Pre-credit sequence. No Collar returns to camp after dispatching with Vince. Nobody's especially sure what happened, at least nobody other than Will, who screwed up the split-voting plan and also screwed up his chances of being trusted by anybody else. With new understanding, Joe is less grateful that Will booted his nemesis and more distrustful of a new nemesis. Will says he's playing chess, not checkers, which is irrelevant, because what he's actually supposed to be playing here is “Survivor.” Nina announces that she knows she's the next one out. Once again, she's feeling like an outsider and once again she wants everybody to know that she's feeling like an outsider. She just asks people not to whisper behind her back. “Enjoy yourself, Nina!” Jenn instructs her, with the most half-hearted pep talk imaginable. We know how Jenn really feels about Nina anyway and it isn't especially attractive. “I get it. You're deaf. We all understand,” Jenn tells us. Oy.
Monkeying around. Monkey! Shirin is talking to the Monkey over at the White Collar camp. “Monkey teaches White Collar how to live in the wild,” Shirin muses. She's watching howler monkeys having sex and she's utterly giddy. “I just saw monkey sex! Start to finish,” she announces to everybody. Carolyn isn't nearly as excited. Actually, nobody is nearly that excited. “You guys should be more enthused as nature,” she tells Tyler, who tells us that Shirin is as bad as a howler monkey. Ummm… You mean as AWESOME as a howler monkey, right Ex-Talent Agent's Assistant Who's On This Tribe For No Justifiable Reason?
Rodney Danger-Filled. Over at Blue Collar, they're enjoying “the best batch of water we ever made,” as Lindsey put it. There's a lot of grunting. Dan, seemingly on the brink of being set adrift last week, is rambling again, which he thinks is a positive. He insists he can learn from his mistakes, but gives no suggestion of what he's learned, as he promptly insults Rodney's mother. This isn't a great idea. “Dan, you're not funny, bro,” Rodney tells him or us or somebody, suggesting that things would be worse if Dan had said such a thing out in the world. “I did not think that Blue Collar people were emotional,” Kelly says, exercising her inner Jeff Probst. Really Kelly? Have you never seen New England sports fans? Did you see that scene in “Good Will Hunting” where Ben Affleck talks about the favorite part of his day? “Watch your mouth,” Rodney says threateningly. Kelly, who I barely remember at all, is a cop and she's being observant, but avoiding intervention. “He crossed a line big-time with that,” Rodney says of Dan.
Broken lizard. It's time for some surfing at the No Collar camp. “They're perfect little barrels,” Jenn says of the waves as the cameraman ogles her cleavage. Using driftwood, Hali and Jenn rather impressively hang-ten. It turns out that surfing is Hali's No.3 passion in life. OK. I'll bite, Hali. What are the top two? “This is exactly what No Collars do,” Jenn says, exercising her inner Jeff Probst. Freed from Vince's strangeness, Joe is finally able to do what he always wanted to do: Catch and eat lizards. He's hoping his edible lizards will raise No Collar camaraderie. He's also trying to make Nina feel more loved. Joe, it turns out, knows Sign Language, because his mother was an interpreter for the deaf. See, that's an interesting fact. Nina used to be White Collar, but then she lost her hearing. She's got a bit of No Collar spirit to her, but not enough to eat a lizard.
I vant to suck your blood. There are monkeys all around White Collar camp, where everybody is scouring the jungle in search of the Idol that Carolyn already has. “So I'm watching the fire, relaxing,” Carolyn smiles. Nobody finds Carolyn's apathy odd. Shirin proposes that they make a truce, stop looking and just try hard in the next challenge, but Joaquin wants none of that. “Shirin is like a blood-sucking leach that just won't leave you alone,” Joaquin says, also comparing her to a mosquito. “Joaquin is not himself. There was a fury behind what he was saying,” Shirin observes. Joaquin shows Tyler the Idol clue, the clue to the Idol that Tyler already knows Carolyn says. Tyler figures Shirin would be an easy vote-off if they lose the next challenge.
