Pre-credit sequence. When we left things, Rodney had just been blindsided by Joaquin's eviction. This won't go well. Escameca returns and Rodney is simmering. “It's the game,” Joe says, philosophically and still in the game. Tyler is the first to express his disappointment and to praise the Blue Collar tribe for its Rodney-excluding unity. It falls to Mike to attempt to coddle Rodney. “Hopefully he doesn't take it too personal,” Mike tells us, suggesting he's never actually met Rodney. Mike takes a walk with Rodney and explains that their perception was that Joaquin was reeling him in. “I was working on a fugazi fake alliance,” Rodney protests, adding that he thought he was Michael Jordan and now he's feeling like Luc Longley. “I'm acting, bro. I'm putting on my De Niro,” Rodney insists. [He may have referred to his “dinero,” but we all know who or what he meant.] “Now, all of a suddenly, I've gotta be Mike's bitch till we get to the Merge,” Rodney says, vowing revenge. Fortunately…
The Merge: Anarchy. Tree-Mail says “there is strength in numbers” and promises food. Everybody assumes that a Merge is coming. “I will be smiling from ear-to-ear,” Blue Collar-leaning Kelly tells us, though she tells her fellow Nagarotes, that she's prepared to stay with them and vote out Escameca. The two tribes meet on the beach. Jeff Probst is absent. And so they decide it's a Merge. A chest of food confirms that they're all one tribe and they're living on the Escameca beach. Tyler has a new lease on life. They have wine, rum, juices, fruit and cheese and olives and ham. Hali is feeling like a Greek goddess. As they nosh, the story of Joaquin's vote-out is told to much laugher. “You cannot show any strong bond at all,” Carolyn says, determined not to show her ties to Tyler.
Kind of Blue. The Merged Tribe doesn't have a name and they get to Escameca and discover that everything they once had is now gone. They're starting from scratch. “This was like Day One all over again,” Carolyn says, before collar-party-lines restore themselves. “Mike and I are like one,” Kelly says, as she and Mike gather wood. “We don't have Kelly,” Jenn says, noticing without hesitation that Kelly has returned to Blue Collar. “I'd rather play with White Collar than Blue Collar,” Jenn says, after deciding that she and Hali can work with Shirin if they have to in order to survive. Rodney wants the three Blues out and he begins rounding up support for a long-term revenge strategy, making appeals to Carolyn and Will. He wants to go to seven with the Blues and then pick the three Judases off from inside. Tyler also tries to lure Carolyn in the Blue direction, at least short-term.
Thanks, Obama. The shelter may have been gone, but at least Escameca still has chickens. Dan got stung by a jellyfish and while he tried to pee on it, he's refusing to put his foot in hot water as Jenn advises, at least not until she's elsewhere and he can claim the hot water as his idea. “I am way smarter and way tougher than I look,” Dan says, coopting Jenn's advice. Oh Lord. At Mike's urging, the new tribe is dubbed “Merica.” Because… Murica. Hali is going to be a criminal defense attorney, because she's eager to be a part of the Constitution and her religion is government. Or some spew of absolutely intelligence-insulting. Naturally, one Communist is not pleased. “Like a bunch of redneck idiots who don't know what our country's name is,” a repulsed Shirin says. She thinks even Sarah Palin would know better than to consider “Merica” would be a viable name. Mike's first target is Joe, but he needs Rodney to get the job done. “Blue Collar ride or die, baby,” Mike tells Rodney as part of their “make-up sex.” Rodney is lurking, vowing to take over the game in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady-style, and cut Mike's head off. Ick. Insert unpleasant Aaron Hernandez joke.
A bee bit my bottom! Now my bottom's big. Immunity time! Jeff Probst introduces the Individual Immunity necklace. It's a simple endurance challenge. You have to hang onto a pole as long as you can. Probst tells the contestants that this “Survivor” classic has been one by three women and three men. Not surprisingly Dan is the first one out and Will is out second. “The two biggest guys are the first two people out of this challenge,” Probst says. Tyler goes out next. Down goes Sierra, the first woman out of the challenge, but followed quickly by Shirin and Kelly. “It only takes two to make an epic battle,” Probst says helpfully. Probst is doing a lot of babbling in this challenge. Mike bails and Rodney quits next. This was not a good Blue Collar task, was it? Mid-challenge, Jenn gets stung by something. In her groin. “Are you serious, life?” Jenn says, laughing and crying at the same time. Hali goes sliding down. Joe is impressive. He's actually able to pull himself back up the pole from a lower position, something we don't usually see. And then rain begins falling. Hard. “I love it,” Joe smiles/grimaces. We're 55 minutes in. Jenn goes out next, leaving only Joe and Carolyn. Probst babbles and babbles as Joe and Carolyn slip. Carolyn's toes give out and Joe makes a mess of the best laid plans of Blue Collar Men. Jenn's ready to build a White/No Collar alliance. Will it work?
