Pre-credit sequence. Tyler is gone, so is Carolyn in charge now? “Tribal tonight was a whole lot of fun for me,” Mike says, giddy at breaking up The Six. He knows, however, that he either has to find another Idol or keep winning Immunity to stay around. “Everybody wants Mike gone,” Dan says, claiming that Mike has proven to be selfish and self-centered, promising that he won't work with Mike, who has to be the hero. “Mike, he has to be the hero. It's the fact that he's so arrogant and he's so condescending,” Dan insists, reminding us of his advantage and the alliance he thinks he's in with. “I don't trust Dan,” Carolyn says, calling Dan the biggest threat other than Mike. Carolyn wants options and tells Mike that they have to target Dan next, if they can find the numbers. She also tells Mike about the nature of Dan's advantage, which confuses him for a while. “I am smack in the middle,” Carolyn declares, still planning on booting Mike if he doesn't win Immunity. Well, this sets things up interestingly, I guess?
Rodney danger-filled. We begin with Reward, a big many-layered Reward. They're dividing into two teams of three and going through a series of obstacles, leading eventually to the solving of a word puzzle. Wanna know what they're playing for? They're going on a helicopter tour and then they'll get surf-n-turf. “How you feeling about that?” Probst chides Rodney, who rambles for a bit about hoping somebody gives him a reward. Probst asks if this is entitlement and Rodney goes back to his ill-celebrated birthday. Probst explains that rewards are things you are. “The only thing I can say is – Win,” Mike adds. It'd Dan, Sierra and Rodney against Carolyn, Mike and Will. Once again, it's Rodney's mistake that slows his team down. It's a six-word phrase and Probst is incredulous that nobody has a clue. He chides. He hints. He offers clues. And nobody can do anything. Finally, Carolyn figures it out. “A reward with all the fixings” is the answer and Carolyn's team wins! Sorry, Rodney!. Carolyn takes a long time for an internal debate. Probst explains her whole decision to her and Carolyn decides to keep the Reward. This is my favorite thing that Carolyn has ever done.
Lobster role-reversal. As always, everybody is impressed to be out on a helicopter. “It was epic,” Mike says. They fly over a volcano. Will is impressed. Carolyn is out of words. And they all gorge on protein. Mike announces that his brain is feeling sharper and he uses the sharpness to propose that this could be the Final 3, a Final 3 representing all three original tribes. Will isn't sure he wants to align with Mike, but at least everybody can agree that the only thing that matters is that Rodney doesn't win.
No respect. Surf-n-turf is Rodney's favorite meal. Is it your favorite birthday meal, Rodney? “Mama C, maybe I shouldn't take this personal, but I am,” says Rodney, vowing revenge. Dan decides to play hunter-gatherer, accumulating two giant gourds that he can't identify. It's a mystery fruit. And it's good. Rodney is feeling “some type of way” and he's back on his “hustle game.” Well fed, he's no longer plotting immediate revenge on Mama C and he's decided to take out “redneck” Mike. How have they been on this beach for 34 days and nobody found the giant bulbous melons?
Mike cannot win Immunity. Tree-mail says something about required hand-eye coordination and a delicate touch. “Mike cannot win the next Immunity Challenge. Period. End of story. End of discussion,” Dan says. Meanwhile, Mike's working Sierra and saying that Dan can only beat Rodney and Will, which doesn't help her. But Sierra still wants Mike out. “He's bound to lose and at that point, he will be going home,” Sierra says. See, everybody needs Mike to lose here. See where we're going?
Ooops. Immunity is back up for grabs. Players have to use grappling hooks to get three bags, each containing a ball. Then they have to get a ball through a table maze. Mike takes the lead approaching the maze and everybody else is fatiguing, either physically or emotionally. Mike has a big lead, but he squanders it and Dan pulls even. Finally, Mike begins to get a handle on the maze thing. “Mike was in the hole and back out,” Jeff says out of context. “Mike in and out once again,” Probst keeps saying. Mike wins Individual Immunity. He thanks Jesus. Dan curses the fates. Time for another deep cut from The Six-Now-Five. Mike has a 4th of July in Texas going off in his pants or something.
