Pre-credit sequence. Team Russell returns to camp after another Tribal Council. Castaways describe the experience as “fun” and “interesting.” Angie’s not happy with Roxy throwing her under the bus, but she thinks that everybody remaining in their tribe trusts her and knows that nothing is happening with her and Malcolm. Well, that would be everybody other than Russell, who worries about Angie and Malcolm as a couple and is determined to sway Denise to his way of thinking.
Cloistered Abi. Abi is exhausted and she needs a break. Like Jeff Kent, Abi has an injured knee, plus she distrusts her leading ally in RC. “My and Abi really clicked from Day 1,” says RC, who isn’t concerned about what this says about her. They have a paranoid fight on the beach. Or Abi has a paranoid fight with herself. RC just wants to tan The Girls. “Abi’s starting to lose it,” RC tells Skupin, which is exactly what Crazy Abi doesn’t want to see. Abi rushes off to chatter with Pete, telling him about the Immunity clue, as if that was her news to share. Pete is cautious and now doesn’t trust RC. Weird that that’s what his takeaway was. Pete goes out into the wilderness with Blair Warner and tells her that he can protect her if she’s willing to get rid of Skupin. “I would prefer to blindside RC, but Peter’s the one who’s calling it,” says an agreeable Blair Warner. “It just feels like I’m dealt a new hand every day and every day I have to play the hand that you have,” Blair Warner says, newly optimistic. Those are, indeed, the facts of “Survivor” life.
Attention to detail. Over at Team Penner, Jonathan is complaining that his rear hurts. As they sit around the camp, Dana notices that the emblem has gone missing from the rice container. And Carter makes the correct supposition that it’s the Idol. And Jeff Kent makes the correct supposition that Jonathan has it. “I give him props,” Jeff Kent says, calling Penner’s inquisitive “a pure veteran move.” Rather than confronting him, he and Carter and Dawson contemplate blindsiding Jonathan at some point.
Malcolm in the middle. The raft has vanished from Team Russell. Ummm… How does that happen? Apparently it wasn’t above the tideline. “Last night there was no cuddling whatsoever,” Malcolm reassures Denise of his sleeping arrangements. Malcolm knows that the next vote will come down to Angie or Russell and he’s OK either way. Denise is confident in her core alliance, but she’d prefer to keep Russell in order to maintain core strength or something.
Taking a dive. It’s Immunity time already. And it’s underwater. And there are freakin’ big jellyfish. Awesome. Players have to dive down and collect puzzle pieces from underwater. The puzzle pieces spell a word. They’re also playing for reward: First tribe to finish gets a big fishing kit, plus a canoe waiting back at camp. Second tribe to finish gets a smaller fishing kit. Team Russell trails from the very beginning, because they’re pathetic. Or, sadly, Angie is pathetic, while Russell isn’t much better. Probst is impressed with Denise and he’s also impressed with RC, who both turn out to be diving machines. By the end, it’s Denise and Malcolm going back and forth for Team Russell as Angie and the tribe’s namesake stand and do nothing. Everybody’s working on the puzzle. Team Jeff Kent finishes first. Team Blair Warner finishes second. And Team Russell is back to Tribal Council again. Angie blames Russell for his challenge performance. “He might be big and he might be strong, but he is the weak link,” she claims, implausibly.
Antonio Alfonseca’s handshake is the most valuable of all. Team Jeff Kent is giddy. “That was another fantastic victory,” Penner says. “We are always wanting to eat, so I think that works out,” Dana says of their fishing equipment win. Penner is worried that “Jeff” doesn’t trust him. I initially think that refers to Probst, because Penner is nothing if not invested in Probst’s perception of him, but he actually means Future Hall of Famer Jeff Kent. Penner takes Kent aside and tells him about the Idol. “This is a Me game, it isn’t a We game,” Kent says, interested but non-commital. He gives Penner a four-finger handshake that they’ll work together and in Jeff Kent’s world, handshakes without all five fingers doesn’t count.
Clamming up. Team Skupin’s less giddy, specially since Mike has a new injury of some sort. But look! It’s Artis! Talking! Artis is bitter because Mike’s injury was his own fault. “I’m about fed up with Mike. He’s in my sights,” Artis says pointlessly. Who are you Artis and why do you think you have power? While much of the tribe goes out to get clams, Abi and Pete go in search of a bigger prize… the Idol. When did Abi decide that RC was her arch-enemy? And how crazy is Abi? Be careful, Pete. She will KILL you. Abi may be nuts, but she also realizes that the symbol on the rice might be important. “The whole time. I knew it,” she says. Pete is hoping to get rid of Mike and neutralize RC. But what about the clams?