Ice Storm. Merica returns. “Of course, the Golden Boy Joe wins the first Individual Immunity,” Mike grumbles, before giving everybody permission to go strategize. Mike's new plan is voting out either Jenn or Hali, splitting up another power couple. They're targeting Jenn's name, but they're going to tell Will to vote Hali out, to see if they can trust him. Will doesn't know who he can trust. Kelly thinks that Carolyn will be an asset and Carolyn is fine with splitting Hali or Jenn. Shirin knows there's only one vote to get in Blue Collar's way and she and the Barbie Girls want to target Kelly. Tyler's playing hard-to-get with Mike and tells us that he has options, with both Mike and Hali wooing him. “If you wanna be a swinger, you can be a swinger tonight,” Tyler tells Carolyn, proposing an ol' fashioned key party. At least Hali and Jenn know they may be in trouble and Jenn tells Hali that she has an Idol. And, frankly, I'd totally forgotten that she had this Idol. She got the Idol because she didn't want to eat chicken. Now I remember. We don't know what's coming now, because we don't know if Jenn and Hali were able to figure out which one of them might be in trouble.
Tribal Council. “Jeff, you might get voted out tonight. I don't know,” Will says, as everybody laughs. Watch out for Will. He's way under-the-radar and nobody's taking him seriously. “It's stab or be stabbed,” Joe says. Probst isolates the White Collars as the swing votes and Tyler agrees that he's been approached by multiple people. It's funny that we're looking at the White Collar swing as Tyler/Carolyn, leaving Shirin out entirely. Shirin, in fact, says that she doesn't view herself as a swing vote. Probst asks Rodney about a Hidden Immunity Idol and Rodney says he doesn't think anybody has one. Dan admits that pleading a case at Tribal won't make much difference. Everybody agrees a line is about to be drawn violently, either with an icepick or a chainsaw.
The vote. We see a lot of deliberation, but no votes. Probst goes to tally and Jenn decides she might as well play the Idol. “Yeah, I really don't wanna go home tonight,” she says. Shirin is giddy. And Rodney is confused. Probst tallies: Hali. Jenn. Jenn. [Jenn and Hali realize they played right.] Jenn. Jenn. Jenn. Jenn. Jenn. Kelly. Kelly. KELLY. ZING. “Savage,” Joe says. “You're a genius,” Hali adds. Once again, Rodney is agog and baffled. “They got me,” Kelly says, suggesting that the vote was against her because she wasn't trustworthy. Well, duh-doy.
Bottom Line, Part I. I'm torn. I hate the prevalence of Hidden Immunity Idols and the silly ease of finding Hidden Immunity Idols and I don't especially love that it was Jenn's stubborn vegetarianism that allowed her to isolate herself and find that Idol. However, I'm not gonna sit here and lie. Few things are more satisfying that a properly utilized Immunity Idol, especially since if an Immunity Idol is TRULY properly utilized, it can't help but utterly disorient and demoralize an alliance that thinks it's in control and is too cocky to even speculate on vote-splitting or other silliness. And this was a near-flawlessly utilized Idol. The only question I have is whether the annoyance with lying, flip-flopping Kelly blinded the girls against taking out a stronger piece of the Blue Collar alliance. Was this the moment to try to take out Mike? I'm not sure what Mike's relative threat is going to be in Immunity Challenges and whatnot, but symbolically, he represents Blue Collar. We already know that Blue Collar unity exists with or without Kelly, but if you take out Mike, I think a lot of uncertainty sets in and I'm not sure who could have effectively taken control. I guess targeting Kelly felt like an easy, no-offense move that could maybe get swing voters to sign on, rather than going more aggressively against the Blue Collar Bloc? But ultimately that didn't work, since Tyler and Carolyn both went with Blue, as did Will, who trustingly voted Hali like a chump. So it was a great move for Jenn and her alliance, but it was a move that still leaves them in an alliance of four in an 11-player game. If Joe doesn't win Immunity next week, he's still the target for everybody and barring finding a Hidden Idol, it'll just be a one-week reprieve for that group. But for one week? That was fun and exciting.
Bottom Line, Part II. I really wish Jenn and Joe hadn't been such tools to Nina, because in this episode, they were both likable and impressive enough to I've me somebody to root for. Jenn was smart and savvy and organized and she showed a lot of determination under unpleasant circumstances in the Immunity Challenge. And Joe did what Joe needed to do when he needed to do it and it would surprise nobody if he now went off on Colby/Tom/Ozzy-style Immunity run.
Bottom Line, Part III. If I can't quite bring myself to root for Jenn and Joe, I can commit to rooting for Rodney's confusion. I would like for Rodney to be baffled by every single vote for the rest of the game, but still to get taken to the end, because I'd love to hear his Final Tribal speech explaining how this was all his plan and had been his plan all along. So yeah, clueless Rodney every week would be glorious.
Bottom Line, Part IV. That was a very fine episode. One more week like this and I'll get my mind around rooting for Jenn and Joe and then I can have a bit more interest in the season. Getting closer!
And now, I'm writing this recap from the East Coast and it's late and I have a morning flight tomorrow. So… Sleep.
What'd you think?