Where's your Messiah NOW?!? At Blue Collar camp, Mike is working hard. He labors instinctively, but he's disappointed in the effort of his fellow Blue Collars, especially Rodney. “Blue Collar people in general, we tend to critique other people's work ethics,” Lindsey says, channeling her inner Jeff Probst and announcing that in the tribe, she has the best work ethic. Rodney says “bro” a lot and questions the lack of “C” on Mike's chest for “captain.” Mike also isn't Rodney's father. Rodney just wants to eat. “I've got motivation, dedication, bro,” Rodney swears, before telling us this is a social game and it doesn't matter who does what. Rodney likes talking about Rodney and because he's hating Mike, suddenly he and Dan are besties, or at least close enough to besties for Dan to nod politely as Rodney rants about the difference in housing prices between Texas and Massachusetts. Dan nods. Rodney says Mike is the top target and gathers woods angrily. Mike thinks he doesn't get enough respect. Lindsey thinks Mike doesn't say “Thank you” enough. “Mike's being ignorant right now,” Lindsey grumbles, even mocking the Bible verse — #Psalm121 — on Mike's back. Lindsey? Not a fan of Mike's religion, which she says also didn't tend to the fire. “Did your God come down and do it with his beard?” she asks. This may have been a bridge too far. “That was very offensive to me,” Mike says. Lindsey, all eager to vote Dan out last week, is now REALLY eager to vote Mike out.
There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza. Immunity time! The absence of Vince astounds everybody who didn't have to hang out with the guy. Each tribe has to fill a large, hole-filled bucket with water and transfer it to another receptacle, plugging the holes as they go. They're also playing for Reward. Wanna know what they're playing for? First place gets a comfort reward including all manner of pillows, chairs, tarps and whatnot. The second place finisher gets a tarp. Lindsey sits out for Blue Collar. Joe has an inexplicable strategy in which rather than having Nina to help with plugging the holes and carrying the water, he sends her ahead to… do nothing. Probst doesn't have a clue what's happening with No Collar, though he knows it isn't working. Blue Collar and White Collar seem to be out to a huge lead and Probst is enjoying mocking No Collar, including the winded Will. This is an awful challenge. There's no visible strategy and no illustratable differentiation between Blue and White Collar. All we know is that No Collar is stupid. Blue Collar finishes first. White Collar finishes right behind. If No Collar just sends Nina home now as common sense would dictate, this will be an all-time dull “Survivor” episode. Probst asks Joe what he was thinking. Joe insists that he thought they might have been faster without her. He was wrong. Will admits that the challenge kicked his buttocks, but it's still time for Nina to go.
Could I *be* any more bored? So, No Collar? You got any drama for us? Joe apologizes and takes responsibility. “I should have just shut up and let Nina participate,” Joe tells us. “We tried to make Nina a non-factor and it cost us,” Will says. “Are we playing Friends?” Will asks Joe. Nope. They are not. They're playing “Survivor.” It might be fun to play Friends. Nina finds a bit of spine and decides that she wants to lobby against Will. Jenn knows Will sucks, but she thinks Nina sucks equally. This is great fun. No Collar is having an extensive discussion about advanced levels of suck. There's no strategy and if Jeff Probst would let them just vote two people out, they probably would at this point.
Tribal Council. The last Tribal Council was pretty good, so Jeff Probst wants to talk about that. Will has to explain why he voted Vince out, a decision that's basically indefensible at this point. “It's a huge factor to trust people,” Joe says blandly. Probst keeps putting Joe on the spot, which is bad drama, since no matter how badly Joe blew it and how many times he admitted it, it has nothing to do with what's about to come. Nina says that everybody assumes that she's weak because she's deaf, which Will says that she's putting on herself. “She's kinda misunderstanding us just as much as she feels misunderstood,” Nina is told. Probst chides Will for being out of shape and Will says his tribe knows what he brings. “You would be crazy to keep Will,” Nina says, whining that she hasn't been given a chance. Jenn calls her “emotionally weak.” The rain falls and I'd really just like this episode to end, no matter who goes home. But nope. Jeff Probst wants to beat a dead seasonal theme by asking if Nina's on the wrong tribe. Yes. That's her problem. Mismatched collars. Hali agrees that yes, Nina doesn't go with the flow the way a true No Collar does. Nina agrees that she's only been No Collar for seven years, so this may be hard for her. “You know, in real life you may never have to be the type of person who would go out an eat a lizard,” Hali says. Make. This. End. “Interesting Tribal Council,” Probst says, incorrectly.
