.
Roll out the barrel. It’s time for another team-driven Reward Challenge. Their task? Using four barrels, two planks and 10 feet of rope, they have to move their whole team across the beach without any feet hitting the ground. Want to know what they’re playing for? They’ll head off to a volcano and be treated to pizza, soft drinks and brownies. The teams are picked. Sash, Holly, Dan, Brenda and Benry are the Yellow team. The Blue team is… well… everybody else. The Blue team is cocky and decides they don’t need all of the barrels. Perhaps they’re cocky because they know that Dan is on the Yellow team and will never be able to move anyway. Jeff Probst is mighty sarcastic about the Yellow team’s strategy, telling them, “If this were life and death, you’d be dead.” It’s a pathetic rout, with the Blue team completing the task and the Yellow team barely making it past the starting line. “Benry makes the best move of the day for the Yellow team with the ceremonial loser dismount,” Probst cracks after Benry flips off the barrel. A helicopter arrives to take the winners to their volcano.
Volcano vs. Dante’s Peak. Everybody is excited to be up in a helicopter and even more excited to find themselves atop this “humongous black mountain.” What the heck is volcano surfing? Apparently it’s sledding down the inside of a volcano. It looks a wee bit awesome, especially when Fabio wipes out and goes bouncing down the hill, ass over teakettle. “I’m hanging with the kids now,” cackles Jane, who gamely surfs down and announces, “That was fun as crap.” They speculate about what’s going down at camp and decide they don’t care.
Ashes to ashes, dumb to dumb. Unfortunately, what’s happening back at camp is a not-so-towering inferno. The chests have gone up in flames. Because they’re wood. And somebody thought it would be a good idea to use them as a fireplace. All of their things have gone up in flames. Because they were flammable and somebody thought it would be a good idea to use them as a fireplace. Benry is beside himself, rubbing his face off in sadness. All of their food was in one of the chests. That’s gone. Their machetes had wooden handles and all that’s left are the blades. The tarp is melted. And Benry keeps rubbing his face off. “It’s not worth getting upset about,” Holly says, ever the reasonable one, now that she’s decided not to quit. “This is a day from hell,” Benry pouts, looking ready to quit himself.
An unlikely couple forms. Down in the volcano, the winners are eating and drinking and, once again, hubristically declaring they don’t care what happened back at camp. They begin to discuss who’s running the show. And for some strange reason, NaOnka pulls Fabio aside and tells him that everybody wants Brenda out. What a strange new alliance! Fabio’s overjoyed that once again he’s staying under the radar and letting a powerful voting bloc fall into his lap. NaOnka sees this as a power move and hopes future power moves will follow. They’ve pretty much agreed that Brenda will go out next.
What the bleep *is* wrong with Chase? Snakes and crabs. And monkeys. On the human side of things, Chase warns Brenda that Holly is hatching a plan to take her out, also throwing Benry under the bus. “There is no reason or rhyme. It’s just the simple fact that I trust her,” Chase explains. Brenda looks briefly concerned, but says she isn’t impressed by their plotting. Chase goes to NaOnka and again tries saying that Benry should go out first. Why did we not see what happened when the winners came back and found their camp smoking. Oddly, Chase decides to tell NaOnka that he warned Brenda. NaOnka and Benry agree that Chase is crazy and being played by Brenda and they agree not to change their plan. NaOnka is telling everybody that Chase is too stupid to be trusted. “What the **** is wrong with Chase?” Holly asks.
Hang in there. Immunity is up for grabs. Brenda hands over the Idol. The task requires leaning and rope-holding. It’s mostly an endurance challenge, which should be OK for Brenda and Jane and the ladies. Sash goes out, followed by the useless Purple Kelly. So much for Brenda’s advantage, she’s squirming. Holly goes out next. And then Brenda splashes down. Dan’s out. I’m amazed Dan wasn’t first out. Good for him. NaOnka bails, leaving Chase, Jane and Benry. Benry topples and Chase tells Jane there’s no way he’s going down. Jane looks ready to go out, but Probst tells her “don’t you dare.” Chase loses his grip and Jane wins Individual Immunity. I half expect Probst to claim the Idol for himself. Benry praises Janes “serious Superwoman strength.”