Munchkin of Muscle. Meanwhile, Team Russell just sucks. They return to camp in silence, like a losing high school soccer team on the long bus ride home. Malcolm laments that he’s stuck on “The Goon Squad of Tribes.” “Thank God for Denise,” he says, calling his buddy “a warhorse” and “a munchkin of muscle.” As Malcolm and Denise conspire, Angie wanders over to insist that she never said, “I can’t.” Really. What does she think she said? Or what does she think the difference is? “Everybody has their weaknesses. Mine showed up today,” Russell says, putting his fate in God’s hands. “If they want to make a bold move and get rid of me because this is the time to get rid of a strong player, I could be gone,” Russell says. Bold? Strong? Huh? Angie and Russell are differently, but equally delusional. “I am down. But I am not out,” Russell says, interrupting his conversation with Jesus.
Making it through nine days on “Survivor” is, indeed, less serious than Jim Crow. Russell or Angie? Angie or Russell? “I hate losing. I would have went again,” Angie promises Malcolm, blaming Denise for diving in too quickly. They agree that Angie wouldn’t have quit, but Russell quit. Angie’s argument is that she and Russell may both stink, but he’s older and heavier than she is. She decides she’s going to Tribal Council to announce that she wants to win. Russell now compares his struggle to the struggle his ancestors had in the Middle Passage and with Jim Crow. “People whose shoulders I stand on have persevered,” Russell says, saying that giving up would be spitting in the faces of said ancestors. Dude. Do not make that comparison EVEN if you’re going to acknowledge that playing a game show for a million dollars is very different from slavery. Nothing you do in the game of “Survivor” should be connected to the adversity faced by your ancestors, at least not out loud. In your head? Think what you want.
Tribal Council. Jeff Probst tries telling them that while it’s bad news that one of them will go home, it’s good news that three of them won’t. Nice try. Denise sacrificed time away from her family, as well as time away from her therapy clients. Malcolm was 12 when the first season of “Survivor” aired and he’s “between tears and screaming” about how this is going. “It’s ‘heartbreaking’ is the word I would us,” Malcolm says. Malcolm is very honest and clear-eyed about the challenge and who failed, though he tries saying he and Denise could have done more. “The people who can do it need to step up. The rest have to go home,” Malcolm says. Snap. Angie would have done her second dive, but why not let Denise do it because she’s better. She insists she’s a fighter and Russell’s a quitter. Russell, however, calls this a strategic decision. “Knowing that there’s 30 days left to go… She ain’t ready. I am,” Russell says. “I think I can fight more than Russell,” Angie says. “I was willing to die last time I played,” Russell says, as if this is a badge of honor. Russell’s not tolerating Angie’s silliness. “I feel this small right now,” Angie says. “It just sucks,” she adds. “I don’t ever cry. I don’t,” Angie cries. Malcolm acknowledges that she’s been thrust into a “strength” role, which none of the other young girls on other tribes have been. Denise says loyalty is very important to her, but Malcolm says strength has to be important earlier and loyalty more important late.
The Vote. “Sorry I made you cry,” Russell says, writing Angie’s name. “One thing about me is I never give up,” Angie says, writing Russell’s name. Probst tallies the votes: Angie. Russ. Angie. ANGIE. Farewell, Angie. She makes a quick pout and then smiles. “Good luck, guys. Kick some ass,” she tells them. “I hope that my tribe can go strong from here on out. I’m their biggest cheerleader,” Angie says, saying she appreciates her life more now.
Bottom Line. What am I supposed to say? Angie’s adorable and I’d happily have kept her around, but her rationalizations for keeping her around were absurd. As we look at things in retrospect, the combination of Zane, Roxy and Angie was too much physical dead-weight for any tribe to overcome. In a different circumstance, a malleable cheerleader like Angie can be a very valuable asset and if the tribes are merged any time soon, Malcolm and Denise are going to wish that they had Angie as their unflagging supporter, rather than Russell, who I suspect wouldn’t feel any connections at all. But Russell, Malcolm and Denise are more likely to win or finish second in a challenge or two than Denise, Malcolm and Angie would be. So that’s the decision you have to make. And I do think I’m prepared to root for Denise and Malcolm going forward. As for the rest of the episode? Abi’s crazy and concerns me. And Jeff Kent only trusts specific handshakes. Now we know. Good-bye, Angie. I really will miss you. Cookies!
Did Team Russell make the right call? Or would you have kept Angie?