[Apologies for the late “Survivor” recap. I've done timely recaps from several far-flung parts of the world in the past, even with strange time zones in play. This week's complication was a near-complete lack of Internet access. But here's my recap anyway… Just for the completists!]
Pre-credit sequence. When we left things, Coyopa had just voted out Kelley for reasons only understood, and maybe not even then, by Mr. & Miss America Jon & Jaclyn. “Tribal was about as bad as it gets,” says Dale, voice cracking, as he colorfully refers to complete strangers slaughtering his daughter. I like the rhyme, even if the sentiment confuses me. “It was the roughest thing I've ever watched my daughter go through,” Dale says, vowing not to quit until he can't talk anymore. The next morning, Dale is still insecure, suspecting he's next, vowing to do something drastic. That thing is showing Jon his fake Idol, hoping it will give the rival alliance a couple sleepless nights. Dale is appropriately scared.
Take What's Behind Door #2! Meanwhile, it's time for Hunahpu to make a deal with Jeff Probst. Alec is already suspecting Probst will want to tear down their camp in exchange for rice. “I'm not having that,” Jeremy says, suggesting it would be a mistake to give up anything major when a big Reward or even a feast could be coming around the corner. “Why y'all so hungry over a little bit of rice?” he muses. Probst strides up, bag of rice balanced on one blue-shirted shoulder like it's the globe and he's Atlas. Jeff Probst doesn't shrug under the weight of this birder, though. He gathers the tribe. Julie is scared, as Natalie shows their lone remaining scoop of rice. Probst reminds them that nobody has needed their rice replenished since the second season. “There were too many cooks in the kitchen and they all wanted to eat too much rice,” Reed says of the depleted rice, with Probst explaining the fundamental inequity of this situation. Alec is pissy about the whole thing, while Probst says that no tribe in “Survivor” history has ever needed this much help. In the interest of fairness, Probst promises a stiff penalty. He wants their comfort items, the extra flint, one of their pots and their axe. He's willing to leave them with one flint, one pot and their machete. “You are starting over,” he tells them. This is false, because they're starting over, but they have a major numbers advantage. If you ask me, this is a BS penalty. Not only are they not ACTUALLY starting from scratch, but they're maintaining their numbers advantage while also getting a supply of rice that's greater than what the other tribe has. So they've been left with their numbers and the means to maintain that advantage. Horrible deal, Probst. Horrible deal. “You know he just took all our stuff, yo. Why y'all happy?” Jeremy inquires of his relieved comrades. Julie is worried about getting wet and cold. “Let's hope it doesn't rain,” Probst says, as if he doesn't possess the power to create rain.
Mmm-Bop. It's time for a Reward Challenge, but first Hunahpu has to see New Coyopa. Natalie and Julie are shocked that Kelley's gone. Nobody else cares. For the next challenge, one person from each side will be blindfolded, go through an obstacle run, feel up a mask puzzle, collect pieces and then recreate said puzzle. Want to know what they're playing for? A full “Survivor” BBQ. Yes, Hunahpu traded everything for food and can now accumulate more food. Each tribe picks their strongest player to compete. That means Reed and… Baylor. Baylor?!? I… don't get that, Coyopa. The opening obstacle leads to much head-bumping. That's funny. Probst teases that “a lot of meat” is coming. That's funny, too. “A lot of heads bopping into poles,” Probst observes. Baylor is first to collect all of her puzzle pieces, but it isn't a big advantage. The big roadblock? There are red dummy pieces, but the blindfolded contestants don't know which. But somehow, Reed figures it out. He dominates the challenge and his tribe now has an almost impossible amount of food. Reed bawls in relief. Baylor bawls in disappointment. Baylor's going to Exile Island and Reed has to choose somebody to join her. Reed picks Julie, but Natalie volunteers to go. Reed shrugs and he's all, “Whatever, yo.” Interesting decision. I look forward to Natalie's explanation of this one. Missy's pleased with Natalie's sacrifice.