Unmitigated gall. Scary tree-raccoon-thing! Lizard! Dan! “Good Lord. This guy is unbeatable,” Dan laments, but he's confident that Carolyn is his vote next. Sierra thinks they've been playing the game the whole time to get rid of threats and she suspects that Dan is a threat. Carolyn is also a threat, but a less worrisome one, especially since nobody knows about her Idol. “If they all want Dan gone, it makes me pause,” Mike says, wondering if this is a sign he should target somebody else instead. Mike goes to Dan and tells him point-blank that he's going home unless he changes something. Dan is outraged at Mike's “unmitigated gall,” but he also thinks Mike may be on to something. Ack! Snake-eating-lizard! Mike pokes Carolyn and Sierra and tries to stir up agita that Rodney and Dan, sleeping in the shelter, are plotting against them. Nobody knows if Mike is crazy, crazy like a fox or totally sane. Carolyn has an Idol and doesn't want to waste it. Hmmm…
Tribal Council. Jeff Probst wants to talk about rust. Mike says that some people aren't feeling trustworthy or trusted, but at least they have a common enemy in him. Rodney can't form thoughts and talks about his fatigue and forgets what he has to say about trust and fatigue. Rodney says that if he stays with his mother 24-7, he wants to wring her neck, so things are even worse with these non-mother people. Carolyn says that she's very, very nervous. Dan bloviates and knows he could be in trouble. Rodney calls Dan's advantage a strong-arm tactic. Dan says he's going back and forth like a metronome.
The Vote. We see nothing. Dan decides the time has come to use his advantage. He gets to go off and cast a second vote. Will Carolyn use her Idol? She does! “I'm not taking a chance, Jeff,” she says, pulling out the Idol. The votes: Carolyn. Carolyn. Carolyn. Carolyn. Carolyn. She does a happy dance. Dan. DAN. Shirin on the Jury is very pleased. Dan says he came out with three goals: Have fun, be remembered and hopefully win the game. He's OK with just doing the first two. “I played a good game. I played a respectable game. I've got no regrets,” he announces.
Bottom Line, Part I. Well, it's definitely not unsatisfying to see a hissable villain go home in full hubris and that's certainly what Dan was and how he went home. He said in his last interview that he had no regrets, but I wonder if he now regrets not listening to Mike, if he now regrets misreading Mike's flipping/flopping motivations, etc. I wonder if anybody liked Dan. I can't think of any way you'd watch this season and think that Dan played a good or respectable game. Since we continue to chug toward a finale in which only Mike and Carolyn could be deserving winners, I'll accept every elimination that makes it more likely that at least one of those two will win and partially salvage this mess of a season which, thankfully, has only one more week remaining.
Bottom Line, Part II. Is there a better way that those two Tribal Council “plays” could have gone down? Carolyn deserves a huge amount of credit for making certain that nobody other than Tyler knew about her Idol and then for playing it properly, but under the circumstances what else could she have done? Because she knew Dan was doubling his vote, she knew with reasonable certainty that his votes would be against her. My question is: Does she play the Idol if she doesn't know Dan is doing what Dan's doing? And I mean that as a two prong question: 1) Did playing the advantage send Dan home because if he had just kept quiet, the vote was 4-2 against Carolyn, so the bonus vote made no difference. 2) Did the public declaration of the advantage send Dan home? It's about measures and countermeasures and how they're built into different advantages. As in: Dan had what was put out there as a big advantage, but was it really a big advantage once you had to say you were using it, but people with Idols still had the last word? Or, mathematically: Idol > Double Vote. But should it have? If Hidden Idols can be kept secret, why did the advantage have to be declared before the opportunity to play an Idol was given? Does that make any sense? Did Dan's advantage send him home or do you think Carolyn was tipped off sufficiently to play the Idol regardless? Dunno.
Bottom Line, Part III. I'm trying to muse on Sierra's purpose in this game and her vote against Carolyn. Or maybe I'm trying to muse on whether or not Mike's seeds of paranoia, which didn't necessarily seem accurate at the time, but were, helped in any way. There was a transition in the voting that I feel like we missed. Everybody agrees with Mike that they want Dan out. Mike suspects that because everybody wants Dan out, maybe he doesn't. Mike goes to Dan and offers to swing the vote. [Missing step?] Everybody votes Carolyn out other than Carolyn and Mike. Did I miss something? It's upfronts week and my brains are TOTAL goo. It's completely possible I missed something. [Sounds like I missed something. Apologies. Serious. Brain bad.]
Bottom Line, Part IV. Only one more episode left. Two variably acceptable winners. As long as we avoid a Sierra-Rodney-Will Final 3, we can walk away with some dignity. But it feels like by this point, Sierra, Rodney and Will ought to have realized that the only chance any of them have is going together. That doesn't mean they could make anything happen because they're all mostly useless, but I really need a couple confessionals in which Will, Sierra and/or Rodney have the self-awareness to see that this is their only path. First one to see that at least becomes my default Choice C.
Thoughts? Brilliant questions for Dan's exit interview other than “Seriously, dude?”?