I know it was you, NaOnka. You broke my heart. You broke my heart! “Winning Immunity was great,” Jane says, making it sound as if she wasn’t prepared to quit without Probst’s mocking. Jane predicts Brenda is heading home. But the monkeys in the trees think otherwise. Chase and Sash agree that Benry is the biggest threat. Does Sash know that Brenda’s in trouble? “He pissed me off to the highest point of pissedivity,” NaOnka tells Sash about Chase, before letting Sash in on Brenda’s jeopardy. Chase is trying to lobby Fabio, but Holly comes rushing over and stops the conversation dead. Chase, acknowledging that he’s been playing the game with his heart and not his head, says that without Brenda, he’s playing with a bunch of people he doesn’t trust. Chase warns Brenda that NaOnka is the one orchestrating her ouster. You can actually see the betrayal on Brenda’s face. Brenda’s scrambling, but there’s nobody she can sway other than Chase. Finally, we bring up the idea of using the Idol that Sash is holding onto. Sash admits he might give it to Brenda, an idea NaOnka puts no stock in. Brenda has one hope: Sash gives her the Immunity Idol and they blindside NaOnka. This was not a well formulated plan. There’s no way it could work.
Tribal Council. Probst begins by bringing up the surprise in some quarters about Marty’s elimination. Sash says that there was reshuffling and suddenly he’s out of the loops. Brenda tries saying that she only voted Marty out to show her faith with the people in her alliance. She points her finger at NaOnka as the one jumping ship on her alliance. NaOnka denies that she was the ringleader, blaming Chase’s paranoia. “Give us 20 years of wisdom,” Probst says to Purple Kelly, who admits that she’s totally out-of-the-loop and utterly useless in this game. Probst is on fire tonight. This becomes a whole mess as everybody tries insisting they’re trustworthy, while practically crossing their fingers with their tongues. It’s a big ol’ mess, as Brenda denies she’s scrambling and… yeah. A mess.
The Vote. Holly writes Brenda’s name. “You were my real true enemy and I thought you were my friend,” Brenda says, writing NaOnka’s name down. Will anybody play an Idol? Everybody looks to Sash. And Sash doesn’t give Brenda the Idol. Yikes. COLD. The votes: Brenda. NaOnka. Benry. Brenda. Brenda. Brenda. Brenda. From the top of the world to elimination in a week. Probst snuffs her torch and Brenda merely says, “Ouch.” Alina on the jury is astounded. Sash and Chase both wrote Brenda’s name down. In the end, Brenda admits that she was badly outplayed by the person she trusted most. [Funniest vote: Kelly Purple writing Benry’s name down because she had no way of knowing what anybody else was doing. You wouldn’t think it would be possible for a “Survivor” player to be worse than Dan, but Dan has been in the loop on every vote this season, I think. Purple Kelly’s playing “Hole in the Wall” or something.]
Bottom Line: That was a desperately horrible episode for Brenda, who was basically running things just a day earlier. I know she felt betrayed by NaOnka but her failure to mount any kind of resistance was pretty pathetic. At the very least, she needed to have a vocal confrontation with Sash making sure he was prepared to use the Idol for her. Or maybe she could have gone to the others and tried to get Chase squeezed out as a wishy-washy threat. Instead, she pretty much pouted, rolled over and sent herself home. Because of how certain everybody was that Sash wouldn’t play give Brenda the Idol, that alliance could have picked who they wanted to blindside. They could have knocked NaOnka right out of the game. Instead, people keep apologizing for NaOnka and excusing her and NaOnka managed to reward the one person who was tilling to go to the mat for her by voting her out. I think that for the majority of the tribe, booting Brenda and breaking that alliance up was the smart move. For NaOnka, it feels idiotic, unless her entire campaign is going to be built around saying, “Everybody hates me. Take me to the finale and you’re guaranteed the million and I’ll be satisfied with second place.” I guess there’s some validity to that. On a side note, Marty was right about Jane: Everybody is gonna regret not getting her out of the game earlier.
What should Brenda have done? What *could* Brenda have done? Who’s got the power now? And bottom line it for me: More useless player? Dan or Kelly Purple?