A wrinkle in time. Keith is trying to fish back at Coyopa, but he's not catching anything and… Monkey! Missy has gone from confident to cocky when it comes to Natalie being in her pocket. Jon's got to deliver the news about Dale's Idol. It's not like the next choice is a hard one, though. There are still two pairs and two unaffiliated older men, so if not Dale, Keith. Missy calls this “a little wrinkle.”
Reading Rainbow. On Exile, Natalie is, indeed, hoping that this gets her in good with Missy and Baylor long-term. I guess I can buy that as strategy if you're a single player, latching yourself onto a plausibly sentimental pair. Baylor gets the Idol clue and proves that she can read, which is something of a relief. Without hesitation, Baylor either shares the clue with Natalie or gets her assistance when it comes to the whole literacy thing. Natalie is hoping that Jeremy can get in on the Idol action on her side (where Keith already found the Idol, but she doesn't know). “If I can trust Missy then I can trust Baylor,” Natalie figures.
Raining Reed-Bow. Over at Hunahpu, Josh is proud of Reed for delivering eight shish-kebobs and there's a certain amount of cockiness at play. Jeremy doesn't love their signs of intimacy, claiming that if Val were around, he'd make sure they stayed separate so as not to be viewed as too much of a power couple. Or at least that's what he says bothers him about the hugging and kissing. I guess I'll take his word because I'm going to let myself be distracted by this sloth hanging upside down from the tree. Sloth! “I'm a meat collector. I eat meat a lot,” Alec says, pleased by the feast. But Jeremy is still bitter that the “Brainiacs” gave up their tarp and, on cue, in comes the rain. And it isn't a brief storm. It's a long, ongoing deluge and Julie is whining up a storm. Jeremy, who has been appointed this episode's guest narrator, says it's a sad situation and worries about what Julie quitting would do to numbers. Morning arrives, the rain is over, but Julie is still covering and moaning. Jeremy tries to buck Julie out, which she seems to appreciate. “This is 'Survivor.' You signed up for this s***. Go home,” says the less accommodating Alec. Blech.
Dull inevitability. Immunity time! Natalie and Baylor return from Exile to variably insincere hugs. Since the arc of this episode has been 100 percent toward the showdown between Dale's Fake Idol and Keith's Real Idol, I'm not sure why the editors are bothering to show the challenge. It involves scaling a tall wall, pushing a cube to an assortment of puzzle pieces and then solving a flag puzzle. Beleaguered Julie sits out for Hunahpu. Hunahpu is stronger, faster and more unified than Coyopa, but Jon helps the perennial losers get out to a growing lead in accumulating the puzzle pieces. It's a big lead for Coyopa, with Josh and Reed having to make up a gap on the flag. Jon's lead is prohibitive, but Jon and Missy have puzzle problems and it's suddenly tied and then Hunahpu takes the lead. It's a big comeback, but it's a predictable result. Hunahpu wins Immunity. Again. The only Coyopa Immunity win came because of a challenge thrown by “Survivor” Moron Hall-of-Famer Drew.
Wait. If it's Jon & Jaclyn, surely we should call their reign of power “Camelot,” right? So now what for Coyopa? They return to camp with Missy praising their teamwork and Keith lamenting how close they were. Dale attributes the loss to emotional exhaustion. Keith just wants to get rid of Dale in the hopes of getting to Wesley at the Merge. He likes the luxury of having his Idol, but he isn't sure he's ready to use it. Dale makes a darned smart play. He goes to Jon, tells him he doesn't want to have to use his Idol and makes the offer: If he doesn't have to use the Idol, he'll give it to Jon as soon as the votes are cast. That's rather impressive as moves go. It's a strong bluff. And without explanation, the tide seems to have turned against Missy due to her ties to the other tribe. Whatever happen to the ease of Keith? Jon is interested in the offer, but not entirely convinced. In fact, he's so skeptical that he tells his alliance and it appears that Baylor makes the smart suggestion of voting Dale anyway, or giving three votes to Dale and two to Keith. Missy and Baylor are tasked with the Keith vote, which makes Missy sad. Jon & Jaclyn are the swing votes again, with Jon beginning to think that going with Dale will be their smartest plan, since they'll have the [Fake] Idol for longterm strategy. Is it just me or is Jon becoming Robert Pattinson as he gets hungrier and scruffier?