The Vote. Nina votes Will. Will votes Nina. Probst tallies: Nina. Will. Will. Nina. NINA. Whatever. Probst tries to explain “Survivor” to them before they leave. I highly doubt that'll take. “According to them, I'm not as free spirited as they are and maybe I'm not!” Nina says, suggesting this was a life-altering eight days.
Bottom Line, Part I. Why did Hali vote Will? Do we care? The No Collar Tribe has emerged as a bunch of clowns and I think the surprising thing isn't that this tribe of clowns has lost two straight challenges and more that they didn't lose the first challenge. It was a funny joke at the time, but I take back what I said about Jenn and Joe being Collar Divergent. They both belong where they are and not in a good way. They only chance No Collar had of succeeding was swiftly and efficiently voting out Nina and then Will, with Will screwing everything up last week. As goofy as Vince was, he was physically viable and, as his exit interview with me proved, not strategically incapable. Nina talked herself into an early grave, but she also had no way of reasserting herself on her tribe, which was a failure of imagination on her part, but I don't know if it would have been possible anyway. And even if No Collar had done the right thing and voted Nina out last week, I'm not sure they could have overcome Will's uselessness in an Immunity Challenge that required brute strength and absolutely nothing else. No other tribe had a combination of people as negatively impactful as Will and Nina are on No Collar. We've established that Dan, while fairly tubby, is actually acceptably in a certain kind of shape. And even if somebody like Shirin or Carolyn isn't strong, they're not albatross-y in the way Will and Nina were. Who would have thought that go-with-the-flow No Collars had “Survivor”-friendly attributes anyway?
Bottom Line, Part II. The theme was badly conceived and the casting was poorly done. So you have the No Collars surfing and being useless, the Blue Collars bellowing at each other and being boors and the White Collars sniping at each other and watching fornicating monkeys. As everybody keeps saying over and over, the Collar division is around personality types and why would you want tribes of common personality types? Brains, Beauty and Brawn wasn't limited in the same way. Or, in terms of execution, it didn't feel limited in the same way. Also, Brains/Beauty/Brawn were constantly trying to live down to the stereotypes of their assignments and ghettoizing themselves, which these schmos are.
Bottom Line, Part III. Or maybe this was just a bad episode and I shouldn't worry about failures of the season, because it was just one week. Last week, after all, was quite fine and had a good twist ending. But this week, the drama was one-dimensional at all three camps. White Collar was just “Shirin is crazy and Joaquin is an ass.” Max didn't say anything. This season probably needs Max to say things to be entertaining. But that's all that was happening with White Collar. Blue Collar was just, “Mike thinks other people don't work enough and Rodney is a comic blow-hard.” And No Collar was, “Woe is Nina.” Throw in one of the least imaginative challenges I can remember and you have one of the worst overall “Survivor” episodes in recent memory.
Bottom Line, Part IV. Or, put a different way, how many people did you come away from this episode liking more than you had before? Liar. Even Shirin, whose love for screwing simians would normally make me a fan, was a pill. This was an episode in which the two teams that won the Immunity Challenge did so without any individual excellence of any kind, either physically or mentally, and in which the vote-out was orchestrated without anything other than default resignation. Nobody did anything good or well in this episode. Nobody. People who seemed less likable or less capable after this episode included: Joaquin, Joe, Jenn, Hali, Lindsey, Mike, Nina, Rodney, Shirin and Will. When an episode of “Survivor” makes me root for nearly half of the cast less and none of the cast more, that's a bad episode. Full-stop.
Bottom Line, Part V. Now I have to go through this recap to see if I've correctly attributed my Collars. I'll still mess up a few. Sorry.