Tribal Council. Dale says he's only gotten three hours of sleep since Kelley left and that the non-challenge parts of the game are the hardest. Off in the distance, howler monkeys agree. Excellent. Baylor compares the Exile Island experience to being a lost kid at a grocery store, a feeling I suspect she's had fairly recently. Missy is guilty she wasn't there for her daughter and this makes Baylor tear up. “What is that about?” Probst says in a vintage “I know now why you cry, but it is something I can never do” moment. Dale admits to a 12-hour strategy and Jon and Jaclyn agree that he made them look at the game differently. Dale offers loyalty and his lack of ties. Baylor insists she's more loyal, prompting an eye-roll from Dale. “I like Baylor, but she needs to own up to her game,” Dale says. This vote will be about trust.
The vote. Keith votes Dale. Dale votes Missy. Nobody plays an Immunity Idol. Probst tallies: Dale. Keith. Missy. Keith. Dale. DALE. Missy smirks. Jon praises Jaclyn's beauty. Baylor glows in the proximity to their love. “I did everything I possibly can,” Dale says, comparing what Jon & Jaclyn did to him to what they did to Kelley. He's looking forward to chatting with his daughter.
Bottom Line, Part I. I'm not sure Dale could have done anything more than he did. He'd had tensions with Missy & Baylor, so they weren't a resource. He couldn't really look to Keith for demo-based support. And there was no reason for Jon & Jaclyn to protect him otherwise, so he made the Idol bluff, made it fairly convincingly and sweetened the bluff by promising that Idol to Jon. He was screwed from the beginning of the episode and probably dating back to last episode as well.
Bottom Line, Part II. I guess my biggest question was why Jon was lobbying against Missy. I see the logic to it and Missy does appear to have a disproportionate amount of social power with a Merge coming, since she now is at the head of the game's only trio, if you believe Natalie is going to be faithful. But targeting Keith would have been so much easier and would have put the focus on a less contestable target. Keith is nothing now, but if he makes it to a Merge, he and Wes suddenly gain some power. In fact, with the Idol nobody knows Keith has, he and his son will have a ton of post-Merge power as well. Between the Natalie-Missy-Baylor trio and the potential of a Keith-Wes-Idol pseudo-trio, Jon & Jaclyn had better enjoy their time as power couple now. It probably won't last for long.
Bottom Line, Part III. I guess the principle on the Probst deal for the rice was that the producers knew a Merge was coming soon, so whether or not they move the merged tribe to Coyopa or Hunahpu, the Rice Advantage doesn't matter so much, plus Probst was able to use his God-like weather powers to give Hunahpu a cold, wet night as punishment. I don't love it, but I also don't care all that much anymore. So… whatever. You had Jeff Probst at camp insulting a tribe for neediness as that tribe kept winning challenges at a rate that's been close to unprecedented in “Survivor” history. So either it concerns the producers that Hunahpu has seemingly capitalized on poor long-term planning to dominate the game or it doesn't. Probst chiding them, while also coddling them accomplished nothing at all. In fact, projecting forward for future seasons, why would any tribe ever ration its rice ever again? Based on how the game has played out, Coyopa's careful rationing of rice was completely and totally a failing on their part. So for future castaways: Eat as much rice as you need. Probst will bail you out. It's the same lesson our government taught the banks. Expect “Survivor” to experience its own equivalent to the financial crisis if things aren't tweaked for next season.
Bottom Line, Part IV. This wasn't a very good episode. In addition to the largely purposeless Jeff Probst Rice Trade, the editing left no doubt we were heading for another Coyopa defeat and even if Dale did the best he could, he was always the likely bootee. So that just leaves us with Baylor crying a lot and Jeremy talking a lot.
Bottom Line, Part V. Every week, we should mock Drew for being the only thing between Coyopa and an Immunity-free season.
Bottom Line, Part VI. I won't do my exit interview until next Tuesday, if you're keeping track. But it'll come eventually…
What'd you think of this week's episode?